5 Layers of Our Being | iHanuman


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5 Layers of Our Being

Yoga offers us a fascinating lens through which to view our lives. Yoga philosophy tells us that the core of our being is conscious pulsating energy. This reality is hidden from us by five layers, or sheaths, called koshas, that are made up of increasingly finer grades of energy. The outer layer is the densest and is made up of matter. The other sheaths are energy states, invisible to the physical eye, although as we develop greater sensitivity we can become aware of their presence. To live a fully balanced and healthy life, yoga urges us to keep each layer strong and healthy through various yoga practices. From the yoga perspective the game of life is to penetrate these cloaks, so that our true nature can be revealed.
The first of these cloaking layers is the food body or anna-maya kosha. It is the physical body constructed of the food we eat. Yoga poses and healthy eating keep this layer healthy and functioning well.
The second layer is the energy body or prana-maya kosha. It is the vital energy or prana that breathes life into the cells and biochemicals of the physical body. When this life force is moving freely through out the body, vitality abounds. Breathing exercises, called pranayama, awaken and purify this vital energy layer.
The third layer is the mental body or mano-maya kosha. It is the autonomic system that keeps our senses and motor activities functioning just below the level of routine consciousness. It processes input from the senses and responds through our automatic functioning. A regular meditation practice soothes and balances this kosha.
The fourth layer is the intellect body or vijnana-maya kosha. It is the power of discernment, often translated as "intellect", but it also encompasses the functions of the higher mind including conscience and will. It is this layer that differentiates humans from other animals. Only humans have the ability to create their lives according to their values. The yamas and niyamas in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras are social restraints and personal practices to guide the development of a yogic life in order to help remove the veils. Th restraints include not lying, stealing, harming, overindulging, or desiring more than you need. The personal practices teach us to be content, pure, self-disciplined, studious, and devoted. In addition to these guidelines, over time a meditation practice deepens the student's ability to connect with this layer of the higher mind.
The fifth layer is the Bliss body or Ananda-maya kosha. It is the most subtle body and the most difficult to penetrate. Generally only the most serious yogis, saints, sages, and mystics have done the inner work necessary to experience this spiritual bliss. Yoga tells us that our core essence lies just beyond this state of bliss.
Through our yoga and meditation practices we can gradually come to realize the underlying unity in the world of diversity, and reach a place where we experience the deep stillness and creativity that comes from the recognition of our true nature. To know our unbounded spiritual nature frees us to live our fullest expression of life with love, confidence, and enthusiasm.

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