Ancient yogis had drawn a map to explore the deepest levels of consciousness which was used to guide their yoga journey. This map consists of five layers of the human body that you have to navigate to gain enlightenment. The theory of five layers of awareness within our body was first presented in the early yogic texts, the Upanishads. Fifteen centuries later Advaita Vedanta reformers refined these five layers into the koshas, the five coverings that hide the light of our True Self (Atman).
Understanding the Kosha’s
The koshas can be imagined as layers of an onion. The outer layers of the onion cover the inner layers – in the same way the external and visible kosha’s form a barrier preventing us from recognising our true nature and connection with the universe.
Yoga developed as the tool that enables you to peel back layer by layer. By peeling these outer layers, our awareness shifts to the deeper levels of our bodies, eventually reaching the innermost core, our True Self. We move from being externally focused (exteroception) to being more internally focused (interoceptive). It is only when we become more interoceptively aware (internally focused) that we can clearly see, understand and align the layers of the kosha’s to attain the goal of yoga – samadhi or oneness with the universe.
There are 5 kosha’s.
- Annamaya kosha
- Pranamaya kosha
- Manamaya kosha
- Vijnanamaya kosha
- Anandamaya kosha
These 5 levels are described below.
The outermost layer is our visible physical body, called the Annamaya kosha. Anna means ‘food’. This layer – the physical body – feeds sensation and nutrition to the deeper layers. And in doing so it sustains the other 4 koshas. The Annamaya kosha interacts with the outside world by taking in information and nutrition. The Annamaya kosha also impacts the outside world via our actions and words. When we begin to pay attention to what we put into our bodies and the effects of our action – then we begin to experience the beauty of Annamaya kosha.
The second layer is the energy body. It is called Pranamaya kosha. Prana means ‘life force” and refers to the bio-electric impulses that enables our body to function. The Pranamaya kosha regulates the movement of the physical (Annamaya kosha – discussed above) and mental (Manamaya kosha – discussed below) levels via bio-electric impulses. These bio-electric impulses are catalysed via oxygen in the blood and pass through nerves, physiological energy channels (nadis), specific trigger points (marma) and energy confluence centres (chakras) – giving rise to actions and thoughts. Once we access this layer – we have greater control of physical and mental responses.
The third layer in is the mental body. It is called the Manamaya kosha. Mana means ‘”mind”. And this layer refers to the thoughts and feelings that arise from the bio-electric impulses that originates in the second layer. When nerves, nadi’s, marma and chakra’s are stimulated – they set off a chain of reactions – releasing stored instinctual patterns of behaviour. The Manamaya kosha therefore gives rise to either – rational or irrational behaviour, linear versus abstract thinking and focused sequential thought versus ambiguous emotional states. However if we have learned how to use our Pranamaya kosha – then we are able to stop instinctual behaviours that are self-destructive.
The fourth layer of the subtle body is called the wisdom body or Vijnanamaya kosha. Vijnana means “knowledge”. This layer contains memories of everything that we have ever experienced or learned. The Vijnanamaya kosha gives rise to creativity, intuition, wisdom and heightened consciousness. But the Vijnanamaya kosha is overshadowed by the Manamaya kosha. It is only by learning to control the Manamaya kosha that the Vijnanamaya kosha becomes actively conscious.
The last kosha is the bliss body or the Anandamaya kosha. Ananda means “bliss”. This layer refers to the pure unchanging awareness that is found at the deepest layer of our being. When you reach this level, you are no longer merely aware of your feelings. You experience a state of being that connects you to everything. You know that you have always existed in this state. You understand how your awareness was previously obscured by focusing on the superficial koshas. Anandamaya kosha is the awareness of our True Self. When you operate from Anandamaya kosha – you have the ability to choose to operate from multiple levels of awareness (other kosha’s) depending on the task at hand. Hence you have the world at your fingertips. But – Great awareness comes with great responsibility.
The Kosha’s and Yoga Practice
The koshas serve as a guide for deepening your yoga practice. They are a map for your journey. The path of yoga is about progressively moving inward, through each of the koshas, to experience the radiance of the True Self. At the same time, yoga allows this inner radiance to shine through as our individuality or personal magnetism.
Interoceptive-Yoga is The Most Direct Method to Your Bliss Body.
Interoceptive-Yoga or I-Yoga is a simple 4 step yoga practice to deepen your awareness and take you to yoga bliss. It is based on a thorough understanding of classical Hatha Yoga. Interoception is a scientific term that means inner awareness. By fusing scientific understanding with the ancient practices of Hatha yoga, I have created Interoceptive Yoga. Interoceptive Yoga is a bio-hacking technique that enables you to peel back your superficial layers to reveal your True Self or Inner Genius.
I-Yoga: Interoceptive Yoga Four Step Process
Step 1 – I-Yoga MyoRelease – works on the Annamaya kosha. We use trigger point stimulation to release muscle tension, myofascial trigger points and contractures that inhibits your body from functioning optimally. Trigger points and contractures hinder the bio-electric flow through the body. By releasing these, the Pranamaya kosha (energy level) can operate effectively. I-Yoga MyoRelease also eliminates muscle fatigue, restores flexibility and enables deep relaxation.
Step 2 – I-Yoga ReAlign – follows MyoRelease. Once myofascial contractures are released – we begin to realign the body for optimal performance and enhanced bio-electric energy flow. Breath is used to engage and experience the Pranamaya kosha. You are taught how to use breath to control the Body or Annamaya kosha. I-Yoga ReAlign also helps improve posture and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to aide deep healing.
Step 3 – I-Yoga Stimulate. Once your body is realigned and posture corrected we begin to strengthen your skeletal muscle to maintain good postural alignment. Yoga flow sequences and strong holds are used to stimulate the sympathethic nervous system and strengthen your body and mental resolve. In step 3, we work with Manamaya kosha – teaching you how to use posture, breath and mental focus to calm your mind and overcome challenges.
Step 4- I-Yoga MediTate teaches you how to access your intuitive wisdom or Vijnanamaya kosha. Using repetitive flow, deep breathing and a variety of mind-training techniques, I-MediTate harmonises mind and body to generate a deeply restful yet super-creative mental state. With regular practice, you learn how to access this superconscious state at will.
To summarise – in step 1, the primary focus is on Annamaya Kosha, the alignment and sensations of the physical body. Once we have corrected, aligned and harmonised this kosha we can use the breath as a bridge into the Pranamaya kosha. In step 2, when we understand the Pranamaya kosha, we are able to connect with the bio-electric energy manifesting in our body. In step 3, we direct the body, breath and bio-energy to strengthen the mind and diminish disruptive thoughts. This allows Manamaya kosha to be calmed, balanced and harmonised. And once this happens we are able to proceed to step 4, where we explore the Vijnanamaya kosha and learn how to access our intuition and inner wisdom. By working through the the first four layers we spontaneously begin to experienced the bliss of Anandamaya kosha – the Blissful state. Enlightenment happens when all the koshas are aligned to experience the oneness of our True Self.
Dr Nitasha Buldeo is an Integrated Medical Practitioner, Entrepreneur, Scientist and Yogi. She created I-Yoga & Organic Apoteke and is Director of the Centre for Exceptional Human Performance. She researches human potential and delivers programs that encourage you to live exceptionally. Nitasha believes that every one of us is striving to be the best we can. Her passion is bringing you experiences that inspire you. Her intention is for you to unlock your genius.