Annamaya Kosha or Physical Body
Taittiriya Upanishad says: “Human beings consist of a material body made up from the food they eat; those who care for this body are nourished by the universe itself.”
This first dimension or kosha is called annamaya kosha, the physical body or Sthula Shareera.
Anna means food. Satvik meaning of anna is ‘the essence of earth’. Water, food grains, fruits and vegetables are all the products of earth; from this, milk, ghee and flesh is made and all of this is considered anna. Physical body is made up of anna and it grows and gets strengthened with anna and later, after the death of physical body, merges with the earth. This outermost of the koshas is called the sheath of food, or Annamaya kosha. Annamaya kosha is the controller, cause, producer and consumer (sanchalaka, kaarana, utpadaka, and upbhokta) of physical body but is still different from physical body. Living at this level, man identifies himself with a mass of skin, flesh, fat, bones, and filth, whereas a man of viveka (discrimination) realizes his own Self as distinct from the physical body. Out of all koshas, annamaya kosha has the most dense and slow vibrational frequency. This body cannot exist without other koshas or bodies (the pranamaya, manomaya, vigyanamaya, and anandamaya koshas), yet for the most part, it remains barely activated in regards to its highest evolutionary potential. The physical body, the coarsest of sheaths in comparison to the faculties of the atma (the Self), is indispensable for evolution and Self Realization, because only within this can all chakras fully function.
This physical body is made up of the Panchmahabhutas – the five primordial elements, viz.,
- Akash (vacuum),
- Vayu (air),
- Agni (fire),
- Jal (water), and
- Prithvi (earth)
This Annamaya Kosha passes through six stages:
- decay, and
Gross body is simply the vehicle of all the other koshas during physical incarnation. Annamaya and physical manifestation of Pranamaya Kosh reside in Sthula Shareera or Gross (physical) body. Gross body needs gross food, drink and air which it gets from Annamaya and Pranamaya Kosha. At death the physical body perishes and its five constituent elements dissolve with the Source.
In Hatha Yoga practice, we train this aspect of ourselves, take care of it, and nurture it, so that we can both enjoy our external lives and go inward without it being an obstacle during meditation. In meditation, we become aware of Annamaya kosha, explore it, and then go inward, to and through other koshas.
Annamaya kosha can be sattvic, rajasic or tamasic. The word sattva means harmony, balance and tranquillity, where you create a balance between activity and peace. Rajas means dynamic, active, violent. Tamas means dull and inert. Through the hatha yoga shatkriyas, you develop a sattvic annamaya kosha and when annamaya kosha becomes sattvic, the emission of energy is much greater.
In modern science it is said that all the time, the whole day and night, physical bodies exchange energy with the surroundings. Of course, you cannot see it, but scientifically it has been seen that just like a pendulum swings, every body is emitting or throwing away atoms or sub-atomic particles, and receiving them. This activity gives rise to energy waves. The sattvic body creates longer-reaching waves, a tamasic body perhaps no waves at all, while a rajasic body has variable waves.
When these atoms or sub-atomic particles leave your body and come back, there is a period of rest, just like when a pendulum when it goes to the left and then turns and goes to the right, there is a moment of rest. Similarly, when you do pranayama, between inhalation and exhalation there is a point of rest called kumbhak or shunyak, depending on when it comes. It is a very short period. In this short period, the body transmits energy which is sattvic, rajasic or tamasic.
Refinement and Development of Annamaya Kosha
This is possible through the following methods:
- Proper diet: Sattvic foods, like a wholesome, lacto-vegetarian diet, provides nourishment for the body in an optimal way. The consumption of tamasic foods like meat, alcohol and drugs weakens our vitality and fills us with negative vibrations.
- Hatha Yoga Shatkriyas (The Six Procedures – Neti, Dhauti, Nauli, Vasti, Kapaal Bhaati, Traatak)
- Upavas (Fasting)
- Asana (Postures)
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