The Yogic Aura: What It Is and How To Make it Brighter
Did you know that yogis have known about the human aura for millennia and even developed techniques to strengthen it through meditation?
In fact, yogic philosophy ascribes not just 1 word to describe our energy fields, but has a 5-fold terminology to map out the subtle aspect of our energetic existence. The five sheaths or Koshas, which are mentioned in the great ancient texts of the yogic tradition, such as the Taittiriya-Upanishad, are the building blocks of the yogic model of the human aura and are an essential part of the theory and practice of classical yoga.
These 5 sheaths or layers of the aura compose the human energetic field through which we relate to and navigate through the world.
If we could take a picture of them, they would look like thermal imaging radar scans or layered energy fields around the body. These fields exist simultaneously within and around our physical bodies, each vibrating at different densities, and are extremely beneficial to learn about and be aware of whilst traversing through our personal, spiritual, energetic or somatic landscapes.
Sensing the Subtle Layers of Consciousness
Sheath means “casing” and refers to the layers of consciousness and ever-changing energetic fields covering that which is eternal and unchanging, known as the Supreme Self (Atma). In yoga philosophy they are:
the sheath composed of food
the sheath composed of life- force
the sheath composed of mind
the sheath composed of wisdom or intellect
the sheath composed of bliss
The first one, Annamaya Kosha, has the lowest vibration and thus emits a field very close in physical distance to the body. As we move through to Pranamaya, Manomaya and so on, the vibrations become progressively faster and higher and the fields reach greater and greater distances from the body. It is said that enlightened beings have auras that vibrate at such a high rate, human beings can feel them from miles around.
Why is it Important to Be Aware of the Sheaths?
We can use our knowledge of these sheaths to help us form and develop detachment, an invaluable characteristic enhanced through spiritual practices and a sign of real growth and maturity on the path. When continuing on any spiritual path, knowledge of what is occurring in the moment at subtle levels can be infinitely useful in letting go into deeper states of meditation, as well as help to navigate through the practical world in our waking state.
For example, imagine you’re driving to work one morning and a song comes on the radio that reminds you of a time in your life that was really difficult. Immediately the mind is flooded with memories and shortly after, waves of emotion envelop the chest and fill the throat until it starts to close. You become distraught and for a moment forget you are driving a vehicle in rush-hour traffic.
No matter how long you continue to hold onto these feelings, a few minutes or a few hours, the emotions overtake you and your state of being is significantly altered, easily leading to unnecessary or irrational decisions. Your energy has become consumed with feelings of sadness, despair and anxiousness, while in reality you are simply driving to work with the radio on….sound familiar?
Had we known of and applied knowledge of these koshas, however, it may have immediately informed us that the emotions we experienced were simply an energetic response to thoughts existing within energetic layers of the body which are constantly changing in response to our internal and external environments. Just as our bodies change and decay over time, our emotions, thoughts and levels of insight will be different from moment to moment.
How Can We Start to Identify the Koshas?
Techniques like pranayama (yogic breath techniques) and prana vidya (knowledge of energy) are the most direct ways of experiencing these different bodies within ourselves.
Here is a simple exercise to help calm the mind and start identifying your own koshas:
Take a seat in Sukhasana (easy cross-legged pose). Place your hands palms up on your thighs and touch your index finger and thumb tips. Close your eyes and take a deep breath.
Feel your sit bones ground down into Mother Earth or cushion upon which you sit. Lengthen your spine from the bottom to the top and feel the crown of your head stretch upwards to the sky. Take a few deep breaths in through the nose and release completely out of the nose.
Keep your eyes closed and feel all the parts of your body that are touching Mother Earth. Feel gravity pulling the weight of your body down to the floor. Also bring your attention to the top of your head and mentally scan your entire body noticing every sensation all the way down and all the way up again. You are now experiencing your Annamaya Kosha (Food or Physical Body).
Take the awareness now to the center of your chest and internally watch it rise and fall with each breath. Without trying to control the breath, just spend one minute simply observing the natural inhales and exhales. Noticing the quality and subtlety of the breath we can tune into one aspect of the energy body or Pranamaya Kosha.
And now notice how the rapid fire of thoughts that were once shooting through the mind have now been slowed. Also check in to feel if you are experiencing any emotions. Becoming aware of your thoughts and emotions brings you into greater awareness of the Manomaya Kosha (Mind Body).
Continue the journey by taking your awareness to the center of your eyebrows. Notice your thoughts and emotions as they pass one after another in the stream of your mind. Ask where do these thoughts and emotions come from? Are they permanent or do they come and go? This awareness brings us in touch with our wisdom or intellectual sheath the Vijnanamaya Kosha or (Wisdom Body), which helps us discern the real from the unreal.
Allow all thoughts and emotions to float through your mind without holding on to anything. Simply “witness and release.” Once a thought or feeling arises, immediately let it go or imagine your mind, body and soul as composed of a super slippery substance on which nothing can stick. Keep your mind’s eye in between the eyebrows. What remains behind the thoughts and emotions? Is there a deeper knowing inside? Notice the silence and stillness that begins to prevail, and feel the deeper sense of inner peace and joy that is beyond the normal chatter of the mind. This temporary state of joy is referred to as the Anandamaya Kosha or Bliss Body, and can be experienced suddenly and without effort.
Beyond even the bliss body our True Self (Atma) remains – witnessing the myriad levels of our human existence. Learning how to become aware of ourselves as pure consciousness, free of mental constructs, allows us to contact our spiritual energy (Atma Shakti). Once this awareness dawns, waves of luminous subtle vibrations cascade through all the sheaths and increases the radiance of the aura; making it brighter, larger and stronger.
With the pervasively-changing inner and outer landscapes, our job as spiritual aspirants is to remain as a witness to and deeply acknowledge the rich tapestry of life, yet remain detached, and thereby unaffected by them. We then allow ourselves space to act accordingly without reacting to life’s ups and downs by simply acknowledging that all things change except the pure consciousness that is the source of our very existence. This leads us down a more focused path in life with discernment for the ultimate truth as our guiding light.