Yoga Nidra can create the conditions for transformative change and an even deeper experience.
Regular practice of Yoga Nidra strengthens us to burn off old habits, conditioning and samskaras so that we can establish new ways of expressing our inner nature and ultimately our true destiny.
Yoga Nidra offers us access to a limitless source of inspiration and creativity. The more we practice the more we can respond to situations with imagination, wisdom and resourcefulness. Take the first step, lie down, let go …… and express your potential.
It is accessible to all and can be practiced by anyone – all that is required is the ability to stay still and follow the instructions.
The body is placed in Shavasana (corpse pose), as this is a position that creates space between each of the limbs and minimises touch sensation, thereby reducing sensory stimulation and distraction.
Although the practice is ideally performed while lying in Shavasana it can be practiced in any comfortable posture, including sitting in a seat. This means that it can be done by anyone, irrespective of age, level of physical mobility, or health status. It is one of the few systematic yogic practices that can be practiced by those who are bed-ridden due to chronic ill health or those who are sitting upright, for example while travelling on long haul flights. The only requirement is to be still and maintain awareness.
Yoga Nidra is based on ancient tantric practices which have been adjusted to make them more accessible to the modern practitioner.
The deep state of relaxation is induced by systematically addressing the tensions in the body, mind and emotions. This is achieved by then steady progression of the mind into a deep stage of pratyahara, where the mind is gradually withdrawn from external stimuli into a still, inner state while the consciousness remains alert, on the borderline between sleep and wakefulness.
In the state of pratyahara, our awareness is expanded to the point where external stimuli and distractions are minimised. We can then gain access to the deeper levels of the psyche and experience the inner world of the mind whose language is one of symbols and images.
It is then focused on releasing the threefold tensions – physical, mental and emotional. If we experience stiffness in our joints, there is often a correlative tension in the mind; if we are feeling anxious we can also experience agitation in our breathing or fluctuations in the digestive system; when we are mentally stressed this is manifested in physiological changes in the body such as an increase in heart rate, escalated blood pressure levels, disturbed breathing patterns and a dominance of the sympathetic nervous system. Yoga Nidra progressively releases these threefold tensions in sequential progression through each of the stages of the practice.
Join Liz Kraefft for a FREE yoga class this Saturday and find out more about the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching
Liz has a background in education which was the perfect stepping stone into yoga teaching. She began practising Iyengar Yoga as a student and then while working full-time as a Lecturer in TAFE NSW, but her interest quickly developed into a new career after enrolling with the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching in 2003.
After graduating, Liz was so impressed with the course that she volunteered to join the Teacher Training Committee and together with other IYTA yogis, Marg North, Janet Stevens and Patricia Wrigley and Satyaprem Gibson worked on overviewing the curricululm and ensuring the course met the accreditation guidelines for Yoga Australia.
To this day, Liz – who runs the Kuringai Yoga School in Pymble, NSW – is still one of the Asana Team lecturers. And she will be teaching a free hour-long class this Saturday, July 25 as part of the IYTA’s Open Day for the Diploma of Yoga Teaching.
Liz believes the IYTA Diploma of Yoga Teaching is the best course around because it has no connection to one particular style or approach. It encompasses many approaches and traditions and students are provided the classical teachings of yoga by yoga teachers who are current and actively teaching.
“The right people are delivering their specialist areas and are dedicated to share their skills and knowledge. IYTA is an organisation that is embracing, supportive and like a family.”
Liz says: “Yoga evolves with our life’s stages. Nothing remains the same and so my style continues to develop as I learn more about myself and therefore how I deliver to my students.”
She adds: “My general Hatha classes are very classic in nature and are designed to provide an experience to bring each student into a fabulous Connection to their own consciousness.
“My style is profoundly meditative so even during a flowing movement there is a breath aware connection to hold each student in the present moment.
“Over the last four years I have been exploring Yoga Nidra for my own practice and my most popular class now has become my ‘Slow Yoga class with Yoga Nidra.’”
Liz assures participants she will lead them to a stillness they have not ever experienced before.
The IYTA is running an Open Day and free yoga class this Saturday, July 25 and online event on Sunday, July 26.
Book now to ensure you don’t miss out.
There’s something about a pandemic and all the mandatory restrictions that makes you re-evaluate life choices. For many of us it is a time to focus on what truly brings us joy and purpose. In yoga this is called Dharma – following your life’s purpose or calling.
