Develop a Home Practice

How Do I Develop a Home Practice?

In an age of unprecedented amounts of distractions, it’s no wonder that so many people struggle with having a regular home practice.

How to start?  Ideally you receive instruction from a qualified teacher who gives a specific method and guidance based on your particular psycho-physiological constitution. Pranayama (breathing practices) is a vital component of getting the mind to be less rebellious and able to focus.  The fellowship of fellow practitioners (satsang) is also very supportive.

Though less ideal, people also turn to meditation apps such as Headspace, and Rod Stryker’s Sanctuary for instruction.  There are plenty of online resources for asana practice as well. Start with the first step. Postponing, or just thinking about a regular practice will not have the same effect.  

A regular home meditation and/or asana practice marks the transition from being a yoga student to becoming a yogi. A yogi is someone who recognizes their limitations and has taken ownership of their evolution. They see the value of regular practice and make it a priority.

Doing 10-15 minutes of meditation a day is an excellent start. Practicing asana for 20 minutes is also beneficial.  Ideally one can dedicate a half hour to an hour on a daily basis. It does not have to be all or nothing.

Being A Yoga Student In Our Training

What does being a student look like in our program?

Yoga teacher training is a significant undertaking for every student. And one should be aware of the demands and expectations in advance.

Enter the Unknown – Some, if not much, of the content in this program may be new to you.  The content might seem foreign and unfamiliar.  It is a little like traveling to a foreign country where you may not have a grasp the language or the food is different.  The experience of travel is always revealing and can show you a world entirely outside of your known reality.

Experimentation You can also look at the yoga training as an experiment in which the outcome is not entirely certain, though you have a hunch that it will lead you to a better place.  Yoga practice is unique in that you are both the subject and the object of your study. 

You are not standing there doing tests on something in a petri dish. You are both what’s in the petri dish and the scientist. You are the canvas and the painter.  The program will support you in integrating the pieces of the program into the grand experiment of your life.

Dedication –  This program is challenging at times. There will be days when you joyfully anticipate class and other days when you may feel challenged and don’t want to go.  Apply yourself to the process to get the most out of it, and know that you will most likely not understand or integrate all of the content. Dedication will help you make the most of this opportunity.

Class Participation – The classroom thrives when people ask questions and fully participate.  Your participation contributes to the welfare of the greater class atmosphere. The program happens over an extended period of time and the cumulative effect of everyone’s participation is quite powerful.

Learn the Craft of Teaching Being a confident teacher is not a given. As with learning any craft, at first, it can be awkward and unfamiliar.  Inevitable questions arise such as: where do I position myself in the room? how do I demonstrate? how do I find my voice? What happens when many different skill levels show up in the same class?  And many other questions.

It can take months or even years of personal practice and teaching on a regular basis before all the components of teaching come together into one unified whole.  One gradually learns the best places to position themselves in the room, how to bring inflection into their voice, and how to see the postures with great insight.

You will also become masterful at designing classes that meet the unique needs of the students.  You might even accumulate a stash of jokes to let loose at the perfect moment!

Strong Reasons To Do Yoga Teacher Training

Seven Strong Reasons To Do A Teacher Training

No matter what program you decide to go with (ours or another), a yoga teacher training costs a lot of money, takes a lot of time and asks a lot of you personally. There are many reasons to never take one up. There are also many seven compelling reasons to do a training if you want to go further with your practice. And it’s essential if you want to teach.

Reason #1: Adios Sporadic Practice. You’ve read my thoughts about the importance of having a consistent personal practice. I believe that the most potent way to develop one is to do a teacher training.  Maybe you had a real streak in your practice at one time and faintly remember the magic.

I’ve spoken with so many people who think that what they need is to improve on their downward facing dog and develop a positive attitude, when what they really need is a steadfast and safe container in which to be guided into practices that unravel years of accumulated tension and start to re-vision how they see themselves and the world in which they live. 

Reason #2: Exponential Momentum. A 60 minutes asana class will only take you so far. The content of classes more or less repeats itself week after week versus a teacher training that builds sequentially and continuously, like a staircase taking you to the top floor balcony where you can see the entire landscape of yoga and your life. 

