Inside the Pancha Koshas: Peel Away the 5 Spiritual Layers & Discover Your Inner Self

In yoga philosophy, the individual spirit or atman operates through five bodies or layers known as the Pancha koshas. 

According to this concept, we have a map that helps us understand our inner, truest selves. We’re beings with so many layers, from our physical body to our bliss body.

Our physical body is our external self and the outermost peel. Stripping the remaining layers exposes the subtle layer which is the pranic body.

Then, another layer inward is our mental body and afterward, it’s our intellectual before the bliss body. This is our self or our atman. 

 Every layer can be taken off through yoga. As one works through the layers, they become able to recognize their true and real selves, beyond these five layers.

Understanding these layers is crucial to happiness and success. When we don’t know our truest selves, we’ll always remain on the surface level. We’ll be slaves to our desires and to the illusions of how the world works.

From the External to the Deepest Layer: The 5 Pancha Koshas 

  1. The Annamaya Kosha

Also known as the food sheath, this is the external layer of the physical body. 

It’s something that’s visible and tangible. Like other things in nature, it comprises the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, and space). 

This kosha consists of digested and transformed food and thus, the other name, food sheath. 

After the death of the physical body, it returns to being food for other animals and plants. Pleasures experienced on this level are the most fleeting and lack longevity. 

This layer can be transcended through asanas. 

  1. The Pranamaya Kosha

This is the vital layer that is finer than the previous one. 

It’s not visible to the physical eye. We express ourselves through it and this is the life that the breath gives. It separates life from death. 

It gives life whereas the lack of prana is a sign of death. 

When prana leaves the body, this kosha disintegrates. 

This layer consists of the five pranas and five organs of action, i.e., the mouth, hands, feet, rectum, and genitals. 

To nourish this layer, we need food, sunlight, and breathing. Yoga pranayama is also helpful for transcending it. 

  1. The Manomaya kosha

This is the third, mental layer. It’s not just our mind, but the subconscious and the five knowledge organs. 

These are the eyes, nose, ears, tongue, and skin. It’s through these organs that the mind gets information and they’re also organs through which our desires arise. 

This layer also contains our emotions, thoughts, memories, and imagination. 

When the mind isn’t governed, we make bad decisions for our well-being. We can make this layer stronger through karma yoga and selfless service. 

  1. The Vijnanamaya Kosha

Known as the intellectual layer, this is an even subtler layer than the previous one. 

It’s also known as the layer of wisdom and knowledge. This layer is what separates us from animals. 

Though both may have memories, emotions, and thoughts, only human beings can make a difference between good and bad and the real and unreal. 

This layer involves the ego, sense of self, and our identity. It can be strengthened by jnana yoga or by dwelling in scriptures, spiritual books and texts, and meditation.

  1. The Anandamaya Kosha

Also known as the bliss layer, this is our deepest layer. 

It’s the subtlest of all. It contains a person’s latent tendencies and wishes. It’s also the carrier of the soul’s rebirth experiences. 

This layer connects us to the divine. The transcendence is samadhi or self-realization. Beyond these five layers is the Atman or the self.