Category Archives: RETREATS

Yogis, Gurus & Spiritual Teachers – Spot the False Ones…

Because of the outrageous abuses and exploitation by some yogis, gurus, and self-proclaimed masters, many students (especially here in the west) don’t know who to trust.

If more than a few of the following descriptions describe your spiritual teacher, then unfortunately they may not be as enlightened or good for your progress as you would like to believe:

  • They proclaim their own enlightenment: The wisest masters tend to be reluctant to state their own enlightenment because they know that it is both unhelpful to their own spiritual evolution as well as their students’.
  • They’re unable to take criticism: False teachers have a strong resistance and dislike for either personal criticism or any criticism of their teaching. On the other hand a true teacher will continue to learn and oftentimes from their own students.
  • They often act as if they’re omnipotent with unlimited powers but show little to no accountability. Some may go so far as to use Gestapo like tactics.
  • They may focus on their own self-proclaimed enlightenment itself rather than teaching or demonstrating the path leading to it. The true teacher focuses mainly on the path and generally avoids any talk about enlightenment.
  • They don’t practice what they preach. For instance, if they demand their devotees adapt a plant-based diet, they should provide them with a living example.
  • They take credit for a certain asana or a particular meditative or healing technique, trying to “own” any major benefits from the practice. They often do this solely to attract new followers.
  • They choose to live in total opulence. Money is collected from followers most commonly in the form of donations, and those donations should be used to lessen the suffering in this world, not to provide a luxurious lifestyle.
  • They encourage (or even permit) adoration from their followers. Worshipping the teacher will draw the student outside of themselves and will be a hindrance to their own self-realization.
  • They demand love and absolute devotion from their students. Real love and devotion is earned by recognizing their ability to teach and relate spiritual truths, not their public image.
  • They run expensive workshops and courses promising spiritual development. Authentic teachers are rarely interested in selling anything or proselytizing people.
  • They take sexual advantage of their followers. This happens much more often than many students realize. This can be, and often is, psychological scarring to the victim.
  • They try to get you to feel special to “hook” you; and although each student is unique, making people feel exclusively special and part of a particular teacher’s “important,” “universal” mission is one of the best sales pitches ever. Once they get people on board, they can quite literally, sell them anything. A real master will allow the student to make their own decision whether to accept his or her teachings by simply presenting them without trying to influence the process.
  • They may give themselves an outrageous title. Some going as far as to claim they are literally God-Incarnate, or the “chosen one.” Others may continuously change their names in order to keep pace with their burgeoning egos.
  • They are not interested in you personally. If a teacher, yogi or guru does not have time to interact with you personally, then you may as well read about their teaching in a book; you may model some of their outward spiritual characteristics, but oftentimes that only places you deeper in illusion.
  • They allow “special” followers to set up a hierarchy of access. A true teacher must be accessible, if they are not, then they are playing the role of a king and not a true spiritual guide. With a false guide, more often than not, the more you donate the greater your access to them will be.
  • They make false claims of a lineage, or the latest in a line of self-realized masters. Another pseudo form of "lineage" is to recount a miracle that may have once happened to them, which infers that they are "the chosen one" and therefore have the authority to set themselves up as a master.
  • They generate a large number of angry ex-followers. This is an indication that something is seriously wrong. If they have used kindness and love in their interactions with students, then it is possible that some might drift away and feel they have wasted their time, but it is highly unlikely that they would exhibit great anger.

In closing: The above descriptions are a good overview of what makes up the difference between self-important narcissists in love with (and trying to boost) their self image, and those who simply see the truth and want to share it or teach it to others without any dire need for superstar status. A good reputation and nobleness of character are much more important than fame and celebrity.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

The Awesome Benefits of a Yoga Retreat

What is a retreat? It’s a quiet or secluded place where you can rest and relax.

What are a YOGA retreats: Quiet and secluded places where you can rest, relax, eat healthy, gain knowledge, insights, personal strength and PRACTICE YOGA.

Is your daily routine getting you down? Have you ever wondered what might happen to you and to your life if you would just make the time to retreat to a place where you’re offered delicious, nutritious food and someone leads you in daily yoga and meditation practice? Where you’re in the company of other like-minded/like-hearted seekers of truth, love and beauty? Once you’re on a yoga retreat (or yoga holiday, as they’re sometimes called) all your regular daily obstacles will be gone and your day to day hassles will be put on hold, while you’re hooked up to a program that offers solutions for you when you return, so that your “normal” daily routine will have some pizzazz, a new energy and a new and refreshing feel. You’ll return rejuvenated and recharged and with a whole new attitude, plus you’ll be feeling energy you haven’t felt since you were a kid.

