The Body we Live in:
The Kosha or lens we are most familiar with as human beings is the Anamaya Kosha, or Physical body. This lens is made up of matter. The Upanishads say that the Anamaya Kosha is “a material body built from the food we eat.” Within this layer of our experience, the phrase “you are what you eat” is more accurate than ever!
Imagine you are on a road trip on a long, windy road. This Kosha represents your car - your method of physical transportation through this life. It is the densest of the five Koshas and therefore is the most tangible. Because of the way human beings have evolved, many of us see this layer as much more than just one-fifth of who we are. Because we can see it, touch it, taste it, hear it, and smell it, it must be real, right? While we give this layer of our experience tremendous power, many of us do not give it the nourishment it needs and deserves for optimal performance. We are in such a rush through life that we pour canola oil in the gas tank instead of fuel.
In order to care for the Anamaya Kosha, we have to feed it what it needs to survive and thrive. We have to give our cells themselves the food they need to transform matter into energy. What we decide to give them can create balance or imbalance in the Anamaya kosha that then colors every other aspect of our experience. They point here is that the things we put into our physical body do not just impact us physically.
A certain diet or exercise regimen might make our physical body “look good”, but what impact does it have on our energy? Our intellect? Our discernment? Our connection to the divine? We have to ask these questions and explore the answers in order to make decisions that take our whole selves into account.
A great example of a relationship between multiple koshas and a modern attempt at curing imbalance is that of prescription drugs. They are physical substances, processed by our physical body, and yet often are prescribed to treat a mental, emotional or energetic imbalance. The physical compound directly impacts the mental and emotional experience. Many of these solutions are short term and come with serious side effects. Western Medicine usually has a limited view and rarely recognizes how treating one layer can impact all others. To be truly successful, treatment should have a positive impact on ALL systems. Otherwise, balancing one layer just results in creating imbalance in another.
Methods for creating harmony in the Anamaya Kosha include an ability-appropriate physical yoga practice, natural or organic meals, fresh air and presence in nature (all things that can be found on one of our Signature Yoga Vacations here at Vikasa, just in case you were wondering). Anamaya Kosha is not just about what we put in our body, but what we put our body in. Ask yourself where you spend most of your time and how those environments make you feel, think and behave. Are you more likely to feel happy when you are stuck in traffic or when you walk in a garden? Do you tend to get angry or impatient more easily at work or with friends? Begin to notice the choices you make daily that affect your physical experience and start to make connections between how you feel physically and the energy or behavior that physical state generates. Many of us blame the situation for how we feel, rather than acknowledging that our choices have brought us into the situation and how we feel there is entirely up to us.
The Anamaya Kosha is more familiar to us than any of the other layers. But did you know that 99.9 percent of the human body is not matter at all, but ‘empty’ space? That’s right. While we might feel pretty solid, the atoms that make up our Anamaya Kosha, or physical body, are less than .01% “stuff”. So, what’s between all the stuff? What makes up so much of who and what we are? What holds all the matter together? Check out the next article on the Pranamaya Kosha, or energetic body for more!
About the Author
Inanna Jessup is a Yoga teacher, traveler and writer originally from Colorado. Ever since she quit her corporate job managing Yoga studios in 2017, she’s being roaming the planet searching for experience, wisdom and connection. She works remotely and enjoys the freedom and constant learning that come with her lifestyle. She believes deeply in the awareness, humility, tolerance and compassion that can be developed through the practice of yoga and meditation and through the experience of travel.