Probably most of you, if you are reading my blog, are familiar with some of the basic concepts of Ayurveda. The Five Great Elements, ether, air, fire, water, and earth and how they relate to our body and mind; the three doshas, Vata (ether + air), Pitta (fire + water), and Kapha (water + earth) ; and the three Gunas, the qualities of our mind, Sattva (the quality of cosmic intelligence and balance), Rajas (quality of constant movement and turbulence), and Tamas (quality of dullness and inertia). Perhaps not so familiar with the five subtle bodies, also known as the five sheaths or koshas of the Self. Let me share with you this amazing information, so important, not only to keep our physical balance but to continue with our soul evolution.
It is easy to get caught up in all the belief systems that we have been taught for generations, we are not good enough, when I… then I will…, I am not as good as…, if only I…, I am deficient of…, and many more. The truth is that we were created complete and whole, unfortunately this internal dialogue that we have, creates holes in our energetic layers making us susceptible to become ill, insecure, and disconnected from our Higher Self.
Understanding the five koshas, its functions, how they relate to each other, and how to transcend them is an important part of our soul evolution. Koshas are a series of energetic sheaths or manifestations of our energy that surrounds our body and expand into our Higher Consciousness/Self. Our different frequencies, experiences, thoughts, and emotions will affect the manifestation of these five layers.
According to Ayurvedic and Yogic philosophy, there are five koshas:
Annamaya, Pranamaya, Manomaya, Vijinanamaya, and Anandamaya.
The Food Body - The Annamaya Kosha
This is the outer layer of the five and more basic one, it relates with our physical body. Our society places a big emphasis on this outer layer; the physical part of our existence. In Sanskrit Anna means “food”, although our body needs food, water, and air to survive, we cannot exist on food alone, we need much more than that.
The Energy or Breath Body – Pranamaya Kosha
Outward from the Annamaya we find the electromagnetic field of the body, also known as the etheric body. Prana is the life force that also regulates the breath, and at the same time the breath regulates our pranic body. This is why breathwork is so important to regulate ourselves. We utilize breath to purify, calm, or enhance ourselves and our energy. Long and deep inhalations and exhalations allow us to reset our energy and change the course of our thoughts.
The Sensory/Emotional Body – Manomaya Kosha
This sheath is related to our mind. Manas means mind. The Manomaya kosha is very important because it helps us to discern and understand, at the same time this is the one that often gets in the way for us to be able to connect with the rest of the koshas. Most likely, you become aware of this layer during meditation practice, realizing how busy and how many thoughts your mind has. The first step of meditation is to give your mind something to do, like focusing on the body sensations or the breath, your is out of the way, then we practice one-pointed attention, this helps us to connect with the upper layers of our Self. Our astral body is a combination of this layer and the following one.
The Knowledge/Wisdom Body – Vijnanamaya Kosha
This layer encompasses intuition and wisdom, it can be thought as the witness mind or the aspect of our existence that does not entangle with our thoughts or with what we are doing, but rather is aware of what we are thinking or doing, this is the state of awareness. This kosha builds on the foundation of the previous ones, before we reach this state, we have to cross the ocean of the turbulent mind. From here we are able to develop a steady mind that will take us to experience a deeper inner peace. We achieve this state by eating the proper foods to nurture our bodies, by consistently practicing pranayama (breathwork), and one-pointed meditation, and yoga.
The Bliss Body – Anandamaya Kosha.
This is the most subtle and inner of the five sheaths, the Anandamaya kosha is the Higher Self/True Self. We attain this layer by peeling back all the illusions and conditionings of the mind. Here we feel Divine unconditional love and compassion, peace, joy, and become one with all beings. We are in a complete embodied bliss state. To arrive in this state is a life’s work of consistent practice.
Each of these koshas are connected to the chakras…but that is for another post!
Lad, V (2002) Textbook of Ayurveda. Fundamental Principles of Ayurveda Vol. I. The Ayurvedic Press. Albuquerque, New Mexico.