Most yoga retreats take place in very special (and secluded) corners of the world (like National Parks, remote beach areas, or camps in the mountains), special places where time seems to slow down, providing a new and insightful perspective. If you’ve never had the opportunity to participate in a yoga retreat (or even if you have) and/or you feel your practice could use a bit more spark, your adventure is not as far away as you might imagine, why put it off, with a little planning you can make it happen! This unique type of getaway tends to bring like-minded/like-hearted seekers of truth, love and beauty together and creates a fertile ground for awakening the miracle that is you. A yoga retreat will affect you physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, basically producing a profound and positive effect on your entire being.

Retreats provide a break from your normal routines and time to focus on releasing, discovering and applying new found tools. Retreats that are well constructed allow for personal attention given to your own specific areas of need. This personal attention gives you a tool box filled with plenty of options. There is nothing more inspiring then returning from an experience empowered with new found strength. The power gained on a yoga retreat continues to help you as you return to your regular daily life with a new set of tools to release pain, regain strength, and find deep rest and peace plus you’ll be able find and open doors to possibilities where there were just blank walls before.

There are times on a Yoga retreat when adventurous activities like hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, etc. are offered and other times when silence is to be observed while doing cooperative communal service. There will be new dietary experiences to taste and enjoy, learning to practice “Ahimsa” (non-injury to others) while savoring plant based foods – both raw and cooked. There may be a time for cleansing/detox and giving the body a break from un-healthy habits.

On some retreats you’ll be surrounded by beautiful settings, while on others you may focus on sensual pleasures like massage, energetic healing or bodywork. A Yoga retreat may involve early morning meditation to stop the constant chatter of the mind. Also, there’s Vipassana (insight meditation) for those interested in self-reflection or looking for a more spiritual experience. There may be instruction which will help you learn Pranayama and other advanced breathing methods.

What kind of people go on Yoga retreats?

∙ Some are young; others are elderly (and all in between).

∙ Some are loose and flexible, while others are a stiff as a board.

∙ Some may be exhausted or at a crossroads in their life.

∙ Some simply want a chance to get away from it all.

∙ Others want to take care of just themselves for a change.

Here are a few of the most common reasons people go on a yoga retreat:

∙ Deepening an existing practice

∙ Restarting a practice that was dropped

∙ Testing the waters (if you’re new to Yoga)

∙ Finding a new direction in life

∙ Meeting new, exciting people

When you leave your daily routine and go for a yoga retreat, you set the stage for:

∙ Stress and pain relief

∙ Deep Rest

∙ Increased knowledge and understanding

∙ Greater appreciation for all things

∙ Diet improvement with delicious healthy food

Tip: Knowing exactly what kind of experience you’re looking for before signing up will help ensure you pick the retreat perfect for your needs. Selecting retreat with a time frame suited to your schedule is also important; whether it’s a day retreat, a few days, a week, or even longer. And, perhaps most importantly, it is always recommended that the retreat you select is lead by certified yoga instructors who are prepared to work with you at your skill level. Spending intimate time with an experienced yoga teacher is one of the most potent opportunities for change available today; being a mixture of instruction and inspiration, it will guide you toward being a more authentic and powerful human being.

In conclusion: Yoga retreats are the latest trend in yoga where you will be able to gain many profound benefits beyond those found when participating in a few hours of yoga sessions or classes. Those who attend such retreats and are guided by a yoga master, report experiencing a silent, inward revolution; one that produces a conscious growth and outward “evolution” of their body and mind. Contrary to the general belief that yoga is limited to an individualistic practice, a yoga retreat allows you the opportunity to explore the social aspect of yoga. Plus, the closeness to nature and having the time and opportunity to re-examine your motivations, goals, and beliefs helps you to become re-united with yourself and the awesome person you really are, both when you’re alone and in the company of others.

You Too Can Apply The Ultimate Beauty Treatment


You Too Can Apply The Ultimate Beauty Treatment

Rae Indigo – Welcome

The Ultimate Beauty Treatment that boosts your sparkle from within. Rae Indigo will support you to align diet and a powerful yoga sequence, so you cultivate your radiant inner light, anytime, anywhere. The results…

  •  Fit bodies with excellent muscle tone
  •  Clear eyes
  •  Glowing skin
  •  Thick and beautiful hair
  •  Calm, clear anxiety-free mind
  •  Melts cellulite

Whether you prefer one-on-one private instruction or an immersion into the yoga lifestyle by joining this Teacher Training, Rae will show you how simple it can be to cut back on cosmetics and eliminate cosmetic procedures, such as…

  •  Facelifts
  •  Botox
  •  Liposuction
  •  Diet pills/fad diets
  •  Chemical peels

This holistic and transformative approach purifies and revitalizes you on all levels, amplifying your unique inner attractiveness, bringing grace to your body, mind and soul.

