Understanding The Koshas in Yoga (Part Two): Pranayama Kosha (The Energy Body)

May 1, 2023 |

Pranamaya Kosha

In the first article in this series, we introduced the koshas as a system and explored the outermost kosha (annamaya kosha). If you missed that, click here. Once you’ve read that, you’re ready to dive into the next layer of the body, pranamaya kosha:

Pranayama kosha (the energy body)

Within annamaya kosha is pranamaya kosha; the energy body. Generally, the way we’re first introduced to the energy body is through the breath. We learn that disruptions in the breath are correlated with blocks in our energy system. That means, step one of exploring our energy body is learning to breathe consciously.

Beyond the breath, pranamaya kosha is where all of our energy systems live. If you’re familiar with the nadis, this is where they are. The nadis are a series of channels that are like vessels or ducts that distribute energy throughout the body. What’s interesting about the nadis, though, is that they don’t end at the perimeter of the body, they extend beyond the skin into the space around you.

The common estimate for the number of nadis is 72,000 but some texts put that number much higher, at 580,000. When the nadis are clear and functioning well, energy is distributed throughout the body in a way that ensures we are vibrant and healthy. If the nadis become blocked, some parts of the body will be starved of energy or become bottlenecks for energy, leading us to become sick.

Blockages in our pranic system can manifest in lots of different ways because prana manifests in lots of different ways. It can manifest as dis-ease in the physical body, in our thoughts or emotions, even in our spiritual practice etc. Our diet, repetitive thoughts patterns, habitual ways of feeling and stress are all things in our external environment that can compromise energy flow within the body. If we address these lifestyle factors, very often energy is able to move freely again and we feel healthy and alive.

Outside of a change to our lifestyle, the primary tool we have for removing energetic blockages is pranayama. Ayama literally means ‘to remove the restrictions on’. Pranayama practices are breathing techniques that remove the restrictions on the free flow of prana inside us.

A simple way to bring awareness to possible blockages in the nadi system is noticing the inhale and the exhale. You’ll probably find that sections of your breath feel smooth and free and full, and that sections of your breath catch, or feel constricted, or stick or shudder. Yoga would say, the points where your breath catches are sites of blockage within the subtle body and will probably correspond with trips or catches in the mind.

Beyond the nadis, other structures that sit within pranayama kosha are the chakras (which are, in fact, points where a series of nadis intersect along the central energy channel in the body; sushumna nadi), the grunthis, vayus etc.

Beyond even that, we learn that tying the mind to a smooth, gentle breath calms the waves of the mind and soothes our emotions. This connects us to manomaya kosha, which is the next kosha in and the subject of the next article.

To learn more about manomaya kosha, keep an eye out for next week’s blog for part three in the series.

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