1- Annamaya Kosha
Annamaya Kosha is the physical body which needs nourishment to survive. The human being is a part of the food chain as any other creature (i.e. the mammals). It is the visible part of our Self and therefore we erroneously identify ourselves with it. It is the most vulnerable of the five bodies and it suffers visibly of the deficiencies of the other bodies.
An adequate alimentation due to our body type and physical hygiene (extern and also intern) supports and strengthens our health. To activate this body it is necessary to do moderate exercises in accordance to age and physical condition. Recommendable are asanas or postures of Hatha Yoga which are practiced with the required concentration and the respiratory rhythm which maintains the body healthy, flexible and strong. Also any kind of sport which is not exaggerated (i.e. walking) activates this outer and transitory shell.
2- Pranamaya Kosha
Pranamaya Kosha exists in the physical body, interactive and dependant. It is a vital shell that is full of life. The pranic flows are in the blood, lymphatic and nervous circulation. Breath is a life-principle and is a controllable expression. Through the regulation of the breath (Pranayama) other bodies can be positively influenced.
This body can be made visible in high frequency photography (method by Kirlian). People with a special ability in seeing another persons aura can perceive this body with their naked eye. Basically it is the principle of life that distinguishes between living and dead matter. Maha Prana, the grand vital force is present in all aspects of the universe and pulses with its smallest elements. This shell survives the physical body only momentarily, for it is also transitory.
3- Manomaya Kosha
Manomaya Kosha, the inner organ is also interactive and dependant of the former two. It governs the faculties of perception and instinctual consciousness. It is the mind which can construct and destroy. It is our subconsciousness that is formed by negative and positive experiences and where our Self has developed with its behavior. Within this shell actions happen automatically and it dominates the outer shells. “Actions are mighty, thoughts are almighty” (Vivekananda). To activate this body the former two bodies should “freeze” through a deep relaxation (i.e. Yoga Nidra). With this technique, deep sheath of our mind can be penetrated and negative programmings can be changed into positive and constructive ones. This process needs perseverance and constancy. This body is also transitory.
4 – Vijnanamaya Kosha
Vijnanamaya Kosha, the conscious body lies deeper than the previously described ones and is also interactive and dependant. This body is responsible for inner growth, for ethics and for moral. It seeks to reach beyond mundane existence into wisdom and subtle knowledge.
It actively seeks to move from the exoteric to the esoteric -from the world in front of the eyes to the mental space behind the eyes. Independent of a specific religion, the studies of holy texts like the Bible, the Tora, the Bagavad Gita and texts of other great teachers, will lead us to the same truth because all religions are based on the same truth and there is only one principle. In this shell we return to life, the knowledge experienced in life is preserved in this body and outlasts.
5- Anandamaya Kosha
Anandamaya Kosha is the most subtle body and without its existence life is impossible. It interacts with the others like the sun affecting our planet. This blissful body beyond words is perceived in flashes only in short moments, an indescribable experience where duality ends and I AM expresses the unity.
We generally assume that if we want to explore new areas of experience, we first need to acquire knowledge and then to apply it. Yet in reality, it works the opposite way. In the beginning we experience something new and then only begin to search for concepts that may explain our new experiences and connect them to our current understanding. The search is mostly intuitively and often subconsciously. This process is specific for all kinds of expansion of consciousness which help us perceive more subtle areas than the material world. Daily meditation (at least for 20 minutes) activates this immortal body.