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Over the years, hundreds of students participated in my yoga teacher training. All of them were joined by a common love of yoga and a desire to deepen their yoga practice or teach. The latter can be more daunting. How to be a good yoga teacher.

Be A Dedicated Student

Yoga teacher walks in the classroom

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.

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

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.

Create a Strong, Deep, Personal Practice.

Dedication is an attitude. Your personal practice is the laboratory in which to apply the attitude. Personal practice will reveal how to be a good yoga teacher.  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.

women in a yoga training do a twisting postureWhat is the content of a yoga teacher training. This is a foundational question for any training.  It is right up there with what style of yoga do you teach.  I suggest you approach this question with some idea of what you are looking for in a program.  

Are you only interested in the asana?  Classic theory?  Do you want to know the Sanskrit names for the poses? Are you looking for a more contemporary or contemplative approach?

Spend some time with this question and be as specific as possible.  Some programs might say they cover meditation but what does that really look like?  How long do you meditate and for how often? 

If you don’t know what you want out of a program you might end up with ‘buyer’s remorse’. It’s a big investment, have a clear idea of what you want out of the experience before going in.

Have a clear idea of what you want out of the experience before going in.

Denver Yoga Underground is more holistic than most, we focus on yoga as an entire system.  This includes: asana, pranayama, meditation, traditional theory, diet, and lifestyle.  Every aspect of your life will be touched by a dedicated and integrated practice.

We present many yoga practices and principles and you are also a big part of the curriculum. At its core, yoga is a process of self experimentation and self discovery. The content of a yoga teacher training will profoundly shape your ability to see yourself.

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.

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

STUDENT TEACHING

As part of the Denver Yoga Underground’s program, trainees practice student teaching outside of the classroom and in the community.  Here is one notable example of how an entry level teacher navigated their first attempt at student teaching. As a prospective teacher, this article will teach you what it’s like to get stated teaching.

Q. What was your general impression of teaching yoga?  Highs and lows?

A. My overall impression of student teaching felt pretty good.  I’m starting to get more comfortable with “putting myself out there”.  I also received some good feedback from my student teaching partner Meghan. She said I conveyed a lot of confidence and a welcoming atmosphere.

Cueing poses still feel awkward, especially with people who are new.  I know what I want in my brain however it’s that does not always translate to my words.  I work to be clear and concise in my instructions and not overwhelm students with ambiguous instructions.

Q. Did you integrate any insights from the previous student teaching assignment?  What were they? 

A. I want to be genuine.  It is easy to get tangled up in the theory or cueing instructions and the class feels ‘stale’. Most recently, I’ve only been looking at a list of the asanas themselves and then describe based on my personal experience rather than the suggested cues in the manual.

Being genuine is necessary to capture the student’s attention and keep them engaged.  I can tell the difference when a teacher comes from their heart vs a route description.

Additionally, I have some structural challenges and study different variations. Everyone has a unique body, I want to be able to make everyone feel accepted and appropriately challenged, regardless of any physical limitations.

Finally, I work to create space or silence in the class. Students see themselves more clearly when there are fewer distractions. This is another reason to practice concise cues.

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


 

I like to tell people that yoga is born out of adversity and a deep desire to know the truth.   Yoga is just as much about understanding our darkness as it is about understanding our  light.  It teaches how to navigate the valleys and climb to the peaks; without one you could not have the other.

No matter how much we may try to avoid misfortune or feelings of distress they find a way to creep into our life.  Distress comes in many forms:  a broken relationship, a parking ticket, political change, losing your job, ill health, even death.  It is natural to want to avoid these kinds of experiences.

Conversely,  life can be full of positive and enriching experiences.  This can look like material success or healthy relationships for example.  It is natural to want to covet these types of experiences despite their fleeting nature.

Ultimately yoga encourages us to move past identification with negative or positive experiences and find a source of lasting peace within, unconditioned by outer events.

Most of us are probably not there yet.  Most of us still react unfavorably when the world does not conform to our expectations or get carried away when good fortune comes, secretly clinging to the hope that it will never go away.

How do we navigate the ups and downs of life and find lasting fulfillment?

