All about the IYTA’s Pranayama and Meditation Course

This is an exceptional course presented by David Burgess. It is transformational – not just professionally but personally. But with anything that’s worth doing… it takes time.

We sat down with David to find out more…

Q: As you have stated, this course is a commitment – roughly how much time should people be dedicating to the course, study and practice? And how can they best manage this (presuming they already have a job, family etc…)

David: Yes, this course is very much a commitment of time, but not only time, it would be more accurately described as a commitment to managing one’s sadhana and hence is no small commitment.

In most cases the course will take a little less than a year, but you practise more often than not. That means a minimum of four days a week but better in truth if it is five or six.

Q: So is the commitment four half-hour sessions a week?

David: No that is just the nominal practise time, (around 15 minutes of designated pranayama and the same of meditation) beyond this one needs to complete a weekly journal that is submitted four times throughout the year and furthermore undertake associated reading, so around another hour or two per week.

Q: Is the reading really necessary?

David: As my teacher once said: “While theory without practise is little more than meaningless acquisition of knowledge, so too is practise without some degree of understanding!”

Q: Some would say that is a lot of time to allocate and I’m guessing others not enough?

David: Yes and both are right! It is a matter of perspective, competing priorities and desired outcomes.

Q: Would you care to elaborate?

David: Well to be honest probably not as this raises a larger question on the nature of sadhana which is beyond the scope of this discussion. Let’s just say that quality trumps quantity every time, and consistent practice is the real imperative. There are times in one’s life that may allow you to do more and there will certainly be times that will oblige you to do less. One has to ride that wave but know that it is a long game you are playing and it is a mix of persistence and tenacity that allows you to arrive/succeed.

And that is never going to happen if you regard yourself as being: “too busy,” or to think that yoga is synonymous with asana. There are times in one’s life where the branches of Karma, Bhakti and Gyana Yoga take priority.

One of the great skills I believe we all implicitly hope to gain from our practice is “timing”, discerning when the time is right to undertake the many projects that life throws our way. There is a time in one’s life when to take on a year-long course in pranayama makes great sense and other times where it doesn’t…to know which time it is is a very useful skill : – )

Q: I’ve heard you say that the ideal number of days to practice is six, why not seven?

David: On the seventh day, the recommendation is that you don’t practise, and amongst other reasons this is to prove to both yourself and those you love that you are not a fanatic! On that seventh day I advise students to take inspiration from the words of Charles Dickens and spend a good portion of that day it in a state of amiable dissipation and with unbounded license!

Such activities as lying in, almond croissants and a second cup of tea are all sound options on such days as these, swims, walks and non-obligatory books, family and friends and extended periods of being without doing all qualify.  If you don’t have time for this day in your week then there is a fair chance you will struggle finding time on the other days for sadhana.

” I am so very busy,” is rarely a useful sankalpa…

Q: In a perfect world you say these practices are performed in the early morning after ablutions and asana. Why?

David: Well there are many reasons why this is such an auspicious time. To name a few: this is a quiet time with less distraction both from within and beyond, you have not eaten and your bowels and bladder can be empty which is highly desirable for practise, you are rested and if you have taken appropriate steps you should be bright and alert but without the events of the day to review and impinge in on your presentness. 

Q: What is the rationale behind the sequence of practise you recommend?

David: Asana physically gets the prana moving and unlocks the granthis (energy blocks) energetically preparing one for pranayama which in turn prepares one for meditation. In short, by way of asana, pranayama and meditation we have shifted identification from the gross towards the subtle dimensions of human experience: from Annamaya to Pranamaya to Manomaya Kosha and beyond, from the outer to the inner form the gross towards the subtle

Q: What do you see being the main obstacles to regular practise?

David: Here in the west and in these days, we all consider ourselves to be time pressured and no doubt we are. On another level we still have 24 hours in a day which is pretty much the same as our forebears, how we prioritise and allocate that time has altered though. Mind you the priorities themselves have not really changed, e.g. food, shelter, procreation, companionship, work, contribution to society, understanding who we are, why we are here and where we are going you could say.

