In Yoga, we view the body in layers, much like a Russian doll.
These layers are known as the Koshas
We work from periphery to the core, peeling back layers to connect in to the internal light.
The outermost layer is the flesh and bones, that we can see with the naked eye. As we travel inward, the layers become less dense. Just as ice melts into water and evapourates into steam - the layers of the body get more and more subtle in nature. The innermost layer of the body is our deepest soul essence.
ANNAMAYA KOSHA is the PHYSICAL layer
The outermost layer is the muscles, bones, joints, blood, organs - everything that exists in the physical, tangible realm. The most obvious way we work with this layer is through yoga asana/ postures. We stretch, strengthen, stress and relax the physical body to bring it into a state of balance and STABILITY.
PRANAMAYA KOSHA is the ENERGETIC layer
Now we delve into the unseen but very much felt layer of the body. This layer is home to the CHAKRAS (energy centres that we will learn about later on). You cannot see energy but you can feel its presence through physical and emotional sensations. Energy flows where our attention goes. Breath work can help to move energy in certain directions around the body. When the energy is free flowing we feel a complete sense of VITALITY.
MANAMAYA KOSHA is the MENTAL layer
This layer expresses itself through thought. It receives information through the senses and then makes decisions to act. The mind can get very caught up in memory and ego - consumed by expectations, judgments and comparison. The mind is wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. An individual's perception of "pain" and "pleasure" is coloured by beliefs formed in childhood and other life experiences. Overtime we form habitual patterns in the way we think and behave. When we realise we are not our thoughts, we sense total CLARITY.
VIJNANAMAYA KOSHA is the INTELLECTUAL layer
This layer is far more objective and discerning than the mental layer. It is removed from emotional and ego ties. This layer draws on an inner WISDOM - an intuitive knowing that allows us to see our habitual patterns for what they are (to see TRUTH) and to see where we might adjust. It is the PAUSE between receiving external stimulus and making the decision to act. It is the choice to respond as opposed to react. Through conscious action (DARES), we begin to rewire our thought patterns and beliefs.
ANANDAMAYA KOSHA is the DIVINE layer
The final layer is the true core of our being. It is a space that is free of ego, of time, of space. There is no comparison, no fear, no judgment. It may be considered pure love or pure light. It is that which continues to live on even after the other layers are gone. It is the essence of our soul from which exists only BLISS.