Yoga tools to ease kids’ stress

Children’s Yoga expert, Loraine Rushton will be running a two-hour workshop in July for the IYTA. The focus is on specific yoga practices to help children deal with anxiety and stress – it’s a workshop every parent and yoga teacher should attend.

You can book HERE

The global pandemic has meant stress and anxiety has impacted all of us, but the fall out for our children and teens is daunting.

Loraine says that mental health issues among children is on the rise and it’s affecting children from a younger age than ever. Loraine says in the past she would have aimed a workshop like this primarily at teens, but says: “Now we are seeing three year olds displaying signs of stress and anxiety and missing day care…”

So why are our young people suffering at these unprecedented levels? Loraine believes it is due to our fast paced stressed society.

She says: “Children can feel it, they are surrounded by it and they are impacted by it.”

She believes the main culprits are: screen time, disconnected societies, the diet children are eating, lack of sleep, excessive worry, trauma and anxiety over the instability at home and in the world.

Loraine’s workshop will deal with stress and anxiety from a physical, mental and emotional perspective. It is aimed at yoga teachers and parents – offering specific corrective exercises, breathing exercises, relaxations and personal development exercises that are fast, effective and really work.

She says the focus is on specific meridian based yoga therapy exercises to target the kidneys, adrenal and nervous system. “You will see them, experience them, and feel them work.”

“These practices are targeted to help children calm the mind and emotions down quickly.”

Loraine adds: “Children are not going to wait three months for a result, so we need tools and techniques that will work quickly.”

Even if you aren’t a parent or specialise in children’s yoga, Loraine says: “All yoga teachers are going to meet a child or teenager who wants to do yoga. You will have a child or teen in your class at some stage, you will have a parent ask you to help their child with stress and anxiety and it’s important you know how to help.

“The difference between general yoga and meridian based yoga therapy is that one will look at the issue generally but these are specific tools and technqiues that will help in your class.”

Loraine, like all yoga teachers has had to think fast and be adaptable through this pandemic. Since March 2020 she’s switched all her face-to-face classes and trainings online.

She says: “It’s been amazing. Running the yoga therapy training courses virtually in the last year has allowed people to join from as far away as Singapore, Ireland, the US, Canada, New Zealand, India and all across Australia.”

She adds there have been some wonderful moments where she’s witnessed teachers from all over the world connecting across the kilometres.

One of her students, who is originally from Ireland is teaching kids classes online from Brisbane and has become a virtual celebrity back in Ireland as so many Irish kids are joining her for digital classes! Another teacher in India doesn’t have children from India but has kids form the US and all over the world joining her online classes.”

And as for Loraine? She’s missing her usual globe trotting, but thankful for the opportunity to still connect with teachers – and children – from across the world.

Book into Loraine’s online IYTA workshop: An End to Stress & Anxiety in Kids – The Yoga Therapy Solution with Loraine Rushton

on Saturday, July 31, from 1-3pm. Live and online, via Zoom







Inspired by Indigenous Culture

NAIDOC Week: Sunday, July 4 – Sunday, July 11

Keen to learn more about Indigenous culture and Reconciliation? Then read the IYTA’s Alana Smith’s account of her personal journey and the Yoga Australia’s RAP launch…

In keeping us at home over the last year, Covid restrictions have encouraged us to look inward, to travel more within our own country and appreciate our homegrown cultures. In Australia, there’s been a groundswell of support for all things Indigenous, especially since the Black Lives Matter protests. The motto of Reconciliation Week this year was “More than a word. Reconciliation takes action”.

All of us within the IYTA have been given an amazing opportunity to become good allies and take action thanks to the huge efforts of Yoga Australia (YA) and Ngungwulah Aboriginal Corporation to create a formal Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) for the yoga community across Australia.

We were honoured to be invited to the official RAP launch: Yoga on Country, on 21st June 2021 at the beautiful Washerwoman’s Beach at Bendalong, NSW. As a Committee member, I was asked to represent the IYTA alongside Aunty Ros Fogg, a long-term Indigenous IYTA member.


When our President, Astrid Pickup, asked if I was available to give a speech at the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) launch on behalf of the IYTA, I was both excited and intimidated. Although I’ve been really interested in Indigenous history for a long time and always felt sympathetic to Indigenous issues, it had all been in quite a distanced way. I’d had very little genuine connection with Indigenous people and culture. I soon realised that if I was going to give a speech genuinely committing the IYTA to Reconciliation Action, I had better get more educated and connected!

I began by reading the whole RAP and Ngungwulah website which led me to sign up for the online Cultural Awareness Training with Jem Stone and Eve White, two Indigenous yoginis. This eye-opening training sparked a starburst of connections and questions. We practised how to give an appropriate and heartfelt Acknowledgment of Country, which initially felt quite awkward as I didn’t yet feel connected enough to do it genuinely – I needed to know more! Jem and Eve made lots of intriguing connections between Aboriginal and Yoga practices, including deep listening (e.g. Dadirri); ethical responsibilities (e.g. Kanyini); and conscious movement (e.g. Wayapa Wuurrk) and I eagerly explored all of these in my own time.
They also highly recommended that we read Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta which explores the ways that Indigenous thinking can inform sustainable living. This turned out to be one of the most electrifying books I have ever read. Tyson is a brilliant storyteller and I learnt so much about the complex patterns and psychology behind Aboriginal philosophy and practices. As an ex-English and French teacher, I was fascinated to learn that in some Aboriginal languages there are far more pronouns than in English. Beyond “I”, “you” and “we”, there are more complex pronouns such as “we two”, “we but not others”, and “we altogether”.

I also attended a blood moon ceremony led by Barkindji man, Michael “Smacka” Whyman at Gumbooya Reserve, an incredible sacred site in Allambie Heights replete with rock art and mysterious portals. With his great sense of humour, Smacka impressed upon us the need for respect for Country and Culture, and how everything is so connected that if you look after it, Country will look after you.

Up until this point, I had unconsciously been thinking of Indigenous culture and issues in “us and them” terms, which had kept me in a state of disconnection and inertia. Then quite suddenly, while watching the Indigenous episode of “You Can’t Ask That” on the ABC, I had a revelation that no matter how we got here, we all have the privilege of living on Country. We have all inherited this precious ancient living culture, the oldest in the world, so we are all its custodians. Hence, it is all our responsibility to care for this ancient knowledge by looking after the knowledge-keepers, and the animals, the plants, the land, water, and sky, that hold this knowing in the very core of their being. This shift in mindset gave me a new sense of authentic connection and participation.

At this turning point I felt ready to craft my speech for the RAP launch. Astrid encouraged me to speak to Aunty Ros Fogg, who is a Dharug elder. Ros has been involved with the IYTA for over 21 years and her background story is fascinating. She was so generous with her time, explaining her work with Muru Mittigar in advancing Aboriginal culture, the need for truth-telling and treaty on the path to Reconciliation, and the political stumbling blocks along the way. With Ros’s insights and support I felt much more confident to stand up and speak at the RAP launch.


When 21st June finally arrived, we were all up early to drive to the pristinely beautiful Washerwoman’s Beach on the NSW South Coast in Yuin Country. The rain hung heavy in the clouds as all of us women were painted with special ochre: 13 dots on our faces to represent the 13 tribes of the Yuin nation and 3 dots on our hands to represent mother, father and child. This matrilineal tribe have been sourcing this ceremonial ochre from a sacred clay pit for thousands of years!
Meeting on the sand, many of us intuitively felt the need to throw off our shoes and connect with Earth despite the winter cold. As we waited for the ceremony to begin, our Yuin host Jrumpinjinbah gave us a sand talk lesson on the Aboriginal meanings of the Seven Sisters star cluster (aka Pleiades).

With yogis tuning in online from all over Australia, the event opened with a traditional smoking and Welcome to Country ceremony by Jrumpinjinbah and his family. We were invited to stand in circle – the non-hierarchical way of conducting an Indigenous yaan circle where everyone is included and respected. We were led in a deep listening practice to connect with the surrounding Country, and a traditional Yuin dance in which we all stomped and chanted in unison. Jem Stone gave us a taste of the earth-connected Indigenous movement practice Wayapa Wuurrk, which for me was a very grounding, connecting and heart-opening experience. We also witnessed the coming together of the ancient cultures of Yoga and Indigenous Australia through a symbolic dance performance by the Ngungwulah Yaan Circle – 12 Indigenous yogis who have been integral to the RAP consultation process.

As the rain began to bless the proceedings, I stood in solidarity with other great yoga organisations (AAYT, KYTANZ and DRU), and we all gave speeches of gratitude to YA and Ngungwulah and our commitment to the aims of the RAP. To symbolise the meeting of these two ancient cultures, Angela of Dru Yoga brought a Jyotir flame as a gift to Ngungwulah, and I incorporated a Coolamon into my speech, a traditional Indigenous bowl, which was cradling dried flowers from a yogic healing ceremony.

Afterwards we all shared a delicious Indian meal on yaaning mats and I was honoured to have a long yarn with Kirt Mallie, a captivating yogi of Torres Strait Islander descent, alongside my own yoga elder/teacher, Dharmananda.

It was so empowering and inspiring to feel the shared vision and emotion of all the people and organisations who had gathered on that stunning beach in the spirit of connection and healing for this Country. We owe an immense debt of gratitude to Cate Peterson, Patricia Bordon, the Yaan Circle (which includes our own Aunty Ros), Ngungwulah and Yoga Australia for their outstanding efforts in spearheading this reciprocity initiative. Thank you all for being my teachers – I look forward to learning so much more.

The IYTA has lots more coming up in the spirit of Reconciliation. Stay tuned…

(Please note that in the spirit of being a good ally, Alana asked Aunty Ros to review this article from her Indigenous perspective)

Chia, banana and date muffins

These delicious muffins are the perfect lockdown treat – thanks to Julia Willoughby who baked these for our Canberra Restorative Yoga Workshop!  



2 cups of almond meal

¾ cup roughly chopped walnuts

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

A pinch of sea salt


1 cup of fresh dates, pitted and chopped

3 organic eggs

2 large, ripe bananas

¼ cup virgin organic coconut oil or rice bran oil

1 tsp chia seeds




#1: preheat the oven to 180 C (160C fan forced)

#2 in a large bowl combine all of the dry ingredients

#3: in a food processor or high speed blender, combine the dates, eggs, bananas and coconut oil or rice bran oil

#4: add the wet mixture to the dry and mix well. Divide into around 8 paper lined muffin-tin holes and top with chia seeds

#5: bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown.



Make 2022 – THE year you become a yoga teacher

Enrolments are now open for our world renowned IYTA Diploma of Yoga Teaching – starting early 2022

Here some of our current 2021 students offer their experience of the course:

“I did research yoga teaching courses and I liked that the IYTA had a wide range of instructors to learn from, whereas in a lot of other trainings you learn from one person and you have to subscribe to one tradition.

“The IYTA training course keeps you busy, but is at a slow enough pace that you can absorb everything. The instructors give you regular reassurance and help support us – it’s been an amazing experience.”

Megan Moore, 30, Coogee, NSW

“I’ve done yoga since my early teens when my parents introduced me to the practise. Yoga has helped me deal with life and my stressful job as a general newspaper reporter.

My favourite yoga teacher is IYTA trained, so when I got to the point when I wanted to explore yoga in more depth, she recommended this course.

“The course has exceeded my expectations – especially the online component as I’m doing it via Distance Education. There is endless support and this five-day residential has been one of the best experiences of my life.

“I chose this course (460 hours) as it goes into so much more depth than other 200-hour yoga courses available. There is so much support and the opportunity to experience lots of different styles and paths so you can find the path that fits you best. It’s also good to have a year to digest all the information.”

Hannah Turner,  22, Albany, WA


“I do yoga as it’s a good physical outlet from my work as an arborist. I did the IYTA Diploma of Yoga teaching as I wanted to learn more about yoga for my own practice but as I’ve continued I’ve started to feel like I would like to teach yoga.

“I chose IYTA because I was looking for a school that had an extensive amount of information but also gave me enough time to learn. This is a really good mix of online, with study weekends and the residential is really beneficial. You really get to work with your teachers and the other students.

I’ve already started recommending this course to people – if you are going to do a yoga course then you should do the IYTA – it will give you the best education and value.

Jordan Peat,  26, Central Coast, NSW


“The IYTA has been a good learning experience for me. As a senior person I thought the online learning would be a challenge but it has been relatively easy to navigate.

“I’ve enjoyed the emphasis on meditation and pranayama as well as the in-depth approach and instruction with the postures. It also attracts an interesting and diverse group of people. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know everyone.”

Anthony Estorffe, 66, Paddington, NSW

(Anthony (L) and Hide (R)


I’m really enjoying doing the course because it is something different. I’ve been hairdresser for 21 years and this course is encouraging me to get more knowledge. One of my clients told me about the course as she did it last year and said if I was going to do a yoga course it had to be the IYTA yoga course!

It’s been great. I’ve really enjoyed the pranayama and meditation and learning about the anatomy. It is a challenge as English is my second language, but everyone has been really supportive and helpful.”

Hide Shimakawa, 41, Chatswood, NSW


I looked at several yoga teaching courses in Perth, but most of the courses required you to attend a weekly class at their studio. I live in an outer suburb and work full-time so that didn’t suit my lifestyle.

I was looking for a course that was flexible. I attended a Zoom information session about the IYTA and had a really good feel from Astrid and Amy who were presenting the course information. I also liked the fact that I could attend any yoga class.

“I’m loving the IYTA course content – there’s a lot to learn. It’s great you get so many different lecturers presenting with different perspectives and a wealth of knowledge to draw upon. There’s a lovely community and the online learning platform is a breeze.

Linda Hartwig,  48,   Perth, WA


come along to our Free Open Day on July 18 at Crows Nest, NSW to find out more!



Karmic Korma

This recipe (by Lee Holmes of Super Charged Food) has been sent in by IYTA pre-natal yoga lecturer, Julia Willoughby. This delicious mild curry is Julia’s favourite soup as it’s easy to digest, nutritious, filling and tasty.


105 g natural cashews

1 tablespoon ground coriander

3 tablespoons curry powder

2 teaspoons ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon red chilli flakes

¾ teaspoon ground fennel

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

400ml tin additive-free coconut milk

1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil or 3 teaspoons ghee

1 onion chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

2.5cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated

1 large tomato, diced

½ medium cauliflower, cut into florets

1 large turnip, peeled and diced

150g green peas (fresh or frozen)

250ml filtered water

Celtic sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

1 handful of fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves optional to serve.




Soak the cashews in hot filtered water for 30 minutes. Drain.

Combine the spices in a small bowl and set aside.

Whiz the cashews with the coconut milk in a food processor until smooth.

Melt the oil or ghee in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring frequently for 3-4 minutes or until starting to soften.

Add the spices and cook, stirring frequently for one minute or until the spices are aromatic. Add the tomato and cook, stirring frequently for a further minute. Add the remaining vegetables, the water and the cashew mixture, then stir to combine and cook for a further ten minutes. Add a little more filtered water if necessary.

Reduce the heat to low and cook for 35 minutes adding more filtered water if the sauce starts to reduce too much.

Remove from the heat and season to taste, then allow to cool slightly. Puree in a food processor or blender until smooth. Serve sprinkled with coriander leaves.

If you liked this recipe you’ll love others by Lee Holmes. Check out her websites here:


Mother’s Day Yoga Workshop with Patricia Wigley

Patricia is a mother-of-three, grandmother to four and sadly lost her own mother two years ago. It’s a reminder that Mother’s Day can be a bitter sweet time – to grieve, appreciate, remember and to love.

Whether you are celebrating as a mum or for your mum, this three-hour workshop with Patricia – the Vice President of the Australasian Association of Yoga Therapists, will be a time to recharge, learn and reflect.

We sat down with Patricia to find out more about her life as a mum and what she will be covering in this unique online workshop focusing on chakras, mothering archetypes and of course, yoga.

(Patricia is pictured with four generations of her family – her mother, herself, her daughter, Amy and granddaughter, Adeline).

Q: What does Mother’s Day mean to you?

  Mother’s Day is a time to acknowledge your own birth mother and spend time with her or if you are not able to physically be with her to spend some time contacting her in some way, telephone, messenger face-to-face, or online. My own mother lived in the UK and passed away two years ago. The UK Mothers’ day is in March instead of May here which was hard to get my head around. I connected with her regularly but I liked to send flowers for Mothers’ Day because I knew they brought her pleasure.

Even when your mother has passed I think we can acknowledge and give thanks to her for the gift of life. We are here because of her and we honour her for that.

  Q: How will you celebrate?

Even though my mother is no longer here, I feel her presence with me in my heart and I will spend time in my meditation to thank her for all she did for me. She was always very supportive, loving and giving.

I am a mother myself now with three adult children with families of their own. And apart from my youngest child, we’ll all be getting together in Sydney at some stage.

Q: How will you weave the chakras into the Mother’s Day class?

We will take a journey in the development of the child (and ourselves) as we begin and go through life. As mothers it is valuable to look at the stages of development that need to be worked through to allow us to fulfil our potential in this life as humans. To reach self-realisation.

Q: Can you expand on this concept and how it will work within the framework of the workshop:

We will visit the archetype of the mother in all its facets. Earth mother goddess and both positive and negative aspects of the mother archetype as seen by modern psychology (Jung) and in traditional literature and myth (eg fairy godmother and wicked stepmother). And explore how these relate to the chakras.

I will also be touching on the corresponding levels of development of the Chakras as seen in Maslow’s work and hierarchy of needs work and that of Erikson’s Stages of Development. As I intend this workshop to be more experiential than theoretical, we will be using mantra and meditation as part of this work to balance and connect with the energy flowing through our chakras.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

My aim for the workshop is to provide an enjoyable time of exploration into the energies of Creation which have brought us here and we will discover that we return to the energies of the heart as the Centre of all. What could be more appropriate for Mother’s Day but connecting with that caring loving energy of the heart!

There are still spaces available for Patricia’s workshop on Saturday, May 8 from 1-4pm AEST online via Zoom. To find out more or book click HERE.




Kitcheree – the perfect food for Autumn

Give your tastebuds and digestion a treat with this delicious Ayurvedic dish. Kiitcheree (also spelt kitchari) is known as a healing food as it is so easy to digest and the perfect blend of proteins, fats and carbohydrates. This recipe is from our IYTA Social Media expert, Karen Mallinson


1 cup mung beans (soaked overnight)

1 cup basmati rice

½ cup Sunflower oil (can use “ghee” but it won’t be vegan)

1 ½ inch piece of fresh ginger (pealed & chopped fine)

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp black pepper powder

2 bay leaves

1 stick of cinnamon (if small use 2)

4 cloves

4 whole cardamon pods (split)

½ tsp Asafoetida (hing) (Asafoetida can be found in good Indian grocery stores, if you don’t have it, it can be left out).

½ tsp cayenne

Salt (to taste)

6 cups Vegetarian stock or water (heated)

2 cups of carrots (small dices)

2 cups of broccoli or cauliflower (small florets)

You can add any other vegetables, like potato/sweet potato or pumpkin.

Small handful of fresh coriander, chopped



  • Soak the mung beans overnight, it will help to aid the digestion process.
  • Make a vegetarian stock with vegetable scraps and peelings. (If you don’t have time you can use a store-based vegetable stock or use hot water).
  • Wash the mung beans and the basmati rice until the water is clear.
  • Heat a pot on medium heat and add the oil (or ghee). Then add ginger, stir for a moment and then add the black mustards and cumin seeds. When they start to pop-up add turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon barks, cloves, cardamon and hing.
  • Stir for a couple of minutes and add the rice and the mung beans, stirring very well until all is mixed together.
  • Add the hot vegetarian stock (or the water), cover and bring to boil, let it boil for 5 minutes, then turn down the heat very low to a simmer. Lightly cover the pan.
  • Make sure you give the mixture a stir every 5 minutes, so it doesn’t get stuck to the bottom of the pot.
  • After 15 minutes of simmering, add the carrots, continue to keep stirring every 5 minutes.
  • After 15 minutes more add the broccoli or cauliflower. Keep a close eye on it for another minutes.
  • You can add a little more stock of water if it is needed or if you want a runnier consistency.
  • Add salt to taste and turn it off the heat. Sprinkle with the chopped coriander and serve.



  • You can serve on its own, or with a dollop of yoghurt, (we use coconut yoghurt) and a squeeze of lemon.
  • IF you are using Ghee, it’s also nice to serve with a little melted ghee on top.
  • We also serve ours with Sauerkraut or a nice tomato Kasundi.
  • You can serve with a leaf salad.


Five minute salad

Need something healthy, quick and delicious? Then try this five minute salad!


1 rice cup (available from supermarkets – I had brown rice and quinoa)

if you have more time, then use quinoa or rice cooked from scratch

1 sweetcorn

1/2 capsicum

1/2 cup snowpeas

1 hard boiled egg

leftover cooked veggies – I used potato

1 cup spinach



Cook rice

cook corn (and then cut off kernels)

chop up veggies and cut hard boiled egg into quarters

Add everything to a bowl

add dressing of balsamic and olive oil and salt and pepper as required.


This is a super versatile salad, so please add leftover roasted veggies, herbs and other raw veggies you may have. Enjoy ?



Brekkie Veggie Gumbo

Busy morning with back-to-back yoga classes? Then tuck into this wholesome breakfast dish which should keep you going till lunch!


1 x can of black or kidney beans (or soak 2 cups of your choice of legumes overnight)

1 red capsicum

1 can of tinned cherry tomatoes

1 onion

1 leek

2 cups of spinach

1 egg



This meal is so versatile – you can substitute almost all the ingredients depending on taste and what you have in your fridge!

Chop the onion, leek and capsicum into

Add a drizzle of olive oil to a frying pan or wok and cook onion and leek until soft

Add tomatoes and red capsicum – simmer for 3-4 minutes. While these are simmering, you may wish to poach an egg. Turn off heat

Stir through spinach leaves until wilted.

Add egg and cracked pepper if desired. You may also like to add finely chopped chilli if you like spicy dishes.



How to Clear your Chakras


By Katie Brown

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.

Click here for details on the class and to book

Community in Canberra

IYTA ACT State Rep Martha Luksza reflects on the year and the strong connection shared by the Canberra Yogis…

“Whilst our Canberra end of year gathering was very small, some rather special things occurred.

It reminded me there is immense value in small actions and gestures. One of our members kindly offered her home as an alternative venue due to the windy weather, so that the gathering could still go ahead. As a result Pam Bleakley was rewarded for her generosity. Networking meant Pam was able to offer some of her classes to another teacher who was interested in teaching them. Networking is one of the many benefits of being part of IYTA. Including looking for a relief teacher, a mentor, further study, community partners, resources, friendships, wealth of knowledge, contacts or more business.

Over lunch we discussed the challenges of teaching in a Covid world. We talked about the mental health crisis unfolding in our communities. Highlighting again the importance and power of Yoga to balance the world we are being asked to respond to. We talked about changes observed in student preferences for the type of yoga they want, particularly front line workers and how imperative it is for all of us to practice self-care.

Over the past few months I have heard your different experiences in changing how you operate and teach. Some of you have found the transition to teaching via zoom on line ranging anything from stressful, problematic, impossible, unsustainable, financially unviable, preferrable, flexible and workable. Some of you have even been able to resume some level of face to face teaching. Personally my weekly teaching was a casualty of Covid. For the time being, I no longer have students at my home studio.

