The word Pancha Maya Kosha can be translated as Five (Pancha) Illusion (Maya) Sheaths (Kosha), within the book Prana and Pranayama Swami Niranhanananda Saraswati describes the Pancha Maya Koshas as “the five spheres in which a human being lives at any given moment”
When looking within the Taittiriya Upanishad, a human being is described as having five sheaths, or koshas, it is said that these koshas fit into each other, encasing the soul like the layers of an onion. Ultimately the Taittiriya Upanishad puts forward the concept that we are more than just our bodies, that we are infact body, mind and spirit
“Human beings consist of a material body built from the food they eat. Those who care for this body are nourished by the universe itself.
“Inside this is another body made of life energy. It fills the physical body and takes its shape. Those who treat this vital force as divine experience excellent health and longevity because this energy is the source of physical life.
“Within the vital force is yet another body, this one made of thought energy. It fills the two denser bodies and has the same shape. Those who understand and control the mental body are no longer afflicted by fear.
“Deeper still lies another body comprised of intellect. It permeates the three denser bodies and assumes the same form. Those who establish their awareness here free themselves from unhealthy thoughts and actions, and develop the self-control necessary to achieve their goals.
“Hidden inside it is yet a subtler body, composed of pure joy. It pervades the other bodies and shares the same shape. It is experienced as happiness, delight, and bliss.”
Through our day to day living our experiences are said to veil our true eternal nature. The path of yoga is said to heighten our understanding and awareness of the koshas. Eventually, the aim of yoga is to move inward, taking a journey through these layers, uncovering our true nature, or Atman (the inner self).
This is described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali “Yoga citti vrtti nirodah” roughly translated means “Yoga frees you from the drama, the tragedy the saga your mind creates and allows you to experience your true self”
The Koshas (the five layers)
Each of the five Koshas relates to a different part of our self’s when working with the koshas we begin to acknowledge how we feel from the outside in.
Annamaya Kosha – The food body
Annamaya Kosha is associated with our physical body, it is known as the food sheath and relates to how we nutritionally feed our body, however the feeding of our body aspect can also include our inner dialogue, our conduct or whether we engage in gossip.
Pranamaya Kosha – The energy body
Pranamaya Kosha is much more subtle than our physical body, it is our energy body, prana or life force energy moves around our bodies via channels known as nadis. We can cultivate energy within our body via food and water, but it may also come into the body via our breath.
Manomaya Kosha – the mental body
Manomaya Kosha is our mental body it is the part of us that creates meaning out of the world we inhabit, this layer takes care of our instinctual needs and individual desires compromising of passing thoughts, images, perceptions, and emotions within which we think, fantasize and daydream.
Vijnanamaya Kosha – The wise body
Vijnanamaya Kosha is our wisdom body it is the layer where we connect to a deeper level of intuition, greater internal wisdom and a sense of higher knowledge. It’s where you can stop identifying with your powerful thoughts and self-descriptions, and just witness your mind and your life.
Anandanmaya Kosha – The bliss body
Anandanmaya Kosha is our bliss body, it is the most hidden part of us and provides us with the instinctive sense that life is worth living, that to be alive is good, it is the level where we no longer feel separate, and we are One and the Same.
“Death is not total. The physical body dies or the mind dies, but not the soul” – Hatha Yoga Pradipika
So how on earth can we work with the Koshas?
The Panacha Maya Koshas are almost like an instruction manual for living a yogic lifestyle in that working on one aspect leads to the next and so on until we reach Samadhi or Bliss.
Move your body, put on your favourite song and dance, focus on the movement and how those moves feel, this is Annamaya Kosha this kosha can also relate to how we feed and nourish our bodies, with food as well as emotionally nourish our bodies with kind words and thoughts. “What we think about ourselves or others can be as powerful as any physical attempt to harm”
Out of breath from all that dancing? have a seat and take a few deep cleansing breaths, how do you feel, how do those breaths feel? this is Pranayama Kosha where we begin to focus on our energy and work with the breath to bring our energy levels up or down helping to maintain a calm mind and balanced emotions.
“Prana is the basis of life and can be directly controlled through the breath” “ When prana moves, chitta (the mental force) moves. When prana is without movement, chitta is without movement. By this (steadiness of prana) the yogi attains steadiness and should thus restrain the vayu (air)” – Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Once you have your breath back you may feel like closing your eyes and taking your awareness further into the breath this is Manomaya Kosha Where we use meditation in conjunction with asana (movement) and pranayama (breathing) to go further into ourselves. “Yoga is the settling of the mind into silence” “When the mind has settled, we are established in our essential nature, which is unbounded consciousness” – The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
And maybe whilst your still and your eyes are closed your favourite song pops into your head and swirls round and round your mind taking you further into Manomaya Kosha this is Vijnanamaya Kosha using a mantra as your focus during pranayama (breathing) and meditation. Of course if you really want to up your yoga game then there are lots and lots of ancient mantras.
Saha Navavatu would be an ideal mantra to use whilst working on Vijnanamaya Kosha,
Sa ha na vava tu “May god protect us both (the teacher and the student)”
Sa ha nau bhunak tu “May god nourish us both”
Sa ha viryam kara vava hai “May we work together with energy and vigor”
Te jasvi nava hita mas tu, Ma vid vish ava hai “May our study be enlightening and not give rise to hostility”
Finally Anandanmaya Kosha is the state and experience of bliss we are said to experience after working through the four previous koshas, it is said to be the most spiritual or subtle of the five Koshas,
Perhaps after all that dancing, catching your breath, closing your eyes and bringing your awareness to your breath, allowing your favourite song (or yogic mantra) to swirl around your mind you experience a moment of happiness (bliss) then maybe, just maybe you have experienced a little look into Anananmaya Kosha!
Above all whatever you do have fun 🙂
With all my love, Linda xxx