In yoga the human structure is composed of different bodies or layers called koshas. They begin from the grossest to the subtlest. It starts with that material most evident to our eyes; the physical body or food body called the Annamaya kosha, the one made of bone and flesh. It is followed by Pranamaya kosha the energy body, the one by which our electricity is transported, and the one in which we have the energy channels (nadis) and the energy vortexes (chakras). The third one is the Manomaya kosha, the body of the mind, where the thinking takes place, where the memories are stored in the brain and the intelligence of the cells express their faculties. The fourth one is the Vijnanamaya kosha, it is within this body that intuitive insight happens, and it is within this body that real knowledge starts being experienced. Then the last is Anandamaya kosha; the body of bliss where we connect with our true self, the greater self which is our supreme consciousness. Each and every kosha are interconnected with one another.
The physical body is the grossest of all the five koshas and it is often with this one that the majority of us identify as ourselves. It is where our sensory interaction with the universe takes place, and its within this layer that we “normally” interact with our environment. In the Vedas (Hindu scripture) it is written that we are composed of food we eat. Consequently it is very important to understand what is taking place when we are eating. We have to realize the importance of the quality of what we are eating, especially if we are completely composed of this material we consume. If we want to optimized the outcome of our harvest, it is important to work the soil previously with proper fertilizers. It is the same for our corporal garden, that the more we take care of it, and the better we feed ourselves, the better our physical body will be. Our physical body is a field where we can easily observe our state of being. We can easily work on our body and modify it.
The Annamaya kosha will often be the medium by which more profound disorders will express themselves. For example, when someone has chronic digestive problems it is often psychosomatic in nature. The person lives through a situation probably too hard to digest emotionally, mentally and spiritually and this disorder manifests itself through stomachache or ulcers.
In the practice of Hatha yoga, especially in asanas (postures) and the shatkarmas (cleansing practices), special attention is given to the Annamaya kosha. With their practice, we learn to look and feel the body, we try to understand the messages it tries to send us. There are trillions of cells moving through our body and each of them have some kind of intelligence. Maybe we should try to listen to what they have to say! The postures and movements done while doing asanas free the tension accumulated from our past experience, they tone and massage our organs, and by doing so this allows energy to move freely and harmoniously.
The prana is the vital force, which exists within every living thing, human, animal, plant, the whole planet and even the whole universe. It exists everywhere around us and varies in force and quality.
The energetic body is composed of thousand and thousand of nadis, energy channel which have roots in what are called the chakras. Chakras are subtle energy vortex situated along the spinal cord. Each chakra is related to a certain energy and our goal is to make sure that every single of those vortex work at its full capacity. We will see later on how to work on them and how they work on us. It is a fascinating reality that can be very helpful if we allow it to be. Because it is very subtle people have tendencies to deny their existence; they can’t see it or observe it scientifically. If everything was too easy to experience the game would lose its originality.
The prana can also be see as the electric current moving through our body it is the mode of transport of all information that goes in and out of ourselves. It is necessary to every single action or tough; without prana in our body we died. It is like without sun we won’t be able to survive because the sun is our ultimate source of prana. When we eat an apple we eat the prana of the sun transform in fructose and water etc etc. This prana do the same work trough our cell, and trough our mind. There is different level of energy like there is different sources.
We can work directly on the pranic body with pranayama practices. As I will explain later, most of the time this work takes the form of breathing exercises Simply put, by working on the breath we work on our pranic bodies. It is quite simple to understand this by likening our breath to the primary workings of low an engine, and thus, the human body needs air to run properly. By working on our breath we induce the proper amount of air in our body to make it work more efficiently. Imagine the pump for your bicycle, needing air to fill itself, such as with your lungs, and then the air is pumped into your tires: your body receiving oxygen through the action of breathing and the pumping of your heart. The model of the engine is an effective one to imagine for us.
