Ever asked yourself “Who am I?” Am I my thoughts & emotions or am I what others think of me? Or am I defined by my physical traits? Yoga philosophy can help you explore your innermost levels of being and find out who you really are through the energetic layers called Koshas.
According to Yoga philosophy, understanding the koshas can help us discover our true self and develop a sense of connection with everything around us. Regarded as casings or sheaths, the 5 koshas are enclosed within each other – from the edge of your body to your inner self or the soul.
Yoga practitioners believe that the five koshas can help you build a stronger connection between your mind, body, and spirit and become deeply aware of your inner self. To know “what is the meaning of life?” and find your way to self-realization, pay more attention to the 5 koshas of Yoga.
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What is a Kosha?
Kosha is a Sanskrit term that means a sheath or a layer of our mental and physical being covering the individual self or the Atman.
Here, the Atman or the soul is considered as the deepest layer. All of us have five koshas, known as Pancha Koshas, in our bodies which surround us like the layers of an onion or the Matryoshka dolls (Russian stacking dolls). However, they are not concentric or parallel layers and tend to have varying levels of subtlety.
Our physical body is seen as the outermost layer, while our spiritual self is considered as the innermost sheath. From our physical body to our energy, mind, wisdom, and inner peace, each kosha consists of subtler levels of energy.
These koshas or layers are interrelated & intertwined which cannot be considered as separate or distinct. In fact, the Pancha Koshas are interactive, which means the effects on a particular sheath or layer can affect all the 5 koshas in the body.
When our physical body is connected to our energetic body, mental body, wisdom body and bliss body, we can experience inner peace and a positive mental state. However, when our bliss body becomes weak due to disconnection, imbalance can be experienced in all the 5 koshas.
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If you wish to truly understand yourself and experience happiness and wellbeing, then you must pay more attention to these subtle aspects of yourself and work on these sheaths or layers. Practicing Yoga and meditation on a daily basis can help you bring balance among the 5 koshas and get in touch with your inner self.
What are the 5 layers of Kosha?
The Kosha system was originally mentioned in the Taittiriya Upanishad, a Sanskrit Vedic text of the Yajurveda composed during the 6th century BC. According to the kosha system, all human beings have five sheaths of consciousness that vary from dense to subtle. These 5 koshas or Pancha Koshas include –
- Annamaya kosha – The Anna or food layer
- Pranamaya kosha -The Prana or energy layer
- Manomaya kosha – The Manas or mind layer
- Vijñānamaya kosha – The Vigynana or Wisdom/Knowledge layer
- Anandamaya kosha – The Ananda or bliss layer
One 2021 research paper explains that Yoga is closely associated with the holistic principle of body-mind-soul. This principle claims that “a human being can experience five dimensions of gross and subtle existence, called Pancha kosha, or five sheaths, namely Annamaya (physical body), Pranamaya (energy field), Manomaya (mental dimension), Vijnanamaya (related to intuitive knowledge) and Anandamaya (level of bliss) kosha (Taittiriya Upanishad).”
Prana or the vital life force regulates all gross and subtle activities within us and it permeates, nourishes, and sustains all the five koshas.
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What is Pancha Kosha Theory?
According to Yoga philosophy and the Kosha Model, the Pancha Koshas are categorized in three bodies –
- Sthula sarira or the gross body: This consists of Annamaya kosha & Pranamaya Kosha.
- Suksma sarira or the subtle body: This consists of Manomaya Kosha & Vijanamaya Kosha.
- Karana sarira or the causal body: This consists of Ananadamaya Kosha.
The five koshas offer a guideline that enables us to peel the outer layers of our consciousness and existence and focus our awareness on our deeper spiritual self. Just like we peel the layers of an onion to reach the core, working on the 5 koshas helps us reach our true self – our soul.
These layers or sheaths vary from the grossest (physical) to the subtlest (spiritual). The koshas do not function independently and are interdependent & interrelated. True happiness and holistic health can only be experienced when we understand all the layers.