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3 Bodies and 5 Layers of existence:

Yoga philosophy teaches us that the human being is not just a physical body of bones, muscles, and blood, but three complex bodies consisting of multiple layers that are essential to our existence. We know these layers as the pancha kosha, meaning "sheath" often visualised like layers of the onion in the subtle body. They hold the key to unlocking the knowledge of the true Self and bring healing and harmony into your life.

 

In this blog, we will explore the 3 bodies, diving deep into the layers of our being and discovering the essence of who we really are beneath the surface of our physical body.


What is the Concept of the 3 Bodies in Yoga?  

According to yogic philosophy, human beings have 3 bodies: the physical body, the astral body, and the spiritual body (soul). They are all interconnected via the vital life force energy: prana. To truly understand the 3 bodies and the role they play, we need to dive a little deeper. Within these 3 bodies, our 5 koshas reside (5 layers of existence).


1. Physical (Gross) Body  

Essentially, everything you can see with your eyes or touch with your hands is your physical body. Bones, muscles, organs, tissues and skin.


Beyond the surface, the gross body is made up of five primary elements: earth (prithvi), water (jal), fire (agani), air (vaayu), and ether (akasha). That is why we need a daily intake of these five elements to maintain our physical body. 


The physical body is the vehicle we use to do anything in this physical world. In yoga, we often practice asanas (yoga postures) and meditation to balance the elements and maintain the health and vitality of our physical body. 


2. Astral (Subtle) Body 

The astral or energetic body is the subtle body that underlies the physical body. Also known as Sukshma Sarira, the subtle body is the bridge between the physical and spiritual bodies.


This layer is not visible to the human eye, but is the source of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. The subtle energy channels known as nadis and the chakras lie in this body.


The subtle body is made up of 19 elements in total: 

5 Organs of action (Karma indriyas):

  • Vak (organ of speech)

  • Pani (hands)

  • Pada (feet)

  • Upashtam (genitals)

  • Payu (anus, the organ of excretion)


5 Senses of knowledge (Gyan indriyas):

  • Tvak (to feel)

  • Jivha (to taste)

  • Grahna (to smell)

  • Shotra (to hear)

  • Chakshu (to see)


4 Elements of Antahkarana (inner instruments):

  • Mind

  • Intellect

  • Subconscious

  • Ego


5 Pranas (Panch vayu):

  • Udana

  • Prana

  • Samana

  • Apana

  • Vyana


3. Spiritual (Causal) Body  

The spiritual or causal body is the seed body. This body continues through all your lives and stores subtle impressions, in the form of karma (Action+Intention) in this life and past lives. This means that the causal body determines the development of the gross and subtle bodies in the next life. When we die the spiritual body takes a new physical and astral body. This process is called reincarnation, meaning “again in flesh.” 

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