Chapters in the Story of Consciousness – Lecture Series, Vol 29. read
Ancient wisdom 8 limbs of yoga

I am a lifelong experiencer of paranormal consciousness phenomenon including astral travel, remote viewing, telepathy, pre-cognition, out of body and healing experiences. My earliest recall at about age 3-4 years old was playing with adults that were loving, kind and happy to be with me. However, I was the only one that could see these playmates. As I grew a littler older I could describe what I was seeing to my mother and others and often they knew by my description who these deceased people were. I continued to have experiences like these and others that expanded my curiosity through my teens and early adult years and to this day..

By my mid to late twenties, I began quietly researching others who had similar experiences. It was difficult because many people 40-years ago were concerned that going public with something unusual like their paranormal experiences could have negative consequences.

I was a man with experiences seeking a systemic answer to things  I knew were true and that without doubt I had experienced. Along the way I researched the disciplines of science, philosophy, theology, the wisdom traditions of India, China and more.

Through all of my research the threads of the ancient Indian writings of the Veda’s, Upanishads, and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, were showing up in books, philosophies, and other traditions. These ancient ideas are repackaged into the language of our day under different authors often as new ideas. All of these Indian texts were written thousands of years ago and predated the Abrahamic religions and their bibles and scriptures by centuries. 

I want you to compare the principal underlying ideas of the eight limbs of Yoga and the five Koshas with your practice and the things you have read in my teachings or book. I have edited excerpts from Emma Newlyn the Eight Limbs of Yoga summary guidance and Healthline to explain the 5 Koshas. In my experience the longer you practice meditation the more likely you will have come to terms with many of the foundational elements of the yoga sutras and the Koshas. They are a wonderful reference resource in your knowledge to be aware of.

I will add that there are many paths to enlightenment and many methods to get there. The sutras and koshas may help clarify something you have discovered in your practice as they have for me at different times. I had already encountered many of these fundamentals in my practice long before I was aware of these teachings. In a way they were validation of the science or technology of the meditation process in reaching higher states of awareness.

According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, there is an eight-fold path leading to liberation, known as the ‘Ashtanga Yoga System’ or ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga. 

Here is a summary of the the 8 Limbs of Yoga that can bring you to awakening or enlightenment?

1. YAMA – Yama, refers to vows, disciplines or practices that are primarily concerned with the world around us, and our interaction with it.  Restraints, moral disciplines, or moral vows including non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, right use of energy, non-greed, or non-hoarding.

Yoga is a practice of transforming and benefitting every aspect of life, not just the 60 minutes spent on a rubber mat; if we can learn to be kind, truthful and use our energy in a worthwhile way, we will not only benefit ourselves with our practice, but everything and everyone around us.

2. NIYAMA – The second limb, Niyama, usually refers to duties directed towards ourselves. Cleanliness, contentment, discipline or burning desire or conversely, burning of desire, self-study or self-reflection, and study of spiritual texts, surrender to a higher power.

Niyamas are traditionally practiced by those who wish to travel further along the Yogic path and are intended to build character. Interestingly, the Niyamas closely relate to the Koshas, our ‘sheaths’ or ‘layers’ leading from the physical body to the essence within.

3. ASANA – Posture: The physical aspect of yoga is the third step on the path to freedom, The idea is to be able to sit in comfort, so we’re not ‘pulled’ by aches and pains of the body, or restlessness due to an uncomfortable position.

4. PRANAYAMA – Breathing Techniques: The word Prana refers to ‘energy’ or ‘life source’. It can be used to describe the very essence that keeps us alive, as well as the energy in the universe around us. Prana also often describes the breath, and by working with the way we breathe, we affect the mind in a very real way. The physical act of working with different breathing techniques alters the mind in a myriad of ways

5. PRATYAHARA – Sense withdrawal: Instead of actually losing the ability to hear and smell, to see and feel, the practice of pratyahara changes our state of mind so that we become so absorbed in what it is we’re focusing on, that the things outside of ourselves no longer bother us and we’re able to meditate without becoming easily distracted. Experienced practitioners may be able to translate pratyahara into everyday life – being so concentrated and present to the moment at hand, that things like sensations and sounds don’t easily distract the mind.

