Layers of Being - The Five Koshas - Part III Manas Kosha

The concept of the five koshas describes the layers of our being, from the grossest physical level to our innermost, subtle core. The third layer of being is manas kosha.

Manas kosha corresponds to the mind, encompasses the nervous system and is expressed through thought patterns.  Here is an excellent example of how the koshas overlap and effect each other: if the mind is disturbed and overloaded, the body becomes stressed and the sympathetic nervous system begins its work preparing the body for fight or flight - the breath becomes short, the heart rate speeds up, the throat dries, digestion slows, the body releases glucose to the muscles.  When stressed, the body becomes tense, muscles seize up, we may find our sleeping patterns disturbed, or find it difficult to switch off; we may end up in a vicious circle of stress and disturbance. 

It is a very busy world and we often struggle under increased workloads, we commute long distances, the technology that was supposed to make our lives easier has ended up meaning that we are never left alone, that we are always available, our stressors can reach us at any time of day or night.

We were not supposed to live like this; our brains aren't built for the speed and relentlessness of the 21st century.  Our stress response was designed to fill us with hormones to make us fast and strong if we were hunting or about to be hunted (to eat lunch or be lunch) and then drain away once we were at rest again.  But for many of us, being at true rest has become a rare event, it is a skill that we have lost, it is a place we don't allow ourselves to visit very often.  Or perhaps we forgot the way.

This is the way that manas kosha effects anna kosha and prana kosha.  It is apt that prana kosha comes between anna kosha and manas kosha, as the breath is the bridge between body and mind.  Deepening and settling the breath can settle the mind, slow the heart rate and cause the parasympathetic nervous system to begin its work (digesting food efficiently, letting the body relax, counterbalancing the stress response).  By working with the other koshas we get to soothe and calm manas kosha, to bring ourselves peace of mind. 

The concept of the five koshas, the idea of five interleaved layers of being that cannot be separated out, but which are inextricably linked, helps to demonstrate that we are an organism whose physical fitness, mental health, stress levels and breathing patterns all contribute to our well-being and that we cannot have sickness, or under-performance in one without it having a knock on effect on the other levels of our being.  Peace of mind follows well-regulated breath, breath works best in a fit and supple body and vice versa; if we wish to be whole, then we must work at all levels.  It's no use being fit and strong if we suffer from insomnia, or high stress levels; it's not easy to be relaxed if our body is giving us pain.  The concept of the koshas, as old as it is, sheds light on our modern condition, reminds us that we must take care of our whole selves if we are truly to be well, gives us a road map to follow for our journey.



  1. Thank you Sarah, really useful blog :)) Love Femke from the Netherlands

  2. Oh thank you Femke for taking the time to let me know :)
    Sarah x


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