What is the number one responsibility of a yoga teacher?
Is it being able to do handstands? To do wheel pose? Large classes? The answer is surprisingly simple. The number one responsibility for yoga teachers, is to teach yoga. This may seem overly simplistic, but in my view, it is as paramount as it is obvious.
People come to yoga for a variety of reasons. Some come to fix their back, others want peace of mind. Still others come for greater flexibility. Any of these sound familiar? I have certainly taught classes that address these needs.
In the scope of what is possible through yoga practice, these accomplishments (as wondrous as they may be) are relatively minor. Skilled yoga teachers teach you much more than triangle pose, they will help you to understand yourself – the shadows and the gold – with great clarity. They instruct you on how to minimize suffering and skillfully work with adversity. They teach you to generate energy and to use it wisely.
They teach you to generate energy and use it wisely.
Said differently, yoga teaches you to be integrated; such that your thoughts, speech and actions are congenial. It imparts the desire and means by which you can live your purpose in a manner that is beneficial to yourself and others – to live with greater joy and far less fear. The number one responsibility of a yoga teacher is to teach you yoga. They can assist you to the degree to which they recognize yoga in themselves.
Like raindrops that send intersecting ripples out across the surface of a once placid mountain lake, yoga reveals the interconnectedness of all aspects of life. Yoga is reflected in how we sleep, speak, play, our desires and of course in formal practice.
Yoga shows us how seemingly individual components are part of a greater whole. Gradually students see the lattice of circumstances and life-responsibility they inherited from their past thoughts, words, and actions. And more importantly, how to chart a new destiny.
This may sound lofty, however it starts with something very simple – self awareness. The postures, done with proper attention, generate a degree of self awareness. As you consciously breath and mindfully move you become more self-realized. A skilled yoga teacher offers additional methods to expand self-understanding and actualization. That is their primary job.
“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?”
“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.
Behold. Another season has come to pass and we now edge into the fall season.
Recently, I’ve been pondering how limitless the Universe truly is; from the quiet life of a small grain of sand to the unspeakable jewel box of stars that shine so freely far off in the heavens. And how water remains so youthful even after millions of years of existence. And how baby turtles brave their way into the sea.
I’ll never meet many of those stars, know the ageless secrets of water, or know the life and death struggle of sea turtles; and yet they are accounted for within the great field of intelligence that unites us all.
Earthly societal woes, fire & health crises can appear with such dire-urgency. Sometimes, if only for a moment, I respectfully recognize them as moments in the colossal history of time, space, name & form.
As humans and as yogis, we’re anointed with the seemingly impossible task of navigating both heaven & earth; loss & gain; suffering & compassion; and the yearnings of the individual with the timeless source of life. The only way out is through.
May we skillfully traverse the hard truths before us and recognize the presence of peace that lies within and beyond it all.
I wanted to take a moment and share our Yoga Teacher Training Covid Response Plan. Thankfully, Denver 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 yoga teacher training covid response plan in place:
- Our rental space is separate from the rest of the building and is used minimally.
- Regular cleanings.
- Ample hand sanitizer, tissues, etc.
- Masks required. Simple and effective.
- Personal prop kit (including blankets, blocks, a strap and bolster) for your individual use only.
- Limited class sizes
- Outside class sessions. (weather permitting).
- Spiritual practice for protection and healing including mantra and meditation.
After months of respite in the wake of Covid-19 the silence was broken, a cathartic cry for “Justice!” was heard around the world. The bandaid was ripped off as they say, repealing a painful and bleeding wound that has been conveniently overlooked for centuries. Stephon Clark, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, are just a few and most recent names of individuals to be unjustly killed in the hands of civil-servants.
Inevitable question arise, particularly as a white male: What’s my role in this? How can I contribute and be an ally? What if I get it wrong and say something stupid? Each question invariable exposes a painful legacy and reveals even more painful answers followed by more questions. In no way is this convenient. Or comfortable. Or clearly laid out. But it is imperative.
Over the years, I’ve struggled with these questions, felt the collective sorrow, and tried to educate myself through trainings and conversations. I consciously try to make DYU a welcoming space – failed many times – but hold true to the vision.
Or course yoga has been a major part of that journey – the leading force in many ways. Yoga is a path of deep peace and healing at every step no matter how troubled the terrain. As our sensitivity increases, we can openly recognize the sorrow and joys of the human condition, including our own. Yoga is the means by which we can elevate our own condition and the collective welfare.
Then the questions start up again. For me, the answer looks like listening and taking action. Listening means education. Action looks like using my talents and resources in service of peace and healing (without spiritual bypass).
