Three Bodies in Yoga: Sthula-Gross Body, Linga-Subtle Body & Karan-Causal Body

Ever pondered the depths of your existence, reaching beyond the surface of your identity? Much like peeling back layers to reveal your true essence, yoga philosophy unveils a profound truth: you are not just a physical entity but a complex of three interconnected bodies.

Beyond the superficiality of bones and muscles lies a deeper reality—a reality composed of the three bodies; Sthula Sharira (Physical or Gross Body), Sukshma Sharira (Subtle Body), and Karana Sharira (Astral body), each playing a unique role in defining who we are.

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    Much like the five koshas or five sheaths of our existence, these bodies are integral to understanding the multifaceted nature of the self. The layers of Annamaya Kosha, Pranamaya Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vijnanamaya Kosha, and Anandamaya Kosha contribute to the intricate fabric of our being.

    Join us in this blog as we dive into the realms of the three bodies according to yoga. Dive deep into the layers of your existence, unraveling the mysteries that shroud the essence of who you truly are.

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    What is the Concept of the 3 Bodies in Yoga?  

    In yoga philosophy, the concept of the 3 bodies refers to the fundamental understanding that the human being consists of more than just a physical form. Beyond the external anatomy, there exist three essential bodies—Sthula Sharira (gross body), Sukshma Sharira (subtle body), and Karana Sharira (causal body).

    These interconnected bodies, explored in depth in the subsequent sections, hold the key to a holistic approach to well-being.

    Three bodies are not mere physical entities but encompass unique energy fields, contributing to our experiences in sleeping, dreaming, and waking states. The exploration of these layers is central to understanding the holistic nature of the self in yoga philosophy.

    1. Sthula Sharira – The physical or gross body

    Delving into the essence of the human experience, the Sthula Sharira, or gross body, is the tangible, mortal vessel that breathes, eats, and moves. It forms the foundation for the intricate interplay of the three bodies in yoga philosophy, playing a crucial role as the material embodiment of our existence.

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    The experience of Sthula Sharira or gross body is felt during the waking state.

    1. Components of the gross body

    Comprising flesh, bone, tissues, cells, molecules, and atoms, the gross body is a complex amalgamation of the five elements known as five elements (Pancha tattva); Akash (space or ether), Vayu (air), Agni (fire), Jal (water), and Prithvi (earth). To enhance, rejuvenate, and harmonize these elemental forces within the gross body, the practice of yoga poses and pranayama exercises becomes instrumental.

    2. Characteristics 

    Functioning as the vehicle for the other principles or bodies, the primary goals of the gross body (Sthula Sharira) extend beyond the physical realm. Its purpose is to comprehend the Self (Atman), experience eternal bliss, and reach spiritual heights culminating in salvation (Moksha).

    This corporeal entity undergoes a remarkable journey through six distinct changes – birth, subsistence, development, maturity, decay, and death, embodying the cyclic nature of physical existence.

    Visible and palpable, the gross body is the aspect most easily relatable to individuals. Its exterior layers manifest changes throughout life, offering a tangible connection to the ongoing transformations within.

    3. Related kosha

    The gross body or Sthula Sharira houses the Annamaya Kosha, the sheath of food, and a segment of the Pranamaya Kosha, the vital or energy sheath. The five organs of action, or Karmendriyas – mouth, hands, feet, anus, and genitalia – constitute the Pranamaya Kosha, facilitating experiences such as hot, cold, hunger, and thirst.

    Meeting the demands of the gross body, the Annamaya Kosha and Pranamaya Kosha provide sustenance through food, water, and air. Together, they form the intricate web that sustains the physical dimensions of our being.

    In the journey through the three bodies in yoga, a deeper understanding of the Sthula Sharira opens the gateway to a holistic approach to well-being, blending ancient wisdom with contemporary practices.

    2. Sukshma Sharira – The subtle or astral body

    Enter the realm beyond the physical with Sukshma Sharira, the subtle or astral body, where the essence of life resides. This ethereal entity operates behind the scenes, housing the vital force of life known as Prana.

    Being the second body layer, the astral body is subtle, invisible to the eyes and is not tangible or material in nature like the sthula sharira. The Nadis (subtle energy channels) have a fine union with the physical body to live in this astral body.

    The ability to access this body utilizing a variety of therapeutic approaches is possible despite the fact that it is outside the range of our normal physical awareness.

    The experience of Sukshma Sharira is felt during the waking and dream states.

    1. Components of the subtle body

    The subtle body or Sukshma Sharira comprises 19 components: 

    2. Characteristics 

    Unlike the tangible nature of the gross body, the subtle body operates at a higher frequency and serves as the dwelling place for the powerful kundalini energy. It remains connected to our senses, providing the canvas through which we paint our experiences of pleasure and pain. The energetic aura of the subtle body envelops the physical, existing before its creation and persisting until the last remnants of the physical body are extinguished.

    Unlocking the potential of the subtle body unveils extraordinary abilities such as clairvoyance and clairaudience. Advanced yogis, deeply entrenched in their spiritual journey, navigate this astral realm, perceiving through astral eyes and ears (aka subtle senses).

    3. Related kosha

    Within the Sukshma Sharira or subtle body, three koshas intertwine to form the intricate web of the subtle body.

