Yoga and the Koshas for Spiritual, Mental and Physical Health

by Swami Sitaramananda

Swami Sitaramananda

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.

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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
  • Physical body is able to live and act because of prana

Manomaya Kosha – The Mind

Vijnanamaya Kosha – The Intellect

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 sanksrit word “maya” means illusion and “kosha” means sheath. All of the five koshas are illusory sheaths that are veiling the reality of your true nature as Satchitananda—Existence, Knowledge and Bliss Absolute.

A graphic illustrating the three bodies and the five koshas: Physical Body, Astral Body, Causal Body. Annamaya kosha, Pranamaya kosha, Manomaya kosha, Vijnanamaya kosha, and Anandamaya Kosha.

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 maya sheaths (the koshas), in order for you to see through to the Self.

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
  • Provides full range of nutrition for optimal function

How to Purify the Astral Body

Secondly, the pranamaya kosha is purified through pranayama, or control of prana. Pranayama involves breathing exercises that help remove blockages and regulate the flow of prana in the pranamaya kosha.

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 parasympathetic nervous system


  • Forceful exhalation, passive inhalation
  • Removes stail air from the lungs
  • Clears blockages in the Nadis or energy system
  • Increases mental clarity, concentration and focus

Anuloma Viloma

  • 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), yamas and niyamas (yogic ethics). The Manomaya kosha is the mind, emotions and the senses, and in it you also have the subconscious.

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
Positive Thinking
  • 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

A plate of delicious, organic, vegetarian food at the Sivananda Yoga Farm.
Bhakti Yoga
  • Sublimates the emotions to devotion
  • Opens the heart
  • Surrender to God
Karma Yoga
  • “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 kosha, you have to purify the intellect and ego. In order to purify the ego you need get the selfishness out of the way through selfless service or Karma YogaMorever, you can purify the intellect through self inquiry, jnana yoga techniques, and meditation.

    Jnana Yoga
    • 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
    • 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 self inquiry, you must always ask “Who Am I?”. In addition you negate any attachment to the limited, illusory world or false sense of self. Meditation will show you that the intellect is also limited.

    Eventually with practice you will know the intellect is limited because you have the experience of the absolute, infinite, primordial Self. This experience is known as Samadhi. 

    Finally, through Samadhi you transcend the Anandamaya kosha. Meditation already leads you to anandamaya kosha, but your view of the Self is still being obstructed by a thin veil of spiritual ignorance.

    The thin veil of spiritual ignorance is burned when you experience Samadhi, or complete absorption of the mind. Only at that time do you know that the reality is more than the anandamaya kosha, and you go beyond that kosha and merge with the Supreme.

    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 say you experience spiritual, mental and physical health.


    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 vrittis (thought waves).

    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 removal of the impurities in all three bodies. 

    © 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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