Specifically that looks like:
- A video and interview series exploring how yoga practice and teachings can be a force for peace and healing on the individual and collective levels.
- We will host a workshop/class in support of Satya Yoga Cooperative, a local school dedicated exclusively to providing yoga teacher training to communities of color. Our goal is to raise 2K, enough to provide tuition for one student to complete their training. It’s a modest but important beginning. Further details coming soon.
- And continue to explore ways that we can make this initiative sustainable.
In the immediate, here is a list of resources to educate ourself on this important and timely issue. Admittedly, I’ve not cased all of these, but received them reliable sources. And added a few of my own discoveries.
- Unlearning Racism Newsletter
- Black People Need Stronger White Allies
- How To Be An Ally During Times of Tragedy
- Anti-Racism Resources for White People
- Resources for White People to Learn and Talk About Race and Racism
Podcasts & Video To Check Out:
- Seeing White
- About Race
- Code Switch (NPR)
- Community Conversation | Yoga and Race Relations with Tyrone Beverly
(Features many voices from Denver)
There are many approaches to meditation. Finding the optimal technique is a bit like searching for a treasure in a darkened room. The treasure holds the promise of greater inner-freedom however, and you’ll sift through less idyllic objects as you blindly sweep the floor with outstretched hands.
Fortunately, your search for the best meditation method can be distilled down to one of three primary categories. These categories range from the most passive to the most elaborate:
- Mindfulness. In simple terms, mindfulness is the act of being fully present to whatever task, experience, or thought you happen to be having. This is one of the most recognized techniques because of its obvious universal application and ‘non-metaphysical’ demure.
- Self Reflection. Other techniques ask you to focus on a particular construct such as the fabled utterance “Aham-Brahmasmi” or “I am divinity itself.” While the mantra itself possesses some potency, the real power of this method comes from the necessary self-reflection and the conviction that life is composed of more than ego-perspective.
- Kriya. Kriya means a ‘method’ or ‘procedure’. These procedures systematically blend various forms of imagery, colors, sounds, and associations to curate a particularly energetic and psychological reality in the practitioner.
Unlike the universal approach of mindfulness, kriyas invoke a specific experience to suit the exact needs of the aspirant based on their current life circumstances and how they wish to evolve. These practices, derived from tantra, are much more dynamic.
These practices, derived from tantra, are much more dynamic.
One may presume that kriyas entail an element of “imagination” or “pretending” to tap into an alternate reality. The more that I’ve studied and practiced yoga, the more I’ve come to see and appreciate it’s metaphysical perspective.
The Universe has more dimensions than length, height, and width and the vast, vast, vast majority of it exists outside of the limited field of our senses. We only see .03 percent of that available light spectrum that emanates from the sun, as an example. I’ve come to recognize kriya as a porthole into a pre-existing plane of existence, outside of conditioned existence.
Meditation to Increase Shakti is a simple example of this kind of kriya. It also is the consummate practice for our May Meditation Series. Shakti means power or force, she is the inherent and presiding force of manifestation itself. Without Shakti, there would be no life.
Kriya then is the systematic method by which one can enter into the awareness of this presiding force. It invokes the living presence and power of Shakti and most sublime attributes. With continued practice, the meditator gradually assumes these qualities.
Different forms of meditation will breed and awaken a different visceral reality.
Just as every seed contains a unique kind of plant in it – be it an oak tree or a rose bush – different forms of meditation will breed and awaken a different visceral reality inside of you. Despite their aura of universal spirituality, different meditations will awaken a unique attribute of your soul and psyche.
When choosing an optimal meditation method, the most important thing is to get started. Reflect on which of these three is most appeals, seek guidance, and most importantly just get started. Any of these approaches will help you to see yourself more clearly and help you discern its unique value and attributes.
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:
- 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,
Reasons To Do A Yoga 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. In my view, there are also four reasons to do a yoga teacher training. 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 more involved 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.
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. Yoga provides a handbook.
Our first yoga teacher training began in 2003. And since that time I have worked with hundreds of students who come for two basic reasons. They either want to teach or to deepen their yoga practice.
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.
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. I consider this to be essential for a student who wants to deepen their yoga practice.
The Denver Yoga Underground began in 2003 at the request of dedicated students who wanted to study yoga as a holistic system. Over the years, a diversity of people, seeking education outside of a studio, found a welcome refuge in DYU.
Today we specialize in grassroots Pay What You Can workshops, accessible retreats and our signature yoga teacher training, for the outlier yogi.
Derik Eselius ~ 720.934.6934
Sixth Ave. UCC 3250 E. 6th Ave