We all know about the chakras – but how can we feel them, let alone clear them if we can’t even see them?
The word chakra means wheel – in yoga, there are seven main chakras – each one like an energy vortex sending and receiving vital energy (or prana).
Now think about your energy. What’s it like right now? Is it scattered, depleted or does it feel strong and vibrant?
There are days we feel light – it can feel as if our energy is flowing at a higher vibration. In this state it’s easier to feel positive about life and situations, we tend to move a little easier and our smile naturally stretches a little wider. We feel in the flow of life – more resilient and able to cope with the fluctuations of our day.
Then there are the days when we feel heavy, apathetic – it’s more difficult to motivate ourselves and if we’re not careful we can slip into a negative thought spiral… which only serves to draw that energy downard – now we’re at a lower vibration of energy.
Put very simply the first scenario is when the energy or prana in our body is likely to be flowing more freely and the second is when there is a blockage of energy which creates a stagnation and can then impacts each of the other chakras.
Even if we can’t see our chakras – if we focus our mind and energy on them we can begin to feel them and over time continue to deepen and refine that connection.
As the old saying goes: where our attention goes, our energy flows. By regularly paying attention to each of the seven main chakras: Muladhara, Svadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha, Ajna and the Crown Centre Sahasrara – we can begin to tune into each of these energy centres.
I’ve always loved the Chakras and in my twenty years of instructing yoga, I often refer to them within the classes that I teach.
Mini Chakra Cleanse
In my personal practice, if I start to feel my energy lagging or feeling unbalanced, then I do a short Chakra Breathing Practice. I simply spend ten minutes breathing into each of the chakras in turn.
Begin at the base chakra. Take at least three deep breaths into the Muladhara Chakra.
Then move up to the Svadhisthana Chakra and repeat three breaths, continue to move your awareness and focus upwards through each chakra. We always move from the lowest to highest chakra – this ensures you remain grounded, safe and secure. The three base chakras are connected with the gross body, the Anahata is the bridge between gross and the subtle body and the three higher chakras are connected with the subtle body. You can visualise the colours associated with each of the chakras and if possible, chant the Bija Seed Mantras (the sounds associated with each of the chakras) to amplify your experience.
Then sit for a moment feeling the breath flow up from the base of the spine to just above the crown centre and feel the exhalation flow from the crown to the tailbone.
Finish by place the hands in Anjali Mudra at the heart centre. Namaste
Restorative Yoga for the Chakras with Katie Brown
New Year is the perfect time to start your Chakra Journey – and I’m running a 90-minute online Restorative Yoga class on Sunday, January 31, 2021 where we will be focusing on each chakra in turn with yoga pose, pranayama or centring practice which will culminate in a guided relaxation through all of the chakras.
This will be a nurturing experience for you whether you are extremely familiar with the seven main chakras or if you’re yet to explore them.
The IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching can change your life – here ten of our 2020 students share their experiences…
Start the New Year with a new direction and do something poistive, challenging and rewarding by becoming a Yoga Teacher. You never know it could change your life. Here TEN of our 2020 students share their story.
Initially I was doing Bikram’s yoga for about ten years – I thought about doing that training, but I didn’t want to be restricted to one style of yoga or study overseas.
I was about to commit to doing a yoga course and then I fell pregnant, I thought I’d have to put it on the back burner, but I miscarried.
As devastating as it was and my husband in February (2020) said: Well why don’t you use this opportunity to do the yoga course. I had started doing pre-natal classes – that introduced me to other forms of yoga which I started to appreciate again
That led to me to be more confident and open minded about exploring other forms of yoga and so I searched online. I wanted to find the most established school in Australia – and I found the IYTA.
I liked that there was no one form of style and it provided a really good grounding holistic view of yoga.
At that point I’d missed the first weekend, but it wasn’t a problem as I was sent the recorded lectures, so I caught up. Then I fell pregnant again!
It’s been my best decision I’ve made in my life.
At this point in my life – it’s come together in regards to my dharma. There are so many knowledgeable teachers who are familiar with pre-natal yoga that I wasn’t concerned.
Being pregnant on the course has been really nourishing in so many ways – it really has helped me gradually prepare myself for childbirth and being more connected to my mind and body and with the asanas and chanting and mantras and how that all comes together and how I can utilise all those tools to benefit my whole pregnancy journey.
I would love to teach! I want to focus on motherhood initially and devote myself to that, but I think yoga is absolutely essential in terms of helping people become more in touch with their bodies – I’ve been teaching my friends and it’s encouraging this course is already impacting my group of friends.”
#2 Rachel Smith, 30,Balmain, NSW
“I’ve always wanted to learn more about yoga. I did a lot of research and the IYTA DYT course seemed like a good choice.
I like the gentle and holisitic approach and you learn to listen to your body.
It’s been intense – I think it has helped doing this course during lockdown… it has given me a focus and encouraged me to give myself time to do the meditation and pranayama and practice each week.
The residential has been good – it’s been great to meet all the online students and get to know each other a bit more.
The course has definitely helped to improve my daily practice and given me a great foundation in yoga and for teaching.”
#3 Rachel Sands, 47, Fish Creek Victoria, South Gippsland
“I wanted to diversify my income moving into older age… I work in public health four days a week and I see being a yoga teacher maintains yoga in my life. It also forces me to stay engaged with yoga and to own it a bit more and thus to also shift away from a day job if I so choose.
The course has been profound and it wasn’t at all what I expected. I don’t think I did it for the reasons for which I am now grateful of – I went into it in a pragmatic way, but what I’ve got from it is so much more and I wouldn’t have thought I would have experienced that.
I will be so sad when it finishes. It is a framework in my life that keeps me engaged in learning and progressing and it gives me an emotional support .
Absolutely I would recommend this course. I have appreciated the inclusive philosophy and that it’s ok to be where you are at and ok if your body doesn’t do what the picture says and I love that we are given these tools to allow everyone to participate. And I have enjoyed the diversity of teaching styles I have been exposed to.
I’m really grateful with the standard of pranayama and meditation instruction.”
#4 Amanda Mealing, 40, Moree, NSW
“I just wanted to know more about yoga – I went online and searched. There were lots of different courses and I like the approach that IYTA had welcoming in lots of different teachers and different aspects of yoga. It didn’t seem like it was going to be a rigid set of beliefs – and the correspondence was huge knowing that I wouldn’t get to Sydney a lot of weekends. I liked the way it was over a year so I would incorporate it into my life…
I love it – it’s been so good – the teachers have been amazing, the other students have been amazing – it is so well set up and timed as far as every step that comes next in the program you are ready for it… an integrated way of learning and also the correspondence has been helpful – during Covid the guys put in extra effort to do the classes via Zoom.
I’ve been very grateful to have this course to help keep me grounded during the madness of the year – I think I’m a lot calmer than if I hadn’t been doing the course
Sometimes I don’t realise the effect it is having on me..
I absolutely recommend it.”
#5 Stanja Buvac – 43,Dulwich Hill
I decided to do the course to improve my personal practice and overall wellbeing and learn pranayama and meditation.