In yogic vernacular we are speaking of the ashramas and purusharthas. In today’s world we tend to spend a disproportionate amount of time on Artha (fulfilling the material aspects of our life, and more time in Brahmacharya (student) and Grihasta (householder) ashramas/stages, less time is allocated to Dharma and Moksha and consequently our sadhana is given lower priority and hence is often compromised.

Q:Why do you use the term sadhana rather than yogic practise?

David: Sadhana is most often understood as a collective term for yogic practices and for many this translates simply as asana. When I use the term I am referring not only to yogic techniques e.g. asana, pranayama, dharana etc by sadhana here I mean any activity which is undertaken with yogic/expanded awareness so Sadhana here does not just refer to time on the mat or the pillow, it refers in fact far more, to what we do beyond these formal practise times and more importantly how we do activity both within and beyond these times.

Why is it so important for sadhana to be regular?

David: The aim is for sadhana to colour every moment. The degree to which this occurs is very much in my experience a function of the cumulative effect on our awareness of ongoing systematic practise and this is why in this course one finds this requirement.

There are times in life where it is easier or harder to make this commitment so before entering this course one needs to be confident that the time is right. A good percentage of people have enrolled but competing priorities and life circumstances have meant they couldn’t make it right through. Abhyasa is hard won!

Can you give me an idea of what is covered over this eleven month long course?

David: Practices are scheduled on a weekly basis, some practices are only included for a week or two being transitionary and others over several months. The course is broken into three terms. With the pranayama component the first term is dedicated to a category of practices known as Prana Nigraha.

These are the foundational breathing practices upon which the classical pranayamas are built. The Prana Nigraha practices develop heightened breath awareness and sensitivity, breath control and expanded breath capacity, these are all prerequisite to accurate and safe performance of the pranayamas.

Many of us these days have lost our natural pattern of breathing and need to attend to this before moving into the classical techniques. The subsequent pranayamas fall into three categories: Balancing e.g. Nadi Shodhana, Tranquilising e.g. Ujjayi, Bhramari, Sheetali and Vitalising e.g. Swarna, Kapalabhati and Bhastrika

The more technically complex practices are deconstructed and then reconstructed over weeks and months. In most weeks three nominated practices are done each day in sequence and followed by meditation practice (dharana). Just as with the pranayama a range of meditation techniques are systematically introduced in a similar fashion.

Q: Can you elaborate on the meditation techniques?

David: Just as there are categories of pranayama e.g. vitalising balancing, heating cooling, tranquilising there are categories of meditation

For example, Compassion and Loving Kindness, Open Monitoring, e.g. Mindfulness, and Focussed Attention. In this course the meditation techniques are drawn from the latter category, (focussed attention). Techniques from this category include Kaya Sthairyam, Trataka, Japa, Akasha, Ajapa Jap and Antar Mauna.

Q: Why did you choose these particular meditation techniques?

David: The simple answer is because I am very familiar with them having worked with them for more decades than I care to declare! One should only teach that which they know deeply, not bolted on and these I know well. The other categories are mostly drawn more as I understand it, from the Buddhist Tradition(s) and hence there are people far better qualified and experienced than I from whom to learn those techniques.

These techniques are not better or worse than the aforesaid, they are techniques that suit a range of temperaments very well and also they are very coherent to the pranayama techniques being used in this course.

Q: Why do we as yoga teachers need to know a variety of techniques?

David: In short because one size does not fit all!

While the desired outcome of meditation practice is the state of meditation there are diverse ways of achieving this (many paths up the mountain as they say) and which pathway one choses should be in response to the temperament and constitution of the practitioner rather than that of the teacher.

For a student to find that which suits them then trial and error across a range of practices seems to me the best way to find that with which one truly resonates, and thus avoiding the square peg and round hole scenario. This is so important as if that technique is not found with which you are at home, it is only a matter of time before you stop. It has to be in you, not on you.

Why is it important to move slowly through the practices?

David: Oh as you well know there are so many reasons why!

