Second Series and the Subtle Body: Tim Miller’s Teacher Training

I’m looking through my notes from the first day of our training, trying to catch all of you loyal readers up. Now that Steve’s back at the ranch, holding down the fort, winning the bread, etc., I’ll retrace some of our steps.

Tim began by addressing the koshas. These are the “sheaths” (the meaning of the word kosha) covering the atman. That’s right: You’ve got more than one body.

These koshas have become of particular interest to me. Since Tim gave me his approval to come to his training, I’ve been practicing all of Second Series, start to finish. Maria Zavala has taken me though the practice pose by pose, patiently and generously helping me learn the sequence. She took me all the way through the first day I practiced with her, and since then—about two months now—I’ve been pain free.

I’ll repeat this for emphasis: Pain free, after eighteen years of virtually constant back pain.

Needless to say, I’ve been looking for an explanation for this sudden and unexpected absence of pain, as well as for other unusual side effects that have gone along with practicing second in its entirety–things like increased energy, a sense of lightness, and increasing physical awareness. There are other, more mysterious things. I seem to heal faster, recover faster, and my breath has improved. I’m running hotter, but don’t feel hot. That sort of freaky stuff.

The first day of our training offered some insights as to the value of a second series practice. “In first series,” Tim said, “you get into the body. In second series you blast off.”

So, to relate this to the koshas, the sheaths: The first kosha is anandamayakosha—the material body, the thing that eats. The second is pranamayakosha—as the name implies, the first layer of the subtle body, it’s the energy body.

Tim told us that our practice is, to some extent, an elaborate teaching tool to get us to the subtle body, and beyond, to atman. We are, shall we say, “challenged” when it comes to understanding ourselves this way. We over identify with the physical body. Second Series, he says, is designed to allow ourselves to experience our selves as more than this. Instead of identifying with what amounts to “thought forms” and patterns, we can learn, through Second Series, to identify with the essential self.

This resonates strongly with me, with the poet in me, with the lover of William Blake, who believed in the power of the imaginative body, in its literal existence, and the ways the imagination can make reality.

I had been hearing for most of my adult life—dating back to long before I practiced yoga, to when I read its philosophy—that asana was designed to prepare you to sit for long periods of time in meditation. This never quite made sense to me, until now. I was thinking it meant “prepare the body.” While that’s certainly true, it also means, “prepare the mind.” My sudden and unexpected liberation from chronic pain has also freed a lot of energy—subtle energy—and prepared me for the journey to come.

And left me with a deep and abiding gratitude toward my teachers, Tim and Maria, who have freed me from pain.

Posted by Bobbie

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

10 thoughts on “Second Series and the Subtle Body: Tim Miller’s Teacher Training”

  1. Pain free is always a good thing. Pain also however brings me into an awareness, sometimes good. Don’t loose the awareness. Ha!

  2. Also one other thing, are these koshas in your diagram presented inverted?

    Maybe I would think they would move outward rather than inward. Interesting presentation…. Perhaps they are in both directions.

    Did that diagram come from Tim?

    1. Hi Nick.

      Bobbie’s back in training, so I’ll try to answer. When Tim talks about the koshas, he definitely moves inward from the gross (our body) to the increasingly “subtle,” ending with the Atman at the center. So I think the image (which I don’t believe Tim provided) reflects that.

      I also would add, in Bobbie’s stead, that she probably has had her share of pain and all its lessons. Keep in mind, before she started Ashtanga she was close to getting surgery on her back, and her disks continue to degenerate.


      1. It’s my Christian upbringing here that is influencing the opposite direction. The atman residing eslewhere. Ha!

        Funny, I have heard this story a thousand times and even say it in my class but hadn’t made the connection of moving inward til now.

        All because of a diagram. Ha!

      2. I think annamayakosha is the first one – anna = food in sanskrit. ananda = bliss, anandamaykosha = body of bliss. easy to mix them up as they are a bit similar to our western ears! from out to in: annamayakosha (food), pranamaya (energy/breath), manomaya (mind), vignyanamaya (discernment), anandamaya (bliss)

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