But when one door closes another opens. No accidents in the system.

Recently employed to work in classrooms to support teachers with students with high learning needs at the local Primary school, I have witnessed how exhausted students, and teachers alike are. Our Yoga training equips us with the ability to bring a whole suite of skills to any life experience. I endeavour to bring a sense of calm to the classroom. Treating children with kindness and respect. Encouraging them to express themselves, to be listened to and to bring a sense of fun and service to my role. I have a renewed sense of gratitude and respect for our extraordinary school teachers, who day in day out show up for our kids. I have also been delighted to witness little people lying down after lunch practicing Mindfulness, practicing gratitude and silence. What fantastic life habits.

At home I have watched my three teenagers overcome all sorts of hurdles with resilience and grace. Whilst my husband has taken up meditation, practicing daily for the past eight months. As a result our family has experienced a deeper connection where home is a peaceful place to be. Who would have thought converting the childhood cubby house into a chicken coop would be such a bonding experience? We get four eggs a day. Again nothing wasted.

It is my intention to continue to serve and support our strong, diverse, vibrant, professional community of Yoga teachers. Each of you have your own unique gifts, it is always a pleasure to enable these gifts to be shared collectively and to see the IYTA community flourish. I know that my gifts do not lie with social media but they do with some of you, who can turn those gifts into spreading the word for the benefit of bringing people together to learn and share yoga.

In these changing times, never under estimate the power of your ability to lighten the load for your students, your family and the people that cross your path on a daily basis. The simplest act of a smile. Of being patient in line. Of saying thank you. Of listening with your whole being. Of holding the space for someone who is in real need. Of picking up the phone to say hello. Of checking on an elderly neighbour (in my case with a chicken in arms). Of giving something of yourself (expertise, time). Of cooking a meal. These are the moments that can change a life, save a life, give new life to someone who is lonely, dying, lost or just needing someone to show up for them. And as we know on our own yoga journeys, kind, compassionate individuals have done this for us, and so it goes.

Please feel free to pick up the phone or drop me a line for a chat if you feel like you want to have a natter, make a written contribution to the IYTA publication, suggestion. I make a decent cuppa.

Whilst our workshop program was all cancelled and is now temporarily suspended, there are interesting offerings online via the IYTA website, that we encourage you to sample or even contribute too. There is always your own personal practice to explore too.

Your Canberra committee is a wonderful group of teachers, that have a vast range of teaching and life experiences for you to tap into. I want to say a big thank you to Marg Riley, Pam Bleakley, and Marguarita van Oosten. We will keep offering small, simple ways for us to come together, to learn from each other and connect as a teaching community.

Hope to see you all you in 2021.

Yours in Yoga.

Martha Luksza

Pic credit: Jennie Clavel at Unsplash

A year of firsts for IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching

The IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching course has been running for more than 50 years but 2020 has been a year of first for the non-profit organisation

By Katie Brown

It’s the first year of running the 460-hour course during a global pandemic.

The highest number of male students (there are five enrolled in this year’s course compared with 21 female students).

And the first year there has been a combination of online lectures, live streaming and face-to-face lectures – in each study weekend!

But yoga is known for being flexible and the IYTA Diploma Yoga Course has been adapting its year-long course to ensure the students have the best possible learning within government restrictions – and its worked!

One of the current students is Brjinder Sandhu he says: “ I felt the course came into my lie at the perfect time. I was very impressed at how quickly the IYTA transitioned from face-to-face to online Zoom classes during the lockdown.

“I know other courses were cancelled, but thankfully the IYTA continued. It could easily have felt like a waste of a year, but instead I have been gaining this useful tool that has helped me cope with anxiety and stress, has supported me emotionally and psychologically – all while keeping me in good shape!”

Plus once Brij graduates early next year he’ll be an internationally qualified yoga teacher.

Brij – started off his career in the corporate sphere – working in travel marketing. But seven years ago he quit the rat race and qualified as a massage therapist. Now he’s planning to combine yoga teaching with his massage business in Sydney’s North Shore.

Before embarking on the Diploma, Brij did a lot of research to choose the best yoga teaching course. He was particularly keen to learn from a variety of different lecturers and not be tied to one particular yoga lineage. The IYTA has an expert panel of 22 lecturers – teaching on all aspects of yoga from asanas, to philosophy to anatomy and energy systems and pranayama.

Brij says: “I wanted to learn how to be a teacher, rather than draw from one point of view.”

He was also impressed with the IYTA’s long standing global reputation and how well respected it was within the industry.

Brij had enrolled in the IYTA’s Yoga Foundations course – a 70 hour online course and knowing how professional and thorough that course was gave him the confidence to take the next step and embark on the full teaching diploma.

Brij says the IYTA course has also helped him to be more grounded. He says: “I would recommend this course to anyone who wants a better understanding of yoga and of themselves!” He adds that you don’t have to teach at the end of it – but you will end up becoming your own teacher!

Brij says it is great to have a mix of other men on the course – but that everyone has come from all different walks of life. And he adds that the guys doing the course are probably already on their own path of self discovery.

The irony isn’t lost on Brij who was born and grew up in India, is qualifying as a yoga teacher while living in Sydney! He says during his 20s in India he did study yoga but has found the IYTA’s approach is more open.

He believes there is more freedom to explore self expression. “In India they want you to say things in a certain way – you are constricted in the way you can teach. But that wasn’t my personality. I need to come from a place where I can infer from multiple sources  and grow Into the kind of yoga teacher I want to be while still having a strong focus on safety.”


Get $1,450 off the course by taking advantage of the Earlybird deal – valid until December 18, 2020.

The IYTA Diploma of Yoga Teaching begins in February 2021. To enrol in this prestigious course click here


The IYTA is also running a series of free Open Days and Live Zoom events – to find out more or register your interest, please email us




What’s Your Pranayama Practice?

Most of us do daily asanas, meditations and perhaps a regular Yoga Nidra – but how regular is your pranayama practice?

It’s an aspect of yoga that can be overlooked or taken for granted and as time goes by we tend to stick to the same old breathing practices.

But like asana, we should be constantly refining and exploring our pranayama practice. And to help you do just that the IYTA is running the workshop: Power through Pranayama & Bandhas on Saturday, November 7 at Crows Nest, NSW.

Gyan Morrison is running this 3.5 hour workshop and will be focusing on specific pranayama techniques and introducing how to integrate bandhas (energy locks) with a couple of the practices.

Some of the practices being covered include Bhastrika, Nadi Shodhana, Bharamari and the cooling breaths: Sheetali, sheetkari and kaki.

Gyan says: “Utilising the bandhas makes the pranayama practice more potent.”

This workshop follows on from the previous two IYTA Pranayama workshops run by Gyan and Alana, although the content will be different. So, it is open to all: people who have attended the earlier workshops will learn new techniques and if you haven’t yet attended one of these sessions – it will be a great introduction!

Gyan stresses these workshops are interactive – everyone learns from one another. He explains that like asana practice, not everyone experiences the same effect from each pranayama. He adds: “We might be doing a cooling practice, such as Sheetkari – and for some people they are experiencing the cooling effect quite tangibly but others might not be feeling very much at all.”

So Gyan helps to make subtle changes to enhance each individual’s experience.

It’s a workshop which many students have lightbulb or “aha” moments when a pranayama practice they may have been doing for years can become more potent by making incremental adjustments.

Not only will your personal practice benefit, but you will also enhance your teaching of pranayama.

This workshop is not just for yoga teachers, but for anyone wishing to experience an afternoon connecting with others and focusing and developing their pranayama practice using the bandhas.

To book click HERE


Need a life ring? Then try Restorative Yoga

This year has challenged us like no other – we’ve had to deal with fear on all levels, economic and career uncertainty and literally rethink how we live our lives.

Gone are the casual hugs and kisses when we greet one another, dancing among friends feels like a distant memory and even a high five on the soccer pitch isn’t allowed.

When we are left to deal with something of such huge proportions it is no surprise that we need something special to help us cope. A practice that embodies the koshas – that will support us physically, energetically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.

For more and more of us this has been Restorative Yoga. This class has appeared on more and more studio timetables – not just in Australia but around the world.

But we all know that yoga is restorative – but what does Restorative Yoga do that is different?

I should probably explain what Restorative Yoga is first – Judith Lasater (widely regarded as the Queen of Restorative Yoga) describes it as active relaxation.

It is supporting the body in shapes (based on asanas) with props, such as blankets, bolsters and blocks, so the body is completely held, invoking a sense of safety and security. These positions encourage the flow of prana, stillness in mind and body which invites a gentle unravelling of tension. The positions are held for long periods – from 3-5 minutes or more. You can observe Antar Mouna (inner silence) or focus on pranayama techniques, guided meditation and so much more… it is a nourishing delight for the entire mind and body and feels a bit like a five star meditation practice!

My restorative yoga practice has been my pathway out of anxiety, depression and stress ever since the year when I had to cope with the death of my mum, the pregnancy of my first child and the loss of my corporate job. It was a year of personal upheaval and deep grief. My life ring was Restorative Yoga and it has been my go-to practice ever since.

So what sets it apart from other types of yoga? 

It is effortless

Now this is a strange concept to overcome. To achieve something in life we are conditioned to put in effort, but effortless?! What’s the catch!?

The irony is that doing something that is effortless is difficult! In the case of Restorative yoga we need to let go of the desire to be “doing,” and focus on being still both in body and mind…

It is slow

Restorative Yoga takes slow to a whole new level – again we are conditioned to move quickly in life in a bid to “get things done” but how strange when we are now invited to move slowly. Then we discover the more we practice moving slowly the more enticing it becomes… the moment we move slowly we are far more aware of our body – of where tension may reside in our muscles – of what we need to do to nurture ourselves and respond to what our body needs.

It is supportive and safe

At times of upheaval this is exactly what we need. To be reassured – to be wrapped up in a blanket of peace and tranquility – not just physically but mentally. To simply have time and space to digest change on gross and subtle levels through our mind and body.

As you can imagine Restorative Yoga has a myriad of benefits for the mind, body and soul. It encourages us to move from a reactive state where our sympathetic nervous system is engaged to the rest state of our parasympathetic nervous system. Restorative Yoga helps us learn how to consciously relax.

And so we begin to experience benefits to the entire body.

Physically our heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate all naturally lower.

Energetically, we conserve energy and sleep more soundly with a better quality of sleep which means we are less likely to feel depleted.

Emotionally we are less prone to depression, anxiety and anger. Our vagus nerve is more likely to be functioning in a healthy, harmonious way which means we are better decision makers, more resilient and generally,.. well more content.

Intellectually regular restorative yoga and deep relaxation can slow brain waves – you can experience this when often you begin a class with a lot of thoughts buzzing in the mind and by the end of the class you are feeling a greater sense of clarity and calm. Ironically in this state we are better wired to deal with stress management and have a higher level of cognitive function.

And finally this practice promotes the opportunity for meditation and spiritual awareness. To help us savour the special moments in our life and our connection to nature, ourselves and each other.

So there you have it – just a few good reasons for why Restorative Yoga is a wonderful practice – for you and your students.

You can experience two delicious days learning about Restorative Yoga while you practice. It’s the ultimate weekend retreat where you get all the benefits – while you learn!

To find out more or book on please click HERE.

Katie Brown has been teaching Yoga for 20 years and has written and presents the IYTA’s Restorative Yoga Certificate. She is an author, has produced a range of DVDs, CDs and online programs and is a qualified massage therapist.

Spring veggie couscous

This versatile couscous dish is delicious as a side or as a main meal. It’s light, nutritious and perfect to pack in a lunchbox!


Red onion

2 large carrots

2 cups of couscous

3 cups of water

1 cube of vegetable stock

2 beetroots

1 tomato

1 block of halloumi cheese (cut into 1cm strips)

3-4 sprigs of mint

3 cups of baby spinach leaves

Handful of walnuts

Lemon for garnish and Greek yoghurt if desired



Pre heat the oven to 200C

Chop the red onion into wedges, the carrots into 1cm batons and the beetroot into 1cm cubes

Then place veggies on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil

Place in oven for 25 minutes or until golden

While the veggies are baking, cook the couscous – bring water to the boil in a pan and crumble in the stock.

Then add the couscous and set aside (with lid on the pan) for 5 minutes.

When couscous has absorbed all the water, fluff up with a fork.

Then add a drizzle of oil to a medium frying pan and cook halloumi until golden on both side. When cooled cut into 1cm squares.

Chop up the tomato, mint and spinach leaves and add this to a large bowl. Then add couscous and halloumi – stir to mix up and then add walnuts and roasted veggies.

You may wish to garnish with lemon wedges and add Greek yoghurt to taste. Enjoy!

Free up that energy!

Spring gives us the opportunity to refresh and revive not just our home, but ourselves and our yoga practice. And these two classes will give you just that opportunity…

IYTA is running two special seasonal classes to mark the transition to warmer weather and burgeoning energy.

The first class will be taught by the ever-popular Sarah Manning. Sarah says: “Spring – is an expansive germinating new energy. It’s a time to do new things or renew an old, familiar but perhaps neglected, practice – with fresh eyes.

With Covid – we are transitioning into a new way of living; a new way of teaching; receiving; sharing; connecting those with a resistance to change – may need to look at why… it generates anger and frustration as we struggle with new practices, new technology, new ways of doing things…if this is you – we get it!”

Sarah advises just booking in to free up the energy, to germinate and be brave!

Funnily enough the seasons aren’t particularly obvious where Sarah lives in Singapore. She says: “Here in Singapore, seasons are less apparent – but they do exist. The wind direction that created the historic trade and prosperity of SE Asia followed the monsoons. Half the year it is south westerly, bringing the ships from China and sending to the West – the other North Easterly, taking back to China and from the West. We have drier and wetter seasons – poor grandma always visits at Christmas – our wettest, coolest part of the year!”

Sarah adds: “The traditional Chinese, and thus temperate, seasons are Spring, Summer, late Summer, autumn and winter. The sensitivities following the same five seasons are – wind, summer heat, dampness, dryness and cold.

So, for the season of strong wind, labelled Spring, and those with imbalances related to the Liver and Gallbladder – they will be uncomfortable, frustrated, angry, sensitive to draughts and stirred up by and edgy with the wind.”

And our other Spring yoga class is being taught by Radha Salliann Vine who has been teaching yoga and meditation for nearly 20 years. Radha is trained in Satyananda style and runs regular seasonal workshops and women’s events.

This class will acknowledge the Spring Equinox – a time when the earth is in momentary balance with equal night and day. A perfect time to come together to enjoy a flowing practice of poses and guided meditation to honour the spring energy. For this class you’ll need to create your own puja altar table with an ode to each of the elements.

To find out more and book into these classes please click HERE.

Pranayama and mudra for the various ages and stages of life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To book in to this workshop, click HERE


Meet our new Social Media Manager

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

Q: Tell us about your yoga journey

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

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

Q: Did you do a yoga teacher training?

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

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

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

Q: Are you teaching at the moment?

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

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

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

Q: How long have you been involved with IYTA?

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can email Karen here








Daily Routine for Immunity and Health

By Patricia Wigley

  • A full version of this article will appear in the next issue of International Light out later this month

Our daily routine should suit the season. As well as appropriate exercise and fresh food, Ayurveda reminds us to create a healthy rhythm in our day working in line with the rhythms around us in nature. Check out the following ways you can create more balance in your daily routine this winter


  • Bed before around 10pm up at 6pm
  • Hydrate (warm water with a squirt of lemon juice)
  • Bowel motion (preferably in the squat position)
  • Exercise (even 5 – 10 mins of movement with breath) or nice brisk walk of 20 – 25 mins (to get prana moving)
  • Meditate (20 mins ideally) 5 – 10 is fine to start with
  • Breakfast
  • Creative activities in the morning
  • The midday meal is the most important when the digestive fire is highest between 12 and 2pm
  • More routine type of activities for the Afternoon
  • Late afternoon and evening for more recreational activities and light evening meal. Spend time with family or those we care for. This is a real need for us and it is the time when we may emotionally overeat or indulge in unhealthy food to fulfil this emotional need.
  • Evening practice before evening meal – to release tension accumulated from the day – 20 mins meditation and short wind-down physical practice – eg: legs up the wall and breathing.
  • Evening meal – light and easily digested. Eat before 7pm
  • Lighting is important: turn off computer and tv screens at least an hour before bed. Sleep in dark room. Melatonin production is stimulated by the dark and quality of sleep will improve.

Notice our day starts with a good sleep at the ideal time the night before. Even one night of poor sleep decreases the ability of your immune system to fight viruses. (If you are not getting enough sleep make sure you practise yoga nidra during the day to ensure complete rest and recuperation).


Patricia will be running an Ayurvedic workshop for winter wellness on July 19. To book in or find out more, click HERE





Insta-yogi fame!

Yoga teacher, Marcel Clementi has more than 50k Instagram followers – here he shares his top TEN Insta tips

  At 26 and having only been a yoga teacher for three years, Marcel Clementi is doing pretty well. He has 55k Instagram followers, sponsorship deals and is a regular on the yoga festival circuit.

It doesn’t hurt that he is easy on the eye and very natural in front of the camera. In fact, he says his first ambitions included being a TV host or PE/sports school teacher – and now he is pretty much combining both in a career as a celebrity yoga teacher.

He discovered yoga after leaving his hometown of Innsbruck, Austria in 2017 at the age of 24 to go travelling. While in Thailand, he hurt his foot, so tried a yoga class. And from the moment he stepped on the mat, he was hooked!

He continued travelling and attending yoga classes and would regularly post photos of his trip and the occasional pose! He already had around 1-2k followers, but the numbers just steadily increased as he posted more frequently.

Then in 2018 he headed to Kerala in India where he studied at the Abhjina School of Yoga and Meditaiton to do a 200 hour Ashtanga Vinyasa courseand become a  bonafide yoga teacher. Since then his followers have grown to a point where he is offered free accommodation in return for shout outs on his page, sponsorship deals and is regularly invited to teach at studios around the world.

Due to Covid-19 he’s back in Austria – but staying busy by reading, hanging out with this Siberian Husky Akouna, (who he rescued from the streets of Bulgaria – but that’s another story!).

He says: “At the start of the pandemic it was crazy here. We all stocked up and I still have ten boxes of beans in my kitchen!” But he says luckily Austria has a great health system and shut everything (with the exception of grocery stores and pharmacies) down early on, and everyone stayed home – with police control.

Marcel has been using the time productively – doing more posts and recording classes on YouTube. He’s doing a lot of extra study and philosophical reading and intent on achieving his ultimate goal of being one of the best teachers in the world!

He’s also keen to encourage others to use Instagram – so if you’ve resisted the platform till now or are floundering with a handful of followers, Marcel has some advice: “Just go for it!”

He claims it is possible with time and patience to build up to around 10,000 followers – and here are his top ten tips!

Marcel’s Top Ten Tips

#1 – The secret is to be active. “As soon as I started posting every day, more and more people began to follow me,” he says.

#2 – Use high quality photos and invest in camera editing software such as Lightroom Pro   as Instagram is a visual platform. Marcel now employs a photographer which gives him more time to study and read and prepare posts.”

#3 Offer value – Marcel says: “I think it is important to give the students some value and benefit a reason to click the like or follow button.” Marcel offers inspiration and information, life hacks and tips.

#4 Use hashtags suitable to your topic: so if your post is about yoga – use yoga hashtags. If you are posting about your dog, use dog hashtags!

#5 Network – Marcel advises connecting with other yoga studios and teachers. He says he messaged another male yogi based in Austria on the App and now they are best mates.

#6 Make sure you have a business account and not a personal account so you can take advantage of the business resources such as being able to see your target group and linking to Facebook. And don’t despair if you have a personal account (you can check in your profile) then just change to a business account. It is free and easy to do.

#7 Limit your time online – Marcel restricts his online time to two hours a day as he says it is easy to get caught up and scroll through many hours! It can also be an addiction so set alarms or give yourself specific times to log on (and off!).

#8 Be yourself! Marcel thinks he has grown followers because he is very open and honest. He isn’t too strict – and will drink the odd glass of wine or flat white.

#9 Don’t get down if you get a dislike! Marcel says around 99.9 per cent of the comments he receives are positive – but there will always be the odd mean comment or dislike. But he says it’s about building your own self confidence and all you can do is your best.

#10 Stay active after posting for at least 30 minutes! Marcel says this is a little known tip, but apparently the Instagram algorithms really kick in and always reply to any comments you receive.

Marcel’s last piece of advice is to attend one of his online mentoring workshops!



Marcel’s Instagram is: marcelclementiyoga




Warm spiced porridge with poached pears and nutmeg

One of the best things about winter is waking up to a warm bowl of spiced porridge. This easy-to-make breakfast dish will fuel you up for the day!


1 cup of rolled oats

2 tablespoons of sultanas

half a cup of water (or unhomogenised milk)

1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of ground cardamom

2 teaspoons of raw sugar

unhomogenised milk – to add after cooking depending on your preference for thick, creamy porridge or not!

1 pear – to poach/stew

a sprinkling of nutmeg – garnish for the pear

drizzle of maple syrup – optional


1: Put water/ milk in the pan with the oats on a low heat and stir with a wooden spoon.

2: After a minute or so add the sultanas, spiced herbs and sugar

3: Continue to stir and keep on a low heat and while this is simmering peel and cut the pear into thin slices. Add to a pan of water (just enough to coat the pears) and heat until the pears are soft.

4: Serve the porridge in bowls, add milk if you wish to make the porridge extra creamy. Add the pears and spinkle with nutmeg and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Enjoy. Store in an airtight container and this will keep in the fridge for up to two days. The flavours will infuse and be even more delicious – which will give you extra time for a lie-in!


Going om-line

Life during Covid-19 has been challenging for yoga teachers. We’ve lost a huge slice of our income and swapped face-to-face classes for online Zoom sessions… in our new blog series we ask IYTA yoga teachers how they’ve coped…

  Here’s Charmaine’s story

Before Covid-19, life consisted of several yoga classes that I taught within the community. My students were dedicated and I was busy travelling and teaching at a variety of centres including a semi-retirement village and fitness centre.


I’d recently set up a Yoga studio at home, which had been long wish of mine. A humble shed, decked out with carpet and beautiful colours and a yoga energy that was slowly starting to build in the room with three weekly classes. Things were going beautifully – then the virus hit…


Most of my students are aged over 60 and many aren’t even on Facebook. I had two classes in the evening a week – one was a meditation class and the other was a morning yoga session.


The virus put a stop on all of my classes right from the beginning and I no longer had those face-to-face connections with people. This was challenging as I am such a people person. I felt challenged emotionally and mentally.


Not only were the daily interactions taken away, I had no income at all. Everything just came to a complete standstill.

I gave myself some time to collect my thoughts before embracing the new challenges before me.


At first the transition going from face-to-face classes to Zoom meetings was a big challenge. Mostly in my mind though. Because once I started it was much easier than I’d first thought. My sister-in-law helped me step-by-step with Zoom and I mostly taught myself as we so often do when faced with challenges.


I believe humans are very adaptable when we put our minds to it. It was the fear of the unknown, I guess…


The first thing was to get my head around how I was going to do this. The wi-fi didn’t reach the Yoga room, so I really had to compromise on space in my home especially with the children aged 16 and 14, now at home doing all their on-line schooling!


