Healing The Whole Self: Yoga and Your Mood

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Deeper than the substantial fitness benefits of practicing yoga are the benefits of yoga for balance, integration, and healing.

At its roots, yoga is not about fitness goals or achieving perfection of form. It is about entering a process, a journey that deepens our relationship with the body, and invites more energy and health into our whole being—body, mind, and spirit.

Your Whole Self

In the yoga tradition, we are each multi-dimensional beings. The healing and transformative benefits of yoga exist because practicing asanas (yoga poses) creates integration and balance among the dimensions.

Yoga philosophy states that humans have five dimensions, or Koshas. The Koshas are also called sheaths—as in sheaths (layers) of being—and are the expressions of our deepest nature.

  1. The first sheath represents the physical body that we can touch, see, and feel, and is nourished by the daily ingesting of food. It is the dimension of being we are most familiar with and is the starting point of our yoga asana experience.
  2. The second sheath or Kosha represents the energy body, meaning our life-force, or prana. This is the energy that enlivens our physical self and is most closely related to the breath. Breath awareness is part of yoga practice. It stimulates the flow and balance of energy throughout the physical body.
  3. The third dimension or sheath represents the aspect of our being expressed as feelings, emotion, and mind. It is the part of us that absorbs, processes, and interprets the information coming in through the body’s senses. It thinks and reacts, and is meant to have a supervisory role but often gets quite bossy.
  4. The fourth sheath represents our higher mind or wisdom. Our wisdom faculty underlies our thinking mind and guides us to enhanced levels of integration and truth. This is the reflective dimension of consciousness that grants us insight into our self and the world.
  5. The fifth sheath represents our being. It is our bliss in the sense of having an expanded, limitless experience of reality—not an emotion, but a tranquil state of love and peace.

Yoga and Depression

It is easy to see how these Koshas interact if you think about the experience of depression. Depressed individuals tend go about in a slouched posture with the head drooped forward. Their breathing is usually restrained and shallow. So, the mental dimension (depression) is reflected in the physical dimension (slouching) and alters the energy or prana dimension (shallow breathing).

When practicing yoga asanas, the physical and energy (breath) dimensions work together and increase their integration. This frees and stimulates the flow of life-force in the physical and energy dimensions—creating more vitality in the mental/emotional sheath—bringing it into balance with the other energies.

In this way, over time, and with regular practice, yoga can help improve our mood, sense of well-being, and integrate our higher faculties.

Source: Yoga U (yogauonline.com)
Photo credit: Mike Baird

 
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