The 5 Koshas – A journey home to the True Self
In this article we are sharing the 5 koshas in more detail and how they can be used to create a deeper understanding of the true self.
What are the 5 Koshas?
The five Koshas refer to the different ‘layers’ or sheaths of the body, which dates back to the ancient texts of the Upanishads. They include not only the physical body, but also the energetic and spiritual layers of the body. The 5 Koshas help us create union with ourselves through connecting the body, mind, breath and soul together in harmony. They are like a map to use in navigating our way through the World and back to the true self (The Atman).
The 5 Koshas in yoga
Because they are connected, when there is a trauma present or a lack of harmony either in ourselves or the environment, the effects of that ripple throughout the different Kosha’s. Everything is interconnected and intertwined, there is no separation. We can utilise the practice of Yoga to create harmony within each of the Kosha’s and to peel back the layers that are preventing us from embodying our true self.
The 5 Koshas in Yoga Diagram
The 5 Koshas Explained
Let’s delve a little deeper into each of the five Kosha’s, how we integrate them into Yoga and how they related to the Feminine. We’ll start with the outer layer and work our way inwards.
Annamaya Kosha ~ The Physical Body
Anna meaning food | Maya meaning made of | Kosha meaning sheath
Annamaya Kosha is the Physical Body and contains everything we are made of physically – organs, muscles, bones, skin etc.
The 5 Koshas Yoga Journey
For many of us, the physical body or physical motivations are what first brings us to a Yoga practice. It is an entry point into Yoga and its philosophy. Once we start to explore the Teachings, it helps us to delve deeper into ourselves layer by layer. The more we practice, the more we discover beyond just the physical and journey into the spiritual layers of the practice and ourselves.
In Yoga, connection and exploration of the physical body is everything to do with physical movement, awareness of our body in time & space, as well as tapping into the senses. Even though it is the outermost layer of the five Kosha’s, it is still very powerful in that it helps us tap into the physical aspect which is the bridge to tapping into the next layer and a deeper connection with ourselves. There is lots to learn and discover through the body. Physical movement is simply the gateway for the journey home to the true self.
“…it is important to remember that asana practice is not fundamentally about the asanas, but about the practitioner.” ~Gary Kraftsow
If we are feeling out of alignment from our feminine core, we can use movement and the physical layer of ourselves to tune back in and create alignment. With the nature of what the Feminine represents, such physical movement can be initiated through specific practices and sequences, or it can be accessed through intuitive movement. Reconnecting to our monthly cycle in a way that feels aligned for us is also a way to tap into the Physical Body from a feminine perspective. Taking rest when we need, nourishing our body in different ways depending in which stage of the cycle we are in, and choosing practices that align with different stages of our cycle help us to embody the feminine from a physical aspect.
Pranamaya Kosha ~ The Energetic Body
Prana meaning energy/life force | Maya meaning to be made of | Kosha meaning sheath
Prana is the life force energy that runs through our body. It is the body’s subtle life force, energy or Chi as known in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Prana is the driving force behind the physical body (think atoms, cells, organs etc) and it literally gives life to our body.
The breath and Prana are intertwined with the Energetic Body, meaning they are not separate. The breath is automatic, it continues in the background even when there is no conscious awareness of it. It can be either a bridge to the Sympathetic Nervous System or it can be a bridge to the Parasympathetic Nervous System.
Unconsciously, when the breath is short and shallow, it is likely that our body is within the Fight or Flight container (the stress response). When we sit in this space for pro-longed periods of time, it can inhibit our ability to heal, feel safe in the Feminine or tap into the deeper layers of ourselves.
Alternatively, when we bring conscious awareness to our Breath, we can harness the energy behind it through practices like Pranayama and Kriya in Yoga in order to create expansion, energy and access to a higher state of being or the higher self. We can also tap into specific Pranayama practices, mantra and mudra to direct Prana in and throughout the body to bring the Feminine and Masculine energies into unison/balance.
Manomaya Kosha ~ The Mental Body
Mano is derived from the word Manas meaning your mind or thought process
The Manomaya Kosha is the layer of the mind. It includes the processing of thoughts and emotions, as well as being the bridge between the outermost layers of the self and the inner sheaths of the self.
