The 5 Koshas: Annamaya Kosha

Free 5-Part Mini-Series with Podcast Audio and a Printable PDF

Welcome to part 1 of 5 koshas mini-series.

Over the next five podcasts we will be looking in detail at each kosha. There is a printable booklet that summarizes all of the key points. To get the booklet — enter your information below and it will be sent to you. Feel free to use the booklet in your classes, workshops, retreats and trainings. If you would like to share it with your students, you are welcome to do so.

The five koshas:

  1. Annamaya Kosha
  2. Pranamaya Kosha
  3. Manamaya Kosha
  4. Vijnanamaya Kosha
  5. Anandamaya Kosha

The first layer in the Kosha model is the Annamaya Kosha.

This is a Sanskrit word which when translated means consists of food, (Anna = food and Maya = consists of).

This layer is all about the physical body. It is your skin, muscles, bones, joints, ligaments and so much more. It is the reason most people begin yoga. It was my only reason for yoga. I was in my early twenties and wanted to exercise and have a fun girls night out. It felt great to move for an hour and then relax at the end like we were back at Kindergarten nap-time. Patty Keane and Susan Proudfoot were my first yoga teachers. I wonder if they know the impact they had. Now here I sit, studying and writing about the Koshas.

The physical goals are usually the main focus for a lot of yoga students still and in my opinion this isn’t a bad thing. My own job requires a lot of sitting, (accounting, emails, writing), so moving on my mat brings me balance. I notice with yoga that I can increase my mobility, decrease tension and increase my inner calm. I also become more aware of how I am feeling – both physically and emotionally.

So no wonder ancient yogis wanted us all to learn asanas (the yoga poses). But wait. In all of the yoga texts there is only one mention of asana. It is in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and states: “the meditation posture should be comfortable.” That is all that is ever said of poses. It was a little shocking to learn this. For years, (even as a yoga teacher), I believed the postures of yoga to be over 5 000 years old.

For more detail — here is an article by Timothy Burgin called The History of Yoga.

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When did downward dog become part of
what we know as yoga?

According to Christopher Sartain, author of The Sacred Science of Yoga & The Five Koshas, our current asana practice can be traced back to a man from South India, T. Krishnamacharya. It is said that he developed vinyasa flow yoga, which was heavily influenced by European gymnastics from the twentieth century. Meaning, yoga poses (asana) began only about 100 years ago.

As a side note: While I did find some useful information in this book, it isn’t one that I would suggest without a fair warning to the reader. I feel like the author gives some pretty hefty opinions and beliefs. I read it with interest and filtered out what didn’t fit for me.

My favourite book on the koshas is Yoga for Transformation: Ancient Teachings and Practices for Healing the Body, Mind,and Heart by Gary Kraftsow. I appreciate how he combines all of the elements of yoga – asana, pranayama, meditation, etc. and also the emphasis of yoga as a unique practice – made to be modified to each practitioner.

“…it is important to remember that asana practice is not fundamentally about the asanas, but about the practitioner.” ~Gary Kraftsow

Click on the book images if you want to read more about them.