Axis Yoga Teacher Training students complete a personal experiment as part of the culmination of course study. This student started the experiment with a practical application of lessons learned during the program. But it was a bigger lesson in awareness and its effect on life that the experiment ended up teaching.

My personal experiment was originally going to entail a daily home sadhana and applying

ayurvedic remedies to determine if either would have an effect on my chronic headache condition.  The

first week went well and I practiced each morning.  Sadhana started with a warm?up, three surya

namaskar, pranayama practice, and meditation.  After reading about some restorative asanas that may

help headache conditions, I replaced the warm?up and sun salutations with restorative viparita karani

mudra or supta badha konasana.  Unfortunately, I didn’t notice a change in the daily headaches, they

appeared to be as variable as they usually were with the high grade headaches coming as frequently as

normal; about two a week.

Then, I got sick.  Not hospital sick, just a head cold.  But, by my reaction to it, you wouldn’t have

known it was just a head cold.  My lack of presence during that week of illness was astounding.  I flowed

through my days completely unaware of my actions at any given moment.  I did not even experience the

weird duality I sometimes do when life’s challenges prove difficult to handle.  In my dual state, I am, at

least, aware that I am a wreck.  I watch myself, shaking my head and laughing at how serious and

attached I am to making others happy and ensuring that the things I “should do” as a responsible adult

get done.  It’s as if a part of me is separate from the insanity.  At these moments, I get the tiniest of

insights into one of Hafiz’s quotes.  “God and I have become like two giant fat people living in a tiny

boat.  We keep bumping into each other and laughing.”  Part of me is muddling through and the

separate part of me finds that fact absolutely hysterical while asking “Why muddle when you can skip?”

I’m still figuring out how to answer that question (which, I might add, my separate self finds even


There was no watching myself during that particular week of illness; I look back now on that

week as if it were a dream.  I slept my way through it as I slept my way through all of my younger life.

Sadhana during that week was no more than a twinkle in my mind; something else that I should do and

wasn’t doing.  Even the daily sadhana that I do at work was put aside.

So, my experiment became an exercise in determining what happens when even the modest

amount of daily Sadhana I do is put aside.  Oh boy, the lessons learned here are so simple and yet so

immense that words cannot effectively describe them; but I will do my best.  Their simplicity is trumped

only by the fact that these realizations have occurred over the course of the last couple of days as the

illness subsided and my daily practice resumed.  It wasn’t until I restarted a daily sadhana that I could

see again; before that I wasn’t even aware that I wasn’t aware.

My first realization is that Sadhana must be practiced regularly.  Without the practice, it is

simply a lovely theory.  If all I do is sit in a room and read and discuss what I can be and how I can grow, I

will never move from my current state.  I actually have to DO something if I want to change.

My next realization is that without presence, I sleep through life and the waves made by my

unaware actions carry me along.  Being present allows me to actively choose what to do or not do.

When I am conscious, I select, for each moment, what actions I take.  I get to be aware of and

understand some of the possible consequence of these actions.

Without that consciousness, I’m not even aware that there is a choice to be made, let alone

understand the consequences of my actions; I simply react to life.  The alarm goes off, so I get out of

bed.  I have worked at this particular job for four years, so I go to work.   I have bills to pay, so I do what I

have to do to earn a living.  The cats are hungry, so I feed them.  The laundry is dirty, so I wash it.  The

interesting thing is that, when I’m present, the cats are still hungry and I still feed them, but I chose to

feed them and I choose when to feed them.  I’m not simply rambling down the hall, with them wrapping

themselves around my legs, to get the food to them as quickly as possible, so that the yowls for food

stop.  The point is that the choice exists.

