Unlocking the Koshas & the Layers of Being

By Stephie Clemens

Go in and in.

Be the space between two cells,

the vast resounding

silence in which

spirit dwells.

…Dive in and in,

as deep as you can dive.

be infinite, ecstatic truth.

…Be exactly what you seek,

the Beloved, singing Yes,

tasting Yes, embracing Yes,

until there is only essence;

the All of Everything

expressing through you

as you. Go in and in

and turn away from

nothing that you find.

– Danna Faulds

These lines invite the practitioner to “lift the lid and look deep inside” to allow one’s own multi-dimensional inner universe to be revealed. The continued invitation is to journey through the internal landscape and navigate one’s unique terrain to eventually settle into a place of restful awareness of the Divinity within. This practice is the exploration of the Koshas – the ancient roadmap to the Self by the self. While many may have experiential knowledge of the Koshas and the layers of Being – by giving tangible language and context to a potentially intangible experience, an enhanced level of understanding and the profound insight of the unity of Yoga – merging of one’s humanity with Divinity – may be fully realized.

Pancha Maya Kosha

            Pancha = five

Maya = consists of

Maya = veil, covering, illusion

Kosha = sheath, subtle body, treasure

Maya Kosha= enfolding sheaths that cover True Sel

The beauty and often confusing piece of the Sanskrit language is that the more importance a word carries, the more definitions it will have. Sometimes, a word can also have the same spelling but have different vowel sounds that only add depth to the understanding of any given concept. Here, maya pronounced with the short consonant “a” refers to a real structure and form while maya with the long “a” is a reference to the unreal illusionary layers of Being. This understanding implies that the conscious working with the model of the Koshas is a two-fold process. The first step is to become aware of each layer and work to cultivate, purify, and strengthen and the second is to transcend the veils of illusion to step into the light of True Self. Sri Patanjali offers insight to the first task in sutra 2.46 sthira sukham asanam – create steadiness and sweetness in your seat. While the word asanam is used, it is not only a reference to the seat of posture but also the seat of mind – to create steadiness and sweetness in the seat of one’s Witness Consciousness. The invitation is to awaken to the equanimity and bliss within each layer and become aware of the interplay between (each holds the essence of the previous) which creates space to experience the larger framework ushering in a return to wholeness and connection to Source.

Annamaya Kosha

Anna is defined as “food” and refers that the physical body grows by ingesting food. This sheath is the densest level of being. In the Western medical model, this layer includes all anatomical structures and physiological systems. Through the lens of yoga, the physical body houses the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether) which become the building blocks to one’s physical and mental constitution (vata, pitta, and kapha – from the Ayurvedic model of body-mind states) When the internal elements and primary constitutions are in balance, one may be able to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature. The physical body serves as an alter to the doorway of Divinity.

Ways to strengthen Annamaya Kosha

  • Practice Yamas & Niyamas
    • Ahimsa – Non-Violence – limit/avoid intake of animal products
    • Saucha – Cleanliness – limit/avoid refined, processed, modified products
  • Movement
  • Rest – Playful or Mindful

Pranamaya Kosha

Prana means “vital life force; energy; aliveness; vitality.” This dynamic life force animates the physical body and serves as a bridge between matter and spirit. Prana is also responsible for all thoughts, desires, and actions. To fully comprehend the most fundamental human inquiry, “who am I?”, one must understand and experience this vast body of Prana – cultivating Prana Vidya (wisdom). Breath is the external manifestation of one’s vitality. By becoming fully immersed in one’s breath, a doorway into wisdom and presence may emerge not only of the physical body but also the mental body and beyond. By observing the breath, one may get a glimpse into all layers of Being and any imbalances that may be present. Prana, also defined as “that which moves,” flows through a matrix of nadis or energy channels. These rivers can become blocked or stagnant through the process of life with emotion, negative beliefs, and trauma. Prana and Chitta are closely linked – where energy goes, mind will follow. The practice then becomes the ability to stabilize and collect Prana/energy so that Chitta/mind may still – slow the momentum to slow the content. By creating a steadiness of mind, one may be able to direct Prana consciously in order to cultivate a greater capacity to heal and transform as well as to remain fully present even in the intensity of daily life. Yoga was designed to free up Prana to become fully awake and alive.

Ways to strengthen Pranamaya Kosha

  • Vinyasa Movement – “to mindfully place breath upon the body”
  • Exploration of the structures of Subtle Body – i.e. chakras, vayus, marma points
  • Shatkriyas – 6 practices used to purify the nadis or channels of energy
  • Pranayama Techniques

 Manomaya Kosha

Mana is defined as “mind.” At this level, all thoughts, feelings, and emotions are processed – guided by the essence and movement of Pranamaya Kosha. The mind’s very nature is to think, to digest all external influences – it spins.

Four Aspects of the Mind

  1. Manas – mind of inquiry. This piece of the mind is what perceives the external world through the senses. It is thinks, it digests, it spins.
  2. Asmita – mind of ego. Asmita is born out of avidya – ignorance of True Self. This piece of the mind ensures that the sense of self remains safe and intact by the creation of limiting beliefs and false perceptions.
  3. Chitta – mind of samskaras. These impressions – conscious and unconscious – feed the layer of Asmita. This piece of the mind orients one to the familiar – colors perception and responds in accordance with previous experiences.
  4. Buddhi – mind of discernment, deliberation, and decision. This piece of the mind has the ability to rescue itself from itself.

