This essay will explore the five Koshas as they are put forth in yogic doctrine. These Koshas, or dimensions of the Self, are known as Annamayakosha, Pranamayakosha, Manomayakosha, Vijnyanamayakosha, and Anandamayakosha.
Annamayakosha relates to the physical body, the element of Earth, and the Muladhara chakra. Body awareness, appropriate diet, and a virtuous lifestyle contribute to the harmonious expression of this Kosha. The regular practice of asana, especially, helps to strengthen the vigor of this Kosha.
Pranamayakosha is the title of the energetic dimension of the body. It is associated with the element of water and the Svadhisthana chakra. Harmonious expressions of the chakras, in tandem with healthy pranic flow through the nadis, are symptoms of the health of this Kosha. Breath awareness and meditation help to strengthen the pranamayakosha’s integrity.
Manomayakosha is the dimension relating to the emotional facets of consciousness. This Kosha is attributed to the element of fire and the Manipura and Anahata chakras. Manomayakosha governs our thoughts and feelings, and this dimension of being can be strengthened through pratyahara, yoga nidra, as well as through healthy emotional expressions.
Vijnyanamayakosha is said to be the body of wisdom, and relates to the element of air and the Vishuddha chakra. This plane of the body refers to the “witness consciousness,” which alludes to the developed faculties of awareness that enable the practitioner to be mindful to choose virtuous action in the continuity of moment. The “watcher,” known as the Higher Self in some traditions, is the intuitive voice that suggests right action, always guiding us to root all of our thoughts, words, and deeds in bodhicitta. Through a holistic yoga practice, the voice of the vijnyanamayakosha becomes ever stronger, encouraging the practitioner to act in ways that are beneficial to humanity and all beings. Specifically, the practices of dhyana and dharana add strength and virility to this Kosha.
Anandamayakosha, or the bliss body, is taught to be the primordial Self that is perfect, complete, and at one with all other forms of consciousness throughout time and space. It is associated with the element of ether, and the Ajna chakra (and sometimes the Sahasrara Chakra). This state of Divine Union is inherently blissful, as all veils of illusion are lifted in this state of yogic gnosis, and the practitioner is truly at one with the ineffable nature of primordial ecstasy. Through diligent, sincere study of sacred teachings, such as those that are put forth in the true lineages of Yoga, as well as dedicated practice to the implementation of said teachings into one’s daily life, the Anandamayakosha is enlivened and activated. When the Anandamayakosha is healthy, Self-discovery is truly taking place, meaning that the practitioner isn’t only learning about their (seemingly) individual microcosmic consciousness, but they are learning about the nature of consciousness itself, in the macrocosmic sense, as it permeates through all living creatures, as well as through all of the universe. This experience can be likened to Samadhi.
My personal experience with these Koshas has been amazing. My bodily awareness, relating to Annamayakosha, is continuously being strengthened and stabilized through my dedicated home practice. My pranamayakosha, or energetic body, feels vitalized by my daily breathwork and meditations, and it is also being enhanced by studies on subtle anatomy and pranayama. The dimension of my being known as the Manomayakosha, or the mental/emotional body, has been, and is being, vivified through my study of sacred teachings through multiple lineages of thought. For when I direct my focus daily to sacred doctrines, they permeate my thoughts and emotions, and prompt me to think, speak, and act in ways that are harmonized with virtue. As each day passes, and my studies and practices continue, I feel an ever deeper connection to the One Voice of Truth, the voice of the Higher Self (Vijnyanamayakosha), guiding me to make right action, and helping me to compassionately see where I could have done better in some circumstances (self-study, or Swadhyaya). With all of these divine aspects of the Koshas being strengthened and harmonized, I feel the Bliss Body, or Anandamayakosha, in ever more profound ways, especially in states of gnosis brought on through the practice of Yoga.