And if you have ever considered teaching yoga this could be the best time to uncover all the gems of yoga, while gaining an internationally recognised qualification as a yoga teacher.
But it can be confusing to know which is the best course and who are the best instructors.
This is why the International Yoga Teachers Association (IYTA) is showcasing its prestigious Diploma of Yoga Teaching at and Open Day this Saturday, July 25 face-to-face in Crows Nest, NSW and online via Zoom on Sunday July 26.
If you are able to attend the event on Saturday you will discover what the year-long course covers and enjoy an hour-long Hatha Yoga class for free taught by one of the Asana team members, Liz Kraefft. You’ll also meet Course Director, Amy Seal and IYTA President, Astrid Pickup and be able to participate in a Q&A session.
The IYTA’s DYT is a 460-hour course which is widely recognised as one of the most comprehensive and is the longest running yoga teacher training course in the country.
A full version of this article will appear in the next issue of International Light out later this month
Our daily routine should suit the season. As well as appropriate exercise and fresh food, Ayurveda reminds us to create a healthy rhythm in our day working in line with the rhythms around us in nature. Check out the following ways you can create more balance in your daily routine this winter
Bed before around 10pm up at 6pm
Hydrate (warm water with a squirt of lemon juice)
Bowel motion (preferably in the squat position)
Exercise (even 5 – 10 mins of movement with breath) or nice brisk walk of 20 – 25 mins (to get prana moving)
Meditate (20 mins ideally) 5 – 10 is fine to start with
Creative activities in the morning
The midday meal is the most important when the digestive fire is highest between 12 and 2pm
More routine type of activities for the Afternoon
Late afternoon and evening for more recreational activities and light evening meal. Spend time with family or those we care for. This is a real need for us and it is the time when we may emotionally overeat or indulge in unhealthy food to fulfil this emotional need.
Evening practice before evening meal – to release tension accumulated from the day – 20 mins meditation and short wind-down physical practice – eg: legs up the wall and breathing.
Evening meal – light and easily digested. Eat before 7pm
Lighting is important: turn off computer and tv screens at least an hour before bed. Sleep in dark room. Melatonin production is stimulated by the dark and quality of sleep will improve.
Notice our day starts with a good sleep at the ideal time the night before. Even one night of poor sleep decreases the ability of your immune system to fight viruses. (If you are not getting enough sleep make sure you practise yoga nidra during the day to ensure complete rest and recuperation).
Yoga Nidra helped yoga teacher, Alison Mactaggart (Mantradharma) cope with chronic insomnia during menopause and now she is teaching others how to experience the benefits of this ancient practice
Alison or Mantradharma (as she is known by her Sanskrit name), discovered yoga more than 20 years ago while living in London. She says: ‘I started with Iyengar and continued when I moved to Australia.” But it was when she attended a friend’s Satyananda Yoga teaching class that she experienced deeper benefits.
She says: “I felt so balanced and calm afterwards and I realised that that’s how you are supposed to feel after yoga – not activated as I had been after other styles of yoga and unable to get to sleep when I got home.”
And so Alison enrolled in the Academy of Yoga Science at Mangrove and completed her two year Diploma in 2010.
One practice which Alison always found powerful – regardless of yoga styles – was Yoga Nidra. And the Satyananda training dedicated several hours to teaching and exploring this aspect of yoga.
Alison says: “Yoga Nidra is accessible to anyone – irrespective of age, fitness, health condition, race, culture, spiritual inclinations (or not!). It can be practiced in lots of ways and in various settings.”
And it became Alison’s saviour when she was suffering with chronic insomnia during peri and post menopause. She says: “I had the classic pattern of sleeping solidly for five hours and then waking up at 1am and not being able to get back to sleep for three or four hours.”
At the time Alison was living in an ashram and had to get up often around 5 am – and she became chronically sleep deprived. She says: “I would just do back-to-back Yoga Nidra at this time – and you can guarantee that it was the only time I didn’t fall asleep during the practice!”
She believes it nourished her and enabled her to have enough energy to manage demanding days in the ashram. She adds: “I still mainly practice in this way now. Though when I teach Yoga NIdra, I often slip into a practice space that nourishes me as much as those I am instructing.”
