Whilst the previous two Koshas, the annamaya and pranamaya koshas are those that create the physical structure the manomaya and vijnanamaya koshas are the mental functions which allow us to deal with the knowledge aspect of being.
Manomaya Kosha is the third layer identified by the ancient yogis as part of the individual’s physiology. It refers to the mental body, that is the dimension of experience that occurs for individuals on a mental level.
Psychologists identify three aspects of mind – the conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious states. From a yogic perspective the mind is divided into 4 parts:
Manas is that part of the mind that responds to sensory input and related to survival therefore this aspect of mind is associated with measuring, judgement, thought and counter thought.
Chitta is that part of mind associated with registering and storing impressions and memory…it is also the basis of the unconscious mind.
Ahamkara is the aspect of mind concerned with identity, the separation of “me and you”
Buddhi which means to know is discrimination, awareness and understanding and assists Manas with the process of rational thinking.
To a large extent the these last three parts are forced to act through the limitations of Manas with our awareness focused on our needs and desires for survival, security and social engagement .. “trying to work out what’s in it for me ” so to speak.
Through yoga practices such as Pratyhara ( the withdrawal of the senses in the beginning of yoga nidra, where we disassociate from the outside world ) you are able to become aware of the subtleties of the mind. NB: You will remember this as that part of the yoga nidra practice where you are encouraged to search out sounds without naming them, gradually drawing the awareness inwards to the internal sounds.
By practising Antar Mouna meditation ( the witnessing of thought and counter thought) you can also become aware of the workings of the mind and in doing so you can begin to identify more with the higher aspects of mind. Once you begin to see how the mind operates it is possible to transform and control thought processes through self-awareness and mindfulness.
Of course working through the other layers or koshas through asana, breathing practices, mantras and cleansing practices will also help to harmonise the mind, so once again yoga gives us many tools to explore the koshas and find balance and equanimity.