IYTA teachers Alana Smith and Gyan Morrison are sharing their knowledge in our online yoga workshop. Here Alana explains why it is important to combine both practices…
Q: What benefits can you gain from combining pranayama with the bandhas?
A: When you add the bandhas to pranayama practices it compounds the effects of pranayama, making it more potent which can enhance your state of calmness and clarity. Combining the two will also make your practice more efficient.
In addition, It also creates psychic and energetic environment whereby suspension of breath can develop naturally and effortlessly, leading to enhanced meditative states. This can also help with enhancement and containment of subtle energies, shifting stuck energies.
Q: What do you need to be aware of as a teacher when working with both bandhas and pranayama?
You need to know how to do bandhas proficiently before combining them together otherwise it becomes very confusing and potentially damaging.
You need to be able to do them fairly effortlessly as distinct practices before combining them.
We need to learn the signs that students aren’t doing them correctly, such as getting light-headed, hot or more angry or hyperactive, and then how to amend them.
A lot of abdominal awareness, activation and co-ordination needed to perform the vitalising practices in particular.
Q: Will this workshop incorporate postures as well?
Minimal asana, we might do a few warm up practices just to prepare the body.
This workshop is recommended for people with a little bit of experience with pranayama.
You’ll explore a simple 3-step framework for practising Pranayama incorporating Bandhas. You’ll experience a set of vitalising, balancing and cooling tranquillising techniques and have the opportunity to get some feedback on your practice.
You’ll also receive notes of these techniques for your reference.
It will be structured so that participants are able to perform the various practices and given the time to experience the effects of the individual practices both as discrete practices and in combination with pranayama and it will be as interactive as possible.
This workshop has ended – stay tuned for more pranayama workshops in the future – visit our events page
Visit Alana Smith’s Stag Hill Yoga Classes and Yoga Resources
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
Stay tuned for our next Free Open Day! Visit our events page for details
Julie Atkinson spent the first International Yoga Day at the UN headquarters – this year she’ll be leading our IYTA Winter Solstice Class. Here she shares some thoughts about Japanese yoga and warming winter practices..
Q: How do you normally celebrate the International Day of Yoga?
For the very first International Day of Yoga I was living in Geneva and there was a big celebration at the Palais de Nation – United Nations Headquarters hosted by the Indian mission. It was held outdoors with a big attendance with the beautiful Lake Geneva and The Alps as the backdrop.
I’ve been lucky enough to attend similar celebrations at the UN on subsequent years. Last year whilst in lockdown, Rich (another yoga teacher) and I organised a day of yoga (on Zoom) as a fundraiser for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre here in Melbourne. Lots of people supported us and we raised around $1100. This year I’ll be leading this yoga class for the IYTA to celebrate and also mark the Winter Solstice.
Q: Will you do anything to mark the International Day of Yoga in the class?
Yes I’m working on ways to bring us together as a group, to feel our inter-connectedness and acknowledge the important role that Yoga has in all our lives.
Q: How easy is Japanese yoga for people who have never done the practice before?
Japanese yoga is very accessible. There are so many aspects to the practice as well as Yoga postures and exercises including, Do-In, self-massage, corrective exercises, chanting, meridian based exercises and meditation. Many of these can be practiced whilst seated in a chair. I offer many options and encourage participants to listen to their bodies and to work in a comfortable and steady way using the Yoga principles of Sukha and sthira.
Q: What can they expect from this class?
The class will include chanting, Okido exercises to help us feel grounded and centered, acupressure & tapping or rubbing on meridians with a particular emphasis for the water element and Kidney and Bladder meridians which are related to Winter. There will also be an emphasis of letting go of unnecessary thoughts, feelings and making way for new possibilities as we begin to move back into the light.
Q: What is your daily practice? And is there anything you will be doing that you do daily in this winter solstice class?
My daily practice is in line with the seasons, the current weather conditions and the time of day that I choose to practice. Since Melbourne’s first lockdown I have offered an online practice virtually daily. Often my own practice is playing around with ideas and themes for the zoom session. Okido Yoga would normally include some partner work which of course hasn’t been possible since Covid – whether online or in face-to-face classes. And so I’ve found different ways that we can give ourselves shiatsu or apply acupressure. In daily practice I include self-awareness, chanting Aum and do-in or self-massage including using a foam roller.
Q: How is winter celebrated in Japanese yoga and do you have any tips for nurturing bladder and kidney meridians?
