Mother Nurture Northumberland

Five Bodies

This model of what it is to be human comes from the Taittiriya Upanisad, and is a helpful way to understand what a ‘nourishing’ yoga practice might look like (something for every level), and what a holistic, balanced lifestyle include.

  1. I am nourished by food (physical body)
  2. I am nourished by breath (energy/vitality)
  3. I am nourished by learning/intellect (mind)
  4. I am nourished by wisdom/intuition (heart)
  5. I am nourished by joy/bliss (soul)

To feel healthy and well we must take care of our nourishment at all of these levels. As Mums we are also responsible for nourishing our children at all of these levels and helping them learn over time to nourish themselves.

This may mean as a mother you are currently taking care of ten, fifteen, twenty or even more bodies! It’s no wonder we feel tired at the end of the day.

I have a hard enough time just taking caring of myself at all these levels…

Acknowledging all these dimensions has helped me appreciate the magic of what mothers do every day, whether your babes are in your womb, in your arms, in your heart or running about causing mischief!


Notes on Pancamaya for serious yoga students/teachers:

The model of Pancamaya can be found in the Taittiriya Upanisad, chapter 2, verses 1-6. In Sanskrit panca means five, and maya all pervading.   They move from the gross to the more subtle.

Annamaya – food/physical
Pranamaya – energy/breath
Manomaya – mind/intellect
Vignanomaya – heart/intuition/wisdom
Anandamaya – soul/joy/bliss/being

They are also often called the ‘koshas’, kosha meaning sheath or layer and can be depicted as such, like the layers of an onion or a set of Russian dolls.

The layers can also be conceived of like different condensations of the same substance. For example, water can be solid (ice), liquid, or gas (steam) and it can gradually get more solid or more gaseous. The colours of the rainbow show us how light can split into a spectrum with red and one end and violet at the other. In between, if you look closely, it is not possible to say exactly where red turns to orange and orange to yellow, its a gradual differentiation.

In the same way, while the ‘five bodies’ is a useful model to think about the layers of our being, when you look closely it might not be possible to say exactly where the physical body becomes the energy body or the mind meets the heart… these layers are not completely separate and distinct. Kamini Desai explains this beautifully in this video. Each layer being a different ‘condensation of energy’.

All yoga practices therefore have effect all layers of our being, and we can access yoga practices at any level of our being.