Understanding Our Energetic Bodies
According to the yoga tradition, each of us has five bodies, each made of increasingly finer grades of energy.
The five progressively subtler bodies that compose our personality are described in a yoga classic called the Taittiriya Upanishad.
Human beings consist of a material body built from the food they eat. Those who care for this body are nourished by the universe itself.
Inside this is another body made of life energy. It fills the physical body and takes its shape. Those who treat this vital force as divine experience excellent health and longevity because this energy is the source of physical life.
Within the vital force is yet another body, this one made of thought energy. It fills the two denser bodies and has the same shape. Those who understand and control the mental body are no longer afflicted by fear.
Deeper still lies another body comprised of intellect. It permeates the three denser bodies and assumes the same form. Those who establish their awareness here free themselves from unhealthy thoughts and actions, and develop the self-control necessary to achieve their goals.
Hidden inside it is yet a subtler body, composed of pure joy. It pervades the other bodies and shares the same shape. It is experienced as happiness, delight, and bliss.
These five bodies are called Koshas, or “sheaths,” in Sanskrit, because each fits in the next like a sword in a scabbard. Only the most dense is made of matter as we know it; the other four are energy states invisible to the physical eye, though we can easily sense their presence inside us when we pay close attention. Since the inner bodies are the source of our well-being during life and are the vehicles we travel in after death, India’s ancient yogis developed specific exercises to strengthen and tone each one in turn.
The physical body is primarily maintained and invigorated through the use of herbs and medicinal food, while the four energy bodies are injected with power through specific mediations, yogic asanas, and bandhas or “breath locks”.