The yogic system takes a very holistic approach while describing the human body. It does not consider physical, mental and spiritual aspects of our existence to be different but as the layers of the same body. These layers through which we work are also called Koshas.
- Annamaya Kosha
The physical body or the tangible aspects of our body (organs, bones, muscles, tissues, and skin) is called Annamaya Kosha. Anna means “food” or “physical matter” and maya means “made of.”
The physical body can further be divided into two categories the involuntary body and the voluntary body. Involuntary body consists of organs with an internal memory of functioning for eg. lungs, heart, liver etc., while the voluntary body comprises of our 5 senses which lead to generation of external information.
This layer can be understood as first level of creation where just the physical body exists.
2. Pranamaya Kosha
The second layer of the body is the energy body. The layer which instills life or Prana in our physical body. The animating force behind every atom, cell, organ, and body system, Prana coordinates every physiological activity, from the pumping of the heart to the elimination of waste.
3. Mannomaya Kosha
Also called the Mental Body holds the key to the functioning of the entire body. It is where internal memory of functioning for involuntary and voluntary body is stored. This is the memory which tells our liver to excrete digestive juices or the heart to beat faster or slower. Mannomaya Kosha is intelligent memory stored all over our body. It is also where feedback from all the 5 senses are processed into feelings, emotions and thoughts. It connects our entire body making it an intelligent system capable of receiving, processing and giving information to and fro from our entire body.
Pranamaya Kosha binds the physical and mental bodies. It can be understood as the energy plugin while annamaya losha is the phone we use and monnomaya kosha is the software within.
4. Vignanmaya Kosha
The 4th sheath is referred to as Vignanmaya kosha. Vignan comes from vishesh gyan which means extra ordinary knowledge. It is knowledge which can not be grasped through the five senses. Intuition, conscience, and the reflective aspects of our consciousness are all part of your wisdom body. Vignanmaya Kosha is the inner guide you get in touch with when you close your eyes and meditate or practice conscious breathing. It navigates you through somehow leading you in the right direction on your path.
5. Anandamaya Kosha
It’s the final and thinnest veil standing between our ordinary awareness and our higher Self. It is the experience of Ananda or Bliss, unbound and pure ecstasy emanating from each every cell of your body. It is the experience of being one with god, being in union with the universe, truly being a Yogi.
Its hard to understand the final two layers using cognition or reasoning as they can only be experienced not understood. In fact during our daily lives we do experience these layers very briefly, for example when you have a hunch that something bad is going to happen, its your intuition/vignanmaya kosha telling you to be more aware. Many of us experience unexplained phenomenons like premonition or synchronicity, its the inner being trying to guide us giving us information which can not be otherwise perceived through our senses.
While such experiences are just glimpses into this higher state of consciousness it is possible to raise our awareness to this higher state by practices like conscious breathing, mantra chanting and meditation.
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