Practical Yoga Philosophy [Five Dimensions of Human System]

Sofly Bird Flying

Whether you are a complete beginner or a veteran practitioner, Practical Yoga Philosophy can help you in your journey. The following article explores a yogic perspective on the human system represented in a five-dimensional bird model (Pancha Maya).

Yoga is a Science of Life

You can think of these levels as a series of Russian “matryoshka” dolls. Each doll is embedded within the others. As we unravel matryoshka dolls, we go from the outer to the inner layers in greater and greater levels of subtlety.

Russian Matryoshka Dolls. Each Doll Is Embedded Within The OthersFive Dimensions of Human System:

Bird Model (Pancha Maya)

5 Dimensions of Human System: Bird Model (Practical Yoga Philosophy)

The five-dimensional (Pancha Maya) system is the heart of the Practical Yoga Philosophy and yoga practice.  According to this model, there are five dimensions or layers in the human system:

  1. Physical Body – Annamaya 
  2. Breath or Life Force – Pranamaya
  3. Intellect – Manomaya
  4. Personality – Vijnanamaya
  5. Feelings [which are the seat of bliss] – Anandamaya 

Each dimension consists of five additional layers. First, a bird model is used to represent a human system – a bird is a symbol of freedom and can only fly when all its parts are functioning properly. This model helps us work efficiently with a limited number of broad categories. It is also instrumental in maintaining and restoring health.

Physical Body (Annamaya)

This layer represents a physical body or the “gross” expression. What we can see, touch, and feel. For example, the word Anna means food, and the word Maya means appearance.  This layer is nourished and created by food.

Bird to show how Yoga Philosophy displayed in a bird model for 5 Dimensions of Human System - Practical Yoga Philosophy

Seven Tissues 

The physical body consists of seven tissues (dhatus) that hold the body:

  1. Essence or Plasma  – Rasa 
  2. Blood – Rakta 
  3. Muscle – Mamsa 
  4. Fat – Meda
  5. Bone – Asthi
  6. Bone Marrow and Nerve – Majja 
  7. Reproductive Fluid – Shukra

The essence tissue (rasa dhatu) is formed from the essence of the food that we take. We can think of this essence (rassa) as a stew. It is very light but cooks for a very long time. Food can have six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. Furthermore, it can be consumed in three forms: chewable, swallowed, and drinkable.  Also, there are five elements of nature in our food.  The essence is dependent on the balance of these five elements: space, the wind, fire, water, and earth. These are the basic representation of food essence. When we talk about the “earth” element, we refer to hardness and heaviness, while the water represents wetness, coldness, etc. In other words, the basis of the theory is to lay the fundamental categories. We won’t be delving any further into the elements of food (rassa) since this subject is vast and beyond the scope of this article.

The Digestive System is the Foundation for the

Healthy Human System.

Equally important, in the Practical Yoga Philosophy, all seven tissues (dhatus) are inner-connected. To have a sound reproduction, we need to have healthy digestion.  In fact, the digestive system is the foundation for a healthy human system. The byproducts of the essence (rasa) transform into blood (rakta). Consequently, blood nourishes all the tissues (dhatus) to the reproductive tissues (Shukra). The reproduction (Shukra) is the essence of all previous fabrics.

The digestion is the foundation of the human system. Your are not what we eat, but you are what you don’t exert.

picture of frogs to show that the digestion is the foundation of the human system - Practical Yoga Philosophy

So, digestion is the first step towards greater health. It starts with food preparation, the thoughts of food, smells, and how it tastes. Also, it is important where, when, and with whom you choose to eat. Additionally, our food intake is one of the few things we have complete control over.

Furthermore, excretions play an essential role in balancing all our tissues. When a digestive system is out of balance, our body will show signs of aggravation, eventually leading to states of imbalance and diseases.

To summarize, tissues of the body are regularly formed, getting their nutrition from the food we take, destroyed in due time, and once again replaced. The quality and quantity of food, digestion, absorption and nutrition transformation in the cells contribute to tissue health.

  • Ten Organs of Perception (Karana)

The mind reacts to every movement, image, sound, smell, touch, taste, and other message. It perceives reality through the senses.

There are 11 sensory organs (indriyas): five organs of sensual perception (jnanendriyas), five organs of action perception (karmendriyas), and the mind (manas).

Five sense organs of sensual perception (jnanendriyas):

  1. Ears  (Shotra)
  2. Eyes (Chakshu) 
  3. Nose (Grahna)
  4. Tongue  (Jiva)
  5. Skin (Tvak)

Five organs of action perception (karmendriyas):

  1. The ability to grasp (Pani)
  2.  Locomotion (Pada)
  3. Mouth (Vak)
  4. Reproductive organs (Upastha)
  5. Elimination organs (Payu)

Practical Application

So, we can see how The practice of physical movement (asanas), breathing exercise (pranayama), and meditation align our entire system. As a result, we gain the ability to focus the mind. In other words, we can reach the state of yoga or sustained attention. We free ourselves from being constantly pushed and pulled by our senses. Instead, we can gain focus and clarify.


Recommend further reading:



This article is based on my notes from the Chase Bossart workshop.

6 thoughts on “Practical Yoga Philosophy [Five Dimensions of Human System]”

  1. I think it makes a lot of sense that the image of a bird is used to describe the functioning human body, and I had to chuckle when I saw the picture of the frogs with the toilet paper 😉 I actually pinned it to my “Raw Feeding” board on Pinterest. After all, the same logic can be applied to K9 nutrition as well.

    Have you written some blog posts or done videos on/of breathing exercises? I would find that helpful.


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