The 5 Koshas: Pranamaya Kosha

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

Welcome to part 2 of 5 in our koshas mini-series.

I have created a printable booklet that summarizes all of the key points. To get the booklet — enter your name and email 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.

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5 Koshas Mini-Series

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The five Koshas consist of:

  1. Annamaya Kosha – Episode 23
  2. Pranamaya Kosha
  3. Manomaya Kosha
  4. Vijnanamaya Kosha
  5. Anandamaya Kosha

The second layer in the Kosha model is the Pranamaya Kosha.

It is in the more measurable and modifiable realm, similar to the Annamaya Kosha. This layer governs the energetic (or subtle) body, the breath and the movement of the physical body. The pranamaya kosha is composed of prana. Prana is the life force energy (also known as chi in Chinese medicine).

Where is the Pranamaya Kosha?

The pranamaya kosha can also be defined as the life force energy (prana) within the annamaya kosha. It is said to be located at the third eye, head and chest. Because it is also related to the aura, it is not simply contained within the physical body – because our aura expands out beyond the body.

To add another layer on to this – the prana is then said to be subdivided into various forms called the vayus. They are: prana, apana, samana, udana and vyana.

Yogic texts also tell us that prana moves via the nadis (energy pathways) to the chakras (spinning energy centres that collect, transform and distribute the energy). This might be harder to grasp because we can’t see the vayus, chakras or nadis, not even with an x-ray. If visuals help – there are two pictures here that illustrate the nadis and chakras well. There are said to be 72 000 nadis, and three main ones – the ida, pingala and sushumna nadis.

I could write more just on the vayus, chakras and nadis, but today we will stick to the basics on the pranamaya kosha.

I do find it fascinating to learn about all of the aspects of yoga philosophy, like I would new postures and breath practices. I then filter what I learn through my own yoga practice and belief system. I would encourage anyone to do the same.

A deeper study of the nadis can be found on the SimplYoga website.
Photo and more information on nadis and prana on the Cosmo Thai Yoga website.

Pranamaya Kosha Benefits

Breath is said to be the link for body, mind and spirit. For me this conscious control of breath (pranayama) element of yoga is what sets it apart from other forms of exercise. I also notice that with my yoga practice and the awareness of movement and breath it brings, it transfers out to the other things that I do. For example, I can easily connect with my breath and be aware of how my body moves when I am out walking.

Noticing the breath automatically triggers us to not only lengthen the breath, but to make sure it is actually happening. Of course breath is automatic, but sometimes we hold the breath or allow it to become shallow. For a moment, relax your jaw and your shoulders, lengthen the spine and feel your rib cage move with your breath.

So when we become aware of the breath, we lengthen it. We equalize it – inhale and notice the count – exhale and notice the count. This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response), quieting the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response). This also builds up our capacity of breath and the awareness of it. We can notice if the breath is slow and steady or choppy and quick.

When we are relaxed. The breath is relaxed. If we are in a place of stress or tension, (even a good place – for example holding a challenging yoga pose or giving a joyful speech at a friend’s wedding), we can use the breath to let the body know that all is okay. There is no tiger actually chasing us.

Pranayama also energizes the entire system. You may notice when you leave a yoga class, you feel better than when you got there. Often we feel a deepened sense of self and stillness. In savasana you might notice a euphoric, natural buzz. This is your chi or prana (life force energy) moving freely.

Another benefit of using breath with movement is that it helps to prepare us for the stillness of meditation. Try a little experiment. Sit in meditation without any movement and breath. How is it? Then try doing some movement with breath with meditation to follow. It is great to become the scientist for your own body and mind. Get to know what works best for you. That helps you to create a personalized yoga practice.