Here are three suggestions:

1. Personal Responsibility  

Yoga teachings embrace the notion of karma.  Briefly, the word karma refers to the act of doing something (either negative or positive) and the subsequent negative or positive result, all within the same word or notion.

Just as there is an ecology to the orbit of the earth around the sun, weather patterns, and growing a healthy garden, so to there an ecology to our actions.

Nothing in the creation happens in isolation, it is all interconnected.  The fabric of life responds to and influences our conditioning, choices, actions and circumstances.

It is easy to condemn outside forces and neglect asking what our role might be in the situation.

  • “My coworker Fred is the source of all my suffering!”
  • “I loaned all of my money to my mob-syndicate uncle who never paid me back -what a jerk! ”
  • “It’s the president of the United States fault that the world is so messed up!”  (okay, maybe this one is true).

Jokes aside, we are literally at the center of our life experience.  How we feel and think about a situation happens inside of our skin and mind.  The onus is on us to face our circumstances and choose the healthiest actions and perspectives, even if it is difficult at times.  Ultimately, this will set us free.

If we relegate the responsibility of our life to the outside world we are destined to be disappointed.

2. Be Kind to Others

Yoga is no different than any other form of personal enrichment in that it can become a form of spiritual narcissism and we forget about the plight of others.  Everyone else has experienced or is experiencing some form of hardship, it is one of the uniting features of humanity.

This becomes particularly important when working with people who may rub us the wrong way.  How can we clearly see our own shadow in response to their actions, without getting triggered and resentful in the process, thereby perpetuating the cycle of negativity?

I’m not suggesting that you become a doormat or that you should become the next Mother Teresa.  I’m asking how we can create space around an ingrained “Me” orientation, and become more capable agents of good in the world in the process.

3. Regular Yoga Practice

If you have gotten this far in the article, you understand the value of dedicated yoga practice.  As my teacher once said “If you work on yoga, yoga will work on you.”  

Cultivating ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘being kind to others’ does not have to be another hard fought battle. Regular yoga practice helps to foster these qualities so that they come more naturally.

Developing our capacity for great dedication and compassion is a gradual but inevitable process that stems from regular practice.  In order for the practices to work, you have to do them.  There does not seem to be anyway around that.  Developing a home practice will benefit you in many, many ways.  In the quiet of your candle lit basement you will cultivate wisdom and insight.

Practicing with others can also be beneficial.  Particularly when done in a concentrated setting like a ytt or retreat.  Practicing in these environments builds a collective power that is greater than the sum of its parts and can take your practice to the next level.

Conclusion

Learning how to navigate the inner forces of dark and light is a lifelong process of investigation and discovery and requires ongoing effort. Yoga can greatly accelerate that journey and empower us to face what is in front of us and extend positive regard to others along the way. Yoga is a way of life that draws out the very best within us, the fruit of which is lasting peace.


 

The Yoga of Not-You

Traditionally, yoga was offered freely in service of the welfare of the whole creation. As students and teachers of yoga, how do we live in alignment with this noble ideal and still pay the bills? How do we live in attunement with yogic principles and fulfill our responsibilities?

Classic yoga offers a method -Karma Yoga.

Most of us are familiar with the word “karma”, it literally means “action”. The word “yoga” refers to a means of spiritual development. Karma yoga is the “yoga of selfless action”.

Typically we perform actions with some degree of self centeredness:

  • If “I” purchase this new car, I will gain great social prestige.
  • If “I” buy this person roses, they will love Me”.
  • If “I” do handstand in the middle of the room, everyone will think “I AM” Awesome!

It is difficult to not get emotionally invested in our efforts, to expect a certain result and become identified with that result. This will result in one of two outcomes; either disappointment or a temporary sense of self-satisfaction.

Karma yoga asks us take a different approach, to set aside our agenda and act impartially, without attachment to the final outcome.

Acting impartially is not to be confused with apathy. As a yogi, it is necessary to perform actions wholeheartedly, just without getting “stuck” or “attached” to the outcome. Perform all actions for the actions sake alone.

Karma yoga has more to do with the spirit in which we perform actions and has less to do with the outer circumstances surrounding our activity.