Through their certified 15 day Yoga Teacher Training and private instruction you will become the person that you’ve always dreamed you can be.

  • – One-on-one first class introductory rate is $150
  • – 5 class pack $750*
  • – Regular Drop in rate $225 per *private class (*Note: you can bring a friend, but these teachings are limited to no more than 3 people)
  • – 15 day YOGA Immersion – Teacher Training – $2950

Contact Rae:

You Too Can Apply The Ultimate Beauty Treatment

Rae Indigo – Easy Pose

Ultimate Beauty Treatment – Testimonials:

* It’s difficult to put into words how the last few months have changed my life. After trying them all (Pilate’s, Core Fusion, spinning, etc) I walked into a hot yoga class at Brickell Hot Yoga and was amazed at how good I felt after just one session. So, I decided to take my first 200 hour Teacher Training at Brickell Yoga. I dedicated 17 days to study this multi-dimensional discipline, practicing yoga 4-6 hours each day, eating a vegan (plant-based) diet and engaging in daily meditation. It was a complete mind-body transformation. My breathing slowed down, and my once Asthmatic Lungs became clear and strong. My whole body slimmed down and I became more toned and flexible. The final change was my nervous energy subsided and my mind became peaceful and relaxed.  I’ve never felt better in my life.

Completion of the 500 hour Yoga Teacher Training took my practice and teaching skills to the next level! Each day was exciting and challenging in the best way. It was the perfect balance of thought provoking, intellectual lectures and yoga asana practice. There are some people who are truly gifted speakers and Rae Indigo is one of them! Her delivery of information in her lectures is captivating, stern, humorous, and filled with analogies.

I have taken countless yoga classes, and Rae Indigo is the most advanced yoga teacher on so many levels. She has knowledge of yoga that is unparalleled. Being born into a family of yogi’s, she grew up with the teachings as second nature. She has an advanced capacity to lead a class and teach the many principles of the Energetic Systems of Yoga inspiring you to go beyond your comfort zone.

I am truly blessed to have learned from Rae thanks to her I have knowledge which I never would have had, humility of my inner strength, and a dedication which continues to surprise me. I have faced fears that I never thought I could overcome. I feel younger, healthier, and full of life; and it’s noticeable too, so many friends have commented on how healthy and happy I look and feel…Marcie Wingate

You Too Can Apply The Ultimate Beauty Treatment

Marvie Wingate

* Rae Indigo is truly inspirational and motivating in respect to initiating positive lifestyle changes. Her certified Yoga Teacher Training and private instruction have me feeling stronger and more balanced with the completion of each session. Rae has a gift for helping you learn, challenging your body and strengthening your resolve, all the while making you feel peaceful and at ease. I feel very comfortable and completely blessed while under her instruction. Her enthusiasm is contagious and her classes are balanced with a great knowledge of yoga, diet, nutrition and healthy living. Rae has an excellent teaching style and her instruction is always tailored to meet each individual student’s needs.

Their guidance throughout my transition to a plant-based diet has been invaluable, and combined with their recommended yoga sequences, my body and basic appearance has noticeably improved. Friends and family (even a few strangers) ask me all the time what I’m doing to look so healthy, beautiful and alive.

So thanks, Rae for all you are, and all you do for us. Whenever I leave one of your classes I feel as though I have “hit a reset button”, restoring my balance and sense of peace and tranquility, plus my body and mind feels fresh, radiant and rejuvenated…Natalia Paletskaia

You Too Can Apply The Ultimate Beauty Treatment

Natalia Paletskaia

* I got pregnant pretty quickly after completing the Teacher Training in Malta and this was the best thing that could have happened to me and my still unborn child. The intense physical training developed unknown strength and flexibility in my body. I was in the best shape of my life and that turned out to be an amazing starting point for the creation of life within.

The Rae Indigo healing sequences were absolutely priceless in assisting me throughout the months of immense physical changes and helped to limit the pains that come with carrying an unborn child. Practicing Yoga daily almost eliminated the common “side effects” of pregnancy (nausea, sleeplessness etc) and turned out to be extremely beneficial during the birth. It stays impossible to imagine giving birth without the learned and practiced focus on breath and deepened meditation, which helped me to move beyond and transcend the mind. Last but not least, I am entirely grateful for the awareness Rae shed on food and diet – nothing has ever transformed my life more towards a compassionate and healthy understanding of nutrition.

