Theory and Practice

I often tell people that Axis Yoga’s training is unique in many ways.  To begin, we are a classically based program.  What this means in practice is that we reference historical and scriptural perspectives on yoga.  The practice of yoga has undergone a tremendous transmutation in the last 100 years since first arriving on our shores; and in the past 10-15 years it has entered the stream of popular culture.  All of this comes with both its up and down sides.

Our theoretical orientation is coupled with an in depth study of the many yogic techniques.  According to the teachings, theory and practice should go hand and hand.  The practitioner then has the opportunity to realize the deeper truths that underscore the practice.  In this way, theory provides an essential reference point for the multiple yogic methods.

One of the ways that we go about exploring and applying the various assertions that underlie the practice is in the form of self directed experiments.  After presenting a piece of material, students then have the opportunity to go out and apply it in real life circumstances.

Student Experiments -Applying the Practice

A simple example of this would be the practice of yama and niyama, or the basic moral precepts of the practice.  Students choose one of these virtues to practice for about two weeks before reporting their findings to the rest of the group.  This sharing of personal realizations not only enriches the individual (and gives them an opportunity to practice teaching), but it also helps to integrate the teachings for the entire group.

As the course progresses, students are then given the opportunity to select an experiment entirely of their own choosing.  We have received a wide variety of proposals over the years ranging from in depth mantra practice to treating asthma.  Some of the exercises are more simple and others are more complex.

We believe that it is essential that students take ownership of their yogic study and find ways to integrate the practice into their lives.  As I have stated in many prior entries yoga has the potential to infiltrate every aspect of our being. And the experiments offer a basic framework for exploring that transitional territory between theory, formal practice and application.  What follows is a simple example, directly from a student, as to how this process works.

Observation

The training is coming closer to an end, and this is the final experiment.  At first, I thought I should choose the hardest experiment. I thought I should pick something that I am not good at. What is it? Maybe pranayama?  Or maybe mantra?  Then, I asked Derik his opinion and his answer was I should do something enjoyable. I thought that this was a very interesting suggestion.

Then, I started thinking about the entire training. What did I learn most? I learned a lot; I learned Yoga philosophy, proper alignment for poses, various kinds of pranayama work, beautiful mantras, ayurveda…etc., but the juiciest at the training was learning the importance of Savasana and how to let go of the struggle.

The Axis Yoga teachers may have noticed that I struggled a lot at the beginning of this training. I forced myself to understand everything at once and it was very frustrating. I got really angry at myself at one point because I felt like I was lost.

I learned to appreciate Savasana after doing a lot of Downward-Facing Dog poses, Triangle poses and other intense poses. I’ve been doing Yoga for a pretty long time, and until now I never really enjoyed Savasana; my mind always starts wondering to the things I will do after practice.

During the training I experienced very different feelings from the other Savasanas that I’d done in the past. I felt my own breath, sweat, heart beat, tension and feelings.  It was really nice; I felt like I could let go of everything.

Hypothesis

My strength is I can focus, I am consistent, I am motivated and I am goal oriented. Those qualities often cause struggles and burn me out, but the problem is I just don’t want to let go of anything; I always want to hold onto it and keep it going. I think I have the same attitude toward my Yoga practice. I don’t like Savasana and I don’t like home practice because I feel like I’m not trying hard enough.

But since I started enjoying Savasana so much in the training, I thought maybe I could do more home practice in a restorative way. Lots of Savasana at home! I was getting excited when I decided on my experiment theme.

Experiment

My regular home practice routines are as follows;
Seated warm-up
Surya Namaskar (x 3)
One ore Two Standing poses (i.e. Warrior series, Triangle series, Tree pose…)
Head Stand & Shoulder Stand (Those are good for my Immune disorder disease)
Twisted Setu Bandhasana (It’s good for mental difficulties)
Supta Baddha Konasana
Savasana (10 to 15 min.)

