Here we are. Just days away from a new year, and edging a little deeper into this fledgling decade. As a new year’s blessing yoga practice, I invite us to pause for a moment of self reflection.

Even as the tide of turmoil from this past year still swirls around, I invite us to pause, gaze over our shoulders, and let loose a satisfying and well deserved exhalation.

For a moment, allow yourself to step out of the momentum of the past and deeper into the inherent grace of the present.  Take a few more breaths into this New Year’s blessing yoga practice. Go inside, acknowledge our most recent passage, bless it for all that it was, and welcome the year to come.

Wishing you Peace,
Derik

woman in dog pose in a yoga studio

 

“Why is peace unprioritized?”

I shared this question with my current teacher training students over the weekend.  They looked equally appreciative and puzzled.

You would think that the desire to live in harmony would be greater than the urge for affliction.  Yet somehow that does not appear to be the case.

Like many noble pursuits, peace can easily be dismissed as fanciful, a hangover from the counterculture movement, or even a sign of weakness. Peace is not in keeping with the status quo, a tide of stimulation usurp its place.

“Why is that?”

Years ago, when I first met Baba Hari Dass, someone asked him “how to develop personal discipline?”

His response:

“Climbing is hard, slipping is easy.” 

 

The words still ring true decades later and epitomize why peace is not the priority. It takes deliberate effort to develop positive qualities and the temptation to deviate can be strong.

The impulse to be impatient or disregard the needs of the whole may come more habitually and with greater urgency.  It takes far more energy and thoughtful consideration to create a building than it does to destroy it.

In short, cultivating peace requires dedicated self-reflection and effort – to swim against the current shortcomings and climb towards a noble pursuit. And it can be often far more convenient to choose otherwise.

 

“Where is the priority of peace?”

I shared this question with my current teacher training students over the weekend.  They looked equally appreciative and puzzled.

You would think that the desire to live in harmony would be greater than the urge for affliction.  Yet somehow that does not appear to be the case.

Like many noble pursuits, peace can easily be dismissed as fanciful, a hangover from the counterculture movement, or even a sign of weakness. Peace is not in keeping with the status quo, a tide of stimulation usurp its place.

“Why is that?”

Years ago, when I first met Baba Hari Dass, someone asked him “how to develop personal discipline?”

His response:

“Climbing is hard, slipping is easy.” 

 

The words still ring true decades later and epitomize why peace is not the priority. It takes deliberate effort to develop positive qualities and the temptation to deviate can be strong.

The impulse to be impatient or disregard the needs of the whole may come more habitually and with greater urgency.  It takes far more energy and thoughtful consideration to create a building than it does to destroy it.

In short, cultivating the priority of peace requires dedicated self-reflection and effort – to swim against the current shortcomings and climb towards a noble pursuit. And it can be often far more convenient to choose otherwise.

 

I wanted to take a moment and share our Yoga Teacher Training Covid Response Plan.Thankfully, Colorado is reopening its doors and we hope it will not be an issue. While we are doing our best to be preventative, also recognize that there also factors that are beyond our control and may have to adopt an online format. Not my first preference, but possible necessary in full disclosure.

  • But here is the good news, we have a very robust response plan in place:
  • Our rental space is separate from the rest of the building and is used minimally.
  • Regular cleanings before class.
  • Ample hand sanitizer, tissues, etc.
  • Personal prop kit (including blankets, blocks, a strap and bolster) for your personal use only.
    Free immune boosting course prior to the start of the training.
  • Just nine students, to allow for ample space and maximize the chances of meeting in person.
    Outside class sessions, weather permitting.
  • Spiritual practice for protection and healing including mantra and meditation.
Visual representation of repetition in meditation

First, a word of thanks to all of those who extended their good wishes, food, and prayers after I broke my leg some three weeks ago.  I’m happy to say that the force of healing is alive within me and I make noticeable progress each day. In part, I attribute this healing to repetition in meditation.

