Sometimes it is hard to remember who we really are. We can look in the mirror and see a face that we have known for years. We can close our eyes and listen to our restless minds, full of memories, fantasies and thoughts. At moments, we might even be able to soften into our heart center, aligning with what is true, real and authentic- love.
But who are we really? Are we just flesh and bone? Our experiences, challenges, mistakes and moments in time?
There is a fantastic teaching in yoga philosophy called the koshas. Kosha is a Sanskrit word that means “layer” or “sheath”. It is said that we as beings, are comprised of 5 layers of “self”. These layers are independent and interdependent, connected, communicating with one another bridging all the dimensions of the “self” into the totality of who we are.
Lets look at them more closely;
Think of layers of an onion or those wooden Russian dolls. They are one, with layers. Same with our being. We will start with the outer most layer of self, and work our way into the core of who we are.
Annamaya Kosha: “The Physical Body” Bones, muscles, organs, skin, hair, nails. The first layer of self is the physical form. What we can “see” and what is tangible. This includes our 5 physical senses. Anna means “food” or “solid”. The first layer is the densest of the layers, vibrating at the lowest frequency. As we move inward through the layers, the vibration grow higher and more subtle in frequency. Ways to nourish and connect with the physical body is through yoga asana (postures), Massage, earthing (walking barefoot on the earth), healthy nutrition and exercise.
Pranamaya kosha: “The energetic body” The second layer deep to our physical form is our etheric double. Our energetic form that includes the energy channels in the body known as “nadis”. In Chinese medicine they call these same energetic pathways, meridians. This is where prana or chi (life force energy) flows through. Here we also have our chakra system as well. Ways to connect and nourish this layer is through pranayama practice (breathing), Acupuncture, chakra alignment and meditations, and breathing fresh air in nature.
Manomaya Kosha: “The Mental Body” Third layer deep is our mental and emotional faculties. Mano is a Sanskrit word that means “mind”. Here resides our ego structure, thoughts, ideas, concepts, karma,constructs, our filters on reality, and samskaras (mental impressions). This is the most challenging layer of self to master. To train the mind to as state of quietude is not an easy feat. However, as the mind stills we can connect and drop into the deeper layers of self where intuition, wisdom and even psychic abilities (siddhis) reside. Ways to quiet and train the mind are through seated meditation practices, visualization, journaling, creative outlets, talk and cognitive therapy.
vijnanamaya Kosha: (The intuitive or wisdom body) Once we are able to calm the mind we can access our intuition and deeper wisdom. Here resides imagination, dreams, psychic abilities. As we move closer to our core self, we are increasing our conscious awareness of the totality of self. The center our our being in which we are traveling towards is our soul, or highest self. We can activate this layer through creative expression such as poetry, music or art, being in nature, altered states of consciousness practices, lucid dreaming and deep meditative practices.
anandamaya Kosha: “Bliss Body” The 5th and final layer before the atman aka soul is our bliss body. Once we transcend the limits of the body, attune with the frequency of the energetic body, quiet the mind and tap into our intuition and wisdom we arrive in bliss. Ways to connect with the Bliss body is doing what lights you up! Being of service and practicing working through the previous layers of self through yogic and spiritual practices cultivating truth beauty and bliss!