Understanding and Reconciling Samskaras

By Stephie Clemens

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not out darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous”? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

– Marianne Williamson

While this passage has been a favorite of mine for many years, it recently struck a much deeper, richer, and resonant chord within me. As I step into the last month of a year that has proven to be filled with many twists and turns, I find myself creating space for reflection and gratitude. Despite all the uncertainty and accompanying fears, I am grateful for the time and space to practice both swadhyaya (self-study) and Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender to Highest Self). The on-going contemplation of these niyamas (observances) has created an opportunity to not only reshape my relationship with fear but also recognize and reconcile my limiting beliefs so that I might forge ahead from a place of greater compassion, truth, and light.

Recognizing Samskaras

Yoga, from the Sanskrit word “Yuj”, can be translated into “union”. There is an invitation to connect back to Source and one’s innate wholeness. Sri Patanjali’s first yoga sutra – Now, the inquiry of Yoga – invites an exploration into one of the most fundamental human questions, “who am I?” This practice of inquiry invites a systematic approach of “peeling back the curtain” to experience the seed of Self – whole, infinite, and immortal – and transcend the limiting beliefs of one’s thoughts and emotions. Yoga teaches that what keeps one from realizing their truth, bliss, and divine consciousness are obstructions. These obstructions or samskaras can cause suffering and can be viewed as the root cause of all dis-ease.

Samskaras are impressions made upon the unconscious mind by one’s life experiences. These imprints on the mental pathways will color the way one perceives events and ultimately, drive one’s actions and potentially repetitive behaviors. These samskaras or implicit memories – known but not remembered – become hard-wired in the brain and will then shape, filter, and even distort the perceptions and responses to new experiences.

Some samskaras can be beneficial while others may not be so useful. If the mental pathways have been less then optimal, there may be an inability to learn, adapt, and grow from life’s experiences. Over time, these mental grooves of distorted perceptions can become one’s default setting leading to a formation of a granthi or knot. The cyclical pattern of response becomes bound, tangled, and undigested energy which potentially creates larger and more intricate knots of suffering. In short, samskaras are the obstructions and limiting beliefs that have been adopted and cemented as perceived truth – creating a web of ego and identity – ultimately creating the separation from Source.

In the tradition of Yoga, the greatest samskara or suffering is the recoil and disconnection from Source. The I-self or ego has an intense fervor to separate from this deeply embedded implicit memory and seed of one’s very nature by creating layers of explicit memories through identity, story, and judgment – all which creates avidya or ignorance and forgetfulness to the joy, beauty, and magnificence of the Divine Self.

Reconciling Samskaras

The practice of Yoga provides a container in which to witness the full range of human experience. The teachings beckon one to create steadiness in the place of the Witness which then opens the doorway to the seed of Self. By settling into this place of discernment and truth, the practitioner is able to investigate, reconcile, and dissolve the layers of story around their life experiences. By unpacking the layers of story, one might have a glimpse into the root experience and accompanying emotion with greater clarity and shift of perception – offering the opportunity for healing and growth. If such experiences are offered repeatedly in a safe and positive manner without judgment or expectation, old patterns of behavior may slowly diminish and be replaced with alternative pathways. These newly forged pathways then give way to a heighten sense of Self and resiliency, skillful experiencing of thought and emotion, and a greater capacity of agency and the responsiveness to meet one’s own needs.

Revising the Narrative

The use of Sankalpa, translated as “determination” or “resolve”, serves as a bridge from lower mind to higher mind and invites a shift of perception within one’s reality. A sankalpa or intention may be a cognitive or heart-felt statement that invites wholeness and unity. This clear and concise statement may serve as a mantra – giving the lower mind a focal point – with the intent of transcending the thinking mind to move into the place of the Witness. One’s sankalpa cannot only serve within the practice of Yoga but also can be an inquiry of how the statement may manifest in daily life – open to the possibility of the intention naturally evolving to encompass all facets of one’s journey. Through the use of intention, one may be able to shift the trajectory of their life as opposed to being pulled in the direction of deeply rooted behaviors and responses. Sankalpa or intention becomes a seed – each seed can change one’s path – one degree at a time.

“Every perspective on ‘reality’ (good, bad, or indifferent) is just that, one perspective – one degree of what is actually 360 degrees of reality.”

– Rod Stryker

This statement offers an invitation to shift perspective – even by the slightest degree, how might one’s relationship with old ways of being be reframed?

