I stand in warrior three. Firmly planted on my right foot, the leg extended. My left leg reaching back behind me. Arms reaching forward. The standing leg tremors, my mind responds, "will I fall? Steady. Oh. I have overcompensated. No! Okay, I think I have it. Oh, no."
My thoughts are interrupted by the instructor cueing the breath, "smooth and steady."
That's when I notice I am not breathing.
We come out and I exhale in a sigh.
The body, mind and breath are all related. In Yoga we refer to these layers as the koshas. There is the physical kosha, anna maya kosha; within that sheath is a more subtle sheath relating to our living energy - the energy of fear or of love for example -called the prana maya kosha. The third sheath is the mano maya kosha, or the sheath of the mind. The thinking essence of ourself. We experience the world around us through the layers of emotion energy and our physical experience of the world.
In warrior three, I may arrive with physical tension from sitting at my desk all morning and having done my run on a treadmill the day before. I had that extra cup of coffee in the morning and hungry for my lunch. These things will influence my physical experience of the pose. I rush to class, knowing I have a full afternoon before me. Knowing that I will not stop until late tonight. This is the living energy I bring to the class; this energy of being hurried, continuing moving, not grounded and steady. The mind is thinking of the results. It is checking the things off the to do list. It is judging the experience. "Is this class giving me what I want? Am I being successful?" This is the mano maya kosha layer through which I am experiencing the class.
My overall experience depends on how I manage these layers. A restful sleep. A healthy meal that balances me. Ensuring time in my schedule. These elements will create a very different experience on the three levels I have just described. This is why Ayurveda is the sister science to Yoga. Ayurveda works with the physical, energetic and mental energies. Eating foods that stabilize and balance the elements of the body, oil massage that creates a more relaxed or enlivened experience based on what one would benefit the most, help to create the maximum benefit from asana practice.
The koshas don't end here. There are two more layers; the vijana maya kosha and the ananda maya kosha. When we can move through the first three we reach the layer of discrimination. This is the place of clear understanding. And finally the layer of bliss. That place of joy, ananda maya kosha. This is the real fruit of our practice. Being and experiencing our best self.