    • The Pranamaya Kosha, representing the vital or energy sheath, aligns with the five organs of action (karmendriyas).
    • The Manomaya Kosha, the mental sheath, encompasses the mind (manas), subconscious (chitta), and the five perceptual senses, allowing us to feel and experience a spectrum of emotions.
    • Finally, the Vijnanamaya Kosha, the intellectual sheath, comprises the intellect (buddhi), regulating our analytical abilities, decision-making, and the ego (ahamkara).

    In the exploration of the three bodies in yoga, the Sukshma Sharira emerges as a crucial realm, connecting the physical and the metaphysical in the intricate dance of existence.

    3. Karana Sharira – The casual body

    At the core of human creation lies the enigmatic Karana Sharira, also known as the causal or karmic body—a subtle vibration that shapes the essence of our being. As we navigate the intricate landscape of the three bodies in yoga philosophy, the Karana Sharira emerges as the largest facet, captivating in its complexity.

    The experience of the Karana Sharira transcends the boundaries of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep states. It encompasses the entirety of our existence, providing a constant undercurrent to our journey through different states of consciousness.

    Characteristics of the causal body

    Contrary to a traditional body, the Karana Sharira defies simple categorization; it is an elemental force, transcending conventional explanations (anirvachaniya) and lacking a discernible beginning (anadi). This intricacy sets it apart as one of the most enigmatic aspects among the three bodies.

    A harmonious blend of the subtle and physical bodies, the causal body stands as one of the subtlest manifestations in the yogic journey. Beyond the tangible, it serves as a guardian, preserving the spirit from one life to the next in the cyclical dance of reincarnation. An intricate recorder, it meticulously tracks our past ideas, behaviors, and acts, weaving a continuous thread of consciousness across lifetimes.

    Despite its profound significance, the Karana Sharira often eludes our senses, existing in the realm beyond the immediate grasp of awareness. It intricately connects to the larger Self, contributing to the complex tapestry of our existence.

    Getting to Know the Causal Body

    Delving into the characteristics of the causal body, we find that it offers a gateway to understanding the divine. It encapsulates the details of all our past lives, experiences, memories, and habits. Upon death, both the astral and causal bodies depart the physical vessel, leaving behind a profound legacy of existence.

    To truly comprehend the causal body, deep introspection through meditation becomes the key. The terms ‘soul,’ ‘spirit,’ or ‘atman’ allude to the profound realization that consciousness itself resides within this body.

    Karana Sharira is entwined with worldly attachments and deep cravings, known as vasanas, for bodily pleasures. It mirrors the intricate dance of desires that shape our journey through life.

    Related Kosha

    The causal body finds its association with Anandamaya Kosha, the fifth and final sheath representing spiritual bliss. This blissful, joyful, and peaceful dimension serves as the ultimate goal in yoga philosophy. Yogis propose that while Anandamaya Kosha permeates all outer sheaths, its true essence remains obscured until the illusions of these sheaths are dispelled.

    How to cleanse the three bodies

    Discover the path to self-discovery, spiritual advancement, and inner peace by delving into the cleansing practices for the three bodies. To unveil the true self, it is imperative to start by purifying the koshas or sheaths, intricately linked to each of the three bodies.

    Essential Practices for Cleansing the Three Bodies

    1. Yoga Asanas: Engage in the transformative power of yoga asanas to purify the Annamaya Kosha. These postures not only tone the body but also alleviate stress, remove toxins, and unblock energy flow.
    2. Proper Nutrition: Embrace a healthy and sattvic diet, steering clear of substances that may overstimulate the mind. Including dairy in your diet contributes to the purification of the Annamaya Kosha.
    3. Pranayama Breathing Exercises: Immerse yourself in the purifying practice of pranayama to cleanse the Pranamaya Kosha. Techniques like kapalbhati, bhramari, nadi shodhana, and bhastrika enhance the vital life force within.
    4. Meditation and Positive Thinking: Direct your focus towards the Manomaya Kosha through meditation and positive thinking. Cultivate mental clarity, concentration, and foster a mindset of positivity. Incorporating bhakti and karma yoga adds depth to these practices.
    5. Truthfulness and Contentment: Purify the Vijnanamaya Kosha by shedding ego, resentment, and pride. Embrace Satya (truthfulness), selflessness, and contentment. Aligning actions with pure intentions positively impacts the intellect.
    6. Self-Realization: The culmination of purification occurs with self-realization. As all other koshas are cleansed, the Anandamaya Kosha, representing spiritual bliss, reaches its zenith. This stage marks the pinnacle of the transformative journey.

    Conclusion

    Just as the 3 bodies and 5 koshas serve as a path towards realizing our true nature, our exploration takes us through the layers of Sthula Sharira (Gross Body), Sukshma Sharira (Subtle Body), and Karana Sharira (Causal Body). Much like peeling away the layers of illusion, our journey aims to bring us closer to the true essence of our being.

    This path requires dedication and practice, akin to working through the koshas. By engaging in transformative practices such as yoga asanas, pranayama, and meditation, we gradually cleanse and harmonize each body. The ultimate goal is akin to transcending the koshas—a journey that demands perseverance.

    If you commit to this path of self-discovery, a deeper state of consciousness awaits, allowing you to unlock the profound truth of your existence.

    3 Comments

    1. Shira Notes March 11, 2023
    2. Sumitra Purani October 17, 2022
      • Ashish October 18, 2022

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