Koshas – the five sheaths

The Koshas are a yogic concept of sheaths or layers. They describe our five layers, from physical body down to our emotional and spiritual core. It’s another way to distinguish the different parts of ourselves. The Koshas are another way to describe our experience. It is a symbolic method to explain our existence. Being a human being is complicated! Our personal experience is always more than one thing. The mind-body-spirit connection “is a thing.” And it’s been a thing for all humans across all boundaries of time, class, and geography.

The Koshas are one more way to understand our relationship to the various parts of our selves. Our body has the five primary senses, such as smell, taste, touch, hearing, and seeing. Most people have experienced other mindful senses, such as the gut feeling, the first impression, or that nagging deja vu moment. It is not too far afield to wonder at this other “knowing.” Then there is the flip side. Do you know anyone who has developed ulcers, who would was surprised at being asked if they were over worked or stressed out? The Koshas help us to bring more awareness to all the parts of ourselves.

Balancing the Koshas against the stressors of our lives is the primary framework for Advanced Therapeutic Yoga. Balanced Koshas and living with ease is the opposite of living with dis-ease.

The Koshas

Physical Body – Annamayakosha
Everything that makes up your physical body. Head to toe, inside to outside, top to bottom. Your material, physical form is the layer we call Annamayakosha.

Breath/Energy Body – Pranamayakosha
The energy that animates your being. The energy behind your emotions. Pranamayakosha is very subtle energy within and around your body.

Psycho/Emotional Body – Manamayakosha
Sometimes called “the lower mind,” the Manamayakosha is the everyday thinking mind. It’s the part of us that processes and interprets thoughts, emotions and impressions.

Witness/Wisdom Body – Vijnanamayakosha
The witness is the “higher mind,” the part of your being that knows who you really are. The Vijnanamayakosha is that layer of consciousness that observes from a place above the everyday thinking mind.

Bliss Body – Anandamayakosha
The bliss body is the most subtle of the koshas. It is not necessarily the state of feeling bliss . . .  it is the bliss. It relates to the bliss and joy that we actually are, not simply what we experience. Related to Samadhi, the recognition of the highest state of our consciousness.

Other descriptions of the Koshas can be found on Yoga U Online and wherever you like to read about yoga topics! The five Koshas are collectively referred to as the Pancha Koshas and are the framework used in Yoga Therapy.

Tish Ganey is a Certified Yoga Therapist. The yoga therapy components of Tish’s practice are based on certification from the Kripalu School of Integrative Yoga Therapy at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Mass. Her certification is recognized by the International Association of Yoga Therapist (IAYT.org). They are not derived from her status as a 500 RYT® (Registered Yoga Teacher) with Yoga Alliance Registry.