Kosha, Santosha, Dosha and Moshi

I just love rhyming words.  All those except for Moshi are related to Eastern medicine and yoga philosophy.  If you want to know what a Moshi is ask my 8 year old daughter.   So Santosha, Dosha aside, this week’s blog will be about the Koshas.  I will give a brief overview of the koshas and how they pertain to your yogic practice and your life which is essentially your yogic practice.  Check out the image of the Koshas below and read on for this informative overview and the journaling. 

The Breath
1:1 Breath or Equal Breath

Find a comfortable seated position or laying down. Focus in on your breath, becoming aware of its pattern before beginning this breath. Make a conscious effort to inhale and exhale for the same count (2 to 3). Find a calm, steady awareness of the breath, the feel, the temperature, the way it enters and exits the body. Practice this breath anywhere. Continue this for 2 to 3 minutes. 

1:2 Breathe or Extended Exhale

A basic breath that you can take anywhere when you need to.  Lengthening the exhale kicks the parasympathetic nervous system up a notch, allows more space between thoughts, eliminates more waste and toxins from the body and allows the body to settle more.   Much like the Equal Breath, we use a count to inhale but then we exhale for double that count.  Find a comfortable seat or lay down on the floor, hands can be placed on the belly or wherever they are comfortable.  Begin with the inhale to a count of 2, then exhale for a count of 4.  Slightly constrict your back of throat as you exhale (similar to Ujjayi breath). As you practice and progress in deepening your breath, perhaps the counts will get longer.

Lengthening the exhalation and pausing after the exhalation invokes a feeling of profound quiet and stillness.

The Poses
Thoracic Support (sorry no pic yet – just think of the Letter T)
Props: blanket, neck roll
Benefits: opens up chest, easing congestion. lengthens muscles along the shoulder girdle.  Shoulders can begin to relax.  

Fold blanket in half width-wise, then again lengthwise. Begin to fold blanket in from top to bottom about3-4 inches wide for each fold until you reach the end. Place blanket horizontal on mat at the place where your thoracic (mid spine) will be (bra line).  Recline onto mat, placing thoracic portion on blanket and arms rest on blanket at T position. Keep legs extended, bent or any other comfortable position.  Neck roll for cervical support. Remember shoulders are on the floor, much like Supported Bridge pose.


Props: 4-5 blankets, including one for warmth, stuffed animals or eye bags for hands

Benefits: gently stretches the lumbar spine and para spinal muscles, and gives a release in the diaphragm, quiets the mind and comforting. Gives a sense of security.  

Make 2 bolster-fold blankets and place lengthwise on mat on top of each other. One blanket at end of mat for ankle support. Make roll for ankle support. Rest of that blanket fills in gap where shin does not meet the floor. Make sure no blanket is on knee. This supports the knee in the pose.  Top bolster folded blanket roll towards you in a wider roll to fit in chest and shoulder area. One more blanket folded so that its height is the same as the two bolster folded blankets. Come to all fours straddling the props, release to forearms and then fully recline on props.  Ankles rest on small roll at end of mat, shins supported by the rest of that blanket. Rest the rest of your body at hip crease on the bolster fold blankets and lay chest on wider roll of top blanket. Head rests on additional blanket at top, turned to the side. Arms come out to the sides, releasing shoulders down the back and away from the ears. Placing an eye pillow or stuffed animal in palms as they face floor is very grounding and comfortable. Additional blankets for pillows tucked in as needed with student to create boundaries or make more comfortable.

Childs Pose

Props: bolster, two blocks, 2-3 blankets

Benefits: Gently stretches the lower back, relieves shoulder tension and quiets the mind.  Give a sense of security. Feeling support and release.
Extras:sandbag for sacrum

Place the two blocks at either the lowest or medium height, equidistant from each other bolster lengthwise on top of blocks. A s-fold or triple fold blanket on top of bolster.  It may be more comfortable without blocks.  Legs straddle the props at one end, and lengthen body over them. Head will rest on props.  Additional blanket(s) may be used behind knees. Ideally props should extend all the way to the pelvis area but this may not be the case with your body structure.   Stay here for 10 minutes to begin with, rotating head side to side. 