In short one needs to develop proficiency in walking before running. Just like when working with asana one needs to develop sufficient physical strength, endurance and flexibility to perform the practice as an asana rather than just technically as a physical posture. The same principles apply to pranayama and meditation.

The only difference is that asana primarily focuses on Annamaya while Pranayama is on Pranamaya and Dharana is on Manomaya Kosha. Mind you by that I am not saying exclusively focussing but yes primarily addressing those respective layers of who we are. 

Using an analogy: while yes one needs to increase the voltage one needs also to increase the insulation. The yoga we are talking about here is not to be compared to dropping by the gym for a weekly class (as good as that is) or as a teacher doing a few rounds along with our students in a class or doing a few rounds of Surya before a morning dip. Please don’t get me wrong all the above are excellent but if one wants to go deeper you have to dive in and it is best to ascertain the depth before you do so..

Developing one’s viveka and vairagya doesn’t happen overnight. These act as the insulation in the above analogy. Sadhana is on one level an ongoing experiment to see how much voltage you can sustain,.. finding just how much is too much, too little and just right. For this you need discernment and detachment which are born of trial and error. As Patanjali tells us: Evolution through yoga requires Viveka, Vairagya and Abhyasa.

Q: is this course aimed at specifically yoga teachers or can anyone do the course?

  David: This course is aimed at people that want to dive deeper and that appreciate that it is no hay ride!

Q: Presumably this will be a course that teaches people both personally and professionally. As a result what can they expect or hope to gain from this course?

David: The short answer is the desired outcome of this course is to increase self-reflective awareness. This course is for yogis and yoginis who want to walk their talk whether that is to self or others. They regardless of vocation will have as Muktananda said: Clearer insight into who they are, why they are here and where they are going. And along the way will add quite a range of pranayamas and dharanas to their quiver.

Find out more or book into the course HERE

Pranayama and mudra for the various ages and stages of life

It is quite fitting that Margaret Willcocks is focusing on the ages and stages of life in the upcoming IYTA workshop, as she is about to move down a new path from her long yoga career.

She is running this workshop in September before the doors close for good to her Perth-based academy: The Greenwood Academy. Margaret, 65, graduated from the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Training in 1994 and has been teaching regularly ever since.

  She is particularly keen to give the WA IYTA members a deep experience of pranayama techniques and mudras directed at different ages and stages of life.

She says: “I really enjoy practicing pranayama and from observing how it has benefited me through many of life’s challenges. I have noticed that pranayama and mudras often affect people of different ages rather differently. Young and older people all respond rather differently.”

Margaret shared that many people of all ages are mouth breathers rather than nose breathers and has observed how this may be the cause for their anxiety and agitation. So, it can be helpful to encourage mouth breathers to do practices such as Bhramari as a means to help them focus on breathing through their nose.

For younger people – children – although it is wise not to teach involved pranayama – children can be taught to simply observe their breath to notice if it makes them calm or uneasy etc as they may not be ready for such techniques. However, Bhramari can be a simple technique as often children do this automatically by sticking their fingers in their ears and humming so as not to hear what they don’t want to hear?

The benefits of working on different ages with pranayama ultimately depends on the individual and their understanding of their body, their age, any illness they may have etc. before they can learn about and practice pranayama. Substantial benefits may only be gained from a continued practice of a technique that is suited to the individual.

This will be a face-to-face workshop, rather than online, as Margaret says it is important to be able to see and hear the students. She says: “In an online class situation I am not always able to see and hear how students are breathing.”

Mudras also tend to suit different people at different ages. Margaret says: “Babies/children are often seen with their hands in Chin Mudra quite naturally and it seems to be when they are calm and content. It is a basic mudra which helps to pacify and uplift and is good to continue with it when they go to school to help stay calm and focussed.”

She adds she has seen the difference between men and women’s hands with mudras and not everyone has flexibility in their fingers for some mudras, especially if they have arthritis. “It is important to have alternatives that provide similar benefit,” she says, emphasising the fact that mudras are particularly beneficial as they help to promote both mental and physical health.

