The Koshas are the facets or levels of human being. They form a road map for the journey of self-discovery. This map of being comes from an ancient spiritual science called Vedanta, and is extremely useful in understanding how Yoga postures work, in the context of gaining self-knowledge.
The following description outlines the area of activity of each Kosha, its relationship to health, and how Yoga postures help to create balance in each.
ANNAMAYAKOSHA - (Physical Body) - relates to all of the systems of the physical body as well as the five elements of the physical body - earth, water, fire, air, and space.
In terms of health, the Annamayakosha relates to balance in the physical systems as well as balance in the elements. Yoga Asanas (postures) are a primary vehicle for balancing the physical body and Ayurvedic doshas.
PRANAMAYAKOSHA - (Energy Body) - the subtle energy systems of the body, including the chakras (energy centers) and the Prana Vayus (main energy currents).
In terms of health, the Pranamayakosha relates to balance in the energy systems as well as the intake and flow of prana throughout our being.
Prana is the source energy that gives life to all of creation. When prana is blocked or stagnant, disease can occur. Yoga postures remove constrictions from the chakras and open the energy channels.
MANOMAYAKOSHA - (Psycho-Emotional Body) - the basic drives and the emotional responses associated with them. These include the flight or fight response, survival and reproduction, social roles and personality.
Manomayakosha relates to psycho-emotional health. Blockage in this body manifests initially as stress and eventually as physical or mental illness. Hatha Yoga Postures are a main vehicle for relieving stress and allowing relaxation.
VIJNYANAMAYAKOSHA - (Wisdom Body) - discriminative wisdom and intuition, as well as the insight to detect patterns of living which are emotionally painful and physically harmful.
It is through the Wisdom Body that we are able to become the Witness or observer of these patterns and eventually transform them. Yoga postures develop the calm concentration essential for the Wisdom Body.
ANANDAMAYAKOSHA - (Bliss Body) - the true Self, which is more fundamental than the personality. The nature of this Self is one of inner directedness bliss, stillness, and contentment. Experience of the Anandamayakosha tends to be temporary, and through a process of deepening awareness of our true nature, we come to realize ourselves as complete and whole in each moment. Yoga postures are a doorway to awareness of this true Self.
All of the Koshas are part of an all-encompassing principle of Unity and oneness called Brahman. All of existence including ourselves and the world around us, are aspects of this single Unity.
This explanation of the Koshas is from "Yoga Teachers' Toolbox",
by Joseph and Lilian Le Page. (c) 2005