A Venn diagram is fancy-pants math which demonstrates the relationship between a pair or group of things. Last week we posted that yoga means union: union within yourself, the union to each other, and the union to our world and this week we decided to use some fancy-pants math to show you how it all works together. Ok, our math isn’t necessarily founded on identifiable Western logic, but it is based on knowledge that yogis have held for centuries: the five koshas (sheaths).
Our individual bodies are made up of five layers known as the koshas, the first layer is our densest or most gross layer and each layer that follows becomes more and more subtle. The layers: annamaya kosha (physical body), pranamaya kosha (energy body), manamaya kosha (mental body), vijnanamaya kosha (intellectual body), and the anandamaya kosha (blissful body), when working together properly help us to be our very best selves.
The physical and energy bodies make-up our fitness body, as we move, eat, and breathe we invite in strength, stamina, and flexibility as well as nourishment for our cells. In yoga, we practice asana (posture) and pranayama (breath-work) as well as eating whole, natural foods to create wellness in our fitness bodies. But, the fitness body is just one aspect to our complete self, in order to create whole-self health we also need to work our mind and spiritual (soul) bodies as well.
Our mind body is comprised of our mental and intellectual bodies. In this case, our mental body refers to the work of our nervous system. Without our conscious awareness our nervous system reacts automatically to external stimuli delivered by our five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. While we sleep soundly our nervous system gets a chance to reset, but any time we withdraw from sensory awareness we “work-out” our mental body. For instance, savasana (corpse pose) is a wonderful opportunity to tune out from the outside world and spend a little time drawing your senses in-ward.
The second half of our mental body, our intellectual body, is more about conscious thought. When our intellectual body feels it thinks and reacts with awareness. This is where we begin to practice consideration, compassion, and kindness towards others. While our mental body is all about meeting our own needs, our intellectual body helps us to identify how others may be feeling and respond in a supportive way. Mantra (the sounds used in coordination with meditation) is one way to help stimulate your intellectual body. Aum (Om) is thought to be the original sound, it’s also the bija (seed) mantra for our seat of intuition and let’s be honest often it takes clear intuition to be able to understand the true needs of others.
Our third body, our spiritual or soul body, is also known as our blissful body. This one is far trickier than the other two to “exercise,” but you can do it! It has to do with seva (self-less work). Seva can be accomplished through a few different avenues, but let’s face it helping another person is as a good a place to start as any. There are so many ways to give back to your community; you could make someone a thank you card, you could bring food to the food shelf, or volunteer to visit someone.
Whichever path you choose today, body, mind, or spirit, find a way to work out one of your bodies; and remember if you do it with intention, it’s all yoga.