Pancha Koshas translates from Sanskrit to mean five layers.
They are the five layers of existence that protect the true self (the Atman) as defined and taught and by the early yogis.
Through the practices of meditation and yoga it becomes possible to discover and explore these layers. The Koshas provide a map that reveals the whole self.
Each kosha is related to different actions, functions, behaviours or personality traits.
When the layers are peeled away the true self can be discovered. However each layer is very important as it also provides protection for the true self.
The five Koshas overlap each other and are fused together by Prana.
They are Annamaya Kosha, Pranamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vijnanamaya Kosha and Anandamaya Kosha.
The word maya has many translations, in this instance it means covering.
The first two Koshas, Annamaya Kosh ana Pranamaya Kosha, are associated with the physical body.
The second two, Manomaya Kosha and Vijnanamaya Kosha, are associated with the mind.
The final one, Anandamaya Kosha is associated with pure consciousness or spirit.
When we begin a practice we are focused on our alignment which is experienced through Annamaya Kosha.
As we continue the practice and begin paying attention to the breath and recognising the movement of prana throughout the body, this brings the practice into Pranamaya Kosha.
The thoughts and sensations we then experience during the practice is the activity of Manomaya Kosha.
How we decide to react to those thoughts and feelings is the activity of Vijnanamaya Kosha.
Vijnanamaya Kosha allows us to make enquiries and experience our intuition and inner wisdom.
When we become fully absorbed in our practise we are able to connect with the Anandamaya Kosha and experience inner bliss that is free from any fluctuations of feelings, mood or emotion.