6. DHARANA – Focused Concentration: In order to focus on something, the senses must withdraw so that all attention is put on that point of concentration, and in order to draw our senses in, we must focus and concentrate intently.  Tratak (candle gazing), visualization, and focusing on the breath are all practices of dharana, and it’s this stage many of us get to when we think we’re ‘meditating’.     

7. DHYANA – Meditative Absorption:  The seventh limb is ‘meditative absorption’ – when we become completely absorbed in the focus of our meditation, and this is when we’re really meditating. All the things we may learn in a class, online or from a teacher are merely techniques offered to each person in order to help them settle, focus, and concentrate, the actual practice of meditation is definitely not something we can actively ‘do’, rather it describes the spontaneous action of something that happens as a result of everything else. Essentially, if you are really meditating, you won’t have the thought ‘oh, I’m meditating!’…. (sound familiar?)

8. SAMADHI – Bliss or Enlightenment: Many of us know the word samadhi as meaning ‘bliss’ or ‘enlightenment’, and this is the final step of the journey of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. There’s a reason it’s called realization – and it’s because reaching Samadhi is not about escapism, floating away or being abundantly joyful; it’s about realizing the very life that lies in front of us.

This stage is not about attaching to happiness or a sensation of ‘bliss’, but instead it’s about seeing life and reality for exactly what it is, without our thoughts, emotions, likes, dislikes, pleasure, and pain fluctuating and governing it. Not necessarily a state of feeling or being, or a fixed way of thinking; just pure ‘I – am-ness’.

There’s just one catch though – Samadhi isn’t a permanent state…. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras importantly tell us that unless we are completely ready, without ‘impressions’ such as attachment, aversion, desires, and habits, and with a completely pure mind, we will not be able to maintain the state of Samadhi for the long term:

Once the mind is pure and we truly do experience a state of Samadhi we can keep hold of, we attain moksha, also known as mukti, meaning a permanent state of being liberated, released and free.

The 5 koshas 

The five koshas exist together and are encased, or nested, within each other. Your physical body composes the outermost layer, while the innermost layer contains your bliss body, or soul.

They were first described in the ancient yoga text the Taittiriya Upanishad. This Vedic text is thought to have been written during the sixth century B.C. and provides guidelines relating to spiritual liberation.

Attention to your koshas may awaken deeper states of awareness on your path to self-realization.

You can visualize the five koshas surrounding the soul as the layers of an onion or a matryoshka — the wooden Russian nesting doll that contains smaller and smaller versions of itself.

Working with the koshas may allow you to go deeply into the center of yourself or soul. This can help you take your spiritual practice to the next level and make positive changes in yourself, your life, and the world around you.

An awareness of the physical and mental koshas is the starting point for you to become aware. 

Annamaya

The annamaya kosha is the physical sheath that composes the outer layer. It’s sometimes referred to as the food sheath. It is your physical body.

Pranamaya

The pranamaya kosha is the vital energy, breath, or life force sheath. In Sanskrit, the word “prana” refers to life force and is the word for breath. Awareness of this kosha allows you to move stagnant energy, so you can experience greater vitality and an energetic connection to yourself, others, and nature.

Manomaya

The manomaya kosha is contained within the annamaya and pranamaya koshas. It acts as a messenger, bringing experiences and sensations from the outer world into your intuitive body. This is the mental sheath that represents your: mind, emotions, inner world.

This layer includes thought forms, mental activity, and awareness of thoughts. Getting in touch with this kosha involves looking at your perceptions and mental patterns. This is accessed most easily in the form of self-inquiry.

Vijnanamaya

The vijnanamaya kosha is the astral or psychic body that’s your seat of intuition. Known as the awareness or wisdom sheath, it allows you to develop a deeper awareness and to see reality for what it is. Thought of as “the mind beyond the mind,” this kosha is connected to your deeper and more subtle layers of thoughts.

The vijnanamaya kosha helps develop clarity and inner reflection as you learn to detach from your thoughts, ego, or sense of self. By remaining the witness, you may learn to become more present and aware of each moment.

Anandamaya

The anandamaya kosha is referred to as the bliss body. It’s the deepest and subtlest of all layers — so much so that some people even say you can’t use words to describe it. Instead, it must be felt and experienced.