Why IYTA? I’ve done a lot of research and found this course is comprehensive and covers not only asana and philosophy but pranayama and meditation in comparison to the majority of others.
It is quite challenging but good challenging – it makes me learn and it is quite harder than I thought it would be. There is so much to learn – definitely more hours than in any other course.
Because you do it over the year it gives you more time and space for all this knowledge to settle so it isn’t that intense training which you don’t have time to absorb.
And in pranayama and meditation you can’t do that in a short course.
I absolutely recommend it, because it challenges you – and changes your life if you are open to a change… and expands and deepens your knowledge and understanding about life.
I feel like it has changed my life – it has shifted my perception in many ways – learning about different bodies and anatomy and Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga. You do this course and you start to really dig deeper – and you understand yourself better. Professionally I fell in love with pranayama and edition so I would like to teach meditation and pranayama, I think I would find it more enjoyable than teaching asanas…
I can embody that more. Physical part is not as important as those deeper levels… “
#6 Junko Wong, 45,Ultimo, NSW
“I decided to do this as I had been practicing yoga for 6-7 years and I wanted to learn more especially about pranayama, meditation and philosophy. I’d been doing a lot of asana work but not much else.
Pranayama, meditation and philosophy was included in this course in particular. And I was also aware of the good reputation of the IYTA and that is was a well-balanced and good course.
I really like the course it covers so much and the teachers are all very different. I’ve learnt a lot. The study weekends are quite intense and it can be overwhelming but there is a lot of support from all the teachers and students.
I think in the beginning I wasn’t sure if I wanted to teach but now I am more keen to teach – starting with friends and perhaps hiring a community centre. I work as a support worker in a preschool, so I might do yoga for children.”
#7 Audrey D’Souza – age 60,Pymble
“I go to the Kuringai Yoga School and have been going for many years. I enquired about this course about two years ago but in Sept 2019 my mum passed away and I was very involved in caring for her, when that happened I started to think about now it’s time for me.
I didn’t know what I was going to do and then I got the reminder email about this course and the moment I saw that, I thought: this is it, I am doing this…
I did check out a few others courses, but I came back and spoke to Lynne and Margaret – they couldn’t speak more highly about the IYTA course. I asked them am I ready? Audrey I know you and I think you are absolutely ready, I was told, but they warned me I would have to work hard!
So I enrolled and I haven’t looked back since. The course is great – it is so comprehensive. It is covering the whole yogic lifestyle as opposed to just asanas. Doing the yoga philosophy part of it has sparked a great interest in me and I am waiting to jump in and learn more. I need to go and learn more.
My reason for doing the course… the first reason was myself and my husband – we are both 60 – as we grow older we need to be even kinder to ourselves and to me yoga is the way to go. I also want to encourage older people and help them move in a gentle and mindful way – I want to take my skills to the retirement homes – I want to just do it for the love of doing it.
People say the IYTA is the best course there is around and yes, it is the best course because of everything that it encompasses.”
#8 Andrea Gotham, aged54, Seaforth, NSW
“My first yoga teacher, Lydia Dyhin was an IYTA teacher and I really liked her style and I was always trying to find a teacher with the same style. Also one weekend a month was really good for me, as I have children and it didn’t interfere with family activities – and I liked the idea of having lots of different teachers who specialised in their individual areas.
I’ve loved the course. Absolutely loved the course. I’m not 100 per cent sure I will teach but the journey has been the most enjoyable experience.
It’s the group of people I’ve been learning with have been so likeminded and the lecturers have been very knowledgeable and supportive.
I would definitely recommend it – for me the journey has been so enjoyable especially this year with Covid. As much as it is rigorous the lecturers all seem to understand you have other lives and it’s not a big deal if you need an extension on something.”
#9 Helen Johnson, age 34, Young, NSW
“I’ve had two incredible teachers who are both IYTA trained and had different approaches, but the same values. And living regionally the ability to be able to do it by distance and the third reason it is long and comprehensive.
I’ve found it amazing, both the teachers and the other students are all so supportive. And the curriculum has been comprehensive, but there is a lot of space to go into self enquiry and insight..
I did it because I wanted to be a yoga teacher, that was my main driver was to become a yoga teacher because of the big gap we have in our community. But through doing it I’ve found how advantageous it has been in deepening my own personal practice.
You guys are all really experts and I view it as an honour to be able to be able to graduate and teach.”
#10 Marcus Reynolds, 61, Newtown
“This course I liked being spread out over 12 months – I didn’t like the idea of a boot camp intensity I thought at my age if I had an injury it would be hard to stick with it. I also know with my learning processes I would need time to internalise and assimilate it.
The course has been great. A really lovely balance between the breathing, asana and philosophy – I knew there was going to be that philosophical approach – the surprising element is how much it has resonated with me.
Understanding about being gentle to yourself, the process accepting of where you are at..
The course has supported that you accept what you can accept – move in that direction and allow yourself to build.
Yoga is such an internal process and one in which there is all this growing awareness of self and the connectedness of yourself as a whole – with mind and breath but to externalise that in terms of the articulation in a succinct way is challenging.
My journey of understanding of my body – the strengths and vulnerabilities. As I’ve started to teach friends I’ve realised what a gift this is to share. And my friends have said they feel inspired so this course has had a ripple effect to my friends… it has positively touched the lives of those I care about.”
When Mum-of-three, Bec Abbott enrolled on the IYTA Diploma of Yoga teaching at the start of the year she had no idea how much of a lifeline it would be…
By Katie Brown
This ground-breaking course has a panel of 22 expert lecturers delivering information and practical sessions on asanas, philosophy, meditation, anatomy and so much more.
More than 3000 teachers have graduated from this – arguably the longest running yoga teacher training course in Australia.
While dozens of yoga teaching courses have been postponed or even cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions, the IYTA team worked hard to ensure the Diploma course continued – providing students with online live and face-to-face lectures whenever required.
Bec Abbott, aged 45, is one of the current intake of students and is delighted the course was able to continue.
She says: “I feel so well supported. The IYTA is doing everything within its means not only to help us pass but to ensure our experience of the course is just as enriching despite the restrictions and making sure we all continue to genuinely enjoy the course.”
The course has been delivered by a mix of online, live Zoom classes and face-to-face lectures – with live streaming for students in remote areas or who are not able to attend the study weekends.
Bec of Hornsby, NSW, says that even when she has attended online she has still found a deep sense of community and support from students and lecturers alike.
And the mum-of-three, who also works as a part-time journalist has found the practices she has learnt this year have helped her personally. She says: “My meditation and breathing practices have become a lifeline. They have sustained me and helped me focus on feeling positive and calm. I feel much more peaceful than I think I would have if I hadn’t been doing the course this year!”
Not only has the course supported her personally but she feels that at the end of this year she will have a valuable qualification as an internationally-recognised yoga teacher.
She adds: “It’s been a real rollercoaster ride this year – we’ve had lots of niggling sicknesses – my family has had a total of six Covid 19 tests so far this year! They’ve all been negative but it’s been challenging. We’ve dealt with homeschooling our three girls (aged 11, 12 and 15) while both my husband and I have worked from home.
“Another thing I’ve learnt from the course is how to respond and react to challenging situations. I have been able to give single focus to each problem as it crops up rather than feeling overwhelmed. And with that single focus I have been able to give undivided attention to my children as they have gone through these issues.”
Bec adds: “I am just so glad that I decided to take the time to do a course that would be so comprehensive. This was really important to me as I want to provide safe and effective teaching for people at all ages and stages of life.
“My husband works as a chiropractor specialising in rehabilitation, so I’m very aware of how beneficial strengthening and stretching can be, but also how important it is to do it in a safe, controlled manner.”
Bec adds if you want to become a yoga instructor who can simply demonstrate a few asanas, then you could find a short teacher training course elsewhere. However, if you want to be a yoga teacher who can safely guide their students through all the physical and emotional – and potentially even spiritual – benefits that yoga can provide, then the IYTA course is definitely the one for you.
She says: “It will not only enable you to greatly enrich the lives of your students, but it will also greatly enrich your own.”
The IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga course is 460 hours which includes 10 study weekends + six-day residential
The International Yoga Teachers Association is non-profit and does not have a guru, or owner. It embraces many traditions acknowledging that ‘many paths lead us up the mountain’. This inclusive approach creates a solid and stable foundation for student teachers to develop their own style of expression and teaching of yoga.
The IYTA also offer a 70-hour Foundation of Yoga course (an introduction to the full course). If you decide to do this and then wish to enrol in the full Diploma course, the course fee and all your completed assignments are counted towards the full course.
Graduates of this course are respected and acknowledged as some of the best yoga teachers around the world.
Deb’s first experience of yoga was while she was working as a Qantas flight attendant and living the seemingly glamorous life of attending yoga classes in Singapore, Perth and Japan.
She says: “I had friends in Sydney who encouraged me to attend a yoga class in Sydney and I loved it. At the time I was travelling to Singapore regularly and I was fed up with shopping – so I would go to yoga studios instead.I also attended a studio in Perth where I lived at that time. I loved how yoga was not just a physical practice, but focused on breathing, philosophy and meditation. I would feel lighter after attending a class.”
Deb’s passion for yoga continued after she left Qantas, moved to Camden in NSW, married Tim and became a mum to Jack (now ten). And about five years ago she was chatting to her good friend Amy Seal about how she dreamed of becoming a yoga teacher.
The duo researched courses and both attended an IYTA Open Day. They were struck by how comprehensive and inclusive the course was and so they both signed up to the 2015 Diploma.
Deb says: “I really enjoyed the course. It was much more involved than I thought it would be. At the time Jack was five years old and it was a bit of a challenge working part-time in an office, caring for Jack and keeping up-to-date with my assignments! But I loved it.”
Deb was taken on as a yoga teacher just before she graduated by another IYTA teacher – Angela Baker at her Campbelltown Yoga Studio.
Deb adds: “It was great to have the experience of teaching my own general class.” Deb adds that doing the IYTA Diploma of Yoga Teaching course was wonderful preparation for teaching.
She says: “If I had done a shorter course then I don’t think I would have been able to cope. I had students coming up to me with bad backs, sore knees and even PTSD. But I was able to handle it and come up with options because the IYTA course had been so thorough. It really sets you up with the confidence to teach.”
Deb now teaches two classes a week, has a one-day a week office job AND is managing the IYTA’s DYT course. She teaches a private class from home and an over-55s class.
And she manages to weave in walking her two boxer dogs early every morning.
As for her personal practice, Deb fits in yoga when she can – she has a daily meditation practice and does pranayama and asana with her husband Tim and son Jack whenever she can persuade them!
Deb’s role on the IYTA’s DYT and Foundation Studies course includes managing the course, communicating with current and prospective students, ensuring the online course runs smoothly, communicating with the 22 lecturers regarding marking assignments and attending study weekends and representing the IYTA at Open Days.
Deb works with Amy Seal who has stepped down as Course Manager but is working as an IT coordinator with IYTA
If you feel in need of a practice which honours inner reflection (and gives you a day off for almond croissants), then check out the IYTA’s Meditation and Pranayama course
There are a multitude of yoga courses which claim to be fast-track and offering quick qualifications. But the Meditation and Pranayama course run by David Burgess for the IYTA is the exact opposite of a short dip-in course.
It is a lived experience – which will take around a year of regular practice – and one which will nurture your learning on many levels.
The course is online and presented in a week-by-week format with specific practices, recommended reading and self-assessment quizzes. It also involves regular journaling with ongoing support and feedback from David. For many students this incremental development (and David’s ongoing feedback) is the real strength of this course.
David (who has been teaching yoga for the best part of 50 years) says six days of practise a week is optimal and then take the seventh day off. “The recommendation is that you don’t practise” he says: “To prove to both yourself and those you love that you are not a fanatic!”
He goes on to say in the words of Charles Dickens that on this day “spend a good portion of it in a state of amiable dissipation and do so with unbounded license!”: sleep in and have an almond croissant for breakfast and a second cup of tea, go for a stroll, spend quality time with family and friends, read a non-relevant book…..
And he adds if you don’t have time for this day then the chances are you will struggle finding time on the other days for sadhana.” I am so very busy,” is rarely a useful sankalpa,” he adds with a wry grin.
So, if you feel you are ready to commit to this course – and David stresses, that knowing when to commit is a skill in itself! If you have children and/or a mortgage then the branches of Karma, Bhakti and Gyana Yoga might take priority for now.
But if you are ready to explore yoga beyond the asana – and you don’t have a myriad of commitments – then this could be the perfect time…
The online 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.
David says: “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).
And just as there are categories of pranayama e.g. vitalising balancing, heating cooling, tranquilising, there are categories of meditation taught on the course.
For example: Compassion and Loving Kindness, Open Monitoring, 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 Japa and Antar Mauna.
David says this is because in meditation: one size does not fit all!
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
BOOK NOW! To find out more about this ancient practice sign up to Mantradharma’s Yoga Nidra course with the IYTA. Mantradharma will be focusing on all lineages of Yoga Nidra
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.
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!
We spoke with Chandrika Gibson about her yoga journey, the wonders of the nervous system and the Polyvagal ladder…
Q: What is your yoga journey and what work are you currently doing?
My brother and I started yoga when we were children thanks to a small Indian yoga book that somehow found its way into our home. It felt like a homecoming when I first attended a class aged 20. I had the privilege of learning from some wonderful teachers in WA including Iyengar Yoga electives during my naturopathy studies, and many wonderful classes, satsangs and philosophy talks at Beacon Yoga Centre (Sivananda Ashram). I graduated as a yoga teacher in 2005 and began teaching classes for people with cancer almost immediately. I have also taught corporate classes, pregnancy, parent and baby, and children’s yoga, as well as alcohol and drug recovery programs. Along the way I have undertaken further Anatomy & Physiology training at Masters level, yin yoga teacher training and more.
I have been employed by Cancer Council WA, Endeavour College of Natural Medicine, Cancer Support WA, and am currently a Research and Education Consultant for Solaris Cancer Care. I’ve been on the faculty for Wisdom Yoga Institute (formerly Yoga Space) teacher training since 2007, and developed a post graduate Yoga Therapy training in 2012, which was the first program of its kind in Australia to be accredited by the International Association of Yoga Therapists. Along with seeing private yoga therapy clients and teaching in my home studio Surya Health, I am currently in my final year of a PhD at Curtin University investigating compassion-based interventions for people with head and neck cancer.
Q: What is Polyvagal theory and how did you first discover it?
Polyvagal Theory was originally developed by Stephen Porges in 1994 and posits that the tenth cranial nerve known as the Vagus (meaning wandering) nerve is central to the autonomic nervous system responses to threat and safety. I first came across this theory in relation to pranayama as I was curious about the mechanisms by which yogic practices influence the mind by altering the body and vice versa. I have been investigating Polyvagal Theory more intensively recently as it is relevant to the trauma experienced by participants in my PhD research.
Q: Why is it beneficial for yoga teachers to understand this concept?
Yoga teachers are well placed to support people who have experienced trauma, those living with mental ill health, pain, chronic illness, or simply not thriving due to the many stressors of modern life. Our impact on our communities is powerful and we have numerous techniques in our repertoires that can quickly help students climb the Polyvagal Ladder (see diagram). It’s helpful for yoga professionals to understand the ‘why’ behind what we do, and to consciously work to make our classes, studios, workshops, and courses, healing spaces. Polyvagal Theory adds to our understanding of the nervous system, anatomy, physiology, and the human experience. Teachers and students are in an intricate dance and this understanding of how our brains, nervous systems, and bodies influence each other is both fascinating and practical.
Q: What will participants be doing in your workshop?
In this two hour workshop we will cover the fundamentals of Polyvagal Theory, look up close at the anatomy of the Vagus Nerve, and discuss how yoga techniques can move people from dysregulated states for example, “numbed out” or hyperaroused “sympathetic” states, and return to “ventral vagal” – the biological seat of safety and connection. The theory component will lead into a workshop style class where we will experience and reflect on the effect of yoga practices including asana, pranayama, and chanting through the lens of Polyvagal Theory.
Q: How does the polyvagal theory complement a restorative yoga practice/ yin yoga/ meditation practice?
Polyvagal Theory explains a great deal of how and why restorative yoga, yin and meditation can support healing. It can also explain why sometimes these practices are distressing, confronting, or uncomfortable for students, and how we can make them safer, more inclusive and effective for our students.
Q: Do you plan to run this workshop across Australia? What are the next plans you have?
I would love to bring this workshop to yoga teachers across Australia. My plans for 2020 are largely to complete the PhD and so my teaching capacity will likely expand in 2021.
If you are lucky enough to be in WA – then book on now for Chandrika’s workshop.
It’s on Sunday, April 5 from 9.30am – 11.30am at the Greenwood Yoga Academy in Wangara. More details here:
My name is Alyssa Bird and I am the new Post-grad Manager for the Seniors Chair Yoga, Restorative, and Pranayama & Meditation courses.
I am a mum to three young daughters and live in Manly, NSW, where I enjoy being by the ocean and spending time with my husband and kids.
My yoga journey began ten years ago when I was doing a lot of running, and I decided to try out some kind of stretching and strengthening exercise to compliment my exercise routine. I’d always been curious about Yoga, so I went along to my local Vinyasa class to try it out. I went in thinking I would be doing some easy stretching, but came out 90 minutes later sweating and amazed and how challenging it was and how much upper body strength I lacked! I kept going back because I loved the physical workout, and it really did help my running! I began going along to short courses run by the teacher on Yogic Psychology, Pranayama, and Meditation. After my first experience of a full Yoga Nidra, I was hooked!
When I had my first baby, I had to slow my practice down and fell in love with the slower pace and deep restorative poses in the prenatal classes I attended. Since then my yoga practice has guided me through the ups and downs of raising three children away from family support, and a relocation from NZ to Australia. It has allowed me to deepen my connection to my intuition and opened up a spiritual practice for me, becoming an instrumental part of my daily life.
After I had my third baby, I had time to complete my Yoga Teacher Training with IYTA in 2019, which I absolutely loved, and which took my personal practice to the next level. I have recently started covering classes as I dip my toes into teaching. I feel like I have been so well prepared through my training last year and I am so excited to progress in this journey.
My role involves liaising with the lecturers in setting up the courses, taking enrolments and being the point of contact for each course. Making sure the course participants have all the information required and helping them navigate our online platform. I look forward to working with the IYTA team to bring existing and new courses to various locations around Australia!
This role came along shortly after my youngest started preschool and offers the flexibility I require as a stay at home mum, so it felt like the stars aligned and the perfect opportunity! I feel so lucky and excited to be part of an organisation that I have learnt so much from and even better that it’s all about my passion: Yoga!
Rebecca found her face-to-face classes have moved almost seamlessly online – here’s how she’s made the transition:
For someone who hasn’t had a TV for ten years it really did seem crazy for me to do something so modern as to teach yoga online.
In reality I was inspired by ancient yogic text, The Bhagavad Gita, where Krsna counselled Arjuna to ‘do your duty’. I was also guided by the Yama of Ahimsa, non-harming.
As news of this highly infectious virus, Covid-19 came through, it became evident that to do my duty while doing no harm would require some changes. I run seven yoga classes from my home studio every week so I decided to confer with all my students in early March.
We were already washing our hands and mats as well as having hand sanitiser where we keep our pens and sign in cards. From our discussions some students wanted to stagger smaller classes, others suggested classes in the park or beach. I am forever grateful to one student, Tanya Silveira, a talented music therapist who mentioned she has been teaching online using Zoom and offered to show me how.
It was so easy to set up a $20 a month account (which gives us hour long classes instead of the 40 minute limit on the free Zoom option) schedule the week’s classes and email students their regular class invitations at the beginning of every week. Administration was further simplified as for the last few years the students have been buying 10 class passes, (I have them printed with Vistaprint, they are like the reward cards you see in coffee shops). The only difference now is that I fill out their sign in cards for them with the date and take a quick photo on my phone and text it through for their records.
I believe that my IYTA teacher training deserves to be highlighted and applauded here, as all I had to do was apply the health and safety training I learnt so many years ago; display your qualifications, have insurance, have students fill out an online student consent form and ensure that both the teacher and student can see and hear each other at all times.
But what amazed me was the really positive response! I have learnt so much from the feedback. Students texted that they felt really supported by keeping their regular routine in a time that is far from regular and where most of their daily routines have been upended. Some students who are now working from home have opted to book even more classes as they love being able to access not just the physical benefits of yoga, but also the support that pranayama and meditation bring to their mental health. Other students who are now interstate or overseas joined the classes online and were thrilled to catch up with their old friends.
Because of their valuable feedback I have been emphasising regularity, familiarity and Sangha or association.
The yoga room is set up so that the students can see all the things they did when they came to my physical classes; the wall mandala, yoga props, plants and salt lamp.
Even more exciting has been witnessing a deepening of Sangha. We open the class a little early and check how everyone is doing. Students have been able to support each other, particularly those who have lost work due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Importantly, students have also been able to share jokes and happy news, even the announcement of pregnancy!
I understand that yoga is a pretty big tent and that what works for some does not work for every one. However I am happy to share my experience and hope that others will see teaching yoga on an interactive online platform as a viable option. If I can do it, anyone can.
As yoga teachers we know how to be flexible in body and mind, but the Coronavirus has challenged this adaptability in ways that none of us could have imagined. Whether we taught in studios, gyms, community centres or with groups of friends, we’ve each had to reinvent ourselves, and in many cases learn new skills in a matter of days.
This has meant teaching online – figuring out the technical issues of live streaming and working out our Zoom from our Loom (yes, that’s a thing too!) while still looking after our families and keeping ourselves centred and sane.
Every day seems to bring about new challenges and hurdles to overcome. Yet change doesn’t have to be negative – there are positives that come from even the bleakest situation and that is what we need to hold on to.
As an organisation IYTA has had to overcome its own issues – from quickly adapting the Diploma of Yoga Teaching course from a face-to-face learning environment to fully online with interactive lectures – somehow Astrid and Amy managed to do this with the support of the DYT lecturers and last weekend saw the latest IYTA DYT students adapting amazingly well to this style of learning.
We’ve all had to navigate this new world. Personally, I’ve been running live, online yoga classes via Zoom and have recorded classes too – it’s been a roller-coaster ride. I’ve had moments where I’ve thought this will work and possibly prove even better than before and other moments when I’ve crumpled in a heap on my yoga mat feeling dejected and disheartened.
I’m certainly not an expert and I’ve been learning as I go, but here are ten things I’ve learnt from this experience so far…
LIVE and ONLINE: Nothing beats live, online yoga classes. Sure pre-recorded classes are great but no substitute for the interaction and connection that you get in face-to-face classes. You can get this connection online – it is possible. A chat at the start of the class, a quick check-in during and a chat at the end of the class. Anyone who doesn’t want to talk can simply unmute themselves or switch their video off. Encourage your students to book classes with you – either as a course or a one off class or workshop and conduct the lesson by Zoom.
COMMUNICATE: There’s a lot of free content out there, but it varies in quality.. Communicate with your students – tell them what you are planning to do and keep them informed. They are likely to feel stressed, uncertain and in need to routine and relaxation. Yoga is particularly important at this time for you and your students. Send out an email via your database (if you have one) and your Facebook page (if you have one).
ZOOM: This seems to have been the buzz word of the month. If you haven’t already, download it – it’s free. I’ve found this is the easiest platform to navigate – it’s here: https://zoom.us/downloadYou don’t have to pay a membership but you can upgrade to the pro plan which is around $20 a month and means you will have up to 24 hour meeting/session times and up to 100 participants. The free version will switch off after around 40 minutes and you’ll have to schedule another meeting.
HAVE A PLAY: Once you have Zoom – play around with it. There are videos on the Zoom website which will help you understand the features, and you can even book into a live webinar – these are in US times – so either in the middle of the night or at 8am! But it’s a great idea to experiment with a few friends on the site first. Have fun with it – you can create virtual backgrounds or upload a photo of your own for the background(great if you have kids running around or dishes piled up in the sink!).
EQUIPMENT: Once you have your Zoom set up – you may need to purchase some equipment… this is a bit of a challenge as the world and its dog has bought every web cam and wireless microphone ever made… but if you do get hold of them great. If not, don’t worry! You can still do this with the camera on your device and the computer audio. It’s just a bit sharper and clearer with the web cam and microphone.
LIGHTING: – this is very important. You don’t want to be in shadow – so play with the image that your students are likely to see. Put a light behind the camera to light up your face – and be mindful of the background. I’ve got a white screen door behind me – which you’d think would be great, but if the light is too strong then it creates a flickering effect. If you are using outdoor light then be mindful the lighting conditions will change and for consistency it might be better to close blinds and curtains and use indoor lighting. You don’t have to spend much, a spot light from Target or K-Mart might be all you need or just rummage around your house and nick everyone’s bedside lamps!
YOUR YOGA SPACE: This about your studio set up or space – create a warm, uncluttered and inviting environment. Have your yoga props around and perhaps even your pet can join in!? My puppy Minty used to wait patiently at the door of my yoga studio while I taught and now she can curl up at my feet as I teach – she loves it and I’m sure it makes it a bit more entertaining and reassuring for my students!
PRICING: Run a free trial class for your students – this way they are more likely to join you and it’s a good idea to keep to your usual yoga class days and times – so you retain the routine. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get a huge response – everyone is dealing with their own stresses, it might just take a couple of messages to check in with them or a call to check they are ok. Decide if you want to continue to teach for free or add short video sequences online and then longer paid classes. There’s a lot of free content online, but we still need to make a living! You may want to continue to charge what you did for face-to-face or offer discounts if your students are suffering financial strain. It’s up to you.
OTHER OPTIONS: You might like to try Instagram Live or Facebook Live – I’ve not had time to investigate these options. I do know that Facebook owns the content – so it’s important to bear that in mind when recording classes. You can also record via Zoom or your device and then upload the videos on to Vimeo or You Tube. I’m still investigating these options! That’ll be my next blog
BE YOURSELF: It won’t be perfect. Far from it. I’ve recorded and re-recorded lots of times – there’s the neighbour’s barking dog that is bound to go off when you do your Yoga Nidra or you’ll simply feel a bit odd delivering a class to a screen – you can still see your students on the gallery, but it is totally different to teaching face-to-face. You may even find that some classes are a bit easier – there’s no rent to pay and the commute is easy – good luck and remember to let us know how you go
We’ll be running regular blog posts* like this one from Rebecca Lean on how some of our IYTA members are making that transition to virtual studios and online. We’ll include their advice and tips for what has worked and hasn’t worked!
My restorative yoga journey began many years ago when I introduced some poses within my pre-natal yoga class… at first the students were a little bemused when I demonstrated Reclining Goddess – suddenly we were more like engineers than yogis – using blocks like building bricks and carefully folding blankets.
But it didn’t take long for the students to crave the poses. Within a couple of sessions they were easing their aching shoulders over an inclined bolster – enjoying the seemingly instant relief from bothersome heartburn.
Blankets would be beautifully wrapped around feet and legs – the weight promoting a sense of security and safety. And as the tips of thumbs lightly touched index fingers in Gyana Mudra, minds would begin to let go, inviting a gentle slide into the natural rhythm of their breath and body…
After five to ten minutes I’d coax the students out of the shape, but most simply wanted to stay put in the loving embrace of the earth.
And that’s when I could see the true beauty of Restorative Yoga. A practice which gives you time to explore the physical body, truly connect with your energy levels, to sit with your emotions – suspending judgment and expectations.
As the pose was held it was an opportunity to explore more deeply – to connect with the intellectual and spiritual bodies… and in time noticing muscular tension dissolving, heart rates slowing and frustration evaporating.
I found myself bringing Restorative Yoga poses into my general classes too. It became standard practice to use blankets and blocks to fill in gaps within postures, to create support, comfort, stillness and softness.
To practice Ahimsa – kindness, especially in this crazy, busy world where we are all overscheduled and overwhelmed.
Personally and professionally I have embraced this practice wholeheartedly.
Now in my general classes I teach a blend of Hatha postures and practices with Restorative Yoga movements and shapes. I also teach specific Restorative Yoga classes – connected with the season or perhaps with an issue such as anxiety.
And I’ve been lucky enough to create a two-day course in this beautifully nurturing practice for the IYTA. The first day focuses on understanding what Restorative Yoga is, exploring stress and how it affects the mind and body, the benefits of this practice and setting up a safe space. The second day focuses on poses which require more props –how to use the props as well as teaching practice and tools to explore within each pose.
It’s a wonderful two day retreat – where you will rest, rejuvenate and relax at the same time as discovering new techniques and tips to integrate Restorative Yoga into your general, yin, pre and post-natal classes and run specific Restorative Yoga classes.
Here are a couple of comments from students who attended our recent training:
“I loved the lecturer’s positivity and personable presentation. A perfect balance of practice and theory – hard to attain.
The audio lecture pre-course was outstanding to set the academic scene. Excellent. The content of power point/presentation was succinct, achievable and questions were thoroughly answered.”
“Katie has a lovely calming manner and a wealth of knowledge about restorative yoga. I’m very relaxed and I’m sure my students will be too.”
Many of us have struggled to wish people Happy New Year when a large proportion of country is on fire. It’s soul destroying seeing images of people losing homes, animals suffering and our beautiful flora being wiped away.
But what is heart-warming is seeing how the community has come together to help – and as yoga teachers, we can all play our part – offering our wonderful classes while raising vital funds and awareness.
This is what one IYTA teacher has been doing – Julie Atkinson was devastated when she saw the news footage of the fires, so at the weekend she held her first class by donation in Melbourne to help raise funds for Firesticks an indigenous organisation which teaches cultural practices to fire management.
Julie has been an IYTA member since 1989 when she completed her Diploma of Yoga Teaching. She’s been holding classes ever since and is also a shiatsu practitioner and qualified in Okido Yoga.
This isn’t the first time Julie has stepped up to help – after the Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009, Julie took her massage chair and made several visits to Kinglake – massaging volunteer firefighters and members of the community.
Julie says: ‘The weather forecast for this day was for extreme temperatures and strong winds and despite many warnings in place, 173 people lost their lives.’
Julie was so moved by the loss of life and properties that when a call went out for massage therapists, she jumped at the chance to do something to help.
She says: ‘Arriving at the camp set up near Kinglake -one of the most severely affected communities – at the nearby Whittlesea Showgrounds for the CFA & other emergency service workers just tore at my heartstrings. There were so many people offering their help, working behind the scenes …an incredible amount of food donated and such a feeling of kindness and goodwill.
‘The people who came for the massages include firies, emergency service workers, people from the local communities & victims of the fire. Through your hands you could feel you were making a difference to tight overworked muscles and in relieving stress and other emotions. People were very grateful and appreciative of our help and the massages were very popular.’
Julie and her husband Roger a retired meteorologist, often take motorbike rides through the Victorian & NSW High Country – areas such as Mount Kosciuszko, Mount Hotham and Falls Creek – areas which have been severely affected by the recent bushfires.
She says: ‘We love all these beautiful places and communities and really feel for all those affected in so many ways. I usually sit on the back of the motorbike taking photos of the beautiful country that we ride through and can only imagine the devastation that has taken place. I remembered Black Saturday & wanted to do something no matter how small to make a difference.’
She adds: ‘I have friends making bat wraps & pouches for koalas and wanted to find a way that I could help. I feel that yoga is a wonderful way to help others who are not directly impacted (although we pretty much all are now with the hazardous air that we are breathing) are feeling overwhelmed with all the heartbreaking news.
Traditional Chinese Medicine teaches that anxiety, overthinking and sympathy are the emotions which affect our earth element and Okido Yoga offers various practices to help ground us and nourish the stomach and spleen – the organs and meridians associated with the Earth element. Its practices include partner and group exercises which help forge connections and a sense of community.
So Julie decided to take action and last Saturday held her first class. She says: ‘I was offered a room to teach, so I made up an event in Facebook. I didn’t know how popular it would be – but within a couple of days I had about 84 people interested and 12 people saying they’d come! It was a bit of a squeeze – but ten people turned up and the class went really well.’
Julie made a total of $230 from the class which has gone to the Firesticks.
She focused on helping people feel connected to the energy of the earth and poses to relieve anxiety and clear the mind. At the end the students did a heart opening visualisation.
It’s been an action-packed year with four successful events: a teachers’ catch up in February, an interesting and informative morning with Reiki practitioner Kelly Ayoub on the Authentic Self in May, The IYTA Seniors Yoga Course presented by Beryl Broadbent at the end of June and a workshop on myofascial aspects of yoga with Kellie Brett and Justin Kiely in August.
Our rep Pam is already planning 2020 – so make sure you check out our Jan enews for dates and details!
ACT and Surrounding Regions
During the first half of the year, Glynis Whitfield ran a one-day workshop looking at An Exploration of the Yoga Energy System.
The second half of the year saw three mini events with the introduction of Sunday Sangha’s. Designed to be simple, free 2-3 hour local opportunities for fellow teachers to gather, learn from each other, sing and celebrate all things Yoga.
The ACT committee was and is committed to creating regular opportunities for our local members to come along, tapping into some excellent talks by fellow experienced teachers, catching up with old friends and making new ones, and supporting our teaching community. The generosity of teachers was evident in the way people attended, volunteered their studio, time and knowledge on a vast range of topics.
Our ever-popular AGM and Annual Retreat was held in the beautiful grounds of the Brahma Kumaris in Wilton, NSW. And Karen Nicoll ran a fabulous workshop on yoga for Hips and Shoulders. There were also numerous post-graduate trainings on Yin, Meditation and Pranayama and Seniors Yoga.
Mary-Louise Parkinson ran a soothing session titled: Nourish your Body, Mind and Spirit. There were also fun Sanghas held throughout the year and the Qld members flew the flag for the IYTA at the Sunshine Coast’s Yoga Fest event.
In 2020 there are already plans for Sanghas in March – including one Sangha on the Sunshine Coast. Plus, there’s a Somatic Yoga workshop in July with Katrina Hinton.
Beryl Broadbent ran her popular Senior Yoga course at the end of the year.
And there are plans for more workshops next year.
As we move into 2020 we’ll be unveiling an exciting timetable of trainings, workshops and events.
Jo Blackman and June Greenwood – two loyal IYTA members were both awarded with Life Membership at the 2019 AGM in Wilton, NSW. And Mary-Louise Parkinson and Dyan Ostrow were given a Certificate of Appreciation.
“It was a great honour for me to receive the IYTA Life Membership Award, and completely unexpected. I was very disappointed not to be able to attend the celebrations as I was travelling overseas (in Japan). One never thinks of one’s own efforts as being so great but as just doing what you can and part of the collective.
“I completed the TTC in 1987 and over this time I have seen so many people give so much of their time and energy so freely. Often quietly without drawing attention to themselves. Each with their own vision to incrementally ensure the IYTA grows and remains vibrant and engaging to a very different yoga teaching world that 30 and 50 years ago. I have seen so many lives transformed including my own.
“While I no longer teach, I still feel very much part of the IYTA family. This is one of the IYTA greatest strengths – a membership for everyone.”
Jo Blackman, Dulwich Hill, NSW
“I completed my IYTA training in 1985 after going to India with Howard Kent and group from Australia. While there, I met Mary Johnson and she convinced me and to do the IYTA course – which I did by correspondence. After graduating I worked as Treasurer for the South QLD group and organised lots of workshops just about every weekend!
“Over the years I have nominated and mentored many students to do the IYTA Teacher Training Course as I felt that it was the best course available.
“I was also on the panel of assessors for students doing their class for the finals of their teacher training course when assessments were held in Brisbane.
“IYTA – has been my life and it’s formed me. I’ve loved everything about it from the friendships to the students, the course, everything. I taught continually from when I graduated to just a year ago when I took a break from teaching.
Olivia Hammerschmidt is one of our Post Graduate Managers – we’ve asked her a few questions so you can get to know her a little better…
Olivia Hammerschmidt with IYTA Mascot Opal
Q: What is your role with IYTA?
I work part-time on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. I look after some of our post-graduate teacher training courses: Yin yoga, Pre & Post-natal yoga and Restorative yoga. This entails answering member and non-member queries, liaising with the lecturers, organising training weekends, communicating with participants. I also manage IYTA’s Social Media such as Facebook, Instagram and Google.
Q: When, why and how did you become a yoga teacher?
I started teaching in 2016, then really ramping my classes up in 2017 to about 18 classes a week, but now just 13 classes – a lot more manageable. I also teach Pilates.
Q: How did you discover IYTA?
Since I was young, I have always known of IYTA as a credible and reputable association.
Q: Why do you love your IYTA?
I love this organisation because I work with really fun and down to earth people. I enjoy talking with members about all things yoga and getting involved in all the events and training sessions we run.
Q: What is your personal practice?
Every Wednesday morning is my set time for personal practice – it’s my opportunity to visit new things or try out the old or work out new combinations for myself. Often then, I’ll introduce it into my classes for the following week. Saturday afternoons or evening I often hit the books to learn more about various things, especially functional anatomy.
Q: What can members do to help you in your role?
I would love members to make more use of our Facebook and Instagram forum by sending me news items that I can post on our page to inspire, encourage other members and visitors.
Q: What are your favourite things to do in your spare time?
Cooking up storms, eating, all things cheese, bike riding, hanging out with friends and our kids, playing outdoors and aerial yoga!
Feeling a little restless? Then it could be the transition from Winter to Spring, help ease your mind and body into the new season with this nurturing Yin sequence
The Chinese believe that the seasons have a direct influence on our mind, body and hence the organs of the body, with relative excess qi and blood in different organs, meridians and collaterals in different seasons.
In spring the extra qi and blood heads to the liver organ, you can see it as the yang qi in the body starts expanding and growing and moving to disperse upwards and outwards. From a mental perspective, you feel growth, expansion, ideas that start embracing new opportunities and allowing an enthusiastic energy to flourish.
But be warned, the Chinese ancients have an old saying, for good health, you are best “Muffling the body in spring and freezing the body in autumn” – so wear the proper amount of clothing to keep the body warm to resist wind and cold, allows the human body conform gradually to the spring climatic changes.
So, the Liver, Gall bladder and the Spring energy is sensitive to wind and draughts and you might also notice disturbances of the Gall Bladder during 11pm to 1am and for the Liver 1am to 3am (so a night on the town with plenty of wine – you might well wake in the middle of the night).
So in this series of five yin postures, we will stimulate the connective tissue along the path of the Liver meridian and provide breathing and meditations that echoes that theme of growth and expansion.
1. Wide Knee Child Pose (Tadpole)
A good starting point to find the ground and bring your mind to the mat. In this pose I have chosen not to have props and keep it simple. Take care with those with knee issues and support your body weight as needed to take the pressure out.
Breathing: Soft Chui or Golden Thread breath: Passively in through the nose and soft, slow, steady, smooth exhale through pursed lips.
Feeling the body soften as you exhale. This is a descending energy bringing you to the mat – and nurturing your foundation ready to grow.
2. Shoe Lace
Folding left leg over right – feel the pressure along the inner leg and groin. If there is tightness in the hips (or pain in your knees, sit on a folded blanket. Alternatively sit with legs crossed (NB: care with hip replacements).
Apana Mudra Link thumb to middle two fingers – little and index straight
Gertrud Hirschi (in Mudras: Yoga in your Hands) suggests that used regularly this mudra stimulates the liver and “The power of the liver gives a person patience, serenity, hope and a vision for the future.”
Repeat the other side. And then release the hips coming onto your hands and knees, close your eyes and move with a simple cat/cow or as your intuition suggests.
Before starting this pose, get a feel for the meridian path of the Liver. The liver meridian begins at the inside of the nail of the big toe and runs along the top of the foot. It climbs the front of the ankle and up the inside of the leg until the pubic area. From here it curves around the external genitalia and goes into the lower abdomen where it enters the liver and gall bladder. Rising higher it branches into several directions with one branch connecting to the lung meridian. Rising still higher it follows the throat and connects with the eyes before branching again – one across the cheek and circles the lips with the higher one crosses the forehead to the crown where it links with the GV meridian.
See how the Dragon pose finds a way to follow the path from the foot to the chest. Then, use the breath to “brush and clear” with your awareness. Inhale up the meridian and exhale back down. The Chinese phrase “yi tao, qi tao” comes in handy here and translated suggests – where the mind/intention goes, qi follows.
So, from hands and knees step left foot to hands and slide the right foot/knee back. Feel appropriate pressure to the groin to the left and an open tension to the right. Chest can rest on your left thigh. Hands to the floor or on blocks. If you are hypermobile you might like to have a bolster under the back thigh to lean into. Neck issues keep the alignment and draw the crown of the head forward and up.
Often when I practice Dragon Pose, I pause between the left and right side, to lie in Savasana and feel the energetic changes that the pose has given and then repeat on the other side and feel again.
Finding a comfortable seated Butterfly. I love the noodles supporting my shins. You might also like to have a folded blanket under your pelvis if your hamstrings are tight.
The Wood element contains the power and pleasure of springtime, of new beginnings, of tackling and shaping visions of the future.
“Let us close our eyes and imagine:
A walk in nature, perhaps a nearby woodland… be with your family… appreciate the flowers… and scenery around you (pause)… Together with your family, imagine yourself begin to skip – feeling youthful and light… maybe beginning to sing and dance… Feel a sense of lightness… Freedom… See the sunlight in shafts of light enchanting the scenery in glades… Feel the gentle breezes and hear the stirring of the branches above your head… See the bright fresh new leaves… hear the birds calling excitedly from the boughs above… Enjoy a sense of harmony with the nature.“
Rest in Savasana and allow the effects of the postures, breathing and visualisation to resonate through your being.
Sarah Manning was trained by Bernie Clark and has been teaching yin yoga teacher training since 2008 in Shanghai, Australia and Singapore.
Reference for further exploration of this theme:
Bernie Clark: The Complete guide to Yin Yoga
Bernie Clark: www.yinyoga.com
Ted Kaptchuk OMD – The Web That has no weaver – Chapter 3 – The Organs of the Body – Liver and Gallbladder characteristics
Mudras by Gertrud Hirschi – Apan Mudra page 74
Sarah Powers – Insight Yoga – Chapter 8 – The Liver and Gallbladder
“The Taoists thought a healthy liver chi so central to well-being that they nicknamed it “the general of the army”. It is the military leader who excels in strategic planning, making sure the flow of energy within us happens harmoniously.; Liver chi co-ordinates and regulates the movement of chi everywhere within us, which is responsible for creating an easy-going disposition and internal atmosphere.
Liver chi balances the emotions. When we have a liver chi imbalance, we have a propensity for uneven, irregular emotions; chronic anger; explosive impulsivity; a defence of personal boundaries and awkward social behaviour.
When we are experiencing liver chi imbalances it is helpful to diminish our preoccupation with our irritations and gently turn to our feelings. Increase our sensitivity towards ourselves and how to stay attentive and connected to our bodies.
A healthy Liver chi is related to our capacity to make plans and put them into action, exerting a sense of control. The essential feature is flexibility and an ability to change and adapt. When there is frustration in the system it is hard to think or plan.
An excess of liver/gallbladder chi we tend to make rash decisions and when depleted we experience hesitation and timidity.
John Shaw is manning our IYTA stand at the 2019 Sunshine Coast Yoga Fest and will be presenting a Hatha Yoga class at the event.
He says: “I will be teaching a gentle Hatha yoga class to give new and also experienced students the experience of exploring the breath and being in their bodies with movement and stretching.”
John began practicing yoga in 1996 with Lesleigh Camm in Toowoomba. With Lesleigh’s encouragement he did the IYTA’s diploma of Yoga Teaching in 2000-2001. He then taught with Lesleigh at her school until 2012 when he relocated to the Sunshine Coast.
John now teaches one small class each week and says: “Yoga has changed my life and made me a more confident person and I have made many great friends in that time.
“I was lucky to have great teachers through IYTA during my course with Moina Bower as president.
“Over the years besides Lesleigh, people such as Matthew O’Malveny, Louise Wiggins have been great influences on my teaching and I have been lucky to do workshops with Donna Fahri, Michael Lee, Dr Ananada Balyogi Bhavanni and many others associated with IYTA.”
Would you like to get involved and help out at IYTA? Please contact us – we’re always looking for volunteers!
Gary Drummond has come on board to help manage the increasing array of Post Graduate courses offered by the IYTA. Gary is working alongside Olivia Hammerschmidt on the IYTA’s Yin, Seniors, Pre and Post Natal and Meditation and Pranayama courses.
Q: What does your role involve?
I am managing the Seniors and Meditation & Pranayama courses while Olivia takes care of the Yin and Pre and Post Natal Yoga courses.
It’s early days but my new role at the moment is ensuring our students have support before and during courses. I assist with any questions and follow up with the instructors when need be. Once a student purchases a course / workshop I set their access up. I am also responsible for assisting with setting up the workshops for those courses.
Q: Why did you decide to take on the new role?
I have learnt recently to not overthink things, as in I try to follow my gut response (first response). When I was informed about the role I said yes straight away, so intuition.
Q: Why should people consider doing the post graduate courses?!
Post graduate courses are one way of staying current about what is happening in the yoga space. All the IYTA instructors are leaders in the yoga world so we are really fortunate. One of the great things about the courses and workshops is that you meet lots of other people, so therefore it’s also an opportunity to really immerse yourself in yoga and learn from other students.
Q: What do you do the rest of the time you aren’t working in this role?!
My hobbies are taking photos and this year I had a book of my photos printed, so that was very cool.
Q: Any other jobs?
I call them my “Portfolio of Revenue” so lots of jobs to make up my earnings. I work as a project manager at Telstra Broadcast Services 4 days week. The Telstra job being currently my main “investor” at the moment!
Other jobs include: teaching yoga at Manly Yoga, setting up a mens’ yoga and circle at Manly Yoga with another bloke, setting up an international men’s group online.
Working as a qualified life coach and writing a book. So there’s a lot going on!
Q: your personal yoga practice?
I practice pranayama and meditation everyday as well as doing my own yoga practices.
A Dru Yoga Energy Block release and Yoga Nidra have been suggested as a way of rounding the year off. If you would like to contribute by presenting one of these or have some other topic you wish to explore, we would like to hear from you.
If you are interested in coming to a future Sangha but are unable to make this one please get in touch. We would love to see as many yogis participate so please RSVP via this email as space is limited.
Many hands make light work and we recently farewelled long standing committee member Glynis Whitfied, who has taken off for her 4wd life adventure. If you would like to volunteer on the committee please give me a call to learn more about how you can get involved.
Martha Luksza, IYTA’s ACT Representative
Remember to check the IYTA website regularly for news, tutorials, further study, discounts, job opportunities, articles and other workshop offerings that you may be interested in attending.
Please feel free to send your ideas, suggestions and comments by either calling or emailing ACT Rep Martha.
NB: For safety sake we don’t publish personal contact info on general blog pages, so if you don’t have Martha’s contact details, please contact us and we’ll connect you.
I completed my IYTA 460 hour Diploma in Yoga Teacher Training in December 2018, which I undertook after much research of yoga trainings on offer both in Australia and overseas. I started the course to dive deeper into learning more about yoga and its many aspects and wasn’t sure if would take up teaching yoga but as the course unfolded my confidence and desire to teach grew.
As I work full time in executive management, I’m not about to open a yoga studio sometime soon but I have been holding free weekly yoga lunch time sessions at work which keeps me honing my teaching skills.
I have also held a yoga class over the Easter long weekend in a community hall at Second Valley on the beautiful Fleurieu peninsula which was such a lovely experience that I’ll be holding more classes in other locations.
My style is simple and gentle, coordinating movement with breath and providing a safe, relaxing, fun and nurturing space. I reside in beautiful Adelaide and noticed that IYTA did not have a state representative for SA so I’ve put my hand up.
I look forward to getting together with other IYTA graduates in SA to brainstorm some ideas for Yoga workshops and events, so this will be my first task.