Yoga - Koshas - YOAS Yoga on a Shoestring

The koshas, immunity and health

November 14, 2019 8:18 pm Published by

Health is complex and there are many facets that make up the full picture.

There are different approaches or maps that can be used in helping to understand the multi layered picture of complexities that have an impact on the health of the immune system.

For the purpose of this blog we are going to use the map of the koshas. The koshas are a yogic framework that present the human being as five layers or sheaths.

They are called the ‘pancha kosha’

Kosha can be translated as sheath. Pancha meaning five. Maya is illusion or that which separates.

Described in the Taittiriya Upanishad (6th century BC ) the ‘pancha kosha’ are:

~Anamaya kosha – ‘foodstuff’ or “physical’ sheath

~Pranamaya kosha – ‘energy’ or ‘physiological’ sheath

~Manomaya kosha – ‘mental’ sheath

~Vijnanamaya kosha – ‘wisdom’ sheath

~Anandamaya kosha – ‘bliss’ sheath

It is known and scientific research now confirms that the health picture is multi dimensional. The health of the immune system can be impacted upon in many ways. Diet, stress and environment are just some of the things that can have have an impact.

The koshas or layers of our make up also relate to the elements. So let’s briefly look at each kosha in relation to an element and also type of lifestyle practices that could positively impact on the immune system, overall health and balance.

Annamaya Kosha, also called the food sheath, is related to the earth element. It makes up the physical body, the most gross part of our makeup. Anna in sanskrit means food, so the nourishment of the annamaya kosha comes from the food we eat, but also from everything we ingest through the senses. The smells, the sounds, what our eyes see, the things we touch with our hands and bodies.

Eating a healthy whole foods diet, being in an environment where the sights and sounds sooth and nourish us. Giving and experiencing positive touch. All these things will give a boost to the immune system, and they are all important. It is known that an absence of physical touch and loneliness can be a significant factor in decreased immunity, whereas positive touch and community is health promoting, aiding the bodies innate capacity for healing.

Pranamaya Kosha is the energy sheath. It is connected to the element of water. It is related to the annamaya kosha in that what we absorb on the physical level is then turned into our prana, our energy. So we will experience higher levels of energy and better quality of energy from organic vegetables than processed fast food. It is also very much connected to the breath. We will be nourished by the view and fresh air on the coast more than down a polluted alley in a city. The more energy, prana we have and the higher the quality of that energy the higher our levels of vitality and immunity. Like water, prana can flow and move, it is fluid in nature.

Manomaya Kosha is made of the mind, the manas. It is linked to the element of fire. It is our sense of self and I ness. Huge potential lies in this sheath, turning ideas in creations of reality. This layer can also be a place of darkness if the energy behind the thoughts leads to an overwhelm of mental negativity. How well nourished the annamaya kosha and pranamaya kosha are have a direct link on the state of mind experienced in the manomaya kosha. Meditation practices and chanting have a very positive effect on the health of Manomaya kosha.

Vijnanamaya Kosha is linked to the element of air. It is discernment, the intellect and the embodiment of wisdom. Vijnanamaya kosha is about a state of observation. It is present throughout the other koshas even if we are not perceiving it on a conscious level. The more refinement manomaya kosha has the more we become aware of the workings of vignanamaya kosha.

Anandamaya Kosha. Ananda means bliss. A state of joy and integrated balance. It is touched when we feel in harmony, aligned to our true nature. Sometimes we get a glimpse of it at the end of a yoga practice in savasana, when in nature or when our lives are aligned to the dharma of the soul.

The 5 sheaths can be pictured as sitting one on top of the other, like the skin of an onion from the gross to the most subtle. Yet in reality they are interchanging and interconnected. They point to the holistic nature of vibrant health and immunity and the need for nourishment of the body, mind and soul.

We need proper exercise, good breathing, a nourishing diet, healthy relationships, positive thoughts and time for deep rest and relaxation. A yogic lifestyle embraced in its fullest sense offers a good map to holistically nourish and support the immune system.

Taking time for yourself on a yoga retreat or holiday offers the perfect opportunity to connect with the many facets of your whole self. See the Yoga on a Shoestring calendar of retreats. 



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