Yoga Therapy and Healing Techniques
Yoga is recognised in modern times as being a wonderful adjunct to a fulfilling and healthy life-style. It was ever thus; from ancient times, the practice of yoga was primarily about being and remaining healthy in every way possible.
When we speak of Yoga in relation to wellness and wellbeing we need to recognise that we are embracing the practice as a part of a multi-facetted approach to our life and living. It’s not a panacea, it’s a tool that we can engage with as a part of our approach to health.
Within the framework of yoga the Panca Maya Model (described in the Taittirya Upanisad) describes humans as multi-dimensional beings.
The word Panca means “five”, and the word Maya refers to a condition that is all pervading – that is something that infuses every atom of human composition. To this effect the panca maya model refers to the concept of humans being made up of a series of interconnecting layers, each layer being more subtle than the last. The idea that we are more than our physical body gives rise to the idea that we can influence the outcome of our holistic well-being on a multiple of levels. Each dimension of the human system is, according to the teachings of the Taitriya Upanisad, interrelated and inseparable. Health or sickness of any dimension affects the other dimensions to a greater or lesser extent.
So, when we direct our intention in our practice of yoga, towards health, we are really engaging with allowing our practice to influence all levels of who and how we are. The very effort of focus and attention that is integral to the practice of yoga, encourages the engaging and penetrating of each of the maya layers, moving from the gross to the subtle.
In practical terms, the first Maya layer is Anamaya. This is the level of the physical body. It’s easy to be in contact with our physical body. We can feel it move, we can experience sensations, we can watch it as we change positions, we can experience sensations of the internal organs. It’s a great starting place to engage with the notion of yoga as a tool for wellness. We know when we feel good, just as we know when we don’t.
Our breath is more subtle. It requires more astute focus to experience the ways in which our breath interrelates with our physical body. So, it is the next and a more subtle Maya layer. Pancamaya – as long as one breathes there is life. The quality of the breath however can determine strength, fitness, longevity and be an aid to the proper functioning of the physical body. Therefore, the breath nourishes every aspect of the way we are as human beings. In yoga and health/wellness terms if there is a restriction in one’s breathing then there is a restriction in one’s “life force”.
Daniel Goleman, with others dating back to Charles Darwin, suggested that emotional intelligence forms an expression to survive and identifies an ability to assess and control the emotions of oneself and others. The equivalent in the panca maya model is the next and yet more subtle layer. It is known as Manomaya. Emotional intelligence can be linked back to our education and experiences from childhood. Everything that we learn, all the examples we are shown, inform how we think, react and interact. Learning is a lifelong pursuit. The practice of yoga can be a part of this learning. It can be a means to develop wholesome wellness, a way in which we can develop our emotional intelligence and so influence our social interactions.
Vignanamaya is the layer of the personality. According to the panca maya model our personality is the “seed potential” that we are born with. This is influenced by our learning and experience and these in turn encourage us to develop patterns of behaviour and thinking. As we develop our practice of yoga we begin to recognise particular habits or patterns. It is in this recognition that we begin to connect more deeply with our deepest, truest self and so our personality and personal interactions become more heartfelt.
The final, most subtle dimension, is Anandamaya. This is the state in which emotions are based on the state or comprehension of joy. It is regarded as the seat of knowing and truth. In this dimension, one’s actions are based on a deep-seated truth.
Through yoga, complete well-being is the culmination of physical health (including breath), as well as emotional and mental well-being (informed by our intellect, personality and emotions).
When we practice yoga with the idea that we are influencing each of the layers of the human system, we link with a progression from the gross to the subtle that includes the body, breath, mind and spirit.
Join us at The Sound Temple for a wonderful healing event which will be focusing on the therapeutic tools of yoga available to us to help keep our hips mobile and strong. Taking place on Sunday 4th February from 10.00am – 4.00pm this full day Yoga & Wellness Day – Healthy Hips will be facilitated by the inspirational Sally Riddell, from Ruby 9 Yoga.
With grateful thanks to our wonderful facilitator Sally Riddell for writing this amazing blog on Yoga & Wellbeing.