The mind of inquiry is directly correlated to one’s sense of sight. Within the practices of Yoga, there is an invitation to close the eyes – if one chooses to close the eyes – may be able to immediately quiet the mental body through the practice of pratyahara and the ability to diminish external senses. Through the varied techniques of Yoga, the practitioner is invited to step beyond conscious mind and off the cycle of processing in order to observe – without judgement or attachment – all thoughts and emotions that may arise within the field of awareness. The practice becomes the ability to still Manas, dissolve Asmita, carve new impressions within Chitta, and strengthen and refine the layer of Buddhi – in order to access Atman or Self and the space of radical compassion and right action.

1.2 Yoga is experienced in that mind which has ceased to identify itself with its vacillating waves of perception.

1.3 When this happens, then the Seer is revealed, resting in its own essential nature, and one realizes the True Self.

– Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, as interpreted by Mukunda Stiles

Ways to strengthen Manomaya Kosha

  • Niyama – Svadhyaya – Self-Study
  • Meditation
    • Anapana – watch the breath move in and out
    • Mindfulness – to pay attention on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgement
    • Mantra – technique that quiets and transcends the mind by using a name or phrase in repetition; can be used with asana – allowing for a dynamic dance between Annamaya, Pranamaya, and Manomaya Koshas

Vijnanamaya Kosha

Vijnana means “knowing” or “wisdom” and refers to the higher mind and pure intellect. This sheath is the threshold from thinking mind to witness mind and the ability to develop calm concentration. In the space of the witness consciousness, there is an invitation to observe all thoughts and emotions with great compassion and discernment. As one consciously steps off the cyclical nature of the mind, one may be able to recognize one’s past conditioning and limiting core beliefs. These limiting core beliefs are the unconscious patterns of thought that color one’s notion of self, others, and the world. Within this space of innate knowing, there is potential to transform one’s conditioning and any habits or behaviors that manifest into daily life. By welcoming all that may arise with compassion, the lens through which the mind sees can be cleared – able to see the present for what it is – informed by past experiences but not colored by it. This layer offers an opportunity for insight, growth, and transformation where an intimate relationship to higher wisdom and Self may be achieved.

Ways to strengthen Vijnanamaya Kosha

  • Meditation
    • Metta – Loving-Kindness
    • Karuna – Compassion
    • Contemplation on Yoga Scripture
      • Ashtavakra Gita 7.3 In me, the boundless ocean, is the imagination of the universe. I am quite tranquil and formless. In this alone do I abide.

This type of meditation invites the practitioner to witness and experience all that may arise within the field of consciousness.

Anandamaya Kosha

Aaa means “bliss” while nanda is defined as “child.” Together, Ananda is the innate joy and bliss of True Self. These feelings are not fleeting but a constant. This inner most sheath provides the answers to one of the most fundamental human questions of “who am I?” – as it is the layer of one’s causal body – that which “causes” one to exist – and the seat of Ahamkara or “I am-ness” and all the corresponding unique traits and characteristics. This kosha is beyond the cognitive mind and in this space free from fear and suffering, it offers the innate capacity to heal any impressions or samskaras. It presents one with the most positive of qualities and the realization of True Nature as truth, consciousness, and bliss.

Ways to strengthen Anandamaya Kosha

  • Invoke Sankalpa – a heart-felt resolve to navigate one’s life; “I am” statements can be a launching point to create a lived experience of the chosen intention
  • Meditation
    • Yoga Nidra – Yogic Sleep

This technique that navigates the five sheaths beginning with the physical body and continues to explore and unlock each doorway into the next deeper layer – eventually settling into the place of wisdom and bliss.

  • Neti, Neti – Not This, Not That.

This non-dualistic approach to meditation invites the concept of dis-identification. Through the cultivation of the mantra and passive awareness, the yogi is able to clear the field of perception and grow in the capacity to rest in wholeness and the connection to all.

Beyond the Koshas

Anandamaya Kosha is not the end of the journey as it is still an illusion and suffering may occur as one may grasp or attach to the feeling of bliss. The journey beyond the koshas leads one to the core of Atman or Self. This Self is the seed of divinity that is whole, infinite, and immortal. This is also the space of unity and connection to all – divinity in all things and all things in divinity. One’s innate wisdom and light is so powerful that it can burn away the layers of illusions – including the physical and psychological conditioning.

Practices to move beyond the Koshas

  • Niyama – Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender to Higher Self
  • Bhakti Yoga – love & devotion

“Your soul or essence quietly watches. It never changes. It is the same now as it was when you were born…your soul has retained its intrinsic connection to Creation, fully aware that life is the grandest and most sacred of all journeys and worthy of every effort to celebrate it.”

–Yogarupa Rod Stryker, founder of ParaYoga


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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.)

If you find that you are running a couple minutes late due to parking, please call the studio to let the instructor know to wait for you before locking the doors.

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!

    Please note:

    • 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!

East Village Studio Amenities

  • 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*

  • Meters on 4th (to the North) for $1.25/hour. Mon – Sat. 4-hour max.

  • All meters are free on Sundays and major holidays.

*Starting July 8, 4th Street will temporarily become a one-way. Students will only be able to enter our parking lot from the North via Court Ave. and exit it going south. Thank you for understanding!

Unlocking the Koshas & the Layers of Being Info