This layer of the self refers to our perceptions of the world, how we operate through conditioning and the stories we interpret life through. It also includes the imprints and memories from past experiences (happy and traumatic) that influence how we respond in future situation.
Yoga helps to unpack all of these things above and access the higher realms of the mind. The mind can be (and usually is, you’re not alone!) very active throughout a Yoga practice. Reactivity in the mind can be present when we are in a relaxed state and also when there has been a trigger (triggers indicate that there is unresolved trauma from the past that is still showing up as an invitation to heal).
The 5 Koshas and awareness
Conscious awareness and exploration of these thoughts and responses help us to unpack, grow as a human being and put the puzzle pieces together of where our thoughts come from and why they show up the way they do.
The first two layers of the self (Physical Body & Energetic Body) can be used to train the mind, create discipline and create the awareness that is required to peel back the next Koshas on the way to embodying the true self.
Sometimes we need to learn things about how our mind works, but a lot of the time we need to unlearn what we have been conditioned to believe and what we have collected along the way that is not actually ours. This can be done through Yoga.
In Yoga, we learn the teachings and embody the practices so we can apply it off the mat when real world challenges present themselves in attempt to steer us off our path or away from our true selves.
As feminine beings, working with the Mental Body can help us unlearn what the World told us we should be or how a Women should look like or act. Through Yoga practices specifically designed for women, we can start to tap into our true nature and begin to relearn what embodying the feminine energy means to us personally.
Vijnanamaya Kosha ~ The Wisdom Body
Vijnana meaning power of judgement or discernment as well as wisdom and intellect
The Vijnanamaya Kosha is the layer of intellect, wisdom, intuition and knowledge. It allows us to create a deeper sense of connection and oneness with ourselves. This particular sheath relates to all things inner growth, personal development, self-study, spiritual truths, morals, values, intuition and being the witness of our own lives.
Returning to the Map metaphor mentioned previously, the Vijnanamaya Kosha provides a map on how to live from an embodied place of learned wisdom, intuition and the path to how our true self would interact with the World. Even if we haven’t reached the level of enlightenment or the most pure version of the True Self, we can still embody she would act from a place of trust and intuition.
The 5 Koshas and meditation
In Yoga, physical practices, Pranayama practices and Meditation help to connect us to our innate wisdom and knowledge. It allows us to create space to let go of the external noise and debris that has attached itself to us, so that we can create alignment with our personal values and act from a place of intuition.
There is a connection between the Vijnanamaya Kosha and the ethical codes by which we lead our lives with according to Yogic principles (Yamas and Niyamas). The Yamas and Niyamas give us a moral code of discipline on how to approach living in the World to avoid experiencing and/or creating further suffering. The Vijnanamaya Kosha gives light to all aspects of ourselves – the healed self, the shadow self, the good, the bad and the ugly. This provides the opportunity to grow, to live life more in tune with our moral codes of discipline and to be one with our intuition.
The 5 Koshas and wisdom
The Vijnanamaya Kosha is the wisdom body that acts as a moral compass for how we live in the world.
A superpower we have as women in the World, is our Intuition. Exploration of learning how to tap into and utilise our Intuition both in our Yoga practice and also in our daily life gives us the means and permission to live from an embodied place of wisdom and trust.
Anandamaya Kosha ~ The Bliss Body
Ananda meaning bliss
The Anandamaya Kosha refers to the sheath of bliss. It is the most spiritual, connected and subtle of the five layers and represents the true nature of the self.
It is only revealed and accessed once the journey through the first four layers has been completed and the illusions or falsehoods of the previous layers have been peeled away.
The Anandamaya Kosha is all things unity, unconditional love, peace, oneness with self and the Universe as well as joy. It can be described as returning home, feeling alive within ones self and a liberation from suffering.
The Anandamaya Kosha is intertwined with Yogic principles and is connected to the 8 Limbs of Yoga through Samadhi (enlightenment).
The 5 layers cannot be separated, they are all connected. So, there is no spiritual bypassing in order to access the deepest and truest layer of self. You are required to do the work and to sit in the space of discomfort in order to peel back the layers and return home.
Here at Higher States of Yoga we share with a depth of knowledge and embodiment of the 5 Koshas. Do you have a story to tell about the 5 Koshas and your own journey? We would love to hear about it in the comments. Or feel free to contact us directly.