“It’s officially Downward Dog time,” announced Matthew Lombardo promptly at 11am, as if he were ushering in Friday afternoon Happy Hour. The ‘togetherness’ mantra played in the background as the sounds of Ujjayi breathing kicked in. Matthew linked this ancient mantra to the month’s theme at Jivamukti: the Koshas, or five layers of our being that envelop our true self.
“Are our Koshas working together?” he asked us to consider. “Or is what we know blocking our emotions, for example?” He took us through a few rounds of Kapalabhati breathing to help harmonize and integrate the Koshas.
“Yoga is to de-occult the occult, to bring out what’s hidden,” Matthew stated as we paused after warmups to briefly deconstruct Patanjali’s esoteric Sutra 3:26. “By concentrating on the inner light of awareness, one gains intuitive knowledge of the subtle and hidden,” Matthew translated.
“The subtle body is here even though it’s hidden beneath the more obvious outer layers,” Matthew observed as we moved into a gentle seated twist.
“We go from perspiration to inspiration,” Matthew told us during fast-paced Sun Salutations. “As we sweat, we are purifying our Koshas and releasing obstacles to the expression of our inner layers. We melt away the layers until we get to the Tootsie Roll center,” he said.
“That inner layer of bliss – what is that? It’s hard to comprehend something so intangible, so just think Nutella. On the outside you’re the baguette, and inside you’ve got this layer of spiritual Nutella.” We laughed as we moved from Triangle to Extended Side Angle variations and then on to more challenging balance postures like one-legged Side Plank and Rotated Half Moon Chapasana.
“Notice, who is it that shows up for this?” Matthew asked us. “Are you becoming tense, gritting your teeth trying to get it right? Or can you be with the burning thighs, the wobbly legs, having a good time with it? If you’re not having fun, what did you pay your money for?” He encouraged us to adapt the usual Jivamukti sequence to our own needs by resting in Child’s Pose or upping the ante with more advanced asanas.
“These details are important,” Matthew reminded us as he adjusted the angle of my back foot in Warrior II. “Alignment is dharma. Instead of getting all heady studying some far-out philosophy, we can start with the practical details and work our way inward.”
“Lift your head, lift your legs, lift your spirit,” Matthew said as we lay prone for backbends including Locust and Bow. “When we change our body, we change our habits. Through effort we eventually transcend Samsara so something new can happen,” he said as beads of sweat pattered on my mat.
We held Shoulderstand and Headstand for a nice while, and then finished with a seated forward bend before Savasana. “It’s not that one layer is better, or more advanced, than the others,” Matthew said. “They all work together.”
As we lay down Matthew told us to “let the bliss flow up from deep inside. The Koshas intermingle naturally after the practice.” After this fun journey in toward center I felt a greater awareness of the more subtle layers of my being, and sensed the blockages that create artificial boundaries between the layers effortlessly melting. I felt like I was floating in a warm ocean.
We sat up quietly for meditation as Matthew said, “Now we prepare to take this awareness of all our layers out into the world. We can recognize that our body is really five bodies and we can nurture all of them. Each layer needs something different and when we tune in, we know how to take care of each one. It’s natural.”
-Lauren Tepper for Yoga Sleuth
Single class $22; discounted class cards available