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Mind, Body, Spirit

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” Anaïs Nin

Yoga therapy offers a holistic approach to whole person wellness.  When we talk about body, mind and spirit we’re talking about the 5 koshas or sheaths / bodies that make up our entire being.

Visualize this – a lamp with 5 lampshades, each one nested within another.  The light bulb is your individual consciousness, your inner light, your soul, that which animates you.  The light bulb is powered by electricity, or universal consciousness, which powers all living things.  The 5 lampshades form the koshas which in turn form our personalities.  It’s through the koshas that we experience the world.

Annamayakosha, the “food” sheath, experiences the world through the body.  Aspects of “body” include all the systems of the body such as the skeletal, circulatory, immune and nervous systems.  Yoga practices for the body include asana, yoga postures, and pranayama, breathing techniques.

Pranamayakosha, the “breath” sheath, is the bridge between the body and mind.  Aspects of the “breath” body include the energy systems of the chakras and pranavayus.  Yoga practices for this kosha include asana, pranayama, and pratyahara (sense withdrawal through yoga postures like child pose and deep relaxation) using the tools of yoga nidra and mudras.

Manomayakosha, the “mental” sheath, is known as the psycho-emotional body or lower mind.  This kosha is the mental body that processes information and forms memory.  It’s called lower mind because this is the stimulus response mind that responds emotionally including all facets of thinking that involve the stress response.  Lower mind is subjective and limited to daily tasks.  Yoga practices for this kosha include pranayama, pratyahara, and dharana (concentration techniques) as well as using tools such as the yamas and niyamas for self-understanding and self-mastery.

Vijnanamayakosha, the “intellect” sheath, is known as the wisdom body or higher mind.  This aspect of mind is objective and sees the big picture.  Higher mind functions include intuition, witnessing, inner knowing, and expansive thinking.  Yoga practices for this kosha including dharana (concentration techniques) and dhyana (meditation techniques) as well as mindfulness and self-inquiry to recognize and release habitual patterns of thinking and behaving that are no longer useful.

Anandamayakosha, the “bliss” sheath, is the closest that the personality comes to unity consciousness.  It’s called the bliss sheath because when we’re in this state we feel that all is well in our world.  We feel blissful.  This is also the state of “yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ” – quiet mind.  All practices have this one goal – unity consciousness where we know our true state of wholeness and interconnectedness with all living beings.  This is the root of true loving kindness.

The 5 Kosha or Panchamayakosha model offers an integrated approach to understanding complex human beings from the systems of the body to energetic patterns to conscious and unconscious thoughts and behaviors.

Inner Healing Yoga Therapy uses the 5 koshas as a model for whole person wellness that meets the student at any level with tools that promote integration and healing.

Often, students come to yoga because something isn’t working in their lives.  Sometimes it’s physical – annamayakosha and pranamayakosha.  Sometimes it’s emotional – pranamayakosha and manomayakosha.  Sometimes it’s spiritual – vijnanamayakosha and anandamayakosha.  The 5 kosha model is a way of organizing the yoga tools to meet the needs of each individual wherever she or he is now with the goal of moving toward an integrated sense of wholeness and well-being.

Often, we start with the body because that’s where many of us first feel some sort of disconnection.  Pain, stiffness, fatigue, dissatisfaction – all symptoms that a course correction is needed.  When we work at the level of one of the koshas, all koshas benefit.  In other words, we feel better.  Whether we start with yoga postures or deep relaxation or personal introspection through the yamas and niyamas, we feel better.

So, you may come to yoga because your muscles and joints feel stiff or you have a lot of stress in your life or you’re seeking a greater spiritual connection and you will most likely feel some benefits immediately.  And the more you practice the more you learn about yourself.  You may decide to “expand in proportion to your courage” and “risk blossoming” into your true nature.

Inner Healing Yoga Therapy can help you do that through guided meditation and journaling, mudras and yoga nidra, therapeutic and adaptive asana, chakra yoga therapy and so much more.

“All of the main texts of the Yoga tradition focus on enlightenment as the culmination of the yogic path. Oftentimes, Yoga Therapy is taught as if it were a preliminary step to the spiritual journey that comes later. Our perspective is that each step in the healing process is a reflection and expression of awakening our own enlightened nature, the essence of Yoga. The integration of the healing principles at the level of each kosha is the essence of this journey of awakening and healing.” – Joseph LePage, Integrative Yoga Therapy

Inner Healing Yoga Therapy can help you hit the reset button of your life.  It offers tools to calm the mind and relax the body so that you can examine your life and take steps, baby steps, to reduce stress and increase your happiness.  And who doesn’t want to be happy?!