Five Bodies (Koshas)
Each body has a dimension and a layer. Vedas call them Koshas, or sheaths. There are five Koshas: annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya and anandamaya.
Annamaya kosha – the physical body- is the container of the other koshas. Asanas (yoga postures) are used to balance the physical body.
Pranamaya kosha – the force or energy for all kinds of motion, which manifests itself in air and ether, the presiding elements in the Anahata and Vishuddha chakra. Prana is not a mechanical outcome of the body but universal energy.
There are five main pranas: prana, apana, udana, samana and vyana. These forms of prana control various functions in the physical body. Prana is vayu, or the universal force of activity, divided on entering each individual into fivefold function.
Udana is the ascending vayu.
Apana is the downward vayu, expelling wind, excrement, urine, child, and semen.
The samana, or collective vayu, kindles the bodily fire, conducting equally the food, etc., throughout the body.
Vyana is the separate vayu, effecting division and diffusion. These forces cause respiration, excretion, digestion, and circulation.
Pranayama is used to purify the pranamaya kosha. Pranayama makes the pranic energy penetrate into each and every cell and fiber of the body. Pranayama does not literally mean breathing exercise. Pranayama means extending the field of prana. It is the subtle form of energy and can be measured.
Manomaya kosha – the mind.
In Sanskrit, the mind is known as manas, and has three dimensions: the conscious mind, the subconscious mind and the unconscious mind. The literal meaning of manas is “that by which you cognize, perceive and understand”. Perception, cognition and understanding are the basic and primary qualities of the mind. The manas layer is the judger, the analyzer, the categorizer, the rememberer, the front brain. When acting from the manas layer we are acting from information learned.
Pratyahara (control of the senses and motor organs) is used to strengthen the mind.
Vijnanamaya kosha – psyche, wisdom, knowledge or awareness, inner perception or experience, and it is a link between the conscious mind, the individual mind and the universal mind. Universal knowledge comes to the conscious mind through vijnanamaya kosha. Vijnanamaya kosha does not depend on time, space and causation factors.
Meditation is the means of increasing the awareness.
The fifth subtle material body is anandamaya kosha – the sheath firmly rooted in bliss. No matter in what circumstances the other bodies are, the beings that identify themselves with this kosha remain happy. One can interact with other beings, even fight, but still not be affected. The ananda layer just is, and always is there. Most of the time maybe it is overshadowed by the mind or the body. But almost all of us have experienced this timeless bliss of being alive one time or another.
Prayer and experiencing the oneness with all beings is the way to enter the state of bliss (Samadhi).
TODAY’S TIP: The five koshas are not the sole property of human beings. Anything in this universe which has a body has five koshas, but as it goes on evolving then the subtle koshas become more and more prominent.