Connection: Moving Towards Consciousness
It is said that Yoga unites – Body, Mind and Spirit. My Seminole teacher taught me that each of these – Body, Mind and Spirit, have 3 parts: The Body of the Body, Mind of the Body and Spirit of the Body; The Body of the Mind, Mind of the Mind and Spirit of the Mind, and the Body of the Spirit, Mind of the Spirit and the Spirit of the Spirit.
In this way – all 3 are not separate but parts of one whole. The Spirit lives in the Mind and the body, and the Mind lives in the Body and the Spirit, and the Body lives in the Mind and the Spirit. This may sound confusing, but consider it this way – In the practice of yoga, whether you approach it from the physical, mental or spiritual – if you develop a consistent practice, you will eventually experience how the 3 are intricately connected.
There was a meme going around for a while that stated something like , “I came to yoga for the physical (benefits), and stayed for the spiritual (benefits).”
My journey through yoga was kind of the opposite. I was studying spirtuality and world religions in college, reading writers like Krishnamurti and Joseph Campbell when I started practicing yoga with a Hatha yoga book and a rug: No mat, no props, and no real teacher - just an open mind. Through my World religion classes, I learned about the concept of moksha or freedom and enlightenment or Nirvana. I was fascinated by the idea that I could transcend the pain and suffering of this world and be released. I wanted THAT kind of freedom, and that is why I started practicing yoga.
When I graduated from college, and was no longer covered by my parents’ health insurance, I also couldn’t afford my own insurance, so I figured I better find a way to stay healthy. I explored yoga, vegetarian and vegan diets, herbal medicine, acupuncture and massage. I became a massage therapist and completed a 3-year course in herbal medicine. Sometime during all of that, I read Louise Hayes work. I learned from her books the idea of our thoughts and emotions affecting our physical body - That we could store emotions and trauma and thought patterns in our bodies…. I began to understand and explore the connection of body/mind/spirit. Yoga is one practice that unites these three – which is probably why so many people become avid practitioners. Our modern society intentionally tries to disconnect us, so we are subconsciously or consciously always seeking that re-connection.
Yoga therapy works through the 5 Kosha model – by looking at the body as having 5 sheaths (or bodies) – the physical body, the energetic body, the mind/emotional body, The Witness or “Wisdom” body, and the Bliss body. The Bliss Body is akin to the “Spirit of the Body”. The energetic body is the prana or life force that infuses all the other bodies, and the Witness can be seen as the one who realizes or becomes conscious of this connection of Body/Mind/Spirit and Breath or Energy/Prana.
Doug Keller explains further in “The Therapeutic Wisdom of Yoga”: “…our physical being – in yoga parlance, the ‘Annamaya Kosha’ – is a continuous yet varied substance that is both conscious and dynamic. It is the physical, tangible manifestation of what the yogis called Prana – the life force that is incarnated in each living form and governs movement, development and health. It is certainly felt on the subtler level of the Pranamaya Kosha (energy body) and is at the root of the deeper levels of experience or deeper ‘Koshas’. But it is at the root of all levels of health, and is accessible through conscious, intentional movement – yoga as the joining of the mind to physical movement, as much as through breath
and work on the mental level. Yoga as Therapy concerns itself with the Prana in its most concrete and accessible form as the principle of structure – the fascia – as being the doorway to physical health through movement….” Although I came to the practice of yoga looking for spiritual release….through my studies in yoga therapy and through inhabiting my 50 year old body and witnessing the changes – I am now fascinated by the body - how incredibly intelligent it is in how it is put together (Mind of the body) and how mystical it truly is that everything functions together to form this human be-ing, with a heart that continues to pump blood through our bodies and never stops beating as long as we are alive, and lungs that continue to exchange gases with the plant life around us so that we can live. Our bodies also possess a “Sixth Sense” or intuition – typically connected to the Third Eye or pineal gland that holds wisdom from our ancestors (Spirit of the Body), our memory of our connection to Nature that inherently knows how to “be” in the world. So, no matter whether you are working on the physical practice of yoga (asana), the energetic practice of pranayama, or the more “mental” practices like meditation/quieting the mind, or chanting/singing/devotion – all of these things are working to unite Body/Mind/Spirit. Namaste.