Yoga and the 5 Koshas: An Inward Journey of Awareness


The ancient yogis have drawn a map to discover the deepest levels of our becoming and to facilitate the inward journey of yoga. This map describes 5 distinct layers or veils of consciousness inside us. Each layer has its personal traits and functions and therefore demands distinct procedures to knowledge and uncover. By cultivating awareness of these subtle layers, we acquire insight into ourselves by establishing a higher awareness of our inner planet. Understanding how the practices of yoga bring the 3 shariras and the 5 koshas—body, breath, thoughts, wisdom, and spirit—into harmony, not only promotes general wellness and wellness but also brings you closer to the ultimate aim of yoga, self-realization and enlightenment.

What are the koshas?

Kosha is a Sanskrit word translated as layer or sheath. It is utilized in yoga philosophy to describe the distinct layers of our becoming. These layers are referred to as sheaths or veils since they cover every single other, a single on prime of every single other. Koshas are generally compared to the image of a Russian nesting doll or the concentric layers of an onion. The physical body is the outermost layer and coarsest sheath of the koshas. The deeper layers incorporate the emotional, mental, and causal bodies. At the deepest layer of one’s consciousness is the bliss sheath, which is stated to include our accurate nature, pure consciousness itself.

The koshas function is to guard, include and assistance the atman, the person soul. They assistance develop a healthful balance amongst the several elements of our character and provide an chance to create compassion and empathy. When we can clearly see, harmonize and align the layers of the koshas, we then attain the unitive state of yoga, an knowledge of oneness with the universe.

What are the shariras?

Sharira is a Sanskrit word translated as “body” and relates to the 3 layers of our awareness. The 3 shariras are comparable to the koshas but are a more simplified technique that may possibly be less difficult to fully grasp. The 3 bodies are produced up of the 5 koshas, with the second sharira grouping 3 of the koshas with each other. The 3 layers or bodies are:

  1. Sthula Sarira. The outer layer is the physical body that eats, breathes and moves by the will of our ego or ahamkara. The physical body incorporates our external and internal organs of sense and action which connect our Jiva or soul to the external planet.
  2. Sukshma Sarira. The second layer is the subtle body that includes the 4 functions of the thoughts and prana, the life force power that flows all through the body. It incorporates the 5 organs of sense, the organs of action (genitals, anus, hands, legs and speech), the 5 important breaths, as effectively as wisdom and intellect.
  3. Karana Sarira. The innermost layer is the causal body. It is the seed of the subtle body and the gross body. This body is described as a state of deep sleep, exactly where the buddhi aspect of the thoughts is dormant. It is also the seat of karma, the accumulated actions from previous lives that establish our existing state of existence. Past karmas come to be stored in samskaras, which are unconscious habit patterns. This body holds the keys for us to develop into our highest spiritual awareness.

Origins of the koshas

The notion of possessing 5 layers inside our body appeared in the earliest yogic texts, in the second chapter of the Taittiriya Upanishad. This ancient yoga text is believed to have been written through the sixth century B.C. It offers teachings on attaining self-realization—a state exactly where there is no separation involving self and the oneness of the whole universe. This is also identified as layered Maya theory. Maya translates as “illusion.” This theory states that our deepest understanding, wisdom and spiritual understanding is hidden in layers with us.

Fifteen hundred years immediately after the Taittiriya Upanishad, Advaita Vedanta refined these 5 selves into the koshas, the 5 sheaths or coverings that veil the light of our accurate self or atman. The koshas are imagined as opaque layers that type a barrier from realizing our accurate nature of bliss and oneness with the universe. Yoga made the tools to peel back these layers to bring our awareness deeper and deeper into our bodies, at some point reaching the innermost core, the atman.

The 5 koshas

Annamaya Kosha

The outermost layer is our gross physical body, the Annamaya kosha. Anna indicates “food,” as this sheath feeds our awareness into the other layers and offers the potential to sustain the other 4 koshas. Our bodies want to be nourished each and every day to survive, develop and create. We can assistance this physical layer by working out routinely, sleeping effectively and consuming healthful foods.

The next 3 layers of the self are viewed as to be portion of the subtle body or suksma-sarira.

