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Decoding the Pranamaya Kosha

Our shas­tras look at real­i­ty from mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives. This cre­ation, espe­cial­ly the liv­ing sys­tem, can be looked at through the trisha­reeras or through the lens of the Pan­chakoshas or through the lens of antah karana and bahya karana.

The Pan­chakosha include Anna­maya, Prana­maya, Manomaya, Vij­nana­maya and Anan­damaya. They are not typ­i­cal­ly lay­ers but encase the atman and rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent dimen­sions of the sys­tem. Just as in a light bulb, the bulb is the phys­i­cal dimen­sion and the elec­tric­i­ty is the ener­gy dimen­sion, sim­i­lar­ly the pan­chakosha rep­re­sent var­i­ous dimen­sions. The Pan­chakosha are best under­stood in the human sys­tem as it is easy to relate through per­son­al expe­ri­ence.


The Tatt­va bod­ha defines Pranaya­maya Kosha as

प्राणाद्याः पञ्चवायवः वागादीन्द्रियपञ्चकं प्राणमयः कोशः ।

The pan­chapranas togeth­er with the five kar­men­driya con­sti­tute the Pranaya­maya kosha.

Prana, Apana, Samana, Vyana and Udana con­sti­tute the pan­chaprana. Speech, grasp­ing, loco­mo­tion, excre­tion and repro­duc­tion con­sti­tute the kar­men­driya.

The Prana vayu oper­ates in the chest region and con­trols res­pi­ra­tion. The Apana vayu func­tions in the low­er abdom­i­nal region and takes care of excre­tion. The Samana vayu oper­ates in the abdom­i­nal and stom­ach regions and con­trols diges­tion, the Vyana vayu is spread through­out the body and takes care of cir­cu­la­tion and Udana vayu is upward mov­ing, oper­at­ing in the throat and head region there­by con­trol­ling speech and brain func­tions includ­ing mem­o­ry.

The Prash­na Upan­ishad high­lights the impor­tance of Prana and how it holds and sup­ports the body.

तान्वरिष्ठः प्राण उवाच । मा मोहमापद्यथाऽहमेवैतत्पञ्चधात्मानं प्रविभज्यैतद्बाणमवष्टभ्य विधारयामीति तेऽश्रद्दधाना बभूवुः ॥ ३ ॥

tān­var­iṣṭhaḥ prāṇa uvā­ca | mā mohamā­pady­athā’hamevai­tat­pañ­cad­hāt­mā­naṃ prav­ib­ha­jyaitad­bāṇa­mavaṣṭab­hya vid­hārayāmīti te’śrad­dad­hānā bab­hūvuḥ || 3 ||

Prana, the great­est, said to them, ‘Do not cher­ish this fool­ish van­i­ty. I alone, hav­ing divid­ed myself five-fold, hold this body togeth­er and sup­port it.’ They did not believe.

सो‘भिमानादूर्ध्वमुत्क्रामत इव तस्मिन्नुत्क्रामत्यथेतरे सर्व एवोत्क्रामन्ते तस्मिँश्च प्रतिष्ठमाने सर्व एव प्रतिष्ठन्ते । तद्यथा मक्शिका मधुकरराजानमुत्क्रामन्तं सर्व एवोत्क्रमन्ते तस्मिँश्च प्रत्ष्ठमाने सर्व एव प्रतिष्टन्त एवं वाङ्मनष्चक्शुः श्रोत्रं च ते प्रीताः प्राणं स्तुन्वन्ति ॥ 4 ॥

so’b­himānādūrd­hva­mutkrā­ma­ta iva tas­min­nutkrā­maty­a­thetare sar­va evotkrā­mante tasmim̐śca pratiṣṭhamāne sar­va eva pratiṣṭhante | tady­athā makśikā mad­hukararājā­na­mutkrā­man­taṃ sar­va evotkra­mante tasmim̐śca pratṣṭhamāne sar­va eva pratiṣṭan­ta evaṃ vāṅ­manaṣ­cakśuḥ śro­traṃ ca te prītāḥ prāṇaṃ stun­van­ti || 4 ||

He from indig­na­tion seemed to ascend from the body, and when he ascend­ed, all the oth­ers imme­di­ate­ly ascend­ed too; and when he was qui­et they were qui­et too, just as bees fly up when their king flies up and set­tle down when he set­tles down; so, mind, speech, eye, ear and the rest being pleased, praise Prana.

The body is com­posed of var­i­ous organs and sys­tems that con­sti­tute the anna­maya kosha and the vital forces that help these organs func­tion is the Pranaya­maya kosha, much like the elec­tric­i­ty that helps the bulb to light up.

Just as the blood flows through arter­ies and veins, the Prana flows through ded­i­cat­ed chan­nels called Nadis. The Hata Yoga Pradipi­ka talks of 72,000 Nadis. The pri­ma­ry ones that we often hear of are Ida, Pin­gala and Sushum­na.

The Yoga Yaj­navalkya Samhi­ta (YYS) goes into great detail describ­ing Prana, the loca­tion of nadis and the func­tions they per­form. The human body is of 96 angu­las and Yog­ic achieve­ment is looked at main­tain­ing the Prana with­in one­self with­out dis­si­pat­ing. The YYS talks of 14 pri­ma­ry Nadis Ida, Pin­gala, Susuhm­na, Sarasa­vati, Varuni, Push­pa, Hasti­ji­h­va, Yashasvi­ni, Visvo­dara, Kuhu and Shank­i­ni, Payasvi­ni, Alam­busha and Gand­hari.

The Susuhm­na Nadi is locat­ed at the cen­ter and the Ida and Pin­gala are locat­ed in the left and right sides respec­tive­ly. The YYS fur­ther high­lights the loca­tion of the pan­cha vayu in Chap­ter 4. Between the nose and mouth, cen­ter of the heart, cen­ter of the navel and in the big toe is sit­u­at­ed the prana vayu. In the anus, thighs, knees and low­er parts is locat­ed the apana vayu. In the mid­dle of the ear and eyes and in the sides of neck, ankles, nose, throat and pos­te­ri­or region is locat­ed the vyana vayu. Udana is present in joints, legs and hands enabling move­ment. The samana per­vades the body dis­trib­ut­ing the ener­gy derived from food. Inhala­tion, exha­la­tion and cough­ing are the func­tions of Prana, Excre­tion of fae­ces, urine is the func­tion of Apana. Tak­ing and giv­ing are the func­tions of Vyana. Rais­ing the body is the func­tion of Udana. Pro­vid­ing nutri­tion is the func­tion of Samana. Func­tions like belch­ing, blink­ing etc are also con­trolled by var­i­ous pranas. The YYS describes Nadi Shod­hana prac­tice in great detail for the prop­er func­tion­ing of the nadis and cir­cu­la­tion of prana.

So we see that the Prana­maya kosha is the crit­i­cal dimen­sion of the sys­tem that pro­vides ener­gy for every­thing to func­tion prop­er­ly.

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