Involution and the 5 Koshas
We all come to the mat for different reasons, but we may eventually realise that we return to the mat, time after time, because our experience of yoga starts to invoke a much deeper and more fulfilling experience than why we came in the first place. For many, Yoga becomes the journey inward. It introduces us to a place where we begin to meet ourselves.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the 5 Koshas in yoga; you can think of them as sheaths or layers of our being. The 5 Koshas work from the “gross” - the outermost layer, to the more subtle - the innermost layer of ourselves. Even though there are many different ways to work with the Koshas, there is no greater place to start to experience this beautiful journey inwards then in a yoga class.
In yoga asana we begin with the first Kosha - the Annamaya Kosha – or the physical layer of the body. It’s the most tangible layer and includes your muscles, bones, skin, organs and so on. We practice asana (yoga postures) to create space in the body, to shift our physical energy, release tension, build strength and openness, realign our muscles and bones, and perhaps in some ways even challenge or transcend some of the physical limitations of the body.
As our practice progresses we begin to connect our postures, the movement, to the breath and our second Kosha - the Pranamaya Kosha – or our energetic body. Here we connect with our breath to help find stability in the body, the mind and heart. Our breath, also known as prana, is the life force energy of the body, it expands beyond the physical body into what we might call - the “vibe”. (Yes it is that vibe, you know the one that people will point out happily on a work day like, "ooh she’s giving off a vibe today"…it’s that one!) When you’re giving off a certain energetic vibe people feel it, so much of how we communicate with the world around us happens on an energetic level.
The third Kosha - the Manamayakosha - is the mental and emotional layers of the body, this is where our thoughts, patterns and emotions are stored layer upon layer. You may notice in your class that as your practice progresses and you are in flow with the postures and the breath, your prana becomes smoother, more subtle; your mind begins to become more quiet and your emotions a little more stable; or perhaps, even changed from when you first started the practice.
This gradual journey inward - the effects of the posture, the subtleness of the breath, the focus or concentration of the mind, gradually leads us deeper into the layer of our intuitive body. The fourth Kosha - the Vijnanamaya kosha, is a beautiful place to arrive in a practice. It’s the layer of intuition and awareness. Here is where we have autonomy over the physical, mental and emotional bodies, and we begin to move more intuitively knowing what will serve us. We practice, not striving to arrive somewhere or to have to attain a particular posture, but to connect to the journey inwards. We connect to our inner wisdom, moving and practicing with more self awareness, going with the flow, so to speak, and perhaps even finding spaces in our practice where stillness and silence slips in,
Then we gracefully arrive at the fifth and final layer – the Anandamaya Kosha – or our Bliss Body. This is what we might come to know as our natural state of peace, where we find our connection to our fullest self and we embrace the experience as oneness with all beings. Like a deep awakening or a welcome unveiling we begin to recognise, not through intellect but through connection, that this sense of oneness or love is our most natural state of reality.
Next time you journey onto the mat, I invite you to allow yourself to become available to the practice of “involution”, knowing that the practice of yoga exists not to change or transform or evolve, but to reveal to us what is already and always existing within.
About the author:
Marian Ibrahim first discovered yoga while training and performing as a dancer in her early adult years but it was many years later with 3 kids in tow that Marian’s passion for yoga grew and translated into a practice that would not only rekindle her love for movement and flow but also help her create real change in all areas of her life... Reconnecting and falling in love with the enquiry, self awareness and grounding that yoga brings.
Marian teaches yoga in Wollongong through Flow Collective Yoga at Bulli Surf Club. You can find her on Mondays at 9:30am. Book into one of her classes through our bookng link.