As an offshoot of that healing process, I started to offer a free, online meditation course on Wednesday and Friday mornings, 7:30-8:10am. The class consists of a brief asana practice, opening mantra, followed by pranayama, then meditation proper, and a closing mantra. Admittedly, it starts abruptly to ensure we cover these synergistic practices. We don’t discuss theory so much as, well, just get started.

So, I want to give a little context and share one simple idea underlying our practice.  That is simply this, “repetition in meditation”. Repetition is integral to any discipline; whether it be learning the violin, fostering a loving relationship, or advancing spiritual growth. The journey of 1,000 begins with the first step.  And then the next step. And then the next step…. repetition.

There is a fairly well-known expression within meditation circles:

“Better to dig one deep well than many shallow holes.”

For this reason, the repetition in meditation technique I present remains the same for the remainder of the series. My hope is that we get enough of a footing on the method that it becomes a part of us – to give it a fair chance to positively shape the way we view ourselves and our world.

Adopting a single technique for forty days is a common benchmark to get acquainted with a technique.  After those forty days of repeated practice, you can adequately assess if you wish to continue, or not.  There is an overwhelming chance that you will see the benefit and want to continue, you will have seen the value of repetition in meditation.

At the same time, we live in a culture obsessed with variety, innovation, and distraction (largely for commercial purposes). Methodical repetition is antithetical to the pace of modern life (though that seems to be on hold for the moment). However, to develop mastery, or better yet, to develop mastery of your mind, body, and character it takes more than one try. With persistent effort, you will discover the benefit.  The meditation class is here to support you to develop that skill. Of course, I’d encourage you to practice outside of class as well.

“The beginner has many options, the master very few.”

The beginner has many options, the master very few.  As you develop your meditation practice, I invite you to embrace repetition.  Through repetition in meditation, gradually clear away the dust and grime that obscures the inner-mirror. This inner-mirror aids you to see yourself more clearly, to dismantle fear and anxiety and reflect greater peace and joy back upon you.  But it doesn’t all happen by itself, it requires repetition.

Dates & Times:

  • Present through May 1st, 2020
    (May extend depending on interest)
  • Wednesdays and Fridays, 7:30-8:10am.
  • Online Zoom entry-link provided with registration

= Free of Charge =

ADDITIONAL DETAILS HERE

Trust this finds you safe and perhaps even able to adapt to current circumstances.  In either case, it’s times like these that force us to reframe our assumptions of “normal”,  reconsider where we derive security, and reflect on our yoga practice.

Personally, meditation has always been my go-to safe-space.  I can practice at any time, regardless of outer circumstances, and find refuge. It is a friend in times of plenty and in times of need.

On March 23rd, on the eve of the stay at home order, I slammed into the concrete in a bike crash and broke my left femur bone.  Assessing the damage, getting to the hospital, going into surgery… it all felt so surreal and beyond my control. This is not happening to me?  

Then the emotions came.  At first, I held the warrior’s edge to deal with the pain and work with the medical teams.   Which gave way to grief once the initial trauma subsided and I was alone in my hospital bed at 3am.  Slow warm tears and a sense of loss.

It’s been a journey of reckoning. Throughout that journey, meditation has been my throughline, the port in the storm, my guiding compass and light. Bedridden, through the powers of meditation, I began to put my fragile self back together and ignite the flame of healing.

Adversity brings out many things in people, and in my case, it’s inspired me to share what I know and love best with you.  Meditation.  Current events make this offer even more pertinent. I hope we can all find a way to give our gifts in a time of need.

All are freely welcome. Come and reflect on our yoga practice.

Hatha Yoga Meditation Class Format:
The 35-minute class will look like this:

  • Introduction
  • Candle lighting and mantra invocation (Mahamritunjaya mantra for personal and collective healing) 
  • Dedicated pranayama practice
  • Guided meditation
  • Closing mantra (Shantipath for peace)

Taught from the serenity of my ‘yoga basement’ this class will emphasize direct practice of tantric hatha yoga meditation, more so than theory or explanation.  I will provide supplemental links and resources so you can continue the practice outside of our sessions.

Yours in Peace,

Signature of the lead teacher for the Denver Yoga Underground.