Developing your anandamaya kosha requires the discipline to complete inner work and spiritual practices over a long period. This level of consciousness relates to the essence of your true self or nature, which is perfection.

Transcending all five sheaths can lead to a state of samadhi, or unity between individual and universal consciousness. This is said to be pure bliss or joy. It is coming to know ones own soul through discipline of the mind.

While you may not reach samadhi, you may experience glimpses or moments of bliss that are bright enough to color your world and awaken these feelings of joy, even if only for brief moments.

Koshas vs. chakras 

While the koshas are said to exist in layers of your body, with the bliss body (soul) being at the center, the chakras are wheels of spiritual energy along your spine.

Chakras are found in the astral body, along with nadis and kundalini. Connecting the nadis to the sheaths, chakras have an effect on your physical, mental, and emotional body.

Nadis are channels for energy and vital life force. Your body has thousands of nadis that impact your overall well-being. One important nadi, the sushumna channel, runs from the base of your spine to the crown of your head.

When kundalini energy is awakened at the base of your spine, it moves along the sushumna nadi and the seven chakras. As this divine cosmic energy awakens and rises throughout the central channel, it energizes the seven chakras.

Spiritual seekers on the path of self-discovery can focus their attention independently on each of the 8 yoga limbs or 5 koshas to enhance knowledge and try out new concepts.

You can use questions such as, “What do I want” or anything you would like answers to in self-inquiry, sometimes referred to as the direct path in yoga but also employed by almost anyone seeking knowledge and information from within. This method of self-inquiry is known as the path of knowledge, self-realization, or understanding. You can simply ask yourself this question or any question, sit quietly and see what arises. You can also inquire into the origin of an individual thought or a past memory. I encourage those who have strong negative emotions to find or explore and deconstruct them using this technique.

There is a similar path touching on all of these important elements, using slightly different descriptions and techniques in the Road to Peak Meditation system. The overall paths can be found in the Road to peak Meditation Experiences book and in writings in the PME Library at Peakmeditationexperiences.com. I am always available to help with your practice, book a free discussion call with me on the website.

Vol-29, Lecture Series, Ancient wisdom, 8 limbs of yoga

I am a lifelong experiencer of paranormal consciousness phenomenon including astral travel, remote viewing, telepathy, pre-cognition, out of body and healing experiences. My earliest recall at about age 3-4 years old was playing with adults that were loving, kind and happy to be with me. However, I was the only one that could see these playmates. As I grew a littler older I could describe what I was seeing to my mother and others and often they knew by my description who these deceased people were. I continued to have experiences like these and others that expanded my curiosity through my teens and early adult years and to this day..

By my mid to late twenties, I began quietly researching others who had similar experiences. It was difficult because many people 40-years ago were concerned that going public with something unusual like their paranormal experiences could have negative consequences.

I was a man with experiences seeking a systemic answer to things  I knew were true and that without doubt I had experienced. Along the way I researched the disciplines of science, philosophy, theology, the wisdom traditions of India, China and more.

Through all of my research the threads of the ancient Indian writings of the Veda’s, Upanishads, and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, were showing up in books, philosophies, and other traditions. These ancient ideas are repackaged into the language of our day under different authors often as new ideas. All of these Indian texts were written thousands of years ago and predated the Abrahamic religions and their bibles and scriptures by centuries. 

I want you to compare the principal underlying ideas of the eight limbs of Yoga and the five Koshas with your practice and the things you have read in my teachings or book. I have edited excerpts from Emma Newlyn the Eight Limbs of Yoga summary guidance and Healthline to explain the 5 Koshas. In my experience the longer you practice meditation the more likely you will have come to terms with many of the foundational elements of the yoga sutras and the Koshas. They are a wonderful reference resource in your knowledge to be aware of.

I will add that there are many paths to enlightenment and many methods to get there. The sutras and koshas may help clarify something you have discovered in your practice as they have for me at different times. I had already encountered many of these fundamentals in my practice long before I was aware of these teachings. In a way they were validation of the science or technology of the meditation process in reaching higher states of awareness.

According to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, there is an eight-fold path leading to liberation, known as the ‘Ashtanga Yoga System’ or ‘Eight Limbs of Yoga. 

