Guiding Light: Five koshas in yoga

Grand Master Akshar

As per the teachings of the ancient Himalayas, a human being has five layers or koshas. Koshas are like coverings/layers between the individual and his soul. We have 5 layers or Koshas which are as follows. In Annamaya Kosha which is the coarsest covering, the outer tangible kosha of the outer body which includes muscle, flesh and bones. The food that we eat influences this layer. It is the way that we identify ourselves as fat, thin tall, muscular etc. The food that we put into our bodies determines how we are shaped.

Pranamaya Kosha is energy, breath, life force. The feeling of being sleepy, tired, energetic, restless etc., constitute the layer of Pranamaya Kosha. Pranayama or mindful breathing helps us connect and understand this layer. The third layer is Manomaya Kosha- the layer of dreams, fantasies, emotions and thoughts. The deep influences of our families which have shaped us to be who we are now, and created certain thought patterns which form our beliefs, perceptions and opinions. Vignanamanaya Kosha is the fourth sheath.

Vignanamanya Kosh is the silence that generates intuition and wisdom. Vignanamaya Kosha in simple terms means becoming aware of our thoughts, disengaging from it and being an observer rather than an active participant. Activities such as writing, problem-solving, math, painting etc can manifest this quality.

The final Kosha is Anandamaya Kosha which is our true nature of bliss. Not transient joy, but eternal bliss. Practise of Kirtan, Mantras are all paths to unlocking this layer. Our nature is joyful, free and blissful when we realise that love is the deepest reality. When we are able to identify these layers and their relation to each other, we can transcend these five states to reach a state of the divine- or a state of Samadhi. This is done through a process of mastering our inner world to reach pure awareness and absolute bliss.

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