Notes from Philosophy of Hatha Yoga, Swami Veda

Watching the Mind Watching the Body

In yoga philosophy, there are 5 sheaths (layers) around the spiritual self of a person – the outermost first sheath (layer) is known as annamaya, made up of the food we eat.  The second is the finer essence of the food, the pranamaya sheath made of the vital force.  The third is manomaya, a further essence of prana, the mental essence.  The fourth, vijnanamaya is made of limited consciousness. The fifth is the anandamaya, the sheath made of limited pleasure.

The average individual is more conscious of their outermost layer, the annamaya kosha, the food sheath or physical body.  We speak of ourselves and we put our hand to our chest.  We say, “I am hungry”.  We are not speaking of the mind’s hunger but of the hunger of the body.  So there is this physical identification.  Where does control of the physical body fit in the entire philosophy of yoga?  Its purpose is to gradually draw the attention from the grosser parts of us to the finer ones.  Ordinarily we use our body and we are not even conscious that the body is being used.  …The primary consideration therefore in the practice of hatha yoga philosophically is the practice of mindfulness, self observation, the habit of being a witness to one’s own physical functions, aware of whatever it is that we are doing with our bodies, whether it be the external surfaces of the body or internal things like muscle tension, heart rate, blood flow and breathing.  …

This mindfulness in daily life is … the starting point of being a witness, of being aware of the body from head to toe.  … The process of hatha is from the external levels gradually to the internal levels.  What does that mean?  It means first of all to become more and more conscious of the different levels and slowly shift the mind’s identification from one level to a finer one.  Therefore, you progressively remove the control that the grosser has over the finer parts of your being and establish control of the finer over the relatively grosser parts of your being.

One’s identification has to change: an awareness of prana and then the awareness of the mind as functioning in the physical body must develop.  Some of this deeper awareness can be felt in the relaxation exercises that are done in the corpse posture which enhances one’s awareness of the mind in the body; relax the mind that is in the forehead, and the muscle of your forehead relaxes; relax the mind that is in your cheeks, and your cheeks relax; relax the portion of your mind that is in your shoulders and your shoulders relax.

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