Koshas: The Layers Within Us

Without fascinated by it an excessive amount of, many people are in all probability conscious that there are numerous completely different ‘layers’ or Koshas to who we're. As a being, we’re not only a physique, nor are we solely a thoughts.
The query of “Who am I?” is one thing we may spend a lifetime exploring, and often do. Often, we establish ourselves with exterior points resembling our job, relationship standing, the amount of cash we would earn or how ‘successful’ we really feel we're compared to others. Maybe you establish your self with the household position you play, your eating regimen, or your chosen type of motion or non secular follow. Finish the sentence “I am”, and also you’ll discover there’s a couple of reply. All the solutions are kind of proper, however they don’t give a finite definition. What we ‘are’ is one thing far deeper than a label. What we're is one thing pure and unchangeable, but expansive and interconnected to the entire universe on the similar time. 
The Five Koshas
Within Vedantic philosophy, Koshas, also called Sheaths, correspond to the completely different layers protecting the Atman or True Self. You may consider them just like the layers of an onion (and sure, doing the work of attending to True self on the core can contain tears…) Described within the Taittiriya Upanishad – composed across the sixth century BC – the 5 sheaths or ‘pancha kosha’ are:
·     Anamaya kosha – ‘foodstuff’ or ‘anatomical’ sheath
·     Pranamaya kosha – ‘energy’ or ‘physiological’ sheath
·     Manomaya kosha – ‘mind-stuff’ sheath
·     Vijnanamaya kosha – ‘wisdom’ sheath
·     Anandamaya kosha – ‘bliss’ sheath
Annamaya Kosha
The first sheath makes up the bodily physique, our gross layer of matter. The Sanskrit prefix ‘anna’ refers to meals, associated to the taking in of meals or any exterior diet to nurture the bodily physique. You may say this layer holds the origins of ‘you are what you eat’. As effectively as foodstuffs, annamaya kosha pertains to every little thing we soak up by our senses: the scents, sounds, sights and textures out there round us. This outer kosha additionally hyperlinks to the component of earth, being essentially the most agency, observable and sometimes the primary place we glance to when creating and connecting to ourselves. The phrase ‘maya’ is seen over and over in Yogic literature, and refers to a way of ‘illusion’ that separates us from one-ness and unity. Maya is the very factor that makes us really feel restricted and divided, and once we’re experiencing anxious ideas and ruminations, we are able to recognise this because the whirlings of Maya stopping us from seeing actuality, and feeling relaxed within the universe.
Pranamaya Kosha
Often regarded as ‘breath’, prana is de facto the vitality behind the breath. It’s the life power inside us and every little thing round us, and so long as we've prana inside us, we’re alive. As with many issues, there are completely different ranges of prana current in every little thing. An individual experiencing a way of dullness, lethargy and low temper ranges may very well be stated to have low prana, whereas somebody relaxed and content material, with loads of vitality and a way of objective could have excessive ranges of prana. What we soak up by the annamaya kosha can have an effect on the pranayama kosha, for example consuming a juicy natural apple from the tree will present increased ranges of prana than one sprayed with pesticides and wrapped in plastic. A fantastic view of nature will present extra prana than a polluted street or chaotic road. This sheath is linked to the water component, and similar to water itself, it has many ranging states and qualities, and permits for a fluidity and motion to happen.
Manomaya Kosha
Composed of manas or ‘mind’, this sheath pertains to a way of I and mine. It’s the place the ego and sense of id is held. Whilst the thoughts may be the place our darkest occasions are spent, the manas layer of us additionally permits for range and creativity, and is highly effective within the sense of turning potential concepts into actuality. The manomaya kosha is affected each by what we eat and soak up by the senses (annamaya kosha) and our breath and energetic state (pranamaya kosha). Linked to the component of fireside, this layer is sharp and discerning: it mulls over concepts, creates new ones, and perceives our experiences to create opinions and reminiscences.
