The Axis Teacher Training Program is successful in creating well-educated Yoga teachers for our community. However, many students find immense personal growth that they hadn’t expected on their journey to becoming a certified teacher of Yoga asana. This student is a true example of this personal growth. And presents yet another case that shows how life’s lessons are presented when we are ready to receive them.
Twelve weeks ago I entered into the Axis Teacher Training Program with the intention of fulfilling a longtime desire to become yoga teacher certified and maybe one day to teach. I’m less than three weeks away from reaching that goal and I’ve come to realize that this training has become so much more than a certification process. It sounds cliché, but it’s been a life altering experience.
A lot can happen in twelve weeks. The Universal Force, or whatever you would like to call it, has been testing me. Man, has it been testing me. Thank god I learned how to deal with a lot of my anxiety in the last experiment, so I didn’t have a nervous breakdown last week. Instead, I had a lovely meltdown. Ok, two lovely meltdowns. Life gets heavy sometimes and it’s about how you deal with the crappy situations that makes the difference between moving through them or getting stuck in a rut. In these moments, more than ever, I am thankful to have a consistent yoga practice in my life. When I refer to yoga, I’m no longer referring to simply the asana practices I associated with yoga before entering into this program. Yoga has evolved to become a spiritual journey into self-discovery; a journey to become a better human being through meditation, pranayama, reading of spiritual texts and community.
In class recently we were asked to recall our first experiences with yoga. Mine was in a Unitarian Church on a school night (I was 16) with my best friend. We were both intrigued by this thing called yoga, which neither of us had ever experienced; small town Iowa didn’t have a blossoming yoga community at the time. I remember how everything felt foreign to me, the instruction on how to move your body, the instruction on how to move your breath so it sounded like the ocean (I didn’t learn the word ujjayi until years later), the smell of incense in the air and most importantly, the feelings that came up during the whole experience, especially in savasana. My first savasana was the closest I had ever felt to being connected to the world around me; the spiritual energy was intoxicating. I remember walking out of the church into a cold winter Iowa night and feeling awake and conscious to the world around me in a way I had never felt before. That night I knew that yoga would change my life, because I had just felt it coursing through every fiber of my being and I felt alive.
Fast-forward 13 years and yoga is a huge part of my life. What’s funny is that I still get those spine-tingling moments after all these years. My yoga experience, to use yet another cliché metaphor, has been like an onion, I keep peeling back the layers and there are more underneath. I feel like every layer is revealed to me at the time I most need to receive it. When I was first introduced to yoga I practiced asana, and then transitioned to power yoga when I needed more of a physical outlet. When I was seeking a spiritual path I was introduced to a studio that focused in the concepts of yoga as presented in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. Over the last 6 months, as I’ve had many ups and downs I’ve been seeking out a way to feel more balance and moments of quiet in my life. I had never really practiced Sadhana before Axis, but over the last 12 weeks practicing mediation in combination with specific breath techniques I have experienced some powerful moments of stillness that have allowed me to find more moments of quiet throughout my day and to go back to my breathe when I’m feeling myself starting to tip off balance. I don’t think it is an accident that I started a yoga teacher training program at the same time that my life is being turned upside down and I’m having to reevaluate who it is I am and what it is I want. The sense of calm and peace that yoga has brought into my life is perfectly timed with the insanity that my life has become. Further proof that my life lessons and experiences unfold as the time is right for me to accept them.
The biggest contribution that yoga and more specifically this training program have provided me is a sense of community. Through Axis and my own yoga studio, I have found a connection to people who share my philosophies of yoga and people I can lean on when things are hard. The lessons I’ve learned through reading, studying and sharing yoga with the wonderful community at Axis yoga have been life changing. Whether through the practice of meditation, asana, pranayama or reading of spiritual texts, I really believe yoga has something to offer everyone. Maybe this is my where my journey is taking me, to help others in in their own physical and spiritual journeys through the practice of yoga.
Many, if not most, of the students who complete the Axis Yoga Teacher Training program will describe how Yoga has enriched their lives. Often times in ways that were completely unexpected. This student’s story of performing panchkarma for the program’s Ayurvedic experiment is another example of attaining gifts other than those sought.
For the past year and a half, I have experienced various symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I have tried with limited success to use Western medicine, elimination diets, exercise, and stress management to alleviate these symptoms. In particular, at this time of year when we are transitioning from warmer to cooler months, I know that my pitta is aggravated from the summer’s heat as well as some of the foods I typically enjoy.
I chose to practice panchakarma for my Ayurveda experiment to help neutralize my seasonally aggravated pitta as well as to invite healing for my IBS.
Lad (1998) describes that traditional panchakarma includes five “actions”: internal oleation (daily ingesting increasing amounts of liquid ghee) while eating a doshic diet; external oleation and sweating (massaging oneself with coconut oil and then breaking a sweat before showering) while eating a monodiet of only kitchari and vegetables and drinking only cumin, coriander, fennel tea; and purgation (using triphala daily and then at the end of the cleanse, ingesting castor oil to invoke rapid intestinal evacuation). While I did indeed, follow Lad’s guidelines for these five cleansing actions, I also came to include several other components to my daily panchakarma routine. First, I added ten minutes of “prayer salutations” in the morning, that is, I practiced a prescribed asana sequence that invoked union with the Divine. At the end of the sequence, I paused and spoke my heart’s prayer for guidance for my panchakarma as well as the heart wish that my work would help relieve my and others’ suffering. I also practiced jala neti each morning and ate meals without distractions. In the evenings, I meditated for twenty minutes. Further, after completing the panchakarma process, I embraced a sense of rejuvenation, returned to eating a doshic diet, and took Shatavari daily for the week.
 Lad, V. (1998). The complete book of ayurvedic home remedies. NY: Three Rivers Press.
On the practical realm, after practicing panchakarma, I have noticed that my ears no longer itch (a sign that my seasonal allergies have diminished) and that I am probably five pounds lighter. Unfortunately, after the cleanse, I am experiencing more symptoms associated with IBS than I had pre-cleanse. (post continued on next page)
More significantly though, by practicing the traditional five components of panchakarma, I also came to embrace five attitudes that were vital in cleansing and rejuvenating myself spirituality.
Derik Eselius ~ 720.934.6934
Sixth Ave. UCC 3250 E. 6th Ave