Welcome & Namaste,
In this post we are going to explore how the pancha maya koshas (the layers of the self relate to Yoga Nidra Meditation. One of the things that makes yoga nidra a unique meditation technique is not just the deep rest/deep sleep state with trace awareness, but also the fact that in most yoga nidra styles you will go on an awareness journey through the 5 layers of the self (whether you realize it or not!)
First what does Pancha Maya Kosha mean?
Well the word Pancha in Sanskrit means five. Maya means "consisting of" in this context and Kosha has many translations like body, sheath, layer or my favourite: treasure.
In yoga nidra you will be taken on a journey step by step from the most gross layer, down into the deeper layers or the self or the more subtle layers: the maya koshas. So let's explore these 5 layers!
We start with the physical body. Annamaya Kosha, which translates to the body made of/consisting of food. After the initial turning inward (pratyahara) stage of your yoga nidra practice, you will move through a "Rotation of Consciousness" or a body scan to bring awareness from the cerebral mind down through the whole physical body.
From there, Pranamaya Kosha which translates to the body made of Prana (Life Force Energy), also known as the Energy Body, the Prana Body or the Breathe Body. In this phase of the journey there is an awareness of the natural breathe and sometimes a "Prana Dharana" practice. The tantric practice of prana dharana is the means of concentrating on prana shakti (the energy of the life force).
The next stage draws us deeper into the layers of the self: Manomaya Kosha which translates to the body made of thoughts. This layer is also known as the emotional body or the mental body. It is the layer where our psyche lives and the emotional tones that we feel in our energy body. In Yoga Nidra, a very common practice in this phase is "Pratipaksha Bhavana" where one meditates on feeling opposite sensations or opposite emotions.
Going into this course I already had a decent base understanding of what Yoga Nidra is, and how to lead it…or so I thought. I decided to jump into this course anyway, as I love to learn all there is to know about any given subject. I am so glad that I did! Ally’s ability to bring the science of Yoga Nidra into the training, while still being sensitive to it’s yogic roots is absolutely fantastic. I have learned so much more about why we do what we do, and how to skillfully lead someone in and out of a Nidra. I am much more confident leading my clients through their nidra practices now, and I am very grateful for that.
Following the layer made of thoughts, as we get more and more subtle we begin to welcome Vijnanamaya Kosha, which means the body made of wisdom or the "wisdom body." This is where we begin to tap into the realm beyond polarities, beyond constant movement, change, birth & death of experiences, emotions, etc. This is where we begin to cultivate the "witness consciousness": that awareness that is always happening, is non-judgemental, compassionate & spacious. This part of the Yoga Nidra experience normally includes imagery or visualizations.
From there, left to bask in awareness itself: Ananadamaya Kosha which means the body made of Bliss, also known as the "Causal Body."
In the ancient teachings from South East Asia/India, this layer of the self is where all of our "samaskaras" live (in modern language, you can think of samskaras like neural pathways). So therefore, this is where your Yoga Nidra guide will welcome you to call in your Sankalpa (intention, heart's desire or seed of good intent) where it will be planted in the most subtle body, the deepest layer or the self.
This is a very basic introduction to how we move through the Pancha Maya Koshas in a Yoga Nidra practice, and this is a topic I could speak about for hours. Let me know if you learned something new in the comments below! And please know that I have many colour schemes of this illustration below! Please feel free to pin them to your Yoga or Meditation Pinterest Board! If you share these graphics anywhere, please always be sure to link back to this blog post! 🙂