Another important concept in yoga is that of koshas. These are the sheaths that comprise human existence – from the external physical body to internal awareness. As each layer peels back, the true self is more and more revealed.
Layer #1 – Annamaya Kosha
This kosha comprises the physical body only. The limbs of ashtanga it correlates to are yama and niyama (practices of self restraint and self-discipline), as well as asana, which refers to the physical pose only.
The chakra association is the muladhara, or root chakra, as all other layers grow out of this layer.
Layer #2 – Pranamaya Kosha
This sheath is made up of the vital energy of the body, and so is associated with the manipura chakra in the upper abdomen – which controls the diaphragm, responsible for the breath. This kosha is tied to the ashtanga limb of prana as well.
The pranamaya kosha (the energetic body) is further divided into five specific types of energy:
- Prana – focused in the heart chakra and inhaling, drawing in energy
- Apana – focused in the root and swadhisthana chakras, associated with the removal of waste
- Samana – focused on the manipura chakra, and digestion
- Udana – focused in the throat and third eye chakra, associated with the energy expanded out, and how we react to the outside world
- Vyana – the combination of all four pranas
Layer #3 – Manomaya Kosha
This kosha is the layer at which a person can make the most basic mental and emotional processes, and so resides in the swadhisthana chakra in the lower belly – an area linked to instinctual feelings and thoughts. This layer is connected to the ashtanga limbs of pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) and dharana (concentration)
Layer #4 – Vijnamaya Kosha
At this layer of wisdom, a person can use their mental and emotional faculties at a more advanced level, and so is linked to the ashtanga limb of dhyana (meditation). It is tied to the heart chakra.
Layer #5 – Anandamaya Kosha
This layer is the transcendental sheath, connected to the vishuddi (throat) chakra and higher). It is the state of enlightenment, samadhi.
The koshas, chakras, and types of prana all work together to provide a framework to understand the body and how energy flows throughout it. Below is a handy summary chart.