Why Yoga?

You've doubtless heard various renderings of the onion analogy: the experience of life as an unpeeling of layers that reveal deeper and deeper truths of the self. The yogi's refer to these layers as koshas: the layers of being. The outermost layer of the onion is the physical body, in Sanscrit the Anna Maya Kosha. Our physical body and our physical discomfort may be the driving force that bring us to yoga. Personally, my physical distress brings me to my yoga mat every single day. After 18 years of practice my body yearns for for movement and Asana (yoga postures). I feel better when I practice.

As we continue to practice we experience deeper layers of the self: the Prana Maya Kosha (breath/energy body); the Mano Maya Kosha (mental and emotional body); and the Vijna Maya Kosha (wisdom body). Each layer takes us to a deeper awareness of our essential self. Until we finally find our deepest layer, our causal self: Ananda Maya Kosha, the bliss body.

Each kosha, each layer, is grounded in maya, the pain of life. As I struggle through my physical hurdles (originally a broken vertebral joint, currently a torn meniscus), my emotional hurdles (an alcoholic dysfunctional family of origin), my wisdom hurdles (an insatiable longing for meaning and purpose), I find the core of my being. It is my bliss body, grounded in this life experience, that sustains me and keeps me coming back to the work of living.

The yoga journey takes us inside, over and over again. Starting with the physical body, we learn to sit still. We learn to pay attention to ourselves. We learn to do one thing at a time. Somewhere in that journey we stumble upon our own bliss. We begin to find our calling and our purpose. We get up happy with our lives. Inevitably, living in maya, we stumble again, stand up, brush off our knees, willing and excited to begin the process all over again.