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Finding Center & Spring Yoga Retreat 2017 - Grant, CO

Yoga, the Path of Shadow and Light


 

I like to tell people that yoga is born out of adversity and a deep desire to know the truth.   Yoga is just as much about understanding our darkness as it is about understanding our  light.  It teaches how to navigate the valleys and climb to the peaks; without one you could not have the other.

No matter how much we may try to avoid misfortune or feelings of distress they find a way to creep into our life.  Distress comes in many forms:  a broken relationship, a parking ticket, political change, losing your job, ill health, even death.  It is natural to want to avoid these kinds of experiences.

Conversely,  life can be full of positive and enriching experiences.  This can look like material success or healthy relationships for example.  It is natural to want to covet these types of experiences despite their fleeting nature.

Ultimately yoga encourages us to move past identification with negative or positive experiences and find a source of lasting peace within, unconditioned by outer events.

Most of us are probably not there yet.  Most of us still react unfavorably when the world does not conform to our expectations or get carried away when good fortune comes, secretly clinging to the hope that it will never go away.

How do we navigate the ups and downs of life and find lasting fulfillment?

Here are three suggestions:

1. Personal Responsibility  

Yoga teachings embrace the notion of karma.  Briefly, the word karma refers to the act of doing something (either negative or positive) and the subsequent negative or positive result, all within the same word or notion.

Just as there is an ecology to the orbit of the earth around the sun, weather patterns, and growing a healthy garden, so to there an ecology to our actions.

Nothing in the creation happens in isolation, it is all interconnected.  The fabric of life responds to and influences our conditioning, choices, actions and circumstances.

It is easy to condemn outside forces and neglect asking what our role might be in the situation.

  • “My coworker Fred is the source of all my suffering!”
  • “I loaned all of my money to my mob-syndicate uncle who never paid me back -what a jerk! ”
  • “It’s the president of the United States fault that the world is so messed up!”  (okay, maybe this one is true).

Jokes aside, we are literally at the center of our life experience.  How we feel and think about a situation happens inside of our skin and mind.  The onus is on us to face our circumstances and choose the healthiest actions and perspectives, even if it is difficult at times.  Ultimately, this will set us free.

If we relegate the responsibility of our life to the outside world we are destined to be disappointed.

2. Be Kind to Others

Yoga is no different than any other form of personal enrichment in that it can become a form of spiritual narcissism and we forget about the plight of others.  Everyone else has experienced or is experiencing some form of hardship, it is one of the uniting features of humanity.

This becomes particularly important when working with people who may rub us the wrong way.  How can we clearly see our own shadow in response to their actions, without getting triggered and resentful in the process, thereby perpetuating the cycle of negativity?

I’m not suggesting that you become a doormat or that you should become the next Mother Teresa.  I’m asking how we can create space around an ingrained “Me” orientation, and become more capable agents of good in the world in the process.

3. Regular Yoga Practice

If you have gotten this far in the article, you understand the value of dedicated yoga practice.  As my teacher once said “If you work on yoga, yoga will work on you.”  

Cultivating ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘being kind to others’ does not have to be another hard fought battle. Regular yoga practice helps to foster these qualities so that they come more naturally.

Developing our capacity for great dedication and compassion is a gradual but inevitable process that stems from regular practice.  In order for the practices to work, you have to do them.  There does not seem to be anyway around that.  Developing a home practice will benefit you in many, many ways.  In the quiet of your candle lit basement you will cultivate wisdom and insight.

Practicing with others can also be beneficial.  Particularly when done in a concentrated setting like a ytt or retreat.  Practicing in these environments builds a collective power that is greater than the sum of its parts and can take your practice to the next level.

Conclusion

Learning how to navigate the inner forces of dark and light is a lifelong process of investigation and discovery and requires ongoing effort. Yoga can greatly accelerate that journey and empower us to face what is in front of us and extend positive regard to others along the way. Yoga is a way of life that draws out the very best within us, the fruit of which is lasting peace.

What Does Yoga Say About Life Off the Mat?