Here is a summary of the the 8 Limbs of Yoga that can bring you to awakening or enlightenment?

1. YAMA – Yama, refers to vows, disciplines or practices that are primarily concerned with the world around us, and our interaction with it.  Restraints, moral disciplines, or moral vows including non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, right use of energy, non-greed, or non-hoarding.

Yoga is a practice of transforming and benefitting every aspect of life, not just the 60 minutes spent on a rubber mat; if we can learn to be kind, truthful and use our energy in a worthwhile way, we will not only benefit ourselves with our practice, but everything and everyone around us.

2. NIYAMA – The second limb, Niyama, usually refers to duties directed towards ourselves. Cleanliness, contentment, discipline or burning desire or conversely, burning of desire, self-study or self-reflection, and study of spiritual texts, surrender to a higher power.

Niyamas are traditionally practiced by those who wish to travel further along the Yogic path and are intended to build character. Interestingly, the Niyamas closely relate to the Koshas, our ‘sheaths’ or ‘layers’ leading from the physical body to the essence within.

3. ASANA – Posture: The physical aspect of yoga is the third step on the path to freedom, The idea is to be able to sit in comfort, so we’re not ‘pulled’ by aches and pains of the body, or restlessness due to an uncomfortable position.

4. PRANAYAMA – Breathing Techniques: The word Prana refers to ‘energy’ or ‘life source’. It can be used to describe the very essence that keeps us alive, as well as the energy in the universe around us. Prana also often describes the breath, and by working with the way we breathe, we affect the mind in a very real way. The physical act of working with different breathing techniques alters the mind in a myriad of ways

5. PRATYAHARA – Sense withdrawal: Instead of actually losing the ability to hear and smell, to see and feel, the practice of pratyahara changes our state of mind so that we become so absorbed in what it is we’re focusing on, that the things outside of ourselves no longer bother us and we’re able to meditate without becoming easily distracted. Experienced practitioners may be able to translate pratyahara into everyday life – being so concentrated and present to the moment at hand, that things like sensations and sounds don’t easily distract the mind.

6. DHARANA – Focused Concentration: In order to focus on something, the senses must withdraw so that all attention is put on that point of concentration, and in order to draw our senses in, we must focus and concentrate intently.  Tratak (candle gazing), visualization, and focusing on the breath are all practices of dharana, and it’s this stage many of us get to when we think we’re ‘meditating’.     

7. DHYANA – Meditative Absorption:  The seventh limb is ‘meditative absorption’ – when we become completely absorbed in the focus of our meditation, and this is when we’re really meditating. All the things we may learn in a class, online or from a teacher are merely techniques offered to each person in order to help them settle, focus, and concentrate, the actual practice of meditation is definitely not something we can actively ‘do’, rather it describes the spontaneous action of something that happens as a result of everything else. Essentially, if you are really meditating, you won’t have the thought ‘oh, I’m meditating!’…. (sound familiar?)

8. SAMADHI – Bliss or Enlightenment: Many of us know the word samadhi as meaning ‘bliss’ or ‘enlightenment’, and this is the final step of the journey of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. There’s a reason it’s called realization – and it’s because reaching Samadhi is not about escapism, floating away or being abundantly joyful; it’s about realizing the very life that lies in front of us.

This stage is not about attaching to happiness or a sensation of ‘bliss’, but instead it’s about seeing life and reality for exactly what it is, without our thoughts, emotions, likes, dislikes, pleasure, and pain fluctuating and governing it. Not necessarily a state of feeling or being, or a fixed way of thinking; just pure ‘I – am-ness’.

There’s just one catch though – Samadhi isn’t a permanent state…. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras importantly tell us that unless we are completely ready, without ‘impressions’ such as attachment, aversion, desires, and habits, and with a completely pure mind, we will not be able to maintain the state of Samadhi for the long term:

Once the mind is pure and we truly do experience a state of Samadhi we can keep hold of, we attain moksha, also known as mukti, meaning a permanent state of being liberated, released and free.

The 5 koshas 

The five koshas exist together and are encased, or nested, within each other. Your physical body composes the outermost layer, while the innermost layer contains your bliss body, or soul.