After downloading Zoom, which of course was a simple process. I taught myself by practicing with the family and scheduling Zoom meetings with family members. I thought it was really important to create a nice space in my living area to take the classes.


I created a sacred corner filled with light, a plant, salt lamp, incense and crystals. My meditation cushion and a shawl. Making sure the mood was set for myself and the students. Having an atmosphere was important in that transition process. It involved moving furniture and simply focussing on what I intended to do.


The next step for me was to let all my students know through Facebook or a text that I was running classes on line through Zoom. Some of my students I helped as this was also a challenge and something new for them to do. It was very exciting and a humbling experience when so many were patiently waiting for me to be ready.


I’m not sure why this kind of way of teaching challenged me at first.

Now I have embraced it, I do look forward to those Zoom classes.


The first class I did was a Yoga Nidra and I did these for free as I just felt everyone needed it so much after the shock and realisation of the new ways of being we were all faced with now. I had to practice yoga daily so that I could re-connect to my energy source.


Apart from the Zoom classes the next most challenging aspect has been not seeing all the beautiful faces of the students who turned up every week to do the classes.


The interaction during the class and keeping my eye on them and the chats after the class and before, even if it was a quick five minute catch-up. That exchange of energy between myself and everyone is what I miss most.


Also not being able to see what students are doing is challenging, as some have the cameras off during our Zoom classes and that’s ok. I am learning to be more flexible and trusting in the process.


So now I am running a regular Yoga Nidra class through Zoom weekly on a Monday evening and to my surprise there are so many people joining in! More people than I could fit in my yoga studio.!


Yoga Nidra has been quite successful. And every week day I run two yoga classes, one of which is a one-on-one class. I am so much more flexible now for classes because I am more available on-line. Being more flexible has been a big positive for me, and trusting the new process.


It has been important for me to let my students know that I am here, and that I am continuing to keep a routine for them as well as myself and that I haven’t disappeared under the fear of the unknown.


Believing in myself was a challenge, because I genuinely had fears of not doing it right. So keeping things simple and practicing awareness of oneself has helped me through this transition. Yoga once again has helped on a mental and emotional level.


Keeping my energies balanced and focussed to take the class is more important than ever now. This is a different kind of energy for me. I normally would avoid being on my phone a lot. Instead of fearing the phone, I have learned that the phone is a much-needed tool for me now.


A new schedule emerged, instead of being in my car going from one venue to another, I could now put that energy into marketing on line, and channel my energies here at home.


I have dedicated certain days to Facebook time and scheduling Zoom meetings. There is quite a bit to do with making sure everyone is sent the links and that people have made their payments.


Marketing on social media is different and time consuming in a different way. The ways I do this vary. Yoga plays a big role in bringing balance to my energies. So I make sure I practice yoga and meditation daily. Stillness is also very important.


There are many positives to come out of the restrictions at present. For me being more present than ever in the here and now is felt more deeply and a sense of less rushing around. I actually have taken a step back and seen how busy and rushed I was! Yoga students are also sending positive feedback. Many of them are enjoying the Zoom classes in their own homes and feel they are going deeper with their practice.


I look forward to the Zoom classes and it gives a sense of purpose. Bringing Yoga to people with passion, just in a different way. I am still learning. The important thing is being flexible and open to learning. I love that Yoga gave me the tools to help with this transition. It was inside me all along. I just had to believe I could do it.


I’m looking forward to the next part of the journey. Also looking forward to the light when we come away from the other side of these restrictions and resume to human interaction in a way that fills our souls, that no Zoom class can replace. Aum Shanti

Charmaine Harris, aged 49, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

Charmaine completed her Yoga Diploma at Rocklyn Ashram and has been teaching for around 12 years. You can find her on

Facebook at: Yoga and You with Charmaine

Instagram: Yoga and you with Charmaine





How to Theme your Yin Class

Yin Yoga teaching is very different. Recall how we cue each Hatha yoga posture. We attend to the warm-up of muscles, then the placement and
alignment of feet, hands, spine, knees, pelvis, shoulders; then the activation of muscles – lengthening, pressing, rotation, tucking; all the while
cuing their breath in a controlled way. We do this to optimise the safety, depth or opportunity within the pose.

In Yin Yoga we find the general shape of the pose, explore the “Edge” and release into it – and that is it. Our biggest challenge is if a student has injuries/pain and we need to tailor modifications or alternatives.

Hatha teaching feels like a continuous stream of instructions and as teachers, we are constantly talking. Yin Yoga gives us time, space and peace. And then, even more so, in that, students will hold postures for around 5 minutes – so we can go on an inward focused adventure, exploring, observing the breath, a breathing pattern or technique, the mind, a focal point, a visualisation, an awareness of energy, mudra, emotion, feeling or space -all while students are in the pose.

So, themes and planning a class becomes a creative opportunity to take your students on a journey deeper into their practice. We choose a theme and then
weave the breathing and the mindfulness into the poses – coming to a “pinnacle” mental state or awareness for the class.

Below are some ideas of class themes using the Chinese Meridian Theory. I have found this to be my easiest and quickest route to a class plan – but there
are 100’s of themes that you could use – from the body, to a poem, to the weather……

Meridians and Five elements

The meridians are pathways for energy (qi) to flow and together with the Chinese Five Element theory, they are a fabulous way to align your classes.

Five Elements – the five Chinese elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each element has two meridians associated with it –
an internal one (yin) and an external one (yang). Each element aligns with a season. So, you can either take one posture from each of the elements
for a wholistic class, or choose a season and focus on that element/pair of meridians. For example, for Spring you would focus on Wood and the Liver
and Gallbladder meridians, and chose poses that work along those energy lines such as butterfly, dragonfly, happy baby, square, sleeping swan and shoelace. Or go even more focused – and chose one meridian as your theme.

Each element also has a related colour, time and dominant/vulnerable organ. So, you could focus a class on releasing anger and irritability (Wood). Or
considering the Chinese clock highlights different elements according to the time of day, so if your class is at 5pm – the time of the Kidney meridian
energy then you can focus on poses for the Kidney, Urinary Bladder and Water element.





Woodgreen/brownLiver/Gall bladder11pm – 3am
Firered/orangeHeart/Small intestine11am – 3pm
Earthlight yellow/brownSpleen/Stomach7am – 11am
Metalwhite/greyLung/Large intestine3am – 7am
Waterblue/blackKidney/Urinary bladder3pm – 7pm

Once you have identified the physical postures and the order or flow of the poses – then we start to add the icing on the cake – the breathing and the
mindfulness that are related to the theme. For example, I use a qigong Water breath and the Ocean breath (Ujjayi) when working with Water, Kidney or
Urinary Bladder. The Water element is a cascading, descending energy – totally soft and yielding – and yet powerful in how it affects the whole environment. The natural cycle of water – from rain to ocean to sky; or just dancing with dolphins… there is a wealth of imagery and visualisations to play

The cherry is that delicious moment when the class is poised at its deepest state of calm and peace. And that is when you totally shut up – and let them
“marinate” in the pose.

Learn more ways to theme classes when Sarah Manning delivers our fabulous 2-day Yin: Flow, Themes and Pre-existing conditions on 4-5 April 2020 in Sydney.

Upcoming Yin Courses


Choosing the BEST yoga course

Choose wisely – with so many courses on offer how do you know you are signing up for the best yoga course? Here’s our guide to ensure you make the right decision …

If one of the highlights of your week is attending your yoga class, then chances are you’ve considered taking the next step and enrolling on a yoga teaching course.

As yoga’s popularity has soared, so too have the number of yoga teaching courses on offer – but how do you know which is the best one for you? It’s a difficult decision – especially when the investment can be several thousand dollars.

Like everything, you get what you pay for and that intensive 4-week course in an overseas paradise can seem like a great idea at the time, but will it really give you a solid foundation, the confidence to teach and recognisable qualifications once you’ve unpacked your cases and returned home? And if not, will you have enough funds to do an additional course?

This is why the International Yoga Teachers Association (IYTA) has been offering its benchmark 460-hour Diploma of Yoga Teaching to hundreds of yogis across Australia so successfully – because it does offer a solid foundation, with on-going support and an extensive list of experienced and world-renowned lecturers rather than one or two teachers covering the entire syllabus.

The IYTA is a non-profit organisation that has been established for 52 years. The training program: Diploma of Yoga Teaching (DYT) has been running for nearly the same amount of time.

What are the five essential questions you should ask before signing up to a course?

Q1: Does the course comply with the minimum 200 or 350 hours?

Did you know many yoga schools and insurance companies won’t accept teachers with less than a 350-hour training? And is the course run over a short time period or spread across a 12-month time frame – giving you time to absorb the information and to build connections with other students (who are likely to become lifelong friends) on the course?

Q2: Does the course focus on yoga philosophy?

Such as Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga, pranayama and yoga history as well as asana? Or is the teaching someone’s “brand” of yoga?

Q3: How long has the yoga school been established?

And does it provide ongoing education, post graduate courses, annual retreats and support – at an affordable rate?

Q4: How is the course assessed?

Are there regular check-ins to ensure you are properly absorbing theinformation? Is there someone you can contact outside of the lecture hours for help and advice?

Q5: Can anyone do the training or do you have to have a minimum two years as a dedicated student?

Will you have a sponsor teacher or mentor?

Once you’ve reflected on those questions, ask to speak to recent graduates of the course (and not-so-recent!). Better still, see if you can find students that the school doesn’t put you in touch with. Would they recommend the course? If not, why not?

Yoga is meant to be flexible – you don’t want to be locked into a rigid timetable and you don’t want to feel abandoned once the course has finished. On-going assistance is vital for a new teacher, so find out if you are likely to be supported once the ink on your certificate is dry.

IYTA also provides on-going training with Post Graduate certificates in Seniors yoga, Pre and Post-natal yoga, Yin Yoga and soon-to-be offered Restorative Yoga. As well as regular state-wide workshops and an annual retreat.

IYTA offers all of these things and far more. And if you’re still not sure there is the Yoga Foundations Studies – an online introductory course designed for students interested in pursuing knowledge and a deeper understanding of yoga and yoga philosophy.

This course is offered as an introductory course towards the full course IYTA Diploma of Yoga Teacher Training held each calendar year in Sydney, Australia. This Certificate gives 70 accredited hours toward the complete International Diploma of Yoga Teacher Training course, if you go on to complete the Diploma within two years.

If you would like to find out more check out our detailed information about our Diploma of Yoga Teacher Training or call us on 1800 449 195 (free call in Australia).

You can also browse our list of courses and check out our testimonials.

A Sangha Circle

According to Dr Alexander Berzin “The word “Sangha” is a Sanskrit word that means, literally, a community that joins and lives together.” In Canberra as Yoga teachers we gathered in the spirit of a Sangha to come together to share in our love for teaching, learning and all things yoga on an autumn Sunday afternoon.

Martha Luksza, IYTA’s ACT Representative

As I drove to the venue I managed to get lost and as I was organising the event this was not conducive to starting our first Sunday Sangha. Just as well I remembered to breath, smile and trust that everything would unfold the way it should. Luckily, my fellow yoga teachers were patient, welcoming and sympathetic.

In my introduction I said that yoga in my experience serves us most not when everything is flowing beautifully but when life goes pear shaped. It is the moments when we are most challenged in our lives and off our mats that our teachings truly reveal themselves.

Our afternoon was divided into various guided Pranayama practices followed by questions and comments. One of the things I observed whilst we were practicing Pranayama was how powerful it was to be in the presence of other people sitting in a circle breathing together. When we get out of the way of our heads and just let our breath guide us. When we no longer force the breath or worry about the exact counting of the ratios that we can fully experience our physical bodies breathing.

With a couple of teacher’s volunteering to run a segment, a free home studio for our venue (thank-you Pam), it was easy to see why people wanted to join in for a couple of hours.

We had such a wealth of years of yoga teaching experience present. It was wonderful to hear how different people’s experiences were with the various practices and how generous and honest everyone was. Our Pranayama practice was followed by a beautiful kirtan with Marguarita strumming her guitar.

The power of getting together with other teachers wanting to be part of and build a vibrant yoga teaching IYTA community was a success. For me the value of sitting in the presence of other yoga teachers is infectious, authentic, fun, informative and so inspirational. There is something special about taking time out to listen and learn from each other that stimulates, connects and nurtures each of us to be better yogis and teachers both on and off the mat.

Closing the Sangha circle with gratitude and Oms we then shared afternoon tea and more discussion with a commitment to meet again.

Meditate in May (in Manly!)

There are just days to go before David Burgess teaches a weekend workshop on the foundations of meditation and pranayama.

Want to study meditation but sifting through the array of courses and trainings can be mind-blowing? That’s why the IYTA’s David Burgess has made it simple and thorough – with our new course: Meditation and Pranayama.

This course is offered online, but David is offering the training face-to-face this May in Manly. And there are a few spaces left – but you need to book in quickly to secure your spot.

Book your spot now

Deirdre Gomez found David’s Meditation and Pranayama lectures on the Diploma of Yoga Teaching course invaluable. She says: “I’ve never seen such a well-structured and well-planned program. I was new to meditation and I have to admit I was excited and a little apprehensive about embarking on my meditation journey.

“However, David covered the basics in detail and at a nice pace, which gave us a strong foundation for our personal practice and also for a teaching perspective.

“Initially we spent time working on increasing our lung capacity through a range of breathing techniques slowly and steadily progressing through an extensive array of practices. There program was meticulously planned and David’s feedback to every individual was always encouraging and often lighthearted.”

Deirdre has been teaching for three years now and has found she has used the wide range of practices she learnt from David in the classes she now teaches. One of her favourite practices from the course was Ajapa Japa with the Soham-Hamso mantra. It relates to drawing the prana along the psychic passage using the mantra SO on the inhalation having an awareness of the prana rising up the spine from the mooladhara to sahasrara chackras, The mantra Ham is associated with the prana descending deep into mooladhara on the exhalation. As you become more proficient you can add ujjayi pranayama or Kerchari.

Deirdre adds: “There are a lot of courses out there, but I would strongly recommend this IYTA course with David as a well-rounded and thorough course.”

Find out more about the Meditation and Pranayama course

A chocolate meditation

Chocolate should be savoured – and it is with this fabulous mindfulness practice that Astrid Pickup has adapted from the raisin meditation that Theresa Jamieson wrote about in her book: The complete book of yoga and meditation for pregnancy.

Each Easter Astrid’s yoga students are just a little more enthusiastic when they lay down their mats for a class, as at the end of the session, Astrid holds a Chocolate Meditation.

She says: “I give the students a week’s notice so they can buy a chocolate alternative if they need to. A tarami almond or sultana is also suitable.”

Then for all of Astrid’s classes – seniors and teens alike, she will encourage her students to sit comfortably and then hand out a wrapped chocolate egg.

“The students sit with the egg in their hand – on the opened wrapper, so it doesn’t melt. Then they are asked to feel the weight of it in the palm of their hand.” She says.

“After a few moments they bring the egg closer to their noses to notice the smell – and observe the saliva glands and any thoughts or emotions that the chocolate aroma might arouse… while they do this, they still can’t eat the chocolate! It can be nice to also get the students to think about the ingredients of the food they are about to ingest. E.g. if plant based the sunlight, water and nutrients that have gone into producing the cacao bean, almond or sultana.

“Eventually they can place the chocolate on the tongue, but not eat it!. They feel it melt a bit in their mouth and then use their tongue to notice the changes in texture and taste. Slowly they can chew into it or let it sit in their mouth and eventually they swallow the chocolate. Once the chocolate has been dissolved and swallowed they then observe the aftertaste. Also ask the students if they are satisfied with what they just had or is there a craving for more? The second piece would not taste the same.”

Astrid explains it is a fun practice which always proves very popular, but it is also a good way to encourage people to be mindful and take their time to appreciate all the senses.

The challenge will be encouraging your kids to do this when the Easter Bunny visits…! Good luck and enjoy Easter!

Sign up for seniors!

The first time I taught a Seniors Yoga class I was a bit daunted. It was at a retirement village with eight women (plus a token man) who ranged in age from early 60s to late 80s.

It did take a little longer than usual to discuss injuries and medical conditions – but they were all quick to tell me that they wanted a work out. In fact one student got straight to the point: “None of this relaxation stuff,’ she muttered. ‘I want to move!”

So we began in Tadasana – standing behind the chairs – which were there for support. Then we did joint release movements followed by some gentle limbering and classic chair yoga poses.

It’s now a year on and I’m still teaching every week. I’ve had to draw upon an extensive library of yoga poses and movements to ensure the sessions are a little different and challenging each time.

One of the most popular elements has been a mini aerobics workout that we do in the middle of the session. Back in the early 90s I did an Aerobics Instructor course and nearly 30 years on I’m finally making good use of those hamstring curls and grapevines!

We do a mix of gentle limbering, joint releases, chair yoga, balance work, aerobics and then a series of seated postures for core and pelvic floor followed by a breathing practice and a mini relaxation.

It’s a fabulous group, everyone has a laugh we all share our news and gripes about the weather and growing old. Some people have to sit a little closer as they are a bit hard of hearing and others need to hang on a little more to the chair for support. But it’s a hugely rewarding and fun class.

So if you are not already teaching a Seniors Yoga class then it’s definitely a good session to consider – and make sure you enrol in the IYTA’s hugely popular Seniors Yoga workshop – which is now being held in Perth and well as Sydney.

Upcoming Seniors Courses

The Magic of Meditation

As a society we are beginning to declutter on a huge scale – our homes, our lives and now hopefully our heads! One of the best ways to do this is by meditation and pranayama.

Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and tension by switching off the sympathetic nervous system in place of the parasympathetic nervous system – responsible for rest and relaxation. It helps to promote physical health, boosts our brain cells and creates a feeling of Santosha or contentment. It also encourages us to increase breath control and expand breath capacity.

Did you also know that a regular meditation practice can also:

1: Slow the ageing processa Spanish study found that Zen meditators who have been practising for a number of years have longer telomeres than people of a similar age and lifestyle. Telomeres are structures at the end of chromosomes and help to keep our cells healthy.

2: Improve your memory– this is backed by many studies and a Neuro Scientist at Harvard Medical School in 2005 found that regular meditation led to an increase in cortical thickness in the brain.

3: Ease anxietyDr Sara Lazar has conducted research which shows that meditation reduces the size of the amygdala – that part of the brain responsible for fear and anxiety.

But how do we impart this amazing wisdom to ourselves and our students? How can we teach others to create and maintain a regular meditation practice?

This is why the IYTA’s David Burgess has put together a ground-breaking online course. This means it is easier than ever to study and implement a regular meditation practice – plus you’ll have the tools to teach others and run your own meditation circles.

As this course is online it’s affordable and flexible. You can study where and when it suits you and work at your own pace.

This course assumes no prior knowledge – so is suitable for all levels of experience and practices are built up progressively.

The first section focuses on breath control, breath expansion and sustained steadiness. Giving you a strong foundation from which to build your meditation practice.

After mastering the different breathing techniques, the focus shifts to meditation styles which include mantra, drishti, trataka and akasha.

Find out more about the Meditation and Pranayama course


We’d really love to hear your stories on practicing meditation and pranayama – please add your experiences and feedback in the comments below!

From motorbike to mat

When Tammy Peters signed up to an endurance motorbike race it became the start of another journey too…

Tammy, 33, might stand at just five foot nothing and weigh in at 50 kilos, but she had a very big goal in mind when she signed up for the Finke Desert race – a 460 km ride across the desert.

To help her prepare for the gruelling two-day race she decided to try yoga. “I knew the race would be a lot of strain on my wrists and forearms, so I went to yoga to help build up strength,” Tammy says.

What Tammy didn’t realise at the time, was just how valuable yoga would also be in helping build resilience, focus and mental strength.

Tammy loved the yoga classes with her teacher, Barbie Clutterbuck at the Port Lincoln School of Yoga and she found the practices and poses certainly helped when she took part in the race alongside her husband and brother.

In fact it was such great preparation that Tammy decided to deepen her yoga knowledge, but living in Port Lincoln – a seven hour drive from Adelaide, Tammy’s options were limited.

Luckily Barbie told her about the IYTA’s Foundation of Yoga Studies & the Diploma course which Tammy could do by correspondence.

Tammy enrolled and is really enjoying the course.

She says: “The videos are great and you do feel part of it even though you are not physically there, plus with live streaming there is the option to text through questions.”

Now every lecture on the IYTA’s International Diploma of Yoga Teacher course is filmed and live streamed, so students can watch it in real time. Plus they are sent the edited films after each study weekend, so they can watch in their own time as well.

Tammy has also found the yoga has helped with her job as Chief Operating Officer of a Building and Maintenance Company. Tammy has a staff of around 25 people and believes what she has learnt so far has made her a better manager.

Find out more about the Foundation Studies Course and the International Diploma of Yoga Teaching.

From Aums to ZZZs – How yoga can help improve your sleep

Do you wake up feeling refreshed and energised? Or are you more likely to want to pull the covers over your face and fall back to sleep?

Sadly in today’s fast paced world many of us are not getting enough good quality sleep. In fact a 2016 report by researchers at the University of Adelaide states that nearly half of Australian adults have two or more sleep problems, like difficulty getting to sleep, difficulty staying sleep or daytime sleepiness or fatigue.

But the good news is – yoga can help! Here’s how and why

  • Improve wellbeing: It may sound obvious but it’s good to remember that you sleep better if you enjoygood general health.In fact Dr Carmel Harrington, sleep therapist and Managing Director of Sleep for Health argues that sleep is one of the three pillars of health, the others being food and exercise. Yoga greatly improves our physical, mental and emotional well-being. Better circulation, physical tone and flexibility, nervous system functioning and hormonal balance are among the myriad of benefits of yoga practice.
  • Routine and regularity: A yogic lifestyle involves regularityin the day: rising, eating and going to bed at the same time each day. This helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Yoga also encourages mindful eating of fresh seasonal food.
  • Keep calm! Yoga can enhance sleep by reducing anxiety and worry. Full slow yoga breathing emphasising a relaxed abdominal movementactivates the parasympathetic nervous system(PNS). This is the part of your autonomic nervous system that calms you down, slows the heart and breathing rate, reduces blood pressure and stimulates peristalsis and bile production for digestion. It is designed to enable the body to digest, assimilate and conserve energy, as well as to promote rest and repair, as opposed to your sympathetic nervous system which prepares you for action and is responsible for your stress response.
  • Be a witness not a worrier: Meditation techniques like observing sounds, physical sensations, breath flow and thoughts help to develop the attitude of a witness, so that you are less inclined to identify with these anxiety thoughts and emotions. This self-awareness also allows you to recognise signs of any build- up of physical tension (not a useful sleeping companion!) which you may then alleviate by using breath awareness in that part of the body.
  • Try Trataka: This is a classic technique of gazing with soft eyes at an external object like a flower or some simple image. Avoid the traditional candle gazing if you are doing this just before bed, but at other times of the day it’s fine.
  • IYTA teacher Jennie Blevins and Dr Carmel Harrington, sleep scientist & therapist will be running Mind Body Harmony with Yoga and Sleep workshops
    across NSW in 2019.
  • Including: YOGA, SLEEP, DREAM a 3-day workshop August 16,17,18 at The Centre, Randwick
  • For more details visit Jennie’s website:

PLUS – Check out the next issue of International Light for a Yoga routine and Pranayama practices designed to soothe you to sleep!


