Understand Your 5 Layers of Being: The Koshas
We are all so much more than our physical bodies. In yoga philosophy, humans are thought to have 5 different layers or sheaths of the body that intertwine. Understanding these various layers of the self often leads to incredible and powerful transformation and growth for any individual willing to embark on the journey. In order to become fully empowered from within and achieve long-lasting mind-body health, all five layers must be harmonized. You must start with achieving balance in the physical body and work your way up.
Here is a quick summary of all five layers of being, the 5 Koshas:
- The Physical Body, Annamayakosha: Your physical body is the energy that maintains all of your biological processes. You can support a balanced physical body by eating lots of nutrient-rich whole foods, getting proper sleep and sunlight, practicing yoga/proper exercise, breathing techniques and meditation.
- The Energy Body, Pranamayakosha: Your energy body, which represents the etheric body, is the one that keeps track of all your senses and responses to the things happening around you, your thoughts and emotions; whatever your senses are the most focused on as you move through your life. Breathing techniques (pranayama), sound healing and meditation are the best ways to positively impact this energy sheath. If you want to feel calm, peaceful and joyful — you must ditch the toxic food, violent TV, negative people, etc. and re-align with calm, peaceful and joyful thoughts, activities, people and actions. More on this layer and further research included below.
- The Mental/Emotional Body, Manomayakosha: Your emotional body (also called your mental body) impacts your thoughts, emotions, dreams, levels of consciousness and perception. It is said to represent the ego self and self-perception. Many people struggle with this area and suffer from consistent negative racing thoughts, worry, fear and self-doubt, causing deeply-rooted stress and anxiety. To balance this kosha, an affirmations meditation practice and/or chanting mantras can be extremely beneficial in re-framing negative thought patterns and building an “inner armor” of peace and joy.
- The Wisdom Body, Vignyanamayakosha: Your wisdom body is your intuition and awareness. This is a deeper more intense level of being and mindfulness, and is centered around the ability to be fully attentive and living in the present moment. When you are absorbed in reading, writing, visualization meditation, painting and other creative states of flow, you are engaging your wisdom body.
- The Bliss Body, Anandamayakosha: Your bliss body is the most difficult to balance. This represents extremely high levels of awareness and enlightenment. It’s the connection to living a deeply peaceful, abundant, joyful and free-flowing life, in which you feel content within yourself and within the world around you. This layer can only be developed and accessed through deep states of meditation, as well as gratitude and loving-kindness practices.
The physical body and first sheath is the most commonly addressed in modern culture, so I want to share some additional information and resources related to the second sheath, the energy body, called the Pranamayakosha — prana (energy) maya (appearance) kosha (sheath).
Fun facts about energy channels: The nadis, or energy channels, are pathways for energy to travel and communicate, which are discussed in various religions and schools of thought. For example:
- There are 72,000 energy flows, called “nadis”, in Ayurveda
- There are 26 energy “keys” in Christianity
- There are 144,000 “energy flows” in Jin Shin Jyutsu
- There are 12 major “meridians” or “qi flows” in Chinese Medicine
Science has also studied prana (energy) and how it affects the body and mind for centuries. It’s been studied and documented by Franz Mesmer, Karl von Reichenbach, Parocelsus, John Keely, Leon Eeman, Jan Baptista van Helmont and Russian researchers, who refer to this energy layer as bioplasma or the bioplasma field. Kirlian photography (sometimes known as aura photography) has also captured photographs of these energy sheaths and patterns, and documented the difference in healthy verses diseased people.
Fascinating stuff! Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Always remember: you are powerful!
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- Arielle Balaskovits