The Koshas

The yogic view of the body involves a ‘subtle body’ that most of us cannot see, beyond our physical body. Important elements of the subtle body are the Koshas; energy sheaths that surround the physical body. Each layer is increasingly subtle and more sattvic. Shiva Rae describes how ‘the kosha model navigates an inner journey—starting from the periphery of the body and moving towards the core of the self: the embodied soul. While this may sound esoteric, the koshas are both a practical and profound contemplative tool that can help you deepen your yoga practice and the quality of your participation in life.’

Shive Rae also describes the Koshas as interwoven layers like a tapestry ‘You have no doubt experienced this in your own body: When you are tense or strained, your breath becomes shallow, your mind becomes easily agitated, and wisdom and joy seem far away. When you are filled with joy and communion with life, these feelings permeate your entire being. Separating the strands of the tapestry is a way to look at how your whole being can become integrated or in discord. The Kosha map is not a rigid truth but a template for exploring the mystery of being alive

The layers of the Koshas are:
Annamaya Kosha: The densest sheath (primarily tamas), also known as the food sheath. It is the most tangible and base and relates to the ‘structure’ of the body, the flesh and bones.
Pranamaya Kosha: This sheath concerns the flow of prana; through the systems of the body it contains the vayus and nadis.
Manomaya Kosha: This contains Manas our lower mind. This is where we store our memories, likes and dislikes, the information we receive from our senses.
Vijnanomaya Kosha: This is our higher mind or Buddhi, it is where we exercise discernment, wisdom and compassion. It can also be referred to as our higher self- where we are at our most free and our minds are the most clear.
Anandamaya Kosha: This sheath is primarily sattvic; it is a sheath of bliss, peace and contentment.

Here is an example of the interplay between the Koshas, in a hatha yoga class.
When we begin the class may be in Annamaya Kosha, concerned with the body- how our limbs feel, experiencing the sensation of the ground under our feet. As the class progresses, we may move into Pranamaya Kosha, experiencing the breath as it carries prana throughout the body. Throughout the class, we will constantly be receiving information from our senses, experiencing sensations that we like or dislike, in Manomaya Kosha. However, if we can move past these sensations, using wisdom and discernment to appreciate the asanas and what we can experience within them, on a deeper level, we will be in Vjinanamaya Kosha. If we are having a really good day, we may experience moments of bliss, where we feel free, content or connected with nature- or our own true nature, if so we are in Anandamaya Kosha. For me, these moments have occurred during a quiet moment, when I am surrounded by nature.
As expressed by Farhi ‘in such moments we experience a sense of translucence such that which we see, feel, sense, hear or touch no longer feels separate from  us but is experienced as part of our own totality…when we become the same midnight sky that fills us with awe, we remember however briefly, our place in the scheme of things.’ (Farhi D. Yoga Mind, Body & Sprit, Newleaf, 200).