Adams, R., Appleton, S., Taylor, S., McEvoy, D. & Antic, N.Report to the Sleep Health Foundation 2016 Sleep Health Survey of Australian Adults.The University of Adelaide & The Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health.

Yoga Poses that help with sleep


A Short Yin Practice for Heart and Lungs by Terri Montgomery

Guidelines for a Yin Yoga Practice

Hold each pose for 2-5mins (use props: cushions, blankets, bolster to support your body if needed). Relax the muscle tension to go deeper into the connective tissue, fascia and joints. The three most important parts of the practice are:

  • Stillness
  • Appropriate depth: it’s ok to feel discomfort, but don’t build tension by going too far – it’s a non-harming, gentle practice – ahimsa
  • Time: 2-5 minutes of holding the poses

Heart/Lung Small and Large Intestines poses:

Butterfly pose – soles of the feet together, feet in close or feet further away your choice feel the difference, start seated upright and bowing forward when you’re ready

Wide knee child’s pose – buttock towards your heels, let your heart melt to the ground

Sphinx pose – (place a blank under your pelvis to release pressure on your lower back, particularly your SI joint)

Seal pose – (stronger back bend – come up onto your palms, lengthen your arms, open your shoulders, release tension by pulling down slightly)

Counter pose – Laying prone (facing down sliding knee up to hip height, your gaze the same way, repeat other side)

Caterpillar – Full Forward Bend (bend knees and sit on a prop to help the pelvis to rotate forward and release hamstring tension) A calming and cooling pose, let your exhale breath be long

Supine Twist – laying down take both knees to one side, gaze opposite Savasana 5-10 mins (right hand on the heart, left on the hara – belly)

What makes your heart shine?

Creating healthy boundaries protecting your heart so that you can focus on self love. Only allow people in to your heart that deserve your love and attention. Ensuring your shine doesn’t get dimmed, be who you are…

Satya – truthfulness…shine…bright…

CLICK HERE to find out more and book Terri’s next retreat
– you must book and pay in full by 17-Jan-2019 to receive your IYTA $50 discount

Learning to Love Yourself

Yoga teacher and mother Terri Montgomery has been pondering this dilemma and has created a retreat designed to nurture, nourish and encourage us to restore and rejuvenate in order to reach our full potential.

For most of her life Terri says she took on the roles of caretaker, fixer and empath which she says created a lot of stress, responsibility and lack of self-care. Over time she felt that unless she was doing things for others and taking on the carer role, she felt she wasn’t worthy of receiving love.

She says: “I found myself looking outside for love and appreciation only to be disappointed and hurt when my expectations weren’t met.”

She found it was an endless cycle of exhausting herself and then getting frustrated, angry, feeling unloved and unappreciated!

She adds: “You’re the one choosing to put yourself last, not anyone else!”

Terri says she’s learned: It’s Ok to say No!

“It’s so exhausting when you’re living this way, running on adrenaline like a mouse on a wheel – finally stopping when you fall apart.”

“I’ve learnt that I am important and that my needs matter and to give to myself first in order to give to others. I’ve learnt to Love me for me.”

Terri went on a week-long retreat, which changed her life. She discovered that many of us follow negative patterns which we adopt from our parents or rebel against – and when we understand those patterns, we can learn how to communicate clear boundaries with what’s okay and what is not.

“To communicate your needs and have the courage to honour your values, not only helps you but also improves your relationships with those you love,” she says.

“When your needs aren’t met it can spiral into other patterns we’ve learnt when we’re hurting – such as vindictive behaviours of withdrawal, stone walling, frustration, anger, jealousy and loneliness.”

Terri now makes caring for herself a priority and always takes time for a daily yoga practice, such as the heart/lung Yin yoga flow she created – you can practise it too.

» Click here to see this short yin routine

With her experience in meditation and yoga, Terri is holding a yoga retreat in March next year called: Arise to come into Being, aimed at helping you find a deeper understanding of yourself and setting achievable goals.

IYTA DISCOUNT! Terri is offering IYTA members $50 off if you pay in full and book by 17-Jan-2019

The retreat runs from Friday 22 March – Monday 25 March, 2019 at the Gymea Eco and Spa Retreat in Uki, Northern NSW. The retreat will include amazing fresh vegetarian organic food, features a magnesium swimming pool, spa facilities and daily yoga energising and calming suitable for all levels, drawing, dance, meditation, and walks in nature.

To book on or find out more go to Terri’s website: or call her on 0423 138738

CLICK HERE to find out more and book Terri’s next retreat

– you must book and pay in full by 17-Jan-2019 to receive your IYTA $50 discount

In Tune with our Chakras – Glynis Whitfield

Discover why and how the Chakras are the databanks of our lives in this wonderful workshop led by Glynis Whitfield. Here Glynis gives us an insight into tuning into our chakras…

Q: What do you mean when you say the Chakras are the databanks of our lives?

A: One thing I have learned through my practise of yoga is that we are all blessed to be more than our physical bodies. And we are greater than most of us know. All of our experience is mediated through our energy system, chakras, koshas and nadis.

I see the chakras as being the keepers of our relationships with the outside world. Each chakra with a different aspect of these relationships to manage. When we experience hurts which cause us pain and suffering, the effects are “stored” within our chakras and koshas. It is possible for us all to tune in and soon you will see the patterns and the connections. Our energy bodies are the reflections of ourselves.

Q: How does this work?

A: How this works in actuality I have no idea. We do know that the chakras can become damaged through some interactions as can the koshas, and like any (I hesitate to use the word) machinery, when one part isn’t working properly, things don’t run smoothly. This can cause us to view the world and ourselves in a way which causes more confusion and pain. For example, do we see ourselves as victims in a hostile environment, or are we participants in an exciting journey?

Q: And why is this?

A: Becoming conscious requires that we take notice. Become aware. One form of prodding is pain and pain usually manages to get our attention, helps focus the mind, if you like.

Q: What has been your personal experience with the energy systems?

A: When I started meditation, I found the mind wanted to jump all over the place, as we all experience no doubt. I found that giving my mind something to concentrate on helped keep it quiet, so practising Chakra Dharanam (focus) became my way in.

Q: How can we all be more in tune with the Chakras?

A: Take notice of where we feel pain, not just physical pain, but emotional pain. What things in your life are causing you issues? When you understand which chakra deals with the issue at hand, you may find the explanation of why you are feeling pain in a particular place. For instance, do you have pain across the back of the pelvis/low back? Are you experiencing stress in your relationship with money or power?

Q: And how can we clear the Chakras?

A: Visualise clearing each chakra of its stored hurts. To visualise each chakra spinning freely, with no hindrances. Also Prana Vidya, visualising energy moving freely through the nadis in conjunction with the movement of the breath, is another great way to clear out the plumbing.

Q: How do the chakras tie in with the other yogic energy systems?

A: When you learn the aspects of our being which the chakras deal with, and then learn the aspects the koshas deal with, you will see the correspondences between them. As we raise our awareness upwards from the base chakra to the higher levels of consciousness, so we move our awareness to ever finer layers in the koshas.

One of the best yoga teaching courses in the world

That’s the opinion of Queensland-based Robyn Jarram – a correspondence student on the IYTA’s International Diploma of Yoga Teaching. She’s so committed she travels to Sydney most months to attend lectures face-to-face.

Here she tells us what led her to yoga, why she loves the course and how her life is about to change!

Why did you decide to enroll on a yoga teaching course?

My yoga journey began 20 years ago in Williamstown, Melbourne under the tutelage of Fiona Hyde. It was a time of my life which was very traumatic. My father had died suddenly and unexpectedly and I found that yoga helped me relax and deal with my own trauma which enabled me to support my mum.

I loved the way I felt after a yoga class, so relaxed and balanced. I investigated becoming a teacher, but l didn’t have the confidence to pursue it. Life led me in different directions and I stopped practicing for a few years. I eventually relocated to far north Queensland and took up yoga again. The old familiar voice in my head kept telling me to become a yoga teacher and so, with some very valued advice from a yoga teacher friend, I finally enrolled with the IYTA.

I enrolled specifically to become a yoga teacher knowing that within that process I would learn more about myself as an individual and as a sharer of yoga. For me, the practice of yoga brings peace, happiness and a sense of wellbeing that I haven’t been able to achieve through other modalities.

Why did you choose the IYTA course?

I researched many yoga teaching courses and finally decided on the IYTA diploma because of its reputation as one of the best courses in the world. I wanted to obtain a well-rounded and in-depth education which adequately addressed anatomy, philosophy, pranayama and meditation.

Also, I live in a small country town and I wanted a course I could do online. The IYTA offered everything I was looking for.

What have you enjoyed about the course so far?

I have enjoyed learning and expanding my knowledge about how the body works holistically.

My Certificate IV in Fitness which I completed in 2006 gives me knowledge of the anatomy as it relates to exercise and I have enjoyed transferring and expanding that knowledge into this education.

I have especially enjoyed delving into yoga philosophy learning more about the yamas and niyamas and the various energy systems. I am really enjoying expanding my understanding of the therapeutic benefits of relaxation and meditation.

When you enrolled did you expect to do the entire course via correspondence?

Yes mostly. I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to undertake the course over two years. I thought I might attend one or two study weekends in Sydney but intended to do the entire course by correspondence.

What made you change your mind to attend lectures face-to-face?

I undertook the first year (philosophy, pranayama, meditation) entirely by correspondence.

Prior to the current online learning platform being introduced we were not given any real access to other correspondence students except via the Residential which I didn’t attend in my first year. I found it quite isolating and while I thought I was a bit of a loner, I have learnt that I prefer to have a community of like-minded people around me.

I also work up to eight hours a day at home on the computer and as a result I have certain physical ailments which result in significant pain. While a daily yoga practice helps manage the pain; sitting in front of the computer to watch 16 hours of IYTA lecture videos each month wasn’t helping.

Are you attending all study weekends in Sydney?

I am trying to attend every study weekend in Sydney. I negotiated special rates with a nearby hotel and I try to get the most economical flights possible. My husband and I have made lots of sacrifices so I can attend the IYTA study weekends.

Attending the weekends and working directly with the lecturers and other students has improved my personal learning experience, and as a result my confidence has increased and my teaching ability has expanded exponentially. I also feel part of a real community and have made some life-long friends.

What has surprised you about the course and your yoga discoveries made via the course?

I was most surprised to discover how much I love Restorative Yoga. I had always found it quite difficult to practice because I had so much pain all of the time. My mind wasn’t switching off from the pain and the stillness of restorative yoga seemed to make it worse.

In a restorative yoga class during the IYTA Residential in May this year, I discovered that my mind never switches off, even when I’m looking inward, it’s always going a million miles an hour thinking about what’s next! I was never truly with myself. And so, my exploration into Restorative Yoga has taught me how to slow my mind down, how to look inward more gently and how to be a little more kind to myself. These days, I attend a restorative yoga class once a week and it’s my go-to-class when I am feeling tired, rundown or in need of some quiet time.

What are your plans after the course (in terms of your yoga journey?)

I am currently in the process of opening my own yoga studio in my home town of Mossman in far north Queensland. I believe it will be the very first dedicated yoga space in Mossman. It’s exciting to give the local community a dedicated space in which to practice. It will also provide a beautiful, fully equipped space for qualified yoga teachers to deliver creative yoga classes and workshops. I have already received a great deal of interest from local teachers who are interested in using the space and also from interstate yoga teachers offering to conduct workshops. The local community is being incredibly supportive and they are excited about the studio.

I am considering studying Yoga Therapy sometime in the future because I am very interested in how yoga can be used as a tool to treat and support people with various mental health conditions.

In the short term, I am planning to enrich my education by continuing with my regular personal practice, teaching yoga and continuing this never-ending journey of discovery.

Why would you recommend the IYTA Diploma yoga teaching course?

The lecturers’ knowledge and levels of experience are exemplary.

The course is structured and delivered in a logical manner and it promotes experiential learning through a good combination of theory, practical tasks and assignments.

In addition, each representative of the IYTA is supportive of each students’ individual journey through the course. They approach the teaching with understanding and compassion. This enables us (the students) to feel at ease and be willing to express our true selves in the classroom (as students) and ‘up the front’ as rookie teachers.

Robyn, 49, lives in Mossman, QLD with her husband (who also loves yoga) and their two West Highland White Terriers, aged 10 and 4, who enjoy relaxation practices!). Since 2003 Robyn has run her own business – Symbiotic Enterprising working as a technical writer/tender writer working directly for local businesses and remotely for clients located around Australia.

She is very proud to be opening Mossman Yoga Studio in the very near future.

Our next Open Day is currently FULL – Register your name for the waitlist at our next Open Day or Find out more & download Course outline to discover more about the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching

Register for waitlist

Sussing out Super (for yoga teachers)

Choosing between funds and working out super can be confusing at the best of times. So we sat down with Accountant, Amanda Rogers and Financial Advisor, Stephen Buhlman of WLM Financial Services to get the low down on what you need to know…

Q: Can yoga teachers charge studios and gyms super? (this is if they are contractors)

Contractors don’t normally charge their customers super. If there are any super obligations for the studios this should be reflected in the contract or employment arrangement you receive when you start working for the studio. There will generally be no super in the following circumstances:

  • If you have completed a Statement by a Supplier not quoting an ABN stating your activity is a hobby.
  • You are under 18 or you earn less than $450 per month from the studio
  • You have set up a yoga business in a company structure and the company invoices the studio for your yoga classes.
  • The studio has engaged you through an agreement with a labour hire form.
  • You are paid under a Community Development Employment Program

If the studio has agreed or is obliged to pay you super, you will need to provide details of your superfund to the studio. The studio will provide you with a Standard Choice Form where you either nominate your choice of Superfund or elect to use the Employer nominated Default fund.

If you are a sole trader with an ABN you may be eligible to receive superannuation. Although you and the studio may perceive you as a Contractor the ATO may perceive you as an employee, especially if you are not allowed to get another yoga teacher to teach your class or you are covered by the studio’s public liability insurances, i.e. you are not personally liable in the event a patron injures themselves during a yoga class.

If you think you may be eligible for superannuation contact your studio or accountant first and then possibly the ATO Superannuation infoline on 13 10 20.

Q: Should super be paid monthly or quarterly?

With the adoption of Single Touch Payroll some employers have started paying superannuation monthly while others are still paying quarterly. By 2019/2020 all employees should expect to see super contributions being paid monthly to their superfunds.

Q: Are there funds which are better for yoga teachers?

The best superfund for you will depend on your age, your current balance in superannuation, your investment goals and appetite for risk. You can choose a Retail Superfund, an Industry Superfund or a Self Managed Superfund. If your super balance is quite low (less than $50,000) you may wish to choose a superfund with a lower cost structure (Industry superfunds and some Retail superfunds offer low cost MySuper accounts). A self managed superfund may be suitable if you have a significant balance in your superfund (greater than $300,000 ) and you wish to personally manage your investments either partly or fully or perhaps you might want to purchase a Yoga Studio through your Self Managed superfund.

If you are just starting out the employer nominated default superfund should be suitable and must be a MySuper product which will be a low cost superfund. The Fitness Industry Award 2010 specifies what the employer nominated default superfund should be and specifies the following Funds – AustralianSuper, CareSuper, Hesta and HostPlus.

Although Industry fund or MySuper products are low in cost, they normally invest in a passive manner to keep costs down versus an active investment style. Generally the more active fund manager should outperform their passive peers over an investment market cycle however this may come with more risk. So if your superfund balance is growing but not to the extent you think it should be, it may be worth contacting a Financial Advisor. Also check out

Q: Any particular super must-do tips for yoga teachers?!

  • Your super balance won’t grow if you don’t make any super contributions.
  • Generally, only have one super fund. The more superfunds you have the more costs. However sometimes people maintain two superfunds because of the insurances that one superfund may offer. Check with your financial advisor before consolidating your superfunds.
  • Take advantage of the Government Co Contribution – If you earn less than $52,697 per year, the government can contribute up to $500 to your super account in a year.
  • Take advantage of a Spouse Super Contribution. If you or your spouse earns a low or no income, the higher earning spouse may be able to claim a tax offset of up to $540 if you make contributions to the lower earning spouse’s complying super fund. Check with your accountant if you are eligible.
  • Click here to visit the ATO website for more information

Amanda Rogers (Chartered Accountant) and Stephen Buhlman (Financial Advisor) are both based at WLM Financial Services.

The rise of Seniors Yoga

Australia is an ageing population – with one in seven of us aged 65 or over. This proportion is expected to rise steadily as we enjoy one of the highest life expectancies in the world. This means that as yoga teachers we are likely to encounter more older students in our classes and a strong demand for Seniors and Chair Yoga classes.

The good news is IYTA is spearheading Seniors Yoga training in Australia – and our first weekend training is being offered this December in Sydney.

Beryl Broadbent

The course has been put together by the fabulous Beryl Broadbent with the help of yoga teacher Marilyn Pratt and the unwavering and invaluable support of the IYTA’s Sarah Manning.

Beryl first taught Seniors Yoga about 15 years ago after covering a class for a yoga teacher friend who was recovering from a hip replacement. Beryl also noticed many of her own students were dropping out of class due to hip and knee replacements and various other complaints that come with the ageing body.

Beryl says: “I saw a need for a different kind of chair-based exercise than the chair postures offered in some books at the time, so I started to introduce variations to my students in general classes.” This meant that Beryl’s senior students were able to continue classes without having to quit their yoga practice.

Since then Beryl’s been specialising in Seniors Yoga – she’s learnt how to adapt poses for an ageing body, how to structure classes to suit the older demographic and dealing with common physical issues such as students with pace makers, arthritis and hip and knee replacements.

She explained that initially she experimented with the movements on a chair – being mindful of the varying degrees of mobility, balance and physical issues of her students. She says: “I used all the yoga principles and employing the breath to keep awareness of particular parts of the body.”

It’s also about managing expectations – and competitiveness! Beryl says many of her students come to yoga having played a lot of competitive sport such as tennis and swimming. They attend yoga because it’s been recommended and they still have that competitive spirit.

Beryl jokes that she often has to tell her students that she isn’t giving out gold stars for performance! “I just have to keep reminding them that their best is always as good as they can do.”

But it’s not just the physical benefits that older people gain from attending a seniors yoga class – it’s the social connection. As Beryl explains this is a time of life that is shrouded in loss. She says: “Loss covers so much such as the loss of independence if you lose your driving licence, the loss of close friends, a partner, your home… and lots of the students attend the class for the social connection with other people as well as the variety of movements – to keep themselves active and for friendship.”

Beryl adds that it is one of the most rewarding classes she’s ever taught. “One compliment I had recently was from a woman who had been doing my chair yoga classes for a few weeks, and she told me after all the years of attending various yoga classes she’d never really understood how to breathe and after my class she finally understood what yoga breath awareness was!”

Other students tell her how much better they feel. Beryl says: “Their comments, questions and compliments inspire me to find good moves with the related yoga context of awareness to body, breath and spirit.”

Not only is a Seniors class rewarding but it’s also going to be on more studio timetables. “We are all going to get old and we are an ageing population and far less mobile than our parents were,” says Beryl.

It’s not just yoga teachers who will benefit from this two-day training, but physios and sports trainers who work in an aged care related environment, nursing homes or retirement villages and yoga teachers, physios in small or country towns as an added extra to their general teaching classes.

And the IYTA course came about due to a throw-away line when Beryl was on a Hash House Harriers run in Singapore with Sarah Manning. The next time Beryl (whose youngest child lives in Singapore) was in the country she met up for a coffee with Sarah. They chatted about chair yoga and that is how this IYTA course was born… Beryl says: “Sarah has been the master developer and Marilyn Pratt has been a great help with her encouragement and ideas. Marilyn also teaches chair yoga but due to family commitments is unable to co-teach the course.”

And as for Beryl, well she chooses not to reveal her years – except to say she is of pensionable age. “Age isn’t a number, it’s a perception,” she grins.

Beryl’s top practices for healthy ageing

  • Cat pose – cat is good for spinal health which then reflects in one’s posture and in many subtle ways for circulation, nerves, ligaments and muscles. This can be done on the knees preferably but also standing using the wall or the back or seat of a chair.
  • Kati Chakrasana – waist rotating pose. I call this loose arm swings in my seated class. Again this is good for spinal health and mobility, helps with balance, utilises some arm, shoulder, upper body and eye movements.
  • Neck and face exercises are great as well as the Ha breath, alternate nostril breathing, and of course meditation.

Find out more about the new Seniors Yoga course


Seven tips for a successful yoga workshop

It’s 11pm Saturday night and I’m due to run my first solo workshop in ten hours. I’d envisioned a night of soothing baths, self-care and meditation so I’d be all nurtured and plumped up ready to channel the wisdom on the day. But instead I’m in my work office printing out a sea of handouts. What can I say? Perhaps I work best with a deadline looming!

This is a story about the experience of confronting one’s self-doubt, propensity for procrastination, and taking on the challenge despite all. I’m hoping my apprehensions and less-than organised work ethic will resonate for others wanting to expand their yoga offerings. And my small takeaway bag of insights will help assuage doubts and provide a few practical tips…

1: Make your theme work for you – don’t work for your theme

I’d started out writing the workshop running notes several weeks ago but after copious drafts, I found myself overwhelmed with the possibilities. So I started again, this time focusing on the workshop theme:Finding Comfort and Ease in Your Life and wondering how I could possibly live up to that claim in one day. Maybe I should work out the sequence of the movements I’d be teaching before anything else? The running notes and handout will fall out of the movements and so would the timings. This was my first minor breakthrough and my first advice to share: now my theme was working for me!

2: Re-use what you’re good at

After toying with the idea of working through the body as the focus, I decide to be pragmatic; I would use all my familiar sequences for releasing different parts of the body but group them into the commonest everyday human movements and postures that everyone could identify with.For example – ease in sitting, walking, lying down, standing and squatting.Now I had the message clear everything else fell into place; the running notes; the scaffold of the day from start time, tea breaks, lunch break and end time. Now I knew exactly how many discrete sessions there were and how long they would run. With the shape of the day as a container I could concentrate on the sequences. I spent a weekend working in my studio practicing and curating the sequences, and getting my daughter to photograph the ones that I needed images for the handout. By the end of the day I had my master list. These were all movements I’d been learning, practicing and teaching regularly but I wrote running notes for them all nevertheless just to commit the ideokinetics to mind and the language to hand.

3: Immerse yourself and capture the output

The notes flowed easily now because for weeks I’d also been in a kind of somatic immersion zone: I was thinking, breathing, sensing Somatic movements 24×7. Jotting down little insights on post-it notes after practicing, waking up and emailing myself reminders of inspired metaphors and even registering the odd creative gem in the middle of meditation!

4: Less is more

At the seventh hour I had a minor crisis after running through the master list of sequences for the last time to check the timings. I didn’t have enough content to fill the sessions! I’d have to leave the students in half hour savasanas and people would feel short-changed! I took a few deep breaths and considered the truth of this rather than the knee-jerk reaction to add more stuff! In fact, the best somatic workshops I’d ever experienced had left luxurious spaces in which to rest and digest and the core philosophy of Somatics is less is more. Those exact words were already in my script so I decided to trust my gut and first instinct and let it be.

