Whole - I - ness

When it comes to understanding the human experience, there is no shortage of information to point us in the direction of depth. Personally, the more I seek and ask, the less I am attached to any one philosophy or belief system. That said, I do believe there is great value in studying the great texts and teachings that have stood the test of time.

There is a saying that all spiritual and religious material in its purest form does the same thing – it points us in the direction of Truth.

Seven years ago, I completed my 200-hour yoga teacher training. In looking back, I notice now in my yoga and meditation classes how little I use the language of this powerful tradition. What I recognize however, is that without these teachings, my capacity to grasp and express what I now do as a teacher and coach, might never have developed. Moreover, I recognize this process of discovery to be cyclical and ever-expanding. That said, I would like to revisit the concept of ‘The Koshas’ as a way of deepening my own (and hopefully yours as well) understanding of what it means to be fully embedded and immersed in the total human experience.

According to the yogic tradition, The Koshas are the five aspects of the total Self. These can be understood as five distinct and yet inseparable bodies made of increasingly finer grades of energy. The densest body is the one we know and feel – the ‘food-body’ or simply the physical body; in Sanskrit – the Annamaya Kosha. The second body is the energy body or the ‘Prana-body’; the Pranamaya Kosha. This second body is often emphasised in the yoga practice by way of the breath. As we pay attention to, and work with the breath, we experience the invisible or intangible energy that animates the physical. At this level, we begin to witness our capacity to enhance and to some extent harness and direct the flow of this life-giving energy.

The third body is the Manomaya Kosha, or the Mental Body. It is said this body is the home of the ego and the aspect of the Self that reacts to the outer world, processing input from our five senses and directing our actions and reactions. This sheath, or body, is useful to the extent it acts as a kind of storehouse of past experience to inform our choices and movements. However, it is this body that can often cause fixation, fear, bad habits, and ‘mental knots’.  As we attune to the finer grades of energy, we gain more and more influence over the total self.

We can address the dysfunction of the mental body by withdrawing the senses from the external and or by practicing meditation. This can allow for a sort of recalibration of the mental body which invites the Intuitive Body to come online.  Also known as the Vijnanamaya Kosha, this body is the home of the conscience, the moral compass, the higher intellect, and the place from which to access the inner guidance that aligns with your greatest earthly desires.

There is a fifth body – The Bliss Body, or Anandamaya Kosha. The idea with this body is that it is the closest to Source or Oneness. As humans walking the path of awakening, it is said that we will have but fleeting experiences of this ‘Anand’ but with a devoted spiritual practice, we may increase the frequency and potency of these moments. These are moments of Grace, of feeling complete liberation from the other four bodies, moments of not so much knowing or understanding Truth, but feeling it.

When all the teachings, the words, the practices, and efforts drop away, we return to what the Yogis often call our Original Nature, our True Selves, Union with the Divine. I’ll finish with a saying I love – “words do not teach, {they point}; it is Life experience that brings your knowing; But when you hear words that are a vibrational match to the knowing that you have accumulated, then sometimes it's easier for you to sort it all out” – Abraham Hicks