Definition - What does Pancha Kosha mean?
Pancha Kosha is the concept in yogic philosophy that there are five layers, or sheaths, around the human soul. The term comes from the Sanskrit pancha, meaning “five,” and kosha meaning “sheath.”
Pancha Kosha consists of:
- Annamaya kosha — the food sheath
- Pranamaya kosha — the breath sheath
- Manomaya kosha — the mind sheath
- Vijnanamaya kosha — the intellect sheath
- Anandamaya kosha — the bliss sheath
The path of yoga is said to heighten one's understanding and awareness of these sheaths. Eventually, the aim of yoga is to move inward, taking a journey through these sheaths and uncovering one's true nature, or Atman (the inner Self). Then one finds unity as the relationship of Atman with Brahman (the universal Consciousness) is realized.
Yogapedia explains Pancha Kosha
The model of Pancha Kosha comes from the Taittirya Upanishad and is said to be one of the most ancient conceptualizations of the human being. The Pancha Kosha can be thought of as hiding one's true nature. Once they are removed, they leave a void, which also needs to be removed to reveal Atman.
One of the ways of working with Pancha Kosha is to undertake a Pancha Kosha meditation, which takes one's awareness through the fives sheaths, on the path to Self-realization.
Each of the koshas have their own way that they relate to our sense of self:
- Annamaya kosha - This is the physical body which needs food and nourishment to thrive. It is said to be the most vulnerable of the koshas and manifests any deficiencies on the other layers. Practicing Hatha yoga asanas works primarily with the annamaya kosha.
- Pranamaya kosha - This is the sheath that exists within the physical body and is composed of life force energy, or prana. It flows in the circulatory, lymphatic and nervous systems. Pranayama works with this kosha.
- Manomaya kosha - This is the mind which governs perception of the world and it is where one's sense of Self develops, along with the way it behaves. Yoga nidra transcends the two outer koshas to allow the manomaya kosha to be penetrated.
- Vijnanamaya kosha - This is the conscious sheath and intellect which governs one's sense of ethics and morals. It is also responsible for inner growth and the acquisition of knowledge, which can occur through studies of sacred texts.
- Anandamaya kosha - This is the most subtle body and is generally only perceived in brief flashes of bliss. It is where we experience unity with the universal Consciousness. This experience can only be realized when consciousness is expanded deeper than the material world. Meditation every day for at least 20 minutes is said to help experience anandamaya kosha.