One could be working in Mother Teresa’s ashram in Calcutta, tending to the needs of destitute people, all the while thinking about how awesomely selfless they are, and miss out on karma yoga. Or, perhaps someone acts as a farmer who tills the earth in service of the people who will eat the food, accepting a “good” or “bad” crop with equanimity.

The main idea is to recognize any ingrained selfish motive when performing actions and dedicate all actions in service of the highest good.

Application

Just like asana practice, karma yoga is a practice. Karma yoga gives a point of reference in which we can bring the spirit of yoga to all of our actions (including practicing and teaching yoga). It will shine the bright light of self awareness into our activity and can be practiced at every moment.

It does not have to be perfect from the get go – it rarely is.

Learning how to recognize our own motive and choose to live in a universal way is an ongoing process one that will bring greater peace to the world and, in the great cosmic equation, benefits all (including you :)

 

200 Hr. YTT Open House – Aug. 13

Come find out more about Axis Yoga’s ongoing yoga teacher trainings. This will be a great opportunity to experience a class, meet graduates, get your questions answered and get a taste of what Axis is all about!

Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017    9:30-11am
Sixth Ave. UCC – Upstairs
3250 E. 6th Ave, Denver – 80206


The Top Must-Ask Questions Before Choosing a YTT

 

Some have called Colorado the mecca of yoga. And as the popularity of both yoga and Colorado as THE place to live have grown, the number of certified yoga teacher training programs have skyrocketed. A quick internet search will turn up dozens of training programs throughout the Denver-Metro area. But it can be challenging to determine which yoga teacher training program is right for you.

Below is a list of 10 must-ask questions you can use to evaluate the programs you are considering. The answers will not only narrow down your search, but will also help guide you to the training program that meets your specific needs as a yoga practitioner and future yoga teacher if you choose to go that route. A representative from the Denver program that you are considering should be available via email, phone or even face-to-face through open house events. If you are having difficulty getting your questions answered, this could be a sign that the program may not be a good fit.

Download and print the comparison worksheet here to help make narrowing down your selection easier.

With the answers to these questions, you can find the Denver yoga teacher training program that best aligns with your values. Remember that the benefits of your training will feed you well for the rest of your life, far beyond the length of the program. I’m excited for you and the amazing journey you are about to embark upon.

