I may be biased but the ancient yogis were brilliant. They were able to really capture and understand the human essence, and the inner workings of being human, remarkably well. I guess this is why yoga has endured and is still practiced so extensively today. And also why so many people use yoga to live better. Now modern science is also catching onto the benefits. The more I learn, the more I’m amazed at the depth and expansiveness of the teachings, and their healing capabilities.
One important component within the yogic tradition, as documented in a group of ancient texts called the Upanishads, is a framework called the Koshas. Kosha translates to ‘layers’ or sheaths’ in Sanskrit. The yogis saw these as layers of being to be studied and understood, and ultimately to be transcended to achieve enlightenment. Through the Koshas we can experience our true, innermost self.
This system is really eloquent, and quite effectively breaks down the elements of being human. It is a wonderful guide to how we understand ourselves and how we can also eliminate our own suffering. A description of the Koshas is below:
1 - Physical Body (Annamaya Kosha) - This first layer represents our outer, physical body. When we are in balance in this Kosha, we feel good in our bodies, we have no lingering pain. We have freedom of movement in our joints, and can enjoy the daily activities of life. The food we eat, feeds and fuels this body. If balanced, the physical body gives us a feeling of stability but also a lightness and ease of being.
2 - Breath Body (Pranamaya Kosha) - This layer represents our energy and our breath. You may have heard of ‘prana’, translating to life force. This body represents that energy flow and movement in and around us. When this layer is in balance, we have no restrictions in our breath or energy flow. We feel aligned and at ease with our physical body.
3 - Mental Body (Manomaya Kosha) - Our Manomaya Kosha is the mind body that represents our thinking or conscious mind. It is also our thoughts and emotions, and the part of us that takes information in via the senses. This part of the mind can be educated and trained. When this layer is balanced, we have clear thinking, emotional wellbeing and we can make positive choices.
4 - Intuition Body (Vijnanamaya Kosha) - This inner layer represents self-knowing and wisdom. It is our intellect and unconscious mind. With our intuition body we can pick up on subtle cues, both internal and external. It is our deepest sense of understanding the world around us, and our place in it. When it is balanced, we are connected to our purpose. We aren’t overly attached to the past and can live contentedly in the present moment.
5 - Bliss Body (Anandamaya Kosha) - The bliss layer is the deepest and it permeates all the other layers - our entire being. This is our true, innermost self. When we are in this Kosha and aware of it, we are aware of our connection to the universe and all things in it. Access to our bliss allows us to find deep peace and wellbeing. The concept of surrender is important here… giving ourselves over completely to what is, with acceptance and understanding. All the koshas lead here. Real love is experienced within this Kosha.
So how can we access the bliss body? If you imagine for a minute, a situation where you were perfectly happy and content… maybe this was with a romantic partner, or holding a baby, or surrounded by the people you love most, you can begin to get what the bliss body is all about. Really, close your eyes and imagine this and feel it. That deep happiness, contentment, and connectedness is our bliss. In that time or moment, we understand in a very broad way the greater good, and our place within it. While we can access it via what I have described here and the methods below, it can be as natural as breathing. It is always there for us.
Some ideas to experience our bliss body:
***Spend time in nature. This can be as simple as looking out your window and watching. I have a birdfeeder I really enjoy. Watching the birds move and swoop around it brings me joy. I love that I can provide some nourishment for these amazing creatures right out my window. If you think of times when you have seen something really beautiful in nature, you are right in that present moment. You may feel a sense of awe, or a connection to God (or spirit, etc). It can feel very blissful.
***Create a ritual practice. You can light candles, and burn incense while focusing on pictures of God, or Gods or deities (whatever aligns best with you and your religious or spiritual affiliations). You can gaze at pictures of loved ones, living or deceased. It matters less what, than how in this case. Make it consistent…. Having a little altar or shrine in the same place that you use is helpful. Run through the practice the same way each time.
***Ask for help. If you are suffering, you can take a few moments of stillness and just ask for help. This may seem strange at first, but this is the basis of prayer. So it might feel quite natural to some. Ask for help in easing your suffering, or the suffering of others. Really feel it, and surrender yourself to the idea of a higher power working for good.
***Mediate. There are a lot of guided meditations available that can help to access the bliss body. Yoga Nidra can also be used for this as well. Sometimes it does help to have another voice walk us through this and use powerful words and imagery to help us to access our bliss.
Like so many other things, simply noticing life can be really key here. Instead of going through the motions, take some time to experience everything around you - look, smell, touch, taste, feel - use your senses. Observe. Take the time throughout the day to notice what brings you joy. Half the battle is just being aware!
If you are interested in practices like the above you can use on a daily basis, subscribe to my Yoga Notes Newsletter HERE. I provide a weekly list of actionable practices and ideas you can take into your life!
Wish you bliss and peace.