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koshas - subtle body


The subtle body (kosha) consists of five layers or "sheaths," according to yogic philosophy. The energetics of this subtle body overlap the physical body and contain the chakras. Anodea Judith articulates, "At the core of the body, the subtle field appears as spinning discs—chakras. The chakras are the psychic generators of the auric field. The aura itself is the meeting point between the core patterns generated by the chakras and the influence of the external world." (Source: Wheels of Life, Anodea Judith).

Yoga's purpose is mainly for accessing the subtle body energy; it works quickly and faster than accessing the physical body. It is invaluable to trust this intelligence that moves through our bodies. It knows more than the mind. The five kosha layers are, where maya stands for illusion:

Annamaya Kosha (the physical food body) is how we develop our connection to the body through our asana practice. This kosha is sustained with the foods we eat, which contain vital energy and fend off disease when clear and balanced.

Pranamaya Kosha (the breath body) is how we carry our prana and vital energy life force. This layer runs through energy channels (nadis) which sustain life. A proper asana practice incorporates breath connection and awareness, allowing us to feel the subtleties of the energy system. Stay with the energy body and trust it, as it knows more than the mind.

Manomaya Kosha (the mental body) is the mental layer which we seek to soothe and calm in our yoga practice, as the mind keeps us from reaching the ultimate goal of yoga: union of body, mind and spirit. This layer contains the perpetual distractions and ongoing fluctuations that can cause grief, frustration and suffering (dukkha). When mental energy is yoked, we discover moments of peace and calm beyond mental obsessions.

Uttanasana (Image © Yoga Robin®)

Vijnanamaya Kosha (the wisdom/intellectual body) is where we take a step back from our experiences and witness them with awareness. This layer contains our ability to reason and judge with clarity and insight. This is the higher mind, accessed through meditation (sitting and moving asana meditation). It is not affected by our behavioral patterns. Here there is clarify and inner intelligence after we sit still and watch the patterns dissolve, and realize they are not who we are.

Anandamaya Kosha (the joy/bliss body) is where we have reached complete absorption with the object of our concentration. It's most subtle and spiritual layer. It's where after having sat with each pattern, a piece erases (and eventually it's gone, without reaction).