She also uses her Yoga Nidra practice when she is travelling and on those pre-COVID days when she would be on a 24 hour flight back home to Europe.
She says: “Apart from the challenge of staying awake – it is an effortless way to connect with who we are. I feel passionate about sharing this practice with anyone, and in recent years I have been training health professionals in Sydney hospitals.”
This three-hour online session will be an introduction to what yoga nidra is and how the key benefits and effects are achieved through the stages and the practice as a whole.
Unlock the Mystery of Yoga Nidra
Sunday, October 4, 2020
9am – 4pm
Crows Nest Community Centre
Members $197, non-members: $225
The one-day workshop will enable participants to delve a little deeper into the practice and each of the stages. The focus is on understanding how Yoga Nidra supports us to learn the skills to regulate our nervous system so that we can respond more positively to life’s challenges and in the long term evolve into who we are meant to be.
Sunday July 5 is Guru Poornima – an Indian Festival which falls on the full moon of the month Ashadh (June-July). This is traditionally a time to honour and pay tribute to our teachers.
As you may know, the IYTA was set up by Roma Blair – sadly Roma passed away a few months after her 90th birthday, nearly seven years ago.
But her memory lives on and so we would like to pay our respects to our founder – Roma Blair.
This article was written a few years ago after I had the privilege of spending several hours chatting with Roma.
NINETY is merely a number to Australia’s Mother of Yoga, Roma Blair. But it won’t stop her having a massive party for her 90th birthday in July.
Roma had a regular TV show and wrote many books about yoga
That’s because every day is a celebration for Roma – who has lived through the trauma of being interned in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp, enjoyed an illustrious career as a model and is credited for bringing yoga to ordinary Aussies.
At a stage of life when most people might be tempted to hang up their leggings, Roma is still practising yoga morning and night, despite suffering a fall, which has left her with a metal rod in her thigh.
And Roma is still the epitome of glamour.
For our interview she’s wearing a chic mint-green pant suit with diamond stud earrings and beige boots.
‘I’ll never dress like an old woman,’ she says.
‘I like to think and feel young.’
It is because she endured unimaginable suffering for three years in two Javanese POW camps, that she is so determined to enjoy every moment of her life.
‘Each morning I know I am lucky to be awake and I will have a happy day,’ she says.
Roma’s positive philosophy is to be patient with people and to give and do a lot for the ones you love.
But it’s not always been easy for this vivacious, auburn-haired Yogi…
The moment Roma entered the world she was born with a caul (a rare amniotic membrane covering her face).
‘You’ll never need to worry about this baby,’ the matron told Roma’s mother, Ivy. ‘She will be a most unusual child.’
Apparently a caul is auspicious and the prediction proved true – but Roma believes it has been her life that’s been unusual, not her.
One of five children, she lived a relatively carefree, happy childhood. And after winning a beauty contest, she embarked upon a lucrative career as a photographic model.
During this time she fell in love with dashing businessman, amateur boxer and ballroom dancer, Leo Ossendryver.
Leo worked in the family business, selling Persian carpets and when he and his family relocated from Sydney to the prosperous Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) Leo assured Roma that once they were settled she’d join them.
It was only after Leo had left Australian shores they discovered single women were not allowed to enter the Dutch East Indies.
The only way Roma would be able to join Leo was if they were married.
So Roma became Australia’s first proxy bride – using a little known Dutch custom.
Two simultaneous ceremonies were arranged – one at the Dutch Consulate in Sydney and the other in Jakarta. Two “stand-ins” replaced the bride and groom at their respective locations
Leo’s Uncle Nikko stood in for Leo in Sydney, while Leo’s brother Maurice was a rather less attractive substitute for Roma!
Their unique wedding made headlines across the Australian media.
And the next day, Leo sent a telegram to his new wife:
Congratulations, we were married today!
It was an unorthodox start to what would prove to be a challenging marriage.
Once Roma arrived in the tropical paradise of Bandung in West Java she was lavished with attention from both her husband and his family. And soon she fell into a relaxed routine of waking late, being dressed by maids, sharing breakfast with the family, and a late afternoon sojourn to the markets with her sister-in-law, Noeline.
Within a couple of months she was pregnant and it seemed life in their bubble of paradise couldn’t get any better.
She felt safe and protected from the ravages of World War Two, which had been going on for the previous three years.