This Teacher Training helped me throughout the pregnancy and birth in such profound ways that I cannot help but advice every woman to consider absolving it before getting pregnant – regardless if she wants to become and teacher or not. It will strengthen mind, body and soul before and throughout pregnancy – of both mother and child, while at the same time create the mental and physical flexibility to deal with birth and the exhausting but also exciting time after that…Dara Meubrink

You Too Can Apply The Ultimate Beauty Treatment

Dara Meubrink

Check out Dara’s video…

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“It Pays for Itself” – How your Teacher Training pays for itself!

Many of our Teacher Training alumni have recovered their tuition charges with private Yoga lessons.

Our experience is that, based on only two private lessons a week (@ 100 USD per lesson) you’ll be able to recover the full tuition in 15 weeks, less than four months. Some alumni used their credit line and then settled their debt by teaching Yoga (we are exploring additional options to provide even more convenient payment plans in the near future). Of course if you teach more and/or add group classes, it adds up quickly. Booking two private lessons a week is simple; there’s a huge demand for people 40 and older to learn Yoga in a private setting, as they often have health problems (or suffer from embarrassment) that bar them from going to group classes, and yet they really want (and need) yoga to improve their health and overall sense of well-being. They love the convenience of you coming to them; they save the commute time and expense and can actually enjoy a 60 minute private session with all the additional benefits they wouldn’t receive in a group class.

We will also teach you how to market yourself and build your own private clientele base as part of your training in our Business 101 Module.  This might help you explain the value to your parents or anyone who may be concerned about your financial investments. This Teacher Training provides you with a skill set that is in high demand and allows you to set your own hours, work and travel arrangements, and be part of a rapidly growing worldwide community. Teaching Yoga totally rocks – you transform people’s lives while enriching your own.

The Five Koshas (Part 4 – Vijnanamaya Kosha: wisdom sheath)

Vijnanamaya Kosha is the fourth of the five Koshas (sheaths) and is a Sanskrit terms “jna” (to know), “vi” (apart), together they imply discernment. Maya means composed of, Kosha means sheath. So, Vijnanamaya Kosha is the sheath that is composed of the discerning intellect.

The Vijnanamaya Kosha is also known as the sheath of intuitive knowledge/wisdom. Our intellect gives us the discriminative capability that helps to differentiate between good and evil, between right and wrong etc. The intellect can be looked upon as having two components:

  • One that is controlled by our ego and driven by our past memories and impressions (samskaras).
  • And the other which is controlled by our pure intuition.

The “ego-driven” intellect most often leads to actions which result in pain and suffering, while actions prompted by pure intuition and discriminative knowledge will give us satisfaction, peace and happiness.

When one practices meditation, their mind becomes purified and their intellect can then begin to depend more and more on this pure intuitive wisdom rather than being so influenced by the ego.

This is the sheath of wisdom that lies underneath the processing, thinking aspect of mind, or the sheath of mental activities (Manomaya Kosha). It knows, decides, judges, and discriminates between this and that, between all that is useful and not useful. A major part of Sadhana (spiritual practice) is gaining ever increasing access to this level of our being. It is the level that prompts our “higher wisdom” to seek Truth, to inquire within, in search of the true Self or eternal center of consciousness.

Vijnanamaya Kosha, as the conscious body, lies deeper than the previously described Koshas and it also remains interactive and dependant on them. This sheath is responsible for inner growth, for ethics and morals. It allows us to reach beyond mundane existence into wisdom and subtle knowledge as it actively seeks to move from the exoteric to the esoteric; from the world observed by the eyes to the inner space behind the eyes.

Independent of any specific religion, the studies of holy texts like the Bible, the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita and other texts from the great sages of antiquity, will lead us to the same realization because all religions are based on this same truth. In this sheath we recognize and return to the “real” life, the life that both preserved and outlasts the body.

By meditating on, and exploring the Vijnanamaya Kosha, and then going inward, to and through the remaining and final Kosha (Anandamaya Kosha), thus arriving at the “Self” (Atman).

Stay tuned, next we’ll explore the innermost and final sheath: The Five Koshas (Part 5 – Anandamaya Kosha: bliss sheath)

The Five Koshas (Part 3 – Manomaya Kosha: mind sheath)

Manomaya Kosha is the third of the five Koshas (sheaths) and is a Sanskrit term meaning “the sheath of the mind”. Mano or Manas, in Sanskrit, means “mind”, Maya means composed of, Kosha means sheath. So, Manomaya Kosha is the sheath that is composed of the mind (or “mind-stuff”).

This “sheath of mental activities” is the receiver of all sense impressions and from these impressions it forms its own ideas, thereby giving rise to the idea of “I” and “mine”, in turn creating avidya (ignorance, delusion). The organs connected with sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, together with the mind, constitutes this Kosha. It enables the individual to identify various objects and perceptions and distinguish one from another. It is subtler than the second Kosha (Pranamaya – the sheath through which vital air, or Prana, circulates throughout the body) and permeates it, so it could be considered the inner self of the Pranamaya Kosha. Swami Sivananda likens it to “the bladder of a football”, in regard to the Pranamaya Kosha.