5: What worked

As it turned out on the day Less WAS more. The timing was perfect. The spaces allowed the participants time to register their sensations and explore and be curious – an exhortation I gave them at the beginning. So they asked questions and we explored possibilities together. We wandered off briefly on delicious tangents and I allowed myself the indulgence of a story or two. The atmosphere was collegiate rather than dogmatic I found myself simply enjoying the interaction with peers and open-minded and hearted individuals. And the ad-libbing kept it fresh, and interactive, and fun, especially with gales of laughter from the inevitable renegades up the back.

6: And what didn’t…

Those interminable drafts of the handouts wasted time and undermined my confidence. I was better off starting in on the movements and the words fell out of that practice. Looking at all the many books, workshop notes and handouts from workshops I’d attended was also confusing. I was better off simply referencing the resources later after I’d established the message I wanted to convey. Leaving the printing of 600 pages of handouts till the last minute is not recommended!

7: What got me through

Faith in ‘the channel’. This is something I’ve observed in myself many times; when I’m ‘in the flow’ my knowledge and skills emerge effortlessly and with grace. It’s as though all the wisdom of my teachers and their teachers is channeled through me for which I’m incredibly grateful. I’ve observed it in other teachers too. I think it’s the essence and gift of yoga.

Would I do it again?
Absolutely! I’m lining up venues around regional NSW and Melbourne to take my workshops on the road and share the remarkable gift of being able to help yourself to ease and comfort.

Reboot, recharge and reconnect at our IYTA Annual Retreat

Robyn Lynch credits Ayurveda for helping her reconnect with herself and find the answers she’d been looking for. For Robyn, it was a light bulb moment when at the age of 42, she discovered how Ayurveda could help give her a deeper understanding of herself and others.

As a High School Nutrition teacher, Robyn had become very aware of the flaws in the nutrition curriculum. She says, “I was looking around at the girls that I was teaching – the healthy diet pyramid and Australian Dietary guidelines – and I realised it just didn’t work.” Robyn could see this approach wasn’t individual enough – that what may have been great information for one, wasn’t the answer for the next. She had struggled with her own weight and body image for years, so she was very aware of the impact of what she was teaching on these vulnerable adolescents.

She adds: “Because we are so fixated about being thin, I was very concerned about eating disorders. Was I empowering them or teaching them how to create a disorder?”

So after qualifying as a Yoga Teacher with IYTA, Robyn left teaching (in schools) and opened her own Yoga studio and through a sabbatical Yoga retreat, encountered the wisdom of Ayurveda.

Robyn went on to complete many years of Ayurvedic study, including becoming an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant and Advanced Ayurvedic Practitioner with the renowned Dr. Ajit, AIAS; and becoming a Vedic master with Deepak Chopra’s Chopra Centre University.

Finally Robyn had found the key to not only nutrition and diet, but to living a healthy, happy and complete life. She was no longer fixated with weight or self- image and found herself not only better able to understand and tend to her own needs, but Ayurveda also empowered her to better understand others. This was so important as a mother of three children, a wife and a business owner.

In April this year, Robyn hosted a two-week online summit with 3,000 registrants. She featured 20 renowned speakers from around the world, including International Ayurvedic Doctors, Best-Selling Authors and world- renowned speakers. This culminated in the launch of her face-to-face and online programs, Your Radical Reboot.

Robyn will be running elements from the program at the IYTA’s annual retreat at the Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga and Meditation Centre in Wilton, NSW in October.

At the retreat you’ll explore the four pillars of life as your birthright:

Dharma – living our purpose
Artha – obtainment of wealth – comes from
Karma – fulfillment of desire and finally
Moksha – freedom

You will be introduced to the 101 of Ayurveda, in the simplest and most digestible way. You will explore the concept of Your Health in Your hands and discover your unique constitution – or Dosha.

Robyn (pitta dominant!), says: “Ayurveda tells us how to be the most powerful person we can be. It is literally the knowledge of living. There is nothing that Ayurveda does not address and through applying its concepts, you can learn how to reconnect with yourself, discover what you are here for and how to attain your birthright.”

The retreat will also include an exploration of the Five Elements, the Doshas, Agni, Ama and Ojas – the Ayurvedic principles of digestion, self-love and tapping into your authentic power.

Robyn will be teaching yoga classes which include meditation and sound sadhana, giving a chai tea demonstration and sharing loads of practical information about incorporating Ayurveda into your Yoga Teacher practice.


About our Instructor

Robyn Lynch

Robyn Lynch

Robyn has a passion for “True Wellness”. Her dream is that all people have access to the wisdom of self-knowing that allows each of us to experience our Perfect Healthy. As the founder of the Perfect Health Centre, she has facilitated life-change for hundreds of clients through Yoga teaching, Ayurvedic Medicine and on-line courses. Robyn has a B. Ed., has studied extensively internationally and her qualifications include being an Advanced Ayurvedic Practitioner, holding a Masters from Chopra Centre University and gaining her initial Yoga teaching qualifications from IYTA.

Australian Yoga Ball 2018 – In Photos

A fabulous evening was had at the 2018 Australian Yoga Ball! We’ve captured some of the fun…
Click on an image to enlarge and view as slideshow

Were you there?

Please feel free to leave your comments below – we’d love to hear what you think!

Yoga for people who have a life!

Bored with the usual cliched yoga titles, David Burgess decided to shake things up a and has named his upcoming two-day IYTA workshop: Yoga for people who have a life.
So why has he opted for this intriguing name? What will be covered and is it aimed at all of us? (as presumably most of us like to think we have a life). I asked David these questions and more…

Q: What is this yoga workshop about?

A: In my experience a percentage of people come to yoga because they consider themselves as not having a life, they are without direction or purpose. These people are susceptible to replacing this life or filling this void with yoga and become fanatics. Yoga though is about the middle path that which can so enhance our life, can if overdone be detrimental.

Q: Did this happen to you?

A: Oh yes! When I began yoga it was an absolute joy and enhanced my life on many levels. After about six months of practice, I became what now with hindsight I consider obsessed with yoga and while yes, there were benefits, it was no longer in balance.

I went from attending a couple of classes a week to a home practice which quickly progressed from half an hour of asana to a couple of hours of asana then on to a couple of hours twice a day. Plus Kriya yoga for two hours in the morning. Then I moved to an ashram, where I continued doing the kriyas and an hour and a half of morning practice and meditation in the evenings….at least in the ashram where the focus was on karma yoga, so I was able to balance out and express the energy generated from this quantity of sadhana. Many people make this error too of doing lots of practise and not finding a proper outlet for expressing this added energy.

Q: Was there a “lightbulb” moment when you realised it was taking too much prominence in your life? How did you create a more balanced life for yourself?

A: There were a few lightbulb moments in truth: when I found the only books I had read in the last couple of years were exclusively on the subject of yoga, when I found my circle of friends had dwindled to only those who were “serious” about yoga. When my inner dialogue became judgemental regarding people who didn’t practice yoga. When I became that ungrounded that I began to take the psychic experiences one has from such sadhana as being of higher priority than day to day life. In yogic terms when with respect to the Purusharthas I had become mono obsessed with moksha to the detriment of artha, kama and dharma.

Q: What is a good balance?

A: Yoga should enhance and balance life: not replace life is the point I am making here. There is a point where less is more. To gain benefit from yoga you don’t need to become a vegan, you don’t need to practice everyday, you don’t need to do asanas that hurt, pranayamas that make you dizzy and meditation that makes you overly sensitive or introspective or ungrounded. You don’t need to become an expert, you don’t need to look for more than what works in your life as determined by you, not by some “highly evolved” being. Yes it is good in all areas of our lives to learn from those that have travelled down some pathway of learning further than ourselves but we should remain empowered and trust our own wisdom too. These days I cross the road and avoid those who are in the habit of telling me “what I need to do”.
Yoga should enhance and balance life: not replace life is the point I am making here. There is a point where less is more.

Q: Who is this yoga workshop aimed at?

A: I would hope that there are teachers and other people interested in yoga beyond the practices who are interested more in why we do these practices rather than so much how to do these practices. There are people far more adept in the technical aspects of yoga than I who are better suited for that..

I would like to see people who are interested in taking an active part in deciding which practices they want to do and why. Those who want to have an understanding of yoga beyond Hatha Yoga.

People who have a full schedule of life and have only time to do that which is necessary for them to make systematic progress to whatever outcome they are looking for yoga to provide.

Those who for one reason or another can’t spend an hour or so on asana and another half hour on pranayama and another hour on meditation. Those for whom yoga is a part of their life, that enhances their life rather than is their life. Mostly though: those who are really already too busy with competing priorities to come to a full weekend workshop!

Q: What will you be covering?

A: Technically, I will cover a range of accessible practices: asana, pranayama (a much under rated and under represented aspect of yoga) no frills Yoga Nidra and a few accessible mediation techniques. i.e Simple efficient and effective practices one can take home!

Theoretically I would like for those attending to be able to walk away with an understanding of where yoga came from and its evolution to where it is today so I will be giving some historical perspective to yoga. There is some stunning and usable philosophy and an understanding of mind (psychology) that underpin yoga and I would like to introduce some of those concepts and suggest how they may be relevant in one’s busy life today.

About the Presenter

David Burgess

I am not the message, I am just a messenger. We, I believe, need to learn not to confuse the message and the messenger because as a messenger I have my limitations whereas yoga when not personalised is flawless and relevant to all of us. My story is not! To continue on this theme we in the west have become so interested in our teachers background, our pedigree, what knowledge they possess, what postures they can do. This is to me acquisitive and we end up being swayed by celebrity and how many people one has in their social network… Suffice it to say, I have been physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually inspired by yoga for way more than a few decades. I currently teach on the IYTA teacher training course which is one of the joys of my life.

Reviewing our Diploma of Yoga Teaching Residential

Carrying mats, bolsters and suitcases around thirty students of the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching arrived in Collaroy on Sydney’s Northern Beaches on 25 May 2018 for their five-day residential.

Attending the residential is a compulsory part of the course – and it can be daunting. Five days away from family and “normal” life to immerse yourself completely in yoga. It’s a time when the Sydney-based students come together with those studying the course online – and when lifetime friendships are created.

It’s mid-way through this amazing course and a time for students to practise and evolve their own teaching styles. Many of the course lecturers stayed for part or all of the time – with sessions on anatomy and physiology, asanas and classes as well as some Vedic Chanting with the effervescent Janet Stephens and even a spot of Mandala colouring with Astrid!

Overlooking the ocean, The Collaroy Centre is a fabulous venue, with motel- style rooms and many areas (including a bush walk) for quiet contemplation. So, what was the verdict?

Astrid Pickup our President and lecturer (who was there for the entire five days) believes this was our best Residential ever. She says: “Everyone worked so well to bring out the best in the students and the students were receptive, creating a beautiful supportive community for each other.”

A few comments from our students:

“I was feeling overwhelmed before coming to the residential – but I think that was due to my own thoughts and assumptions. Whilst the residential really takes you out of your comfort zone, the teachings, sharings, support and experiences have been incredible. Everyone was made to feel part of something bigger, a beautiful community was formed almost immediately. We had laughs, we had tears, challenging moments and ah-ha moments, moments of insight along with an abundance of encouragement and support from teachers and peers. I loved so much about this residential, the early morning yoga classes, the most supportive environment I have ever experienced, meals cooked and the sharing of this experience with so many beautiful souls.”

Sharon – Sydney-based student

“The residential week was great. There were times when it was tiring and challenging but overall it was fantastic. The Collaroy Centre is placed in such a beautiful place that I felt like I was in a bubble away from the busyness of Sydney. However only a five-minute stroll down the hill for the mandatory morning coffee after yoga class. Throughout the week I was able to let go of expectations of myself in regards to how hard I should practice, how I should teach and what sort of teacher I should be. Over the week my teaching style developed and evolved in its own space and the supportive environment with fellow students and teachers provided a platform to try this out with confidence. One of the highlights for me was being able to share this week with wonderful people on similar paths.”

Julie – correspondence student from Cairns.

“It’s been inspirational, informative and rewarding. A real journey – whatever you think you know about yoga … you soon realise there is far more to learn. The learning is physical, experiential and intellectual with lectures provided by a range of practicing Yogis. It’s a sensational venue – I’ve been on lots of walks to the beach. It’s a well thought out program with time for learning and time for yourself.”

Caroline – Sydney-based student

Bring on Yin!

Yin Yoga is riding the crest of a popularity surge – as more yogis discover the joy of exploring asanas on a deeper level, slowing down and settling into their bodies.

At the gym where I teach, Yin classes are popping up on the timetable faster than it takes most members to run on the treadmill and most Yin Yoga sessions are fully booked. So, if you haven’t already – get on board and start discovering Yin for yourself.

We’re so lucky at IYTA as we have the fabulous Sarah Manning – a senior IYTA lecturer, who is based in Singapore but travels to Australia to run the IYTA Yin 1 and 2 trainings – and this year she’s been working with Dr Jeff Lou and together they are adding the Yin 3 training.

I’ve done Yin 1 and Yin 2 and loved both weekend workshops – Yin 1 is laying the foundations of Yin – the history, postures, an introduction to the meridians. Yin 2 focuses on themes, flow and safety within a yin class – covering the anatomy, physical form and joint safety of the yin postures.

All workshops include a combination of pre-learning, online lectures and face-to-face sessions and there are two options to choose from:

  1. Certificate of Attendance (14 contact hours); or
  2. Certificate of Completion (25 hours) with a combination of pre-learning, online lectures and face-to-face sessions.

Sarah and Dr Jeff Lou, a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Practitioner and Yoga teacher, together are facilitating Yin 3 in July – focusing on TCM and Yin. Sarah says: “We are painting a broad brush over TCM – including qi gong breathing, meridian theory and acupressure points and crystalising useful and relevant tools for yoga teachers who want to teach/practice yin postures.”

Sarah adds: “Dr Lou will provide all the TCM material and as a long-standing yoga teacher, will be able to authentically explain the TCM terms and bridge our understanding of the energetic body.”

The next Yin 3 workshop will be held at Thornleigh in northern Sydney on Jul 28-29.

Sarah says: “After completing Yin 3 yoga teachers will be able to teach yin postures in a general hatha class or yin yoga class with an understanding of the oriental energetic map and include five qi gong breathing/meditation techniques and ten acupressure points.”

Sarah is quick to point out that it is not a TCM training, nor is it about healing. She says: “In the same way yoga teachers are incensed when fitness instructors teach yoga after a weekend of yoga training. We emphasis that a TCM practitioner has five years full time training and years of experience – we make no attempt to diagnose or treat a symptom or student with TCM/ meridian theory or pressure points.”

* Although this is a yoga teacher training, yoga practitioners can also attend.

Yin 1 is a prerequisite for both Yin 2 and Yin 3, and you can do Yin 1 online or attend in Engadine NSW on July 21 and 22. Yin 1 and 2, with a Certificate of Completion (50 training hours), is considered sufficient for a yoga teacher to teach yin yoga classes safely and comfortably.

And will there be a Yin 4?

For those of us who can’t get enough of this ancient practice your luck is in! Sarah is in discussions with an Ayurveda practitioner for an Ayurveda and Yin module – watch this space!

Dr Lou may also be persuaded to run more sessions on Meridian Theory and Yin Yoga.

Find out more about YIN Training

About our Yin Instructors

Sarah Manning

A senior IYTA and Yoga Alliance Yoga teacher based in Asia since 1995, Sarah’s extensive teaching experience includes Yin Yoga, Yoga Therapy, Yoga for Back Care and Pre and Post Natal. Sarah studied Chinese Reflexology whilst living in China and has trained in Tuina (Chinese Meridian Massage) and Yin Yoga whilst living in Singapore. She leads the IYTA Yin Yoga Training and has led the development and introduction of all of the IYTA Post Graduate courses.

Jeff Lou

Jeff started his yoga and meditation practice with his mother as a child more than 30 years ago. Over this time he has studied and practiced extensively in styles such as Hatha, Ashtanga, Jivamukti, Yin, Anusara and Vinyasa. Yoga to Jeff is a pathway to self-love and self-acceptance, he believes only by knowing who you are, can you truly understand the world around you, thereby living in harmony with-in and with-out; and every other ‘physical improvements’ that comes with yoga are just the icing on the cake. Jeff is also a qualified and registered therapist in other healing modalities like Acupuncture, TCM, Shiatsu, Remedial massage, Spiritual Healing and Aromatherapy.

In Jeff’s classes, alignment, form and intention are emphasised. A steady practice where mind and body are equally important and responsible for reaching a level of mental peach and relaxation, while maintaining postures that may present a physcial challenge to the practitioner. This is the very essence of equanimity that yoga teaches us to manoeuvre through life’s many situations.

The soothing effect of Somatic Yoga

Katrina Hinton discovered Somatic Yoga when she was doing an Advanced Teacher Training with Donna Farhi. At the time Katrina was recovering from a knee injury and feeling: “a bit broken.”

She says: “The somatics gave me hope I could do something about it for myself.”

So six years ago Katrina Hinton embarked on a quest to find out everything she could about Somatics – reading the seminal work; Somatics: Reawakening the Mind’s Control of Movement, Flexibility and Health by Thomas Hanna – who founded the practice. And she did courses with both Martha Peterson and Lisa Petersen. Today Katrina works full-time as a business analyst and teaches two classes a week which are a fusion of Somatic Yoga and Hatha yoga. She also performs private somatic assessments out of her Kambah, ACT, home studio.

In her IYTA Canberra workshop Katrina will be inviting participants to slow down, turn inwards and be curious about their responses and senses. It will be a day of gentle but profound movement helping students let go of tension, feel more open and at ease in their own skin.

For Katrina, 59, the practice has been life changing and it’s become her primary personal practice. She says: “It’s my anchor” and it has helped address imbalances and compensations in other parts of her body resulting from her knee injury.

The workshop will also be a chance to discover other Somatic-style exercises and a philosophy of movement which yoga teachers can weave into their general yoga classes. Katrina would ultimately like to run the workshop in other areas, so watch this space!

Somatic Cat Pose

Try this simple addition to Marjariasana and notice a big change

The feel-good cat-cow is a staple move for most yoga teachers and students but there’s a simple Somatic addition that can radically alter your experience!


  1. Perform a few ‘normal’ cat/cow arch and rounding moves and sense into how your spine and whole back feels throughout the movement.
  2. Now next time you arch your back (ie extension) lift one shoulder and arm straight up a few centimetres so that your palm lifts off the floor. Hold a moment then release it slowly back to the floor as you round up your back into flexion. Repeat the arm lift a few more times on each side. Resist any inclination to rush through this. Take your time and sense into what is engaging to lift your arm.
  3. Move to your hips; on extension, lift one hip straight up so the knee lifts slightly off the floor without overly distorting your hips. Repeat several times on each side in sync with your extension. Notice what engages now to perform this subtle movement? Is it more difficult than the arm lift?
  4. Now slowly alternate through all four limbs, lifting on your arch and releasing on your rounding up. Rest in child a few moments. Wriggle your wrists to release if needed.
  5. Slowly re-test your cat/cow. Notice how your back feels all the way through extension and into flexion; note the quality of the movement. Any differences?

You have just released the deep layer of multifidus muscles which attach to your spine. Enjoy!

Related events – if you’re interested in learning more about Somatic Yoga:
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Discover Dru

Mary-Louise Parkinson is a past president of IYTA and has trained in many styles of yoga, including Iyengar, Yoga Synergy and IYTA. But the flowing sequences of Dru Yoga captured her heart.

One of Mary-Louise’s favourite Dru sequences is the Salute to the Four Directions, which she practices regularly. She says: “It’s a sequence to help you connect to the earth and yourself – and beautiful when practiced outside. I like to do this on the beach – it is a blessing to all the directions and invokes a deep sense of connectedness back to the heart and earth.”

Salute to the Four Directions

  1. If possible practice outside – ideally with your feet on the earth.
  2. Begin facing north and honouring a sense of gratitude for everything we have and looking forward to being in the present.
  3. Stand in Tadasana and balance on your left leg, step your right foot out to a deep squat and then reach your arms down as gathering a bunch of flowers.
  4. Then, still in a squat, bring these flowers to the heart centre, then reach up to sky – opening the arms and upper chakras to the infinity of the sky.
  5. Draw your hands down from the heavens – bringing down an attitude of clarity within.
  6. Then reach to right and circle around the whole body drawing in a sense of gratitude. Repeat to the left side with left foot stepping out and circling the body to the left. Then turn to face the east, repeat the sequence, then to the south and then to the west.
    Affirmations – you can change these affirmations according to what is needed in your life at the time:

    • north – gratitude
    • east – letting go
    • south – forgiveness
    • west – unconditional love.
  7. When you have finished all four directions, then return to the north and surround yourself in white light or the colours of the rainbow – with the affirmation of faith and trust that all is okay.

Mary-Louise regularly runs her Dru yoga workshops in Toowoomba, Qld – they are a nurturing, restorative day where participants will enjoy a series of Dru Yoga sequences interwoven with the Yoga energy systems.

Her workshops are open to everyone and intertwine with the koshas – working deeply within the yogic energy system and is a gentle approach to yoga with flowing sequences. It’s great for all – from yoga newbies to experienced yoga teachers.

Related events – if you’re interested in participating or learning more:

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Book review: The Self-Care Revolution by Suzy Reading

This book is a good reminder that caring for yourself is not indulgent, but necessary. It’s written by Suzy Reading – a yoga teacher and psychologist.

Suzy has drawn from her own experience of coping with her gravely ill father at the same time as having her first baby. Suzy’s beloved father passed away when her first child, Charlotte was 15 months – the emotional trauma left Suzy feeling totally bereft and depleted.

It was from this experience and the knowledge she had as a psychologist and yoga teacher that she began to write: The Self-Care Revolution – smart habits and simple practices to allow you to flourish. Within the pages of this book are some wonderfully nurturing practices and yoga sequences designed to help you replenish and restore energy levels and keep you feeling emotionally grounded.

It’s based on the Vitality Wheel – a self-care toolkit with tips and practices to help boost your health and happiness. The book is well set out with beautiful images, easy-to-read and packed with ways to keep problems in perspective and enjoy your life.

Published by Hachette Australia

Q&A with Suzy

Q: How does yoga help with self-care?

Suzy: Yoga is a potent form of self-care working on all layers of the being – head, heart and body, with movement, stillness, strengthening, relaxation, mantra, breathing. Some kind of tonic for all moods, needs and situations.

Q: How long did it take you to write the book and as a busy mum? How & when did you write the book?

Suzy: It took me a few months to write the book and I tapped at the keyboard while my baby Teddy slept. It was my way of being present as a mother but still creating on the work front. It took three years to make it in [to] print though!

Q: Any advice for other yogis who would like to write a book?

Suzy: For me it was about finding my unique angle and telling my story authentically. Share your learnings and how it is shaping how you work with others. There are so many options!

Yoga – to touch or not?

When I first underwent my teacher training in 2004, IYTA had a strict no touch policy. However, I noticed all my favourite teachers (not necessarily all IYTA teachers) used some form of touch in their instruction.

I am a visual and kinaesthetic learner. I copy and I need to move and feel where my body is in space. But what works for me is not necessarily going to be the best delivery for a different student.

As teachers, we need to consider all the different ways a student will best be able to achieve a pose that suits their abilities and learning pathways.

Ultimately, we should aim for our students to become their own inner teachers of their yoga practice but in the meantime, we are the guides on their yoga journey.