Dedicated attention from a knowledgeable teacher and a committed circle of peers will exponentially increase your growth. You will receive the support of the class and give support in turn.

Reason #3: Who You Become. One of the biggest benefits of doing a yoga teacher training is who you become. You learn how to manage your mind, eliminate distractions and chart a new path of greater peace and fulfillment.

You don’t just read about these things, you do them for 3.5 months. Yoga teacher training will put yoga at the forefront of your life.  Practicing yoga on a consistent basis for 3.5 months will forever change how you see yourself and how you relate to the world.

Reason #4: Become More Self Reliant. At the end of the program you may discover that you’ve become the source of your own happiness, rather than projecting your sense of worth onto objects or individuals. You’ll probably find that you live in greater accord with what is most important.

Reason #5: Live a Life of Service. Contrary to a lot of motivational hype, you are not defined by your achievements.  However big or small your role may be, you are here to embody your unique destiny, no more or no less.  When you bring the spirit of yoga to everything that you do: as a parent, as a student, as a boss or employee, a school teacher, or a minister or you just might find that you have become a secret agent of good in the world.

Reason #6: Find and Live Your Dharma.
Living a dharmic life is a far greater measurement of one’s success at yoga than how long one can hold warrior III.  The word dharma means ‘greater law or order’, it is what gives a particular thing its unique qualities. The dharma of a pumpkin seed is to become a pumpkin, and the dharma of a swallow is to build nests from mud and migrate thousands of miles each year without getting lost.

Because of our capacity for higher reasoning and reflection, human dharma is more dynamic and complicated. Every thought, word, and action can express one’s highest dharma, or not.

Overstimulation, harboring resentment, fantasizing or neglecting one’s responsibilities undermine the ability to live in alignment with higher dharmic virtues. 

Yoga helps us to discover and live into our unique dharma.  Yoga allows us to get still and quiet enough to hear the voice of our conscience and make peace with shortcomings. Following the path of dharma gradually leads one down the path of greater fulfillment and meaningful contribution – something everyone wants at their core.

Reason #7: Learn to Teach.  At some point yoga becomes a lifestyle.  It shapes how you eat, who you hang out with, how you think and even how you breath.  Teaching can be a natural extension of your values and your personal relationship to yoga.  It feels good to live congruently.

I consider it to be a blessing for both you and the students.

Many people are searching for some way out of their current working life and feel the need to make a greater contribution. Yoga could potentially be that outlet.  I suggest easing your way into the transition to becoming a full time yoga teacher.

Deepen Your Personal Practice And Teach

Four Steps to Deepen Your Personal Yoga Practice and Become a Yoga Teacher With Depth:

Step #1: Be Inquisitive & Expand Your Options

Mainstream yoga focuses on the postures.  However, the potential scope of yoga is far more encompassing. A individual yoga practice is essential to your success as a student and a teacher.

I suggest expanding your options and be open to learning about other yogic modalities. Personally, I feel drawn to personal yoga practice that is rooted in tradition and I offer students the full scope of methodologies.

After some exploration into the deeper, often ignored world of yoga, you might realize that what you really want is to be an ayurvedic practitioner and help people with nutrition and lifestyle rather than teach asana classes. You may find that you really resonate with bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion), or want to emphasize meditation in your personal practice.  Yoga has so much more to offer beyond the poses. 

There are many possible ways you could ‘do yoga’ in the world.

Step #2: Find and Learn From a Teacher You Resonate With

You can read my in depth thoughts on the ethos of being a teacher, but I thought I would share some of the most essential aspects here as well.  Not all teachers are equally knowledgeable.  Some teachers will leave a much greater impression than others.

The teacher is there to guide the student on a journey from misperception to seeing themselves and life more fully.  They provide a living, embodied example of yogic principles and are also knowledgeable about the particular methodologies that best suit each student (including asana).  Of course the student is responsible for doing work, the teacher simply provides guidance.

In assessing a teacher see that they have a seasoned understanding of the various methods and also demonstrate a regard for the greater welfare as opposed to just themselves.  Personally, having a teacher who is deeply attuned to the spiritual aspects of yoga is essential.


What is it that you are looking for in a teacher?

