The PERMA-V model and the 5 koshas

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This is gonna be some pretty nerdy yoga philosophy/self-help stuff.

I recently got into Seligman’s PERMA model of wellness (if you haven’t yet, check my newsletter on that here).

When I read about this model, it clicked for me on a deep level, but apparently it didn’t click all the way … yet … because it just clicked again this week. My friend, Christy, from Christy’s Holistic Hub sent out her own take on wellness based on the five koshas of yogic philosophy.

And that’s when I realized, like always, yogis had this shit figured out a long time ago!

Let’s take a look at the connection.

In yoga, the concept is that we each have five interconnected “bodies” that all need to be healthy in order of us to achieve true well-being. Each of these corresponds pretty directly with Seligman’s theory.

  1. Physical Body – For a deeper dive into the elements of each kosha, I highly recommend Christy’s post. For the purposes of this blog, let’s just say the physical body is, well, the physical body! Seligman didn’t initially include the physical body in his theory. This shows us just how disembodied some mental health practices can be. Clearly, none of us is healthy without a healthy body. So, Seligman included the notation “PERMA-V” moving forward. The V stood for Vitality, or the physical body. Seligman described this as eating well, moving well and sleeping well.
  2. Vital Body / Energy Body – This body houses our “prana,” and it is sometimes called the “pranic body.” It is where our energy levels live, and in a modern-sense we know it as our nervous system. It is strongly affected by emotions, or it strongly affects emotions, depending on how you see it. In mental wellness, we often describe emotions as “energy in motion.” Energy moves along our nervous system, and it is both afferent and efferent, which means it moves from our thoughts to our body and our body to our thoughts. Seligman uses the term “positive emotion” for this part of our well being.
  3. Mental Body – This is our “thought body,” or the sum of all our thoughts on a daily basis. When we feel we are capable of meeting the demands of our life, that we can overcome challenges by developing new skills, our thought body is healthy. When we are overstimulated or overwhelmed, our thoughts become anxious. Our thoughts heavily color our emotions, during that energy in motion into a “feeling,” which is the process by which our thoughts label our energy positive or negative. This body correlates directly to Sigelman’s “engagement” pillar. When we are engaging enough with the world and developing our strengths, we are healthy in our mental body.
  4. Wisdom Body / Meta Body – This is a fun one! This is where we can take a step back and rise above the moment-to-moment flux of our physical, energetic and mental states. Developing meta cognition, or the ability to gaze at ourselves from a place once removed, takes practice and time. But if we can, we make better choices that lead to a happier life. The development of and care for this body leads to better relationships, directly correlating with this pillar of Seligman’s well-being model.
  5. Bliss Body – This is our connection to something greater, also known as our bliss body. Seligman calls this meaning. Simple enough!

As I read Christy’s post, I loved what she wrote about how each of our bodies can get out of balance and what we can do to fine-tune them. It made me think of self-care on a whole new level, or a whole five new levels to be exact.

When we put in the time caring for each of the five bodies, we can better achieve whole person well being.

Of course, that is a tall task! My suggestion is simple:

  • score yourself 1-5 each month on Seligman’s PERMA-V scale
  • Note your lowest score
  • Look at the work Christy recommends for tending to the corresponding Kosha
  • Spend a week or two caring for yourself on that level, and see what happens next!