This week I have been spending time in class speaking about the five layers of the body. You may not even realize that you have so many layers to your body, or perhaps you thought there were more. According to the teachings of yoga there are five, and so let’s begin there.
The first layer of the body is the Physical Body – also known as the food body or Anna-Maya Kosa, which refers to the most immediate and tangible sensations of your Physical Body. It is very important in yoga class that we cultivate our relationship with our physical body. If we are attempting a yoga posture or a sequence of postures without simultaneously learning about our anatomical structure then we are putting our Physical Body in harms way.
The second layer of the body is the Breath Body – also knows as the Vital Body or Prana-Maya Kosa. Once we are aligned properly in our Physical Body and we are directing ourselves to go deeper into the position it is important to keep enough space for the Breath Body. If we find ourselves so deep into a posture that we cannot feel our Breath Body pulsing then we know we are too far. It is ideal to leave a little space ahead of you to breathe into and to allow the breath to guide your deeper into an asana.
The third layer of the body is the Mental Body – also known as the Thought Body or Mano-Maya Kosa. I like to think of this body in relationship to the process of writing. My mind does the thinking, and yet somehow it seems as though my fingers know just what to say. There is a relationship through the nervous system between the sprouts of my mind and the buds of my words on the page, which could not arrive there if there was no intelligence in my fingers, hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, chest, neck and eyes to reveal the workings of my mind. This is Mano-Maya Kosa – the ability of the mind and the body to correspond.
The fourth layer of the body is the Witnessing Body – also knows as Consciousness or Vijnana-Maya Kosa. This wise part of ourselves is able to witness everything else that goes on. It can witness the dialogue between the Mind, the Breath and the Physical Body. It can remain an un-interrupting observer.
When the Witnessing Body is able to observe that the Physical Body, the Breath Body and Mental Body are all is a state of peace, harmony, equilibrium – like when we lay in shavasana at the end of a great yoga class – then the fifth layer of the body may reveal itself. This fifth layer is known as Ananda-Maya Kosa or the Bliss Body.
It is nice to remember that no matter where we go – all layers of the body are present. It isn’t only in yoga class that we can take a moment to watch the Breath Body. This watching immediately brings the Mental Body, and the Witnessing Body into harmony with the Breath Body and the Physical Body. Learning how to pay attention to the breath throughout the day is a bit like playing hide and seek with the divine.
Try This: Next time you find yourself with a spare moment, rather then check your phone/email, stand up or sit up a little straighter until you can feel at least one more inch of length in your whole spine. Then start to breathe in and out through your nose and notice how your ribcage expands and contracts with your deeper breaths. Allow your mind to let go of any other tasks but watching the movement of your breath body. Do this for one minute and then simply notice how you feel. Perhaps you will have the opportunity to tap into your Bliss Body while waiting for a subway or a text from someone special.