Supported Bridge Pose

Props: 4 blankets, neck roll, eye pillow

Extras: blanket for warmth, strap for legs
Benefits: Expands the chest muscles, opens the lungs, balances the glands, quiets the nerves and releases tension in the nervous system, increases oxygen intake to the brain, can stimulate the immune system (thyroid)

Make two stacks of two double or triple fold blankets on top of each other.  Placed the two stacks end to end. Height and width of blankets can be adjusted for your body.  Sit down straddling one of the stacks and carefully lower yourself down onto forearms, swing your legs on to other stack and lie down. Neck roll is placed at top stack, lower shoulder and head to floor.  Neck is supported by neck roll and head is completely flat on floor with forehead and chin on the same plane.  Arms stretched out to the sides. The stacks of blankets should be long enough for the entire body to be resting on including the feet.  Option to put strap around calves if the legs are rolling outward.  Stay for up to 15 minutes. Roll off blankets slowly and bring knees to chest with some movement.

The Koshas
In yoga philosophy, it is said that there are five layers to our being.  Kosha meaning sheath in sanskrit.  Think of yourself as an onion and the various layers are these koshas, each layer uncovering the age old questions, Who Am I?

Each layer has a corresponding sanskrit name.

Physical – Annamaya Kosha
Energy – Pranamaya Kosha
Mental – Manomaya Kosha
Wisdom – Vijnanamaya Kosha
Bliss – Anandamaya Kosha

Everyday we may don several hats and become a mother, father, friend, co-worker, lover, nurse, and so on.  Separate identities but intrinsically YOU.  Essentially, these koshas are the various parts of you which are not separate but connected to your intrinsic self.  In the practice of yoga, we strive to get to this self by ways of discovering our parts.

In asana or postures, we connect to our physical body, feeling the weight of the bones, stretching and relaxing our muscles and fascia.  We feel our physical presence, our Annamaya kosha.  With breath we move prana (energy) to various parts of our body.  We can then begin to observe if we feel tired, restless, dull, calm or energized.  We tap into our Pranamaya kosha.  This kosha moves through the physical one.  The mental body, the Manomaya kosha is the part of you that creates some type of semblance out of this world around you. We notice this as thoughts, images, perceptions and emotions passing through us.  These mental bubbles are formed from beliefs, opinions and assumptions that have been formed over our lifetime influenced by people, situations and history.  The witness or observation part of ourselves is the Vijnanamaya kosha.  Our innate wisdom is present here, our intuition kicks in and a feeling of embodiment seeps in.  Inspiration may be derived from this layer.  And finally the bliss body, the Anandamaya kosha.  This is not the be all to end all body or layer.  It is just one more dimension to your self as you flow in and out of the layers. This state of bliss is where  you may find yourself in meditation where you recognize this natural state of happiness, contentment, and freedom.

Uncover these layers through awareness in asana, breath, journaling thoughts, of observation of you in space and time, and meditation, chanting or during a deep savasana.

Journaling & More

Who Am I??

  1. Begin with your physical self, practice asana (postures) and observe your physical being. Write down what physical sensations you are feeling before and after the practice. 
  2. After warming up, do a restorative pose of your choice.  Before entering the pose, observe your breath, your energy in your body.  Write this down in your journal. Upon releasing from the pose, write down how the breath feels now.
  3. Sit down comfortably and observe your thoughts (racing, calm, quiet, anxious, future/past thoughts, etc.). Write these down.  Then consider what you would be without these thoughts. Just notice your breath, energy and any shifts.
  4. As you are doing something, observe yourself as in I am here doing such and such.  Just witness you at that moment.
  5. Post-meditation, savasana, chanting – go on, move on, stay present. That’s all!