Teaching a class

Mostly our students tell us when they have an injury, but sometimes they don’t and you discover they have a condition that they didn’t tell you about. Then there are students who don’t know their limitations or those who have a false sense of proprioception, (their perception of movement and space in relation to their own body).

These students believe and feel that they have their bodies in the correct position, however, the reality of their alignment, (to a teachers’s eye), is not correct.

I would argue, that we need to be very careful when guiding and instructing our students, as we have no idea what is happening in their bodies or what their mental and emotional states are. Given this background, why is touch still needed?

Types of learning and partner work

There are three types of learning: auditory, visual and kinaesthetic

Students have a preferred way of learning or a combination of these methods. For this reason, especially for the kinaesthetic learners, touch is a useful resource for teachers, however, permission should be asked first from the student.

Recently I was teaching two postures in my classes that required some partner work. Working with partners can give really valuable feedback and also be a lot of fun. It also requires good communication between the participants and involves consideration, being respectful of each other and physical touching.

I find the occasional partner yoga helps to foster a sense of community with my students, to the point where it can be hard to stop them talking and focus on the actual yoga. Some students love the contact with other people but there are others who absolutely hate it. I always give people the option of not working with a partner beforehand, especially in cases of injury or trauma and I allow them to participate in modified ways.

Permission to touch

Human beings, on the whole, are social creatures. We like the physical connection and touch with our loved ones and friends. Handshakes are a polite greeting between strangers. And for those beings who live alone in this busy digital world, the yoga class could be their only connection with their local community.

I have had students who will come up and tell me they like and want to be corrected within a class. And I’m aware of students who definitely do not want to be touched in any form. Hence, do not touch your students unless you have their permission.

Adjustment versus low touch policy

IYTA, in the last few years, has now introduced a Low Touch policy. We believe that touch is a valuable cue to supplement verbal cues and demonstration. But the emphasis is on low touch, with no adjustment. So, what is low touch and appropriate touch as opposed to adjustment?

Physically moving a student is adjustment. A teacher should not be forcibly move a student into a position or asana. This reduces the options and choices of students to control their own bodies. When students are moved into a position from an outside force, their learning of alignment in their bodies is diminished. If they are guided to an alignment by the use of their own volition, which means having to engage their spatial awareness, muscular movement and mental faculties then they will absorb the teaching more thoroughly.

Three cautionary examples:

  1. I was about to teach an inversion workshop in Perth so I asked all participants about injuries and pre-existing conditions as they were signing in. One student stated that she had a torn oblique muscle, acquired from a previous workshop the weekend before, where a teacher had “adjusted” her into a twist. She did not inform the teacher of her pain and subsequent injury. So that teacher is none the wiser for the damage they caused to that student by their hands-on adjustment.
  2. In another class I was teaching Hanumanasana (the splits). I advised students to support their weight on blocks to reduce the stress on the hamstrings as we moved towards the final pose. A particular student ignored my advice, moved into the full splits and subsequently tore her hamstring. If I had “adjusted” that student into that pose I would be liable for damages. The fact that my advice was actively ignored and I was not assisting the student meant I could not be liable for the damage caused.
  3. In Karate we work on our stretches in ways that do not always have the concept of Ahimsa in mind. We have done partner work where one student is in Baddha Konasana (bound angle pose) and the other student stands on their thighs to encourage an opening of the hips. I am ashamed to say that in my early years as a yoga teacher I have taught this in class. Luckily, no one, to my knowledge, has had their hips or ligaments broken! I don’t teach like that anymore.

Injuries can and do occur in yoga. Consider your actions as a teacher from a place of safety, non-violence and legal implications if you cause harm.

What is light touch?

Light touch is sometimes needed when students are so disconnected from their bodies that they find it difficult to understand those verbal or visual cues. When giving instruction the preferred direction is to have the student move towards your hand so that they are in charge of the movement and they can decide where to stop.

Example: Virabhadrasana 2 – knees, body arms

The other form of touch is 2 fingers brushing against a particular part of the body in the direction you would like the student to move. Of course, bear in mind there are certain parts of the body that are best avoided touching altogether such as the chest, buttocks, face etc.

Example: Virabhadrasana 1, feet, hips
Ardha Chandrasana – back support, shoulders, arms

Be mindful of where you are positioned in relation to your student. For example, for someone in a downward dog position it can feel very vulnerable. It is a very exposed posture of sensitive areas. You are unlikely to be aware of which students in your class might have suffered abuse, rape or trauma.

Example: Svansana Downward Dog

So, in these sorts of postures, where the head is down the awareness may be diminished, it is important to first of all come down beside them at their level to talk first. I may ask them to bend the knees to help lengthen the back. But, I’m sure some of you may have found, when a student’s head is below their heart, they can get confused very easily with instructions and do the opposite of what you’ve ask. If that is the case I may place two fingers behind the back of the knees to encourage that softening in the knees. I may then use a light touch to guide them to move the hips back. I definitely do not stand behind a student, grab their hips and pull them back towards me. This is an adjustment that could have trigger trauma in some people or basically make them uncomfortable.

One final example of light touch is when we are working with the back of the body. Quite often we are really good at moving the parts of the body we can see but forget and have a disconnection about the back of the body.

Example: Plank

I see many students in the Plank position who collapse into their spines and let their shoulder blades sink to the middle. I find a light touch between the shoulder blades with a verbal cue of lifting their spine towards the touch helps them attain a better alignment. Again, they are in charge of their own movement.

Looking at another reason to touch or not, from a slightly different angle

In the last few years in my classes, especially at the gym where I teach in Sydney, there has been a large cultural shift in the attendees. Sydney is rapidly expanding and we have many immigrants moving into the suburbs. Where my students were predominantly Anglo Saxon and could all understand my words, if not my intention, when giving instructions. Now, I have at least a third to sometimes half my class made up of Asians and Indians. English is their second language and in a few cases some have very little or no English.

I can give all the best verbal cues in the world and it will have no meaning to these students. They rely heavily on visual demonstrations to move through the class and sometimes to keep them safe I need to guide them with my hands. Now it’s even trickier to obtain permission from a student if they are OK with being touched if they don’t understand the question. There are also many cultural differences between East and West, male and female. As a female teacher I am very careful about touching a male student in my class and I hope the male teachers are equally mindful of the implications of touching a female student.

In conclusion, our students should be able to feel safe and supported in our classes. Mark Stephens says in his book Yoga Adjustments: “Giving tactile guidance should help students in developing a safe, sustainable, and transformational practice, but done wrong, it can cause physical or emotional harm.” Touch is but one useful tool in a teacher’s repertoire of instruction, use it sparingly and carefully.

Why I Eat Dinner for Breakfast

I started eating dinner for breakfast after my friend and fellow yogi Suzanne Ellis suggested it. It’s been six months now and I’m a convert – so could you eat your dinner for breakfast?

Have you ever had the experience of going to bed, but being unable to sleep because your abdomen is so distended and your stomach is gurgling?

I used to think this slight indigestion was normal. But if you think about it logically, eating a big meal before bed will not give you a great opportunity to digest properly. Nor will it dispose you to a good night’s rest.

Yet the idea of skipping the evening meal is shocking, isn’t it? It’s awful to lie there awake and hungry.

But mindfulness helps us get over this, as it helps with almost every emotional conundrum. What if hunger was just a sensation, nothing more or less? Maybe we could observe it and move on and through? Maybe we could sleep, and maybe that sleep would be deeper and more restful than any sleep we’ve had for a long time?

It actually costs our body energy to sleep. It also costs energy to digest. So if we’re trying to do both at once, it’s not a very efficient system. Monks in Asia know the energy cost of digestion; that’s why they often have the rule of eating only one or two meals a day, and nothing after midday, otherwise they have no energy for meditation.

There is also a saying, Breakfast like a king, dine like a prince, and sup like a pauper, which sounds like great advice, only I’ve hardly ever known anyone who lived by it.

But in recent years the popularity of intermittent fasting has changed how we see eating. We now know that foregoing nourishment for a few extra hours every day or every second day, extends longevity. Our body reacts to the ‘stress’ of hunger by strengthening its immune response. So there is now lots of scientific back-up for the benefits of skipping a meal.

Personally, I’ve known in my bones for years that I should cut down on eating at night. But it seemed really hard. So when I saw how glowing and healthy my friend Suzanne looked on a regimen of Big Breakfast, Tiny Dinner, I had to try it. She and Rama Prasad, her Ayurvedic Studies teacher, introduced me to this very sensible idea of never thinking about depriving yourself of food at night, but simply taking whatever food you desired in the morning, concentrating on eating a lot and eating well in the day and simply taking a rest from eating at night, if you feel like it. No pressure!

An important thing to realise is that hunger is a sensation, and that we are evolved to pay great attention to it. We don’t have to always indulge it, but we need to respect it. So the main principle of Eating Your Dinner For Breakfast is that you aim to satisfy your senses in the morning. That’s not just alimentary senses, but visual, olfactory, tactile, and textural. Make sure you attend to all areas of sensory enjoyment, and that the major food groups are covered generously. If you do the same at lunch (don’t worry about the times, just eat a large breakfast and lunch when you are hungry), then by evening you’ll be done for the day. You don’t need much satiating. You might even find you’ve skipped your traditional 3pm cookie too, without noticing.

So how do you Eat Your Dinner for Breakfast?

Step One: Fill ‘er up (with veg)

Morning: After your yoga practice, of course. You make a large plateful of nourishment, paying attention that all the textures, all the colours, and of course all the major vitamins and minerals are represented. Go crazy with different coloured vegetables, herbs and spices. Add fermented foods – kimchi, sauerkraut, pickle. Arrange everything as beautifully as you can. Be generous with your serving. Rama Prasad counsels that you should ideally eat a tenth of your body weight for breakfast. I found this impossible, and it certainly is unhelpful to start weighing your food (we don’t want any obsessing, people), but it’s a good frame of reference.

Step Two: Pile on the protein (and a little carb if you want)

Protein is great for satiety. I am a fish-eating lacto-ovo-vegetarian, so I actually have a lot of protein sources – usually eggs, beans, wholegrains, dairy, nuts and seeds (including quinoa) and occasionally fish. Complex carbohydrates – brown rice, wholewheat bread and the like, can be really good (I love them), but don’t rely on them to fill your plate up (it should be pretty full already with vegies and protein).

Step Three: Eat with your eyes

Put the meal down on the table and enjoy how it looks. I like to put a placemat and a nice set of cutlery, and to use my best plate. I used to often skip this step, but it’s so nice to visually appreciate your efforts, and taking time to see your food is a large part of eating mindfully. You could even try taking a photo. It’s a funny cliché in this age of social media and food porn, but when you go to the lengths of taking a photo you really see your food. And you can send it as encouragement to your friends who also eat their dinner for breakfast.

Step Four: Take a good sniff

Make sure you take time to smell the fragrance of your food. If you’ve used lots of herbs and spices it will smell amazing. Since I’ve been paying more attention to vegies I’ve discovered lots of new spice combinations which you can’t find in any recipe books. No rules except your own senses.

Step Five: Eat slowly until you’re full

You don’t have to finish everything on your plate, but as you get better at this you will be able to judge how much you need to feel satiated but not over-full. Make sure you chew every bite. If you’ve done the other steps, you might find you are more inclined to eat mindfully.

Step Six: Pack the other half for lunch

Hopefully you’ve judged the quantities well enough to have left half. Naturally, we’d all like to cook afresh for lunch, but who has that kind of time? Let lunch be a bit different from breakfast by adding fresh herbs, seeds or a different protein. Eat it whenever hunger calls.

Step Seven: Gloss over ‘dinner’

Who needs it?

In my house, my husband and two kids love to eat dinner. And I love to cook it. So I go ahead and cook up a storm, but I save most of mine for the morning. Sometimes I eat a token bit with my family, or just have the salad. My husband has started eating less for dinner now too. But my kids are still growing, so they need their three meals. For adults, a light salad (summer) or a light soup (winter) can be just perfect, topped off with a herbal tea. Try and eat as early as possible to empty your stomach before lying down. I aim for 6pm.

Step Eight: Don’t obsess!

Eat dinner when you feel like it. Sometimes you need it if you’ve not eaten enough in the day. Or sometimes you just want to. Definitely go out with friends and family and indulge in social eating, just because it’s lovely. You’ll notice that your sleep and your energy may not be quite as good, but it’ll be worth it. And let me know how you go below – I need constant inspiring too.

With thanks to my teachers Suzanne Ellis and Rama Prasad.

Debbie Hodgson is editor of International Light and a yoga teacher. She is living in Canberra with her husband and two children and studying physiotherapy.

The language of yoga

Have you ever noticed the words you use when teaching a yoga class? Astrid McCormick did and discovered the subtle power of how language (and silence) can evoke a far more yogic experience for her students…

Astrid McCormick, is an IYTA yoga teacher based in Smithtown, NSW. Astrid is also organic farm owner and artist.

I’ve been teaching for more than a decade in my studio in Smithtown and have enjoyed teaching hundreds of classes. I revamped my teaching and studio environment as part of my Masters in Art and Design, I read articles on Yoga, and I am in touch with other Yoga teachers.

But when last year a student said to me, “I hear your voice, when I am doing my Yoga practice”, I got stirred up again and felt the urgent need to review my language of instruction. With a recorder and a feedback sheet, I went into three classes, asked the students to provide feedback and listened carefully to the recorded words.

Here is my challenge: How can I improve my teaching by improving my language of instruction?

First I thought about what my goals are for my classes and students. Then I pondered who I want to be as a senior Yoga teacher.

Thirdly I looked at a few new encompassing terms and phrases, and finally I look at creating a foundation of mindful terms for working through poses during the coming months.

My goals as a senior Yoga teacher are:to be authentic, come across as knowlegeable, and assist my students to extend themselves into new realms and new territory. I am here to serve and give.

I want to be inviting and I have decided to use the phrase: “I invite you to the pranayama practice of Kapalbhati.” The effect in the class is that my students are more prepared, better tuned in, and more attentive.

Be it spiritually or physically, my voice and words are opening the door and leading the way along the Path of Yoga.

Mindfulness is critical to my Yoga teaching. I want to suggest and encourage. I will not say: “Extend the heel to the floor!”, I instruct: “Make sure you keep releasing the heel towards the floor.”

I use a positive reassuring language. I want to hearten, not dishearten or overwhelm.

My instructions must be clear, a pose must be announced, so students have the time to anticipate the coming steps and actions. I must slow down and talk less.

I use Sanskrit terms sparingly. What flows off my tongue with ease, creates a puzzled expression on the face of long term students. I can go without them. However, I use Sanskrit where I know they carry a unique notion, like the word and concept of Sankalpa. It is special to Yoga and I will not water it down by a modern-day replacement.

My tone of voice is partly dynamic, and must carry a notion of calmness, not only during meditation, but also during the class. The use of silence is very critical to my teaching. I am happy when students chat about something during class, where a new pose may lead to questions, or remarks.

I am very mindful of the power of silence. Standing, waiting, allowing the students to settle, grant time for the breath to calm down, making space for the student to balance and when I farewell my class – our last moments of being together.

Love the language

Use Astrid’s tips to evaluate and develop the language of your yoga classes

  • Listen to yourself, record a class, and check for use of words
  • Set your goals and frame who you want to be as a teacher.
  • Find one or two things you want to change and check whether it makes a difference to your teaching.

Let us know your thoughts on this topic!

How yoga changed me

Gary Drummond, 53, discovered yoga six years ago after his wife Lorraine booked the two of them into a beginners course at their local studio in Manly, NSW.

Gary says: “I was quite stressed at the time. I have a background in martial arts but I wanted something a bit more gentle and to connect more with my breath.”

He found the course was everything he’d hoped for, so after finishing he began attending weekly yoga classes. As his job in the Communications Industry became increasingly stressful, he found he was attending more and more yoga classes.

Eventually he left his job due to anxiety issues and began attending yoga classes every day.

“I noticed I was becoming healthier in both body and particularly in mind,” he says. “Yoga was teaching me how to be mindful and live in the now.”

As father-of-two Gary delved deeper into yoga he realised he wanted to further his knowledge so he researched yoga teacher training courses and attended the IYTA’s Open Day in 2017.

That’s when he was told about the Foundation Yoga Studies course – two full study modules that could be taken online at any time with the option of joining the full diploma course.

He was even more keen to sign up with the IYTA when one of his yoga teachers (and course lecturer), Alana Smith – who had completed the IYTA diploma recommended it to him.

So he signed up to the Foundation Yoga Studies course – with a view to trying it out before committing his time and money to the full Diploma.

The course surpassed his expectations and so it was an easy decision for him to sign up for the entire teacher training.

He says: “I’m loving it. It’s even better than I thought it would be. I like the structure of it – the combination of face-to-face sessions and online lectures.”

“My background is logical so what I’m learning is challenging me. But it’s good and the more I learn, the more I like it.”

Gary is looking forward to teaching and supporting other men and women in a similar age group on their yoga journey.

And what’s even better is that his family are thrilled with his yoga ambitions. “Funnily enough my wife does boxing and is learning Reiki!” he says. “And with me learning yoga our daughters (aged 16 and 13) think we’re the coolest parents around!”

» Click here to find out more about the Foundation Yoga Studies course

Yoga through the years

Ann Vermeulen

It was a 40th with a difference for Ann Vermeulen when she celebrated her 40 year anniversary of teaching yoga.

Ann and her friends were determined not to let this milestone pass, so they went out to dinner to toast their teacher and share precious memories.

Ann, now 69, still teaches four classes a week and enjoys her own challenging daily practice.

She first started teaching in 1977 after being asked to cover a yoga class at her local sports centre. She says: “I was surprised and said no as although I had been practising yoga for years I wasn’t qualified to teach, but they were persistent and thought I’d make a good teacher, so I made some enquiries and did a correspondence training with Swami Sarasvati.”

“A year later I was presented with my diploma and started teaching at a church hall. I had two sons and was working part-time in retail when I started teaching, and I loved it.”

Over the years Ann has witnessed a massive shift in how yoga is viewed. Two years into her teaching career a new (more conservative) minister joined the church and he believed yoga was evil and so Ann had to leave and find a new venue from which to teach.

Soon after Ann studied Iyengar with Martin Jackson – which was a tough workout. She says: ‘I still remember my legs shaking as I went to the station after a day of practice!’

Then in 1985 she signed up to the IYTA Yoga Teaching Diploma. During this time, Ann and husband Peter built a home in Glenhaven, NSW and converted the garage into a yoga studio.

“It was wonderful teaching from home as I had four classes a week, a loving family and beautiful husband and I didn’t want to get too involved.”

After graduating with her IYTA yoga teaching diploma, Ann spent a few seasons teaching yoga on cruise ships.

Ann says: “I did about 6-8 trips on the Fairstar and we were able to bring our families along for half price. I would teach every day except for when we were on shore.”

But then in 1990, Ann’s husband, Peter, 48, was diagnosed with bone cancer. Ann became his carer, but sadly he died a few months later.

So, at the age of 41, Ann became a widow caring for her two sons, Brent, aged 15 and Glenn, aged 17.

Ann continued her studies and learnt the Alexander Technique with Karen Chapman and began to integrate elements of this modality into her yoga classes. She also continued her studies in anatomy and physiology, reflexology and Swedish and remedial massage. As well as grief counselling.

After Peter passed away Ann focussed on her yoga and built up a successful business. At 61, Ann met Bill who she describes as her second soulmate. But just six years later he suffered a massive heart attack at work.

Ann says: “Everything stopped again when Bill died. But my yoga students were an amazing support again – cooking meals for me and letting me cry.”

Three years on, Ann is enjoying life once more and running weekly classes. Some of her students have been with her since she first started teaching!

She still works as a massage therapist and does voluntary work. In her spare time, she goes rock and roll dancing and has a Maltese dog called Sparky.

To celebrate 40 years of teaching, Ann and friends went to a Chinese restaurant in Dural, NSW – with more than 70 past and present students, family and friends.

She says: “It was fabulous to feel so much love in the one room and to hear people’s recollections and memories. It has been a wonderful forty years and I hope to be teaching yoga for at least another ten years!’

To anyone unsure of pursuing a yoga career, Ann says: “I would encourage people to find or continue yoga as it teaches us living skills ad also gives inner strength to cope with the challenges of life and to enjoy the moments in between. Strive to be happy!”

Ann says the main changes she’s observed in her career include:
  • The regimentation has gone out of it. I remember in some yoga classes I attended the teacher would hit people if they weren’t doing the postures correctly!
  • Thankfully the ego has left too! One time I wasn’t doing an inversion in the class and the teacher came over and asked why I wasn’t doing the shoulderstand. I told him I had my period and he instructed me to “do it and to do as I was told!”

Saluting Satyaprem

Since completing her yoga training more than 20 years ago Satyaprem Gibson has been one of the IYTA’s staunchest supporters and helpers. And to honour her devotion to the organisation, she has been given a lifelong membership of the IYTA. Now this peace angel is ready to stretch her wings…

One of the highlights of Satyprem’s two decades with the IYTA has been the connections she’s made with yogis around Australia and the abundance of yoga styles embraced by the IYTA.

And at the recent IYTA 50th anniversary conference, it was Satyaprem who suggested Shakti Durga to do a Diwali blessing – symbolising and spreading love and devotion.

Satyaprem says: “A lot of people came up to me after (the blessing) and said how it demonstrated the Bhakti aspect of yoga and how wonderful it is to weave that dimension into our practice and teaching.”

Bhakti has certainly been a big part of Satyprem’s yoga journey – she’s been course-coordinator and taught Meditation on the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching, she’s been on the Teaching Committee and Committee of Management and even drew some of the recent drawings in the updated Asana Handbook! She is also a member of the Peace Angels – a transformational theatre company which helps spread a global message of peace and love.

As part of the Peace Angels, Satyaprem has performed in India, Australia, Ireland and America.

She says: “For me, Yoga has developed from the physical to the emotional, into the deeply spiritual. It has focused me on the purpose of my life and encouraged me to share the wisdom I have managed to gain along the way with others.”

And when she isn’t being a Peace Angel, Satyaprem teaches four yoga classes a week in Sydney and fills in as a substitute teacher for others. She’s a former University lecturer who has trained with Dru Yoga and studied Ayurveda and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Progamming). And next year she is studying with the Krishnamacharya Yoga Healing Foundation in India.

She’ll take two modules for the next three years – spending a month each time in Chennai. She says: “As a yoga teacher you are always looking to continue your involvement and learning.”

She continues to be a strong supporter of the IYTA and was deeply honoured when given the lifelong membership of the organisation at the recent AGM.

She says: “I feel very humbled at my small contribution. So many others have given generously and happily – I would like to acknowledge all the other people who have given so much to IYTA.”

Satyaprem will continue to support the organisation and is looking forward to attending workshops. She’s also keen to write for the International Light and is open to whatever may unfold on her yoga journey.

For the full article don’t miss the next issue of International Light.

IYTA – From a Whisper to a Roar

Discover the beginnings of the IYTA and how it has grown to the vibrant organisation it is today with this fabulous documentary by the IYTA’s Ian Stewart.

