The Five Koshas

In yoga, there are five "bodies" or "sheaths" referred to as Koshas. Each sheath has characteristics that distinguish them from the others. Only the densest is made of matter as we know it; the other four are energy states invisible to the physical eye, though one can easily sense their presence inside themselves when they pay close attention.

From the outside, in:

1. Annamaya Kosha - The most superficial layer, refers to the physical body. This is the container for all other bodies. "Anna" meaning food/grain and "maya" meaning sheath, this is the body which literally nourishes the physical self. How do you take care of Annamaya Kosha?

2.Pranamaya Kosha - "Prana" meaning movement/energy/life force. It is not only in human beings, animals, herbs or trees, not only in oceans and mountains, minerals and bacteria. The tiniest part of an atom has prana. Pranamaya Kosha is deeply connected to Pranayama, the limb of yoga dealing with the movement of energy with breathing techniques. Does this bring new meaning to "Breathe into the tension?"

3. Manomaya Kosha - Sheath of the mind, the Conscious Mind, the Subconscious Mind and the Unconscious Mind. "That by which you cognize, perceive and understand." Perception, cognition and understanding are the basic and primary qualities of the mind. What are you aware of in your mind? You have thoughts but you are not your thoughts.

4. Vijnanamaya Kosha - "Awareness." Whenever you have an experience Subjective in nature, this is Vijnanamaya Kosha. Whatever you are dreaming is a projection of vijnanamaya kosha, and in your meditation, concentration or mantra yoga, when you see lights and flowers, figures, angels or saints, smell perfumes or hear sounds, it is the consequence or result of vijnanamaya kosha. Vijnanamaya kosha is inherent within you but it is hidden in you like a wave is hidden in the ocean. You have to separate it. A wave, still part of the ocean, is a manifestation of the whole.

5. Anandamaya Kosha - I am simply going to refer to this as "The Center", that which does not change and that which all rotates around. Ananda can be translated as bliss or happiness, "but ananda is when there is no happiness and no unhappiness. In happiness you are jumping, in unhappiness you are dull – sometimes low, sometimes high. So your mind is swinging. In ananda there is no swinging. There is unified experience and that experience does not change. Death cannot change that experience; birth cannot change it; love and hatred cannot make your experiences swing. When your mind has become steady in experience and does not fluctuate under any condition, that is ananda. There is a state of mind which does not change, despite anything that happens in life. With that state of mind you can live with all the conditions of life."

Yoga Philosophy: Practicing On And Off The Mat

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