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Exploring the 5 Yogic Layers of Being

This term in our Bradmore Community Classes we're starting a journey exploring the 5 koshas, or layers of being. If you've ever wondered how and why your yoga practice makes you feel so wonderful, and want to dive deeper into your yoga practice, read on!

If we think of the self like a Russian doll, with each doll smaller than the last and able to nestle inside the next, this is somewhat similar to the concept of the koshas, although each layer is not completely separate but intrinsically a part of the others.

According to the ancient yogic texts the Upanishads, these 5 layers of existence start with the physical body, the most dense and gross in form, and end with the bliss body, the most light and subtle. These are...

Illustration by Maya Chastain

  1. Annamaya Kosha ~ the food body. The part of ourselves that we are perhaps the most familiar with, keeping our physical body healthy is the first step in coming home to ourselves and unlocking our full potential. Our physical asana practice is designed to help keep the physical body fit and healthy, free from dis-ease and able to sit comfortably in meditation to concentrate on the more subtle aspects of self such as...

  2. Pranamaya Kosha ~ Prana can be translated as 'life force' and is synonymous with the concept of 'Qi'. Although linked closely with the breath, our main animating life force for the physical body, it goes beyond breath alone. Our prana flows through a network of 72,000 nadis (translation 'little river') throughout our being, and can be controlled through breath work aka pranayama.

  3. Manomaya Kosha ~ our mental body, manomaya kosha works closesly with our food and breath body to integrate and process experiences from our outer world in our inner. Governing mental activity and thoughts, we can begin to become more aware of this layer of our being through meditation, and noticing our habitual thought patterns and behaviors, moving towards the witness consciousness.

  4. Vijnamaya Kosha ~ beyond the first three layers of the self, permeating them all but lying just a little deeper within the concept of our being lies vijnamaya kosha ~ our intuition or intellect. To access this part of our being requires a deep connection with self and a trust in beyond what the rational mind can fathom. Asana, pranayama and dharana (one pointed focus) through meditation will all help strengthen this connection with self and help us begin to tune into this layer of being.

  5. Anandamaya Kosha ~ beyond the illusion of separation, that we are all individuals, there is a part of us which knows that we all inherently belong and are a living expression of love, bliss and peace ~ this is ananadamaya kosha. When we reach a state of Samadhi or enlightenment the swirling of the mind ceases and we are connected with the very core of our being, or essence, and are truly 'awake'.

Why do we need to be aware of these?

On the mat this awareness can translate into a deeper practice and connection with mind, body and being, and off the mat the story is much the same.

Becoming more aware of these different layers of being gives us another road map to use on our journey home to ourselves. Although the process is an ongoing one, how comforting and reassuring to know that countless others have walked the same path. Like a lotus gradually emerging from the mud, drawing upon the fertile experiences life offers, we all have the potential to reach towards the sun and to unfurl, layer by layer, into the full beauty and potential of our being.

For our first term together with the Bradmore Monday night group we are focusing on the first two layers of our being ~ recapping some basics with our asana practice for annamaya kosha and then diving into the subtleties of the five vaiyus or part of the breath for pranamaya kosha.

This term is fully booked, but should you like to stay in the loop to join us for next term beginning Mon 31st October join the Wild Wolf Movement mailing list community ~ sign up link is on the home page (the form for 'free grounding meditation').

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