Ayurvedic psychology sets the foundation for healthy aging. Learn more about the purusharthas, koshas, and the path toward contentment in your sunset years.
The Wisdom Years
According to Ayurveda, longevity is not a measure of years lived, but an opportunity to become conscious and fulfill our purpose and potential on this planet. In the second half of our lives, between the ages of 50 and 100, we slowly move into our sunset years, in which we have a choice to become conscious or remain unconscious. We gain wisdom by turning our attention within and stay dumb, so to speak, by focusing on accomplishments and rewards and allowing our senses to continue to drive our behaviors.
The Purusharthas: Ayurvedic Life Stages
One of the eight branches of Ayurveda, called rasayana, is a study on how to live a long, healthy, and conscious life. In the first half of life, we focus on pleasing our senses, making money, raising our families, and making a positive contribution in the world. These outward achievements provide us with the experience and wisdom we need to seek more lasting versions of pleasure, wealth, and happiness from within during the second half of our lives. This process, or inner life journey, is called purusharthas, which means for the “purpose of the soul.” The concept of purusharthas suggests that life can have deep meaning.
As we enter our wisdom years, we begin to realize that our brains have often been controlled by our senses. In addition we have to repair a worn and torn aging body. Your body needs to be taken care of, even as you move inward and detach from the whims and desires of your senses, in order to become the instrument for a deeper purpose. I call this process conscious longevity.
Re-Wire Your Brain
Studies suggest that 95% of the things we think, say, and do as adults come from impressions from our first six years of life. Since childhood, we have been unconsciously ruled by and addicted to a reward-based brain chemistry that is dependent on approval, appreciation, and consumerism—often at the expense of long-term health and happiness.1
When we don’t experience immediate gratification, we feel discontent, which leads to emotional stress. Science tells us that chronic emotional stress is linked to the six major causes of death, including depression, cognitive decline, heart disease, and cancer.2
The good news is that time-tested Ayurvedic practices can help you shift physical and emotional patterns that lead to weak digestion, shallow breathing, poor sleep, chronic pain, and degenerative disease—all obstacles to graceful aging.
The Koshas: Bring the Body into Balance
In Ayurvedic philosophy, you have five energetic layers, or sheaths, in concentric circles around your soul, called koshas. The koshas provide a roadmap for moving deeper inward and provide the foundation for conscious aging. Here, a quick intro to the five koshas:
- Annamaya (body) Kosha – This is your physical body, a critical player in healthy aging. According to Ayurveda, 85% of all disease starts in the digestive tract. Studies report that 74% of Americans complain of digestive disorders, many which are easily remedied with Ayurvedic diet protocols and herbs. A digestive concern of any kind can lead to poor immunity and lymph congestion. In turn, these disorders lead to issues related to circulation, energy, and metabolism, which finally lead to compromised breathing, cognitive decline, premature aging, and death. In western medicine, this trajectory of decline is managed by something called “dependent longevity,” in which we may live longer but dependent on medications that compromise awareness and spiritual growth as we age. To stop this deadly cycle, we must learn how to evaluate and treat our own digestive systems naturally.
- Pranamaya (life-force) Kosha – This energy field sits between the body (annamaya kosha) and the mind (manomaya kosha) and. Here is where we feel the effects of yoga and pranayama techniques as they enliven prana and free the mind from emotional attachments while bringing the body into a state of sustainable longevity. Learning and practicing pranayama regularly is considered the most powerful yoga technique for health, longevity, and becoming conscious.3
- Manomaya (mind) Kosha – This sheath represents our ever-changing mind and emotions. The mind holds the key to transformation and empowered aging. Mental ama, or molecules of toxic emotions, are physically stored in the body’s annamaya kosha, energetically stored in the pranamaya kosha, and stored emotionally in the mind, or manomaya kosha. With more mental self-awareness, the mind is slowly freed from its attraction to the senses, and need for approval and material possessions. With heightened awareness in the manomaya kosha, we have the luxury to choose truth or non-truth in our lives.
- Vijnanamaya (discernment) Kosha – the discernment, or wisdom, sheath is a subtle field of awareness that while fully infused by consciousness acts like petals of a flower that open and close for protection against the elements. While the mind and body are engaged in doing, thinking, and emoting, the vijnanamaya kosha is watching or witnessing these events but not engaged in the doing. It represents a higher form of intellect and feeling that offers insight, intuition, and wisdom. It also protects us from stress by not allowing trauma to penetrate the deepest aspects of our being.
- Ananadamaya (bliss) Kosha – the bliss sheath is our innermost sheath. It houses our consciousness and access to a lasting experience of bliss. When free from emotional ups and downs, our consciousness shines like rays of the sun, moving through all the koshas and restoring the memory of how we are fundamentally united—between every cell in the body. Experiencing the bliss of the anandamaya kosha requires all outer four koshas to be balanced.
- Bonus Kosha: The Great Barrier Sheath – While there are only five koshas, many Vedic experts believe there is a sixth sheath, and that this is most important one.4 The area between the manomaya and vijnanamaya koshas is called the “great barrier sheath.” It is more of a protective barrier than a sheath. Created by the mind, it limits the body, prana, and mind koshas from experiencing self-awareness, or bliss. The mind is invested in remaining attached to the material world so that it can in the comfortable cycle of reward-based brain chemistry, dependent on the outside world for quick and easy hits of contentment. Balancing each of the five koshas removes this barrier and forces us to become aware of and free ourselves from our own attachments, so that we can live in a state of longevity and happiness that the mind could never deliver.
To learn more Ayurvedic wisdom on healthy aging, join my seven-week Empowered Aging course, starting February 9 on the Shift Network. I will teach you tools to balance your body, mind, and spirit, while releasing old emotional stress.
Each week in my Empowered Longevity course, you’ll:
- Learn a new transformational pranayama technique
- Release old unwanted emotions linked to accelerated aging
- Troubleshoot and heal your digestion
- Learn critical circadian medicine tools for living in harmony with nature
- Learn longevity tools from Dhanur Veda, the Veda of transformation
- Explore the relationship between quantum healing and Ayurveda
- Practice Kaya Kalpa. This four-day mental, physical, and emotional detox is proven to activate rejuvenating stem cells—the secret to longevity.
The time-tested Ayurvedic practices in this course will help you shift physical and emotional patterns that lead to weak digestion, shallow breathing, poor sleep, chronic pain, and degenerative disease—all obstacles to graceful aging.