Koshas are sheaths which are layered with one surrounding another. Within this realm we will explore each layer, starting with the outermost annamaya kosha, and then proceed inward, repeating this process with each subsequent layer until we reach the atman (eternal center of consciousness).
- Annamaya kosha - (anna = food, maya = made of). This is the outermost sheath. It is what we know as the physical sheath. The name originated because the physical body is nourished with food and all physical aspects of life are constantly changing either through decay or renewal. This is the first layer to be explored in meditation and as one starts to become familiar with physical body in meditation, certain physical discomforts will undoubtedly arise. These will eventually pass as you observe without judgement. After considerable work in learning of the subtleties of this layer and not having it be an obstacle in your meditation, one can move inward to the next layer.
- Pranayama kosha - (prana = energy) This is your life force. Prana is taken in with the breath until very advanced states of meditation are reached. This energy sheath allows for our inner self to be animated in the external world. The work here begins with observing the breath external of your physical body and then moving inward progressively to more and more subtleties until you can feel the prana moving throughout your physical body. When you are able to control, direct and regulate prana throughout your system you are then ready to move on to explore the next layer.
- Manamaya kosha - (mana = mind). This is the layer where thoughts and emotions are processed. Your beliefs and opinions that form accumulated patterns rest in this kosha. These perceptions can be triggered to overlay present circumstances and as such give false perceptions (samskara). The entire nervous system can run on auto pilot or it can be over ridden by the mind. By learning to still the mind, the manamaya kosha becomes relaxed and the nervous system can run efficiently without undue stress and a more appropriate perceptions and reactions are possible.
- Vijnanamaya kosha - (vijnana = knowing). This layer is where discrimination takes place and where the ego resides. It is where intuition and wisdom reside. Work in this kosha will allow you to overcome past programming and allow your inner knowing to come to the forefront by clearing away the ego and past misconceptions. When you are able to witness without judgement, you are ready to explore the next level.
- Anandamaya kosha - (ananda = bliss). This is the last of the koshas and surrounds the atman. As the most subtle of the five koshas, when you find yourself at this level you will be in a blissful state that is independent of the mind.
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