Traditional Yoga


“Yoga means getting on well with everything in life: getting on well with the food we eat, the air we breathe, the environment we live in, the people we live with and the work we do.”-Kumar

Yoga means union. When we build this union within the body, within the mind and between body and mind, we live in perfect peace and happiness no matter what. A peaceful mind radiates only good will and creates harmony. It is full of compassion and has not only the will but also the means to help others. Yoga is the science of building harmony and overcoming disharmony in order to get on well with everything and everyone.

What is SELF ?

One of the great mahavakyas of the Veda as defined by Shankaracharya and also given by Socrates is ‘know thyself’.  What exactly do we mean by the word ‘self’? Do we mean our mind? Do we mean our body? Do we mean both or something other? 

We can begin by categorizing the individual self into mind and body. This is known in Sanskrit as nama and rupa.  We can divide these into a further 5 levels, the ‘koshas’ or ‘sheaths’, a framework to describe the components of  'self' ; starting with the external physical body, through the subtler aspects of the body to the elusive nature of the mind.

The 5 koshas in brief: 

(Included in these descriptions are the words of Shankaracharya)

Annamaya kosha is the external or ‘gross’ physical body.  “It lives by food and dies without it, therefore it is called the food sheath.” The word annam means food and also includes water. The annamayakosha is broadly comprised of the saptadhatus, or seven elements: Bile, blood, flesh, fat, bones, bone marrow, semen. It is the level of the body that is visible to the naked eye. It is associate with the earth element as it has the quality of solidity.

Pranamaya kosha is known by various names in English such as the subtle body, astral body, life-force body and cellular body. It functions within the annamoayakosha. “ In the first sheath…this sheath of prana lives and engages itself in all sorts of works.” It is the subtle, aspect of the physical body made up of cells and chromosomes, invisible to the naked eye. It is associated with the air element and is sustained by it through the breath.

Manomaya kosha  is the conscious mind, the “mental sheath”. “This mind knows everything by the five senses.” The mind is always preoccupied with thoughts pertaining to sight, sound, taste, smell and touch. It is sustained by consciousness. 

Vignanamaya kosha is the subconscious mind and unconscious mind. “ The fourth sheath is the buddhi ( intellect/ perception faculty) and the organs of feeling…It works as ‘I’. It feels, ‘I do, see and hear". It is the root level of the mind also known as the ego or causal body. Vignana means obstacle. It is the storehouse of our emotions, instincts and habit patterns of the mind.

Anandamaya kosha is the “blissful sheath.” It is a reflection of true happiness, but “reflected in the quality of delusion and one feels it only under favourable circumstances.” This bliss can be experienced in a diluted state in ordinary life or more intensely in meditation. However, even in meditation it is not the ultimate bliss and needs to be worked through and purified just like all the other ‘sheaths’.

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Yoga Healing Foundation 2012.