 

The Yoga of Not-You

Traditionally, yoga was offered freely in service of the welfare of the whole creation. As students and teachers of yoga, how do we live in alignment with this noble ideal and still pay the bills? How do we live in attunement with yogic principles and fulfill our responsibilities?

Classic yoga offers a method -Karma Yoga.

Most of us are familiar with the word “karma”, it literally means “action”. The word “yoga” refers to a means of spiritual development. Karma yoga is the “yoga of selfless action”.

Typically we perform actions with some degree of self centeredness:

  • If “I” purchase this new car, I will gain great social prestige.
  • If “I” buy this person roses, they will love Me”.
  • If “I” do handstand in the middle of the room, everyone will think “I AM” Awesome!

It is difficult to not get emotionally invested in our efforts, to expect a certain result and become identified with that result. This will result in one of two outcomes; either disappointment or a temporary sense of self-satisfaction.

Karma yoga asks us take a different approach, to set aside our agenda and act impartially, without attachment to the final outcome.

Acting impartially is not to be confused with apathy. As a yogi, it is necessary to perform actions wholeheartedly, just without getting “stuck” or “attached” to the outcome. Perform all actions for the actions sake alone.

Karma yoga has more to do with the spirit in which we perform actions and has less to do with the outer circumstances surrounding our activity.

One could be working in Mother Teresa’s ashram in Calcutta, tending to the needs of destitute people, all the while thinking about how awesomely selfless they are, and miss out on karma yoga. Or, perhaps someone acts as a farmer who tills the earth in service of the people who will eat the food, accepting a “good” or “bad” crop with equanimity.

The main idea is to recognize any ingrained selfish motive when performing actions and dedicate all actions in service of the highest good.

Application

Just like asana practice, karma yoga is a practice. Karma yoga gives a point of reference in which we can bring the spirit of yoga to all of our actions (including practicing and teaching yoga). It will shine the bright light of self awareness into our activity and can be practiced at every moment.

It does not have to be perfect from the get go – it rarely is.

Learning how to recognize our own motive and choose to live in a universal way is an ongoing process one that will bring greater peace to the world and, in the great cosmic equation, benefits all (including you 🙂

 

200 Hr. YTT Open House – Aug. 13

Come find out more about Axis Yoga’s ongoing yoga teacher trainings. This will be a great opportunity to experience a class, meet graduates, get your questions answered and get a taste of what Axis is all about!

Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017    9:30-11am
Sixth Ave. UCC – Upstairs
3250 E. 6th Ave, Denver – 80206

10 Tips on Choosing a Denver Yoga Teacher Training


The Top Must-Ask Questions Before Choosing a YTT

 

Some have called Colorado the mecca of yoga. And as the popularity of both yoga and Colorado as THE place to live have grown, the number of certified yoga teacher training programs have skyrocketed. A quick internet search will turn up dozens of training programs throughout the Denver-Metro area. But it can be challenging to determine which yoga teacher training program is right for you.

Below is a list of 10 must-ask questions you can use to evaluate the programs you are considering. The answers will not only narrow down your search, but will also help guide you to the training program that meets your specific needs as a yoga practitioner and future yoga teacher if you choose to go that route. A representative from the Denver program that you are considering should be available via email, phone or even face-to-face through open house events. If you are having difficulty getting your questions answered, this could be a sign that the program may not be a good fit.

Download and print the comparison worksheet here to help make narrowing down your selection easier.

With the answers to these questions, you can find the Denver yoga teacher training program that best aligns with your values. Remember that the benefits of your training will feed you well for the rest of your life, far beyond the length of the program. I’m excited for you and the amazing journey you are about to embark upon.