Step #3: Be A Dedicated Student

We believe that effective teaching is rooted in being a dedicated student.  Teaching then becomes an organic extension of your committed practice.

To say it another way: if you aren’t a dedicated student you have no chance of becoming a teacher with depth. Your personal practice is the foundation for the house of your teaching. 

Of course this same line of thought also pertains to your personal relationship with yoga.  If you practice on a daily basis your mind and body will seamlessly adapt to a more complete version of yourself.  It will happen naturally.

Regularity is the key. Practicing a little each day, or on a regularly scheduled occasion is more effective than “stop and go.” Consistent practice builds momentum over time and eventually takes on a life of its own.

Developing a personal yoga practice is a little bit like growing a tree, at first you have to be very diligent to make sure it gets enough water, nutrients and sunlight.  You may also have to put some kind of barrier around it to prevent it from getting stepped on or eaten by insects. Eventually the tree comes into its own, is able to fend for itself, provides shade, fruit and intrinsic beauty.

Being a dedicated yoga student entails both regular practice and natural curiosity.  As you learn and apply new methods and self reflect on their effect, you discover how to shape your experience of life towards one of less fear and towards more joy.

I suggest that students build a dedicated practice and find delight in it also.

Step #4: Create a Strong, Deep, Personal Practice
Dedication is an attitude. Your personal practice is the laboratory in which to apply the attitude.  Like any craft, the more time you spend with it the further you progress.  If you want to master the violin, you need to practice.  If you want to get better at painting, then practice. The same applies to yoga. The only way to receive the benefit is by regular practice.  In order for the practices to work you have to do them.

These traits make for a good match

These traits make for a good match: 

There are lots of yoga teacher trainings in Denver. Each with its own approach and clientele.  Here is a list of qualities that most resonate with us. And, in full disclosure, the qualities that don’t.

  • You don’t see yoga as a fad, are hell bent on nailing handstand, ‘getting a workout’ or obsess about getting the best yoga pants.
  • You want to teach yoga (formally or informally). You know that life can be impossibly overwhelming. People struggle to manage their emotions, feel trapped within their lives, and spiritually depleted.  Yoga helped you to address all of that and it can help others as well.
  • You are easy going, friendly, giving and supportive of one another. You can get on board with a culture of ‘service’ and ‘support’.
  • You value being punctual, and starting class on time out of respect for your peers. You participate in classes and workshops by asking questions and even challenging some of the ideas presented.
  • You have a home practice (in some capacity) and want the most of each class.

Other positive qualities… 

  • You are willing and able to complete assigned papers and readings.
  • You crave to know yourself more fully and to be inwardly resourced when facing the challenges of life. You stretch into new territory and the discomfort that may go along with that
  • You appreciate that there are many modern styles of postural yoga and have regard for the roots of the yoga tradition. You want classic teachings beyond common cliches such as “this practice is for you”.
  • You have a genuine interest and curiosity about yoga beyond simple asana. Asana is a means to a much greater end that includes stability, equanimity, and spiritual development.
  • You have been doing yoga for 2-10 years.

And we have a special place in our hearts for people who…

  • You desire conversations and philosophies with depth. You value wonder and mystery more than “knowing things”. 
  • You can be open, honest and self-reflective and are willing to be vulnerable.
  • You find them at Natural Grocers (Vitamin Cottage), at the Tattered Cover bookstore, outside, and at meditation and yoga classes.
  • You are dubious of excessive technology and excessive materialism.
  • You desire a richly supportive community of like-minded seekers
  • You care about the welfare of the underserved and may want to bring yoga to those communities. You resonate with underground movements that do a lot of good although they don’t get much recognition. 
  • You appreciate that we are a good-hearted and small business. Some administrative details will feel more like a drive through a scenic country road than mainlining on the interstate.
  • You continue to seek balance in your life between your own needs offering help to others.

The following kinds of people are not a good fit:

  • People who are just in it for the certification and the cool clothing.
  • Only interested in yoga postures and not the greater picture of the yoga tradition.
  • Tend to isolate themselves from and not interact with their peer group.
  • Have no interest in personal development.
  • Are exceedingly dependent upon mobile devices. They could not see themselves getting through a lecture, or even a 10-minute break without logging in.

