MANY WESTERN so­ci­eties have com­part­men­tal­ized health care by fo­cus­ing treat­ment and pre­ven­tion on one as­pect of our be­ing — body or mind or spirit — rather than ad­min­is­ter­ing to all three.

For phys­i­cal pain, a physi­cian tends to pre­scribe med­i­ca­tion and ex­er­cise. For men­tal and emo­tional well-be­ing, psy­chi­a­trists and psy­chol­o­gists of­fer med­i­ca­tion and ther­apy. For spir­i­tual sus­te­nance and growth, re­li­gious lead­ers opt for prayer and penance. Al­ter­na­tively and ap­pro­pri­ately, yoga’s ac­cep­tance as a main­stream wellness prac­tice is due to its ca­pac­ity to bal­ance and unite body, mind and spirit. Another re­mark­able ben­e­fit is yoga re­turns re­spon­si­bil­ity for one’s wellness back where it be­longs — to the prac­ti­tioner.

We are not sug­gest­ing physi­cians, coun­sel­lors and spir­i­tual lead­ers do not play an im­por­tant role in health care. Quite the con­trary. The key, how­ever, is to learn when their help is best ap­plied. Un­for­tu­nately, ab­di­cat­ing in­quiry and de­ci­sion mak­ing about your health to one of th­ese pro­fes­sion­als lim­its your own in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship with your mind, body and spirit. If, as Amer­i­can psy­chol­o­gist Abra­ham Maslow the­o­rized, self-ac­tu­al­iza­tion or per­sonal mas­tery is an in­nate drive we all share, then it be­hooves us to be­come in­ti­mately fa­mil­iar with all as­pects of our be­ing.

The un­ex­am­ined life is not worth liv­ing. — Socrates (469-399 BC)

Socrates also coined the phrase, “All knowl­edge is self-knowl­edge,” af­firm­ing self-aware­ness en­ables us to choose those ac­tions best-suited to our minds, bod­ies and spir­its. So, if you are look­ing for a Do-It-Your­self (DIY), in­te­grated wellness ex­pe­ri­ence, yoga study and prac­tice of the body’s five lay­ers of be­ing — koshas — will in­form your aware­ness jour­ney. Th­ese five lay­ers or sheaths, like Rus­sian nest­ing dolls, are lo­cated each in­side the next with the outer, vis­i­ble layer be­ing our phys­i­cal body. ANNAMAYA

Kosha (Phys­i­cal) in­cludes mus­cle, bone and tis­sue, which we strengthen and stretch through yoga pos­tures (asana). PRANAMAYA

Kosha (En­ergy) in­volves our or­gans, emo­tions and chan­nels or nadis, which trans­port life-force en­ergy through­out our sys­tem. Both breath (pranayama) and asana prac­tices nour­ish this layer. MANAMAYA

Kosha (Men­tal) con­tains our thoughts, ego and sen­sa­tions emerg­ing from our five senses. We quiet the mind by draw­ing the senses in­ward (pratya­hara), reg­u­lat­ing the breath (pranayama) and an­chor­ing the mind (dha­rana) through fo­cuses such as yoga ac­tions and med­i­ta­tion (dhyana). VIJNANAMAYA KOSHA

(In­tel­li­gence) re­quires the in­te­gra­tion of the first three lay­ers in or­der to re­veal spir­i­tual aware­ness, in­tu­ition and wis­dom (dis­cern­ment). ANANDAMAYA KOSHA

(Bliss) is ex­pe­ri­enced as joy with the in­crease of in­ner and outer har­mony — one­ness with our in­di­vid­ual spirit and with the uni­ver­sal spirit.

In more prac­ti­cal terms, all our pre­vi­ous Free Press ar­ti­cles of­fered asanas, which nour­ish and pu­rify the phys­i­cal kosha. Within th­ese ar­ti­cles, the fo­cus on a yoga ac­tion (breath or body) nour­ished the men­tal kosha. Those ar­ti­cles fo­cus­ing on breath ac­tions or or­ganic cleans­ing (i.e., June 18, 2016) ac­ti­vated and nour­ished the en­ergy kosha. The more you can in­te­grate the first three koshas, the more you will ex­pe­ri­ence the last two (wis­dom and joy).

To guide you in choos­ing an ap­pro­pri­ate prac­tice from one day to the next, use your in­tu­ition to an­swer this ques­tion: “Where am I feel­ing stuck? In my sen­sa­tions (annamaya kosha)? In my emo­tions (pranayama kosha)? In my thoughts (manamaya kosha)?”

Once your vijnanamaya kosha an­swers the ques­tion, choose the ap­pro­pri­ate prac­tice for what you are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. For today, prac­tice the yoga ac­tion de­scribed be­low in each of the three poses, and no­tice if your ex­pe­ri­ence brings you a lit­tle closer to bliss­ful aware­ness.


Dead­lifts are pop­u­lar ex­er­cises, but with­out proper form, gym-go­ers can suf­fer in­juries such as her­ni­ated discs.

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