Namaste,

Derik Eselius
Founder, Axis Yoga Training
Denver, CO

10 MUST-ASK Questions Before You Pick A Program in Denver

  1. What is the size of the training class? Ask what the capacity is for their typical training class and if they fill that class to capacity. Take a moment to consider how you would feel being in a class of 20 versus a class of 60+. Ask to talk with the primary teacher about the level of individual or personalized feedback they will provide on your practice, teaching, sequencing, and other assignments. Smaller classes allow for more customized instruction. The way you are received as a prospective student will reveal how you will be treated once in the class. If the teacher makes time to address your questions, that’s a good indication they will value you as an individual rather than simply someone on their class roster.
  1. Is the program certified? Ask if the program is certified specifically with Yoga Alliance. Yoga Alliance has become the authority in the yoga world and most all legitimate yoga teacher training programs are registered with them. In all honesty, it may be tricky to find teaching job after graduation if you haven’t attended a Registered Yoga School (RYS) and obtain the Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) designation, all affiliated with Yoga Alliance. As a member of Yoga Alliance, you have the opportunity to receive valuable member benefits and resources such as health insurance, liability insurance, educational webinars, and more. Even if you are not sure you want to teach, it’s better to enroll in a program that will allow you to so if you choose. To ensure you can get your RYT designation upon graduation, verify that a prospective program is listed as an RYS on Yoga Alliance’s website.
  1. Does the program offer on-going support after graduation? This is important (though all of these questions are important)! Attending an intense 3-month yoga teacher training really can and will change your outlook on life in addition to giving you the skills to go on , if you desire, to teach your own classes. If after training, you’re kicked out of the nest without on-going support available, or access to the teachers you could end up stuck or wondering what to do next. Before you sign up for the training, make sure you ask, after the training, can I email my teacher questions that arise about my own personal practice and about how to go about starting to teach. Are there additional “booster” or “refresher” classes or even retreats for graduates that I have the opportunity to attend? Is there an online “alumni” community that I can be part of?
  1. What is the style of the training? Knowing what style(s) of yoga will be taught will help you narrow down your search. While demonstrating respect for the broad tradition of yoga, the program should focus on one or two particular approaches that resonates with you rather than providing a sampling of every possible yoga style. Keep in mind the notion that being a jack of all trades means becoming a master of none. On the other hand, consider whether the program’s teaching certificate will make you a well-rounded instructor who can teach in a variety of settings, or whether you will only be qualified to teach a branded, scripted class in a particular location or for a particular company. Yoga is diverse in how you approach it. Some programs may focus on the Asana more exclusively than others. Determine what is best for you.
  1. How long has the program been established? With so many yoga teacher training programs popping up in every city (Denver is flooded with them), it’s important to know how long the program has been in existence and even approximately how many graduates the program has produced since it’s inception. The longer the program has been around, the more likely it is that they have grown, learned and matured over the years to produce the highest quality curriculum. Like with any course or curriculum, it takes some trial and error to work out the kinks. It also takes time to respond to the needs and feedback of the students they are serving. In addition to asking how many graduates have completed the program, a follow up question would be if they survey their graduates and take action steps to apply that feedback to make the program better.
  1. What is the culture of the program like? Understanding the culture of the yoga studio will help you get an understanding if you and the program are a good fit. Just like finding a new job or attending a university, cultural fit plays a role in your decision. Is the yoga teacher training program a large part of the focus of the studio offering it, or is it something they do on the side as an added stream of income? Is the program offered by a large national chain or a smaller company local to Colorado? Is their culture more community-based or corporate focused? More importantly, ask yourself will you feel more comfortable in a close-knit group or in a large, sprawling network.
  1. What does the curriculum consist of? We already asked about the styles of yoga taught, but it’s also good to know the various elements that make up the program’s curriculum. Are a variety of benefits of yoga discussed (physical, mental and spiritual)? Is the program holistic and comprehensive? Will you be learning a combination of traditional theory, meditation, Pranayama (breathing) and Asana (postures)? Is there a list of required reading? Will there be guest speakers? Is there just one teacher or multiple? Having a well-rounded program that uses a multi-faceted approach to teaching brings depth to your training and practice as both a yogi and teacher.
  1. What prior experience is required before the training? As a person interested in becoming a certified yoga instructor, you may come from a variety of levels in your own yoga practice. From being hooked after only taking a handful of classes, but wanting to learn all there is to know about yoga and its benefits. To having practiced for many years and wanting to deepen that practice and take it to the next level. A big part of knowing if a specific program is right for you is understanding if they have any requirements or prerequisites. If a program requires no previous yoga experience for applicants, this may raise a red flag. It could mean that you will receive a less-thorough education because your teacher trainers will need to spend more time instructing newer students in the basics of alignment and technique. Getting a clear idea on the program’s expectations of you before signing up can either set you up for great success or failure.
  1. Is the school fair and upfront with their pricing? Price is often one of the biggest variables when searching for the right yoga teacher training program. However, if the answers to the previous questions aren’t right for you then price really doesn’t matter. Choose quality over affordability. Most 200-hour teacher training programs range anywhere from around $2,000 – $5,000. Some schools have additional costs for workshops, makeup classes, manuals or even guest speakers. Find out all fees that are associated with completing the program so you know what your true cost will be, and be sure the program has their attendance, pricing, and refund policies in writing.
  2. What do graduates say? Word of mouth and referrals are a very powerful thing. What better way to know what a program is all about than hearing it from those that have experienced it themselves? Read the testimonials on the program’s website, research reviews on Yelp and even go as far to see if you can reach out to a recent graduate to hear their experience first hand and point-of-view. If you have the opportunity, ask a former trainee what their personal transformation was like and what they decided to go on and do after graduation.
CLICK HERE to download a full PDF version of this guide along with a comparison worksheet to help you as you research local training programs.


