I love to read about yoga. It is a good thing, too, because it is kinda important considering I’m a yoga teacher! When I first began studying yoga, one of the things I noticed was that sometimes the word “yoga” was spelled with a lowercase “y” and sometimes it was spelled with an uppercase “Y”. As I continued my studies, I eventually learned that when yoga is spelled with a lowercase “y”, the writer was generally referring to yoga as a practice. However, when Yoga was spelled with an uppercase “Y”, the writer tended to be referring to Yoga as a state of being.
Then I noticed the same thing happening with the word “self”. Sometimes the “s” was capitalized, and sometimes is wasn’t. This puzzled me. After digging a bit deeper, I realized that when self was spelled with a lowercase “s” it was in reference to our ego, persona, or small-self. When spelled with a capital “S”, the word Self referred to the ultimate truth of who we are: that part of us that is divine.
Vijnanamaya Kosha: our intuitive body.
The five koshas are the five different levels of our being. They are annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya, and anandamaya kosha. (If you have missed any of the previous posts in this series about the koshas, you can begin here!) Vijnanamaya kosha is our intuitive body. Like manomaya kosha, vijnanamaya kosha has to do with our mind. However, manomaya kosha refers to the thinking brain that operates like a computer. Vijnanamaya kosha is our wisdom, creativity, and intelligence. It connects our self with a lowercase “s” to our Self with an uppercase “S”!
We can experience balanced vijnanamaya kosha when we are in a state of flow. Thanks to the positive psychology movement, you may have heard about flow states. When we are in a state of flow, we often feel happy, engaged, peaceful, and creative. We are in a flow state when we are completely immersed in the present moment. Perhaps we are doing an activity we love, losing ourselves in an engaging book, or diligently working on a challenging project. We know we have been in a flow state when we stop whatever we were doing and realize we completely lost track of time.
Vijnanamaya kosha is the bridge between our personal and our impersonal Self, or our small, egoic self and our cosmic True Self. It is how we recieve guidance from Source. Acting in alignment with our true nature means honoring our intuition. We listen to and heed the quiet voice within us. This allows us to more easily navigate the world: we are in the right place at the right time; we make optimal decisions even when we are not certain of the outcome; we find ourselves in the company of companions and collaborators with whom we can support on our paths.
The caring and keeping of vijnanamaya kosha.
There are specific ways we care for each of the koshas. In addition to regular participation in activities we love, practices that nourish vijnanamaya kosha include meditation and svadhyaya. From a yogic perspective, meditation (dhyana) is different than concentration (dharana). Concentration requires us to focus on something. It may be our breath, a mantra, our surroundings, or even the intention to concentrate itself. Concentration has already been established when we meditate. Meditation is uninterrupted concentration. It is this sort of meditation that nourishes vijnanamaya kosha.
Svadhyaya is a two-fold practice. The word svadhyaya means “self-study”, or “Self-study”. Traditionally, svadhyaya is the study of the Divine through sacred texts. From a yogic perspective, the Divine is not something that exists outside of us. It exists within. When we study the Divine through sacred texts, we are really studying ourselves. We are studying the part of us that is divine and always connected to its Source.
Svadhyaya may also include things that help us to get to know our small self better. Activities like journaling, psychotherapy, and shadow work help us cultivate a greater understanding of who we are as humans. Where do we get triggered? What makes us tick? Knowing our small selves -our light and our darkness- allows us greater choice in how we think and behave.
Yoga gives us a mirror through which we know ourselves better. When we care for vijnanamaya kosha, we are taking care that mirror is clear so that the image we see is as accurate as possible. This allows us to grow into the people we are capable of being. It also offers a path to inner peace.