In 2003, The Denver Yoga Underground conducted its first training. At the time, we rented space out of a studio on the second floor of an antique building on the corner of 14th and Ogden streets. There, with its warped floors and single bathroom, we found a home. In time, we moved elsewhere in the city; to dance studios, retreat spaces, and even a formal yoga studio. Finally, we found a permanent home in 2009 at the Sixth Ave. UCC.
At one time, we offered on a donation basis. When my kids were little, we exchanged tuition for babysitting. Additionally, we align ourselves with organizations that are actively out in the streets teaching yoga to marginalized populations. Yoga for the People is one such organization. Many people of color participate in our programs and expressed how much they felt safe and welcoming. Since the beginning, the yoga underground community “has always felt “different.”
Denver is a Mecca for yoga-asana. Corepower® got their start here, international teachers live here, and thousands of people practice at Red Rocks any given weekend.
“Not everyone sees themselves in these limelight arenas.”
Not everyone sees themselves in these limelight arenas. Some feel awkward or intimidated. For instance, maybe they do not want to be the only person of color in the crowd. Perhaps they have a larger body and are not sporting the right apparel, or they want to know more about meditation than sun salutations. Perhaps they are just simply leery of too much gloss.
The Yoga Underground was created as a refuge for people who do not see their values reflected in mainstream culture. They seek more depth and quietly plot a different path. Hence, they value doing inner work over Instagram feeds filled with slanky asanas.
Yoga itself was born out of the forest. Its sacred texts, most of which are not available in English are written in Sanskrit, an ancient and mystical language. In the same vein, much of yoga’s history has been passed down through oral tradition and has remained hidden from view, lest the power of the teaching is defused.
Western culture on the other hand values external, material accomplishments more than the quality of our inner life “I’ll be happy when ________.” Yoga occupies an odd home amidst American culture. Festivals, chain studios, exotic retreats, and designer apparel are a billion-dollar industry in the West.
“In the midst of the fanfare, the actual yoga part can get overshadowed.”
In the midst of the fanfare, the actual yoga part can get overshadowed. The Yoga Underground is a place to step out of the mainstream and enter the quiet cellar of your own being. Moreover, it’s a place to still the mind and commune with deeper forces in your heart, and discover lasting peace.
The content of our advanced programs is rooted in traditional knowledge. We go underneath the surface of the mind and weed out those tendencies that keep us stuck in the same-old patterns and plant new seeds of inner and outer renewal.
The Yoga Underground is a place to unite with like-minded seekers who recognize one another through an unspoken language. Underground is a worldview that values simplicity over consumerism; has empathy for the less fortunate, welcomes diversity and is open to critical thinking and self-reflection. It recognizes that you are the source of your own bondage and liberation.
“Truth is simple. Suffering is complicated.”
The truth is simple. Suffering is complicated. Yoga is low-tech. Nothing outside of you is required to practice yoga. All we need is a body, the ability to breathe, and the mind. That’s it!
Yogic methodologies maximize the wisdom that is already present within the breath, the body, and the mind. By changing the ways in which we breathe, we can change our mental state. If our breath is rough, so to will be our thinking process. If our breath is smooth, so to will be your thoughts.
These principles are already interwoven into our organism. We can tap into their potentials through yoga practice and move towards greater peace and awareness. It takes dedicated focus to begin to recognize these delicately interwoven patterns within our breath, body, and mind. And distractions don’t help.
“What does not add will subtract.”
Playlists that dominate the space, getting lost in one’s reflection in the mirror, or excessive drive to do the most extreme version of a pose, drown out our ability to listen to the body and become established in a yogic state of mind. Too much stimulation can undermine the most crucial piece.
The primal mammal within all of us needs to slow down
and make time for its native rhythm.
As the pace of modern life continues to accelerate, and our attention becomes increasingly dispersed, we need our lives to be simple. The primal mammal within all of us needs to slow down and make time for its native rhythm. Yoga practice needs a similar tempo in order to offset the excess within our lives and fulfill its deeper intent.
On the street, the Underground looks like….
- More Tattered Cover and less Barnes and Noble
- Having Siddhartha, Autobiography of a Yogi, Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful: Experience the Natural Power of Pregnancy and Birth on your bookshelf and an acoustic guitar in the corner of your living room. (Admittedly, I do not have a guitar but still love the concept).
- Not feeling rushed because you are using the crosswalk
- Knowing a first world problem when you see one
- The silent rebellious act of riding your bike, planting a garden, or meditating
- Slow-burning coals, and less like flashing short-lived flames
The Denver Yoga Underground is a sanctuary in which to take refuge from the vicissitudes of life. It is a welcoming space to remove obstacles and experience joy. It is also a place to be nourished and be renewed. We laugh in the Underground among the joyful company of our peers. It’s where we learn to share yoga with others and reconnect with our souls.
It’s where we learn to share yoga with others and reconnect with our souls.
Being Underground means you value your character above the things you “own”. You are the source of your own happiness because you know how and where to find it inside, as opposed to relying upon the mainstream world to give it to you. Those who’ve put in the time into the Yoga Underground whether it’s in Denver or anywhere else will bring peaceful revolution with them wherever they go.