Getting to Know Yourself at All Levels..... Exploring the Koshas (the Five Layers of Being) in Your
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Each of our next classes in the series is designed to take you on a journey through your five layers of being towards the most subtle layer known as the Bliss body where we can experience ourselves as fully immersed in the present moment, joyful, perfect and completely whole.
Kosha means ‘sheath’ in Sanskrit and there are said to be five sheaths (or layers) of awareness/being in yoga.
The first layer (known as the ‘food’ sheath) is Annamaya Kosha. This is the layer of your physical body - your bones, tissues and muscles as well as the five senses (touch, sound, sight, hearing and taste). When the body isn’t at ease or we aren’t connected to our body awareness then we cannot make it through this ‘gateway’ to the next layer of being.
If we are working too hard in our yoga practice to make our body strong and flexible we may be missing the opportunity to connect with ourselves at a deeper and also more subtle level.
The second layer of being is Pranamaya Kosha, this is the layer of your energy body - your breath, your energy and the way your ‘life-force’ moves through your body.
If we aren’t connected to this more subtle experience of the energy and how it moves through our body we may not be reading vital cues that can guide us into the most beneficial practice for ourselves. This second Kosha takes our awareness further inwards and gives us a sense of the movement of energy inside our physical bodies. We can access this through pranayama (breath work or ‘control’ of the life-force energy within).
The third layer of being is Manomaya Kosha, this is the layer of the mental body and emotions. Often we can work with this through chakra work and longer yin-style holding of poses to connect us to our emotional body and of course the thoughts that we associate with our feelings.
We can often get caught up in Manomaya Kosha, stuck in past understandings of who we are based upon messages we received when we were younger rather than upon who wish to be in the world. In learning to welcome all thought and emotion we aim perceive our thoughts and feelings as constantly changing but ever present experiences of simply being human. Experiences that do not define us at soul level.
The fourth layer of being is Vijnanmaya Kosha, where we embrace the layer of the Wisdom Body. Here we come into what could be understood as the Higher Mind.
Having moved through the previous layer of awareness we have begun to separate ourselves from past self-limiting beliefs and thoughts based on information that is likely to never have been a true reflection of who we are. Below this we find wisdom, intuition and a higher intellect, awareness of ourselves as the Witness to our experiences with objectivity. This leads us to approach life with greater clarity and a deeper sense of peace of mind.
The fifth and last layer of being is Anandamaya Kosha, the Bliss body. This is the level of the soul. The recognition of the self as already perfect, all we need to do is peel back the layers to connect more deeply to the love and light that has always will always exist within. We connect here to our own nature as a reflection of the Universe or the Divine (which of course we can ultimately understand however we choose).
In this last layer of awareness the individual (or ‘I’ consciousness) peels back the five layers to connect back into overall consciousness (or the Universal consciousness). And it is in this Bliss body that we come back to our true nature, which is and always has been perfect, healed and whole.