The 5 Koshas of Ayurveda: A Doorway to Health and Wellness

The 5 Koshas of Ayurveda helped me find my way back to health and wellness after a recent health scare. I hope my story sheds light on a similar path available to you, too.

I thought I had COVID.

Thursday turned out to be a long day.

I remember being very tired when I got home from work. I took a nap, then made some food.

Have you ever eaten something and then sat back with the realization “My stomach didn’t like that”? That’s when the party started.

My first symptom was fatigue, then vomiting and diarrhea. No fever, chills, or difficulty breathing.

I decided to wait it out for what turned out to be a very long night with the gastric dynamic duo. I remembered reading that COVID can present with low backache. My lower back ached, but I chalked that up to the vomiting.

Day 2 Wasn’t Any Better

Friday morning, I felt even worse. Being in the healthcare profession, I understand how to navigate the system. I was aware that my doctor (and most doctors) don’t work on Fridays. I started to formulate a plan.

My first option was to continue to wait it out (if it was indeed COVID I would have to). The flaw with this plan was that if I did feel worse over the weekend, I might be S.O.L. to find a healthcare facility open. Yes, I could always go to the ER but I knew from past experience with my children, that the cost of just checking in was a whopping $500. My other option was to go to the ER right away, which is exactly what I did.

The Traditional Health Care Route

Hobbling up to the COVID entrance of the ER was a humbling experience. The staff were very kind as they brought the paperwork out to the car and had me wait until an exam room was open. What was confusing to my practitioner was my lack of symptoms (no fever, chills, etc…).

We decided on COVID testing to get that out of the way. My test came back negative.

She then offered other suggestions: stomach x-rays, ultrasound, and further hospital testing. I instinctively dismissed them due to my lack of symptoms and knowledge of the cost of running random tests. Then she offered a urine test. My ears perked up. This finally felt right.

The urine test came back positive which meant that I had a silent urinary tract infection. A UTI is bacterial in nature and treated with an antibiotic. At this point, my body needed assistance to jumpstart my health. I’m grateful that my practitioner put me on an antibiotic which decreased symptoms within 24 hours.

Due to the silent nature of my UTI, I’ve since purchased a Home UTI Test Kit. A test kit can be purchased over the counter at your pharmacy.  Ask your pharmacist which kit they recommend.

What Was The Deeper Message?

What did I learn from all of this? The Universe was telling me to slow down and to realize that my body was in a stage of misalignment. I stayed on antibiotics for the recommended time. I’ve read the science that overuse of antibiotics can actually harm your immune system.

I decided instead to take this opportunity to be proactive and engage in strategies that would support my body as it continued to heal. 

I’m grateful for my studies in Yoga, Ayurveda, and behavioral science. I understand and embrace the concepts that my body is my laboratory and that the symptoms that present are what I need to take a good hard look at.

To find the root cause of illness, I needed to look at all the layers of my body’s energy and matter that make me, me. My Ayurveda toolbox comes equipped with knowledge of how to enhance my body’s wellness through the 5 Koshas or body’s layers.

Practice in Motion: Engaging the Koshas

“Illness does not suddenly appear. There is a direct causal link between the factors that influence us and the effects they produce. Health is the effect of a healthy lifestyle and healthy habits. Disease is the tree sprouted from unhealthy habits.” – Dr. Vincent Lad

The Five Koshas

Annamaya Kosha

The Annamaya Kosha, or the physical body, has the greatest density. You can touch, feel, and see your physical body. In my situation, my kidneys and urinary system were infected. The fastest way to make changes in my physical body is through food. What am I eating that supports the inflammation process? For me that is sugar.

Practice: I immediately stopped eating or drinking anything that had sugar. When I feel healthy, I have a tendency to get lazy with my diet. So, back to basics: water, cranberry juice, and a green diet were on the menu.

Pranamaya Kosha

The Pranamaya Kosha is less dense than the physical body. You can see and feel your breath and your energy. Before my diagnosis, I felt no disturbance in my energy. Then WHAM–flat on my back. The Universe was telling me to slow down. So I listened.

Practice:  I took a week off of work to heal. That may not sound like a big deal to many, but when you’re self-employed, you don’t get paid for sick time. Time off means no income. There are times when you have to quiet the financial sabotage self-talk. I practiced what I preach. I did not push through and allowed my body the uninterrupted time it needed to heal.

Monamaya Kosha

Monamaya Kosha represents the mental and emotional aspects of ourselves. Again, less dense, as we cannot visually see or touch our thoughts and/or emotions. However, we can feel and express them. The emotions associated with the kidney and urinary system are fear and anxiety.

Practice: Allowing myself to feel the emotions was my first step. The second was to sit still and breathe into my feelings and notice what part of my body responded. The third step for me was a writing practice to discover the root cause of my fears and anxiety. I began by drawing a line down the center of the paper. At the top of the left side I wrote, “I am moving away from…” and on the right, “I am moving toward…” After I finished, I read the list out loud and allowed myself to feel into a deeper level of acceptance of my experience.

Vijnanamaya Kosha

Vijnanamaya Kosha, less dense, is our sense of inner knowing or intuition.

Practice: Trusting my gut and not seconding guessing is how I know I understand this Kosha. As I stated earlier, having more medical testing did not “feel” right. I trusted this and, eventually, a different solution (urine test) was presented. And this was what I needed.

Anandamaya Kosha

The Bliss Body, or Anandamaya Kosha, is the deepest and most subtle. It has been called faith or universal truth. The bottom line is that we are all connected.

Practice: The easiest way for me is to spend time outside and to remember to not take myself so seriously. I’m fortunate to live in Idaho where nature is abundant. Talking a walk outside is the fastest way for me to get unstuck and to put my life in perspective.

The Gift of Ayurveda and Yoga

Practicing Ayurveda, Yoga and leaning into the discomfort of my behaviors has been very successful for me. I have the tools for realignment, to reconnect me back to myself. By the second week, I had stopped taking the antibiotic. I was back to part-time work and practicing gentle yoga, listening when I felt fatigue. By week three, I was fully “back in the saddle”.

I leave you with three questions:

Do you actively use your daily life practices to support your health journey? 

What will it take for you to realign with yourself?

Are you willing to lean into the discomfort of teasing out old patterns that are no longer serving you?

You can wail until something creeps up on you, like a silent UTI, or you can develop your own toolbox for health right now.  Get our free guide to Koshas 101 including ways to activate this practice with simple steps.

Get our free guide to Koshas 101