What is the Annamayakosha?
The first layer of the kośas, the annamaykosha, represents the dense physical body. As a yoga teacher, when you give anatomical cues in class you are working with the annamāyākośa.
This kośa is first because it’s incredibly important! You must find and connect with your physical body before you can journey deeper inside.
Giving good alignment cues is imperative for all teachers. However, many teachers (including myself) get stuck here. I taught only the annamāyākośa for several years, even though my students were ready to venture deeper.
***Note: the proper way to spell annamāyākośa in Sanskrit is annamāyākośa. The ś is pronounced like sh, which is why you’ll see I go back and forth between the spelling annamāyākośa and annamayakosha.
Yoga is Magic
Yoga is magic and appeals to a lot of different people for a lot of different reasons. Some people prefer an anatomically based class where others prefer a more spiritual class. As a teacher, it’s your job to appeal to a wide variety of people, those who are looking for the physical and those who are looking for “more than.”
As a teacher, for several years I gave strictly anatomical cues in the annamayakosha. And most of the classes I attended were similar.
But when I started to build sequences around things like the cakras or the 8 limbs of yoga, I knew that I needed to deliver more than just anatomical cues. But I couldn’t figure out HOW to do it.
That’s where the kośas came in. The kośas are energetic layers, or sheaths, that move from the outermost layer of skin to the deep spiritual core. The kośas provide a framework to journey towards your deepest level of Self. Each kośa is contained within the other, like Russian Dolls.
When you practice yoga, you are impacting these 5 layers. Each class should have a mix of all the different levels of kośas. A lot of teachers intuitively teach the deeper layers of the kośas. If you’re looking to build a specific theme, you may want to spend a little more time on your verbal cues. Cuing through the kośas is a great way to open the doors as a teacher to provide more than just anatomical cues. Perhaps you want to theme a class on happiness or on the changing seasons: cue through the kośas.
Don’t know what the Kosha’s are? Start here.
How To Start Teaching the Kośas
It can be intimidating to learn a new teaching style. Therefore, I suggest you start by choosing one pose and writing down the 5 layers of the kośas for that one pose. Teach one layer in one class. In the next class, teach another layer. Then another layer. When you feel comfortable, pick another pose and repeat the process.
Keep in mind you don’t teach every layer of every pose in every class. Your class would take way too long! Here’s how I cue the kośas-
First side Triangle pose – cue the physical body and the breath (kośas 1 & 2)
Second side Triangle pose – cue kośa 3 OR 4 OR 5
First side Tree Pose- cue the physical body and the breath (kośas 1 & 2)
Second side Tree Pose – cue kośa 3 OR 4 OR 5
Cuing the kośas is definitely a bit more of an advanced teaching style, but anyone can implement it with a little practice. Try not to overthink it. Allow the inner teacher and your intuition to guide you. Start with one pose, build to 2, then 3, then a sequence, etc.
The 5 Kośas are:
- Annamāyākośa – the physical body.
- Prānamāyākośa – the energy body.
- Manomāyākośa – the mental body.
- Vijñanamāyākośa – the wisdom body.
- Ānandamāyākośa – the bliss body.
How to teach the Annamayakosha:
First and foremost, choose a good yoga teacher training program that teaches you good cuing skills. I suggest Shri School of Yoga where you learn proper alignment and how to speak about the body.
Plus, you’ll get lots of great practice teaching and feedback to help hone your skills. If you can’t attend a teacher training, then I suggest starting with basic cues. Start by doing your own yoga practice and saying exactly what your body is doing.
The key to this kośa is understanding your own body. If you turn your right toes to the side, then tell that to your students. When practicing cuing, always make sure to say things out loud.
Example cues for the Annamayakosha
First Cakra – “In mountain pose, look down at your feet and notice if your toes are pointing forward. Spread your toes wide and push down evenly into the feet. Engage your legs.”
Triangle – “Turn your right foot to the front of the room, back foot is placed at a 45 degree angle. Stretch your right arm to the front of the room and place your hand to your shin, stretching your left arm up to the sky.”
Tree – “ Place your left foot on the right calf and bring your hands to your heart.”
Advance Your Yoga Teaching Skills
This week, focus on the annamāyākośa in your classes. Notice if your students are well-connected to their body or if they are just “going through the motions.” Take some time and dive into your own physical practice.
When you’re ready, move on to the prānamāyākośa, the manomāyākośa, the vijñanamāyākośa and the anandamayakosha.
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