Paint Yoga Body Exploration
As part of my 200 hour yoga teacher training 2018, we were assigned to create a representation of our bodies. It was exciting at graduation to see all the various interpretations that fledgling yoga teachers had created for this assignment. I just posted this video to Youtube: https://youtu.be/JeJYDM9iIcY about it.
I found this to be a useful exercise for learning anatomy, and also for self exploration. Here is the path of my process:
Set up in a comfy location with all the supplies that you’ll need. I used a variety of media such as oil pastel crayons, acrylic paints, markers, and clippings from magazines, scraps of yarn and glue... as well as images printed from my home computer.
For this project, the top layer represents the physical body, or the integument of the anatomical body. Beneath this surface image, lie the leaves of my body codex, representing various layers within the anatomy of western understanding on the left and eastern subtle body concepts on the right. For Paint Yogis, I intend to expand upon each of the steps I took exploring the invisible workings of the body, mind, and spirit, into its own exercise.
From the topmost surface, “Epidermis,” of the outer body, the pages of this interactive work fold right to reveal the inner layers: Muscles, Nerves & Organs, and Bones.
From the topmost image, “Annamaya Kosha,” the painting folds open to the left to reveal the remaining layers of the vedantic koshas: pranamaya kosha, manamaya kosha, vijnanamaya kosha, and anandamaya kosha. I represented additional yoga concepts within each of these layers as well.
During the class when this project was introduced, we were partnered, and we each participant traced the body of another participant onto kraft paper so we could each begin with a life-size tracing of our physical footprint.
For my project, the next step I took was to cut out the body outline from the paper and attach the outside of the paper to a sheet of shiny wrapping paper. I used this paper because I wanted the dots to represent 72,000 nadis as well as the trillions of cells that make up the body.
I used 2 rolls of printed masking tape from the dollar store to secure the inner and outer edges of the piece. The outer tape also secured the base page to the floor.
Being a life size representation of my body, this activity took a considerable amount of space to work on. I might have spent more time on the various facets of this work if I had chosen a place to set up where there would have been less foot traffic.
In the end, I felt some pressure after having this taped to my dining room floor for several days to pack it up and move on with daily life.
After creating the base layer, I traced the body outline onto several more pages and cut those out as well. I discarded the outer paper for all the additional layers so that when they are all laid open the base layer would be visible.
I used sticky notes to create tabs at the top of each leaf of this body codex:
Nerves & Organs,
Epidermis/ Annamaya Kosha
I used oil pastel crayons, and acrylic paint to fill in the integumentary details of my hair, skin and clothing. My hair is wildly flowing out over my shoulders because my partner for the tracing activity chose not to disturb my mane, but to trace around all of it.
When Native American trackers were recruited by the U.S. for service during the Vietnam War, it was supposedly found that the military buzz-style haircut reduced their tracking abilities because subtle vibrations these braves had previously sensed through the nerve-rich follicles of their long hair were no longer perceptible with the sensory keratin strands amputated.
My next step was to fill in the Pranamaya Kosha, or vital air sheath.
The five Vayus are:
Prana, Apana, Udana, Vyana and Samana. I represented Samana, Vyana, and Apana within this layer.
Samana vayu governs the digestive fire. This vayu is related to Manipura chakra located at the solar plexus.
Vyana vayu is responsible for distribution. It moves outward in a circular, pulsating motion. It is located in the heart.
Apana vayu is responsible for elimination. It moves down and out.
Within this layer, I also chose to represent the Ida and Pingala Nadis that originate in the nostrils and weave their way through the the chakras.
I represented The lower 3, or “earthly” chakras; root, sacral, and solar plexus, and their sounds to invoke life, order, and wisdom; vam, lam, ram, respectively.
I used some magazine clippings to collage this layer in warm yellow, orange and red hues as well as magic markers to annotate.
Within the Manomaya Kosha, or mental sheath, layer of my artwork, I chose to represent the heart and throat chakras as well as the Prana Vayu.
Prana vayu is responsible for the intake. It moves downward and inward, providing the basic energy that drives us. It is primarily located in the head, lungs and heart.
The Sounds for the Heart and Throat chakras invoke love and power.
I chose to color this layer in green using acrylic paint, and I added images both from magazines and from image search on my computer that I then printed out on adhesive backed paper. I continued annotations in sharpie markers of a variety of colors.
The mental layer is still connected to physicality through the biochemistry of our thought mechanics. Also, the heart chakra’s green color represents the compassion connected to this energetic center.
I chose a bird image because the heart is what gives us flight.
I chose an image of a watch that is slightly open to represent the time bound nature of our thinking, and the middle depth gaze of meditation that can release us from the limitations of our relationship with time.
Within my representation of the Vijnanamaya Kosha, or knowledge sheath, I placed the Third eye chakra, the Sushumna Nadi, and the Udana vayu.
The Third eye chakra is located in the center of the forehead between the eyebrows. It's believed to be linked to perception, awareness, and spiritual communication.
The Sushumna Nadi is a golden thread that runs up and down the spine. The name for this nadi comes from the Sanskrit prefix su, meaning “good” or “virtuous,” and mna, meaning “to think.” It is often translated as “joyful mind” or “most gracious.”
Udana vayu is responsible for growth. It moves upward and is a result of other vayus working properly. It governs our ability to stand, our speech, effort, enthusiasm and will.
I also included cultural icons of knowledge such as a tree with leaves of books, and a lightbulb with various connections within it representing thought and ideas.
I used an indigo blue and white wash paint on this layer (in order to help block the transference of colored sharpie ink through the layer on the other side of the page).
The anandamaya kosa is also known as the bliss body, and in this image is a cat.
Bastet is probably the best-known feline goddess from Egypt. Initially depicted as a lioness, Bastet assumed the image of a cat or a feline-headed woman in the 2nd millennium BCE.
Also represented in this layer are the crown chakra, 72,000 nadis, and unity consciousness.
The crown chakra is the bridge to the cosmos. It acts as the individual's center of spirit, enlightenment, wisdom, universal consciousness, and connection to higher guidance.
The body is filled with innumerable Nadis that cannot be counted. Tantric wisdom state that there are 72,000 Nadis in the human body, 14 are principal nadis out which Sushumna, Ida and Pingala are considered to be most important.
Unity consciousness is described as an extreme alteration of awareness, markedly different from ordinary subject-object consciousness.
Muscles, Organs and Bones:
Unless you are studying physical anatomy for some reason, there’s really no reason to go into the detail that I did with these structures, but I will still share the images I created for these layers.
An activity for Paint Yogis that I have in mind is to make your own body scan; outline a body image, then mark on it your physical pains and mark on it where you feel when you are angry, sad, ecstatic, etc.