Force of Spirit Moving the Subtle Body (Yoga Therapeutics & Philosophy)
WHAT IS THE SUBTLE BODY
Yogic, Tantric and other systems of India, the Buddhist psychology of Tibet, Chinese Taoist alchemy and Japanese Shingon all describe a subtle physiology having a number of focal points – chakras, acupuncture points connected by a series of channels – nadis, meridians that convey life-force – prana, vayu, qi, chi, ki.
These channels and points affect the characteristics of the visible form. Through practice, we can direct the flow of life force, to achieve miraculous powers “siddhis” and attain higher states of consciousness, immortality, or liberation.
The Koshas, Vayus and Energy Meridians are in a constant state of flux, changing with our breath, thoughts, movements and moods. Much as moving water can change Earths face and geography, these forces can be harnessed to unite external and internal forces. How we practice asana encourages the mind’s direction of the inward and outward expressions of our practice. A practice that cultivates moral character helps adjust our inner psychology, as much as a supple spine can balance a backbend or handstand.
The Koshas, “sheath” is the covering of Atman, or Self according to Vedantic philosophy. These Koshas are often described like layers of an onion, with layers of the dense physical body moving into subtler levels of emotions, mind and spirit. According to Vedanta the wise one discriminates between the self and the koshas, which are non-self.
THREE BODIES, FIVE SHEATHS
Hatha yoga system proposes that there are three major bodies through which the soul permeates. These three bodies are physical, astral and causal.
The Physical Body is the outermost manifestation. It is our actual physical body composed of five elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether. In the physical body we experience birth, growth, change, decay and death.
The Astral Body is where we experience the feelings of pleasure and pain. It is also where we experience discrimination, decisions (intellectual sheath), thinking, doubting, anger, lust, exhilaration, depression and delusion (mental sheath), hunger, thirst, heat and cold (vital sheath)
The Causal Body is the subtlest of the bodies and is said to be where karmic imprints are left. It is in the causal body that we experience pure joy and bliss.
The three bodies are imbedded in five sheaths, which, according to yogic philosophy, must be transcended individually in order to be free from the bondage of identifying with the bodies and allow one to come to know and identify with the true self.
WHAT ARE THE 5 SHEATHS – KOSHAS कोश kośa – read more here
The five sheaths (pancha-kosas) are in the Atmabodha. From gross to fine they are:
- Annamaya kosha, food-sheath
- Pranamaya kosha, air-sheath
- Manomaya kosha, mind-sheath
- Vijnanamaya kosha, wisdom-sheath
- Anandamaya kosha, bliss-sheath