The Five Sheaths of Yoga Philosophy

Related to the three bodies of physical, astral and causal bodies, we have the five material elements of the physical world. There are also five sheaths or koshas that that cover the Atman or Self, which are understood as layers of an onion in a subtle body. These five sheaths are intimately related to the three bodies, as each tends to be associated with one of the three (the food sheath with the physical body, the vital sheath with the astral body, the bliss sheath with the causal body).

  1. Food sheath (Annamaya kosha) — The material elements make up the physical world and they also make up our bodies. This sheath belongs exclusively to the physical body.
  2. Vital sheath (Pranamaya kosha) — This sheath belongs to the astral body. We are made up of the five vital energies that impact the physical body and the astral plane, including prana, apana, samana, udana and vyana. This sheath contains the five organs of action (the karma indriyas) and it is because oft his kosha that we experience differences in temperature and differences in satiety.
  3. Mental sheath (Manomaya kosha) — This sheath resides in the astral body and allows us to experience thought. It is composed of mind (manas), subconscious (chitta) and the five senses.
  4. Intellectual sheath (Vijnanamaya kosha) — this relates to the astral body and consists of intellect (buddhi, or analytic mind) and produces the ego (ahamkara). It works with the five organs and focuses on discrimination and decision, as the seat of analytic reasoning.
  5. Bliss sheath (Anandamaya kosha) — This is the only kosha of the causal body and is associated with bliss, joy and peace. We are more prone to losing connection with this sheath than any others. The purpose of yoga is to re-establish connection with this sheath.

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