Imagine a ‘beautiful-precious’ gift packed inside multiple layers of boxes! The most precious item is always placed inside the safest and the innermost layer. And so is the most precious component of human beings placed by the almighty creator. To access your “highest self”, you need to peel your body-layers- all one by one. This would never have been possible if yoga wasn’t there to show the path to peel your body sheaths and access your five Koshas. This is a complete guide on your 5 koshas with a video about Yoga To Nurture Your Annamaya And Pranamaya Koshas
The subtle Yoga anatomy explains koshas as sheaths or veils of illusion that prevent us from seeing our deeper/highest selves.
As we peel away each layer, we come closer and closer to the innermost most precious layer, a.k.a. Kosha, realisation happens.
What are Pancha Koshas
In Sanskrit Pancha mean five and Koshas means layers or Sheaths
The concept of pancha koshas was introduced by Saint Taittiriya, who has written the Taittiriya upanishad, a part of the Taittriya Samhita.
The sage said that we don’t have to go far there in search of the atma because it’s a part of our being. It is always here but we can’t realise it because of the sheaths of illusion.
“Yoga is a medium of accomplishing the union; union of body with the mind; Man with the Atman; gross with the subtle”!
Start To Access Your Five Koshas
The word Anna means food
Therefore this outermost layer is also known as the food body, gross body, or physical body. This layer is the house of our soul- the energy which is immortal, and encompasses the entire physical anatomy such as the bones, muscles, blood and other fluids etc
The Annamaya kosha is perishable, hence follows the rules of this world which are birth, growth , decay and death.
Our physical activities (including yoga postures), food and drink majorly define this Kosha.
To sum up, the Annamaya kosha is:
- Made of food
- Composed of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether.
- Here’s the video>>
yoga to nurture your annamaya and Pranamaya Koshas
As we move on from our outermost physical layer towards the internal subsequent layers, they become entirely “non-physical” and “in-visible”.
So our second kosha the Pranamaya kosha is the first non-palpable layer, referred as the subtle body, energy body or the breath body
Prana, the life force flows through us so this layer includes subtle anatomy of the Prana. Our breath forms a bridge between the physical and energy body so this Kosha lies between the two.
Our energy centres and channels called “Chakras and Nadis” belong to this layer.
Yogic practices like Pranayama directly affect your second layer, the pranamaya Kosha. Also the practices of Chakra Balancing and Energy Healing are related with this sheath. How we connect and align with our subtle anatomy can also impact this Kosha.
Curious about balancing your energy centres? Read this how yoga and meditation balance your chakras.
Although, the breathing process and circulation of Prana is a vital tool for our survival. Yet, the same might hinder our path of transcendence and delay the process of removing the veils of illusion.
So here is the point: both the body and Prana are just a medium for our transcendence not the end point of our journey.
Peel away this veil of illusion with Pranayama: Learn the esoteric introduction to Pranayama by my teacher Mr Paul Carlos.
This sheath is further composed of the five pranas (prana, udana, vyana, samana, and apana) as well as the five organs of action. These karmendriyas are the mouth, hands, feet, rectum and genitals.
Learn more about the five kinds of prana and revitalise your Prana with the Prana mudra that cures 100 diseases.
To sum up the pranamaya Kosha is:
- Made of prana or vital life force
- Physical body is able to live and act because of prana.
Man is the Sanskrit and Hindi synonym for our mind and mental characteristics
The third layer Manomaya Kosha is the “mental body layer”, which comprises our thoughts, emotions, and patterns including our five senses.
This highly subtle layer has to do everything with our experiences of this world around us. Various feelings of pleasure, pain, resentments find circulation through this body layer. This place is also the origin point of our thoughts, emotions , logic , perception and ego.
Taking care of this kosha is very important because it directly affects our first two Koshas: the Annamaya kosha as well as the pranamaya Kosha.
Because an unstable mind and uncontrolled thought pattern is directly responsible for the stress and anxiety which further leads to many physical diseases. Since the Manomaya kosha is highly affected by our experiences and memories, which could be traumatic, enjoyable, or anywhere in between.
While staying connected with our mental body is imperative in order to be conductive in this world, we can still practice our sense withdrawal, though for a very small time with the practices like pratyahara.
You can learn here how to pratyahara, the 5th limb of yoga and gradually start to peel away this third peel of illusion to transcendant into a state of pure meditation.
If you haven’t started your daily meditation here is everything to start your meditation practice.
To survive well in this world, it may not be feasible and logical to completely disconnect from our mental body, however we can check off this one more layer as a veil between you and your true self a. k. a. atman.
To sum up, the Manomaya kosha:
- Contains your mind/emotions/thoughts
- Thoughts and emotions move the prana
Our ability to understand, reason, analyse and judge resides in the 4th kosha, known as vijnanmaya Kosha- the “wisdom body”.
This layer governs our intellect and discerning mind and is the superior part of the mind above the noise of sensory feedback.
Deep meditation and mantra chanting helps us to peel away this kosha and recognise it as a pure veil of illusion. Study of scriptures on a deeper level may help to navigate this path more profoundly.
At this stage, we can deploy our reasoning mind to recognise that we are not what we think, instead, to observe “what we think”.
To sum, up the Vijnanmaya kosha:
- Contains intellect and discrimination
- This is the power to know and discern
Anand means the bliss
The fifth and last layer, anandamaya kosha is the bliss body. This innermost layer of illusion represents pure joy! Yogis describe it as an introduction with the Divine. In this deepest layer we experience our connection with the divine eternal soul and our own divinity.
This layer is the closest with intangible and immortal body. To access this kosha, deepest and dedicated spiritual practices on much higher levels are required
As we come closer to our bliss body by peeling away the outermost layers, we start realising our true potential.
This sheath might give a sense of connectedness to the divine, yet, one still endures the cycles of rebirth until this sheath is transcended. Otherwise the “wheel of karmas” are said to carry on rotating the cycle of “birth and death”.
That transcendence is samadhi, or self-realization. Well beyond all five sheaths, you are met with atma or self. That said, You are almost connected to this sheath through the fifth kosha, yet it is beyond all five koshas.
Samadhi or enlightenment is the final limb of patanjali’s eightfold path which helps to tap into the bliss body and even further penetrate all the veils of Illusions to access our highest selves.
Further, to let this layer completely vanish, realizing that we are not the one who experience bliss but we are the bliss itself.
To sum up, the anandamaya kosha is:
- A thin veil of ignorance
- Subtle identification with separateness
- Here you experience your true blissful nature
Wrapping Up- Access Your Five Koshas To Peel Your Body’s Sheaths Of Illusion
Acknowledging the koshas is important to be familiar with your inner world and to develop a connection among your body, mind and spirit. This realisation may help to awaken a profound sense of awareness towards the path of transcendence.
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