What Are Koshas?
Updated: Aug 5
Shrek: For your information there's a lot more to ogres than people think.
Shrek: Example? Ok um... Ogres are like onions!
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes... no.
Donkey: They make you cry?
Donkey: Oh... you leave them out in the sun and they start sprouting little white hairs!
Shrek: No! Layers. Onion have layers. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers.
Donkey: Oh, you both have layers!
Much like ogres, people also have layers. In yoga we refer to these layers as koshas. It is said that we all possess five koshas or “sheaths” to our being. These sheathes are the physical body, the energy body, the mind and emotional body, the wisdom body, and the bliss body.
When you are getting to know someone new, you may notice that there are many layers to them or different sides to their personality. The more you get to know someone, the more they might surprise you. Your perception of them might change as you get to know them on a deeper level. This happens because you are getting to know the different layers that make up who they are.
The physical body is our outermost layer and the bliss body is the innermost layer. To fully understand ourselves and how we interact in and with the world around us, it is important to understand these layers of our essential being and recognize how each layer effects our behaviors, thoughts, and actions.
1. Physical Body
This layer is responsible for how we experience the world through our physical senses. Everything we see, smell, taste, touch, and hear we are experiencing through our physical body. The sensations of feeling hungry, tired, hot or cold are also experiences felt through our physical body.
2. Energy Body
On a physiological level, the energy body is associated with the respiratory and circulatory systems. Think of this body as the electricity that pulses through your veins and keeps your blood pumping. It is not quite tangible, yet we know that it exists. Think of the energy body in terms of the motivation you have throughout the day. Sometimes you have extremely high energy and you are ready to get things done. Other times you have low energy and find yourself in a state of sluggish relaxation. The energy body is responsible for this.
3. Mind and Emotional Body
Cognitive function, emotions, ego, and judgement are all attributes of the human experience that are correlated with the mind and emotional body. When we pop the hood of a car or look beneath the surface of a human being, when we are really getting to know them, the first thing we usually look for is their mind and emotional body. If you want to discover how a person feels or thinks or why they carry themselves in a certain way, what you are trying to discover is who they are on a mental and emotional level.
4. Wisdom Body
This is where things start to get interesting. When a person is referred to as “wise” or considered to be a “deep thinker” this person is be noted for being in touch with their wisdom body. This kosha is responsible for our philosophical insights and practical reasoning. We use this kosha when pondering the meaning of life or search for truth in ourselves and the world around us. This layer of our being is responsible for the ability to comprehend the world around us. It also enables us to search for possibilities or realities outside of us.
5. Bliss Body
This kosha is the innermost layer and core of our being. It is also referred to as the soul. This layer of our being is connected to everyone and everything that ever existed. This kosha, the soul, is part of the universe, and is the universe! This layer is responsible for empathy, compassion, and joy. This sheath is said to be the only part of your being that is infinite.
The goal of a good yoga practice is to bring us into union with our bliss body. To do this, we have to be willing to look inward and work out the knots in the different layers of our bodies. When we do this, we can uncover the core of our being and find harmony with who we truly are. There is much more to our existence than meets the eye. Yoga invites us to dig deeper, move inward, and grow our understanding of the human experience. We are encouraged to peel back the layers, one at a time, and really get to know ourselves.
This experience is never disappointing.