We each make our journey to yoga in our own way, and Jake Ferree’s may be one that is familiar to many of us. Brought to his first yoga class during a time in his life when he was facing personal challenges, the stillness of savasana delivered an a-ha moment: Jake noticed the negative, self-critical nature of his thoughts.
“I realized that I was speaking to myself in a way that I would never speak to anyone else. Then this simple thought came to me, ‘What would happen if you treated yourself as a friend?’ That thought completely changed my life and has been the biggest gift of the practice.”
When you first walk into Jake’s class, you can’t help but notice his muscular build, yet his love of fitness is more than just about building muscle—it includes the incorporation of spirituality and yoga. He has integrated multiple modalities, through his continuing involvement in weight lifting, along with personal training, yoga, breathwork, and Reconnective Healing, a program developed by chiropractor Dr. Eric Pearl.
Reflective of his own experience, Jake’s priority when teaching is to communicate that in order to gain a deeply-rooted connection to both body and practice, you must work from the inside out. “Because of yoga, I’ve experienced moments in my life where I am able to see things more clearly and handle situations in ways I wouldn’t normally have handled them.” He feels this comes from the basics of yoga practice, “Once you establish the connection to your breath, your perspective shifts, and you are able to see things more clearly.” Jake believes the most important benefit of yoga is the awareness that develops as a result of the practice—in all areas of life. Even when someone is introduced to the physical aspects of the practice, the spiritual has a way of “sneaking its way into a person’s life,” as Jake describes the phenomenon.
Jake gives an example of this in his own life, “I recently went snowboarding in Colorado and found myself able to connect with the breath as I was boarding. Once I did that, the whole experience was enhanced. I was able to take in everything that was happening all around me and fully appreciate the moment. I felt my movement connecting to my breath. It was is if I were on my mat flowing and connecting through a vinyasa sequence. Moments like that just sort of happen and I am able to notice them more and more.”
The power of those moments wasn’t necessarily something Jake could have anticipated while growing up in Reno, Nevada. But his love of fitness did begin when he was young and the weight room was a place to let go of negative emotions. “The gym was an escape for me,” confessed Jake.
While in his early 20s, Jake’s commitment to fitness led him to becoming a nationally certified personal trainer. He then owned and operated Elite Training, a personal training service that worked out of multiple gyms in northern Nevada.
Ready for a change, he moved to Los Angeles at the age of 25 and began working as a personal trainer at Equinox. Not long after, Jake made the decision to cross-train in yoga simply to try something new. “Let me tell you, the first time I took a yoga class it kicked my butt,” Jake said, “I was used to lifting weights, but I never actually spent time stretching my muscles.”
Although Jake struggled to find a balance between strength and flexibility in his practice, he did not give up. In addition to his usual resistance training routine, he committed to yoga by going to class twice a week for a month. Not only did he become more flexible in his physical body, he also noted positive changes in the way he viewed life in general. Needless to say, Jake continued going to class even after his month-long commitment was over.
“In yoga, I had to confront my issues rather than escape from them.” There’s a payoff that Jake found in this process, “The beauty is that you learn how to deal with hardships and it helped me appreciate and learn to love myself.” His growing appreciation for yoga led to attending teacher training; he completed the YogaWorks program in 2007 while living for a stint in New York City. His love for LA pulled him back to the West Coast, and his return came with a commitment to teach.
Jake’s strong fitness background initially influenced the way he taught. With time and further practice, Jake transitioned from a strictly physical method of teaching to one that incorporates both mind and body. For him, it is very important to get people to notice what is happening on a deeper level versus what is happening within the physical pose. “The poses are wonderful and needed,” states Jake, “But what else is happening beyond that? That’s the essence I want to hit in my classes.” While Jake has taught at a number of locations throughout LA, he currently teaches at Aura Yoga on Sunset in West Hollywood, where he helps run the yoga department.
Jake assisted in the development of the color scheme for the studio’s specialized lighting system, one of the hallmarks of Aura Yoga. The lighting was implemented to create themed ambiance during practice connecting to themes and ideas such as the chakra system or the elements of nature. Linking specific themes to colors complements classes taught by Jake and other teachers at the studio allowing students to connect with their senses and surroundings, facilitating the work from the inside out. For example, filling the studio with blue light emphasizes the water elements flowing through life or the fluidity through practice.
We have all been hard on ourselves at some point in our lifetime. When the idea of who we think we should be outweighs who we really are, we form unrealistic expectations which can cause suffering. Jake’s emphasis on the practice of treating oneself as a friend, for example, is one way we can appreciate that we are capable of anything and that fitness is not only what we can lift physically, but how we can uplift ourselves mentally or emotionally. Through yoga, Jake summarizes, “I am more aware of my movements, my actions, my words. I am more aware of what’s happening around me. I am able to see things more clearly.”
Jake Ferree can be found online at: trainerjake.com.
Kimberly Saracino is a 200 hour RYT and group fitness instructor who, when not on the mat, enjoys exploring the great outdoors.