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The Five Sheaths of the Human Being : Pancha Kosha

Have you ever wondered about the true nature of your being? Who are you beyond your name, job title, and physical appearance? Yoga philosophy teaches us that the human being is not just a physical body of flesh and bones, that there are several layers encaising your true self.

So "Pancha Kosha" ( kosha can be translated as ‘sheath’ or ‘envelope;’ pancha is the word for ‘five.’) be translated as the ‘five sheaths’ or ‘five envelopes’ and refers to five layers in the spectrum of our being, from the surface of our physical body to the depths of the unconscious mind.

The koshas represent layers of being, starting from the physical body and moving inward to the more subtle aspects of existence.Exploring these layers through practices like yoga, meditation, and self-inquiry can lead to a deeper understanding of one's true nature beyond the superficial layers of identity.

Briefly describing the koshas moving from the gross to the more subtle: 

Anna-maya kosha corresponds to the physical body and all the organs and functions within it. The word anna means food, implying that this kosha is nourished by the substances and energy found in the food we eat.

It can be balanced and harmonised by a whole range of methods, including a wholesome diet, a healthy life-style and regular practice of Hatha Yoga.

Prana-maya kosha is the energy sheath and is concerned with the network of vital energy (Sanskrit, prana) which regulates the growth, shape and function of the physical body, as well as the decay of cells, tissues and organs. It surrounds and interpenetrates our physical body and can be seen by sensitive and perceptive people as the aura.

Mana-maya kosha is what we normally call the individual mind. It controls and directly influences the prana-maya and anna-maya koshas . In Western mysticism it is known as the ‘lower astral body,’ the sphere of our mind which is closely tied to the physical body.

Vigyana-maya kosha, the fourth kosha, is the intuitive sheath, the source of insight and intuitive perception.

Ananda-maya kosha, the fifth and last of the koshas, is the blissful sheath, and it relates to the Joy that bubbles up from the depths of our essential Being. All forms of Yoga help us get in touch with the ananda-maya kosha so that we experience the thrill and bliss of underlying Consciousness. The knowledge and experience of this kosha gives meaning to our life and to existence.

The koshas are not really separate, but inextricably tied up with each other. They are considered separate only for the sake of explanation and conceptual understanding. Energies flow continually from one kosha to another.

How do we work in yoga therapy with these koshas?

By addressing these barriers, the yoga therapist and individual client are able to work on a multilayer approach to wellness.

Using the koshas as a framework, we aim to empower the client. It is the client who has the tools and expertise, it is simply our role to walk alongside them and help them to uncover it, or rediscover it.  Using a kosha approach a yoga therapist empowers a client to live his/her life to the absolute fullest, in all ways possible, and there is limitless potential.


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