In the January blog, we discussed that koshas are the subtle layers of the body and that we would explore one kosha per month starting with the outer layer and working our way in. In the February blog, we overviewed the physical layer (Anamaya kosha). This month (March), we will explore the next subtle layer as we work our way inward, the energy/breath layer or the Pranamaya kosha.
Translated from Sanskrit, “Prana” means life force. Quite literally, your breath is your life force – if you stop breathing, you stop living. But not only is your breath your life force, it is also the source of your energy. The Pranamaya kosha can be defined as the vital life energy that organizes the body parts and provides movement for mental and physical expression. When we look at this kosha we look at the breath, our heart beat, the movement of our blood through the veins, the force that has on our blood vessels, and our overall energy level.
The flow of breath and energy within your body can be understood through the five vayus (translated as “winds”). Prana vayu is how we receive energy (visualize your chest and belly rising as you inhale to understand the receipt of energy); Apana vayu is how we release energy (visualize your chest and belly compressing as you exhale to understand the “letting go” of energy); Samana vayu is the product of Prana vayu and Apana vayu, how we digest and assimilate incoming energy (what stays? what goes?); Udana vayu is the quality and use of our energy, including our ability to communicate our truth; and Vyana vayu is the distribution of our energy, where we choose to direct our energy.
As you can tell, just like the five koshas, within the Pranamaya kosha, the five vayus build on each other to take us from the receipt of energy to the distribution of energy with three decision-making steps in between that move us from step 1 to step 5. And just like breathing, these five steps can be autonomic. And just like breathing mindfully to mitigate stress and reconnect our minds to bodies, we can move the process of receiving energy through distribution of energy in a mindful way that transforms the way we live and moves us forward in our journey to be our authentic selves.