The yoga practice is often said to be a mind-body or mind-body-spirit practice. One explanation for this is found in the presence of the five koshas—the “layers” or “sheaths” that exist to help integrate the different aspects of our being. The koshas help up perceive our inner journey. These subtle energies, also called subtle bodies, are really different ways in which we experience being.
Each kosha is contained within the next, moving from the physical body inward. Over the next five months, each kosha will be explained in more detail. The five are summarized below:
The first kosha is anamaya kosha and corresponds to the physical body. The journey of yoga usually begins with the physical body because it’s most accessible to us. We can see it and feel it, and—for the most part—understand it. The physical yoga practice that involves moving through postures allows us understand this kosha and become more aware of our bodies.
Pranamaya kosha is the next sheath and corresponds to our life force, or energy (prana). The critical breath component that accompanies the physical yoga postures is what takes the practice of yoga to the next level. It is the first way in which yoga becomes more than simply exercise.
Manomaya kosha is the mental body, or the third sheath. By fixing our attention on one point—often the breath—we are able to anchor the mind in the moment. This further heightens our practice and, in fact, allows us to more easily experience yoga even when off the mat.
Vijanamaya kosha is the wisdom body. This kosha develops as a result of the integration of the previous three koshas. When the mind remains present there opens a space for wisdom to arise. This is vijanamaya kosha.
Anandamaya kosha is the bliss layer, the final sheath. As each kosha leads to the next, so anandamaya kosha is the culmination of the integrated inner sheaths working together. The result? Bliss. You may catch glimpses of this bliss during or after yoga or meditation practice. This is the harmony of the mind-body-spirit connection. Together, the koshas help us to balance this connection.