This week, I will be writing about the intersections, connections and interdependence that yoga and health have on one another. Check back daily for more yogic and health wisdom!
BKS Iyengar wrote in Light on Pranayama: “The sages knew that though the body wears out, it serves as an instrument to attain realization and, as such, it has to be kept in good condition” (p9).
The body is our instrument to attain Self Realization. This is why keeping our body (temple) as clean, healthy and functional as possible is crucial- if we are to discover and live our dharma (duty, path), we must have our physical bodies, or as I like to call them, earth suits, metaphorically cleaned, pressed and hung up. The connection between our state of health and ability to practice the different limbs or aspects of yoga are deeply intertwined.
Our practice depends a lot on the inner state of our physical body. I know I cannot deeply meditate or do yoga if I have a headache, am tired or hungry, am suffering from heart burn or asthma or insomnia; the list goes on, right? We were born into these physical bodies so that we may be able to experience ourselves as the Divine beings that we are, however the body can be limiting. So we must be the caretakers of these earthly vessels while we are here.
We are more than just our physical body. We are dynamic, whole, complex, beautiful beings and we must honor all parts of ourselves if we want to experience full joy, bliss, health, wellness, and balance. When someone seriously devotes themselves to the practice, they bring all the parts of themselves into alignment: mind, body, spirit. How? I will tell you…
To integrate all parts of ourselves, we must know what those parts are. We are made of five sheaths, or pancha kosha, as they are called in Sanskrit, the language of the ancient yogic texts. The pancha kosha are the five bodies or dimensions that comprise a human being and encase the soul. My teacher, Saul, says: “Imagine you have a home with many rooms, but only live within one or two of them and neglect all the rest. We are meant to experience all dimensions of our energy and experience the fullness of life.” When we only focus on a couple things, like the physical body, for example, we neglect other, vital parts of ourselves and eventually we will fall out of balance, suffer a lot more than necessary, and maybe even live lives that were unfulfilling and disappointing.
The breath, or Pranamaya kosha, links our Annamaya Kosha, or the physical body, our earth element, with the mind sheath, the higher intelligence, and finally the bliss sheath. So please understand that the breath is what connects the five sheathes together. Yoga is the linking of breath with movement and without the breath, you’re just stretching. Therefore, we can confidently state that yoga is the tool for which we can connect, integrate, and deepen all parts, all sheathes, of ourselves.
Eat whole, nutrient-dense, nourishing foods so that you can live your purpose, your joy, so that you can be present with the pain and struggles that life inevitably brings. Practice your yoga, meditation, pranayama, your yamas and niyamas so that you can start to understand the process of Self Realization. Allow your body to be the instrument of peace, bliss, and joy that comes with awareness of your higher self.
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Jenna Pacelli is a Holistic Health Coach studying at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She coaches yoga practitioners and techies in the San Francisco Bay Area and all over the world struggling with energy levels, stress reduction and weight management. With a focus on aligning their lives with their values, her clients create lasting change and fully embodied health and wellbeing.
Jenna believes that by creating health and wellness at the physical, emotional and mental levels, it is inevitable that joy and a deep understanding of one’s purpose follow.
top photo credit: breathe