Tag Archive for: Teacher

Some of the very first classes I took were offered on a donation basis, back in the early 90’s.  My teacher, Perry, conducted classes out of the Vet’s Hall.  There were no mats, we did the class on the carpet and needed to be out of there before 6:30, to make space for the ensuing twelve-step meeting.  He just put out a little basket, took a step back and let go.  Swaha!

Our Teacher training is modeled after the same idea though I haven’t completely let go as much as Perry did; there is a minimum level of contribution ($1,200).  I think this gives the students something to reference, ensures some level of commitment, is generous, encourages diversity and is sustainable.  Everybody wins.

I ask prospective students to reflect on the value they will receive, their means and their willingness to reciprocate when deciding what they are willing to contribute.  Most choose to give beyond the minimum amount and, we have had students for whom money was not a viable option.  Many of these students we accommodated in the form of trading for child care.  From a parenting perspective, having a yogi student watching the kids was an ideal arrangement.

Running a contribution-based training was something of a revelation and stemmed, in part, out of my study of classical yoga.  There is a long history of selfless service and charity in the yoga tradition and I wanted to align myself with those forces as much as possible.

I have been a student of yoga since 1991 and gradually the practice has shaped and influenced the character of my life –including my livelihood.  The donation based concept is a reflection of that evolution.  I feel blessed to practice yoga in this way.

Central to the program are the practices of pranayama, meditation and asanas.  The postures make up 65% of the course content and are taught from both a flowing and a stationary perspective.  Rather than teaching a specific sequence of poses we teach about the deep intelligence behind the postures and how they interrelate with one another.  Based on this understanding, students then construct class sequences that take many factors, such as heath concerns or constitution, into consideration.
While the study of the content is significant, another important variable is the community of practitioners.  I’ve seen many groups pass through since we first opened our doors in 2003, and each of them has a distinct character.  The power and significance of a group of strangers coming together for a unified purpose cannot be over emphasized.  It is truly remarkable to observe relationships form, as the students support and encourage one another throughout duration of this rigorous program.
The training is a significant investment of participant’s time, energy and resources.  We meet three times a week for a total of 13 hours each week for nearly five months.  It is a gradual and transformational journey in which students have a chance to practice yoga intensely.  Yoga is very powerful/transformational and we emphasis a sustainable integration of the techniques and lessons into one’s life.

Practice and theory are equally important and ideally support one another because yoga is both the journey and the destination.  With that in mind we expose the students to different methods of practice including, pranayama, meditation, devotional and ritualistic practices, chanting, real life experiments, dietary changes, yantra painting and of course asana.

All of these techniques are taught in an approachable and integrated fashion, to reveal some fundamental themes found in yoga practice -in all of its forms of expression.    Nearly a dozen presenters play a part in the training, each with a specific emphasis.  I feel that this comprehensive approach is educationally rich, evocative and wholly unique.

Axis Yoga offers a 200hr teacher training program designed to support students in their personal enrichment and desire to teach.   We believe that personal practice and insight are the foundation for effective teaching and emphasize the importance of developing a home/personal practice.

The practice of yoga is ongoing and it has the potential to permeate every aspect of one’s life, both internal and external.  Yoga is a mind-set that can inform all of our relationships; to our peers, to our environment and to ones self.  It can infuse and inform each and every waking breath.

Inherent in this process is the expansion of awareness.  The practitioner moves from a more contracted sense of identity into a more universal understanding.  That process is called yoga, the union of individuality with universality.

Throughout the ages yogic masters have utilized different methods to explore the nature of this union.  They drew upon different philosophies, meditations, devotional practices, rituals and physical exercises to reveal that spiritual identity.

The training begins with an appreciation of this perspective and from there teaches students various methods of practice and realization.  I think this is one of the major distinguishing points of our training. The methods are there to support the greater process of discovery.  It is akin to putting the horse in front of the cart.

