The koshas or sheaths, are layers of our being that make up the totality of who we are body, mind and spirit. There are five of these sheaths that organize our being into different levels through which we can attain optimal health and happiness. It is a way of understanding how both health and illness can affect not just the physical body, organs and systems, but also the energy, emotions and mental states as well. For example, when we do yoga asanas, we are moving the physical body, we are breathing more deeply, our mind and emotions are clear, we are quiet to receive intuitive thought and we are attaining glimpses of our utmost selves. Different yogic and other practices will affect different koshas but a change made on one level will be made subtly on all levels.
When we are affected by a disease such as cancer, the four outer koshas are also affected. The body may be in pain, the energy suffers, the mind and emotions are in turmoil and we may be less closely in touch with our innate knowing due to the stress and worry of dealing with the disease. Only the inner most sheath is immune to the affects of disease. This core of who we truly are, the Atman, remains unblemished and untarnished by any disease or injury, whole and perfect and always present.
Anamaya Kosha (Physical Body)
The outer most sheath is the physical body comprised of the muscles, bones, skin, hair, blood vessels and organs. This is where we usually first notice illness and injury in the body because we spend the majority of our time focused on the sensations arising from the body.
- Practices that Nourish: Eating whole healthy foods, Asana and other forms of physical exercise
Pranamaya Kosha (Energy Body)
The second outermost sheath is the energetic or pranic body comprised of our nervous system, our internal battery, the aura, and the prana within our cells. We are aware of our pranic body usually when we feel particularly energetic or fatigued.
- Practices that Nourish: Pranayama and getting enough sleep
Manomaya Kosha (Mental/Emotional Body)
The next innermost sheath is the mental/emotional body which encompasses all of our thoughts and feelings, opinions, judgments, memories and reactions. We spend much of our time tied up in the whirlwind of our minds and emotional reactions and all psychological disorders directly affect this kosha.
Vijnanamaya Kosha (Wisdom Body)
The next innermost sheath is the wisdom body comprised of our intuitive knowledge and innate knowing. Our wisdom that comes not from what we have learned in our life time but what we innately know to be true.