The five layers of self. All are equally important in creating balance in our physical and mental health.
We are all striving for self-care and balance, but with so many different options for how to get there, we often don’t know where to start. We know that Yoga and meditation help us feel good, but maybe not quite sure why or how, or how to even articulate that.
One way of looking at it is through the koshas, a Sanskrit word meaning veil or sheath in reference to our subtle body or layers of Self.
The five layers are: physical, energetic, emotional, mental and bliss. They represent both the different aspects of self that while separate are also intertwined, each relying on the other for support to make the whole.
The koshas are often compared to an onion as we peel each layer back to get to the bulb in the centre. Each layer is an important element of protection to the bulb. The bulb is cherished because that’s what we plant in the ground for new onions to grow. Yet the essence of the onion isn’t just the bulb but the whole onion, all of its layers.
The five layers of self are similar as each interact with each other in an effort towards the ultimate connection to self, bliss body, true joy or the light within. It is a powerful aspect on its own, it helps us feel empowered, clear and centred yet it still needs the other four layers in order for its full essence or expression to shine.
In some spiritual practices it is only the inner self or soul that we are concerned with, our bodies simply there for the ride. In Yoga, the whole self is honoured. This is also why there are many practices of Yoga by way of the 8 limbs of Yoga there to help us on this path.
The physical work or poses, the breath work, meditation, mantra or the yamas and niyamas (principles) all work together to help us boost our physical bodies, energetic bodies, emotional, mental and bliss bodies.
When looking at ways to bring our self into balance, or to create self-care practices for our overall well-being, we also want to incorporate all five aspects of self.
Physical: How we treat our bodies, the exercise we do and the food that we eat.
Energetic: Allowing our energy to ebb and flow, getting enough sleep and staying hydrated.
Emotional: Doing things that bring us joy while processing emotions as they come.
Mental: Spending time quieting our mind so we can have more clarity.
Bliss: Feeling connected to our self and others, enjoy joy.
This is the ultimate appreciation of our mind/body connection and how we can use the various practices to build upon our overall well-being, including and especially our mental well-being.
In the meantime, please know that all the small things we do every day add up to very big things. That no effort towards self-care is ever wasted. All the power and resiliency we need is already inside of us.
You might also be interested in this article on the language of apology.
Author: Lisa Greenbaum, E-RYT 500 and C-IAYT yoga therapist, has worked with countless individuals by using yoga to release trauma, find ease from chronic pain and tension and develop a deeper connection to Self: mind, body and spirit. She has over 750 hours of yoga education and logged 4,000+ teaching hours. She is also a certified fitness instructor and personal trainer with canfitpro, and a Women in Fitness Association (WIFA) Global Ambassador.