Episode 52: Yoga Beyond The Physical Body

This week, I wanted to highlight the many areas of yoga that no one talks about. The idea of experiencing contentment and bliss, which for many of us can seem like a far fetched dream.

In the this episode, you can listen to the full podcast, or continue reading to develop your understanding of the five koshas, or layers of our being, from the densest to the subtlest elements of our existence and how these can be tapped into through practicing yoga.

I often see people start yoga focusing on the physical benefits, such as increased flexibility, reduced aches and pains, improved bone health, along with creating the opportunity to slow down the mind and feel calmer. Yoga is a much needed antidote to todays busy modern world, where we are often physically and even more so, mentally, juggling many things.

However, when we expand our perspective we can use yoga as a tool to help achieve a deep inner contentment, of coming back home to who we truly are, without all the self-doubt, judgements and the need to be striving for something else. We can simply breathe and be.

Whilst it’s true we are physical beings here on earth, we are also so much more than that. You are a multidimensional creature.

One way to expand our view of the human experience is to understand the five koshas, or layers of consciousness. From the densest to the subtlest elements of existence. “yoga” translates to “yoke” or “union,” you may approach your yoga practice with a desire to experience the wholeness of who you are; that is, to experience all five koshas. I’ve mentioned these five layers before in relation to yoga nidra, in podcast episode #19 The Best Kept Secret to Deep Relaxation.

We can think of these 5 layers as the layers of an onion that can get peeled back. Or I think it’s more fun to think of them as Russian dolls. Where the inner doll is the inner layer of bliss.

So, lets take a look at the 5 koshas, or 5 dolls if you like, which can be journeyed through on the yoga mat in a yoga class, including my yoga flow and relaxing wind down yoga classes.

Starting from the outermost, densest layer, moving inward, the five layers are:

1. Annamaya kosha—Physical Layer: The first layer of our being consists of the physical body (or “food”). It includes the bones, muscles, fat, connective tissue, organs, and skin. It is something we can see, touch and/or feel. Typically at the start of one of my yoga classes, we take a moment to connect with the physical body here on the mat, this might be by feeling the parts of the body that connect with the mat underneath, it can be by bringing awareness to the spine and releasing the shoulders up back and down.