Ian says: “This is a short documentary that I recently put together for the International Yoga Teachers Association (IYTA), for their 50th anniversary. The old video footage that I used was supplied to me, which I had to digitise along with other materials. The interviews were filmed by members of the IYTA and the full moon footage I personally filmed on location in Richmond. The very first IYTA conference in 1967, actually took place here in our beautiful Hawkesbury at camp Yarramundi. A lot of hours went into the editing process and the final film runs for 32 minutes. Enjoy, Namaste”

Thanks too to Jo Blackman for all her hard work researching and helping to create the video.

Farewell and thank you, Mary-Louise Parkinson

On behalf of the Committee of Management and the members of IYTA, I would like to honour the amazing and tireless work of Mary-Louise Parkinson as IYTA President from 2013 to 2017.

Mary-Louise, as Vice President, moved into the position of President when Mary Shellens moved to the UK before the AGM. Over the past 4 years you will have noticed that IYTA has moved into the modern world to have a much larger online presence.

We have a facebook account, twitter, instagram and a brand new website. Our backend databases were moved from excel spreadsheets to a more sophisticated platform along with our accounting records. IYTA transitioned to online banking and more efficient on line payments with credit card and paypal.

All of these improvements were due to the vision of Mary-Louise and with full support of the COM. Without her drive and energy much of this would not have happened and I for one am most grateful to have worked so closely with a yoga teacher of such great business acumen yet being humble in her manner.

Mary-Louise to some would seem a formidable force, however, she has always been willing to listen to everyone’s views and change direction if needed. Mary- Louise was exactly what IYTA needed to grow and consolidate our Teacher Training courses and has been a key developer in our Post Graduate Courses. Although Mary-Louise is stepping down from the COM to have a well deserved break, I will be looking forward to her advice over the next few years.

Astrid Pickup

President, IYTA

Pictured: Astrid Pickup (left) and Mary-Louise Parkinson (right)
Image credit: Ali Shambrook

A beautiful experience – with Toni Childs

Having grown up listening to Toni Childs, I was so excited to get a chance to hear her sing live at the IYTA Conference (50 Year Anniversary Celebration).

I always knew she had a strong voice, but when she first took the microphone her presence was immediately felt.

She began by talking about her inspiration for becoming a yoga teacher and then invited us to practice some poses with her. She had us in fun postures and encouraged us to yell and shout as if we were five-years-old!

Then we were lying on our side and she asked us to recall a time in childhood when we were comfortable and snug. Ahhhh…!

But there wasn’t much time to relax, as next thing we were up on our feet dancing around the hall to the crazy rhythm of the 80s and 90s. But just dancing, under Toni’s guidance it really felt as if we were putting ourselves out there and setting ourselves free – really free!

There was flowing sequences, sexy moves, joining in a circle, running in and out yelling and giving each other high fives to say thank you – thank you for being who you are and all that you give.

The hall was full to the brim with energy and love. It was amazing.

Then we came in close together, very close together, so we were touching the person next to us. She explained we all needed to touch, to connect. Toni was in the middle of the circle and she spoke openly and honestly about her health issues and how she found it hard to love her body.

Over time, she learnt the art of self love and how we should all love who we are. She began singing: ‘you are, you are, you are, you are, you are… …you are beau- ti-ful’, we all joined in and then she changed it to ‘we are, we are, we are, we are, we are… …we are beau-ti-ful’, ‘and so we are’, ‘and so it is’. The song finished and we all hugged each other.

We were connected and it is a connection that will be everlasting in my heart and I am sure within the hearts of the other 250 yoga teachers in the room that day.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

Were you there? We’d love to hear your view on Toni’s session… please add your comments below.

What Makes Yoga, Yoga?

Direct from the IYTA 2017 Conference, Donna Farhi shares her thoughts on what is yoga and sends a significant message at this point of time in the evolution and revolution of yoga in the West at present.

Thanks to our fantastic IYTA cameraman, Ian Stewart for editing Donna’s keynote address at the recent IYTA 50th conference.

Yin – with a twist

At the end of the first day of the conference, what better way to unwind than to attend Sarah Manning’s Yin Qi Gong fusion class…

Sarah Manning

Sarah Manning is based in Asia, but such is the demand from IYTA members that she finds herself flying over to Australia regularly to run her Yin 1 and Yin 2 (and soon to be launched Yin 3) workshops.

She studied Chinese Reflexology while living in China and has trained in Tuina (Chinese Meridian Massage) and Yin Yoga while living in Singapore. She has led the development and introduction of all the Post Graduate IYTA courses.

Sarah was one of the many amazing yogis headlining the IYTA’s 50th anniversary conference held in October 2017.

She taught a 45-minute class – at the end of Day One. With limited props on hand, Sarah has opted to teach a Yin Class blended with Qi Gong breathing and meditation practices.

She says: “Yin to me is all about the breath and meditation, it’s what you do while in the pose that matters. Yin is not just about going into zombie land and letting your brain disappear (you can if you want!) but it is a great opportunity to expand your breathing and meditation techniques.”

She believes that in the West we have a tendency to stick with the same set ten pranayama practices, where we will sit do that practice deliberately at the end of the class. Whereas Sarah believes pranayama is a source of energy and vitality that we can use at any time.

In the Conference Class, Sarah chose a sequence of postures within each pose working on a particular TCM (traditional chinese medicine) element and chi gong breath.

One of the practices she led us through was the soft Chui (water element breath) where you inhale through the nose and with pursed lips blow softly out of the mouth. Cooling calming and slowing down the rate of breathing. This breath is also used in childbirth as is referred sometimes as the “golden thread” breath.

Then we practiced Fu breathing (related to the Metal element), where the tip of the tongue is placed just behind the upper front teeth while breathing in and out. In this position the tongue acts as a conductor or bridge for the qi energy to flow down the front of the body along the Ren channel (Yin Channel).

Fu breathing is used as a stress reliever as it induces relaxation and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. it is often used in the meditation practices in qigong.

Pi (fire element) Breath – same as kapalabhati

Xi (earth element) Breath – same as Sitkari

Tu (Wood Element) breath – (not done in the conference) – a strong, long “ha” exhale

She has studied with Qi Gong Grand Master, Anthony Wee. Anthony is based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, but travels to Singapore for a week each month. For the past five years, Sarah has been his Cela (student). She says, “Qi gong is like yoga a century ago, you have a master and he has condensed what he has learnt and he is giving it to his Cela and so there is no uniformity within the qi gong world. If you don’t understand he tells you to go away, practice and come back to discuss it again.”

Sarah’s class was a taster for Yin 3, which is about incorporating Qi gong breath to the practice and looking at particular pressure points.

Click here to find out more about our YIN courses

The importance of insurance for yoga teachers

Yoga is about reducing stress not creating it – which is why having a good insurance policy is vital for yoga teachers.

Thankfully it is rare for claims to be made against instructors, but it does happen… Janine* didn’t realise when she encouraged one of her students to try a new yoga pose, that she was putting her own livelihood at risk.

The movement led to Janine’s student injuring her shoulder and requiring weeks of intensive physiotherapy. She then began court proceedings against Janine – who was potentially liable for thousands of dollars in legal fees.

Luckily for Janine the case was dismissed, but although rare, this kind of issue does happen, which is why we need to have both Professional Indemnity AND Public Liability Insurance.

Although Janine didn’t end up needing her insurance to respond in this instance, her professional indemnity (PI) insurance policy would have provided the protection she needed.

“PI insurance is designed to protect business owners against the financial consequences of any mistakes they – or their staff – might make. It also protects against accusations of negligence (even if the allegations are unfounded), safeguarding your reputation and assets,” says Natasha Burr of Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers.

AJ Gallagher is offering IYTA members an exclusive deal just $170 for $1m personal indemnity and $10m public liability. To take advantage of this deal or switch to this policy please click HERE.

What is Professional Indemnity Insurance (PI)?

This covers you for the financial consequences of any mistakes you, or your staff, may make in providing professional advice or instruction to clients. It also protects against allegations of professional misconduct or negligence, even if unfounded, to help safeguard your personal and business reputation.

What is Public Liability Insurance (PL)?

Public liability insurance covers you for any injuries to third parties or damage to property that might occur anywhere in Australia, through negligence or accidental means.

For more information: visit AJ Gallagher website

* name has been changed to protect identity

What every yoga teacher should know about Facebook

Katie Haire is the IYTA’s Social Media and Advertising Manager, here are her top five tips for using Facebook as a yoga teacher

Social media can drive us nuts BUT it’s also a one-stop shop for inspiration, information, promotion and connection.

Katie posts regularly for the IYTA on Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin and she is keen for other members to join her Social Media team. If you’d like to jump on board, learn about social media AND promote IYTA please register your interest.

1. Be Consistent and Regular

Make sure you are posting on a regular basis. If your last post was a few months ago or you tend to get very excited one week and then radio silence the next, people are less likely to look at your page. It can also be really helpful to establish a strategy with what you post, for example: Sunday your timetable for the week, Wednesday events and Saturday something a little more lighthearted. Facebook has a schedule feature so you can easily just set it all up in one sitting so you don’t need to find time everyday to post.

2. Post valuable information

While you may be trying to use social media as a tool to promote yourself or your business, no one is really that interested in straight out promotional posts. It is totally fine to boost your workshops and offers, however it’s also important to post things that your followers actually care about and add value for them. That will keep them coming back. The suggested ratio for this is 3:1 – for every promotional post, post three completely non-promotional posts. The idea is that you are building trust by supplying lots of great information and this will eventually translate into sales.

3. Be Real

Find a voice that is authentic to you. There is no need to be perfect, Yoga Girl, one of the most successful Instagram sensations, gained popularity because she was not perfect and used social media as a outlet for her grief and frustrations as well as her happiness and joy. The key is make sure that whatever you are putting out there is genuine, not a manufactured idea of what a yoga teacher “should” be.

4. Speak their language

Again this comes down to who is your target market and what is their knowledge and experience of yoga.

When Katie is posting IYTA, the majority of the followers are yoga teachers or experienced yogis, so she is able to post things that use correct terminology or assume some knowledge. However, when it comes down to it most students don’t know the Sanskrit name for poses or the anatomical names for their body parts. It is important to use their language not yours. How do they talk about their body, practice, dreams and desires? A myofascial release workshop may mean nothing to them, whereas a workshop to help release tension for tight shoulders from sitting at a desk all day may land a little better.

5. Connect and Engage

As the name suggests, Social Media is about being social. It is the only form of media where this is direct, live feedback from your followers. Engage in conversations that happen around your posts. It is also not just about your followers but also who you follow. Comment on other people’s posts, reply to comments on yours and start to create a community.

Click here if you’d like to join the IYTA Social Media team.

Katie adds: ‘I try to post anything that may be of interested to our followers and also news relating to upcoming events, such as the IYTA Celebrate Yoga Conference in October. This may sound simple, however we really try to ensure that posts represent the IYTA values of ethical, safe, high quality education, which can take some time as there is a lot of conflicting “information” out there. The next step is creating a presence in the wider yoga community. This may simply be joining an online conversation, posting on other yoga social media platforms and of course boosting our posts to try to increase awareness of IYTA and what we can offer. Social Media is fast becoming a very powerful platform to communicate to a wide and vast community.’

Salute to Wendy Batchelor

After nearly four decades’ dedication to the IYTA, Wendy Batchelor is stepping aside to pursue other spiritual and life goals. We wish her well and honour her contribution to our Association.

Wendy Batchelor

For many IYTA graduates, Wendy Batchelor holds a special place in our hearts and on our own yoga journeys. Her warm, friendly and playful style of lecturing made the most complex of yogic philosophies easier to understand and she encouraged so many of us to question and peel the layers in order to seek our divine truth.

Wendy’s continued dedication to the Association makes her one of the pioneers of the IYTA. She has been a key lecturer on the IYTA’s Diploma of Teaching Course, a past President, a long standing member of the Committee of Management and TTC Com and organised the 1997 IYTA Convention in Uluru.

Wendy’s own yoga journey began at the age of 21 when she attended Relaxation Classes run by The Smith Family in the city centre. Shortly after she moved to Newport on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and found a yoga class run by IYTA teacher Trudy Berg. She felt instantly at ease as Trudy guided her through the same relaxation practices and Wendy felt as if she had “come home” to yoga.

From here Yoga became a calming and vital part of Wendy’s life, which led to her enrolling on the IYTA’s Teaching Diploma in 1979.

Soon after graduating, she found herself with five students in her lounge room. From there she taught a children’s yoga class and a year later, was invited to lecture on the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching.

Five years after graduating, Wendy joined the Committee of Management, although just three years later and with three children aged 15 and 12 and 8 she had to withdraw from IYTA commitments to care for her husband who had terminal cancer.

She returned to the IYTA Committee in 1991 as Vice President and shortly after became President – somehow managing to do this role alongside a full-time job as a health educator with the NSW Department of Health and as a single mother.

Wendy relinquished her role as President to organise the 1997 IYTA World Congress at Uluru and took a well deserved break from COM to focus on her Masters studies. She then worked as a part-time lecturer in Health Science Education in the School of Community Health at University of Sydney, before Hakomi Psychotherapy – a body focussed psychotherapy grabbed her heart.

During this time, Wendy’s passion for yoga and the IYTA ‘family’ took her to the Spain Yoga Convention in 2000 and opportunities to teach with Ramon Ribo on the Spanish IYTA Yoga Course. It was on one of her trips to Europe that she fell in love with France – and her now husband – and lived in France for 10 years taking groups on spiritual journeys. She now lives in both Australia and France.

She says: “IYTA teaches that there are many paths up the same mountain and this enabled me to develop my own individual spirituality for which I am very grateful. It also allowed me to develop my own style of teaching and led me to advocating yoga for older people in the media and health department and in the Diploma Course.”

Wendy is now keen to work more deeply with Yoga Psychology and to continue to take and lead others onyatras, pilgrimages in Western Europe and Australia. ‘These spiritual journeys are about leaving home to come home, and opening a door for something new to enter. Some places on the planet have heightened energy for this and are therefore considered sacred. ‘These journeys are about our relationship with ourselves, each other and the earth’. Wendy will continue to live in Australia and France. After sustaining a severe back injury last year requiring prolonged treatment in Australia, she hopes to be back to teaching and to being in France again soon, walking the beloved earth of the Pyrenees, and ‘kissing the earth with her feet’, as Thich Nath Hanh instructs us to do.

Wherever you go, go with all your heart is Wendy’s mantra.

Written by Katie Brown, Rosemary Pearson and Debbie Hodges


Please join the conversation, add your comments or tell us about your experience below:

Wrap up of International Yoga Day 2017 at KGV

Enews chatted to three IYTA members who attended a morning of events to mark International Yoga Day at the KGV Recreation Centre in Sydney on 21 June.

The event, which was attended by a number of refugees – as part of Refugee Week, was organised by YogaHive and sponsored by IYTA, City of Sydney and Yoga for Nature. The activities included a yoga class, talks and a world food market.

Ali Shambrook:

“The indigenous smoking ceremony was really welcoming. There were speakers from the Indian Consulate and UN, which I found very interesting.

“Then we took part in an hour’s Hatha Yoga class before heading outside to the food market. I sat with some other IYTA members and had a Nepalese and Ethiopian lunch while enjoying the community atmosphere. The spirit of the day was really lovely and touched a lot of people…”

Amy Seal:

“I helped out with the other IYTA members greeting people as they arrived. It was a lovely day and well organised. There was a lot of opportunity to mingle and meet people from different walks of life. The food markets were beautiful and I had the Nepalese momo dumplings – which were delicious!”

Olivia Shanti:

“I thought it was great to connect with the refugees – I chatted with some women from Iran. I enjoyed the Aboriginal welcoming ceremony and learning about the Aboriginal culture. There was a great atmosphere – and it was lovely to connect with the other IYTA members.”

The International Day of Yoga proclaimed by the UN aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga.

Images from the event (click to view):

All images courtesy of Ali Shambrook

Yoga poses for Menopause

There are many asanas and pranayamas which will benefit menopausal women, here is a selection known to help.

Yoga teachers might want to include a selection of these poses and pranayamas in their classes or, for a personal pratice, select at least four postures
and a breathing practice to incorporate in your daily routine.

Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall)
  • well known restorative pose for women. This pose helps to quieten the mind and soothe the nervous system
Argha Sarvangasana (Half Shoulderstand), Sirsasana (Supported Headstand), Halasana (Plough Pose)
  • these can balance the hormones and bring blood flow to the brain cells
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose) and Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose)
  • recommended restorative poses
  • remember to use lots of props such as blankets and bolsters
Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Forward Bend), Pashimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), Balasana (Child’s Pose)
  • are all calming, ease anxiety and restorative
Trikonasana (Triangle Pose)
  • is great for helping to boost bone density and strength
Pelvic floor or Kegel contractions
  • help prevent incontinence and prolapse problems

Yoga For The Health Of The Mind

Yoga has been found to be better than memory games for reducing pre-Alzheimer’s cognitive impairment

A team of neuroscientists from the University of Adelaide and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) found that a three-month course of yoga and
meditation practice helped minimise the cognitive and emotional problems that often precede Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Not only
that, it was even more effective than the memory enhancement exercises that have been considered the gold standard for managing mild cognitive impairment.

People with mild cognitive impairment are two-and-ahalf times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The study, which
appears May 10 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, is the first to compare outcomes from yoga and meditation with those from memory training, which
incorporates activities ranging from crossword puzzles to commercially available computer programs.

“Historically and anecdotally, yoga has been thought to be beneficial in aging well, but this is the scientific demonstration of that benefit,” said Harris
Eyre, the study’s lead author, a doctoral candidate at Australia’s University of Adelaide and a former Fulbright scholar at UCLA’s Semel Institute
for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. “We’re converting historical wisdom into the high level of evidence required for doctors to recommend therapy
to their patients.”

Lavretsky and Eyre studied participants who had reported issues with their memory, such as tendencies to forget names, faces or appointments or to misplace
things. Subjects underwent memory tests and brain scans at the beginning and end of the study. Eleven participants received one hour a week of memory
enhancement training and spent twenty minutes a day performing memory exercises — verbal and visual association and other practical strategies
for improving memory, based on research-backed techniques. The other 14 participants took a one-hour class once a week in Kundalini yoga and practised
Kirtan Kriya meditation at home for twenty minutes each day.

After twelve weeks, the researchers saw similar improvements among participants in both groups in verbal memory skills, which come into play for remembering
names and lists of words. But those who had practised yoga and meditation had better improvements than the other subjects in visual– spatial memory
skills, which come into play for recalling locations and navigating while walking or driving. The yoga–meditation group also had better results in
terms of reducing depression and anxiety and improving coping skills and resilience to stress. That’s important because coming to terms with cognitive
impairment can be emotionally difficult. “When you have memory loss, you can get quite anxious about that and it can lead to depression,” said Lavretsky.

The researchers report that the participants’ outward improvements in memory corresponded with perceptible changes in their brain activity. Using functional
magnetic resonance imaging, they showed that subjects in both groups had changes in their brain connectivity, but the changes among the yoga group
were statistically significant, whereas the changes in the memory group were not. The researchers attribute the positive “brain fitness” effects of
mindful exercise to several factors, including its abilities to reduce stress and inflammation, improve mood and resilience, and enhance production
of brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor, a protein the stimulates connections between neurons and kick-start telomerase activity, a process that
replaces lost or damaged genetic material.

The study was funded by the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation. Source: UCLA Newsroom

Top 10 tips – How to choose a yoga teacher training course

10 things to consider before selecting yoga teacher training

Mary-Louise Parkinson, President of the International Yoga Teachers Association (IYTA, est. 1967) encourages those who are seeking yoga teacher training to resist the grasping mind and desire for quick-fix solutions. Instead yoga students are encouraged to research and look beyond the glossy websites and slick marketing, to find the true essence of the organisation providing training and its commitment to the support of yoga as an honoured career and lifelong journey.

Here’s her 10-point check-list before undertaking any yoga teacher training:

  1. Is it a quick-fix, condensed course or a well-balanced course run over time? Does it comply with the minimum 200 or 350 hours, preferably spread over a 12-month period, not several weeks?
  2. Is the course based on sound educational structure with a combination of journaling, regular assessments, homebased research, online material and written and practical examinations?
  3. Does the curriculum cover Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga as a solid, basic foundation level of yoga teaching?
  4. Does the school have a faculty of experienced, qualified lecturers knowledgeable in their specific subject? Or is it one or two people delivering the whole course? (Which would be a little like attending university and one lecturer delivers all of the lectures.)
  5. How long has the school been around and does it have the ability to continue to provide education and support into the future (ie, will it fold when the founder or lead teacher leaves)?
  6. Does the school follow the ethics and values of yoga? Is it non-profit? Does it give to charity/ provide scholarships? Is it ego/money driven?
  7. Is the teacher training locking you into someone’s “brand” or style of yoga?
  8. How is the course assessed and how are you assessed in order to ensure you can actually teach a class in a safe, professional manner?
  9. What is the career path offered by the school, ie, do they offer post-graduate training and level 2 training, continuing professional development, mentorship, peer programs and a career perhaps as a lecturer?
  10. What are the pre-qualifications of the student? Are you required to have a minimum of three years experience as a dedicated student? Do you need to have a sponsoring teacher to recommend you as a suitable candidate to teach yoga? Or can anyone do the training?

Once you’ve gone through the checklist, Mary-Louise suggests listening to your heart. Take your time, practise tapas (discipline) and patience. Do your utmost to respect the science and teachings of yoga. Because the path has already begun.

Five Steps to experiencing Heartfulness Meditation

What is Heartfulness?

Heartfulness is a simple, modern, methodical approach to meditation. Rather than homing in on your breath or repeating a mantra, you simply focus inward, on your heart, to cultivate inner strength and serenity.

Who can practise?

Heartfulness is a super-inclusive form of meditation that’s been around for over one hundred years, and practised across one hundred countries.

Rooted in the Raja Yoga tradition, Heartfulness can be done alone or in a group. The practice is offered freely to those who wish to practise it. The practice is secular, straightforward, and informal.

Five Steps to get started

  1. Set aside twenty minutes for your ‘heart time.’ If possible, always meditate at the same time, in the same place, to keep your practice consistent and create a calm space that you can return to each day.
  2. Sit comfortably with your hands and legs drawn in close. Just focus on feeling peaceful and relaxed. Let your arms rest and land wherever is most comfortable.
  3. Take a moment to tune into your heart. Gently close your eyes and imagine that the Source of Light that is already present is illuminating and expanding to capture your attention. As you focus on the subtle idea of lightness in your heart, you will begin to feel a vibration and energy descending into you.
  4. As your mind wanders, gently return to this focus of light in the heart. Thoughts that arise will naturally fall away and not trouble you after some time of practice.
  5. Upon completion of your meditation, take a few moments to reflect on the practice. As you move through your day you will find yourself connecting to your heart space.

How to expand your practice

If you’re seeking some community-based relaxation, the Heartfulness Institute offers many free classes and workshops across the world. Alternatively, if you’re more of a homebody, the Institute provides plenty of online resources like self-guided videos, free of charge.

Can I include Heartfulness Relaxation and Meditation as part of my yoga Class?

Yes, Heartfulness can be included along with your other yoga practices, and can be a wonderful way to finish your class.

Fermenting for health and longevity

Before the advent of refrigeration, culturing foods was a useful preservation method and many believed that these foods promoted health and longevity. These foods are enjoying a resurgence in the modern era as the importance of probiotics is becoming more widely understood. There are many methods of ensuring you get your daily dose of beneficial bacteria. Here are the foods and drinks I have tried in my own journey.


