Who am I ?
Have you ever asked yourself the question of who you are? Are you your body? Are you your mind?
In Yoga, it is believed that human beings have 5 levels of energy bodies, mutually coexisting, ranging from the most gross to the most subtle one, called the Pancha Koshas (5 sheaths of human existence). We need all of these five sheaths to be alive, they’re connected and dependent on each other. That’s why it’s important to become more aware of these 5 sheaths and to learn how to maintain them and balance them out as it’s very common that we’re dominant in one of these bodies. For example, you do a lot of sport, train your body physically and also meditate a lot but you rarely focus on your breathing and never sing or hum, then you would be dominant in the first two but would need to work on the last two to rebalance these bodies.
Annamaya Kosha is our physical body, also called the food body as it’s dependent on food, water and air to survive. It’s the most subtle body and the heart, the arteries and the veins are an important part of it. More important than food and water to keep this body alive, is the air though, which contains fresh oxygen for our cells and organs. If the heart stops working, this body stops working.
How do you keep this Kosha in balance? Well, by being active, by practicing Asana for example, by stretching and toning the body, the tissues and the organs.
Pranamaya Kosha is the energy sheath, a system of Prana (meaning: vital force) flowing through energy channels (Nadis) that are woven into the physical body. This body is more subtle than the physical one, which it supports and infuses with life into every cell. The practice to balance this one is Pranayama (breathing). When practicing breathing, we control the energy in our body with our breath and direct it with our minds.
The mental body performs many functions simultaneously, it holds the two grosser Koshas, Annamaya and Pranamaya united together. The mind acts as a messenger between the bodies, conveying the experiences and sensations from the external world to them. To train the mind and to make our brain grow, we can study ancient texts, read books or use practices like Yoga Nidra. Your brain adapts to the way you use it. The same way your body changes and grows, your brain grows as well. If you always use your brain in the same habitual pattern, your brain doesn’t evolve but if you use it in a different way, learn new things, it creates new neural pathways and grows.
Vijnanamaya Kosha is the esoteric body or also said to be the body of intuition and subtle energies (Chakras). Again, it’s more subtle than the three Koshas above. This layer is made out of vibration and frequency and one of the Yoga practices to awaken it is Nada Yoga, the Yoga of sound and Mantras. In Yoga we chant Mantras, which are known as Divine Speech. All ancient Mantras are in Sanskrit language, a language that is no longer actively used but every syllable has a meaning, every Mantra has an intention. So, these chants, these Mantras can be a very powerful tool if you want to work with your Vijnanamaya Kosha.