Creating Sankalpa (a practice)

Create a comfortable and steady seat. Feel your sitz bones and tailbone descend into the earth (or cushion or blanket) beneath you – invite a sense of connection. Allow yourself to move from a place of doing into a place of being. As you begin to settle into your physical body – notice any sensations present and invite any movement to cultivate greater ease. As you invite an ease of body – an ease of mind. The body-mind connection is a two-way street – as you continue to allow your body to settle – invite your mind to settle. As your mind settles and you find space between your thoughts – space is then created within your physical body. Let your awareness now drift into your breath. No need to change your breath – simply notice. Watch and feel your breath move – not forced or altered. Your natural breath – that which connects body to mind and mind back into body – the bridge between matter and spirit. As you continue to feel your body breathe – notice the space within in which your breath takes shape. Invite your breath to now circulate and radiate within the space of your heart. Within the space of your heart now infused with your breath, begin to investigate…”what is my heart’s deepest calling?” Let your answer truly arise from your heart – know that your heart may speak in words but also color, image, song…. From your heart’s calling, create a positive statement – let it be in the present tense as though it was already happening. If you should find yourself stuck, perhaps to begin with the words, “I am….” Allow your heart’s resolve to become an affirmation. Repeat your positive statement now three times – feel it permeate every bone, every tissue, every cell of your being. Feel it wash through you again, and again, and again. Your heart’s deepest calling is already truth.


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About Kirk: 

Kirk was working 80-hour weeks and wearing his shoulders as earrings when he found yoga in 2005. Forever the competitive athlete, he loved the physicality of yoga. When the spiritual and philosophical side of yoga were exposed to him, Kirk was hooked. Yoga provided him with what other activities couldn’t -- the ability to foster the benefits of practice both on and off of the mat. Yoga was something that Kirk could bring into all aspects of his life. 

Kirk knows that yoga can be intimidating, so he crafts a class that is playful and inviting, while still being challenging and safe. His creatively planned classes build strength and flexibility in your body and mind while establishing clarity, giving you more confidence to overcome obstacles in your life, and keeping you injury-free. His classes are themed with a message that is relatable and will inspire you to take it with you off your mat. Kirk has been teaching yoga since 2008 and lead his first teacher training in 2012. Where Kirk truly shines is in coaching, developing and bringing out the best in others.  

Kirk enjoys traveling (40+ countries to date!), snowboarding, and cherishes time with his wife and two daughters. 

About Christen: 

Christen Bakken’s yoga journey began in 1998 in a Bikram studio that provided a safe and secure place to practice. She saw the yoga mat as a place to remember her purpose and a place to play. As she continued her studies and began her journey to teaching in 2006, Christen infused yoga classes with devotion and the yoga mat became a place of personal transformation and healing. Her classes are filled with laughter, song, sweat, and usually heart openers. In 2013, Christen began training yoga teachers. This is the place where she finds the most joy - in community with folks looking to grow and be of greater service in their homes, on their mats, and in the world. Over the years, she has led trainings in Denver, the Midwest, Florida, and now abroad. She has trained in continuing education modules, 200-hour, 300-hour, and 500-hour programs. Beyond the mat, Christen is a passionate adventure seeker - she loves to bike, snowboard, and spend time with her husband and pups. She sees each day as a blessing and hopes to remind all who interact with her of this truth.  

Two Light Studio Parking Information

We validate parking for THREE garages in the area!

  • Two Light garage located directly north of the studio. Please bring your ticket inside for validation.

  • Three Light garage at Main and Truman. Garage entrance on Truman. Please bring your ticket inside for a validation sticker.

  • Power & Light garage at 13th and Grand. Please ask for a parking pass at the studio front desk. (Hot tip: the Power & Light garage has a ton of space! But be sure to give yourself a little extra time to walk to the studio.)

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Blackstone Studio Parking

  • We have partnered with our friends at Greenslate to provide 1 hour and 15 minute validated parking for Power Life students in the lot at 36th and Harney (just south of the Cottonwood Hotel). Read below to learn how to take advantage of this perk:

    • Step 1: Scan the QR code located in the lot.

    • Step 2: Select your destination (i.e. “yoga studio”).

    • Step 3: Ask for the validation code at the Blackstone studio front desk and enter it on your phone.

    • Step 4: You are all set! Have fun at class!

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    • The validation provided by Power Life and Greenslate is for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Need to add additional time to your parking space? You can do that conveniently from your phone!

    • This option is valid once per day per license plate.

    • Please do NOT park in the Crescent Moon lot − you will be towed!

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  • There is a paved lot and gravel lot on the West side of the building.

  • Meters on Court and 4th (by Peace Tree) for $0.25/hour, 9am-9pm Mon. – Sat. 12-hour max

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  • All meters are free on Sundays and major holidays.

Understanding and Reconciling Samskaras Info