Yoga’s holistic approach to wellbeing
Looking after the whole person: yoga has a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. To be healthy we have to work on the whole person rather than separate parts. As human beings we are multi-layered and miraculous! There is so much going on beneath the surface. Our layers are interwoven and do not function as individual parts. For example, our mind health is really important to our physical health – our thoughts and emotions can really shape our world.
The Pancha Kosha (maya) model illustrated below gives us a simple way of observing the person from five different aspects, (J Danford, 2016).
Yoga, a Mind-Body therapy, offers tools to support all our layers – supporting the functioning and activities of the Physical body via mindful movement, mobility, stability and awareness. Although we access prana (life force) from other sources e.g. food, water and the environment, focusing on the ability to breath well is vital in supporting all physical systems. This is how breathing exercises and pranayama come is useful. The Mind/Emotional body includes all of our emotional ups and downs. Working at this level is key to enhancing wellbeing and bringing about mental clarity and a calm emotional disposition. Here we can explore deep relaxation, visualisation, affirmation and meditation to help us stay calm and positive. The Wisdom body engages the intellect and the higher faculties of the mind. In this place we can see from a different point of view, understand things differently, adapt and learn. Being open to learning and able to reflect on life means that lessons can be learned and positive changes can be made. We might find inspiration in many different places e.g. in the yoga tradition we turn to ancient texts (Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras). We may also be inspired by friends, health workers, educational films, podcasts etc. Keeping an open mind is essential. The Bliss body needs to be nourished adequately, and in simple terms it refers to our ability to find contentment and inspiration. Finding inspiration, those “ah moments’, connect us with a part of ourselves that takes you into a different realm, where you can experience spiritual connection and uplift. Finding beauty and awe links us to a part of our being that is fulfilling like no other. Rather than stumbling upon such experiences we need to actively seek them out! Watch the sea, see the sunset, listen to the dawn chorus, look at the stars, sit in a church – lift out of the everyday :-)) (J.Danford, 2016).