According to Taittiriya Upanishad, “all beings that exist on earth are born of food. Then they live by food: then, again, to food (earth) they go in the end.”

Human beings are made up of 5 sheaths or Koshas which interpenetrate each other.

  • The living beings are born from food, and they grow by food. Food is eaten by beings and it eats them. Therefore, it is called Anna (food). The outermost layer is called the Food sheath/physical sheath made of food that we take from the earth. This Kosha/sheath is called Annamaya Kosha.
  • Soul is made of the essence of food and within the soul ‘Prana’ is located. Pranamaya is exactly of the form of man (Purusha). Pranamaya Kosha is encased by the physical sheath and it interpermeates and transcends the other three layers of the subtle body. We can corelate it as a vital energy sheath.
  • Then comes the mental sheath/ Manomaya Kosha. It is the inner self of the Pranamaya and it permeates the Pranamaya Kosha.
  • The Vijnanamaya Kosha/ Wisdom sheath lies interior to the Manomaya Kosha.
  • Deeper to Vijnanamaya Kosha lies the Anandamaya Kosha or the Bliss sheath. The Anandamaya-Kosa constitutes the causal body (Karana-Sarira).

 

Human Form of Pranamaya Kosha Human form of

Manomaya Kosha

Human form of

Vijnanamaya Kosha

Human form of

Anandamaya Kosha

Head – Prana Head – Yajus Head – Faith Head -Love
Right Side – Vyana Right side – Rik Right side – Righteousness Right side – Joy/Moda
Left side – Apana Left Side – Saman Left side – Truth Left side – Delightness/Pramoda
Trunk – Akasa Trunk – Injunction/Adesa Trunk – Concentration/Meditation Trunk – Bliss
Support/Tail – Earth Tail/Support – Atharvangiras Tail/Support – Mahas/Mind Tail/Support – Brahman

 

Whenever we are performing Yoga or Meditation we are having impact on one or more of these Koshas or Sheaths.

 

Understanding the Koshas in a simple way –

Annamaya Kosha

It can be compared to our physical body including our muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments. Understanding the physical sheath is just like learning to feel your physical body. When you are practicing a new yoga posture, the acts of sensing and feeling your body and protecting yourself from any injury is getting to know your annamaya kosha.

Pranamaya Kosha

It includes the fluids, the physical aspect of the anatomical body, that controls the movement of blood, lymph and cerebrospinal fluid through circulatory system and the rhythm of breath though respiratory system. You are in contact with your pranamaya kosha when you feel that energy expanding to your heart while doing meditation or yoga. When you practice Meditation you are in constant touch with your pranamaya Kosha.

Manomaya Kosha

It includes the mind, emotions and the nervous system. You move from physical feeling to emotional feeling through this layer. You think, fantasize, day dream and practice Mantras or Hymns with the help of this layer. The deeper levels of the manomaya kosha contain the powerful mental structures formed by the beliefs, opinions, and assumptions called as ‘samskaaras’. The peripheral layer comprises of thought, perceptions, images and emotions.

Vijnanamaya Kosha

The wisdom body, at its subtlest level, is simply awareness–the objective, observing part of the self. It is a sense of inner knowing that comes from Vijnanamaya Kosha. Instead of simply feeling or acting, we choose to feel or act with intention. We will know to see the bigger picture beyond logic.

Anandamaya Kosha

When you are in touch with your bliss, you will always be joyful, free and content. There’s a sense of peace and connectedness during which time ceases to exist and your consciousness expands beyond the limits of your body.

How can you witness the presence of your Koshas?

Become aware of your physical body first while practicing yoga or meditation. Work through the initial stretch, soreness, stiffness or strength. Then bring awareness to your breath (Pranamaya Kosha). Breath and prana are moving energy through the system. When your body and breath are focused your mind will be calm and stuck with emotion. At this point you know the presence of Manomaya Kosha. Following this, there is greater access to awareness and wisdom (vijnanamaya kosha). Your decision making and understanding skills will be improved. Ending your yoga practice with seated meditation opens you to knowing the core of your being and you experience the Anandamaya Kosha.

When I put the thoughts in to words, this seems simple. But it is not. Cultivating a sense of curiosity and wonder about the depth of your being is one of the most transformational elements of the spiritual journey. It is possible to be aware of these Koshas and awaken your own self but needs patience and practice.

The application of Yoga in to our everyday life can bring your mind, body, wisdom and spirit to a harmony there by promoting your overall health and self-realization.

 

Article by Dr. Arya Krishna, BAMS

Photo by JD Mason on Unsplash