Introduction to the Koshas
Overview of the Koshas
The root of most suffering comes from not understanding our true selves and allowing society, distractions, and the ego to get in the way of our authenticity. The way we can find true inner peace is by understanding our being on a deeper level and leveraging this enlightenment through all aspects of life. There are so many different strategies thrown at us daily to teach us how to meditate, go within, and find the inner peace we are searching for, but in order to find awareness for our inner world, you must understand the five koshas.
The koshas are key to developing a connection between the mind, body, and spirit and are essential to discovering the highest version of ourselves. When you are on a true path of self-realization and self-discovery, you are less reactive to the external world, you find confidence within, and no longer seek external validation. In this article, we will uncover each layer of being, or kosha, and identify ways that you can tend to and pay attention to them in order to transform your perspectives and improve your life.
What are the five koshas?
The five koshas are known as the five layers of our being that bring us closer to the most authentic version of ourselves. Each layer of being represents a sheath of the soul that we can equally nourish to experience fulfillment, inner peace, and connection to the Universe and our inner world. Every kosha ends with “maya” which means illusion because it is believed that all of physical reality is an illusion in and of itself.
The five koshas come to us from a yoga text known as the Taittiriya Upanishad. It is an ancient text that provides us with wisdom that can significantly improve your life on spiritual, mental, and physical levels. The kosha system is crucial for self-development and encompasses all aspects of your life. Each layer of being impacts the others, which is why kosha alignment allows you to be the highest version of yourself.
Annamaya Kosha - Physical Self
What is the Annamaya kosha?
The Annamaya kosha is the most straight-forward layer of being as it is the most tangible. The Annamaya kosha is the most dense layer and is our physical self. Anna translates to food and also relates to our physical practice and movement.
When we are not truly connected within, we often fail to recognize the impacts that food has on our body. Food and physical practice directly correlates with our energy, feelings, happiness, and thoughts. When we feel stressed or anxious, many of us have a tendency to overeat or reach for junk food or comfort food without realizing the tax this has on our system. Rather than lifting us up and making us feel better, overeating or consuming processed foods lowers our energy and vibration.
Nourishing the Physical Layer
When you listen to your body and properly take care of it, you will know exactly how much to consume to keep you energized and you will be able to use food to your advantage. There is not one strategy that works for everyone, but rather listening to your body and eating to nourish it will give you a sense of self-respect and the energy you need to pay attention to all layers of your being.
Pranamaya Kosha - Energy & Life Force
What is the Pranamaya kosha?
The Pranamaya kosha is a bit challenging to understand as energy is not as tangible the way that the physical self is. Prana is defined as the breath of life, or our vital life force energy.
One way to understand the Pranamaya kosha is to think about when someone walks into a room and everyone can sense their aura. Whether they are clearly angry, upset, and negative, or come in full of gratitude, happiness, and peace, everyone else in the room can easily sense their vibe and it will impact the energy of the entire room.
Your energy has significant impacts on your wellbeing and way of life whether you are intentional with it or not. Everything around you impacts your energy from the food or the media you choose to consume, the air you breathe, the sun, and even water.
Pranayama for the Pranamaya Kosha
Pranayama is the formal practice of various breathing techniques that allows you to focus on and balance your energy. Pranayama can allow the stagnant energy to flow freely through the body and strengthen your mind-body connection.
The Chakra system, which has become popular in modern day society, is a beneficial way to understand and balance your energy centers. The seven chakras can help you identify where you may be out of balance or where your energy may be depleted making them a great resource for tending to your Pranamaya kosha. When you are more energized, you feel happier and more fulfilled which is why being intentional with your energy can significantly transform your perspective on life.
Manomaya Kosha - Mind
What is the Manomaya kosha?
The Manomaya kosha is the mental sheath that represents our memories, thoughts, emotions, perceptions, and dreams. Our perspective on life is developed through the mind and originates from deeply rooted beliefs, opinions, and assumptions handed to us by family or friends. The mind impacts our outlook on life.
“Your mind is your instrument. Learn to be its master and not its slave.”
Meditation for the Manomaya Kosha
Ironically, one of the best ways to pay attention to the Manomaya kosha is to detach from it and become a witness through meditation. We become so attached to our feelings, memories, worries for the future, and endless thoughts that it becomes very challenging to be present and mindful in the current moment. When we learn to control the mind chatter and become an observer of thought, we can finally feel inner freedom and are no longer as affected by things like fear, worry, anxiety, and depression.
Vijnanamaya Kosha - Wisdom & Awareness
What is the Vijnanamaya kosha?
Vijnana translates to discernment, consciousness, awareness, and wisdom. This is a very subtle layer of being where you can find your intuition and the wisdom that comes from within. When you are tending to the other koshas, you will naturally be more observant and aware of your intuition as you have a stronger connection to your inner world. The Vijnanamaya kosha allows you to detach from self and become a witness, which is where true inner peace lives.
Anandamaya Kosha - Bliss
What is the Anandamaya kosha?
The Anandamaya kosha is the innermost layer of being that is impacted by all other layers of being. It is the lightest layer of being, and is known to be indescribable with words - it must be experienced. Ananda translates to deep bliss or joy and occurs when in a deep meditation. When the Anandamaya kosha is nourished, we feel unconditional love, liberation from our suffering, and happiness that comes from a sense of purpose. Although the Anandamaya kosha represents pure bliss that occurs when surrendering through all layers of being, you will experience bliss in small ways throughout daily life.
When you are nourishing each of the five koshas equally, you will feel alignment within. You will feel deep inner peace and a sense of knowing that you are on the right path at the right time. Kosha alignment provides us with enlightenment and allows us to identify the most authentic version of ourselves. It strengthens the relationship we have with our inner world which allows us to experience life on a deeper level and feel free from things like energy blocks, societal norms, the ego, fear, limiting beliefs, and so much more.
Benefits of Inner Alignment
When you are aware of your own layers of being and make decisions based on keeping them in alignment, you become a higher version of yourself than you ever thought possible. You feel a harmonious connection to the Universe as a whole which leads to a more fulfilling and joyful life. The five koshas allow you to improve your wellbeing significantly and connect with yourself in deeper ways.
Quote of the Week:
"No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path."