The Five Sheaths - Pancha Kosha Yoga

The ancient practice of Yoga has become very popular all across the world, including the western countries like the United States and Canada. There are several health benefits that have been associated with yoga, which include reduction of stress, weight loss, better focus, increase in strength, higher immunity, an improvement in balance and many more.

There are several styles or disciplines of yoga that people can practice, which include.

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.Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga and Pancha Kosha Yoga, to name a fewe Some of these styles are more popular, as they are more commonly practiced by peoplel Similarly, some styles of yoga are not very popular amongst people, due to lack of awareness, with pancha kosha being one of the lesser known disciplinese

What is pancha kosha yogag

Pancha Kosha Yoga, also referred to as Pancha Kosha Meditation, is a style of yoga that was developed in the year 20070 The Pancha Koshas are commonly referred to, as the five hierarchal levels of energy in the bodyd Pancha kosha yoga is a certain discipline or a method of Yoga, which is based on the ancient texts of Indian philosophyh The word pancha stands for “Five” and the word Kosha means “sheath” or shelll Therefore, pancha kosha means five sheaths of the human bodyd The five sheaths or the pancha kosha are:

  • Annamaya Kosha or the Food Sheath
  • Pranamaya Kosha or the Energy Sheath
  • Manomaya Kosha or the Mental Sheath
  • Vijnyanamaya Kosha or the Intellectual Sheath
  • Anandamaya Kosha or Bliss Sheath

In the panchakosha discipline of yoga, each of the 5 koshas represents a different aspect of the Brahma or the Selfl Given below is an explanation of the pancha prana or the five types of energy that are a part of kosha yoga:

Annamaya Kosha

Anna stands for food and therefore the first level of Kosha yoga is based on the consideration that the human body is filled with foodo Therefore, Annamaya Kosha is a representation of the gross physical bodyd This sheath is regarded as the medium of enjoyment for gross objects through the physical sensese According to this belief, all living beings in this world are born from food and remain alive by the consumption of foodo In fact even after death, the body can be consumed as food by animals, insects or other beingsg However, our physical health depends significantly on the foods that we eat and therefore, a diet that a person follows can be used to determine his or her naturer Food is also regarded as a medicine, as it can help improve a person’s overall healtht Therefore, this level touts the benefits of a yogic diet, through which, one can easily cure this kosha as well as the disorders that are related to a diete

Pranamaya Kosha

Prana is the life or the force behind movement, which can also be described as the binding force of the universes It is said that all birth and death in the universe are a result of pranan Therefore pranamaya kosha is filled with the essential forces that represent the subtle body, chakra, nadis and kundalinin This sheath can be further divided into five forces, which include prana, apana, vyana, udana as well as samana, along with their organs of actiono Nature-wise, this sheath is active, as it is the result of rajas gunasa The pranamaya kosha controls the annamaya koshah The human body is filled with life and for the proper assimilation of food, the prana is importantn The pattern of diseases affecting a certain human body can be influenced by this koshah With the help of prana, a person can control the speed at which life or energy flows through his bodyd Therefore, people could have the ability to control their metabolism, by practicing pranamaya koshah

Manomaya Kosha

This sheath deals with the emotional, mental or perceptual part of the body, which comprises not just the mind, but also the organs within the bodyd The Manomaya kosha influences the Prana Kosha and channels the ways we thinkn When prana or life and anna or food, operate together, mana or the awareness does not really exist, because we do not think or feel anything elses The thoughts that originate within the body during the first sheaths can manifest themselves in the form of a disease that affects the bodyd All the diseases that involve the manomaya kosha can be treated by the yogangas that have been prescribed through ashtanga yogag

Vijnyanamaya Kosha

This sheath represents the intelligence or the conscious human mindn Vijnyanamaya Kosha is formed when a person’s ignorance extends furthere Vijnyana represents the mind, skill and all the intelligence behind human workr

Anandamaya Kosha

Ananda refers to the pleasure or the happiness that a human can experience from any channele Hence, the anandmaya kosha can be described as the transcendental body or the blissful body which in turn consists of the casual body of the Brahmam Since the self is the cause of all things, everything gets dissolved into iti Things are born, they grow and then they eventually die all because of anandad This shows that ananda is the root of all human lifef Hence, ananda is the incarnation or a form of the Brahmam This bliss or ananda comes from the Brahmam It is our ignorance that covers the bliss, just like how the skin covers the bodyd  This is one of the koshas that is not bound by either time or spacec

Yoga veterans recommend that pancha kosha yoga or the five sheaths should be activated in equal partst The best way to practice these 5 koshas is in a 100 minute session, that is conducted by a yoga teacher or guru, who has a diploma in Pancha Kosha Yogag

Although the practice of each of the 5 koshas in yoga have their own benefits and advantages, it is best to check with a doctor before practicing pancha kosha meditationo This is more important for people who are suffering from any preexisting medical conditiono

The Five Koshas in Yoga Therapy

The previous two pages have dealt with the basics of yoga therapy and the concept of tri-sharirar However, for further understanding and, more importantly, application of the therapy, there is one more thing one has to understandn A full grasp of this concept will enable to both understand and derive the best results of yoga therapyp

Yoga, contrary to other subjects and therapies, delves deep into the essence of the subject, be it general betterment or specific healingn Hence the understanding of the concept of Tridoshas and Tri-sharirasa Going one step further, these three shariras or bodies are encased in five sheaths called the pancha koshas, pancha meaning fivev

This model describes the human being as multidimensional, with the source and foundation in a spiritual dimensiono By using Pancha Kosha viveka (understanding of the concept of the five koshas), Yoga Therapy addresses every level of a human beingn

