The core reason we practice yoga is to experience bliss and become one with ourselves through synchronizing the mind-body connection.
Yoga helps us access the koshas, teaching us that everything we need to feel whole, is already within us, and allowing us to feel bliss along the way. The kosha are 5 sheaths or layers surrounding our true self, which is in the center.
As you discover, explore and release each koshic layer, you open up to the next layer and the next, eventually leading you to bliss and allowing you to connect with your true self, full of love, light and peace. This is apart of the yoga experience. Let me guide you to meet your 5 koshas.
1. Annamaya Kosha
This is the physical body composed of the muscles, joints, organs, cells, glands. You notice this layer when you first sit on your mat and are called to notice what’s going on with your body. Tightness in your back, aching in your knees, cramping in your toes, or other physical imbalances.
As you begin to flow through your practice, you start to become more aware of your physical kosha through engaging muscles or sensing temperature changes on your skin. At some point you relax, your shoulders come down from your ears, your gluts stop compensating for your abs, you become aware of where your physical body is without having to purposefully think about getting in the pose. You start to focus more on the breath and in that moment you have just moved into the next layer.
2. Pranamaya Kosha
The energy body concerned with the breath and flow of energy through the physical body using the circulatory and respiratory systems, as well as the chakras reside in this layer.
At this point of your yoga session you are flowing through your poses and can begin to shift and focus on your breathing, maybe even playing around with different pranayama techniques (art of breathing), like ujjayi breath, kapalabhati, sithali while holding certain poses. In coordinating your breath with your poses you are connecting your physical body and breath bodies. At some point in your yoga practice your breathing goes on automatic and you enter the 3rd layer.
3. Manomaya Kosha
The mental and emotional layer concerned with processing thoughts and emotions. This kosha also gives access to the vrittis, the waves of thought or modifications of the mind. This is the “lower brain,” it interprets every situation, moment or thing. It can be full of doubts and create illusions. This is the part of you that usually brings up your to-do lists, tells you you aren’t strong enough to hold the pose, or that the girl in front of you is doing it better.
Most people, with much practice can get through the first three koshas with ease. When your physical and breath body are synchronized, your mind becomes slowed, even quiet, it can serve as a teacher, telling you to tighten the insides of your thighs to stay in eagle pose, or take the backward bent to give your back a good stretch.
However, when you lose the synchronicity of your breath and physical being, your thoughts can become erratic causing you to lose balance or lose focus, and at some point you start to observe these thoughts, without judging or criticizing, just noticing, and that brings you to the next layer.
4. Vijnanamaya Kosha
The wisdom, intelligent, or the witness/observer of your thoughts. It’s the layer that distinguishes positive and negative thoughts, and the thoughts that will serve your practice or life and the ones that won’t.
This kosha can be experienced in short bursts initially, where you aren’t thinking about squeezing your abs or how hot it is, or about keeping your inhales and exhales equal, or about the past or the future, it’s just experiencing the moment. You sense an inner peace or power that is holding you in airplane or tree or crow, and you smile without even knowing it. If you are in Savasana you lose touch with your physical body, breath and thoughts, you almost are an outside observer, this is Vijamaya Kosha.
As you become more aware of this kosha, there is a natural sense of wholeness, of being one, of being in bliss; you are now in the last layer.
5. Anandamaya Kosha
Bliss, unending love, peace, joy, and happiness, independent of a reason. This layer is the inner most layer, right outside your atman or true self (center of consciousness).
It takes honest practice to get through to this layer, but once there you will know it, sense it and want more. To get to this layer, one must practice stillness, meditation, even if it’s to sense it for a moment. Its the awareness of being whole and complete, exactly as you are. “You are beautiful, you are bountiful, you are blissful.” Translating the inner bliss to others and keeping faith for humanity. Recognizing we are all beautiful and no man gets left behind.
Our true self shines through only when we can carry over the practice of yoga, off the mat, into our lives. You can now access true wisdom and bliss, in any moment by being aware of your thoughts using your body-breath-mind connection.
“Its hot, I’m tight.” Annamaya Kosha
Paying attention to your breathing. Pranamaya Kosha
“I am so tired, I am upset.” Manomaya Kosha
These thoughts don’t define me. Vijamaya Kosha
Sensing yourself in deep meditation, lucid dreaming.
Feel whole, belonging, connected. Anandamaya Kosha
Photo Credit: American Meditation Institute