Alignment in the koshas – with Eyal Shifroni

This workshop is a hard one to write about. I wonder if others attending had the same feeling as I did; that it was quite special.

I remember going to my first yoga workshop, and being impressed, and learning so much. I also remember being a bit anxious going to my first “out-of-studio” workshop. Now, as you’ve probably noticed, I regularly go to workshops and study all over the place, so this feeling has evaporated a bit. While I always learn some new things during workshops, I also have learned a lot in the past years, and I often have already used props or touched upon concepts the workshop is about, so I am already familiar with the practice. And while I did feel a bit of that this weekend, I also felt that I could go one layer further with Eyal’s teaching. The depth of his teaching made me think whether I would have gotten as much if I had attended a couple of years ago. I also realize that other senior teachers might have spoken about things that flew way over my head at the time, and so I only remember my own “haha” moments, and others might have gotten something very different from the practice than I did at the time.

The theme of the weekend was alignment and the five koshas. If anything, the workshop really made me want to study philosophy more and reread the yoga sutras, though my copy with Guruji’s commentary is back home and I’ll have to wait until the Christmas break to get it back.


Anyways. Where to start?

How about with the fact that after eluding me for the whole time of teacher training, the only thing I can feel in any pose now seems to be my hips. I can’t believe I’m only now getting all of these feelings and brush upon some kind of understanding. Maybe I needed my hamstring injury to start feeling the hips? Guess I’ll never know. I could go through all the poses and the props we used, but I would rather focus on the philosophical aspect in this article, so I’ll just mention that Eyal is amazingly ingenious with prop use. If you haven’t already, you can check out his books for more information.

But more broadly, the weekend’s practice was based on a lot of this article (You might want to read it first before going on with this article). On Friday, we worked on concentration (focusing on one point), taking the foot as the base and object of our concentration. The idea was that our foot should stay as if in Tadasana no matter what pose we would be practicing, so that there would be an even weight on each eight of feet (quarter of each of the two feet) at all time. This focus in observation led to everyone being quite slow while getting into the pose, paying attention to any subtle change in weight distribution and immediate correction if possible.

On Saturday, we moved onto the diffusion of the manas (mind) to the whole body, starting from the chest.  Think of  a cork block (the ones we use in yoga class). We were instructed to move into different asanas as if the cork clock was our chest and we were trying to keep this block as even as possible. So in Trikonasana for exemple, the block would simply be titled to the side, but both sides of the block (aka chest) would be evenly elongated. Thinking about creating an even length in the torso was very helpful for me, especially in Eka Padanghustasana, as it prevented hanging in the hip of the standing leg. We started talking about the heart being the center of a tranquil consciousness (citta), as buddhi (intelligence) origins from the heart. This was then explored by (trying) radiating our awareness from the heart to the rest of the chest (and eventually the rest of the body, we stayed mainly within the chest).


Our beloved cork blocks. So even!

Sunday was all about backbends, and a natural continuation of Saturday’s theme from diffusion of the manas to the radiation of buddhi (intelligence) from the heart to the rest of the body. I was on my period the whole weekend, but it was mainly on Sunday that I felt like I was missing out, as there were intense backbends and a lot of inversions. Even in the not-so-intense backbends I could practice, I found it way harder to go through the concentration-diffusion-radiation (Dharana-Dyana-Samadhi) triad (or even touch upon the radiation to be honest). Even though I was trying to create space within my backbends, I still find it physically taxing and difficult to breathe (not that I get out of breath, I can stay in poses for a while, but it is simply harder to create sufficient breathing space).

I thoroughly enjoyed studying with Eyal, and I hope our paths cross again. I’m sorry this article is actually so short and I feel like I’m barely going over the surface of things, but these are difficult concepts I still need time ton digest and work on. I figured it is still better for me to write a little about it than nothing. I’ll leave you with our “homework” question. Eyal asked us on Friday, what does alignment in all of the koshas mean for you? He mentioned that alignment in the Annamaya (body) and Pranamaya (energy) koshas were easy to understand conceptually, but for the innermost koshas this is more difficult to grasp. We discussed it briefly on Sunday, and there are no bad answers, so I would be curious to hear your opinions.