Five Koshas of Yoga – Yoga for Mental Health
Introducing the Five Koshas of Yoga
Before we talk about the Five Koshas, let’s begin with agreeing that yoga is a little bit of magic! In recent years, I have become fascinated by how yoga can help mental health. It has been a mind-expanding dive into understanding the layers of what makes us human and our interaction with our yoga practice.
Yoga works from the inside out – and the outside in!
OUTSIDE – IN – by this I mean by working on the physical body and energy (pranic) body this creates a state of balance and this can be called Sattvic and it creates shifts in mind and body.
INSIDE – OUT – working on our thought forms and emotional patterns and behaviours to create tangible shifts in our outer body through meditation, mindfulness, chanting, jnana yoga (study of yoga)
It’s pretty amazing stuff!
In regards to mental health and yoga, it’s all about balancing the Koshas. To begin, yoga therapy uses the Koshas to help identify the different levels of the psyche in a person. In turn, we notice where the imbalances are and then create a programme to help manage the issues that are arising.
A kosha means a sheath. There are seen to be five koshas as part of the human energetic body
Ultimately, yoga is a multi-faceted approach to emotional, mental and physical wellbeing. Most people get into yoga through physical practice, to get fit, feel strong or flexible. However, the other side effects are so great that often people start to journey deeper and enjoy a process of understanding and self-discovery!
This holistic approach encompasses movement (asana), breathwork (pranayama), meditation, chanting (Bhakti yoga). All of which work on different aspects of self to help balance body and mind.
What are the Five Koshas?
Anna means food. This is the food body or the physical body. By practising asana yoga, eating well, resting the body and feeling well in the body you are taking care of this kosha. By practising asana yoga at least 45 minutes a week can help to balance mental health and keep stress and anxiety at a manageable level if this is what you experience.
Prana means energy or, life force. This is your energetic body. It is the vital force that delivers the breath, which in turn helps move the body and feed the senses. The best way to balance this kosha is through asana practice and pranayama and meditation. Have you ever come out of a yoga class and feel so much better than when you went in and wondered why? It happens to all of us, here are a few reasons below.
Mano means the mind. It processes thoughts and emotions. It is in direct control of the operation, through the prana of the physical body and senses. When things are clear, it functions well. When it is clouded over, the deeper levels of the mind are clouded too. Meditation practices can help to unearth the deeper illusions of the mind and help to bring stillness in thoughts, controlling the monkey mind.
Vijnana means knowing. This exists underneath the thinking mind and is the deeper level of self, or is the I-ness/ego conscious. This is a positive part of the self, but it can get clouded over as well and meditation can help to stay in touch with judgement and discernment. It is the truth seekers kosha, to go inwards and understand internal consciousness.
Ananda means Bliss – but not bliss as we expect it in day to day life. This is the deepest and most subtle layer, and it means peace, joy, love that is beyond the mind. One great way to encourage it into your life is through Seva – acts of selfless service. At this stage, it is important to remember that bliss is not seen as something you feel but in fact, something you are! It is a state of wholeness, pure connection and integration with the moment and with self.
In order to find balance in body and mind, an understanding of the koshas in your yoga practice means you are working towards equilibrium. It takes some time! Maybe, spend a little bit of time exploring one Kosha at a time and discovering ways you can introduce or balance it within your lifestyle.
You never know, you may discover a little more magic along the way.
Always remember that you are not alone. If you need support with your mental health, there is help such as the Mental Health Foundation.
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