Shadow Work: The Elements - An Intro to Tantra and Samkhya Philosophies

What is shadow work?

“Shadow work” is a term that can refer to a variety of practices from many traditions and contexts. It conjures the feeling of paddling out to sea at night to explore hidden caves and eddied pools; it's both exhilarating and terrifying to be out on your own with the creatures of the deep. Shadows lurk in sharp corners and soft wet places, they gather the dust and mold of time, and sometimes they live right on the surface of things, quietly holding lost and forgotten gems. This is the place of monsters and revelation. In this course, we will work from different Indian philosophies, namely samkhya and tantra, and then focus on a handful of shadows for our spiritual evolution. 

Course Objectives:

  • Learn basic Samkhya and Tantra frameworks. 
  • Identify and integrate shadow aspects of our personality using a lens steeped in Indian philosophy. 
  • Work with elements as an approach to uncovering hidden inner truths. 
  • Unmask the ways we participate in broken societal, cultural, and psychological structures that we’d prefer not to support anymore. 
  • Develop practices that enable greater resiliency.

What to expect in this course:

This course is pre-recorded so you can go at your own pace. The hope is that the videos and teachings will create a nurturing container to empower your curiosity, your fierceness, and your boundaries. We carry the shadows of our ancestors, and intentional transformation is typically a slow and gradual process. We’ll question our shadowy devotions; money, power, self-image, comfort, convenience and look at what propels our thoughts moving us to action.

 By participating in this course you are saying to the Universe that you are ready to dig deeper and look at, or work with, the frightening or taboo aspects of yourself, your culture, your planet, your choices, and your species. You are also saying yes to reality as it is, and that regardless of all circumstances you want to grow and heal, accessing broader understanding and clearing a pathway to greater resilience. This is a seven week transformation intensive.

Aside from the weekly class there will be suggested philosophical reading and journaling assignments which you may choose to engage with or ignore altogether. I’ll also suggest specific practices from week to week and request that you do some sort of mindfulness practice for at least 7 minutes every day for the duration of the course.

Course Outline:

This is a was a seven week course and the videos are archived here on Teachable for you to watch when you like.

Class 1: Samkhya Philosophy - the birth of a Universe

Class 2: Tantra - the development of a personality worth being

Class 3 - 7: Working with shadows, elements, and our senses

Classes 1&2 will create a foundation of shared vocabulary and understanding of samkhya and tantra systems.

In classes 3-7, using a few concepts and tools from samkhya and tantra, we’ll focus on one element and one sense organ each time we meet; space/sound, air/touch, fire/sight, water/taste, and earth/smell. Practices will be taught each week giving you the opportunity to deepen your relationship to the elements and senses. The hope is you might better understand them and your choices, and feel inspired and curious to move from an ever-developing center of gravity.

How to prepare: 

You can begin by reading Edwin Bryant’s “Patanjali Yoga Sutras” intro for a preliminary samkhya lesson. I’ll also suggest Robert Svoboda’s Aghora trilogy as reading for an introduction to tantra. Additional for textual study I'll suggest Tattwa Shudhi from Yoga Publications Trust, Bihar India, translated by Swami Satyasangananda. Reading is optional for further study.

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Allison Dennis holds a BFA in Musical Theatre with a Minor in Music from ECU where she studied Sanford Meisner's acting technique. She sang in jazz, funk, and folk bands, recorded and performed as a singer-songwriter, and performed supporting and leading roles in a variety of plays and musicals. 

In NYC at the turn of the millenium, she acted and sang in Off Broadway shows, and ultimately flew in the wildly popular Argentine circus De La Guarda. A back injury during a show brought her to yoga in 2001. 

A herniated disc with nerve impingement made movement quite painful for the first three years of the injury, so her entry point to yoga was the philosophy of India, not the poses. She concentrated on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras for a decade while becoming a yoga asana teacher as therapy for her own physical pain. Once mobility returned, Allison was finally permitted by her physical therapist to take on an asana practice. Within months she had signed up for her first Yoga Teacher Training in 2005.

From 2010-2018 Allison owned and operated Heart of Yoga School out of Carrboro, NC where she designed and taught three distinct yoga teacher trainings, culminating in a full 800 hour YTT program. She led nineteen long-term trainings while managing the School, guiding curious seekers to become teachers and home practitioners. 

She also spends 2-3 months a year in India, deepening her understanding of the culture and wisdom systems.

Visit for more info and to learn about her tours and retreats in India and Indonesia.