Manomaya Kosha (the “inner organ”) is also interactive with and dependant of the former two Koshas (Pranamaya & Annamaya). It governs all the faculties of perception and instinctual consciousness. It is the mind which can construct and destroy our apparent reality. It is our sub-consciousness that is formed by both negative and positive experiences and where our self has developed its behavior. Within this sheath actions happen automatically and it can dominate the other two outer shells. Vivekananda says of this Kosha: “Actions are mighty, thoughts are almighty”. To activate this Kosha the former two bodies (Pranayama & Annamaya) should be put at “rest” through a deep relaxation technique (i.e. Yoga Nidra). With this practice, the deep sheath of our mind can be penetrated and our negative types of programming can be replaced with positive and constructive ones, but to succeed, this process needs perseverance.

Manomaya Kosha  receives all sense impressions and from these impressions it forms its own ideas, thereby giving rise to the idea of ’I’ and ’Mine’, in turn creating avidya (ignorance, delusion). The organs connected with sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, together with the mind, constitutes this Kosha. It enables the individual to identify various objects and perceptions and distinguish one from another. Thoughts, emotions, feelings, memories are all a part of this Kosha, and since every thought has a great inherent power; it affects our physiology, moods, physical body, responses, work efficiency, relationships, wisdom and especially our breathing. The epidemic of stress in these modern days is basically a problem at the level of mind, where a sense of apprehensiveness prompting negative emotions is commonly allowed to build up without any opportunity for release, unless certain measures are taken.

When this sheath receives clear instructions from the deeper levels, it functions naturally and very well. However, whenever it is clouded over by its own self-constructed illusions, the deeper wisdom is obscured.

After taking care of the food (physical) body and training the energy (vital) body by regulating the flow of prana, the next important part to be trained (in a positive manner) is this level of mind. Through proper meditation, we may become aware of Manamaya Kosha, exploring it, and then going inward, to and through the remaining two Koshas.

As with the former two Koshas, the Manomaya Kosha is also transitory.

Stay tuned, coming up next will be: The Five Koshas (Part 4 – Vijnanamaya Kosha: wisdom sheath)

The Five Koshas (Part 2 – Pranamaya: air sheath)

Pranamaya Kosha is the second of the five Koshas (sheaths).

Pranamaya Kosha, is a Sanskrit term meaning “the sheath of energy”. Prana, in Sanskrit, means vital energy, Maya means composed of, Kosha means sheath. So, Pranamaya Kosha is the sheath of vital energy within each human being.

The Pranamaya Kosha is more subtle than the Annamaya Kosha (gross physical sheath). The whole of the physical body is pervaded by the Pranamaya sheath. The Pranamaya sheath contains the five Karma Indriyas (Vayus) or organs of action (brief summary below) and along with the mental and intellectual sheaths, forms the subtle body of Linga Sarira (the astral body).

The five Karma Indriyas (Vayus):

  1. 1. Prana: has an upward movement and is responsible for all things taken into the body (food, fluids, air, sensory inputs and mental impressions).
  2. 2. Apana: has a downward movement and is responsible for all forms of elimination and reproduction functions (stool and the urine, the expelling of semen, menstrual fluid and the fetus, and the elimination of carbon dioxide through the breath).
  3. 3. Udana: has an upward movement and is responsible for growth of the body (the ability to stand, speech, effort, enthusiasm and willpower).
  4. 4. Samana: has an inward movement (moving inward from the periphery, working in the gastrointestinal tract to digest food, in the lungs to process air, absorbing oxygen, and in the mind to homogenize and assimilate experiences; sensory, emotional and/or mental).
  5. 5. Vyana: moves from the center outward to the periphery. It governs circulation on all levels, moving food, water, blood and oxygen throughout the body, and keeping emotions and thoughts circulating in the mind. In doing this, Vyana assists all the other Pranas in their work.

In order for the first or outer Kosha (Annamaya) to function it needs to be energized and sustained by the vital Prana available via the Pranamaya Kosha, the energy sheath. If the energy sheath is absent the physical body will disintegrate and merge back into its five elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether). The Pranamaya Kosha can be viewed as being responsible for all the physiological functions in the body (breathing, blood circulation, digestion, heartbeat, all hormonal functions, communication between the brain and the cells of the body etc.).

The primary Yoga practice that is used to energize and vitalize the Pranamaya Kosha is Pranayama (control of the breath).

