Back in my 20s, I was an avid athlete. I lived in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and was biking, skiing and hiking pretty much every day. On occasion I would go climbing, bike touring or backpacking too. I thought I was really healthy. I remember standing in front of a full-length mirror one day admiring my trained body and toned muscles. I felt good. I was in good shape…. or so I thought.
Looking back I have to smile at myself, at my somewhat narrow-minded way of looking at my health. Unknowingly, what I was most concerned with was shaping my outer body. But what about the inner workings of my physiology not to mention the four other bodies we consist of? Did I have any regard for those?
Yoga philosophy and Ayurveda teaches that as human beings we not only consist of the physical body but four other bodies as well:
The breath body (prana maya kosha)
The emotional body (mano maya kosha)
The intellectual body (vijnana maya kosha)
and the spirit body (ananda maya kosha)
To create a fully healthy human being one needs to attend to all those bodies in some shape or form. Have you ever met someone and thought: “There is something different about this person; this person is full and feels complete somehow.” It is likely that this person has attended to all parts of him/herself and thus feels full.
Each one mentioned above needs to be fed with a certain kind of “food” in order to stay healthy, food it can assimilate and use to balance its sheath. For example:
The physical metabolizes food. It is also fed by exercise.
The pranic body is fed by the breath and with neti and nasya practices.
The emotiona body is fed by sensory impressions i.e. what we see, hear, feel, taste and smell.
The intellectual body is fed by listening to the news, readings and study
The spiritual body is bed by meditation and prayer.
These are only examples of how we can feed these bodies.
Now, let’s go back to my mid-20S, the time when I was “in shape”. Looking back from the viewpoint of what I know now, I wasn’t as healthy as I thought. While my outer body looked great, I was dealing with constipation and flatulence (=physiology out of balance). Very annoying indeed. It seemed normal back then.
I was also utterly moody (= emotional body out of balance). Yep, anger outbursts were quite normal on a regular basis. Bad. And spiritually… well, I was going to church every once every blue moon and was doing yoga but more for staying fit physically (=spiritual body was not fed properly).
While I didn’t disregard the different bodies, I didn’t know consciously how to feed them. You know what I mean? When I learned about the koshas it seemed obvious …dahhhh…. and I could CONSCIOUSLY start feeding all five parts of myself.
This is how I make it visual for myself.
Check out the chart below.
Back then, the blue bar (physical body) was halfway of what it is now. While I was pretty adamant about exercise I didn’t pay nearly as skillful of attention to it as today. Today, I know how to read my body’s signals (e.g. my poop, urine, sweat, hunger etc).This is HUGE!
What to do when those signals tell me I am off center?
I gave myself a high bar on the Intellectual body. I spend a lot of time studying and self-reflecting, a bit too much compared to how much I take care of the other bodies. I could cut back on that a bit to get out of my mind and into my body more. I could also do a bit more on the conscious breathing exercises front. My spirit also needs to be fed a bit more with meditation. I am on it.
The graph gives me a great check in on what habits and practices I need to adopt more of or cut back on. How COOL is that?
Are you curious about what your chart might look like?
Download a blank chart below, print it out and color it in. YES, use old fashioned crayons. It activates your right brain half…. FUN!