What is True Health? | What is health of body, mind, and spirit? | What determines our health?
The contents on these Our Teachings webpages are reproduced from the book “Essentials of Yoga Practice and Philosophy” compiled by Swami Sitaramananda.
Below is a testimonial for this book.
A concise guide to Yoga in all of its aspects, healing, mantra, pranayama, asana and meditation as taught by one of the most important Yoga lineages of the modern world, Essentials of Yoga Practice and Philosophy is a helpful resource that all serious Yoga students should keep close by for regular study.
What is health?
“Every human being is the author of his own health or disease. Disease is the result of disobedience to the immutable laws of health that govern life. The laws of health are the laws of nature. The first wealth is health. It is the greatest of all possessions. It is the basis of all virtues. You should have physical as well as mental health and eventually spiritual health.”
– Swami Sivananda in Bliss Divine
In this section we will discuss many different aspects of health:
Group of student that graduated from a course on Vedanta which teaches True Health
In Yoga we say that we have three bodies: the physical body, the astral body, and the causal body. We need to take care of all three bodies in order to say we have true health. These 3 bodies are the vehicles of the soul.
As in an orange, we have the outer envelope, the peel, then the inside pulp, then the core, or seed. The physical body is like the outer envelope, the astral body is like the pulp, and the causal body is like the seed.
The Atman or Self is beyond the three bodies and is said to be the master of the three bodies and independent from them.
There are three levels of health, corresponding to the three bodies: physical health, mental health and spiritual health.
Learn more about True Health by taking one of our courses offered in our Institute of Health and Yoga.
Physical health is when all the organs function properly under the intelligent control of the mind. A happy person eats well, sleeps well, digests well, and is joyful and productive.
The person lives a moderate life according to the law of Nature. The person has self respect and respects Nature.
Learn more about this by reading our blog article The Deeper Path of yoga Healing.
The physical body is made of the 5 gross elements of nature: earth, water, fire, air and ether.
It is said that the physical body corresponds to the food sheath, which is made of food, and will decompose back into the food chain.
The Self is not the body; the body is only its vehicle. In the same sense, we might drive a red expensive Mercedes, made in Germany, but it doesn’t make us German, nor red, nor worth a few thousands dollars.
We constantly make the fundamental mistake of confusing ourselves for our body and superimpose the qualities of our body upon ourselves: male, female, young, old, pretty or ugly, black or white or yellow…
The body goes through constant changes, from childhood, to adulthood, to old age, ending in death. Yet the soul is not affected.
The physical body is best kept in good condition through the practice of yoga poses (asanas).
Do not identify with the physical body alone
The Bhagavad Gita says that the soul casts off the body like an old garment and puts on new ones.
If you look at various photos of yourself taken during different phases of your physical development, from the body of a baby, to a child, to an adolescent, and an adult, you can see the proof.
Looking at these different bodies and different features, you still claim that “this is me”, “this is me”….and yet this “me” has nothing to do with the completely different bodies.
To add to the argument, all the cells of the body change every seven years and yet we maintain a basic identity within these changes. Detachment from the body is the basis of all health.
Learn more about physical health with our Beginners Yoga Courses.
The astral body, also called subtle body, is composed of the energy sheath (prana), the mind, the emotions, the intellect and the ego.
A sheath is like an envelope or a veil which obscures the vision of the Self. Yogic practices help to remove the veil or see though the veil, and bring clarity of vision.
The pranic sheath is like our etheric envelope, our aura, radiating from our physical body, made up of our prana.
Thus you can literally feel the presence of someone in a room, or his or her absence, from the quality of the prana we feel in the room.
We can photograph the etheric body through Kirlian photography, for example, and see the state of health of our pranic sheath.
The pranic sheath is transcended through pranayama and proper diet which are part of the 5 points of yoga.
Students go on a silent walk in nature.
What is Mental health?
The mental sheath is the subtle layer of our mind, emotions and senses. It is the storehouse of all our past thoughts and experiences, as well as our instincts and lower emotions.
This mind can be negative or positive. If negative, it is contracted, and manifests as a blockage of energy.
