A question came up recently that I thought I would tackle, that being which Asana or sequences are relevant to balancing the five Koshas. Koshas in Yoga lore are known as the sheaths or 'bodies' that are layered together a bit like an onion. Presumably our true essence is found in the center somewhere a bit like layers of clothes covering a person. From my angle I can't quite get that, I rather go with the idea of our consciousness as completely non-localized and projecting into these 'bodies'. This goes beyond the so-called electro-magnetic field. Various studies have revealed that for example any decision that we make is registered in electrical activities up to seven seconds before we 'consciously' make the choice.
Most folk now-a-days are familiar with the presence of a field around our bodies and extending below and above. Let me hasten to say that this form of electro-magnetism is dis-similar to the commonly known form in our electricity and techno world of today. The so-called aura of our bodies is generated by life-force or Prana. This is also called Ki, Qi, Ether and others. It's probably worth saying that this field creates our physical body rather than the other way around. Prana itself absolutely extends throughout the conceivable universe and I believe the life-force that animates us is engaged by the luminous shell that in turn creates us physically.
In terms of Koshas, we have a sheath (field) of Prana, a Physical sheath, Feeling/Emotional sheath, two mental sheaths - Wisdom mind and Observing mind.
So sure, we can take various asana sets or a specific pose for re-balancing, and this is all good and helpful.
In my own practice I do tend to work with the subject a little differently.
The first thing we need to do is just get quiet for a moment and focus our attention on the feeling of the physical body. When we do this we immediately get in touch with sensation. That may be warmth or coolness, comfort or discomfort, flexibility or tight feelings, tired or energized and so on. What we are coming into direct contact with is our vital energy. This vital force is absolutely electrical since every single cell, organ, bone and system in our physical layer requires voltage to operate. Naturally there are sub fields, more macro fields and all are inter-related and eventually inter-dependent.
More or less as soon as I'm connecting with my physical energy I begin using the breath more consciously. The breath should never be forced in any way, rather free style and comfortable. Just by the simple expedient of becoming aware of how our breath flows is already a harnessing of life-force into our attention. Natural flowing and connecting of the breath is always best. Once these first two levels of vital energy and breath are in our attention we will notice that it wasn't the rational aspect of mind that we used. In fact the analytical component is not required at all for this practice. So the aspect of mind that we do use is more the observing mind. 'I' as an awareness, directed by my 'Intent' became more aware of energy and breath.
What I have called the Feeling/Emotional sheath is also engaged here and so I came to gradually call this 'Feeling Awareness'. So this leaves the Wisdom Mind. Well, the wisdom mind is the aspect of mind that can discern, choose, direct. So along with the Observing aspect we are actually engaging this part too as a function of Will. Once again let me hasten to say that the true, discerning, spiritual 'mind' is not the rational aspect. Direct knowledge that bypasses the thinking processes arises from our Heart and constitutes True Original Mind.
Now if we take the natural knowledge of Asana that says forward folds are calming, back bending are stimulating, balancing poses are centering, jumping is invigorating, inversions are rejuvanating and so on we can apply a natural progression to our daily practice.
Self observance or Mindfulness is such an essential basic practice. Without that there are literally many folk around who are quite out of touch with their bodies, their energy, their feelings and more. The more we follow a pre-determined script or program written by someone else, the more we become prone to this. Likewise the more we try to automate our practice the same thing happens - we actually lose touch with our vital energy. It's as if it has been hijacked by the machine or the script, which amounts to pretty much the same thing.
To balance the anandamaya kosha or feeling layer, we firstly need to examine how we are fundamentally taking asana practice. If you are ignoring your feeling layer perhaps you may be driven Intent-wise by the need to present a deeper forward or back fold than the guy next to you in class. Or perhaps impress the teacher or if you are that teacher, to live up to a socially pre-determined image.
Ananda in sanskrit is 'bliss'. So not surprisingly, this is mostly associated with a state of awareness that is transcendent and is considered a high accomplishment of spiritual state/experience. But realize that that bliss is experienced via our Feeling faculty in the Heart. So when applied to asana practice, we need to first be in connection with our feeling faculty and then employ this into a greater awareness. Many are in reality connecting their feeling to the analytical mind and so experience the sense of competition and comparison with each other.
Assuming we are feeling lethargic and sluggish, naturally a program of movement with rolling and jumping actions is appropriate. Back-bending is also great for waking us up and building a quality of sharp awareness. Anxiety and stress responses can be calmed with forward folding and when we feel very scattered we can practice balancing poses. We should also remember that twisting actions tend to promote energy flow since all energy moves in spirals. Twists can also be part of de-tox program.
Generally a good yoga session will release endorphins and serotonin and often fosters a sense of community as well which further helps.
So you can likely see by now that a reliance on a specific posture to 'do' something for us, although to a certain extent accurate, is not really sufficient. Without using our attention and therefore a consciousness we create skillfully we will likely simply be doing an exercise form such as gym or jogging or tennis, and that's fine so long as we are aware and that's what we want to do.
To genuinely balance the koshas into a deep harmony, we have to also consider the role and function of each major cakra in our energetic/physical body. No amount of practice of a sequence or pose will be able to work properly if we keep on with the thoughts, behaviors, attitudes and so on that unbalance the cakra in the first place.
So I do hope this has shed a little light on the subject. There is a lot more to say, but perhaps for another article.