What are the Koshas and why do we want to understand them?
Introduction to the koshas:
The Koshas give us a map of ourselves – layers of the self, like an onion, starting at the outermost layer of skin to the deep spiritual core. Understanding the koshas is a useful tool for deepening yoga practice and awareness of self in all aspects of life. Think of the Koshas as a series of Russian nesting dolls, each embedded within the others.
Much like the chakra system, the koshas each have their own physiological function and psychology.
Kosha perspective allow us to bring body, breath, mind, wisdom and spirit into harmony. We all experience this – when we feel stressed our muscles tighten, breathing is shallow, thoughts and emotions are agitated, joy feels far away. When our systems are in harmony the body is comfortable, breathing is smooth and deep, thoughts and emotions are positive and calm, all seems ‘right’ with our world.
1. Annamaya kosha
The first layer of the koshas represents the physical body, When we touch or move our body, we engage with annamayakosha. This layer might be where we spend the most time hanging out, locked in our physical senses.
2. Pranamaya kosha
The second layer represents the energetic body: the circulatory system for prana, or “’life force’. It includes the movement of breath through the respiratory system. When we breathe deeply, feel surges of energy thoughout the body and co-ordinate movement with breathing we engage with pranamayakosha.
3. Manomaya kosha
The third layer takes us into the deep recesses of the mind, emotions and nervous system. In this layer we move from physical feeling and rhythm to emotional feeling. Manomayakosha expresses itself as waves of thought or awareness. When we sit in stillness and become aware of thoughts and emotions we engage with manomayakosha.
4. Vijanamaya kosha
In the fourth kosha we develop awareness, insight and consciousness. We recognize underlying beliefs and patterns and access wisdom or insight about our life journey. When we choose to feel or act with intention we engage with vijanamayakosha.
5. Anandamaya kosha
The fifth and last kosha is our spiritual body. We move from conscious awareness into pure and radiant bliss. Within the anadamayakosha we experience ourselves as being part of all things, including the divine.
Yoga helps us create a path to the deeper, subtle kosha layers, so they’re easier to access. Asana, physical practice prepares the outer body. Pranayama, conscious breathing, connects us to the energetic body. Yogic philosophy provides the tools for bringing awareness to our thoughts and emotions, values and inner wisdom so we can embody and radiate health and bliss.
(thank you to Shiva Rea http://www.yogajournal.com/article/yoga-101/you-are-here/ and Joseph Lepage https://iytyogatherapy.com for clarification)