The Pranamaya Kosha is the vital force that produces the subtle vibrations related to breath, and which are the driving force behind the physical aspect of the senses and the operation of the physical body. It allows the invisible indweller, our true “Self” to be able to animate through the body in the external world. Ironically, at the same time, it allows the eternally still, silent center of consciousness to be mistakenly identified as the moving, visible physical body.

Vedanta philosophy instructs us that for both a healthy life and the proper practice of meditation, it is very useful, even essential that this level of our being be trained, regulated, and directed, so that it flows smoothly and easily.

The Pranamaya Koshasurvives the physical body, but only momentarily, for it is also transitory.

Stay tuned, coming up next will be: The Five Koshas (Part 3 – Manomaya Kosha: mind (mind-stuff) sheath.

The Five Koshas (Part 1- Annamaya: food sheath)

Annamaya Kosha is the first and outer of the five Koshas (sheaths).

Annamaya Kosha, is a Sanskrit term meaning “the sheath of food” (anna), more specifically, the physical (or gross) body, which is made of food. All of the physical aspects of life come and go (through the cycle of birth and death) and are continually consumed by some aspect of the external (or manifest) reality. Thus, the outermost of the Koshas is called the sheath of food, or Annamaya kosha.

In accordance with Vedanta philosophy and Yoga practice, we train this aspect of ourselves; we take care of it and nurture it so that we can enjoy our external lives and at the same time turn within without it being an obstacle during meditation. In meditation, we can become aware of Annamaya Kosha, exploring it, and going inward and beyond it, to and subsequently through the other Koshas.

Annamaya Kosha is the sheath that represents the physical body and it needs nourishment to survive. As humans being we are a part of the food chain the same as all other sentient beings. This sheath is the visible and recognizable part of our “Self” and therefore we tend to mistakenly identify ourselves with it. It is also the most vulnerable of the five Koshas due to its physical nature and the array of environmental influences it is subject to. It is strengthened and supported by proper alignment with our body type and age along with adequate hygiene. Moderate exercise is recommended to sufficiently activate and enliven this outer and transitory sheath. Asanas which require concentration and pranayama to establish a regular respiratory rhythm will maintain the health, flexibility and strength of this body, as will any type of sport which is not carried to extreme.

Since this Kosha represents our gross body (Sthula Sharira) which is the “touchy” and “feely” part of our being, it includes our musculature, bones, blood, all the fluids in the body etc. This sheath is a composite of the five great elements (or five “mahabhutas”); earth, water, fire, air and ether. Furthermore, it is the false identification of the “Self” with this sheath that has as its consequence “avidya” (ignorance), which results in our suffering. Some examples of this identification are simple statements like, “I’m fat” or “I’m ugly”, etc. If you just take a step back and replace statements like these with “this body is fat” and “this face is ugly”, you have taken an essential step in recognizing the distinction between the “Self” and the physical body. When saying “my body”, we are asserting that we have an enclosure called the body, but “Self” is not that body.

This Kosha, representing our gross physical body can be viewed as the first port of entry in respect to gaining access to all the deeper layers (sheaths), eventually leading us to the recognition of our very core, which is the Atman (Universal Self). It is our responsibility to care for this sheath, keeping it healthy, clean and free of impurities so the access to the inner (or deeper) sheaths is more easily gained. In addition to practicing yoga techniques of asana (and the moderate exercises mentioned above), cleansing kriyas, proper diet and relaxation on a regular basis will help us achieve this goal. It is important to remember that while practicing the asanas we need to be fully and consciously aware of the impact of each pose on every part of the body. This awareness during our practice will help prevent any undue strain or injury that we might provoke due to negligence, overzealousness or competitiveness, which often prompts us to strive for something beyond our body’s normal ability. The awareness of the entire body will also help us greatly in making the connection with the deeper Koshas that will be discussed in upcoming articles.

Final note: The Annamaya Kosha is totally dependent on the Pranamaya Kosha (Vital Energy Sheath), or life force, and will disintegrate as soon as life energy or prana has left the body. Yoga Philosophy teaches us that the real Self is not any of these bodies. In order to attain liberation one must put an end to identifying with these sheaths and identify with the true Self, which is beyond all the sheaths. Each Kosha can in turn, be transcended.

Stay tuned, coming up next will be: The Five Koshas (Part 2 – Pranamaya Kosha: vital energy sheath).

The Five Koshas (Sheaths)

Kosha a Sanskrit word usually translated as “sheath”, of which there are five, each one representing a covering of the Atman (“Self”, according to Vedantic philosophy). They range from gross to subtle and are often visualized like the layers of an onion. Just as there are layers of an onion or like the series of Russian wooden dolls pictured below, so also these Koshas, lie one within the other as a set of five sheaths.