‘We’d been certain the Japanese wouldn’t make it this far,’ Roma recalls. But the honeymoon ended abruptly on March 8, 1942, when the Japanese launched an air attack and occupied Java.
Western men were sent away while the women and children rounded up and taken to a guarded camp.
Luckily Roma managed to stay with Noeline and her three-year-old nephew, Arnold. But it was the start of a tortuous three-year imprisonment.
Both women would give birth to children in the camp. Noeline had a daughter, Shirley, and Roma, had a son, Arnold.
Roma was determined to smuggle in any kind of fresh food she could for her tiny son, knowing if caught, she risked a beating.
Brave Javanese traders hovered outside the barbed wire fences. On one occasion, Roma tucked a couple of coconut cookies into her clothes. But just as she approached the cell, she received a sharp blow to the back of her head from one of the guards.
By the time the guard had finished his assault, several of Roma’s ribs were broken, her head was shaved and she was covered in bruises.
But even this didn’t deter her and a few months later she smuggled in a root of ginger for her malnourished son. This time her actions resulted in solitary confinement. Afterwards Roma came to the conclusion that Arnold needed his mother more than he needed the scraps of food she’d been smuggling.
But starvation and beatings weren’t all Roma had to deal with. The women were expected to work long hours in the paddy fields until their feet became swollen and peeled from being immersed all day in the mud and water.
Infections, disease, malnutrition and rodents were rife in the camp, as was the constant threat of death. And then just as they thought things couldn’t get any worse, Roma and Noeline had to watch helplessly as little Shirley succumbed to fits and fever before finally passing away in the camp.
The weeks, turned to months and months to years. And finally in April 1945, a spy managed to smuggle a radio into the camp – and the women learnt the war was nearly over.
Soon after, Roma, Noeline and their two sons were rescued and reunited with Roma’s family in Sydney. But the horrors of the camp still remained. Arnold was painfully shy and as tall as his 13-month-old cousin. To him Camp was the only world he knew and adapting to the outside world was a challenge.
Eventually he and Roma were reunited with Leo – who had also endured internment in Singapore. But Arnold had to get to know his dad, while Leo was mourning the loss of his father who had died in the camp.
The following year the family moved to South Africa to make a fresh start. But the memories and nightmares continued.
Leo found it difficult to let go and Roma was plagued with health issues including agonising stomach cramps. Eventually after exhausting all medical treatments, a Chinese doctor recommended yoga.
It wasn’t the first time Roma had heard of this Eastern practice. In Camp, she’d been captivated by one of the older women, Madame Kaufmann, practising yoga. At the time Roma was drawn to the calmness and stillness she’d sensed from the woman.
So with a mix of trepidation and curiosity, Roma set out for Manie Finger’s, (Yogeswarananda) studio in Pretoria.
Instantly, Roma took to his gentle manner and simple instructions and began to attend classes almost daily. It wasn’t long before her health improved and within a year she was almost completely free of pain.
Yogeswarananda also taught Roma about the spiritual side of yoga, encouraging her to study the Bhagavad- Gita.
Under his guidance, Roma began to surrender her problems to the universe.
Sadly Leo wasn’t able to move forward as easily and they separated.
Roma didn’t give herself any time to wallow, instead she threw herself into her work as a model, and in 1954, the media dubbed her South Africa’s busiest model. But despite the glamour and glitz, Roma desperately missed home, so in 1957 she made the heartwrenching decision to leave South Africa – and her son, Arnold, then 16.
‘I hoped I was doing the right thing leaving him behind,’ she recalls. Arnold was happy in South Africa and remained with his father.
During her first year in Sydney, Roma stayed with her mother and brother and then moved to Potts Point in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. She continued to model but knew that approaching 40, she’d need to find another career.
At the time, not many people in Australia had heard of yoga and Roma was keen to spread the word about this amazing practice, which had changed her life.
Yogeswarananda was convinced Roma was a natural Yogi and teacher, so using her savings, Roma established a studio in Pitt Street, central Sydney.
It didn’t take long for the students to come – including one girl, Joy McIntosh who Roma thought showed particular promise. Roma began to coach Joy and a number of other students for teaching positions.
At the same time, Roma used her networking skills to promote yoga to a wider audience. She wrote a regular yoga column for The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mirror and began teaching yoga to the girls at the June Dally-Watkins School of Deportment.