Pranamaya Kosha

The next layer inside the physical sheath is the power body, the Pranamaya kosha. Prana indicates “vital energy” or “life force energy” as this energetic layer includes and regulates the movement of the physical and mental energies by means of the power channels (nadis) and power centers (chakras).

We can assistance this subtle layer by means of incorporating breath work, chakra activation, and mudras in our asana practice. Pranayamas, ancient yogic breathing workout routines, are the most potent practices for unblocking stagnant power and to strengthen and activate prana.

Manomaya Kosha

The next layer in is the mental body, the Manamaya kosha. Mana indicates ”mind” as this sheath includes our mental thoughts and emotional feelings. This kosha governs our mental activity, perceptions, beliefs, and habit patterns. We can assistance this mental and emotional layer with typical meditation practice and mindfulness tactics. Meditation aids you fully grasp what is going on inside of you and how to greater handle your thoughts and feelings.

Vijnanamaya Kosha

The final layer of the subtle body is the wisdom body, the Vijnanamaya kosha. Vijnana indicates “knowledge” as this sheath includes intuition, wisdom, and witness consciousness. In this kosha we are detached from thoughts, ego, and sense of self. We can assistance the wisdom sheath through deep meditation, the practice of detachment, and the tactics of Jnana yoga.

Anadamaya Kosha

The final kosha that straight covers the True Self is the bliss body, the Anandamaya kosha. Ananda indicates “bliss” as this sheath includes the pure unchanging happiness, joy, like, peace and ecstasy that is identified right here at the deepest and innermost layer of our becoming. These are not merely feelings, but a state of becoming that has usually existed but has been buried by the other koshas. Behind this thin subtle layer resides the pure consciousness of our True Self.

The bliss body is the location of eternal happiness. When you are connected to this body, you really feel lightness, ease, contentment, and lastly, a wonderful unending Joy. We can connect to this layer by means of the practice of bhakti yoga.

Exploring the 5 koshas

The koshas serve each as a guide for the deeper practices of yoga and as a map for our spiritual journey. The path of yoga is a single of progressively moving inward, by means of every single of the koshas, to knowledge the radiance of the True Self. At the exact same time, yoga permits this inner radiance to shine by means of our individuality.

In the starting of yoga practice, the principal focus is on Annamaya Kosha, the alignment and physical sensations of the physical body. Once we have connected, aligned and harmonized this kosha, we can then commence to use the breath as a bridge into the Pranamaya kosha, connecting with the power manifesting in the body. Focusing on the body, breath and the power absorbs the thoughts and the thoughts diminish, permitting the Manamaya kosha to calmed, balanced and harmonized. Now we can discover the Vijnanamaya kosha to access our intuition and inner wisdom. Finally, we move by means of the 1st 4 layers and taste the bliss, ecstasy and joy of the Anandamaya kosha. True enlightenment takes place when all the koshas come to be refined and aligned to knowledge absorption in the oneness of our True Self.

Benefits of exploring the koshas

When we fully grasp the 5 koshas of the human body, we commence to see how every single layer impacts us individually and collectively. We come to be conscious of the layers of our personal becoming and how they interact with other people. By consciously exploring the koshas, we also strengthen our potential to recognize them in other persons and scenarios. Exploring the koshas aids us:

  • Become more mindful and conscious of our thoughts, feelings, and actions
  • Learn about the partnership involving our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual selves
  • Create a clearer path and goal for our spiritual journey
  • Experience the energy of transformation and self-inquiry
  • Softens and dissolves the ego-mind’s selfishness, greed, anger, and jealousy.
  • Strengthens mental focus and concentration
  • Have a clear sense of center to greater navigate your inner self.
  • Gain an understanding of the accurate nature of reality
  • Feel empowered and connected to the universe
  • Move toward experiencing highly effective states of Self-realization and enlightenment

Integrating the koshas

All 5 layers of self are interdependent and connected. The practices of Yoga assistance bring all the koshas and the shariras into harmony. When we peal away the outermost layer, we come to be conscious of the next layer beneath it. As we peel away the layers, we uncover the truth of who we actually are. As these deep truths arise, we ought to integrate them into our sense of self. This integration demands patience, humility, trust, and surrender. It requires time to cultivate the wisdom to know when to move deeper and when to quit and integrate.



Originally published in www.yogabasics.com