What does Turiya mean?
Updated: Oct 22, 2018
When I started teaching yoga, my main objective was to get out there and share my knowledge and experience with yogis who wanted to learn and progress along their own path. My students grew, and over time, I decided to take the plunge and open my own studio. So then I landed myself into the very modern western arena of branding.
Before I became a yoga teacher, I had a 'proper job', part of which included marketing communications - my degree was marketing based, and marketing has actually been integral to every job I've ever done.
When I set up my yoga business, I knew that I didn't want my brand to be my name, but what 'brand' to choose? I have always (and still do) voraciously read books about yoga, and there are so many beautiful words and concepts contained therein - but one day, while reading, I came across a reference to 'Turiya'. As a word it appealed to me on a deep instinctive level, and as a concept it summed up what the yoga journey is about.
So what is 'Turiya'? The word was first used in the Upanishads, written around 3000 years ago, at a time where ascetic forest dwellers, descended from the Indus Valley civilisations, (in what is now North East India/Pakistan), sought to discuss and understand the great questions of our existence. They defined Turiya as the fourth level of consciousness: we have dreamless sleep, dreaming and the waking state. The fourth level is Turiya - superconsciousness or pure consciousness. The place where our soul (Atman) is integrated with universal consciousness (Brahman). If we can recognise that our personality, emotions, moods and thoughts change and are temporary, and that there is another part of us that can observe those shifts, so is separate, this is the atman. The idea that 'we are one', that we are all connected, is core to Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Tantra and Modern Yoga, all of which have their geographical roots in the Indus Valley.
Turiya is also referred to as the dot at the top of the Om symbol. Om is the most important mantra in yoga, dating back to the Vedas - the oldest religious text in the world, existing long before the Upanishads, approximately 5000 years ago. In those texts the use of the word 'Om' reflects the way people in the West now use 'amen' at the end of prayers, but in the Upanishads it becomes so much more than that -it is the sound of creation.
So how to achieve Turiya? By moving backwards and inwards from the world we constantly experience - like working through the layers of an onion. Through an awareness, observation and integration of the five koshas (layers) that lead from the external to the internal:
- The physical body (anna maya kosha).
- The energy body (prana maya kosha) - our breath and the bodily systems.
- The mind (mano maya kosha) - where sensations and emotions are felt.
- The wisdom body (vijnana maya kosha) - how we perceive and understand things.
- The bliss body (ananda maya kosha) - the 'soul'.
The practice of yoga (including pranayama, asanas and meditation), enables us to move through the koshas to an awareness of the integration of body, breath and mind to turn the lens inwards, to understand that what is within us is within everyone, that what is within us is within every sentient being, That we are all one, all connected. And that, in a nutshell, is Turiya x