The “mind-body” connection has become a mainstream concept, and even more of a buzzword of late.
As you may know, I use principles from therapeutic yoga to help busy people sleep better & regain energy. As such, I find that more and more I’m teaching my clients about the many “layers” of their system.
Our Five Layers: Mind-body “Plus”
Our first layer is the one that’s closest to us: it’s our physical body, and the sensations we have while living in that body. It’s the “body” part of the “mind-body connection.”
One layer out from the physical body is our “energy” layer, where our breath lives. No breath, no energy in our physical body.
Outward from these is the layer containing our feelings and emotions, and our “mental” layer where our thoughts and beliefs come into play. It’s the “mind” part of the “mind-body connection.”
The furthest layer “out” from us is the layer that’s connected and part of a larger picture, where we are pure joy, bliss, and love. We no longer feel isolated or separate from everything else that is.
I draw these layers sort of like a spider-web because they are all delicately connected. The easiest way to see this connectivity–unfortunately–is through a negative example:
Say I experience chronic pain somewhere in my physical body. My back hurts badly. As a result, I may have trouble sleeping, and my energy (literally) is affected by the lack of restorative sleep. Because I feel pain, I might tighten up and round my shoulders in a protective way. Such posturing impacts how deep a breath I can take (which can also create fatigue). I might feel angry that I can’t do everything I want to. Or, I could start thinking this pain will never go away, creating sadness.
At this point, it’s probably pretty clear that I would have a very hard time feeling joy or love and anything remotely like bliss. I’m too tied up into what’s happening at all the other layers.
Positive Mind Body Connectivity & “Different Layer” Techniques
This connectivity is actually a really wonderful thing that one can use to feel better.
You can start by figuring out which “layer” your most pressing issue lives in. Let’s say it’s in the physical layer / body–i.e. the back pain.
Let’s also say you’ve done a LOT already to try and help yourself. You’ve seen orthopedic doctors, you’ve done your PT exercises, you’ve tried chiropractic. Perhaps you’ve even taken medications. But the problem persists. This may be because the solutions you’re exploring all “act” on the same layer as the issue: e.g. the physical one.
One of the ways I help clients is by using interventions at different layers. So for the back pain person who’s tried all the physical interventions, we’d work with the breath / energy layer instead.
This tactic is often a relief in and of itself. You can stop banging your head against the wall, as it were. Letting go of trying to solve that nagging problem reduces your stress and frustration. You end up working with techniques that impact your overall system in a more “round-about” way. This is frequently way more effective in solving the original problem than more attacks!
What’s more, yoga practices are often designed to work at multiple layers (at the same time).
Let’s take another example of a person with anxiety. Perhaps this person has done all kinds of traditional therapy, doesn’t feel like they’re getting results, and describes themselves as “all talked out”. While complex and individual, for the sake of discussion we can look at anxiety as a mental layer issue, and traditional talk therapy as a same layer solution.
Therapeutic yoga techniques such as the Moving Mountain or Nyasa finger-breathing are physical practices, but they also help to lengthen the breath (energy layer) while requiring mental focus that’s quite different from talking through problems. They can help the person get some much needed distance from their worrisome thoughts.
These are just a few examples, but hopefully you see my point!
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