My new awareness of my awareness has allowed me to reframe some of the recent happenings

in my life.  During one of a recently nasty couple of headache days where I was unable to reduce the

pain to a level at which I could function, I decided to go home early from work.  My decision to leave

work happened on possibly the worst day I could be absent.  This resulted in my boss deciding that I was

no longer capable of effectively maintaining my job as a manager.  I wish I could say that I handled this

news with equanimity and poise; I did not.  Despite the fact that I had already been talking to my boss

about stepping down out of management for over a year, I went into a tailspin, questioning my ability to

do any job well.  After much contemplation and self?evaluation, this news has opened up a world of new

possibilities.  From a practical perspective, I am working with my boss to facilitate the change in a

manner that works for everyone.  From a personal growth perspective, I have begun the task of

reevaluating what I’d like to do to make a living and I’m finding that the options are bigger than I

thought possible; and the requirements for living are much smaller than I originally believed.  The fact

that this realization has brought a sense of space is the most unusual part of this realization.

In the past, the act of transition has brought me to sheer panic.  I put my head down and barrel

through it as quickly and efficiently as possible, wanting more than anything to get the end so I can “get

on with my life”.  Well, during the barreling, I was still getting on with my life but not in the best way.  In

this transition I am taking the time to contemplate, and reflect, and *gasp* enjoy the time of change.

My biggest realization is how easy it is to slip away from awareness.  I don’t mean to suggest

that I’m conscious all of the time.  I spend most of my time in a semi?stupor state and only have brief

moments of clarity; and I’m not entirely sure that those moments are truly conscious . . . I mean, really .

. . how many levels of awareness are there?

Okay, that’s not actually my biggest realization in this experiment.  My biggest realization is that

I’m okay with not being aware all of the time.  I know that I can lessen the time spent in that semi?

stupor state by sadhana; and I know that I can decide to experience the journey, be it difficult or easy.  I

know that the separate part of me that finds all of this hilarious helps me through those difficult times as

if I am pulling me forward, asking myself the entire time “do you get it yet?”  I’m still answering myself

“Nope, not yet.”  Still, I choose to practice.  I choose to work toward experiencing every moment at

whatever level of consciousness I am in that moment.  I am experiencing the journey.

The Yoga Teacher Training journey leads students down paths that are both transforming and enlightening. It is not unusual that students find themselves in an unexpected, yet familiar place in life. This student describes a journey towards finding life’s purpose.

My Yoga Training started out with an intent, to figure out what makes me happy, my passion and my purpose.  I was looking for something but I didn’t know what.  I started taking yoga classes in my pursuit of health and fitness but instead I found something more, something deeper.  This is my journey, my journey that took me to all those things and much more.  During my pursuit of this happiness I ended up in yoga teacher training.  And as it turns out I wasn’t looking for what made “me” happy and what fulfills “me”.  What I was looking for were answers.  I was looking for answers to the big questions of life, who am I and what am I doing here?  What is my purpose?  After taking this new path to learn something new about life and myself I have found that what I was looking for didn’t have anything to do with “me” it had to do with what we were meant to do here.  While we are here on this planet, this life of flesh, what is it that we were meant to do?  The answer I came up with is to learn and grow, to expand our/my mind to the place it needs to be to live in peace and to connect with something bigger.  The reason that I tell you this story is to let you know what brought me to the place of my personal experiment.  My personal experiment as it turns out is very personal but doesn’t really have anything to do with me.  Instead has to do with serving others, serving others for the greater good of creating a better life for someone or other people by using the life and the experiences I have been through.  That’s what this training has done for me.  It has expanded my mind and gotten me in touch with something much greater than just my own wants and needs.

Now for my personal experiment, while going through the motions of my yoga teacher training I was challenged.  I wasn’t sure sometimes what this was all about.  Why are we doing all these breathing techniques and why are we meditating all the time?  Until finally one day it came to me.  There is something bigger than myself that I belong to, that I am a part of.  This journey started with learning to spend time with myself, in my own mind and be in the present.  Then it moved on to something more, to feel as though I was a part of something bigger.  I always believed deep down that I was a part of something bigger than myself but I never felt it until tapping into yoga techniques.  It helped me reach a place of understanding.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have a long way to go but I feel as though I am already enlightened.  At least much more than the vast majority Americans are aware or enlightened.  Our western culture has created this environment of competition, of go go go, do more, be more, make more money, be more successful. But is this what life really has to offer, is this what we are here for?  My answer is no. I believe we are here to serve, to be in service of others and through that and only that do we find our path to that greater being, that connection to something that is greater than us.