Yoga Off The Mat: Koshas

It’s been almost two months since my last post. Life has gotten super busy, and I haven’t had much time to dedicate to writing. As I run through my checklists and hunker down for more studying, I still need time to focus on myself. Give myself time to relax, unwind, and process. As life continues to happen and I stop to take a breather, I find myself thinking about my koshas.

Kosha literally translates from Sanskrit to sheath. I see them as five bodies that house your inner being, your true Self. A block in one will affect your connectedness and sense of balance. Each kosha is contained within the prior, and as you move inward, they get harder to manipulate and more subtle. In the center is your Atman: your true Self; that piece of the collective consciousness that is you and doesn’t change.

  • Annamaya kosha: Your physical body. Your hair, skin, muscles, internal organs; what you can actually see. It is the outermost kosha and is the most easily changed.
  • Pranamaya kosha: Your energetic body. Energy can be influenced by breath, so breath work (pranayama) manipulates this kosha.
  • Manomaya kosha: Your mental body. Your thoughts, emotions, and sense perceptions. Self-empowerment helps manipulate this kosha.
  • Vijnanamaya kosha: Your wisdom body. Your ethics and moral code, your basic beliefs. It’s past your mental body, and can be defined as awareness.
  • Anandamaya kosha: Your bliss body. This is often associated with your spirit and unconditional love. It’s not bliss in the human sense like extreme happiness—it’s pure contentment and joy.

How I’ve Applied Koshas in My Life

I went through surgery earlier this year. I had a total thyroidectomy. It came on quickly, but it needed to be done. I had some surgeries when I was younger, but this was different. I’m an adult now! I was a nervous wreck going in. Koshas helped me by focusing on what would and wouldn’t change from the procedure. While the surgery would change my physical and energetic bodies, it would not effect me inside. I will still be me.

Decisions can be hard. As I dig deep, trying to feel whether the decisions I’m making are aligned with my beliefs, I can focus on peeling back the layers to help me explore. For example, as I embark upon a new career path, I can take the time to practice a physical yoga practice to re-align my body, work on my breath, and sit quietly in meditation to focus and calm my busy mind. This peels back the physical, energetic, and mental bodies to get in touch with my wisdom body. Being in touch with my true wisdom helps guide and understand my decisions. Does this feel right to me?

Life keeps happening. As much as I want to take a pause, something else will always come up. Like I’m busy studying for a paper to write, and all of a sudden my kitty gets sick, I receive an unexpected medical bill, and a home appliance breaks. Because these issues all arise at once, I find I have tense shoulders, I’m anxious, and my mind races as I try to sort through my expanding to-do list and I weigh priorities. While I’m managing all this, I can find comfort in knowing that even though I’m not feeling connected and grounded, my bliss body is still within me. The craziness that is life doesn’t dictate whether I have access to bliss. It just may affect my ability in the present moment to feel my bliss. It’s always somewhere deep inside.

Analyzing Koshas

In my yoga teacher training, we did kosha analyses. At a moment in time, we analyzed our outermost koshas, applying adjectives to describe the state of the layers. This helped me really get in touch with myself and gain a greater sense of awareness of who I am in each moment. Here’s an example of a kosha analysis for right now, as I write this piece:

  • Physical: Comfortable and full. I’m reclining in my living room in casual clothes and I just had breakfast.
  • Energetic: Relaxed yet energized. My heart rate and breathing are slow but I feel a sense of energy around creating this body of work.
  • Mental: Concentrated, focused. I’m not easily distracted by the noises around me and my mind isn’t wandering.
  • Wisdom: Aware and open. After completing an analysis, I feel a sense of awareness about myself and my willingness to share.

From the moment it was introduced, I was really drawn to the concept of the koshas. I appreciated the analysis exercises in my teacher training and have used them beyond. The koshas have helped me gain a deeper understanding of myself and how I react. They also helped me develop a more meaningful yoga practice. Yoga is so much more than just an exercise, and hopefully the koshas help cast a light on a small piece of what more it could be for you!

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