Introduction: As Ashtanga yogis, we are familiar with the physical practice of yoga. We flow through the series, sweat, and challenge ourselves to new postures. But have you ever considered that there may be more to us than just our physical bodies? In this article, we will explore the koshas, the “layers” or “sheaths” that make up our being and how understanding them can deepen our practice and connection to ourselves.
What are the Koshas? The koshas are a model described in the Vedic text, the Taittiriya Upanishad. There are five koshas, each representing a different aspect of our being. They are:
- Annamaya Kosha – Physical Body
- Pranamaya Kosha – Energy Body
- Manomaya Kosha – Mental and Emotional Body
- Vijnanamaya Kosha – Wisdom Body
- Anandamaya Kosha – Bliss Body
These layers are not separate entities, but rather interrelated and interconnected parts of our whole being. Understanding and working with them can help us to deepen our understanding of ourselves and our practice.
The Physical Body – Annamaya Kosha The physical body is the most tangible aspect of our being. It is the vessel that carries us through life and the one we are most focused on in our Ashtanga practice. However, we must remember that it is just one aspect of our being and connect with the other layers as well.
The Energy Body – Pranamaya Kosha The energy body is the layer that houses our life force or prana. It is responsible for the flow of energy in our body and keeps us alive. In our Ashtanga practice, we can work with our breath and bandhas to connect with this layer and cultivate a deeper sense of awareness.
The Mental and Emotional Body – Manomaya Kosha The mental and emotional body is the layer that houses our thoughts, emotions, and feelings. It can be easy to get caught up in our thoughts during practice, but by cultivating mindfulness and non-attachment, we can observe them without becoming attached.
The Wisdom Body – Vijnanamaya Kosha The wisdom body is the layer that houses our intuition, insight, and inner knowing. It is the layer that connects us to something greater than ourselves. In our Ashtanga practice, we can connect with this layer by cultivating inner stillness and listening to our inner voice.
The Bliss Body – Anandamaya Kosha The bliss body is the layer that houses our innate sense of joy and connection to all that is. It is the layer that transcends the ego and connects us to the infinite. In our Ashtanga practice, we can cultivate a sense of surrender and openness to connect with this layer.
Conclusion: Understanding the koshas can deepen our practice and connection to ourselves. By acknowledging and working with each layer, we can cultivate a greater sense of awareness and connection to our whole being. Remember to approach your practice with curiosity and an open mind, and allow yourself to explore the layers of your being beyond just the physical.