By Shaura Hall
It is so exciting to be living in a time where modern sciences have progressed to such a degree that we can look into the body and begin to acknowledge how the wisdom of the ancients can be interpreted in a manner that honours both the old and the new.
Yoga philosophy and energy science has a rich and complicated history. It’s not uncommon to find excerpts from differing traditions placed side by side in our modern yoga teachings.
One of the cornerstones of the Pilamaya Yoga Teacher Training is to respect all spiritual paths in life. So, while we teach from the eight limbs of yoga, we fully understand that wisdom has been shared through many mediums in the history of humans.
Included in this, are the ancient teachings that come through the Vedantic roots that tell us that our body, mind and other aspects of our experience of life can be understood in a unique way.
It is known as the Pancha Koshas, or the Five Sheaths.
(The language is in Sanskrit and translates to: Pancha = 5, Koshas = Sheaths).
T H E – F I V E – S H E A T H S
The five sheaths are explained as layers or energetic bodies with differing vibrations that range from the gross level of matter – the physical body – to the most refined, the Atman – the individual reflection of soul. This is considered to be an aspect of the great soul that the Vedantic people refer to as Brahman.
The kosha teachings help us by inviting us to consider that we are more than we think we are; we are more than the body and more than what we mean when we say: “I”
The koshas tell us that we have, in fact, five layers to our being:
- The body – Annamaya-kosha
- The breath or energy body – Pranamaya-kosha
- The minds – Manomaya-kosha
- The wisdom – Vijnanamaya-kosha
- The bliss – Anandamaya-kosha
These layers give us all that we need to experience this thing that we call life. Information floods in and, in turn, filters through to the aspects that are the closest to our source – our true nature.
The Pilamaya Yoga Teacher Training shares tools and techniques needed to get to know each sheath, refine the outer three, gain access to the inner two and eventually integrate each aspect of our selves.
T E A C H E R S
I believe that knowledge of the sheaths gives us another set of tools to use to understand how our yoga practice supports our commitment to developing consciousness through the moral guidelines offered by the great spiritual teachers.
It is important to honour and respect the teachings that have been shared by spiritual guides in all walks of life. In our last blog we spoke about the moral guidelines offered by the Yamas.
By becoming interested in such teachings, and practicing living by their wisdom on a daily basis, it can help to purify our minds and refine the mind energy described as the Manomaya-Kosha; as the koshas work together, when we make changes in one they are reflected in the others.
In this case, when mind is settled, it interacts with the breath and body (pranamaya and annamaya koshas), and so the chemical messengers in our bodies tend to be those that promote calm, and we are more at peace in the world.
E N E R G E T I C – B O D I E S
Our understanding of the koshas from and physiological, energetic and spiritual points of view allow us to explore the benefits of understanding this model from multiple perspectives.
And for those of us who may be skeptical to the energetic teachings, I would like to offer some food for thought…
If we could look down a microscope into the world of cell biology, we would see that each cell relies on unique mechanisms to move ions in and out of the cell.
This generates the energy that they need to send chemical messages to each other; we call this voltage, which of course could be explained as electricity.
Electricity is a bit of a mysterious force that we cannot see or fully explain, but we know that it powers much of our modern life so we know that it exists.
The chemical messengers that are used by the body to send signals need another form of energy to create and degrade their molecular components. And the fluids that are constantly ebbing and flowing around the body could also be considered to create kinetic energy – energy through movement.
So our bodies are more dynamic than we might think – they create energy. Kirlian Photography is a fascinating science that has somehow managed to create machines that pick the energy fields around all living objects – even those that we don’t consider to be alive.
O L D + N E W
I do believe that yogis of old were so connected to their physical bodies and energy systems that they succinctly described the various passages of energy around the body. They seemed to realise that our bodies have physical passages that carry blood or other fluids around and that the fluids are alive with smaller components that act as signaling messengers throughout the whole system.
We are just beginning to understand how some of these smaller parts affect our minds and emotional landscape as well as our bodies.
We bow our heads to the teachers and healers that have walked upon this Earth to share knowledge and compassion.
This is the Pilamaya Way.