Margaret has more than 25 years teaching experience and says this workshop will give participants and teachers a range of options and alternatives, so everyone can experience the benefits. She stresses that she is no expert, simply keen to share from her knowledge, practice, and experience of teaching over the years.

To book in to this workshop, click HERE


Meet our new Social Media Manager

You may have noticed our IYTA social media profile has been flourishing lately. This is due to our new Social Media Manager, Karen Mallinson. Karen is a yoga teacher and digital marketing expert as she explains here in our Q&A catch-up!

Q: Tell us about your yoga journey

I was introduced to yoga in 1998, however, it was eight years later before I started to practise regularly. After my move from the UK to Australia I began to practise Yoga Synergy with Alex Cogley in Manly, which I did regularly for three or four years. During this time, I was looking to increase and deepen my practice further, and Alex directed me to Gyan Morrison’s class at what was then the old Manly Yoga. Which, then was teaching predominantly Satyananda Yoga. I consider myself very fortunate to build my Yoga foundations with two exceptional teachers.

Yoga has been life changing for me. What started as a form of exercise became a way of life. I have so much respect for the practices and the benefits they continuously give to people. When I teach a class, I believe I’m sharing the most incredible gift. With yoga and meditation, you are continuously discovering and learning, I feel like I’ve only just touched the surface.

Q: Did you do a yoga teacher training?

I completed the two-year (1600hr) Yogic studies and teacher training diploma in Satyananda Yoga in 2015, through what was then the Satyananda Yoga Academy in Australia

Since then my postgraduate professional development has been a bi product of continuing to develop my own personal practice. I like to participate in workshops and courses and took great advantage of having David Burgess visiting to Manly Yoga to lead his masterclasses.

In the last couple of years, I’ve participated in different meditation retreats around the world: Vipassana in Spain, Tattwa Shuddhi in Tasmania, and last year I also participated in a silent meditation retreat in Tiruvannamalai Tamil Nadu, India at the foothills of Arunachala.

Q: Are you teaching at the moment?

I was regularly teaching at Manly Yoga until I moved overseas. Since I’ve been back here in Australia my teaching has been limited, mainly due to lockdown!

I normally spend my time between Australia and Spain, (my partner who also a yoga teacher, is from Barcelona). So, for part of the year I teach there. When I’m here, I generally offer cover classes.

We’re currently building our own offering and will be looking to teach more online.

Q: How long have you been involved with IYTA?

I first became involved with the IYTA during my time as Manager of Manly Yoga. Alex Cogley was also a teacher at the centre. Also, over the last 2-3 years when I worked for Alana Smith as Marketing Manager for the centre and a few of our regular students went on to complete the IYTA Diploma.

I’m really delighted to be working with the IYTA, I have a professional background in marketing, so to be able to use my knowledge and skills doing something I love with a well-respected and established organisation like the IYTA, is a real privilege.

I’m delighted to be working with IYTA. to work with an organisation whose ethos is to promote the benefits of practices to support mental and physical health and wellbeing is wonderful.

Q: What is your new role within IYTA and how can members help you?

My new role is as Social Media Manager, so I will be on the lookout for content to share with the IYTA community! And that’s where members can join in!

We would love to know what is happening in local areas, how you are spreading the joy of yoga with your communities. So, any short videos or photographs are very welcome.

You can email Karen here








Build a bowl

Bowls are IN – and somehow (not sure why!) but there is something more appealing about healthy food in a bowl than on a plate ?

And the great thing about bowls is that as long as there is variety – and colour – you can vary the theme each time, so it never gets boring! You can use any grain as a base, plenty of herbs, throw in a few beans and pop a poached egg on top for extra protein.


  • 2 cups of tri-colour quinoa
  • 1 cup of frozen peas (this ratio of quinoa and peas will make enough for around 4 bowls)
  • Spring of mint leaves
  • 1 block of halloumi cheese
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 egg – for topping
  • Slice of lemon to garnish


  • Bring 2.5 cups of water to the boil in a saucepan, then add the 2 cups of quinoa, cover the pan and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  • After 5 minutes add the peas to the quinoa
  • While the quinoa is cooking slice halloumi and fry until golden on both sides.
  • Chops the mint and smash the avocado
  • Poach the egg
  • Drain the quinoa and peas.