A very popular drink, “mushroom tea” is having a huge resurgence and is even being made in commercial quantities. I even saw some at the supermarket. It is brewed from black tea and sugar using a starter called SCOBY. This name is an acronym meaning Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeasts. Obviously, as it is made from black tea, it contains caffeine, so it may not be the best choice for small children. It is also potentially mildly alcoholic, between 0.5% and 3% alcohol, although the alcohol content varies depending on the fermentation method. It may not be the best choice for those with yeast allergies. It is possible to grow your own SCOBY from commercial kombucha or someone might give you one as they multiply readily under the right conditions.


A type of kombucha made with a Jun SCOBY, Jun is made from green tea and honey rather than the usual black tea and sugar. You are less likely to find this as a commercial product. You would need to find a SCOBY and brew it yourself. Jun SCOBYs also multiply readily, so you may find one if you ask around.


Kefir starter is similar to SCOBY but it tends to have more bacteria and less yeast. It is known as Turkish Yogurt and is usually used with dairy milk. I find it much easier to digest than regular milk and it is reputed to ‘enliven’ pasteurised milk. It makes a type of runny yogurt which is pleasantly tart. The kefir ‘grains’ look like little cauliflower heads and they will also multiply readily like the SCOBY for Kombucha and Jun, but these are polysaccharides and they are less yeasty. Kefir can also be made with non-dairy milks such as coconut milk, but the grains will not multiply as readily. Kefir is also produced commercially, and you can start some as you would yogurt by keeping some and using it to inoculate the milk. You can also purchase freeze-dried kefir grains. I make homemade sour cream and labne with my kefir grains.

Water Kefir

A fizzy drink made from sugar and water, this is made using water kefir grains which are similar but different from the milk kefir. Suitable for people who wish to avoid dairy milk, they provide some of the probiotic count of the dairy kefir, but not as many strains will be produced. The grains look like little jewels rather than cauliflowers. It’s a cheap drink to make and kids like it. It’s unlikely to be alcoholic unless you do a second fermentation with fruit. It is possible to brew a type of beer with water kefir grains and fruit juice. (I have done this accidentally and made a kind of hard cider… hic!)

Fermented Vegetables

In the past, many foods have been fermented, including meat and fish. The sushi of yesteryear was originally made with fermented fish, and we are all familiar with the Asian fermented sauces made from fish or soybeans. The vegetable ferments are having a comeback at the moment due to their high probiotic count. Sauerkraut is reputed to be one of the best. It is, at its most basic, pickled cabbage. Many other vegetables can be treated the same way, and popular additions include carrots, apples, kale and seaweed along with various flavourings, herbs and spices. You can be as creative as you like.

There are two main methods of culturing vegetables. The slow method just relies on salt and it can take up to two months to mature in cold weather. The fast method involves the addition of culture and takes just days to mature. You can purchase cultures for this, keep some juice from your last batch or use kefir whey. My family hates sauerkraut with a passion, so I make kimchi, which is a Korean version of sauerkraut, using Chinese cabbage or wombok. I am waiting for wombok to come into season again so that I can make a big batch in my fermenting crock.

Yoga for Menopause – a personal story

A yearning for space and solitude was what yoga teacher and IYTA president first experienced.

“I have a period for six weeks and then nothing. But the overriding feeling for me was the desire to hide in a cave!”

ML had to balance a huge emotional pull to meditate in solitude with the practical need to fulfil her mothering and parenting duties. At the time ML entered
peri-menopause, she had a 12-year-old daughter and six-year-old son.

ML was keen to deal with this phase of life using yoga and other alternative practices in place of HRT. so she would set her alarm for 5.30am every day
and take a walk in nature before spending an hour practising yoga and meditation. She was particularly drawn to flowing, gentle, heart-base yoga sequences.

ML also found regular kahuna (Hawaiian massage) helped, as well as connection with other women.

Thankfully for ML her menopause lasted just 12 months – and she now says she feels better and more liberated than ever.

“We want to help women have an empowering transition and not to see this time as a curse. And to those who have been through it, it can be viewed with
a sense of accomplishment and pride – a time when you reclaimed you true self.

How to practice self-reflection safely – counselling for grief

Counselling for grief – how to practice self-reflection safely

  • Safety requires that you must be present within yourself and your physical environment
  • Turn off your phone
  • Have silence
  • Sit
  • As a practice invite in a loving guiding energy
  • Breathe
  • Drink water and stay hydrated
  • Develop an attentive methodical approach and just be
  • Sit back in your chair, and ground through your feet and sit bones
  • Let your spine lengthen
  • Take a swallow, lick your lips and rest your tongue on the floor of your mouth, creating a conscious small space between the teeth of the upper and lower jaw
  • Invite yourself to relax
  • Follow your breath
  • Breathe in and out and soften your diaphragm
  • Be aware. Be present. Be grounded.
  • Simply allow your emotions to play themselves out for you, projected onto your internal space like a movie on a screen.
  • Watch. Witness. Evaluate anew.
  • Plan, create strategy, let go.

Begin anew.

Eyes Wide Open

It was a normal, general hatha yoga class. One held every Monday morning at the exquisitely beautiful Mollymook Beach on the NSW South Coast. The major distraction of the class, other than the golden sandy beach and clear blue sky, being pods of playful dolphins coming to surf the waves and demonstrate their acrobatic prowess.

As a senior lecturer with the International Yoga Teachers Association (IYTA), I have always reminded students of the importance of keeping their eyes open when teaching. I personally follow my students closely: to see if they are understanding what I am saying, to see if they are placing their body into a non harmful place and to check the look on their faces – puzzled, struggling, strained, in pain or relaxed. I know that sometimes if I am exhausted I would like to close my eyes and speak from that space of inner bliss. However, in my opinion, this is the right of my students, not me.

Safety and ahimsa (harmlessness) is always my highest concern, for my students and also for me, as a teacher. With Australia now topping the USA as one of the most litigious countries in the world, I like to be confident regarding what I teach, how I teach, and how I care for my students. My classes at Mollymook were usually quite large and attracted a wide variety of people. Regular students included Sydney and Canberra retirees, pregnant girls (my specialty), new mums and several people suffering from cancer.

Nancy was one of my regular students. Other than gardening, yoga was Nancy’s weekly, not-to-miss activity. An older student, Nancy had some previous problems with shortness of breath and also hearing. For this reason she always sat at the front of the room, so she could keep an eye on me, but more importantly so I could keep an eye on her. On this day, I noticed Nancy seemed tired and was short of breath. She mentioned she’d had a big weekend gardening but stressed that she would prefer to be at yoga rather than stay at home. I took particular note to watch her throughout the class to remind her to rest. We went through a fairly gentle Dru class, with suggested modifications for those less flexible or with particular conditions requiring assistance.

The class progressed as usual. The dolphins entertained everyone, proving what an attraction they are not only for the tourists but also for the locals and, in particular, my yoga students. Then came time for relaxation, the part of the class that everyone waits for. Students were guided to relax in Shavasana and I proceeded to lead them through body awareness and relaxation. I always leave a space of stillness and quiet at this point, but make sure that I myself remain alert and watchful while the students relax.

I could see immediately that this was serious and suspected a heart attack, but didn’t jump to conclusions.

It was at this moment that I noticed Nancy in some sort of discomfort. She attempted to sit up and grasp at her throat and clothing. When I approached her she said her clothes were constricting her breath and she was hot. I asked her what else was happening and she explained tightness in her chest, weakness and a painful sensation down her left arm side of her body. I could see immediately that this was serious and suspected a heart attack, but didn’t jump to conclusions.

While attending to Nancy, I kept speaking in a calm voice to the class, who were continuing in deep relaxation. I then approached a student who I knew had nursing experience and asked her to help Nancy – and mentioned my suspicions. I left Nancy in capable hands while I went out of the room to get help. Luckily the room I hired was in a Surf Life Saving Club and a couple of off- duty life guards were in the gym, so I asked for their help and at the same time rang an ambulance and Nancy’s daughter.

When I walked back into the room, Nancy was having difficulty breathing but was being attended to, so I calmly spoke to the class (who were still in deep relaxation), guiding them back to the present. I informed them that a member of the class was not feeling well and asked that as they came out of their relaxation, could they calmly and quietly gather their belongings and leave the room. By this stage the ambulance was at the door. The paramedics had administered oxygen to Nancy and were preparing to take her to hospital. Nancy asked if I could go with her. Her daughter had arrived, so she and I accompanied Nancy, all the while keeping a calm disposition and positive attitude.

Nancy was taken to the local hospital where they confirmed she had suffered a heart attack and immediately moved her to a larger regional hospital. There they administered a drug – to which she suffered an anaphylactic reaction. She was then flown to Royal Prince Alfred in Sydney to have an emergency operation to fit a stent.

Fortunately Nancy made a full recovery. She returned to yoga once she was well enough and credited the fact that she had attended her regular yoga class instead of staying at home, with saving her life.

Here are the lessons I learnt from that experience and would like to share with other yoga teachers:

  • Keep your eyes open at all times when teaching – particularly during meditation and relaxation. It is during relaxation that sometimes the body can go into spasm or react emotionally and physically to a past activity or trauma.
  • Keep your first aid certificate up to date and know how to recognise the signs for stroke and heart attack.
  • Know the background of your students. I knew who in the class had nursing experience. (I also had a student who is a doctor but she was not present on that particular day).
  • Ensure that students needing extra care sit at the front of the class so you can keep an eye on them. Ask other students to move if necessary.
  • Keep a register of nearest of kin – luckily my contacts were in my phone.
  • Don’t panic. All of the students in that class had no idea what was going on until they came out of their guided relaxation. They all calmly and quietly left the room as instructed. This ensured the environment for Nancy was calm and quiet and further aided in her ability to cope with the situation.
  • Don’t mess around – act immediately.

The dolphins play on and thankfully Nancy and her family are still watching them.

Hopefully you are watching your students.

How to practice AUM – Healing vibrational sound

First set the optimal environment
  • Be comfortable;
  • Check your posture – soften chin, tongue gently resting on the base of the mouth, lips softly apart.

This is a vibrational healing practice (Mantra) leading you away from the chattering mind.


A: Begin with the inhale. Focus awareness on vibrations of sound resonating in the lower body: feet, legs, knees, thighs. Exhale (Arrr) sending vibrational sound to resonate in these areas (5 times).

U: Begin with the inhale, become aware of vibrations of sounds as they move further up the front body, chest, arms, shoulders, torso, back, spine, lower abdominals, stomach, chest heart, and back to the top of the spine. Become aware of any sensations or pain, exhaling the sound through the upper body, (5 times). Exhale (oooo) into these areas.

M: on chanting, become aware of vibrations of sounds as they move through the throat, jaw, tongue, head and neck awareness, exhale breath and vibrational sound (5 times). Exhale (mmm) into these areas.

AUM: Inhale, chant the whole word five times as you exhale into your entire body.

Rest in the stillness.


Is the rise of yoga bringing a fall in standards?

Making up the crowd, there was a rainbow of brightly coloured leggings, a stunning array of intricate tattoos and even the odd lycra onesie on show. Welcome to the yoga-inspired festival Wanderlust, where obviously drab T.shirts and dodgy leotards are a thing of the past.

It was an awesome sight as more than 2,000 Yogis all struck variations of Down Dog in a MASSIVE yoga class on iconic Bondi Beach.

Yoga is now officially cool and phenomenally popular as more and more people discover the far-reaching effects of this ancient practice and how it can help us all in our fast-paced modern world.

It’s inspiring to see how far yoga has come since I took up the practice thirty years ago and since I became a teacher on the IYTA Diploma of Yoga Teaching in 2000-2001.

According to an article published in the Dru Yoga newsletter, there are 36.7 million yoga practitioners in the US today – and yoga’s popularity has grown by a whopping fifty per cent in the last four years.

And that trend is reflected here in Australia, where more people practice yoga than play Aussie Rules Football!

I’m continually pondering the rise and rise of yoga – as the IYTA prepares to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary next year.

Generally the burgeoning of yoga is a very positive trend, but it is important that as we move forward we retain an inherent respect for capital-Y Yoga and all that it stands for.

Yoga isn’t a gimmick

It isn’t all about the physical body – it is so much more than being able to do an Iron Cross Headstand or wear the latest lycra. When you scratch beneath the surface you learn that it is so much bigger than you could ever anticipate. You could study yoga your entire life and still not fully understand the depth of the teachings and philosophy.

But that’s okay, because yoga is not about being able to recite all of Patanjali’s Sutras or squeeze yourself into a figure-hugging yoga onesie. It is about being in balance – with all the layers of your being. Being in flow with nature, the world and being the best person you possibly can be.

So that is why I was so shocked when I was helping out at the IYTA stand, and one girl told me she couldn’t be a yoga teacher, because she couldn’t hold a handstand for ten minutes.

I thought I must have misunderstood. But apparently not. She told me that a yoga school she’d contacted had dismissed her application because she couldn’t do a handstand for ten minutes.

Now I’m not sure if that was definitely what she was told, but it is what she believed to be the case. And she was genuinely upset. That is very sad and worrying, because it simply isn’t true.

If any of your students are considering becoming a yoga teacher, then they really don’t need to worry if they can’t touch their toes. It doesn’t matter if they’re a bit shaky in balances – but it does matter if they’re told what asanas they should or shouldn’t be able to do!

Yoga is non-judgmental – whatever your physical ability, because the ultimate goal of yoga isn’t to have abs of steel or a perfectly toned torso. As Patanjali wrote: Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.

The meaning of yoga can be debated for many hours, but I think one of the best ways to interpret it is from a passage in the ancient text, the Bhagavad Gita: Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m sure none of the ancient texts or teachings state that it is about holding a handstand for a set period of time. That’s one of the many reasons why I am so pleased I studied with the IYTA. It’s an amazing diploma course delivered by lecturers and yogis with years of experience and wisdom. It’s non-profit and supports all lineages of yoga – which to me is the true embodiment of what yoga is truly about.

This Thing Called Yoga

We regularly start a new year with commitment and determination to resolve conflicts in our lives – to improve ourselves.

People often try yoga at this time. Others have trouble making this commitment. As a yoga teacher, people regularly say to me “Oh, you are a yoga teacher; I should try yoga.” My response is always “Great.” And then they reply “Yes, I want to learn but I am too busy, I just can’t fit it in”. I am sure, as yogis, many of you have also had this conversation or something like it. But what is this thing they call “yoga”?

So many “yoga” variants have recently been created that, by the time I list them here, there will probably be new morphs appearing. Yoga is almost like a virus out of control. Yoga variants, however, are not unique to the twenty first century. They were being created in the West as soon as it was introduced here. People designed aqua yoga for people with limited mobility and aerial yoga for those who wanted more, to name just a couple.

Then and now, most of the yoga styles have been based primarily on the Hatha Yoga principle that the practice of asana awakens the physical body which in turn can awaken the energetic, mental and etheric bodies. We use physiological aspects of the physical body in conjunction with breath awareness to link into these other layers. But there is more.

In addition to practicing asana with breath awareness, Hatha Yoga employs mudras, bandhas, and mantras, techniques for withdrawing from external stimulation, meditation and relaxation. These are just as important as the practice of asana. How many people who attend yoga classes today have experienced the power of these other techniques? How many have experienced the power of the breath? I suggest not many. This is where I believe a grave digression
has taken place.

We see photos of people in so called “yoga poses” which are impossible to achieve without real risk of injury. Where is the yogic yama of ahimsa- ‘no harm’ – the back bone of yoga? We hear yoga advertised as the greatest growth ‘sport’. Perhaps they are describing the yoga styles that don’t bring breath awareness into their practice – where yoga has become merely physical exercise? We read that there are national and international yoga competitions – there is even an international yoga sports federation. What happened to the guiding light that yoga is not a competition? Today it seems that, in many yoga styles the external, physical body has taken priority over the internal physiological, aspects of our selves. This makes the practice of yoga ego- driven, which is I think the antithesis of yoga, whereby we seek to let go of the ego.

I may sound frustrated but I am not. I am merely disappointed and saddened because the practice of yoga speaks for itself. It doesn’t need any gimmicks.

I was acutely reminded of this when I had the privilege of working with a young adult with secondary bowel cancer. She had been recommended by a friend of hers who attends my yoga classes. Her friend knew I had personal experience with cancer, having myself been treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma two years previously. I had used my own yoga practices of breath awareness, visualisation, meditation and relaxation to help me though that difficult journey.

At this client’s first one-on-one session she said she had wanted to try yoga before her diagnosis but did not know whether she could do it because of
what she saw in the media – because of the way it was portrayed. How many people are discouraged from trying yoga because of this? I told her everyone can do yoga and benefit from it, and so she became my yoga student.

The practices we did together were simple and gentle, and at the end of each session she reported a sense of increased vitality, calmness and peace. She committed to regular practice and found it beneficial, particularly when things got tough. Even though her physical body was quickly deteriorating she continued to come and to practice.

While I was away at my son’s wedding she peacefully passed away at home with her family. Although I had only known her for four months of her brief life, I felt very privileged to have met her and shared my love and knowledge of yoga which she embraced with enthusiasm and determination to improve her life. She died on my birth date – a poignant reminder of the cycle of life. She was a true yogi.

I think this true story is a prudent reminder of the goal of yoga. It is not the attainment of a better physique, nor a more flexible or agile body, nor the ability to hold convoluted poses for longer than anyone else. These may be consequences of some practices, but they are not its essence. The goal of yoga is to attain peace within yourself while living with suffering, and hopefully with practice and determination rise above it.

My Yoga Journey – Marion (Mugs) McConnell

While most teenagers were our partying all Marion (Mugs) McConnell wanted to do was meditate! “Perhaps it was because The Beatles had recently studied Transcendental Meditation in Rishikesh, India, or after I’d read a book by Guru Ram Das,” she wonders. But either way, she wanted to meditate – the only problem was finding a teacher…

So after enrolling in the University of British Columbia to study Social Work, Mugs continued to do her own practice of Yoga, but without a dedicated teacher, she tended to do postures she loved, such as strong backbends, rather than those she needed. And this, combined with hours of study, led to chronic sciatica.

“At 20, my doctor suggested I take time off to help ease the pain,” she recalls. “So I went to Australia.” Mugs had a pen pal living north of Adelaide, also called Marion, so she decided to pay her a visit. “Her family were fabulous to me and it was while I was travelling around Australia, that I met the Queensland State Rep for IYTA, Val Diakos,” Mugs says. “It was through our conversations that I discovered the IYTA offered a teacher training scheme.” But the training was held once a month over the course of a year, not a viable option, as Mugs didn’t have the funds or visa to be able to stay in Australia. She considered training with the IYTA in the UK, but after contacting Velta Snikere Wilson, she discovered the set up was the same there too. “Velta suggested I contact a lovely Yogi in America – his name was Dr Hari Dickman,” Mugs says.

Hari was about 80 years old and had been taught by many of the yogi masters including Paramahansa Yogananda.

He suggested Mugs attend the Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training with Swami Vishnudevananda and so at 22, Mugs went to the Bahamas where she graduated as a Yoga Acharya. Of course, by this time, her sciatica was history…

Mugs spent a further three months teaching at the centre and the following year became a live-in student with Dr Hari Dickman. “Yoga was all I thought it would be and more,” Mugs says. “I was filled with love and felt as if I had finally come home.”

Mugs didn’t return to her University degree, preferring instead to dedicate her life to Yoga – and soon after she became a full teaching member of the IYTA. In 1979, Mugs returned to her home town of Penticton where she taught at the local community centre. Her classes soon took off and she found herself teaching the general classes as well as young adults, mentally handicapped, mentally ill students and the elderly. “Although yoga was relatively unknown, the community supported me,” she says.

Mugs continues to be an avid reader of International Light and a keen member of the IYTA – and at the Puerto Rico IYTA Congress she was delighted to be asked to be the Canadian representative. Two years later she presented at the IYTA Congress in Spain. “I gave a talk about Yoga and Backpacking,” Mugs says. “At the time, my sister, Jo and I had done two separate hikes – both from Mexico to Canada. On the Pacific Trail we had walked through the mountains and deserts of California, Oregon and Washington. It took us six months and we covered about 2,800 miles. A year and a half later we hiked the Continental Divide from Mexico to Canada covering more than 3,000 miles on foot, sometimes using snowshoes as we crossed mountain passes over 12,000 feet. It was an amazing experience. Jo is an artist – and every day we’d stop in the wilderness – Jo would paint and I’d do my Yoga.”

“I refined my practice to help keep my muscles loose and long while staying strong for the hike.”

By 1994, Mugs had joined up with other Canadian teachers who had moved to her local area to form the South Okanagan Yoga Association (now known as the South Okanagan Yoga Academy or SOYA)– where they taught their own 500-hour Yoga Alliance Registered Teacher Training, so that finally students were able to qualify without leaving the country. Mugs ensured they created the training to be thorough and equally inclusive of asana and philosophy and to meet IYTA standards.

Three years later she attended the IYTA Convention at Uluru, Australia, where she a talk about Karma and Reincarnation. At the congress, IYTA president, Moina Bower gave her approval that Mugs could oversee exams for Canadians who wished to become full IYTA members – which helped the Canadian membership of the IYTA flourish.

Mugs and her husband Robert (also a yoga teacher) now run the teacher trainings with other teachers trained through SOYA. And for the past seven years, they have been dividing their time between homes in Canada and Mexico, running trainings in both countries.

They also hold an Annual Yoga Retreat in Naramata, BC bringing in world renowned teachers so other can benefit locally from their ideas. Including Yogis such as Erich Schiffmann, author of: Yoga: The Art and Practice of Moving Into Stillness and Rod Stryker, author of The Four Desires.

“There is nothing in my life that isn’t yoga,” says Mugs. “No matter if it involved adult children, grandchildren or anything else. I come from my centre and my centre is filled with yoga. Each day I say to myself: I am a Spirit expressing myself through form. How would I like to express myself today? And then off I go into each new day.

In 2012 Mugs was formally honoured when she was presented with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her forty years of yoga service and for representing Canada abroad. Mugs says: “I was humbled and thrilled that the Canadian government would recognise yoga as such a contribution to the community.”

The IYTA now has hundreds of members based in Canada and over the years, Mugs has trained more than 300 teachers. “It really is rewarding. But I don’t think of myself as having found yoga, I think the yoga path found me. And the IYTA has been a huge, huge part of my journey – always inspiring and supporting me as a teacher.


Roma Blair

Roma Blair is the founder of IYTA, also known as Swami Nirmalananda. She celebrated her 90th birthday on 28th July 2013 and passed on the 5th of November 2013 in Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast where her light shines brightly.

Roma Bliar lived an extraordinary life. Married to a Dutchman and living in Java, Roma became a Japanese prisoner of war. For three and a half years she had been missing and presumed dead. Roma gave birth to her son on a table with no medical help and even the demands of her Japanese captors to be out in the fields the following day could not break her spirit. Her journey through her life is one of remarkable strength, determination and courage.

With her release in 1945, Roma returns to Sydney to be reunited with her husband and family. Later travelling to South Africa with her husband and son, Roma takes up modelling. As her memories of the camp were fading her health becomes an issue.

Roma ends up at a yoga class and so begins a journey of healing. Roma has spent her life teaching others the physical and spiritual benefits of yoga and has continued to dedicate her life to charity.

Excerpt from her book
Links to more information

Roma Blair