If positive, it is expanded and is full of prana and light.
The mental sheath can be transcended through positive thinking, concentration and meditation.
We achieve mental health when we are focused, balanced, calm and positive, and when the mind is free from desire, addiction, and is sattvic.
Understand more deeply the meaning of mental health with our Meditation for Well-being courses.
The intellectual sheath is our faculty of reasoning, discriminating and making decisions.
The intellect can be used positively, or negatively to serve our lower mind and desires. It can be transcended through self-inquiry, discrimination and meditation.
The ego is the false sense of self, the principle of separateness which we need to overcome in order for us to be healthy, mentally and spiritually.
The ego can be removed through selfless service, universal love, and self-inquiry.
You can read more about this in our article Yoga Shows the Way to Positive Health.
The seed body is a deeper layer of our self in which lays the seed of our ignorance and in which we store our karmic seeds. This means that unless we remove the cause of our ignorance, we will continue to repeat the same mistakes, actions and reactions, lifetime after lifetime.
Spiritual health dawns when we understand the cause of our ignorance, which is responsible for our suffering, and learn to be detached from our karmic patterns.
We become aware of the consciousness which underlies all phenomena and circumstances. It is said that the causal body is also known as the bliss sheath, because of its proximity to the Atman or Soul.
Learn more in our article called Sickness and Health Have no name.
Yoga Farm pond showing a clear reflection.
The Three GunasUnderstanding the three gunas helps us understand the qualities leading to health and diseases. There are three qualities in nature, called Gunas:
- Tamas is the quality of inertia, darkness and ignorance. If the mind is tamasic the person will be lazy, depressed, and negative. Tamasic food and tamasic lifestyle lead to diseases and blockages in the flow of prana.
- Rajas is the quality of activity, passion, action, egoism, and indulgence. If the mind is rajasic, the person will be passionate, competitive, busy with self centered activities, and full of desires. Among other causes, excess Rajas causes stress. Rajasic food and rajasic lifestyle can also bring disharmony and diseases that come from the disturbances of the flow of prana.
- Sattva is a quality of purity, balance, knowledge, wisdom and discipline. The sattvic mind is clear, focused, harmonious and connected (with self and others). Sattvic food, sattvic company, and sattvic environments bring about health.
Increase SattvaPracticing the five points of Yoga will increase Sattva, remove Tamas, and calm down Rajas so our life will not alternate up and down. Tamas is like a thick veil over our consciousness. Rajas is like a constant projection of ideas that create fragmentation, division, separation, and conflict. Sattva is like a clear lake in which you can see a true reflection of yourself.
Sivananda Yoga: Health Educator Training
Documentary Film by Benoy K. Behl
A landmark event in the field of Yoga and of Health Management is the founding of the Sivananda Institute of Health and Yoga in California, USA. The institute’s first 2-year Yoga Health Educator Training Course was launched at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm at Grass Valley in California in October, 2017. It was followed by the launch of this intensive training course at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Dalat in Vietnam in January 2018.
This yoga health education-training course, is a yoga therapy course where we focus on positive health and well-being. We are educating people to approach the person that has disease as a total person, that means their body, their mind, their emotions, the circumstances of their life.
See full transcript here.
Yoga Teacher Training Course
Check out our 200-hour Yoga Alliance certified Yoga Teacher Training Courses offered twice a year in California, 3x in Vietnam, once in China and once in Japan.
Choose from upcoming courses for beginners and intermediate level students.
Rejuvinate your body and mind. Experience and progress with daily Yoga classes. Learn the 12 basic asanas and pranayama. Enjoy daily meditation, chanting, and organic vegetarian meals.
Check out our Blog
Our Sivananda Yoga Farm Blog has numerous articles, videos, and talks given by our senior teachers over the years.
Our teachings section is based on the essential teachings of Swami Sivananda and Swami Vishnudevananda. In this teachings section of our website you will find teachings on many different topics such as "What is Satsang", "What is Yoga", Life, Health, Mind, Prana, and much more. The contents in this section has been reproduced from the book “Essentials of Yoga Practice and Philosophy” compiled by Swami Sitaramananda.