They were first described in the ancient yoga text the Taittiriya Upanishad. This Vedic text is thought to have been written during the sixth century B.C. and provides guidelines relating to spiritual liberation.

Attention to your koshas may awaken deeper states of awareness on your path to self-realization.

You can visualize the five koshas surrounding the soul as the layers of an onion or a matryoshka — the wooden Russian nesting doll that contains smaller and smaller versions of itself.

Working with the koshas may allow you to go deeply into the center of yourself or soul. This can help you take your spiritual practice to the next level and make positive changes in yourself, your life, and the world around you.

An awareness of the physical and mental koshas is the starting point for you to become aware. 

Annamaya

The annamaya kosha is the physical sheath that composes the outer layer. It’s sometimes referred to as the food sheath. It is your physical body.

Pranamaya

The pranamaya kosha is the vital energy, breath, or life force sheath. In Sanskrit, the word “prana” refers to life force and is the word for breath. Awareness of this kosha allows you to move stagnant energy, so you can experience greater vitality and an energetic connection to yourself, others, and nature.

Manomaya

The manomaya kosha is contained within the annamaya and pranamaya koshas. It acts as a messenger, bringing experiences and sensations from the outer world into your intuitive body. This is the mental sheath that represents your: mind, emotions, inner world.

This layer includes thought forms, mental activity, and awareness of thoughts. Getting in touch with this kosha involves looking at your perceptions and mental patterns. This is accessed most easily in the form of self-inquiry.

Vijnanamaya

The vijnanamaya kosha is the astral or psychic body that’s your seat of intuition. Known as the awareness or wisdom sheath, it allows you to develop a deeper awareness and to see reality for what it is. Thought of as “the mind beyond the mind,” this kosha is connected to your deeper and more subtle layers of thoughts.

The vijnanamaya kosha helps develop clarity and inner reflection as you learn to detach from your thoughts, ego, or sense of self. By remaining the witness, you may learn to become more present and aware of each moment.

Anandamaya

The anandamaya kosha is referred to as the bliss body. It’s the deepest and subtlest of all layers — so much so that some people even say you can’t use words to describe it. Instead, it must be felt and experienced.

Developing your anandamaya kosha requires the discipline to complete inner work and spiritual practices over a long period. This level of consciousness relates to the essence of your true self or nature, which is perfection.

Transcending all five sheaths can lead to a state of samadhi, or unity between individual and universal consciousness. This is said to be pure bliss or joy. It is coming to know ones own soul through discipline of the mind.

While you may not reach samadhi, you may experience glimpses or moments of bliss that are bright enough to color your world and awaken these feelings of joy, even if only for brief moments.

Koshas vs. chakras 

While the koshas are said to exist in layers of your body, with the bliss body (soul) being at the center, the chakras are wheels of spiritual energy along your spine.

Chakras are found in the astral body, along with nadis and kundalini. Connecting the nadis to the sheaths, chakras have an effect on your physical, mental, and emotional body.

Nadis are channels for energy and vital life force. Your body has thousands of nadis that impact your overall well-being. One important nadi, the sushumna channel, runs from the base of your spine to the crown of your head.

When kundalini energy is awakened at the base of your spine, it moves along the sushumna nadi and the seven chakras. As this divine cosmic energy awakens and rises throughout the central channel, it energizes the seven chakras.

Spiritual seekers on the path of self-discovery can focus their attention independently on each of the 8 yoga limbs or 5 koshas to enhance knowledge and try out new concepts.

You can use questions such as, “What do I want” or anything you would like answers to in self-inquiry, sometimes referred to as the direct path in yoga but also employed by almost anyone seeking knowledge and information from within. This method of self-inquiry is known as the path of knowledge, self-realization, or understanding. You can simply ask yourself this question or any question, sit quietly and see what arises. You can also inquire into the origin of an individual thought or a past memory. I encourage those who have strong negative emotions to find or explore and deconstruct them using this technique.

There is a similar path touching on all of these important elements, using slightly different descriptions and techniques in the Road to Peak Meditation system. The overall paths can be found in the Road to peak Meditation Experiences book and in writings in the PME Library at Peakmeditationexperiences.com. I am always available to help with your practice, book a free discussion call with me on the website.

Follow by Email
Facebook
Instagram