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When leading a yoga teacher training In Toronto and Vancouver, Koshas are a major topic. If you’re looking for the character within the fictional universe of the science fiction television series Babylon 5, turn around here.

Koshas refer to the 5 layers of the physical body that help us navigate our journey inward.

There Are 5

The koshas, ‘layers’ or ‘sheaths’ make a sort of map, plotted by yogi’s some 3,000 years ago. Starting with the peripheral and working inward toward the embedded soul. The Koshas are a metaphor putting to words what it feels like to do yoga from the inside.

They represent the mind-body connection with specific symbolism:

Annamaya kosha—the physical body; Pranamaya kosha—the life-force body; Manomaya kosha—the mental body; Vijanamaya kosha—the wisdom body; and Anandamaya kosha—the bliss body.

The Layers

The first step on our voyage begins with Annamaya kosha, the parts of your body you can mostly see, touch and feel. The skin, muscle, bones and origins. Ana literally translates to ‘food’ or ‘rice’ putting emphasis on the old saying “you are what you eat”.

The next three layers, Pranamaya, Manomaya and Vijanamaya, are the intangible bits and therefore part of your subtle body.

Take the pranamaya kosha and contemplate the reality of how your next inhalation literally circulates through your entire body through the oxygen in your bloodstream. On a physiological level, prana refers to your circulatory and respiratory systems.

When we practice Yoga for example; our breath body is engaged and coordinated with our physical body in movements orchestrated by our mental body. Still with me?

After those koshas are observed we inevitably encounter our life force, a feeling similar to a driving purpose or inner strength despite outside distractions. This is the vijanamaya kosha. The wisdom body referring to the reflective aspects of our consciousness.

In Sum

By passing through all four layers we arrive at the bliss body anandamaya. Like a sunrise the core of our bliss begins to shine through and there is a feeling of wholeness and integration.

May you begin to experience yoga with the wholeness of who you are.