One Body or Three

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You have one body—or do you? Actually, according to yoga, you have three bodies: the physical body, the astral body, and the causal body. These three bodies can function separately, but they are intimately interrelated, too.

Maintaining an awareness of all three of your bodies will help you see more clearly who you really are. Self-actualization means knowing your whole self.

Here's a closer look at your three bodies:

> The physical body is the crudest of the bodies and the smallest. This is the you in the mirror. Yet even though it's crude, it's our best tool for growth. We can't deny we have physical bodies, so yoga helps us make the most of them. The first three aspects of Patanjali's Eightfold Path strengthen and train the physical body: abstinences (yamas), observances (niyamas), and postures (asanas). (See Chapter 6, "Walking Yoga's Eightfold Path.")

> The astral body is the vehicle of the spirit and corresponds with the mind. This layer exists within the causal body and encompasses the physical body. It is like layer number two, the second layer to form, extending beyond the physical body but not to the limits of the causal body. The astral body is strengthened through the next three steps of the Eightfold Path: breathing exercises (prana-yama), sense withdrawal (pratyahara), and concentration (dharana).

> The causal body is the largest, most widely reaching layer of you, starting with spirit. It's the subtlest body and holds the spirit, as well as the other layers. This is where you started. Individuality (as we normally think of it) exists to a minimal degree in the causal body, which allows the spirit to shine and truth to be evident. The causal body is reached or experienced through the final two limbs of the Eightfold Path: meditation (dhyana) and superconsciousness or bliss (samadhi).

The Causal Body Yoga

You have three interpenetrating bodies—yes, you! These are the physical, causal, and astral bodies.

Hatha Yoga works under the assumption that the inner you is the you worth working on, but to get to the inner you, the outer you—in all its crudity—must first be controlled. Hatha Yoga works to get the physical body under control and in balance so it doesn't impede the other bodies—the astral and causal. Only then can the self-actualized, balanced you emerge in your full glory.

Hatha Yoga accomplishes this Herculean task of fine-tuning and delicate balancing by...

> Building strength through exercises.

> Toning the organs and joints through exercises.

> Training the breath.

> Keeping the body infused with prana.

> Keeping the body clean.

Through these exercises, techniques, and rituals, the body is properly prepared for the rising of kundalini energy.

Hatha Yoga is about balance and emphasizes pranayama and asanas, or postures. Raja Yoga, or royal path, also incorporates Patanjali's Eightfold Path, but with a greater emphasis on sense withdrawal, concentration, and meditation. Hatha and Raja Yoga exist in a symbiotic relationship. If you've mastered your body and your breath so that prana is able to flow freely and unencumbered through your chakras, meditation is the natural next step in the progression. You have prepared your body to optimize meditation. In turn, meditation prepares your mind to stand back and let the spirit shine through.

As you look in the mirror, you might wonder about those different levels, those three bodies, and what they really are to the reflection you see. Actually, within the three bodies, there are five sheaths of existence, according to yoga. What you see in the mirror is only one of those sheaths, or koshas (which can be translated as "envelopes") that make up the real you.

Koshas (pronounced KOH-shahs) are the five sheaths of existence that make up the body: the physical body, the vital body, the mind sheath, the intellect sheath, and the sheath of bliss.

Know Your Sanskrit

Koshas (pronounced KOH-shahs) are the five sheaths of existence that make up the body: the physical body, the vital body, the mind sheath, the intellect sheath, and the sheath of bliss.

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