Pancha Maya Kosha: Five Layers to Wholeness

The Five Koshas are one of the basic models from yoga philosophy that I have found incredibly helpful for understanding both myself and others. With practice, its helped me to get to know myself better, reduced my suffering, and helped me to live my life more fully!

This simple map outlines the layers that make up human beings. From the ancient scriptures of the Upanishads,  these are the five Koshic layers of being that make you who you are:

  • Physical
  • Energy/Breath
  • Mind/Emotions
  • Witness/Wisdom
  • Bliss/Healing
  • (Beyond the Koshas: Light)

The kosha model illustrates a person as multi-dimensional with our source and foundation being the spiritual dimension. We can use this model to address each level of a person individually, and also as an integrated whole. When you feel all parts of who you truly are, then you feel in touch with yourself, your truths, and your heart, able to live with authenticity and potency.

The multi-dimensional model of the koshas is an ideal framework for the theory and practice of Divine Sleep® Yoga Nidra which involves the whole person in the healing and awakening process. In our modern era, almost any lying down guided meditation is referred to as ‘yoga nidra’. While all ‘yoga nidras’ may have some similarities and unique differences, not all yoga nidras are in fact based on the koshas.

Divine Sleep® Yoga Nidra specifically guides you through the Five Koshas in order to help you to get in touch with your whole Self. You can LISTEN AND PRACTICE HERE (click, then scroll down to VIDEO in the center of the page for a complete Divine Sleep journey).

In this practice, each level is a doorway that opens you into the next level of being/kosha. As you feel each level, they being to drop into the background to uncover your inner Bliss and Healing, as well as your true Self. In this state of connection within all of your multi-dimensional layers, potent transformation can occur. A state of Wholeness can be felt and recognized.

‘Pancha’ means five. ‘Maya’ translates as  – veil, covering, appearance, power of creation, magical power, mystery – and also – to consist, or pervade. ‘Kosha’ means – sheath, cover, subtle body, treasure, lexicon, and is derived from the root ‘kus’ which means – to enfold. The “maya” of the kosha is experienced both as unreal and as the beautiful manifestation of universal unity. ‘Maya kosha’ refers to layers of enfolding sheaths that cover our True Self.

To increase your understanding the koshas, imagine that your true Self is light, and that light is covered with five consecutive lampshades of varying color and thickness. Each lampshade is a kosha – physical, energetic, mental/emotional, wisdom and bliss (the diagram above represents this analogy). Your light shines through each koshic layer, and the colors progressively change as their qualities shift and blend between layers.

The layers create individual characteristics and yet they also obscure the pure light making it murky, cloudy, and dull. This is the human condition! As one travels inward through each layer to reach the clear point of True Self, we begin to realize life can be lived life from a place of Witnessing rather than doing/fixing/medling; Healing which balances the nervous system yin-yang active-resting; and Bliss which allows greater healing, wellness and health! This is great wisdom indeed.

We come to know and feel our inner layers through direct experience in Divine Sleep® Yoga Nidra. Feeling the koshas means you notice each part of you as only a ‘part’ – a small part of you – and that helps you to not become identified with it. “I am not my body, my body is in me”. “It is not my diabetes, I have diabetes.”, “I am not sad, I feel sadness”. The intention behind feeling and accessing each kosha is to develop the skillfulness to be able to simply be with each part of who you are with less reaction or identification with that part.

Yoga tells us that ‘awareness heals’. When you are aware that you are composed of many layers, and you visit these layers numerous times each day, you will come to know that you are so much more than your physical (your aching head or illness, for example), or your energy (fatigue, for example), or your thoughts and feelings (regrets and fears for the future, for example).

You will know that you can access your ability to Witness with love all of who you truly are, as well as the world around you. You will know and feel your innate healing forces alive within you! You will touch your eternal Bliss and Wholeness. Then like the sages, you will rest within the Wholeness of who you truly are instilling greater health, happiness and joy!

copyright Jennifer Reis Yoga© 2019

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