We talk a lot about it in class, by now you are all probably pretty familiar with the definition of yoga- to unite, connection, join.
But how does this work?
Yoga teaches that we are multi-layered beings, and encourages us to explore all of these layers, instead of just over identifying with one layer, such as the physical body, or our thoughts and emotions.
Our multi-dimensional self has been described like a Russian doll, with different layers nestled inside moving from the most gross on the outside, to our subtlest core at the centre. Except, as my teacher Hareesh Wallis states, the layers are much more permeable and can pervade all the other layers. There are a few different models or maps which describe this. In his book, Tantra illuminated, he describes 6 layers.
The Centre is Cit- consciousness, described by Hareesh as “the secret pulsating core of your whole existence, mysterious because it is omnipresent, and yet you don’t notice it.”
This is the awareness layer, and it allows us to be aware of all the other layers, which are briefly –
Shunya -The void
Prana -Vital energy
Citta – heart-mind
Deha – The Body
Vastu - stuff
The void layer, is where we are empty and still like in dreamless sleep. Some spiritual traditions see this as the ultimate layer, however in the yoga teachings of tantra we are encouraged not to renounce anything, but to experience all the layers of ourselves.
The next layer is our Vital Energy, or Prana layer. As you are aware, the movement of the breath is intimately connected to prana, and the breath is said to be the key to the mind body connection. There are sub categories of prana that specifically govern things like exhale, inhale, digestion, speech and distribution of nutrients. Food can also bring prana (or deplete it).
The next layer is the Heart-Mind layer of thoughts and feelings. These are combined together in this model as often when we feel an emotion it is consciously or unconsciously linked to a thought, or memory. This layer changes rapidly, and in our quest for stability we create stories that we believe to be true- about ourselves and the world. These thoughts can become habits; and guide the way we behave – yet we rarely question if our thoughts are actually true.
The outer layer is the body where all of the other layers can be experienced. Our culture over identifies with this layer, and we see many images of idealised versions of physical bodies, and are also removed from aging and death. There is a layer beyond this, which is our “stuff”, all the things that we surround ourselves with that we can also become attached to; house, car, clothes etc.
So, how does this model help us?. Lets imagine we notice we feel depleted and lethargic (Prana layer), we might also notice at the same time that we feel sad (heart-mind) and we are reminded of a particular loss (heart-mind), and realise there is a pain in our chest (body). We might then notice how we use things like food, alcohol or work to bring us into a place (the Void) where we can be free – or escape from these feelings, thoughts etc we are uncomfortable with.
The key to the mind body connection is the word notice. This word is the Core- Cit- awareness. It pervades all other layers, and allows us to experience ourselves as interconnected multi layered beings. We are encouraged to notice which layer are we identifying with – perhaps our bodies, or our thoughts, or a particular mood state. Of course, we are encouraged not to know this in a theoretical sense, but to practice and experience it ourselves, and to also find our own unique map or pathway to the core of our being. Yoga helps develop these noticing skills and strengthens that connection to all aspects of ourselves.