Namaste,

Derik Eselius
Founder, Axis Yoga Training
Denver, CO

10 MUST-ASK Questions Before You Pick A Program in Denver

  1. What is the size of the training class? Ask what the capacity is for their typical training class and if they fill that class to capacity. Take a moment to consider how you would feel being in a class of 20 versus a class of 60+. Ask to talk with the primary teacher about the level of individual or personalized feedback they will provide on your practice, teaching, sequencing, and other assignments. Smaller classes allow for more customized instruction. The way you are received as a prospective student will reveal how you will be treated once in the class. If the teacher makes time to address your questions, that’s a good indication they will value you as an individual rather than simply someone on their class roster.
  1. Is the program certified? Ask if the program is certified specifically with Yoga Alliance. Yoga Alliance has become the authority in the yoga world and most all legitimate yoga teacher training programs are registered with them. In all honesty, it may be tricky to find teaching job after graduation if you haven’t attended a Registered Yoga School (RYS) and obtain the Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) designation, all affiliated with Yoga Alliance. As a member of Yoga Alliance, you have the opportunity to receive valuable member benefits and resources such as health insurance, liability insurance, educational webinars, and more. Even if you are not sure you want to teach, it’s better to enroll in a program that will allow you to so if you choose. To ensure you can get your RYT designation upon graduation, verify that a prospective program is listed as an RYS on Yoga Alliance’s website.
  1. Does the program offer on-going support after graduation? This is important (though all of these questions are important)! Attending an intense 3-month yoga teacher training really can and will change your outlook on life in addition to giving you the skills to go on , if you desire, to teach your own classes. If after training, you’re kicked out of the nest without on-going support available, or access to the teachers you could end up stuck or wondering what to do next. Before you sign up for the training, make sure you ask, after the training, can I email my teacher questions that arise about my own personal practice and about how to go about starting to teach. Are there additional “booster” or “refresher” classes or even retreats for graduates that I have the opportunity to attend? Is there an online “alumni” community that I can be part of?
  1. What is the style of the training? Knowing what style(s) of yoga will be taught will help you narrow down your search. While demonstrating respect for the broad tradition of yoga, the program should focus on one or two particular approaches that resonates with you rather than providing a sampling of every possible yoga style. Keep in mind the notion that being a jack of all trades means becoming a master of none. On the other hand, consider whether the program’s teaching certificate will make you a well-rounded instructor who can teach in a variety of settings, or whether you will only be qualified to teach a branded, scripted class in a particular location or for a particular company. Yoga is diverse in how you approach it. Some programs may focus on the Asana more exclusively than others. Determine what is best for you.
  1. How long has the program been established? With so many yoga teacher training programs popping up in every city (Denver is flooded with them), it’s important to know how long the program has been in existence and even approximately how many graduates the program has produced since it’s inception. The longer the program has been around, the more likely it is that they have grown, learned and matured over the years to produce the highest quality curriculum. Like with any course or curriculum, it takes some trial and error to work out the kinks. It also takes time to respond to the needs and feedback of the students they are serving. In addition to asking how many graduates have completed the program, a follow up question would be if they survey their graduates and take action steps to apply that feedback to make the program better.
  1. What is the culture of the program like? Understanding the culture of the yoga studio will help you get an understanding if you and the program are a good fit. Just like finding a new job or attending a university, cultural fit plays a role in your decision. Is the yoga teacher training program a large part of the focus of the studio offering it, or is it something they do on the side as an added stream of income? Is the program offered by a large national chain or a smaller company local to Colorado? Is their culture more community-based or corporate focused? More importantly, ask yourself will you feel more comfortable in a close-knit group or in a large, sprawling network.
  1. What does the curriculum consist of? We already asked about the styles of yoga taught, but it’s also good to know the various elements that make up the program’s curriculum. Are a variety of benefits of yoga discussed (physical, mental and spiritual)? Is the program holistic and comprehensive? Will you be learning a combination of traditional theory, meditation, Pranayama (breathing) and Asana (postures)? Is there a list of required reading? Will there be guest speakers? Is there just one teacher or multiple? Having a well-rounded program that uses a multi-faceted approach to teaching brings depth to your training and practice as both a yogi and teacher.
  1. What prior experience is required before the training? As a person interested in becoming a certified yoga instructor, you may come from a variety of levels in your own yoga practice. From being hooked after only taking a handful of classes, but wanting to learn all there is to know about yoga and its benefits. To having practiced for many years and wanting to deepen that practice and take it to the next level. A big part of knowing if a specific program is right for you is understanding if they have any requirements or prerequisites. If a program requires no previous yoga experience for applicants, this may raise a red flag. It could mean that you will receive a less-thorough education because your teacher trainers will need to spend more time instructing newer students in the basics of alignment and technique. Getting a clear idea on the program’s expectations of you before signing up can either set you up for great success or failure.
  1. Is the school fair and upfront with their pricing? Price is often one of the biggest variables when searching for the right yoga teacher training program. However, if the answers to the previous questions aren’t right for you then price really doesn’t matter. Choose quality over affordability. Most 200-hour teacher training programs range anywhere from around $2,000 – $5,000. Some schools have additional costs for workshops, makeup classes, manuals or even guest speakers. Find out all fees that are associated with completing the program so you know what your true cost will be, and be sure the program has their attendance, pricing, and refund policies in writing.
  2. What do graduates say? Word of mouth and referrals are a very powerful thing. What better way to know what a program is all about than hearing it from those that have experienced it themselves? Read the testimonials on the program’s website, research reviews on Yelp and even go as far to see if you can reach out to a recent graduate to hear their experience first hand and point-of-view. If you have the opportunity, ask a former trainee what their personal transformation was like and what they decided to go on and do after graduation.
CLICK HERE to download a full PDF version of this guide along with a comparison worksheet to help you as you research local training programs.


200 Hr. YTT Open House – Aug. 13

Come find out more about Axis Yoga’s ongoing yoga teacher trainings. This will be a great opportunity to experience a class, meet graduates, get your questions answered and get a taste of what Axis is all about!

Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017    9:30-11am
Sixth Ave. UCC – Upstairs
3250 E. 6th Ave, Denver – 80206

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.