Four Steps to Deepen Your Yoga Practice and Become a Yoga Teacher With Depth

Step #1: Be Inquisitive & Expand Your Options

Mainstream yoga focuses on the postures.  

However, the potential scope of yoga is far more encompassing.  

I suggest expanding your options and be open to learning about other yogic modalities. Personally, I feel drawn to yoga practice that is rooted in tradition and I offer my students a full scope of methodologies.

After some exploration into the deeper, often ignored world of yoga, you might realize that what you really want is to be an ayurvedic practitioner and help people with nutrition and lifestyle rather than teach asana classes. You may find that you really resonate with bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion), or want to emphasize meditation in your personal practice.  Yoga has so much more to offer beyond the poses. 

There are many possible ways you could ‘do yoga’ in the world.  

Step #2: Find and Learn From a Teacher You Resonate With

Not all teachers are equally knowledgeable or emphasize the same points.  Some teachers will be much more impactful for you than others. An adept teacher will help you to see yourself in ways that you probably don’t perceive presently.  You may begin to recognize when you become reactive, finally see the underlying emotions, and now have the tools to address the deeper issues. A knowledgeable teacher can save you years of trial, error, and guesswork.

Yoga can be powerfully transformational. This process of transformation comes from both the student’s efforts, the depth of the teachings and the guidance they receive from their teachers.  A student-teacher relationship is built upon mutual trust and respect.

Degree of Transformation

A teacher is not necessarily a personal friend though they can be friendly.  Their job is to hold space for yoga

A teacher has positive regard for the student and guides them with patience and understanding. The sincere teacher does not try to convince the student, or make them “believers”. They are there to provide support, give direction when needed, and instruct by example.  

They point out the territory, they show the student(s) how to recognize and overcome troublesome friction in their lives and how to live more fully.  They offer practices to aid in the process.

In my view, teachers are ineffective when they operate out of self-interest, do not maintain their own practice or have insight into the things that they are teaching. When the teacher relies on giving platitudes to the students that they read in a book or offhandedly heard from somebody else, the presentation will lack potency, substance, and compassion.

I sometimes see teachers insincerely praise students. From my perspective, a teacher is there to help students discover their own capabilities rather than to artificially laud upon them.  On their best days, the teacher is an embodiment of and an empty conduit for transmitting yoga.  They translate and present complex, even bewildering teachings, in a way that the student can understand and grow into.  

The student then gets to apply the methods and reflect on the teachings. 

“In the beginning an aspirant seeks some support from outside.
That support comes from a teacher.
When the aspirant starts meditating honestly,
then their own Self is revealed in the form of a guru or teacher.”

Baba Hari Dass

Step #3: Be A Dedicated Student

We believe that effective teaching is rooted in being a dedicated student.  Teaching then becomes an organic extension of your committed practice.

To say it another way: if you aren’t a dedicated student you have no chance of becoming a teacher with depth. Your personal practice is the foundation for the house of your teaching. 

Of course this same line of thought also pertains to your personal relationship with yoga.  If you practice on a daily basis your mind and body will seamlessly adapt to a more complete version of yourself.  It will happen naturally.

Regularity is the key. Practicing a little each day, or on a regularly scheduled occasion is more effective than “stop and go.” Consistent practice builds momentum over time and eventually takes on a life of its own. Developing a personal practice is a little bit like growing a tree, at first you have to be very diligent to make sure it gets enough water, nutrients and sunlight.  You may also have to put some kind of barrier around it to prevent it from getting stepped on or eaten by insects. Eventually the tree comes into its own, is able to fend for itself, provides shade, fruit and intrinsic beauty.

Being a dedicated yoga student entails both regular practice and natural curiosity.  As you learn and apply new methods and self reflect on their effect, you discover how to shape your experience of life towards one of less fear and towards more joy.

I suggest that students build a dedicated practice and find delight in it also.

Step #4: Create a Strong, Deep, Personal Practice

Dedication is an attitude. Your personal practice is the laboratory in which to apply the attitude.

Like any craft, the more time you spend with it the further you progress.  If you want to master the violin, you need to practice.  If you want to get better at painting, then practice. The same applies to yoga. The only way to receive the benefit is by regular practice.

