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Occasionally I go for a run.  It is a great way to get some fresh air, take care of the body and listen to some music along the way.  I set my MP3 on shuffle so I never know what will be playing next.  It keeps it interesting.

As I rounded the bend on mile number three the music change and the unmistakable voice of Swami Muktibodhananda fill my eardrums.  Among his many productions, the Swami has created an audio series on meditative practices.  I reached for the shuffle button.

With the button at my fingertips, I changed my mind.  Who knows, I might learn something new I reasoned.  He began with a detailed description of establishing one’s meditative posture.  He emphasized the importance of remaining still.  And then he uttered one simple phrase that dramatically caught my attention.

“Now we will practice the Yoga of the Body.”

What initially caught my attention was the reverence in his voice.  We were about to enter sacred territory, to enter a temple full of mystery, depth and elusive truths.  His words opened up a whole new field of possibility.  The entire path of yoga was held, cradled, hidden, within the innocuous folds of our skin.  From this perspective the body was a port-hole into the secrets of the cosmos.

His comment implied that there were many other forms of yoga practice, each holding the same limitless possibility that was held within the body.  “Yoga” stood as the center most expression in his sentence.  The feeling behind the word conveyed a kind of sacred endeavor or elixir that could be applied to any discipline; the Yoga of Sound, the Yoga of the Breath. The Yoga of the Mind.

The hidden promise contained within the sentence was that mastery was possible, yoga practice, in its many forms led to profound spiritual unity, that Yoga was a sacred vehicle.  I was grateful for this lesson as the miles pealed away.

The yogic tradition is rich in methods and techniques.  It is important to remember that the techniques are a means to a much greater end, the complete physical, mental and spiritual integration of the human being.  It is equally important to recognize the moment to moment process of transformation that arises within the application of these various methods.  As we pay close attention to our breath or the sensations within a posture, we gain insight into the nature of our own experience.  From this perspective the path is the destination.

What we call life is already existent inside of us.  The various means, including asana, are a way to explore that inner reality that we live with on a day to day basis.  While the postures and breathing practices may initially appear quite foreign, they draw upon what is most available, namely our breath our body and our mind.  All of the postures and other related practices give us a way to explore the phenomenon of the body and re-pattern it in ways that are much more conducive to deeper states of realization.

This process of re-patterning is what we call transformation.  What the practices give us the opportunity to consciously transform our breath-body-mind, in essence our lives, on multiple levels; physically, mentally, spiritually.  That is one of the reasons people experience such deep currents of change once they start practicing.  Yoga consists of moment to moment dedicated attention to the practices and the ultimate realization of our deepest nature…  Everything in-between is called life!

I remember taking a for-credit yoga class at my university in the early 90’s. We dissected the postures and every so often, the teacher would throw out a yogic pearl of wisdom. Somewhere about mid-quarter, I remember her saying “asana is a very small part of yoga practice –just the tip of the iceberg.”

It seemed strangely paradoxical: as we explored the postures, she diminished them at the same time? If the result of asana practice felt so wonderful and transformative, how could that be only a small fraction of what yoga was?

Eventually I took her statement to mean that asana was one among many different modalities that generated the effects of yoga practice. However, I was still using asana as the standard by which all ‘yogas’ were to be measured. Breathwork, meditation, and all other yogic modalities seemed secondary.

As the years went by and I continued to study, her statement stuck with me and began to take on a different meaning. Not only were there many methods for approaching yoga, but the the potential for experiencing yoga also deepened. All of the methods were in support of a much greater understanding about oneself and one’s relationship to all of life -the spirit of yoga is/was far greater than one’s ability to increase their bodily range of motion.

At its utmost expression, yoga is union of individualized consciousness with Universal Consciousness. That consciousness is the bottom of the iceberg that resides far below the surface of physical “reality”- even beyond mental, self-referential, preconceptions about our identity.

The postures are a means to much greater end. How exactly do the postures play into the journey of yoga will be the subject of our next blog. Namaste.

 

There are many facets to the yoga tradition. Some systems of yoga focus on the purification of the physical body, others focus on cultivation of love and still others focus on the development of knowledge through the study and application of scriptural texts.  These different approaches are intended to suite the varying natures of the practitioners.

The common aim of these systems is to free the aspirant of a contracted and inherently limited sense of identity and reveal their deepest essence, their original face or universal existence.  These are among many terms that attempt to describe this vast and imperishable being.

The yoga tradition uses the word “Atman” to indicate that spiritual identity.  Atman is often translated as the “Self” (with a capital S.)  This is equivalent to the Western notion of the Soul.  Unlike our Western idea of the Soul, the Atman is attributless.

It does not yearn for anything, nor feel compelled to express it-Self in the world in anyway.  It is complete unto itself.  It needs nothing to validate its existence because it is existence itself.  It is the substratum that pervades the entire creation and simultaneously is apart from all manifestation.

In the words of the Kena Upanishad:
That which makes you draw breath but cannot be
Drawn by your breath, that is the Self indeed.
This Self is not someone other than you.

From the yogic perspective, we all suffer from a profound state of mistaken identity.  We tend to think of our-self in terms of our relationship to objects, our body and thoughts.  The ancient Upanishads tell us tell us that all this things are transitory and therefore contain no essential identity.

The atman on the other hand, is the essence of our being, the ground upon which we stand, the most refined spiritual dimension.  The practices of yoga then, are designed to loosen the obstructions that vail our most fundamental nature, the Self.  This, is the utmost goal of yoga.

Yoga is an epic subject and much has been written about it.  The literary tradition surrounding the subject goes back to ancient Sanskrit texts from India and more recently has found its way into the glossy folds of magazines, best selling books and most immediately, this blog.

The yoga tradition is buried within age old questions about life, our purpose within it, the human condition and how to find lasting happiness.  Philosophers throughout the ages have wrestled with these questions, debated with one another and passed their illuminated insights on to the next generation who further experimented with and refined the process.

The chronicles of their discoveries can be found in age-old texts that were originally composed in an oral format for generations before they were ever written down.  These early and unanimous authors used metaphor, symbolism, logic, poetry and many other styles to deliver their timeless message.

Coupled with this narrative was an equal emphasis on methods and techniques that the reader/practitioner could use to elevate their consciousness enough to perceive the deeper dimensions of reality which the scriptures professed.

However the prose or the diversity of descriptions the ultimate purpose of these texts is to transform us, to free us from the constraints of our own limited perception, open up a deeper dimension of our being and find lasting peace.

Welcome to our newly minted website and blog H.Q. This marks the culmination of a long process of transformation from our former identity as Denver Institute of Yoga (DIY) to our current title Axis Yoga Trainings. Why the change? There are several reasons actually.

The Institute was founded in 2003 with the intention of providing Denver residents with a rich immersion into classical practices of yoga. The program was an immediate success. We operated independent for the small handful of studios that existed at that time, renting space from a local dance studio as we continue to do so today. The word “Institute” in our name proved to be confusing because there was no formal Institute/Space for ongoing classes or visitation.

After a long process of considering new titles, a number of which were in Sanskrit, we finally settled on “Axis Yoga Trainings.” It was more concise and descriptive. The term axis is in reference to the central axis of the body, which all of the asanas orient around. The deep core of the body is both mysterious and illuminating.

I remember speaking with one of our Instructors, Kim Johnson, about the change in name. It was a late winter’s day and her delivery was concise and to the point…

“When you change the name of an entity you change its destiny.

With that she walked away and I knew that the school now had a renewed life of its own.