Recently I was asked, by a freelance writer, if I would be willing to have an article about the training written.  I liked the idea so it didn’t take long for me to say yes.  I’ve been working closely with the author and was asked to draft a response to a number of questions about the program.

It has been a real enjoyable process and one that I think anyone who is interested in Axis Yoga may be able to appreciate.  What follows is a series of excerpts that that I think illustrate the distinguishing features of our program.  I’ll be sure to let you know when the printed copy comes out!

Once Again a I wish to express deep gratitude to those who attended our final-final practicum this last Sunday.  The students were thrilled at the opportunity.

Over one hundred people attended the entire event.  While many of the classes were strenuous ultimately it was a great big celebaration.  Including the graduation as well! 




Side Angles

Side Angles





Standing Lung Pose

Standing Lung Pose



Graduate Kitchen Crew


Opening Kirtan

Opening Kirtan


Graduation Dinner

Graduation Dinner


A moment of Friendship

A moment of Friendship

The first limb of the 8-limbed Ashtanga Yoga vehicle is called Yama.  Yama is often translated as restraints.  It also has a mythological connotation as Lord Yama who is none other than the presiding deity of death.  What is being referred to hear is not death in the morbid sense that you might find in a B-grade horror flick or a sterile tucked away semitary.  Yama in this context is referring to the death of separate existence, the death of ego.

While the five-tenants of Yama practice have very practical applications, and are intended to harmonize our social lives, their ultimate intention is to transform us, to move us from a contracted identity into union with Spirit.

The first of these five-tenants is called ahimsa or non-harming.  Often it is translated as nonviolence, though I consider this to be a limited translation because of gratuitous connotations that often go along with the word violence.  Culturally we tend to think of violence just in physical terms; the most recent car bombing on the evening news or even reruns of Tom and Jerry, all of these are overt examples of violence.

The practice of ahimsa is much more subtle.  It is intended to be practiced on every level; physically, verbally and mentally.  From this perspective, passive aggressive behavior, setting someone up to fail or holding a grudge are all considered forms of violence.

As one begins to consciously take on the practice of non-harming one of the first realizations is how much violence plays a roll in one’s day to day life.  It gets reflected in one’s diet, relationships and image of oneself to name just a few breading grounds of aggression.

At the center of violence stands a sense of separation, a feeling of isolation from the object of disdain, weather it be another person or oneself.  The more our identity contracts the more resentment builds up.  Yoga is the reverse of this process, it promises and requires an expansion of our identity.

The potential for this expansion is boundless. The practice of ahimsa offers a kind of road sign to tell us when we’ve veered off into the ditch of pain and delusion.  Progress is measured one choice or action at a time.  Gradually the practitioner begins to disidentify with thoughts of harm and offers their contracted ego up to Yama, the Lord of Death, the death of the separate self.

Yoga practice has the potential to touch upon every single aspect of one’s life.  How is this so?  To begin, we must expand our definition of yoga beyond the postures and begin to recognize the other components of traditional yogic practice.  In-fact, there are eight limbs of practice that constitute a formal system of yoga.  The name for these limbs is Ashtanga Yoga or the eight limbs of yoga.

A complete discussion of each of these limbs is the subject of another entry and I wish to touch upon two of the foundational limbs.  The limbs that have to do with our day to day existence are called yama and niyama or the restraints and observances.

What these two limbs do is give some reference point as to how to conduct ourselves socially, in our actions, in our words and even our thoughts.  Our very lives are constituted by our actions, words and thoughts so the application of yama and niyama will pervade every aspect of one’s life.

I was once having an enduring conversation with a woman in her 80’s.  She was a very sweet soul who I had an ongoing relationship with.  Her name was Vishnu Ma.  We were discussing stories from the past and how people operated. Then she said something in passing that left an impression upon me.
“There are no guidelines anymore.”

I found that to be a resonate, simple and astute observation.  What do we reference as a culture for guidance?

In the coming weeks I’ll give a more detailed account of yogic tenants for living and how they can be applied to life.