Then have fun building your bowl! You can also add sauerkraut, vegies and herbs to taste – enjoy!





Transform with the breath

Gyan Morrison’s life turned around after he discovered yoga 20 years ago… he’s now teaching others the tools that have transformed his life.

Gyan will be leading the workshop:

Experience the Purpose of Pranayama


We caught up with Gyan to find out a little more about his yoga journey.

Q: When and how did you first experience yoga?

Gyan: I’d been to a naturopath because I was having a lot of stress in the early nineties – I was working as a company manager at the time and I was finding it difficult to sleep.

As I left she gave me a cassette and told me to play it before I went to sleep at night. I found out ten years later (after attending Mangrove Mountain) that it was a Yoga Nidra.

Q: Did it help you sleep?

Gyan: Oh definitely! It fixed up my sleep issues. I rarely experienced the nightmares after that, and every time I played that cassette I slept like a baby and I didn’t ever get to the end of the recording!

Q: So how did your experience of yoga develop?

Gyan: In the late 90s I went with a mate to Simon Borg-Olivier’s classes which I really enjoyed. I was going to a couple of classes a week – mostly asana and pranayama. Then I hurt my shoulder sometime in mid-2002 – I was around 40 years old at the time. I’d been to Mangrove Mountain and I thought I should learn about meditation. They were running a weekend meditation course and so I did it and loved it.

After that I did lots of weekends up there before heading overseas for a year.

I spent a month in Kerala, India and then a month at the Satyananda ashram and a month at the Osho Centre in Pune, before going to Sweden and attending a three-month Kriya Retreat at the Scandinavian School of Yoga and Meditation. I spent another six months in Asia before returning to Australia and that’s when I realised how many things had shifted in me in the most positive of ways.

Q: What had changed for you?

Gyan: All of the things I’d done before finding yoga just fell away – drinking alcohol, partying, hunting… I quit my job working in the family business and a long term relationship ended.

These things just fell away… and I wanted to know why yoga had made such an impact on my life, so I did one module of the Satyananda Yoga studies course, then another and by the time I’d finished the first four modules – I decided to do the full teacher training. I ended up living in the ashram for the next three years. During that time I was very fortunate to have very experienced teachers such as David Burgess, Shankardev, and Satyadharma. I then lived and taught at Manly Yoga from 2011 – 2016, and taught at the new centre for another 3 years.

Q: What are you doing now?

Gyan: I’m now teaching on the Northern Beaches of Sydney – although I was supposed to be doing another one-month retreat in Sweden, but obviously had to cancel that due to the pandemic! And I’m running the workshop for the IYTA on Pranayama.

Q: Why focus on Pranayama?

Gyan: It expands and balances and focuses your energy in ways that you can’t really get from other forms of exercise, nor other aspects of yoga. With correct technique you can biohack your nervous system for specific outcomes, whether it be to energise, calm or focus the mind for example. And it can really help to prepare you for meditation. Pranayama is a practice I do regularly. And I feel with a lot of current yoga establishments and teachers there is not enough emphasis put on pranayama – most of the emphasis is put on asana.

Q: What can people expect from the Pranayama workshop?

Gyan: I am running the workshop together with Alana Smith and we will be starting the session with a prana nidra – so if people aren’t familiar with their own flow of prana they get to experience it. We will then introduce some specific pranayama practices so the participants can understand and experience what the effects are when the breath is manipulated in different ways, and in doing so know which particular practices are most suitable to obtain particular outcomes.

Q: What is a prana nidra?

Gyan: A prana nidra is like a yoga nidra but it is about getting in contact with your pranic state. It is an exploration of energy and to help people access stillness.

In doing this practice you are waking up dormant energy. It is revitalising, but not in an exaggerated way – in a therapeutic way.

The workshop will also cover a range of yogic breathing practices and more.

To find out more or book into this workshop click HERE