 

 

I asked the students to go out and take some classes out in the community and report upon their experiences, both positive and negative.  Here is one student’s reflections on an ineffective yoga class. Hopefully, this example will serve both yoga students and teachers alike:
An ineffective class can result in a broken heart

As part of this exercise, I attended a vinyasa flow class. Normally I am drawn to vinyasa classes however this class turned into a cautionary tale rather than a source of enrichment. To me, it seemed like an ineffective yoga class.

Observation number one. Upon retrospect, the teacher clearly overestimated the ability of the students, the first step of an ineffective class.  Almost everyone in the room was over fifty and new to yoga. The substitute teacher was young and looked pretty fit. I got the sense that he assumed everyone was more or less in the same shape as they were.  However, this was not to be the case. I’m glad everyone got out of there alive. 

Secondly, there really was no warm-up.  This was my next clue this would be an ineffective yoga class. He started us in a standing position and he had us in warrior three within the first five poses.  Personally, I need time to work up to a posture like that. Apparently, I was not the only one. I saw others struggling as well. Their version of warrior three resembled a very crude version of someone partially hunched over to lift up a wide box while standing on one leg.  It was not pretty.

“Warrior three resembled a very crude version of someone partially hunched over to lift up a wide box while standing on one leg.” 

Thirdly, the pace of the class was very fast.  I barely had time to finish half of an inhale before we were onto the next exhale or chaturanga.  Why are we in such a hurry? The class was 60 minutes long regardless of how many poses you can pack into it.  I think it is more important to spend quality time in each of the poses than racing to try and do as many as possible. Less is more.

Fourthly, the sequence was needlessly complicated.  At one point, we did 14 successive postures on one side before only doing 12 on the second side. (I counted). It’s not surprising that the teacher missed a few poses on the second side given how complex the sequence was.

Like going as fast as possible (point number three) I’m not sure what the advantage is of doing so many poses on one side? I thought it made for an ineffective class. As a student, it felt like trying to digest 14 (or 12) different kinds of food all at once. Lemons, bulger, ham, cream cheese…. You get the point.  I literally had a stomach ache. Choreography took precedence over quality.

“Choreography took precedence over quality.”

As a prospective teacher, I learned a lot from going to this class.  There are lots of ways to teach an ineffective yoga class. When it’s my turn to stand in front of the room, I will keep everyone safe with the following. Firstly, tune into the level and needs of the students. Secondly, make time for a sufficient warm-up. Thirdly, move at a manageable pace.  Finally, emphasize the quality of a sequence rather than its complexity.

This is my final letter of 2019 to share with you a commitment for 2020. I continue to expand the reach of my offerings and want to make yoga training available for everyone. As you know, yoga is beneficial in so many ways and it only seems reasonable to share it generously.

Yogis practicing yoga nidra

Yoga, as a traditional practice, is the skillful and earnest exploration of the personal and transpersonal human experience. Yoga as a practice of personal discipline and self-inquiry is and will always be “free” to explore, and the teachings are readily available in publications and on the internet. All of us long for peace on the deepest level.

And while weekend immersions and retreats are powerfully transformative,
not everyone can access or afford it.

I’m very excited to announce that my first two primary Colorado offerings in 2020 will be offered on either be donation or Pay What You Can basis.  I will teach my yoga nidra training collaboration with Axis Yoga/The Yoga Underground, and Erik Vienneau the founder of Awake, both of whom share a commitment to accessibility.  I list the events here in short form:

  • Pay-What-You-Can Yoga Nidra Immersion at Axis Yoga/The Yoga Underground Jan 31-Feb 2nd
  • Awake Meditation 1-Day Retreat, by donation, at The Gathering in Evergreen Feb 9th

Please spread the word, particularly to those typically may not be able to afford more advanced training.  There is limited at these events and early registration is recommended.

For complete details on these and many other offerings please visit my website.

I hope this holiday season brings you heart-felt connections with loved ones. And we can share in a desire to make yoga training available to everyone.

– Jeremy Wolf