Vijnanamaya Kosha
The ‘wisdom’ or ‘intellectual’ sheath, Vijnanamaya may be regarded as the witness, the one observing our ideas and actions. It’s the a part of us that may observe thought with out changing into entangled in thought. Whilst in a meditation follow, you might recognise vijanamaya kosha when observing your ideas, permitting them to return and go. We can concentrate on vijnanamaya kosha when appearing instinctually, and from a spot of observing ourselves. Linked to the component of air, we are able to’t essentially see the issues vijnanamaya does, however it’s all the time there and pervades all different layers of the physique and thoughts.
Anandamaya Kosha
Referring to ‘bliss’, ananda is regarded as a state of pleasure and divinity and could also be recognisable as the sensation you sense in savasana on the finish of a yoga class: the sensation that every little thing is in concord, a way of upliftment, ecstasy and pleasure. We can transfer out and in of this bliss state, and forwards and backwards by the various sheaths regularly.
The Body As A Communicating, Connected Whole
As Prana Vinyasa founder Shiva Rea says, the state of bliss “Isn’t a V.I.P zone”. It’s one thing out there to all of us, and the extra we convey every layer of being into stability, the extra available this state turns into. Bliss isn’t one thing we have to look outwardly for. It’s one thing that exists inside us, and one thing that's discovered when consideration turns inward.
Whilst the Kosha system appears to current every layer as separate, what it additionally reveals is how very interconnected every layer is. Everything we soak up by the senses and outer physique will affect upon the internal layers, and every little thing emitted from the internal layers leads to our outward actions and place on the earth. Founder of Be-Yoga in Sussex, and the Be-Yoga Academy Teacher Trainings, Bryony Hamerton, has studied with Shiva Rea in depth, and in addition with the Minded Institute as a Yoga Therapist;
“The way I work with the Koshas is to see the person as a whole, with all the different layers having an effect and connection to each other. The Manomaya Kosha (the mind) is profoundly changed by the way we breathe and move, and in turn, the way we breathe and move can be a result of how we think”.
When viewing the kosha system from this angle, we are able to see how all points of us are so deeply linked, and that the best way we really feel from each day isn’t simply resulting from one factor, it’s created by every little thing we expertise and do. All layers of us talk and hook up with create the second we’re experiencing proper now. Notice how you are feeling energetically if you breathe absolutely. Notice how what you eat or drink impacts your way of thinking. When you progress or communicate from a spot of knowledge and instinct, how do the layers of your physique react? When you learn, create or converse, does your mental layer of manomaya come into play?
True Self
Beneath the various layers lies the Atman, our True Self and the core of ‘who we are’. At this core is the soul, the divine, God, the reality, the expression of creation inside you, or nevertheless you may consult with it. This True Self is the unchanging a part of us. No matter how a lot turmoil the opposite layers may expertise, this place stays at peace. No matter what number of completely different opinions, goals, or adjustments of behavior we undertake, the Atman stays all the time unaffected, all the time true. 
Journeying by the 5 koshas isn’t a one-way journey, although with extra concord between all points of ourselves, an permitting of forwards and backwards pulsation from annamaya to anandamaya kosha, we discover a extra harmonious and free-flowing physique and thoughts. Through discovering stability and concord within the 5 sheaths, we are able to glimpse the stillness and peace of the True Self. In essence, it turns into evident that the sense of bliss and pleasure we’ve been on the lookout for all alongside actually doesn’t come from reaching outward past ourselves, however from wanting inside.

Emma is a 500hr certified Yoga instructor, musician, therapeutic massage therapist, cook dinner, and author. Having grown up surrounded by Yoga and meditation, Emma started her follow at a younger age and has continued to check and develop her understanding of Yoga each day. Training internationally with inspirational lecturers, Emma’s passions now lie primarily in philosophy and Yoga off the mat. Emma presently teaches usually in Sussex, co-leading instructor trainings, retreats, workshops and kirtans, and in addition manages the Brighton Yoga Festival.