Yoga Has Pulled You Through

Yoga Has Pulled You Through Hard Times

It’s always fascinating to hear how people got into yoga.  For some the process was quite gradual. For others it was a more immediate and affirmative knowing.  “I did not even know it was possible to feel this way!?”

For others the road to yoga may have been more rocky and could generally be classified into one of five ways.   Perhaps you see yourself in one or more of them:

For others the road to yoga may have been more rocky and could generally be classified into one of five ways.   Perhaps you see yourself in one or more of them:

  • A Traumatic Event: For some this was a difficult divorce, ending a significant relationship, or an accident. Something has changed their lives forever and they can’t go back to how it was before. Yoga has provided shelter, healing and renewed hope and they want to build on that foundation and perhaps teach others.
  • Burned Out: Whether it’s being a social worker who is continually exposed to the plight of so many, a parent or caregiver (or just an over-giver) many people come to us depleted.  The stress of “trying to keep it all together” has become too much. Maybe they are looking for a career change. They may also come to us in malaise or even depression. They are ready to fill their cup for a change (and not feel guilty about it).

Life challenges seem to persist and yoga can be an antidote.

  • Wound Up: Others have come to us with unwanted anxiety, a stressful job,  feeling trapped, questioning if they will ever “be enough”, or generally frustrated with life.  Knowing how to regulate one’s emotions is a skill that can be developed with practice.
  • Physical Situation: a persistent health issue, sports or dance related injury, body image concerns, or general bodily discomfort. While we won’t promise any miracles, we are here to support one in feeling greater ease and vitality in one’s own skin.
  • Conscious Life Shift: Some have felt lost and without a compass. Others have overcome an addiction, a career change, a recent move or some other big life shift.   The timing seems right and they are ready to mature spiritually and finally do that teacher training they have been waiting for.

Regardless of the issue, yoga has provided some refuge and strengthened them, even healed them.  Maybe that’s you.
If it is, and you’re considering our Denver based yoga teacher training, here’s some of what we’ve learned over the years about who our programs are best suited and who they are not.

Yoga and Intention Reactivation

The dust and confetti of the holiday season has finally settled and perhaps you have gotten some traction on your intention for 2019.  Mine is/was to give up sugar for 40 days. However, the path of living into a new lifestyle is rarely a straight line. More often than not, affecting life changes is a much more messy process.

The seductive voice of comfort and convenience can creep in and derail our deeper knowing and higher aspirations.  In the words of the famed warrior, Arjuna, in the infamous yogic text the Bhagavad Gita:

The mind is very restless, turbulent, strong and obstinate, O Krishna.
It appears to me that it is more difficult to control than the wind.

So how do we get a grip on our detracting desires and live into our higher aspirations? And more specifically, how can yoga help us with that?

On a physical level, yoga postures (and meditation) have been scientifically demonstrated to re-pattern the neural structures and pathways in the brain as well as correlate structures in the heart and gut, each of which has a unique intelligence.  

Yoga can unlock stuck psychological patterning on a neurological level – something like untangling a knotted ball of twine and rolling it back up again, neat and organized.

There are many stories of yogis who willfully embraced extreme disciplines to arrive at a transcendental boon.  Parvati ate nothing but leaves for years to win the hand of Lord Shiva, Arjuna vowed to avenge his fallen son before sundown or take his own life, Gandhi fasted and performed other acts of austerity to strengthen his resolve for an independent India.

Maybe you are not out to marry a god, make a mortal vow, or to topple an empire but you can move towards your higher-self.  This requires a willingness to trade in something of lower value for something of higher, yet unknown value.

Here are four simple suggestions to help you to reassemble any bygone resolutions for the new year or simple take up a new direction for your life.    

Choose Your Battles
What’s the one thing that you can embrace, or let go of, that is going to give you the greatest return on your effort?  If you try to make too many changes on many fronts you are far less likely to succeed. For me, that one thing was giving up sugar.  In part the benefit has come from not eating a toxic substance but the other part is that it has forced me to eat far less processed food.  Which in turn has led to much more emotional and energetic stability.

