by Megha Nancy Buttenheim

For thousands of years, ancient yogic science has demonstrated that human beings are multidimensional. In yogic anatomy, it is said that five layers, or sheaths of existence, reside within us. These layers are called the koshas. In my view, they blend quite nicely with SPIRE.

The first layer, or sheath, is the physical body, known as the Anamaya Kosha. This first sheath intersects with the P, the physical aspect, of SPIRE.

The second layer is the breath or energy sheath, known as the Pranamaya Kosha. To me, this layer relates to the S, the spiritual aspect, of SPIRE. The breath (from the Latin: inspire) joins us every step of the way, throughout our lives. Whenever we are in trouble, stress, doubt, or fear, the antidote is simple: Breathe. With breath, we connect with something deeper: the mystery of Life itself.

The third sheath is the mind-emotional layer of the self: the Manomaya Kosha, which walks hand in hand with E, the emotional aspect of SPIRE. With this embrace of emotions, we discover ourselves to be resourceful and resilient.

The fourth layer is the witness, the part of our self that discerns and watches with dispassionate, compassionate awareness: the Vijnanamaya Kosha. One might think of this layer as “the still, small voice within.” I actually think it is a loud, flowing voice within, but our lives can be so stressful that we become deaf to its persistent call. It is hard to hear the Vijnanamaya Kosha when we are so distracted by the demanding culture in which we live. I think of this kosha as the higher mind; it ties in with the I, the intellectual aspect, of SPIRE.

Last but not least, the fifth layer of the self is the Anandamaya Kosha. Ananda means bliss. I feel comforted to know that we humans house a layer devoted to joy, bliss, and rapture. Our birthright, from the yogic perspective, is to experience a deep, internal relationship with bliss. In SPIRE, the R, or Relational aspect, is not only about relating with others, it is also about the relationship we have with ourselves.

Awareness Exercise: Making an inSPIRED Choice
Take a moment to pause. Begin to take some long, deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling. The next time you inhale, tilt your head gently upward. On the exhale, tilt your head down. Inhale, bringing your head back to center. Exhale, turning your head slowly to the right. Inhale, returning the head to center. Exhale, slowly turning your head to the left. Inhale, returning the head to center.

Repeat two more times. After completing three rounds, pause, enjoying the quiet. Now, in the stillness of the breath, bring to your mind’s eye a choice that you’re about to make—today, this week, or this month. It can be a simple or large choice.

Now invite SPIRE into the your awareness. Examine your choice through the lens of each element of SPIRE. Remember to take long, deep breaths during this inquiry. Examine your choice from a spiritual, physical, and intellectual point of view, as well as from the relational and emotional perspectives. Whether you’re choosing to begin something or choosing to end something, get a felt sense of that choice from within the framework of SPIRE.

See what happens …

Take a few more deep breaths …

When you’re ready, open your eyes. What did you learn?

This post was excerpted from Megha’s forthcoming book, Expanding Joy: Let Your Yoga Dance for Positive Psychology.

Megha Nancy Buttenheim Megha Nancy Buttenheim, MA, E-RYT 500, is founding director of Let Your Yoga Dance. She serves on the faculty of the Wholebeing Institute’s Certificate in Positive Psychology and spent 30 years as a yoga teacher trainer at Kripalu. Megha is committed to bringing the dance of yoga to everyone, of all ages, including people who feel marginalized due to age, Parkinson’s, MS, or Alzheimer’s. She is the creator of the Yoga DVD “Introduction to Yoga and Meditation” and two dynamic yoga CDs, “Moontides” and “Power and Grace”.