Hatha yoga system proposes that there are three major bodies through which the soul permeates. These three bodies are physical, astral and causal. My approach to yoga includes a synergy of exercises aimed at nourishing all three of these bodies.
The Physical Body is the outermost manifestation of the three bodies. It is our actual physical body, which is composed of five elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether. In the physical body we experience birth, growth, change, decay and death
The Astral Body is where we actually experience the feelings of pleasure and pain even if their stimulus occurs at the physical body. It is also where we experience discrimination, decisions (intellectual sheath), thinking, doubting, anger, lust, exhilaration, depression and delusion (mental sheath), hunger, thirst, heat and cold (vital sheath)
The astral body consists of 19 elements:
The five organs of action or karma indriyas:
Pada (feet) — for locomotion
Pani (hands) — for dexterity
Payu (rectum) — for excretion
Upastha (genitals) — for reproduction
Vak (mouth) — for speech
The five organs of knowledge or jnana indriyas:
Shotra — ears
Chakshu — eyes
Grahna — nose
Jivha — tongue
Tvak — skin
The five pranas:
udana: deglutition. Separates physical from astral body.
Vyana: circulation of blood (minor pranas)
The five sub-pranas:
naga vayu: belching.
Kurma vayu: opens eyelids, vision.
krikkara vayu:s neezing, hunger, thirtst
devadatha vayu: yawning
dhananjaya vayu: pervades physical body and doesn’t leave it until death.
…and the four elements of the “inner instrument”:
The Causal Body is the subtlest of the three bodies and is said to be where karmic imprints are left. It is in the causal body that we experience pure joy and bliss.
The three bodies are imbedded in five sheaths, which, according to yogic philosophy, must be transcended individually in order to be free from the bondage of identifying with the bodies and allow one to come to know and identify with the true self.
The 5 sheaths are:
Annamaya Kosha: Part of the physical body. It is known as the “food sheath”. Composed of elements of the physical world. Made from food and will go back into the cycle of food upon death. It is overcome through asanas and proper diet.
Pranayama Kosha: Part of the astral body. Known as the vital sheath. Composed of the 5 pranas and the 5 organs of action. It experiences hunger, thirst heat and cold. It is overcome through practices of pranayams.
Manomaya Kosha: Part of the astral body. Known as the mental sheath. Composed of the organs of knowledge, manas and chitta. It experiences thinking, lust, doubting, anger, exhilaration, depression and delusion. it is overcome by practicing yamas, niyamas and selfless service.
Vijnanamaya Kosha: Part of the astral body. Known as the intellectual sheath. Composed of buddhi and Ahamkara (intellect and ego) and also works with the 5 organs of knowledge. It is overcome by the study of scriptures, right inquiry and meditation.
Anandamaya Kosha: Part of the causal body. Known as the bliss sheath. It experiences bliss, joy, calmness and peace and it is reach by Samadhi.