May is upon us.
Sometimes referred to as the maddening month, as nature ramps up to reproduce an abundance of flowers, birds, animals, and insects.
It is also traditionally the final month of colder weather, although with the planet changing its climate right now, the weather becomes harder to predict.
And May has also become known as Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM)
This has been an annual event in the United States since 1949 and slowly gained momentum across the globe in the last few years.
Sometimes when we think about our health, we associate this primarily with our physical body, but in yoga we identify and acknowledge the unification of five bodies in each of us.
These are often referred to as the Koshas or casings.
Think if you like of those decorated wooden dolls that can be opened only to discover another doll inside.
The largest doll is representing your physical body, ‘Annamaya Kosha’
This is the body we most identify with as we can physically see and feel it.
We can refuel this body through a balance of rest and exercise.
Inside this physical casing is our 2nd layer, our energetic body, ‘Pranamaya Kosha’
This is the life energy that looks after our biological processes, from breathing to digestion, to the circulation of our blood. We can refuel this body through yoga, both physical asana and breathing practices.
Inside the energetic casing is our 3rd layer, ‘Manomaya Kosha’
This layer represents our mental body and is responsible for our sensory and motor activities. It is not just associated with the brain though but also our entire nervous system, feeding back and expressing the commands of this through our physical bodies.
When we move through life passively with automatic functioning we are living through this body. Most of us routinely operate at this level.
We can refuel this body through meditation and sensory stimulation.
Inside this casing is our 4th layer. ‘Vijnanamaya Kosha’
Whilst some texts translate this as our intellect, the real meaning encompasses more, including our conscience, wisdom, and judgment. It is what separates us from animals, being able to make moral choices and create pathways on which to live our lives.
We can refuel this body through deeper meditation, regular connection to our inner guidance and the study of spiritual truths.
Our final layer is the ‘Anandamaya Kosha’
The most subtle body, underdeveloped in many humans, where spiritual bliss is discovered.
We can all work towards experiencing this level of bliss through regular yoga practice off the mat. In particular, selfless service, a devotion to cause, and opening our hearts to our own divine beings through Samadhi meditation.
All of these bodies working in harmony helps to create a full system of health.
We can develop our practices to tune into the areas we need most assistance with and help ourselves to become more at ease with our lives on and off the mat.
As we dive into May, let’s explore these subtle, yet vital bodies in each of us.
Come and join me on the mat this month to move, breath. meditate and peel back the layers, to get to know yourself even deeper.
Perhaps you’ll even experience your own subtle body of inner bliss.