Western classical anatomical and physiological study divides the human body up into systems such as the circulatory, digestive, and nervous and so on. These divisions definitely make a complex organism easier to understand for a student, but by accepting that our bodies are made up of these individual parts could cause us to lose sight of just how interconnected these systems are.
Yogic physiology adds interconnection and underpinning to the Western approach by adding some extra dimension. It acknowledges the importance of the physical aspect of our bodies, but only the first part of our whole “body”. A very ancient yet tightly held yoga tradition sees us having five bodies, with each “made of increasingly finer grades of energy”. These bodies are like sheaths and sit within each other like a set of Russian Dolls. They are known as the Koshas and they are:
Anna-maya-kosha: what we see as the physical body
Prana-maya-kosha: the vital force, the animating aspect
Mano-maya-kosha: thoughts, reactions, mental processes
Vi-jnana-maya-kosha: intuition, wisdom, intelligence
Ananda-maya-kosha: innate harmony, joy, happiness, fulfilment
This term we’ll be including consideration of these subtle parts of our body in the practises which address the western tradition of body systems. Each week here in the News section I’ll expand on each layer a bit more.
If you are interested in more detail here’s the link to a very nice explanation from Linda Johnsen from Yoga International: