This is second time around for Monika Hindmarsh as IYTA SA rep, and she is looking forward to making a difference and creating a thriving community in the state. Here she tells her yoga journey…
Well it’s been a few years since I held this position but I am pleased and grateful to be back as the SA state Representative. Please let me briefly Introduce myself. Born Monika Slavikova in 1971 in former Czechoslovakia a communist country.
My life journey began in Prague where I was born. Most beautiful city in Europe. We arrived in Australia as refugees in 1980, I was eight at the time.
My yoga journey began at age 27 after a car accident, which left me with back and neck injuries. My first teacher was the beautiful Louise Wiggins. Louise also became my mentor when I decided to became a yoga teacher myself and trained by correspondence with IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching in 2003-4. At the time my study was not online it was from books and audio cassettes… how times have changed!
My dream was to teach children yoga in schools. My first experience of yoga was hiding in the back row of Louise’s class in beautiful Pt Noarlunga Surf Life Saving Club. My hamstrings resisted, my mind was full of distractions and I couldn’t wait for the class to finish! Despite all this resistance I went back week after week for 11 years straight and fell in love with Hatha yoga, Louise’s style and her very popular gentle, yet very effective classes.
I fulfilled my dream of teaching not only children in schools around Adelaide, but adults and the elderly.
I met a lot of yoga teachers in my journey whom helped me along the way like Russell, Beth, Ann and Nikki – all wonderful yoga teachers.
I have given up teaching, but not the passion for learning Yoga. Over the years I have tried most styles and recent years have been attending Shannon Stephens-Griffin’s classes which are strong Iyengar influenced classes at her Southbound gym.
Shannon has taught me inversions which I was not a huge fan of and how to gain more confidence in myself to try them. I’m hoping to get back into teaching again and recently reconnected with the IYTA to be involved in this wonderful Yoga network community here in Australia.
So here I am again a few years older and still very keen to learn more from Yoga and all of you.
Last time I was SA rep, family commitments didn’t give me much time to dedicate to the role. This time I’m all in and want to help make the IYTA a viable and highly sought after membership association that all yoga teachers and students want to be a part of.
And I believe with my experience in the Industry (Monika works full-time as Membership Advisor for a Non for profit state association: Master Builders SA), I know I can bring a lot of skills and experience to the IYTA to make it a thriving and solid business model.
I want to make a difference and help us all achieve what we set out to do together in the yoga community. So my yoga journey continues. Feeling blessed and grateful to be back.
IYTA teachers Alana Smith and Gyan Morrison are sharing their knowledge in our online yoga workshop. Here Alana explains why it is important to combine both practices…
Q: What benefits can you gain from combining pranayama with the bandhas?
A: When you add the bandhas to pranayama practices it compounds the effects of pranayama, making it more potent which can enhance your state of calmness and clarity. Combining the two will also make your practice more efficient.
In addition, It also creates psychic and energetic environment whereby suspension of breath can develop naturally and effortlessly, leading to enhanced meditative states. This can also help with enhancement and containment of subtle energies, shifting stuck energies.
Q: What do you need to be aware of as a teacher when working with both bandhas and pranayama?
You need to know how to do bandhas proficiently before combining them together otherwise it becomes very confusing and potentially damaging.
You need to be able to do them fairly effortlessly as distinct practices before combining them.
We need to learn the signs that students aren’t doing them correctly, such as getting light-headed, hot or more angry or hyperactive, and then how to amend them.
A lot of abdominal awareness, activation and co-ordination needed to perform the vitalising practices in particular.
Q: Will this workshop incorporate postures as well?
Minimal asana, we might do a few warm up practices just to prepare the body.
This workshop is recommended for people with a little bit of experience with pranayama.
You’ll explore a simple 3-step framework for practising Pranayama incorporating Bandhas. You’ll experience a set of vitalising, balancing and cooling tranquillising techniques and have the opportunity to get some feedback on your practice.
You’ll also receive notes of these techniques for your reference.
It will be structured so that participants are able to perform the various practices and given the time to experience the effects of the individual practices both as discrete practices and in combination with pranayama and it will be as interactive as possible.
IYTA Yoga teacher, Rebecca Lean goes nuts for seeds! Check out her seed mix – which she adds to yoghurts, soups and salads…
For years as a vegetarian I have been a huge fan of nuts (well we are what we eat) and in the past I’ve been opportunistic in my approach to incorporate them wherever I can.
Recently though, I’ve been experimenting with the benefits of using seeds.
Personally, for my ayurvedic constitution, nuts can be hard to digest unless soaked, and what’s more it is so easy to eat more of them than necessary or even recommended.
For my community, with schools and child-care centers no longer allowing nuts due to them being fairly common allergens, it also just feels thoughtful and inclusive to turn to seeds and seed mixes as an alternative.
After a few queries online and at my local healthfood store, and I discovered a seed mix that is high in omega 3 and 6, which is beneficial to the health of the heart, brain, eyes, bones and joints as well as having positive impact on inflammation, auto-immune disease, diabetes and depression.
This mix is now added to my yogurt, salads, soups and in baking and I hope you will enjoys seeing where they work in your favourite dishes too.
I found this recipe online and I can recommend sourcing the seeds from bulk wholefood suppliers such as Scoop, The Source or Naked Foods. This way you are only buying the half a cup of each the recipe requires and you can avoid the expense and waste of a cupboard full of half used bags of seeds. It also means that you can play with the ratios according to your taste and budget.
½ Cup Sunflower Seeds
½ Cup Pumpkin Seeds
½ Cup Flax Seeds
½ Cup Chia Seeds
Mix the seeds together and store in an airtight container. Depending on how fresh the seeds are to begin with, this keeps for 1-2 months in a cool, dark space.
Children’s Yoga expert, Loraine Rushton will be running a two-hour workshop in July for the IYTA. The focus is on specific yoga practices to help children deal with anxiety and stress – it’s a workshop every parent and yoga teacher should attend.
The global pandemic has meant stress and anxiety has impacted all of us, but the fall out for our children and teens is daunting.
Loraine says that mental health issues among children is on the rise and it’s affecting children from a younger age than ever. Loraine says in the past she would have aimed a workshop like this primarily at teens, but says: “Now we are seeing three year olds displaying signs of stress and anxiety and missing day care…”
So why are our young people suffering at these unprecedented levels? Loraine believes it is due to our fast paced stressed society.
She says: “Children can feel it, they are surrounded by it and they are impacted by it.”
She believes the main culprits are: screen time, disconnected societies, the diet children are eating, lack of sleep, excessive worry, trauma and anxiety over the instability at home and in the world.
Loraine’s workshop will deal with stress and anxiety from a physical, mental and emotional perspective. It is aimed at yoga teachers and parents – offering specific corrective exercises, breathing exercises, relaxations and personal development exercises that are fast, effective and really work.
She says the focus is on specific meridian based yoga therapy exercises to target the kidneys, adrenal and nervous system. “You will see them, experience them, and feel them work.”
“These practices are targeted to help children calm the mind and emotions down quickly.”
Loraine adds: “Children are not going to wait three months for a result, so we need tools and techniques that will work quickly.”
Even if you aren’t a parent or specialise in children’s yoga, Loraine says: “All yoga teachers are going to meet a child or teenager who wants to do yoga. You will have a child or teen in your class at some stage, you will have a parent ask you to help their child with stress and anxiety and it’s important you know how to help.
“The difference between general yoga and meridian based yoga therapy is that one will look at the issue generally but these are specific tools and technqiues that will help in your class.”
Loraine, like all yoga teachers has had to think fast and be adaptable through this pandemic. Since March 2020 she’s switched all her face-to-face classes and trainings online.
She says: “It’s been amazing. Running the yoga therapy training courses virtually in the last year has allowed people to join from as far away as Singapore, Ireland, the US, Canada, New Zealand, India and all across Australia.”
She adds there have been some wonderful moments where she’s witnessed teachers from all over the world connecting across the kilometres.
One of her students, who is originally from Ireland is teaching kids classes online from Brisbane and has become a virtual celebrity back in Ireland as so many Irish kids are joining her for digital classes! Another teacher in India doesn’t have children from India but has kids form the US and all over the world joining her online classes.”
And as for Loraine? She’s missing her usual globe trotting, but thankful for the opportunity to still connect with teachers – and children – from across the world.
Keen to learn more about Indigenous culture and Reconciliation? Then read the IYTA’s Alana Smith’s account of her personal journey and the Yoga Australia’s RAP launch…
In keeping us at home over the last year, Covid restrictions have encouraged us to look inward, to travel more within our own country and appreciate our homegrown cultures. In Australia, there’s been a groundswell of support for all things Indigenous, especially since the Black Lives Matter protests. The motto of Reconciliation Week this year was “More than a word. Reconciliation takes action”.
We were honoured to be invited to the official RAP launch: Yoga on Country, on 21st June 2021 at the beautiful Washerwoman’s Beach at Bendalong, NSW. As a Committee member, I was asked to represent the IYTA alongside Aunty Ros Fogg, a long-term Indigenous IYTA member.
BECOMING EDUCATED ABOUT CULTURE, COUNTRY AND RECONCILIATION
When our President, Astrid Pickup, asked if I was available to give a speech at the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) launch on behalf of the IYTA, I was both excited and intimidated. Although I’ve been really interested in Indigenous history for a long time and always felt sympathetic to Indigenous issues, it had all been in quite a distanced way. I’d had very little genuine connection with Indigenous people and culture. I soon realised that if I was going to give a speech genuinely committing the IYTA to Reconciliation Action, I had better get more educated and connected!
I began by reading the whole RAP and Ngungwulah website which led me to sign up for the online Cultural Awareness Training with Jem Stone and Eve White, two Indigenous yoginis. This eye-opening training sparked a starburst of connections and questions. We practised how to give an appropriate and heartfelt Acknowledgment of Country, which initially felt quite awkward as I didn’t yet feel connected enough to do it genuinely – I needed to know more! Jem and Eve made lots of intriguing connections between Aboriginal and Yoga practices, including deep listening (e.g. Dadirri); ethical responsibilities (e.g. Kanyini); and conscious movement (e.g. Wayapa Wuurrk) and I eagerly explored all of these in my own time.
They also highly recommended that we read Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta which explores the ways that Indigenous thinking can inform sustainable living. This turned out to be one of the most electrifying books I have ever read. Tyson is a brilliant storyteller and I learnt so much about the complex patterns and psychology behind Aboriginal philosophy and practices. As an ex-English and French teacher, I was fascinated to learn that in some Aboriginal languages there are far more pronouns than in English. Beyond “I”, “you” and “we”, there are more complex pronouns such as “we two”, “we but not others”, and “we altogether”.
I also attended a blood moon ceremony led by Barkindji man, Michael “Smacka” Whyman at Gumbooya Reserve, an incredible sacred site in Allambie Heights replete with rock art and mysterious portals. With his great sense of humour, Smacka impressed upon us the need for respect for Country and Culture, and how everything is so connected that if you look after it, Country will look after you.
Up until this point, I had unconsciously been thinking of Indigenous culture and issues in “us and them” terms, which had kept me in a state of disconnection and inertia. Then quite suddenly, while watching the Indigenous episode of “You Can’t Ask That” on the ABC, I had a revelation that no matter how we got here, we all have the privilege of living on Country. We have all inherited this precious ancient living culture, the oldest in the world, so we are all its custodians. Hence, it is all our responsibility to care for this ancient knowledge by looking after the knowledge-keepers, and the animals, the plants, the land, water, and sky, that hold this knowing in the very core of their being. This shift in mindset gave me a new sense of authentic connection and participation.
At this turning point I felt ready to craft my speech for the RAP launch. Astrid encouraged me to speak to Aunty Ros Fogg, who is a Dharug elder. Ros has been involved with the IYTA for over 21 years and her background story is fascinating. She was so generous with her time, explaining her work with Muru Mittigar in advancing Aboriginal culture, the need for truth-telling and treaty on the path to Reconciliation, and the political stumbling blocks along the way. With Ros’s insights and support I felt much more confident to stand up and speak at the RAP launch.
THE LAUNCH OF YOGA AUSTRALIA’S RECONCILIATION ACTION PLAN
When 21st June finally arrived, we were all up early to drive to the pristinely beautiful Washerwoman’s Beach on the NSW South Coast in Yuin Country. The rain hung heavy in the clouds as all of us women were painted with special ochre: 13 dots on our faces to represent the 13 tribes of the Yuin nation and 3 dots on our hands to represent mother, father and child. This matrilineal tribe have been sourcing this ceremonial ochre from a sacred clay pit for thousands of years!
Meeting on the sand, many of us intuitively felt the need to throw off our shoes and connect with Earth despite the winter cold. As we waited for the ceremony to begin, our Yuin host Jrumpinjinbah gave us a sand talk lesson on the Aboriginal meanings of the Seven Sisters star cluster (aka Pleiades).
With yogis tuning in online from all over Australia, the event opened with a traditional smoking and Welcome to Country ceremony by Jrumpinjinbah and his family. We were invited to stand in circle – the non-hierarchical way of conducting an Indigenous yaan circle where everyone is included and respected. We were led in a deep listening practice to connect with the surrounding Country, and a traditional Yuin dance in which we all stomped and chanted in unison. Jem Stone gave us a taste of the earth-connected Indigenous movement practice Wayapa Wuurrk, which for me was a very grounding, connecting and heart-opening experience. We also witnessed the coming together of the ancient cultures of Yoga and Indigenous Australia through a symbolic dance performance by the Ngungwulah Yaan Circle – 12 Indigenous yogis who have been integral to the RAP consultation process.
As the rain began to bless the proceedings, I stood in solidarity with other great yoga organisations (AAYT, KYTANZ and DRU), and we all gave speeches of gratitude to YA and Ngungwulah and our commitment to the aims of the RAP. To symbolise the meeting of these two ancient cultures, Angela of Dru Yoga brought a Jyotir flame as a gift to Ngungwulah, and I incorporated a Coolamon into my speech, a traditional Indigenous bowl, which was cradling dried flowers from a yogic healing ceremony.
Afterwards we all shared a delicious Indian meal on yaaning mats and I was honoured to have a long yarn with Kirt Mallie, a captivating yogi of Torres Strait Islander descent, alongside my own yoga elder/teacher, Dharmananda.
It was so empowering and inspiring to feel the shared vision and emotion of all the people and organisations who had gathered on that stunning beach in the spirit of connection and healing for this Country. We owe an immense debt of gratitude to Cate Peterson, Patricia Bordon, the Yaan Circle (which includes our own Aunty Ros), Ngungwulah and Yoga Australia for their outstanding efforts in spearheading this reciprocity initiative. Thank you all for being my teachers – I look forward to learning so much more.
The IYTA has lots more coming up in the spirit of Reconciliation. Stay tuned…
(Please note that in the spirit of being a good ally, Alana asked Aunty Ros to review this article from her Indigenous perspective)