200 Hr. YTT Open House – Aug. 13

Come find out more about Axis Yoga’s ongoing yoga teacher trainings. This will be a great opportunity to experience a class, meet graduates, get your questions answered and get a taste of what Axis is all about!

Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017    9:30-11am
Sixth Ave. UCC – Upstairs
3250 E. 6th Ave, Denver – 80206

The ONLY Way to Know If You’re Doing A Yoga Pose Correctly

What makes a yoga pose an authentic yoga pose?

Here are several answers to this question. Can you guess which one it is?

A.You look like, and are able to smile like, the model on the cover of Yoga Journal

B.You are one of the elite few who can do handstand in the center of the room

C.You are hyper flexible, and therefore able to go deeper into the poses

D.You actually present and attuned to whatever posture it is that you are doing

 

The answer is D!

As a yoga teacher I sometimes hear would be students say “I would like to try yoga but I am not flexible enough”, as though the ability to touch one’s toes were a prerequisite to the practice.  The assumption is that success in yoga can be measured by one’s ability to bend.

Even dedicated practitioners can fall into this assumption and miss out on the deeper purpose and potential of any given asana.  In fact, it is possible to seemingly grow more and more proficient at yoga poses without ever actually practicing yoga.  If our practice is motivated purely by external appearance, than we are missing out on a fundamental aspect of yoga.

Many can attest that there is an implicit value in the postures, that is not to be discounted.  And, let us consider that the postures, along with other even more sophisticated yogic methodologies, are a means to a much greater end -Union with one’s inborn spirit.

While this may sound very lofty, it is something that can be gradually discovered and ultimately realized.  The postures can be a means to begin to approach this ideal provided we are practicing with the correct orientation.

The crown jewel of both asana and meditative practice is awareness-itself.  How attentive are we to the quality or pranic essence of our breathing?  Attuned to the quality of the vital breath, are we able to make fine adjustments to the body to accommodate a more compete experience of the breath itself?  How do subtle or overt changes in our breath affect our mind?

Through this detailed process of repositioning or repatterining of the breath, body and the mind through the postures, new neuro-pathways are built and the yogi experiences deeper and deeper levels of peace and perception.

The Sanskrit term for the joining of breath, body and mind is triputi or the uniting of three energies.  Bringing these three aspects fully to bare on the physical pose greatly magnifies the power, potential, and inborn wisdom of any given posture.

From this perspective the ultimate goal of asana is not to contort oneself into the most exotic position, but rather, to use the posture as a fuel for developing inner awareness.