Practice skillful-means.  Be selective about what changes you want to make and find one simple act that can foster those changes.  Maybe you want to take the task in parts.

Make Incremental Changes
People can cook up an overinflated version of who they think they should be.  Book stores and libraries line their shelves with texts espousing the virtues of being a ‘Bad Ass’. And the latest seminar promises it all: wealth and glory.  Grandeur can often be a toxic mimic of our true place in the world and within ourselves. Perhaps authenticity is more powerful and real than boundless desire.

Sustainable change is much more gradual than sensational.  We see this in nature, the sun moves just slowly enough to be imperceptible; yet we know it is moving by watching the shadows slowly bend in its light.  All life lives in relationship to the sun.

On a psychological level the mind has many self protective mechanisms, many of them unconscious, that easily rebel when they perceive the unknown coming down the road.  Part of us wants to change while other parts stand ready to put on the breaks.  Transformation is less about conquest and more about patience and consistent effort.

Get Support
Another part of the great American mythology says that we must do everything by ourselves, to triumphantly brave adversity and arrive at our personal promised-land.  In fact, you are far more likely to be successful with the support of the tribe. Many people are not fully aware of the degree to which they are isolated and lack the perspective of outside eyes.

Is there someone who is close to you that you can confide in, and start to bridge your intention from your head and into the world.  Even social media could be a possible outlet for getting some collective support and accountability. Or better yet, get the support of a dedicated group of peers.  This could be colleagues at work or some circle that shares the values that you are trying to create for yourself.

Practice Yoga
Yoga has been proven, time and time again, to move the needle away from self-sabotaging behaviors and replace them with more positive ones.  Think of it as having a magic power. And if you water the seeds of this magic power regularly, it will grow. Whether we are trying to sleep better or give up drinking, yoga can help, particularly when given guidance from an expert teacher.

Of these four recommendations I would recommend the last one, practicing yoga, the most.  Followed by getting support. Practicing yoga in a committed circle of peers, under the guidance of a advanced teacher, will nurture your intentions in ways that you are currently not present to.  What’s more it will safely open the door into new realms of possibility.

Much of the year is yet to come and I invite you to gradually foster a more joyful version of yourself for your own benefit and for the benefit of those who surround you.

In Peace,
Derik

Ps,  Our Spring ‘19 Yoga Teacher Training starts on Feb. 12th.  You are invited to our Information Session on Tuesday the 15th of January from 6-8pm on 3250 E. Sixth Ave to find out more.

 

Yoga Helps You Hit Bottom

 

I remember taking a for-credit yoga class at my university in the early 90’s. We dissected the postures and every so often, the teacher would throw out a yogic pearl of wisdom. Somewhere about mid-quarter, I remember her saying “asana is a very small part of yoga practice –just the tip of the iceberg.”

It seemed strangely paradoxical: as we explored the postures, she diminished them at the same time? If the result of asana practice felt so wonderful and transformative, how could that be only a small fraction of what yoga was?

Eventually I took her statement to mean that asana was one among many different modalities that generated the effects of yoga practice. However, I was still using asana as the standard by which all ‘yogas’ were to be measured. Breathwork, meditation, and all other yogic modalities seemed secondary.

As the years went by and I continued to study, her statement stuck with me and began to take on a different meaning. Not only were there many methods for approaching yoga, but the the potential for experiencing yoga also deepened. All of the methods were in support of a much greater understanding about oneself and one’s relationship to all of life -the spirit of yoga is/was far greater than one’s ability to increase their bodily range of motion.

At its utmost expression, yoga is union of individualized consciousness with Universal Consciousness. That consciousness is the bottom of the iceberg that resides far below the surface of physical “reality”- even beyond mental, self-referential, preconceptions about our identity.

The postures are a means to much greater end. How exactly do the postures play into the journey of yoga will be the subject of our next blog. Namaste.

 

Asthma, Allergies and Ayurveda

Catch a glimpse into an experiment in progress by one of the Axis Yoga Teacher Training students.

The following posts describe how this student adopted some new habits and changed some old ones in an effort to finally deal with chronic allergies and asthma. With the help of Ayurveda and Yoga this student, like many others, discovers their own power to effect change and healing in all parts of the body.