Yoga Nidra is a unique practice also called yogic sleep or psychic sleep. It is a guided meditation where one can experience the koshas or energy layers of the body and our existence. These layers, sometimes called sheaths, include the physical, energetic, mental/emotional, higher intelligence, and bliss bodies. As described in the scripts of yoga nidra, each layer comes into prominence, one at a time, and then settles into place, leaving the practitioner undisturbed throughout the meditation.

Annaymaya Kosha

The physical body is correlated with the Annaymaya Kosha and is directly linked to the third limb of yoga, asana. As humans, we first and foremost experience the world through our physical bodies. This is why it is one of the first limbs of yoga. It is the starting point. During yoga nidra, there is only one posture used: savasana. You can use props to support yourself as you will lie there for anywhere from 20-45 minutes in a typical yoga nidra session.

Pranamaya Kosha

The second layer is the pranamaya kosha, the “energy body.” This layer can be perceived, yet is significantly subtler than the annamaya kosha. Though prana is sometimes translated as “breath,” it is not the breath itself. It works with the breath, but it is more subtle than the breath.  You may be asked to simply observe your inhalation and your exhalation, or you might do a practice like nadi shodhana without using your fingers. Something like, “Breathe into your right nostril. Pause. Exhale out through your left nostril. Pause. Breathe into your left nostril. Pause. Exhale out through your right nostril,” and so forth.

Manomaya Kosha

The third kosha is the manomaya kosha, the “mind body.” This is one of the most fascinating layers, as this is said to be where our emotions reside. When we feel that we are carried away with anger or fear, we are living in this kosha. The manomaya kosha relates to our instinctive state of mind in all situations, revealing both voluntary and involuntary communication with ourselves and others. We may try to avoid dealing with this layer by pushing it down and ignoring it, but then our emotions can skyrocket to the surface, bringing us to a “breaking” point where we can no longer contain our emotional and/or physical reactions. That’s why this layer is addressed in yoga nidra, where we can experience emotions without being governed by them.

Vijnanamaya Kosha

This layer is the vijnanamaya kosha, the “wisdom body,” and it is the wiser, more intuitive sibling of manomaya kosha. Sometimes something unexpectedly insightful comes out of your mouth and you ask yourself, “Where did that come from?” That’s your vijnanamaya kosha revealing itself. Another example is your gut reaction. For instance, you don’t know why you didn’t cross the street that you cross everyday, even though you looked both ways and saw nothing. Something inside of you told you not to cross that particular day—and a moment later a car came flying down the street without warning. Choosing a different route may have saved your life! This is vijnanamaya kosha at work.

Anandamaya Kosha

The fifth sheath is the anandamaya kosha, or “bliss body,” and it can be described as total absorption into a blissful state. This is the subtlest of the five koshas, with only a sliver of separation between you and what is divine. In yoga nidra, this layer is present in all of the practices for the other layers, and also in the brief silence after the journey ends and before we are brought out of the meditation. I generally allow one to five minutes of silence there, as there is much to be explored in that space—mainly just feeling one’s self completely embraced in the practice.


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