Yogis have thousand of years of expertise in those techniques of pranayama, and I think we have a lot to learn from it and a lot to experience with it, and we must never forgot that we are here to experience and widen our consciousness. From our learnings and our experience, we can be most certain that pranayama can be a wonderful tool for us to use throughout our lives.
It is within this body that our intellect, our thought and our reasoning takes place. It is a naturally intimately related with the two previous bodies. It is through its main command centre that the movement of the body will take place. It is where information from the environment around us comes in and orders go out. It is here were we bridge the outside world with the inside world. We can imagine the interaction between ourselves as an inner being and ourselves as an outer being. It is through this layer that we experience the ego; the limitation of our self. But it is through this body that one can realize its limitation and can coordinate proper action to rectified is course and play more harmoniously with is whole potential. Manomaya kosha is expressing its capability via different component, as we know our cells have some kind of intelligence and its not because their structure are different then our brain structure that we should deny their immense potential. And it is probably true to many other component of our being. When the scientist said that we use only one tenth of our brain capacity this mean that there is a huge potential waiting for use to awaken and its part of our role in this game to try to find a way to release this energy and enjoy its magic.
With the practice of concentration, meditation and kundalini yoga we can realize this capacity within us, we can find a way to listen to the other realities. Our self (inner) is talking to our self (outer); the spirit within is always giving us insight and clues to the game around us. If we can find a way to tune our being properly we can manage to grasp and understand the silent words of wisdom that will come to us, in the guise of instinct. Slowly by sharpening our awareness through different practice and technique we can learn to listen to every kind of intelligence within and outside ourselves.
This way of listening will then awaken in us another kind of understanding and another way to experience life at yet an even subtler level, and then we have great access to our next body: vijnanamaya kosha.
The fourth layer is quite translucent, and as such, it doesn’t truly veil our perception of the true reality. It is throughout this layer that the self finds expression and it is within this layer that we connect with our much wider being; our real essence. Vijnamaya kosha is the entry door of the subtle reality of all being and all things. It is within this layer that one can perceive and touch the other now and other here. No mind is needed here, and no concept or theory will make it more concrete and tangible to understand it, the way you would parts of the brain. Instead it is the layer that allows just the flow of life to express its pure entity. It is our intuitive body and our astral authenticity. On this level of reality all beings are connected with each other, every movement or thought has an influence on the other beings around us and vice versa. Most of us are unaware of it, we go on thinking of our individuality, our limited self as being our only reality but there is a much greater truth and if we take the necessary attitude we can realize this beautiful, complex and infinite reality and their we start to really enjoy the game, we start to realize or infinite possibility.
Here, if our ego is still present, even if it is no more tainted by our mind pollution, we can’t really proceed consciously to the next layer. The next layer being our spirit our real essence what is call our Atman, that is the expression of God at the microcosmic reality. How can we experience the infinite by separating ourselves from it to look at it with detached regard? The absolute with the concept of “I” or “me” regarding it at a mental level cannot be call ed absolute but when it is experienced without the “I” , then we can maybe call it absolute. What does it mean truly—the absolute, the infinite?
What to say about this body? How can its reality be expressed through words and a conceptual framework? This is the spirit within every single expression of our world and of every other world if any other can be experience. If you try too look deeply into your being you will find it very difficult to experience who you really are, and if you continue, persevere in your attempt maybe you will get a glimpse of what you are not and slowly realize that there is something vast, too vast to even try to see or feel it, then maybe you’ll be incline to let go and then maybe you will understand what I mean by losing your ego.
Some people call it the infinite light other the complete abyss, but for sure, saints and sages for centuries has express the necessity to lose our ego, to be able to realize the impermanence of thing and to experience the reality as it express itself to use here and now.
The different bodies are the textile giving colours and textures to our envelopes. By working on them we can design and modified our pattern. We have the power to give to our soul, our pawn or our actor a wonderful dress with which it will be able to express its infinite nature during the play.
We have the possibility to built the player with whom we gone play the game, so it belongs to us to take the appropriate time to create it suitably and consciously.