Yoga and the Koshas for Spiritual, Mental and Physical Health
by Swami Sitaramananda
Yoga Farm Director
Swami Sitaramananda is a senior disciple of Swami Vishnudevananda and acharya of the US West Coast centers and Ashram. Swamiji is also the acharya of the Sivananda mission in Asia, especially in Vietnam, where she hails from.
Yoga Heals on the Spiritual, Mental and Physical Levels.
Here’s how – Yoga works on all three bodies: the physical body, astral body, and causal body. In this article, we will learn about three bodies and how Yoga heals them.
Each person has a physical body made of matter, an astral body containing prana and thoughts, and a causal body which contains the quality of spirit.
The three bodies are made up of the five “koshas” or sheaths. Below is a breakdown of the three bodies and their corresponding koshas:
Physical Body – The Vehicle for the Soul
Annamaya Kosha – The Food Illusion Sheath
- Made of food
- Composed of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether.
Astral Body – A Subtle Body that the Eyes Cannot See
Pranamaya Kosha – The Energy Body
- Made of prana or vital life force
Physicalbody is able to live and act because of prana
Manomaya Kosha – The Mind
- Contains your mind/emotions/thoughts
- Thoughts and emotions move the prana
Vijnanamaya Kosha – The Intellect
- Contains intellect and discrimination
- This is the power to know and discern
Causal Body – The Core from Which Your Karma Originates
Anandamaya Kosha – The Bliss Sheath
- A thin veil of ignorance
- Subtle identification with separateness
- Here you experience your true blissful nature
To help you understand, it’s good to know that the
How to Purify the Three Bodies
Yoga is purification. That is why in Sivananda Yoga we focus primarily on the purification process. The purification process means you have to clean out the gross veils, all these aforementioned
The good news is that there are many different ways to purify. Below are the ways you can purify each kosha. Then you can experience health and peace of mind.
How to Purify the Physical Body
Firstly, you purify the gross physical body and identification with it. This can be accomplished through asanas (yoga postures) and the practice of proper vegetarian diet. If you eat a proper diet then your body will function properly and will not be a hindrance.
Proper Exercise – Asana
- Removes blockages and toxins in the body
- Increases strength and flexibility
- Tones organs, tissues and muscles
- Reduces stress
- + many more health benefits
Proper Diet – Vegetarian
- A proper diet is Sattvic or pure
- Avoid foods that dull or overstimulate the mind
- Food prepared with digestive spices
- Food that is not overcooked or undercooked
- Avoid drugs and alcohol
- Organic, whole, unprocessed foods
- A vegegtarian diet follows the principle of Ahimsa (non-violence)
- Heals and prevents disease and toxic buildup in the physical body
fullrange of nutrition for optimal function
How to Purify the Astral Body
Pranayama – Proper Breathing
Complete Yogic Breath
- Control of Breath = Control of Prana
- Use the full lung capacity
- Inhale and exhale into the diaphragm, ribcage and chest
- Reduces stress; activates
- Forceful exhalation, passive inhalation
- Removes stail air from the lungs
- Clears blockages in the Nadis or energy system
- Increases mental clarity, concentration and focus
- Alternate Nostril Breathing
- Balances prana, mind and emotions
- Increases pranic energy and overall vitality
- Leads to mental and emotional health
Thirdly, you can purify the Manomaya kosha through meditation, positive thinking, proper behavior, karma yoga (selfless service), bhakti yoga (devotion),
Dhyana – Meditation
- Connects us with a Reality beyond thoughts and emotions
- Brings inner strength and peace of mind
- Provides clarity of purpose in life
- Increases concentration
- Being aware of negative thoughts
- Replace negative thoughts with positive ones
- Practice positive affirmations
- Over time eradicate negative and wrong thinking
Yamas and Niyamas
- Ethical foundation of Yoga
- Yamas include: Non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, chastity, and non-greed
- Niyamas include: purity, contentment, austerity, scripture study, and surrender of the ego
- Purifies the mind and the heart, removes selfishness
- Sublimates the emotions to devotion
- Opens the heart
- Surrender to God
- “Do your best, surrender the rest”
- Let go of attachments to results of action
- Purifies the heart and the ego
- Overcome likes and dislikes
- Gain a flexible mind
Fourthly, in order to purify the Vijnanamaya
- The Study of Vedanta (Yoga Philosophy)
- Highest level of knowledge
- Knowledge passed down by Rishis or enlightened sages
- Teaches unity of life
- Proclaims the common Self in All
- The limited ego or “little s” self makes you feel separate
- Your true nature, or “Big S” Self is one with everything
- Self inquiry is a Jnana Yoga technique
- Always inquire: “Who am I?”
- Assert the you are Brahman, the imperishable supreme soul
- Brahman is one with everything
- Brahman is Sat (existence) Chit (knowledge) Ananada (bliss) absolute
- Happiness is your true nature
In order to practice Jnana Yoga and
Finally, through Samadhi you transcend the Anandamaya
The thin veil of spiritual ignorance is burned when you experience
Conclusively, the four paths of yoga lead to the unveiling of the five koshas and heal on a spiritual, mental and physical level. The four paths of Yoga are karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga (which includes Hatha Yoga) and jnana yoga.
In other words, practicing the five points and the four paths of yoga will lead the three bodies to be healed. When you remove spiritual ignorance, you come closer your True Nature. That is to
The classical Yoga teaching is always about Self-realization, with nothing else but that realization as the end goal. However, spiritual ignorance makes us believe ourselves to be something other than Self, which is when we are identifying with the
Alternately, we identify with our thinking in the mind and then the thinking becomes solidified and it manifests as karma. After that, the soul is born in the physical body in order to work through solidified karmic tendencies that come from the spiritual ignorance in the first place.
For the healing aspect of yoga, we have to go into the deep root cause of the wrong thinking in the first place. Because of this, Yoga primarily focuses on spiritual progress. In order for spiritual progress to take place, there must be
© Swami Sitaramananda 2018 – No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the author.
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