Five Koshas in Yoga

Awareness & the Five Koshas – The Process of Yoga Nidra

Nondual Awareness & Separation

There is only Awareness.1 All experiences arise in and are not separate from Awareness for Awareness and its objects are always one, not two.

Separation is a feeling that arises in Awareness and is not separate from Awareness. Identification occurs when the feeling of separation is misperceived by the mind as a statement of fact.


When the belief of separation is projected outward the notion arises that all objects are also separate. Projection, identification and the belief of separation are based on misperception for there is only Awareness.

The function of the mind is to split that, which is one into two. The split mind gives rise to the notion of separation. The mind perceives two where there is only one.

Introjective Identification

When the uninformed mind experiences projection, it internalizes the projection as an introject. The mind then identifies with this introject in a process we call introjective identification. In projection we believe another is like our self. In introjective identification we believe we are like another.

Projective Identification

Projective identification is a process that occurs when, by the force of another’s projection, we introject their projection, believing it to be our own. For instance when someone is unable to be with their anger they project it into you. You mistake their feeling of anger as belonging to you and project it back towards them. Then they become upset because you are angry with them when all the time it is they who are angry with their own self!

Projection, introjective identification and projective identification are all founded on the misperception of separation created by the function of the split mind. But these are movements in Awareness and therefore are not separate from Awareness.


The feeling of separation arises in Awareness. The impulse to heal and the healing of this misperception similarly arises in Awareness. The feeling of separation, the need to heal separation and the healing separation are one movement. They co-arise. They are not separate movements. An apparently separate ‘I’ is healing an apparent wound of separation.

When ultimate healing occurs the myth of separation is realized to be a myth. In this timeless moment the realization unfolds that there is only Awareness. Then, self and all objects are realized to be Awareness. All healing ultimately leads to this understanding that there is only Awareness.

Progressive Healing

Because the notion of separation is a misperception in the mind, ultimately all healing entails dispelling false mental beliefs. But mental beliefs are stored in the body as reactive sensation, emotion and imagery. Therefore healing often appears to progressively proceed from the physical to the mental.

The Six Koshas

The process of healing is conceptually formulated in the theory of the six Koshas, or levels separation.

    1. The physical body-Anamaya
    2. The energy body-Pranamaya
    3. The body of feeling and emotion-Manomaya
    4. The body of intellect-Vijñânamaya
    5. The body of joy-Anandamaya
    6. The body of ego-I-Asmitamaya
    7. Our Natural Condition-Sahaj

1. The physical body – Anamaya Kosha

The physical body is an intelligent community of interconnected and inseparable parts sustained by life force, or Prana. As such the physical body is a microcosm of the macrocosm, containing within it all the other koshas.

The body is made up of the five elements-earth, water, fire, air and space with each body system related to a particular element, i.e. the skeletal system is related to earth, the circulatory and immune systems to water, the respiratory system to air, the digestive system to fire, and the central nervous system to space.

The body is experienced through hearing, smelling, tasting, seeing, feeling and thinking. But, primarily the body is known through feeling. The body is a feeling-object unfolding as sensation in Awareness. The body as a concept is built up within the thinking mind and is conditioned through memory, reaction and compensation.

When we feel separate, we live conceptually as the body, which has defined boundaries. Through active inquiry we come to realize that the body is a projection in us.

The body is a percept, not a concept. Sensing the body dissolves its objective solidity as the earth element, revealing the other elements of water, fire, air and space each of which, in turn, dissolves into its prior cause until the body dissolves totally into its non-objectivenature as Awareness. Body sensing purifies the objectified body of its conditioned nature to reveal its true radiant transparency.

Hatha Yoga is the science of inquiring into the substance and reality of the physical body. Asana, supported by pranayama and visualization, is one tool we use to investigate the reality of the physical body.

2. The energy body – Pranamaya Kosha

Prana (with a capital ‘P’) is the life force that animates the universe and gives life to the physical body. Prana is not separate from Awareness, which is the source of prana as well as the body. Prana is therefore a projection of Awareness.

Prana as the enlivening principle of the body is divided into five functions, or airs, as described in the Chandogya Upanishad (II.13.6).

Apana governs and regulates the eliminative system. Its field of activity is from the navel to the soles of the feet and it is represented by the element of earth. Its nature is heavy and it is related to exhalation, which has a downward feeling of movement to it as well as an upward movement in the diaphragm.

Samana governs and regulates the digestive system. Its field of activity is from the heart to the navel and is represented by the element of water. Its nature is cool and it is related to circular movement in the abdomen.

Prana (with a small ‘p’) governs and regulates the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. It field of activity is from the mouth to the heart and it is represented by the element of fire. Its nature is light and it is related to inhalation, which has an upward feeling of movement to it as well as a downward movement in the diaphragm.

Udana governs and regulates eating, drinking and speaking. Its field of activity is the throat and it is represented by the element of air, which moves throughout the body.