Using the posture as a tool to become more conscious of ones breath, body, mind, spirit connections the essence of yoga practice is brought to life.

JOIN US! OCTOBER 16th EVENT

This month we are hosting an exclusive community yoga class in Denver that focuses on this topic of authenticity in yoga poses as well as “Asana and the Gateway to the Inner-World.” Join us on Sunday, Oct. 16th from 9:30-11:30.

Click here for more information.

Beyond Asana: My Outcome

This experiment helped me deepen my own personal sadhana practice and I become comfortable with meditating alone. Of course there were days when I struggled to relax or questioned if I was doing it “the right way”, but I just reminded myself of an Iyengar quote I had heard “Breath is the king of mind.” That quote took the strain and pressure off focusing my mind and allowed me to just sit in silence and focus on my breath, and things fell into place from there.

Starting a pranayama practice separately from my asana practice helped me grow and strengthen a piece of my practice that was once weak and deficient.  I gained the peace and clarity I had hoped, while discovering pieces of myself I had left unexplored. This experiment helped me to see my life’s path more clearly and strengthened my emotional immunity. I feel I have more love, patience and understanding for others because I have more love, patience and understanding of myself.

Bringing Spirituality to Class

People find their way to Yoga through many avenues. Some through meditation. Some through breath work. Some through spiritual study. And many, like the student in this account, through a physical asana practice. The posts below describe an experiment to deepen a physical Yoga practice to include more of Pantajali’s eight limbs of Yoga.

Bringing Spirituality to Class: Methods

At the beginning of the experiment I brainstormed a list of different activities (see Table below) that I could try in order to enhance the spiritual connectedness I felt during a typical studio-based yoga class. My usual asana class schedule is three times a week (outside of Axis training times), split between Core Power Yoga and Advanced Asana classes at Samadhi. I systematically went through the activities listed in the Table during the asana classes I participated in throughout the weeks of the experiment (including both at Axis training and studio classes). Following each session I journaled about how the various activities affected me spiritually.

Bringing Spirituality to Class: Results

The Table below lists the different activities that were tried during the experiment period and their results.  NE = not effective, SE = somewhat effective, VE = very effective.

 

Table.  Spiritual Activities Tried During the Experiment, and Their Impact

Activity

Where   Tried

Results

Bringing   “prayer hands” to third eye instead of heart

Samadhi

Axis

VE

Devotional   focused practice

Axis

VE

Prone   supplication during practice

Core Power

VE

Doing   asana practice with eyes closed

Core Power

Axis

VE

Using   Anjali mudra during practices as much as possible, even if not cued by   instructor

Samadhi

VE

Meditating   after asana practice

Core Power

SE

Setting an   intention to honor God during practice

Core Power

SE

Picture of   religious icon next to mat during practice

Samadhi

SE

Saying a short   prayer with each down dog hold

Samadhi

NE

Meditating   before asana practice

Core Power

NE

 

Bringing Spirituality to Class: Discussion

Overall I found this to be a very useful experiment as I was able to identify some simple maneuvers that I can take with me into any studio-based class to enhance my spiritual experience.  This experiment also prompted me to think in depth about how I might, as a yoga teacher, incorporate some spiritual practices into my classes, being mindful of creating an environment that is not threatening, and meets people wherever they are spiritually.

Based on this experiment I plan to continue to use Anjali mudra, prayer hands at third eye, and prone supplication throughout asana classes I attend.  It is heartening to know that these three simple actions can increase my spiritual connection in any asana class environment, even during classes that are highly physical (my favorite type!)  In addition, the devotional practice that Brenna introduced was a lovely experience and one I plan to do periodically do on my own. I would love to share a devotional practice similar to what Brenna taught with others.  Thank you for introducing me to it!!!

Blessings in Disguise

Axis Yoga Teacher Training students’ series of experiments culminates with a “personal” experiment. Taking into account all they have learned, students examine any piece of the yogic puzzle on a personal level. This student came full circle as she realized that what she had been aiming for in the beginning of her experiment came around to surprise her in the end. And it was an enriching journey along the way.