The five sheaths (aka- Pancha-Koshas) are listed here (each of these individual Koshas will be elaborated upon in future blog articles). From gross to fine they are:

  1. Annamaya Kosha, food (gross body)sheath
  2. Pranamaya Kosha, air (vital energy) sheath
  3. Manomaya Kosha, mind (mind-stuff) sheath
  4. Vijnanamaya Kosha, wisdom (intellect/intuition) sheath
  5. Anandamaya Kosha, bliss (pure joy) sheath

According to Vedanta the wise man should discriminate between the Self and the Koshas, which are non-self.

It is natural for one to identify themselves with the Koshas. But as their intellect becomes pure through meditation they develop the faculty of true discrimination between the real and the unreal, between the permanent and the impermanent. As they acquire this faculty of true discrimination, they abandon the first Kosha and their focus approaches the next level or sheath. By meditation they can resolve each Kosha and go deeper to the one that is behind it, till thay reache the innermost Atman (Self) behind all five Koshas and then they hold on to that Atman alone. Step by step one abandons one Kosha after another dissolving all of them and eventually attaining knowledge of their unity with Brahman and become liberated from karma or the round of births and deaths.

The Koshas (along with the entire world of names and forms) vanishes entirely from the vision of a liberated sage. They are illusions (Maya) that can only be removed by true knowledge. A good analogy is how a rope is mistaken for a serpent, only because of ignorance, so it is only by ignorance (Avidya) alone that the Atman becomes mistaken to be the person of five Koshas, suffering each of them as a result.

When practicing Yoga, some sort of guide is needed, like a map that charts the territory of the self. The five Koshas make up such a map, established by yogic sages over 3,000 years ago. These Koshas are written about in the Upanishads, navigating an inner journey, starting from the outer boundary of the body and moving towards its core (the Self). So the Yogic path of Self-realization is one of progressively moving inward, recognizing and dissolving each of those Koshas, in order to experience the purity and unity of the eternal Divine Consciousness or Self (Atman), while at the same time allowing that Divinity to permeate our individuality. The Koshas have proven to be both a practical and profound contemplative tool that can help you deepen your Yoga practice and improve the quality of your life.

Check back soon for: The Five Koshas (Part 1- Annamaya: food sheath)

The Five Niyamas (Part 5 – Ishvara Pranidhana)

This article is the fifth and final part of a five part series based on this post: The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 2 – Niyama)

The fifth of the five Niyamas is Ishvara Pranidhana. In its simplest form, the Sanskrit term is a combination of the words; Ishvara, meaning Lord, God, Supreme Being or Life Force, and Pranidhana, meaning attention to, love for, surrender to, faith in, or reunion with. “Attentiveness” and “Surrender” are both close English approximations.

Surrender (Ishvara Pranidhana) is considered the “final” step, stage, practice or observance (Niyama) for students and practitioners of Patanjali’s “classical” Yoga (Raja Yoga). Patanjali says of Ishvara Pranidhana: “From an attitude of letting go into one’s source (ishvarapranidhana), the state of perfected concentration (samadhi) is attained.” (Yoga sutra 2.45 – samadhi siddhih ishvarapranidhana).

For Patanjali, Ishvara Pranidhana is a powerful “observance” for dissolving the seemingly endless fluctuations (or agitations) of the mind, and is therefore a means to the realization of the ultimate unified state of yoga, “Samadhi.” By embodying the practice of Ishvara Pranidhana we can shift our perspective from our obsession with the “ego-I” that causes so much of the mind’s distraction and creates the sense of separation from our Source. Since Ishvara Pranidhana focuses on the sacred ground of being rather than the ego, it reunites us with our true Self. As B. K. S. Iyengar states in his Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, “Through surrender the aspirant’s ego is effaced, and…grace…pours down upon him like a torrential rain.”

A note on the meaning of Ishvara (from Swami Rama): “In the Upanishads, the word Īśvara is used to denote a state of collective consciousness. Thus, God is not a being that sits on a high pedestal beyond the sun, moon, and stars; God is actually the state of Ultimate Reality. But due to the lack of direct experience, God has been personified and given various names and forms by religions throughout the ages. When one expands one’s individual consciousness to the Universal Consciousness, it is called Self-realization, for the individual self has realized the unity of diversity, the very underlying principle, or Universal Self, beneath all forms and names. The great sages of the Upanishads avoid the confusions related to conceptions of God and encourage students to be honest and sincere in their quests for Self-realization. Upanishadic philosophy provides various methods for unfolding higher levels of truth and helps students to be able to unravel the mysteries of the individual and the universe.”

