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5 Koshas

One way yoga therapy is different from other "therapeutic" forms, is that yoga therapy uses the kosha model to identify "dis-ease" or separation in the body/mind. The Pancha Maya Kosha model comes from the Taittiriya Upanishad composed approximately 6th century, BC.

Pancha means "5" and Maya means "illusion". The word "Kosha" may be translated as "sheath" or "layer". The 5 Koshas refer to our many dimensions of being. These 5 Koshas are the layers of our being that we identify as our selves. These layers veil our True Nature, which is Brahman, or all-pervading wholeness. Through integrating these 5 sheaths, we are able to transcend the illusion of our separate-ness. The first Kosha, Annamaya Kosha refers to the physical body and bodily systems, composed of the 5 elements: earth, water, fire, air and space. Here is where we often see and feel dis-ease occuring through physical symptoms and pain. This is the sheath of our self that is sustained by breath, food and water. The 2nd Kosha, Pranamaya Kosha refers to our energetic body - our life force or vital energy. The breath is the main vehicle for distributing our prana throughout the body. It also refers to the Chakra system - or energy centers in the body where blockages can occur. Anyone who has received acupuncture may be familiar with the idea of releasing blockages of energy within the body to release pain and restore the vital flow of energy. The 3rd Kosha, Manomaya Kosha refers to the Psycho/Emotional body. Ths is where we experience the world through our 5 senses and then interpret the information we receive through thoughts and emotions. This body ultimately forms our personality. The 4th Kosha, Vijnanamaya Kosha is known as the "Wisdom Body". This is the body we must cultivate if we are to develop the ability to step back from our pain or dis-ease and realize we are not separate, but connected to all of life. This is the awareness we cultivate through mindfulness. More on this Kosha in my next blog post! The 5th Kosha, Anandamaya Kosha, is called the "Bliss Body". This is the part of our selves that is awakened through meditation and other spiritual practices when all identification with false beliefs dissolves and we find that we are whole, content and at peace. As we integrate all of the 5 koshas on our life journey, we recognize the true nature of our being. This is the ultimate goal towards wholeness, called Brahman - the destination of our journey.

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