What are koshas?

When practicing yoga nidra, one can experience upper levels of the koshas and beyond. 

I mention this in the yoga nidra (deep relaxation) audio recording you receive when signing up for our monthly newsletter. (Sign up here)

So, the question is: what are the koshas?

According to the yogic tradition, humans are multidimensional beings. In the Taittiriya Upanishad, the human body is described as a container for the True Self or Atman made up of five layers (or five koshas). Through the Koshas, the True Self can expand to the outer and progressively more dense sheaths expressing itself.

Around the True Self is the first sheath called the Anandamaya Kosha, or bliss sheath. It consists of the experience of inner peace and harmony. That’s where we first experience the self as bliss. A balanced mind helps one to experience the Anandamaya kosha.

Surrounding the bliss sheath is the Vijnanamaya Kosha (intellectual sheath) followed by the Manomaya Kosha (mental sheath). It is the intellectual sheath that brings us the ability to discern, thus connecting the mind and all of its distractions with the heart or the True Self. The mental sheath is connected to the senses making fears, desires, and acting impulsively part of this kosha. Battles between these two koshas are not uncommon (e.g., I know I shouldn’t, but I want to).

The Manomaya Kosha is surrounded by the Pranamaya Kosha, or vital energy sheath. This is the level of the aura, chakras and nadis (energy channels). The vital energy sheath contains prana (life force) and can be controlled with the breath. The breath is the main vehicle by which we can increase the flow of prana through the nadis. By being between the mind on the inside and Annamaya Kosha, the physical sheath, on the outside, this sheath creates the link between the mind and body. Mastering this layer can lead one to control the mind.

Annamaya Kosha, the physical sheath, is the densest, the outermost, and the most obvious layer of the koshas, and is comprised of our bones, muscles, organs, and outer appearance. It has 6 expressions: existence, birth, growth, modification, decay, and death. Through observing the changes in these expressions over time and how they impact, and are impacted by the deeper, subtler koshas, the Annamaya Kosha can be a great tool to increase awareness.

The yoga nidra practice I shared with you is a practice taught by the Integral Yoga tradition. This practice was designed to transport us progressively through the 5 koshas, moving from body to breath to mind to bliss, and, ultimately, beyond, into pure, divine, eternal consciousness.

Keep steady in your practice and enjoy the bliss!