Yoga’s holistic approach to wellbeing
Yoga means union. To be healthy and well we have to work on the “whole being” 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. Our mind health is really important to our physical health. Our thoughts and mental attitude can really shape our world. Happy mind means a happy body and vice versa. With practices to bring balance to each layer, Yoga Therapy can not only be preventive or curative, but also serve as a means to manage illness, or facilitate healing in the person as a whole being.
Bliss/true self – Anandamaya Kosha
Here we gain the realisation of connectedness and a unitary identity with all of life, with all creation – we are part of a bigger picture. In Eastern philosophy this is the basis of true self knowledge, the knowledge of divinity within. Here there is a sense of our life purpose and how we can make a positive difference with our unique gifts for the benefit of mankind. When we connect with this layer, and when we are nurturing our spirit, we feel inspired and joyous. Connecting with this part of yourself takes you into a different realm. Finding beauty and awe links us to a part of our being that is fulfilling like no other.
Wisdom/knowledge/new understanding – Vignanamaya Kosha
Our inner wisdom and knowledge is there to guide us in life during times of challenge. Accessing this layer means that we are able to question our habitual thought patterns which can shape our existence. Combined with new perspectives e.g. ancient texts of Yoga e.g. Patanjali, Bhagavad Gita we can question our approach to life, our behaviour, and coping strategies. Instead of simply thinking, feeling and then acting, we choose to feel or act with intention, thus choosing our present moment. We may be inspired by friends, health workers, internet forums, educational films, book clubs etc. to create a more positive approach to life. Keeping an open mind is essential.
Mind/Emotion – Manomaya Kosha
Our thoughts (vrittis) can really influence our perspective and interaction with life. If overwhelmed by negative thoughts our life can seem bleak, joyless, and unhappy. Thinking negatively can affect how we feel, and our actions, thus preventing you from reaching your true potential. In studying the brain, scientists have found that “what you focus on and habitually associate with literally shapes the neural structure of your brain, creating habits of thinking. This in turn shapes your experience and attitude to life”. A dedicated Yoga practice can help you to choose your present moment. It takes conscious effort to focus on your good experiences. Yoga teaches you to see differently, shifting your perspective and therefore your experience. This new way of seeing illuminates the path forward and leads us into Vignanamaya Kosha.
Energy – Pranamaya Kosha
If the lungs and heart aren’t functioning effectively we become depleted of energy, the life force, oxygen and nutrients to feed our organs, tissue, muscles etc. If there is no energy to call upon it’s difficult to get motivated and to engage in daily life. We can feel self conscious and lack confidence and life will become limited. To maximise oxygen intake we need to be breathing fully in a relaxed and easy way. Stress disrupts out natural breathing rhythm, tension restricts movement and flow. Where do you feel the movement of your breath in your body? Is your breathing mechanical and jerky or smooth and rhythmic?
Physical Body – Annamaya Kosha
Our physical body, the home of our spirit… We exercise it, maybe we drag it around like a sack of potatoes, even when it feels tired and needs a rest. Some of us might have a better relationship with their body than others, not really consciously aware of how it feels on a day to day basis. We especially appreciate our body when it serves us well, when it allows us to feel healthy and alive. We might get impatient and angry at our physical body during times of illness. Even though you have been together for so long, how much do you know about your body, how it functions and regenerates itself?