The 5 Layers of Self Care
When we think of self care, we think of the body. If someone asked you to draw a picture of the layers of your self care, perhaps you'd draw a pyramid: sleep at the base, followed by nutrition, exercise, & "me-time" with increasingly smaller footprints, topped at the tip with so-called indulgences like massage.
The thing is, we are more than our bodies. Yoga teaches us that we are a soul wrapped up in 5 different layers (koshas), with increasingly finer grades of energy. Rather than a pyramid, think of these as Russian dolls, with the most subtle at the very center of your being.
What are these layers, and how do we attend to each of them?
1) Physical Layer (annamaya kosha). This is your outermost wrapper, the body. Tend to this layer daily with period of movement and rest and proper nutrition, and on a weekly to monthly basis with body focused self care. Suggestions for caring for this layer: yoga, swimming, walking outside, following a diet according to your dosha, receiving bodywork.
2) Energetic Layer (pranamaya kosha). This is your energy layer. In Chinese medicine, it's called chi; ancient Egyptians knew it as ka. This layer governs your biological processes, and when it ceases to operate, so does your body. Replenish this layer with pranayama (breath work), acupuncture, fresh air & sunlight, craniosacral therapy, resting during menses, and aligning your living quarters with the larger energetic grid (feng shui).
3) Mental/Emotional Layer (manomaya kosha). This is your "heart-mind"; the nervous system expresses the energy of this layer (though it is not the layer itself). Someone who is in a coma has active annamaya and pranamaya koshas, but the manomaya kosha is not working. Caring for this layer includes chanting, singing, meditation, clear communication, 12 step meetings, supportive relationships, and a harmonious environment.
4) Mental Discerning Layer (vijnanamaya kosha). Often translated as the intellectual layer, but also include conscience and will. Someone not in control of the 4th layer will have a hard time making up their mind, poor judgement, little willpower, and lack of creativity. Stimulate your discerning layer by trying a new activity, learning a new language, deepening your meditation practice, and contemplating scriptures/spiritual truths on your path.
5) Bliss/Spiritual Layer (ananadamaya kosha). Ananda means spiritual bliss. While we may only recognize this in saints and mystics who have greatly developed this layer, it exists in all of us. We touch it when we find ourselves absorbed in uplifting activities (flow state). Develop this layer in yourself by practicing seva (selfless service), devotion in your chosen path, and deep meditation.
How often do you care for yourself in each of these layers? Yoga is a holistic system which encompasses all of these layers, but we often start and end with the physical practice. Work in all levels on a routine basis to care for your whole self.