Vyana governs and regulates prana into the limbs. Its field of activity is throughout the body and is represented by the element of space. Its nature is spaciousness throughout the body.

The energy body is regulated through asana, pranayama. Each asana and pranayama is related to and influences a particular vayu. Through pranayama we open to the subtle body, which brings a sense of transparency to subtle layers of conditioning and the reactive mind2.

3. The body of feeling and emotion – Manomaya Kosha

The body of feeling and emotion is related to the mind. When there is a stimulus the mind often reacts with a conditioned response dependent upon residues of memory.

Through purification, the body/mind is released from its conditioning. There are many levels of purification-body, senses, speech and mind. However, purification is not in the becoming process, as it has nothing to do with getting better. Neither obtaining nor giving up brings us to what we are for we already are being what we are searching to become-non-objectified Awareness.

As the body purifies it loses its solidity, becoming translucent, then transparent. Here the body expands into its energetic presence. When we work at the level of the energy body feelings and emotions are released, which, when welcomed into Awareness further release our transparency. Transparency relieves the attitude of being a doer for in transparency there is only perceiving, only feeling.

In working with the body of emotion we open completely to the play of opposites. Anger and serenity, sadness and happiness, sorrow and joy are each welcomed in turn. No emotion is left repressed. When emotion is welcomed and not refused, when nothing is left rejected in the psyche, and then we live in accepting without psychological resignation. Then, feeling and emotion point back to Awareness in which they arise. The reactive mind dissolves and each situation unfolds with its appropriate and spontaneous response. Emotion and feeling are there realized to be pointers to, and not separate from, nondual Awareness.

4. The body of intellect and imagery – Vijñânamaya Kosha

Inquiry into the body of intellect and imagery reveals concepts, beliefs and memories, which underlie separation and suffering. Beliefs spontaneously deconstruct when they are completely described into Awareness without any movement for them to be other than they are. Deconstruction leads to disidentification, which reveals the underlying unitive Awareness in which all beliefs have their home ground.

As each belief deconstructs, its paired opposite, which was contained within the psyche, is also released and integration of mind unfolds. Greater transparency is revealed, which relieves the attitude of being a perceiver.

5. The body of joy – Anandamaya Kosha

Purification of false beliefs reveals greater transparency to our true nature as Awareness. One signpost of being at the threshold of our nondual nature is the breaking through of uncaused joy. As we live freely in this joy,associated identifications are further purified. Living for long periods in the body of joy, as in all the koshas, brings us to the threshold of our true nature. At this point outgoing attention, which has been absorbed in the process of revealing and purification is turned back onto itself. The observer becomes the observed.

6. The body of ego-I – Asmitamaya Kosha

Five koshas are normally described in the classical literature. A sixth Kosha deals with the subtle witness and sense of separation that is always present in the previous five koshas, even when the body of joy is fully expanded.

When the first five koshas deconstruct, all of the outgoing energy that has been invested in them turns in upon itself. Here the perceiver becomes perceived and an infinite regression is set in motion. The perceiver becomes the perceived over and again until there is total collapse of the mind with all of its subtle forms of ego-I separateness. This collapse unfolds spontaneously for there is no separate ego-I that can make it happen. When the ego-I totally collapses, there is only perceiving, for no ‘I’ image is possible in perceiving.

The ‘I’ image, like the body, is built up of memory. The ‘I’ image arises in perceiving. Once seen, the ‘I’ image, like the body, dissolves in Awareness. Neither have a separate existence apart from Awareness, their home ground.

In perceiving we move free of memory. In this there is spontaneous purification without anticipation toward gain. In this there is spontaneous giving up of what we are not and a being of what we are. What has appeared as progression is revealed to have only been description for there can be no prescription to come to what we are.

Whatever we come to is an object of perception. But what we are is not an object. What we are reveals itself when all striving to become is relinquished. When we are not, Awareness is. When we are, Awareness is not. In being Awareness, there is neither perceiver nor perceived. This is liberation from separation and suffering, Yoga in its ultimate expression. Liberation is living in the beauty of our absence. In this there is no seer and nothing seen. Everything is made of the same substance, vast, spacious unqualified Awareness, unfathomable to the mind.

7. Sahaj – Our Natural Condition

As the Koshas are completely explored they empty into their underlying cause, Awareness, and separation and suffering dissolve. Physical healing may or may not concurrently unfold, but everything is in place. Right and appropriate actions in response to what remains in body and mind spontaneously arise. There is no reaction or defense, only right action spontaneously arising and appropriate to each situation. Situation and its response are one movement, not two. They are complimentarities within the field of nondual Awareness.

1. Awareness, Consciousness, Presence, Being and God are interchangeable concepts.

2. Here we may use the energy system of the chakras as well as the nadis of ida and pingala.

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Written by Richard C. Miller PhD

Explore Wellness in 2021