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Discover the Pancha Koshas

January 03, 2019

Discover the Pancha Koshas

The Pancha Koshas refer to the five layers of existence. The Pancha Koshas are introduced in most early yoga texts and teachings.  

These early teachings are a great tool for modern yogis, they help us to discover more about and deepen our yoga practices. They also remind us how extensive the science of yoga is. By studying these early texts we are able to expand our knowledge, and bring an understanding into our practice that helps integrate yoga with our lives way beyond the parameters of our yoga mats.

Discovering more about the Koshas provides an understanding as to the depth of yoga. Yoga entwines with every layer of the self seamlessly and subtly. Each of these layers crosses over and supports each other.

Pancha translates to mean five and Kosha means layer. The Pancha Koshas consist of Annamaya Kosha, Pranamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vijnanamaya Kosha and Anandamaya Kosha. The word Maya has many translations in this instance it means covering. Each Kosha overlaps and is fused together by Prana. The first two Koshas are associated with the physical body, the second two are associated with the mind and Anandamaya Kosha is associated with pure consciousness or spirit. 

Here is a brief introduction to each Kosha.

Annamaya Kosha refers to the anatomical or physical structure of the body. Anna translates to mean food. 

Pranamaya Kosha is the energetic layer of the body. When prana enters Annamaya Kosha it brings the anatomical part of the self to life. 

Manomaya Kosha refers to the mind. It is this kosha that allows us think and experience different sensations, this happens through the five senses of taste, touch, sight, hearing and smell.

Vijnanamaya Kosha is also associated with the mind, however this kosha provides us with the ability to discriminate and make choices. It gives us a sense of what is real and what is unreal.

Ananadamaya Kosha is the bliss sheaf. Contained within this sheaf is the Atman. Atman is the Sanskrit word for inner or true self, it is regarded as the soul or the real self beyond the ego. 

As with many topics within yoga there are multiple explanations detailing how the Koshas over lap and layer themselves. There are two popular explanations describing how the koshas layer and connect with each other.

The first views the Annamaya Kosha or the physical body as the first layer, then each subsequent layer surrounds the previous. In this version each layer extends outwards.

The second is to view the physical self Annamaya Kosha as the outer most layer, with each layer sitting inside it. In this model the Blissful sheaf forms the centre. In Yoga this could be where the expression “Peel back the layers to reveal the true self” stems from.

Both descriptions are perfect and complement each other completely. Often in yoga we move from the outside in and also from the inside out. It is through regular practise and studies that these layers begin to emerge, allowing us to see and experience each layer separately and as part of the whole self. This helps us to establish and experience a deep sense of connection with both ourselves and the universe. 

To explore the Koshas further why not try the Yoga 2 Hear audio class Meditating on the Koshas.

This blog article was written by Sue Fuller creator of the Yoga 2 Hear audio yoga classes and teacher training courses.

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