In this monthly column, Secrets of Personal Transformation, I write about the sacred process of human transformation. Transformation is a circular process that takes our psyche through three distinct stages: the breakdown, the reflection/discernment, and the rebirth. Transformation differs from mere change, or “personal growth”, in that growth is linearly focused, and as such is primarily a process of addition and constant forward movement, no matter the pull to let ourselves fall apart.
Have you ever felt as though your mind and heart are ready to move on to a new incarnation of yourself, yet your body remains stuck in the past? Maybe you feel like your mindset lives in a new, healthier dimension, yet your body lags behind?
Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay
It is one thing to move through the pain, loss, trauma, and betrayal that settles in our body from past stories via our mind or heart. With good support, we can understand why we had to experience some pain or event and come to terms with our stories. It is quite another thing, however, for the physical body to accept these same terms.
If your body is still presenting symptoms – aches, pains, diseases, symptoms of anxiety/depression – from stories you feel like you’ve healed, it’s time to work with the body more directly.
In yogic anatomy, there are five layers, or coverings, of our soul. In Sanskrit, they are called “koshas.” Ordered from densest to subtlest, they are:
Annamaya Kosha (physical body)
Pranamaya Kosha (breath body)
Manomaya Kosha (mind body)
Vijnanamaya Kosha (intuitive/higher mind body)
Anandamaya Kosha (bliss body)
To free our past stories and live fully in who we are now, healing must occur on every layer. It is easier to heal the subtler levels – i.e., it’s easier to accept, intellectually, why we had to learn some lesson or experience some event, or easier for our intuition to see things from a larger perspective. The denser layers, however, require more time to adopt a new pattern, belief system, or anything else we are trying to implant in our lives. As the densest layer, the annamaya kosha is slow to change and hard to break out of its conditioned patterns and routines – no matter how damaging they may be. This is why it can sometimes feel like you’ve moved on but your body has not.
Methods to Help the Body Release
The physical body requires special attention in the healing process. Here are some ways to help this process along.
- Let the body speak
One of the ways a body loves to heal is to free it from our constant control and vigilance. Close your eyes, drop into the story, and let your body do whatever it longs to do: move, dance, shake, sweat, sing, scream. Try to get out of the way, don’t judge, and let your body speak its own language: free movement.
- Hold the body still
Just the opposite as the method above, you can also purposefully hold the body still and simply observe. Yin yoga is a great practice to assist with healing the body this way. You can use this time to search for the story’s location within via your mind’s eye. Once found, you can gently release the story’s grip on your organs, bones, and tissues.
- Engage the Pranamaya kosha
The Pranamaya kosha is the layer that connects the physical body to the deeper layers. Therefore, it can be used as a kind of bridge, or a translator, to get the body and mind on the same page. All variations of pranayama exercises can be utilized here, but especially full, deep breathing practices (such as 3-part breath), that bring the fullness of the breath into the entire abdomen.
- Focus on the second (Sacral) chakra
The sacral chakra is the home of our emotions and as such is a logical home for some of our old stories. Thus, balancing this can help clear old stories from this place. Receiving a Reiki session can be very helpful in this release.
- Other somatic therapies
While talk therapy is a very good tool for the mind, it’s important to find a healer who works primarily with the body. Some ideas are:
- myofascial release
- Holistic touch therapies
We are sensate and sensitive creatures, and our bodies are, too. This means we carry our past with us in the very cells of our bodies. So, even once we’ve sorted things out in our minds or hearts, our body still remembers stories in vivid detail. Understanding the yogic anatomy of the koshas can help you guide the body to release the stories and let you live from your new perspective. Just remember to be gentle with yourself as the process unfolds; you are doing deep work.