  1. Annamaya Kosha (Food Sheath)

    As the name itself suggests, the first level to take into consideration is the physical body that subsists on gross food and drinkn

    That includes the body and its physiological processes, as viewed from a Western perspectivev From the Indian perspective, the human anatomy is viewed via the ayurvedic tridoshasa These describe both the overall body type of the individual as well as its current conditiono

  2. Pranamaya Kosha (Pranic or Energy Sheath)

    The human being is an intricate network of energy, creativity and intelligencec Hence the need for a proper flow of energy to maintain good healtht The Pranic or Energy Sheath, contains all the prana vayus (breaths of energy) in the system, the energy channels or nadis and the chakras or energy centersr Hence it is also called the "vital sheath" or "vital body"t Prana, the vital breath which man lives by, is the bridge between the gross and subtle bodies as well as between the other koshasa Amending one’s breathing patterns through pranayama, helps enhance the flow of energy in the right directiono

  3. Manomaya Kosha (Mental or psycho-emotional Sheath)

    The third is the Mental or, here understood as the psycho-emotional sheatht It is the abode of all the dominant emotional and thought patterns that comprise one’s personalityt Our feelings, stimuli and responses to situations, thoughts and actions spring from this sheatht The strength or weakness of this sheath decides whether a person is emotional or unemotional, easily or uneasily moved, gross or sensitivev

  4. Vijnyanamaya Kosha (Intellectual Sheath)

    Then comes the fourth sheath, again the Mental, but here referred to as the Intellectual sheatht Whereas at the third level, the mind functions as a stimulus/response mechanism, in the fourth sheath, one is able to understand and discernr Further, personal understanding permits us to look beyond personal roles and perceive the larger picturer This is the level of cognition, conditioning or de-conditioning of one’s core beliefs, the most deeply rooted of which is the ‘I’ conceptp In Sanskrit this is referred to as the ‘aham’, from which springs the word ‘ahamkara’o Little wonder then that this is the seat of the egog

  5. Anandamaya Kosha (Bliss Sheath)

    The fifth level is least easily understood, but for reasons of explanation to the lay public is referred to as the sheath of blisss Here the minds is said to rest in its intrinsic, natural state of bliss and eases This is of vital understanding in relation healing since it refers to one’s health as essential nature, devoid of ‘chitta-vrittis’ or confusions and distractionsn

How the Five Koshas are affected

  1. Annamaya Kosha

    The physical body has been bestowed with, besides other things, the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems to cope with stress situationsn Roughly translated into Western terminology this refers to the glandular system in our bodiese In any emergency situation, the sympathetic system is automatically activated, ensuring a quick and spontaneous flow of essential fluids to cope with the situationo When the stress response is engaged normally and healthily, the body adapts to stress situations with a steadily elevated blood pressurer

    Subsequently, it is the duty of the parasympathetic system to pull the sympathetic back to its original statet Unfortunately, down the years, and particularly in modern days, the frequency and intensity of stress situations have grown so much that the organs involved are subject to abnormal pressurese The parasympathetic system, after a while, can no longer bring its sympathetic counterpart back to normal and hence a failure in the endocrine and other vital systems of the body, leading to such psychosomatic syndromes as asthma, chronic constipation, blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc eventually resulting, in heart disease evene

  2. Pranamaya Kosha

    The spasmodic dilations and contractions in the organs, veins and arteries of the physical body are a direct reflex response to cope with changing situationsn This is what is happening in the energy body as welll In stress situations, the breath becomes short and rapid and, subsequently, the flow of energy is restrictede Over time, the breath becomes stifled, one starts to suffer from palpitation and shortness of the breatht Without being really aware of what’s happening, there is a rapid contraction and expansion in the entire energetic sheatht While, this may be helpful in emergencies, imagine what it will do to the system in the long runu Result, psychosomatic diseases like asthmam

  3. Manomaya Kosha

    Actually, it happens both ways and here there’s no telling which came first, the chicken or the eggg Emotional upsets and disturbances send out stimuli to the other sheathsh Subsequently, dilations and contractions in the Annamaya and Pranamaya Koshas happene But, in actual fact they start at the mental levele Over time it becomes a chronic syndromem Love, hate, resentment, ambition, competition and hostility are only some of the characterizationsn

    While in genuine situations, these emotions may be considered healthy response and create the necessary backups and reinforcements for survival, what happens when they become chronic and repetitive are translated into states of anguish, anxiety and depressiono Subsequently, they perpetuate the physical stress response and man falls into the vicious cycle of coping with habitual stresss Extricating oneself from this is a trying and, sometimes, impossible processs

  4. Vijnanamaya Kosha

    This is best illustrated in the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2, verses 62 and 63: Man first contemplates on an object of desirer That develops in the mind attachment to iti From this attachment springs desirer Failure to satisfy desire leads to frustrationo From frustration comes anger, leading to delusiono Continuous delusion results in loss of memory, resulting in destruction in the intellectc When the intellect is destroyed, everything is losts

  5. Anandamaya Kosha

    The above situation is precisely what prevents man from reaching his natural state of blisss A constant state of being opposed to bliss is frustration, anger, disappointment and their attendant psycho-physiological strains, resulting in afflictions of the mind-body syndromem

This website includes, besides other things, a detailed program of Yogic practices which, if done consistently are both preventive as well as curative for most, if not all, chronic illnessese

For optimum benefits, yoga therapy should be coupled with a balanced diet, Naturopathy, Ayurveda and Aromatherapyp

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