In the West we commonly view surrender as giving up; a last resort when all else has failed and we are exhausted or in a weakened state, but on the other hand, the type of surrender indicated by Isvara Pranidhana requires tremendous strength and courage. This is why the observance of the other four Niyamas precedes it.

In order to surrender the “fruits” of our actions to God we are required to give up all illusions that we know best, and instead accept and trust that the way our life unfolds is most likely part of a much larger pattern too complex and/or beautiful for us to understand. Isvara Pranidhana instructs us to make a conscious choice to love regardless of the harshness or comfort of our current circumstances.

This surrender is definitely not a passive inactivity. Isvara Pranidhana requires that we completely and whole heartedly surrender to all that “is”, while simultaneously acting with an abundance of goodness and love.

The practice of Isvara Pranidhana is relatively simple. Just let all the activities of body, mind and spirit be consciously rooted in unconditional love, the love of an open heart radiating kindness and compassion.  Actively surrender to reality of Life, the Divine and Existence Itself.  As we actively surrender to what “is” while we intentionally move towards the highest expression of our spiritual Self in each moment with no attachment or thought of any “attainment”, a great sense of freedom and peace arises within us and we become a healing light to all.

Isvara Pranidhana inherently requires a profound trust in the goodness of the Universal Divine which permeates all existence, both within and beyond our finite understanding.

The Five Niyamas (Part 4 – Svadhyaya)

This article is the fourth of a five part series based on this post:  The Eight Limbs of Yoga (Part 2 – Niyama)

The Five Niyamas (Part 4 – Svadhyaya)


The fourth of the five Niyamas is Svadhyaya – a compound Sanskrit word literally translated sva, meaning “one’s own”, and adhyaya, “study”; therefore Svadhyaya would mean study of one’s self. Svadhyaya also is interpreted as studying the Vedas, Yoga Sutras and other scriptures, basically the source materials of yoga practice.

Self-study is very important for students and practitioners of Patanjali’s “classical” Yoga (Raja Yoga) and it would include reflection on sacred texts. Patanjali says of Svadhyaya: “From self-study and reflection on sacred words (svadhyaya), one attains contact, communion, or concert with that underlying natural reality or force.” (Yoga sutra 2.44 – svadhyayat ishta samprayogah).

Through deep inquiry into the self, comes an acknowledgment of the oneness of that self with all that is arises naturally. In other words, when practicing Svadhyaya our boundaries begin to melt and the illusion of separateness we feel from ourselves, those around us, and our world begins to dissolve. To practice Svadhyaya is to find the Divine appearing in us (and as us) at this very moment.

Yogis throughout the ages have practiced Svadhyaya by asking the simple question, “Who am I.”  Sri Ramana Maharishi often spoke of self-enquiry as the “direct path” meaning it was the fastest path to moksha (liberation from Maya [illusion] and samskara [the cycle of death and rebirth] including all of the suffering and limitation of worldly existence).

Svadhyaya is purposefully preceded by Tapas (fiery discipline) because it takes an enormous amount of discipline to move beyond the material world that defines, binds and shrouds us in Maya (ignorance). In the practice of Svadhyaya, prayers, mantras, japa, meditation, purposeful intent and other devotional practices, including ancient yogic methods are used to strip away the ego and unveil truth, layer by layer. In the study of one’s self, the student becomes the witness of their thoughts, emotions, actions and life.  During this witnessing process the distance between the real and unreal is unveiled.  The incessantly chattering mind, unsettled emotions and physical limitations of the body are no longer seen as the “Self”, but instead are viewed as an experience of Self. In this recognition and realization of Truth, the practice of Svadhyaya brings a resounding peace.

In yoga practice, Svadhyaya has most traditionally been concerned with the study of various scriptures. But in truth, any practice that brings us to the point of recognizing our interconnection with all that is, is Svadhyaya. Svadhyaya could be studying Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, practicing asana, chanting, or even reading this blog.

In the study of Svadhyaya, as with all of our sadhanas, there is a natural, organic movement towards becoming more and more present.  Along with this movement, there is an automatic falling away of fear.  A sense of peace emerges along with the knowledge that love (presence) permeates all that is and ever was.  Through the recognition of our inherent goodness and divinity, we realize that everything occurs for both the good of the individual and the good whole. In this state there are no random events,  in fact, it would appear as if from your very first breath you were meant to find that you are loved far more than you could ever possibly imagine.

Final thoughts: Incorporating the practice of Svadhyaya into your everyday life is an effective way to experience life more fully. It’s about getting to know yourself better. And as we begin to truly understand who we are, we identify with the connectedness (union) that yoga is really all about.

The next article will continue this series with: The Five Niyamas (Part 5 – Ishvara Pranidhana)