We often tend to separate the body and mind but, on further examination, we can understand how in-dissociable they are. Also, the spirit or soul of every person is dependent on the mind and body for its expression, and in turn – the mind and body could not exist without the presence of a soul or life energy.
We can say that our biology (i.e. our body and physical make-up) is actually one in the same as our ‘biography’ (i.e. the experiences that make up our lives). Mind and body are as indivisible as the one creates the other and reflects the other in turn! Biographical experiences that make up our lives come in the form of past memories, traumas, belief patterns and attitudes etc. Every single one of our experiences is stored in both our cellular, physical memory, and in that of our energy field.
The method of Pranic healing also works on the body-mind-spirit assumption. This involves the transference of vital energy (prana) from one person to another through what is known as the ‘bioplasmic body’. The ‘bioplasmic body’ refers to the ‘energy field’ of Carolyn Myss and the ‘Auric’ field of Barbara Ann Brennan. These methods and many more like them aim to bring about total well-being by adopting this three dimensional holistic approach.
Concept of Kosha (sheath) in Yoga
Yoga means ‘Union’. The union and equilibrium of Body, Mind, and Spirit – is Yoga. The interrelatedness of these three aspects is explained in Yoga by means of the five ‘Koshas’ (sheaths). These Sheaths are present in each human being and range from the most gross to the most subtle level.
Five Koshas in Yoga
The first sheath – the ‘Annamaya Kosha’ relates to the physical or ‘food’ body consisting of the bones, fat, skin, blood, etc. The second sheath is the ‘Pranamaya Kosha’ which is a more subtle layer than the physical body as it refers to the energy within the body that allows for the physiological processes to occur. The ‘Manomaya Kosha’ is the mental body relating to our mental and emotional processes that take place within the mind. More subtle than the Manomaya Kosha is the ‘Vijnanamaya Kosha’ which refers to the psychic body. We experience this body during dreaming or ‘out of body’ experiences. The subtlest of all the bodies is the ‘Anandamaya Kosha’ or ‘Bliss’ body. This deals with the transcendental aspect of the human personality which is beyond the feelings of pleasure and pain and is actually indescribable.
We can roughly relate the Annamaya and Pranamaya Koshas to the physical body, the Manomaya Kosha to the mind and mental aspects, and the Vijnanamaya and Anandamaya Koshas to the spiritual realm, but it is not as clear-cut as this. Because every person exists with all of these aspects which are constantly interrelating, we cannot separate them.
Koshas are interdependent and interrelated
Each Kosha supports and transforms into the other. For example, the Annamaya and Pranamaya Koshas together are called the ‘Atmapuri’ which means ‘city of the soul’. This relates very clearly to the fact that these sheaths are not only physical but contain the soul – the spiritual aspect. Without the body, the soul has no home and cannot be expressed. Without the soul, the body is lifeless and would not be able to function properly. Now the Manomaya Kosha – the mental sheath- serves as the link between body and soul. It is only through the mind that one can become aware of the existence of the soul and the spirit.
Yoga practices therefore also work holistically with these five sheaths in mind. The aim is to bring our awareness of all these levels into equilibrium that we may function at the optimal capacity of mental, physical and spiritual health.
Holistic Approach of Yoga
The body is of utmost importance for our holistic health as it is here that the mental and spiritual realms reside. To access our more subtle mental and energetic aspects – we need to at first be aware of the gross body and to bring it into perfect functioning. This will involve the purification of the nadis and chakras which will then lead to our preparedness for higher levels of spiritual awakening. For this awakening to occur, the mind and mental facilities are needed. A clearing out of the body necessarily means that of the mind.
Here I have attempted to prove that body mind and spirit are inextricably linked and cannot exist alone. A mental problem does not reside in the mind exclusively, it is reflected in the body and it is reflected in our level of vibratory energy. The practice of asana and pranayama are psychotherapeutic because they adopt the holistic approach: using the body to uplift and transform the mind and spirit.