By 1962, The Roma Blair School of Yoga was a huge success and Roma took her teachers to shopping centres across the state to demonstrate the art of yoga.
Then after a TV interview, Roma was asked by Bruce Gyngell to do a mid-morning exercise show on Channel Nine: Relaxing with Roma. The segment proved so popular it was run seven-days-a-week. And then another show commissioned for the early morning slot – Wake up and Live.
Roma managed to juggle her burgeoning TV yoga career, teacher training and classes with a glittering social life and another romance – with another Leo. In January 1962 they had an extravagant wedding.
Soon afterwards, Roma published her first book: Yoga in Pictures.
And Roma’s success in promoting yoga in Australia came to the attention of Swami Satyananda, who invited Roma to attend the first World Yoga Convention in Monghyr, India.
While there, she was bestowed the name Swami Nirmalananda, meaning ‘pure’ and ‘bliss.’
And at 43, Roma became Australia’s first female Swami.
Satyananda’s intention was clear – Roma was to spread the message of yoga from door to door and shore to shore in Australia – which, of course she did admirably!
In 1967, believing Yoga needed standardisation, she established the: IYTA – International Yoga Teachers’ Association.
‘I am very proud of it,’ she says. ‘It was my brainchild and the fact I’m still acknowledged and remembered makes me feel good!
The IYTA was designed to teach the teachers and provide a network of yoga contacts worldwide. That year, Roma organised the first World Yoga Convention in Australia at Camp Yarrimundi, Richmond. She also wrote another book; Yoga for the Family and with Joy McIntosh, produced two records: Learn to Relax and Wake up and Live.
Three years later with the Australian IYTA thriving, she set up a branch of the IYTA in Singapore.
But Roma’s love of Yoga began to cause cracks in her marriage and eventually Leo Kogos and Roma went their separate ways. For Roma it underpinned the message from the Mahabharata: no-one belongs to me; I belong to no-one.
And so Roma focused her attention on the IYTA – developing Teacher Training, regular workshops, conventions and a magazine for members – International Light.
Then in the early eighties, Roma met businessman, Joe Lubrano and fell head-over-heels in love.
In 1982, they moved to Gold Coast, Qld, and they couple began to work with a local charity group, The Giraffes – so called because they stuck their neck out for others.
But after a wonderful 15 years together, Joe eventually succumbed to a brain tumour, leaving Roma heartbroken.
Roma has now moved into a quieter phase of her life.
‘It’s time for me.’ She says. ‘But I still have time to do things and to be there for people.’
Her son, Arnold is still in South Africa and the two have a close relationship. Roma is particularly close to her granddaughter, Arnelle.
He parents and siblings have passed away, but Roma says she is surrounded by love.
She is no longer formally involved with the IYTA, but remains an avid reader of International Light and maintains her daily yoga and meditation practice.
She is amazed by just how popular yoga has become and delighted with the work still carried out by the IYTA. ‘I think the IYTA is wonderful,’ she says. ‘It really is the best thing I ever did.’
Roma celebrated her 80th with an extravagant party – finishing the night with her party piece – the splits! But sadly her days of doing the splits are now over.
Earlier this year she fell, injuring her leg, but despite having a rod in her thigh, she still practices a series of standing postures, followed by sitting poses and a 20 minute meditation – twice a day.
And as for her 90th?
‘The theme,’ she tells me, ‘is pink. Everyone needs to wear something pink, whether it’s a scarf or an entire outfit.’ And Roma will definitely be dressing up for the occasion.
Her brown eyes sparkle and her skin, barely lined, has a rosy glow – which she attributes of course to yoga (and to the moisturiser she applies regularly!).
‘That’s one of the good things about getting old,’ she laughs. ‘You have lots of time to moisturise!’
Her other beauty tips are to avoid the sun, remove make-up at night and never dress like an old woman!’
As she heads off to meet friends for lunch, I know there is no chance of that…
Roma’s life is detailed in the book: Roma – from Prison to Paradise, by Rachel Syers and Karin Cox, 2004, New Holland.
This story is based on information from the book and an interview with Roma Blair.
Roma’s tips for yoga teachers:
* Never think you know it all, as none of us ever do.
* Always be on time and dress presentably
* Don’t tell your class your troubles – you’re there to help your students and not yourself!