I changed my standing poses daily, but for the rest of the poses, I stick with them. Also, I did gayatri mantra 3 times at the beginning and said OM internally at the end of the practice.

I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy my home restorative practice before I started, but I actually really enjoyed and even started craving for the practice, especially the Savasana part!  I felt rejuvenated when I was done with the practice. Also, my mind was very clear. It was deep. It was so much different from the practices I had done in the past.

Conclusion

As I mentioned, I struggled a lot at the beginning.  I even wondered if I could make it through the training, but instead of giving up my faith, I learned to let go of my struggles gradually.  Now, the training is almost over. I was counting how many days I have left every time I went to the training! It’s funny, I am sad to see the training is ending.

Thank you so much for guiding us in such a positive and gentle way. I cannot tell you how much I learned from all of you. You guys are wonderful teachers and I feel really fortunate that I had you in my Yoga path. It is truly a blessing.
Namaste,
Shigeko Leveque

New Class at Karma Yoga Center

I want to announce the grand opening of Denver’s newest yoga studio, the Karma Yoga Center.  The owner, Katrina Broyles, has poured a ton of dedication, love and fabulous interior design and ambiance into the place.  Her wholehearted attention is palpable when you walk through the door.

I just returned from an introductory meeting and had a chance to meet the majority of the teachers.  Katrina has drawn a wide assortment of instructors together who teach a variety of genres; ranging from meditation and chanting to classes featuring a professional DJ.  There is a little something for everyone to be found at the newly opened Karma Yoga Center.

I (Derik/Axis Yoga Director) will be teaching two classes there, one on Wednesday evenings from 5:45-7pm and another on  Saturday Mornings (start tomorrow!) from 9:15-10:30.   The classes will feature a combination of vinyasa flow techniques and stationary/workshoped poses.  My intention is to deliver a combination free spirited expression and nuts and bolts education.

These classes will be a rich learning experience in and of themselves and also offer a prime opportunity for students experience some of what Axis Yoga has to offer.  I want to personally congratulate the opening of the new studio and hope to see you there!

The Objective of Practice

There are many, many ways to practice yoga. Obviously, the method of choice among millions of Americans is asana practice.  Yoga’s history and roots go deep into the past.  The theories and methods that support the practice have been experimented with and refined over the course of thousands of years.

The objective of all of this practice has been stated in many ways, and the significance of all of these narratives could be a whole entry unto itself.  For our purposes here, let’s say that the practices really are about freedom.  I don’t mean freedom in the patriotic sense, but rather, freedom from our self imposed limitations and sense of finite self.  The traditions assert that we are much more than our individualized mind can conceive of.  The pursuit and realization of awakened freedom is the underlying goal of all yoga practice –at least, traditionally.

Ways of Practice

Along this great path of Self discovery, many methods were devised.  A project of this magnitude requires on going investigation and revision.  The scope of yoga practice is very large and every modality within- the-entire-creation has the potential to unlock our deepest identity.  If it uplifts the spirit in a sustainable way, it’s fair game.

The early sages explored the use of asana, diet, pranayama, meditation, ritual, scriptural study and interestingly enough symbolic art as a means of Self exploration.  While many of these techniques are commonly recognized and even practiced in our western community, some may be quite foreign.

The Scope of Practice

It is our stated intention here at Axis Yoga Trainings, to give the most thorough and in depth presentation of yoga possible.  In practice, we present the many facets of yoga in a complete and unified way.  Every technique tells a unique story about the evolution and significance of yoga practice. Gradually, through the process of the training, a full and vivid understanding of yoga begins to emerge.

Probable one of the most unique examples of our full spectrum curriculum, is yantra painting.  Taught in the latter end of the training, this class offers a unique synthesis of all the prior practices, integrating form, aesthetics, devotion and meditation into one singular modality.  For many of the students this is an unexpected highlight that greatly expands and reaffirms the richness and depth of the yoga tradition.