Our fall training program is underway and the students are deeply immersed in the study of yoga.  As part of our studies we are examining the classical yogic code of conduct called Yama and Niyama.  The idea behind these guidelines is to give the practitioner some reference for how they conduct themselves in the world, away from their mat.

These guidelines, such as non-harming, truthfulness, cleanliness and self study can be referenced in every circumstance and are deeply interrelated.  They are not only intended to harmonize our social relationships but to invoke deep transformation within the practitioner.  These principles can be applied not only to our physical actions but to speech and thoughts as well.

Each student had the opportunity to choose one of these precepts and apply it to their lives.  My group chose “satya” which literally means “To Be” and is more commonly translated at “truthfulness.”  The implication here is that when we are in accord with our essential beingness, truth arises spontaneously and unswervingly.

As part of our experiment we emailed one another daily to report our discoveries.  I thought I’d just share a few of my entries to give you a sense of this experiment.

“I was walking in the park this morning with my young son.  I thought it would take 20min instead it took an hour.  I wanted to go home and complain to Brenna how Rama, took to much time looking at little things!  The complaining functioned at a pretty low frequency of truth and underneath it was more aggression than anything else.  So I refrained.  Lesson: Truth can be not saying something as well.”

“In practicing truthfullness I find myself editing my words and choosing to align myself with my higher ideas, words and actions.  Part of the implication in the reading was that the truth carries it’s own potency.  I can sense this in the small examples I’ve listed and am curious to discover the source of truth itself….

“…This is when the truth flows most easily.  There is no effort or justification required.  At these times the truth starts to look a lot like love, peace and compassion. The truth seems to be a port-hole into a deeper dimension of ourselves.”

Om bhur bhuva svah
Tat savitur-varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yo nah prachodyat

Om. Let us meditate upon the wondrous spirit of the Divine, creator of the earth, space and the heavens.  Oh God, may our minds be inspired by the light of that Supreme Self and be filled with divine qualities.

Probable the most well know and revered mantra is the Gayatri.  It is believed to be the foremost accustic manifestation of the Divine Mother, Creation itself.  It is both a mantra and a prayer, beginning with essential seed sounds called bija mantras and gradually evolving into a personal petition.

Bija mantras have no literal translation; there meaning is conveyed through their deep resonance –as pure sound.  The mantra then evolves into a more literal prayer, that the mind be illuminated by universal light.

In other translations the word “Sun” or “Solar Spirit” is used in place of  “the light of the Supreme Self.”   This gives more immediacy and personal context to the prayer.  We have only to step outside, and look up at the sky to appreciate the magnitude of that radiant form that makes all life on earth possible. The Sun is a classic icon for resplendent spiritual insight.

Further dementions of the Gayatri mantra are revealed by a brief commentary from the Chandogya Upanishad:

This entire Creation is Gayatri. And the Gayatri is speech
–for speech sings and protects the entire creationWhat I appreciate most about this verse is how it begins by conveying the largest magnitude possible, the entire Creation, then distils that enormity into a more embodied form (speech and song) and finally, loops back upon itself to embrace the entire creation., the song of the universe.  Thus we can begin to get in touch with the unending reverberation of the Cosmos.

As we read a little deeper into the verse, we find that the Creation is embued with beauty, in the form of song.  The Creation is the Mother, the Mother is Beauty, Beauty is the Creation.

What’s more we are assured protection as we embrace the current of beauty in our own lives.  In that sense our very life process is an offering unto the creation itself. We can trust that the creative process is in accord with the forces of nature.

Our creative instincts and expressions play an intimate roll in the greater life process.  Despite the often fear based and editing tendencies of the mind, the Universal Mother embraces Herself with an intimate appreciation for beauty in its multitude of forms.  We are an inherent expression in that Universal Song.  We are that Song.

Oh God, may our minds be inspired by the light of that
Supreme Self and be filled with divine qualities.