In Okido yoga we mirror the seasons in our practices. Winter is the most yin time and the winter solstice is like the yin within yin. It’s seen as a time to consolidate, slow down, rest more and spend more time in meditation. Practices to improve our circulation – stimulate kidney and bladder meridians such as supported or restorative forward bends and rubbing ears and kidneys.
Wearing a hara maki – a traditional Japanese under garment around our lower back kidneys is recommended to support our kidney energy and keep us warm. We can improvise by wrapping a scarf or similar around our waist (I will demonstrate in the IYTA class).
On winter Okido Yoga retreats ginger foot baths were recommended for their warming qualities and if possible we would have a gathering around a wood fire, with time for sharing stories, performances songs etc. we might choose to write down three things we were ready to let go of in our lives and then burn the papers in the fire.
Q: Any final thoughts?
The class will acknowledge that although we are in this most yin time we are beginning to move into the light. We will very gradually over the remainder of winter see the days lengthening and begin to prepare for the more upward and out wood energy of spring. Now is a good time to plant the seed of what we would like to manifest or invite into our lives in the months to follow 🙏
It’s a bright sunny afternoon in Collaroy on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and I’m at the IYTA’s annual residential on the Diploma of Yoga Teaching course where David Burgess has just stepped out of an afternoon of lectures on Pranayama and Meditation.
I’ve taken the opportunity to have a chat with him about his upcoming two-hour online workshop: The Place of Samkhya in Yogic Philosophy on Saturday, June 12.
Samkhya is a vast and multi-layered topic and I’m wondering how we will manage to do it justice in the sliver of time we have to chat.
With his trademark honesty and humility, David explains that preparing for this lecture has been all-consuming and daunting. He says: “There’s levels of knowing about Samkhya of course. Some call it the knowledge paradox: When you become somewhat conversant in any subject you begin to realise the vastness of what you don’t know. I’ve actually been doing a tertiary level course with Philipp Maas on the Samkhya Karika to help me prepare for this. Now there is a guy who knows his Samkhya!”
“I think it’s important for Samkhya to be understood as a darshana of its time – it’s not saying that it is the ultimate description of reality as we understand it to be in the 21st century. It was conceptualised, give or take a few centuries, around two thousand years ago and when we judge it with modern eyes, we can say well that doesn’t perhaps quite stack up. You see it is on one level just an ontological map as seen by ancient thinkers trying to describe their understanding of the nature of reality well before possessing the technology and insights we have today. Still, it is I believe, profoundly informative and a must for yoga teachers who are wanting to understand the philosophy that underpins the classical yoga of Patanjali in particular. While we may not choose to become authorities in this area, we should I believe have some level of literacy in that which is the foundation of what we propound. ”
“And another thing, it is so wide reaching – it covers it all: arguably it is our first theory of everything without recourse to myth and tradition – it is talking about self, the nature of mind and it’s talking about cosmological truths. It’s talking about creation. It’s talking about the unmanifest and the manifest. It obliges you to look at your own beliefs surrounding an explanation for the creation of the material universe, and inevitably to decide where one stands on the hard problem of consciousness.”
He adds: “Even today with all our technology we encounter a huge variation intellectually and linguistically in what we define consciousness to be. I can think of many definitions of what consciousness is – from simply being awake as opposed to being unconscious. Is it to be able to think to be “conscious”? What about sentience and what about “self-awareness” and what about “pure consciousness”? Is mind a product of consciousness or of the brain or both or the other way around? Do only humans possess consciousness, why not animals, why not all life forms and how about inanimate objects? the list is long and challenging and that is before we even ask is consciousness an evolute of material reality or is it an eternal autonomous entity? Samkhya has an opinion on all of this!
David adds that in the workshop he will be looking at the historical origins of Samkhya and how it is (and isn’t) applicable today. And to be seen in the context of all the other darshanas that collectively underpin what we describe as yogic philosophy.
He explains the reason why it is so helpful for yoga teachers to consider these matters is because: “there are a good deal of unsubstantiated or incomplete propositions and conclusions regarding what yoga is out there.” He says: “There are so many different understandings of what yoga is and isn’t and that is not to say that this workshop will totally clarify what it is and what it isn’t, but it is certainly a consideration of what it is and what it isn’t! 🙃
David refers to a quote from Mark Twain which he feels sums up the importance of the topic for yoga teachers: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
To book into this workshop and discover more on this wonderful journey through yogic history and philosophy then click HERE.
Sarah Kearney is drawing upon her knowledge as a Shiatsu Therapist and Chi Yoga Teacher to help us transition into Winter. Here she shares her yoga journey plus what’s in store in her May workshop…
Why did you become a yoga teacher?
I first attended yoga classes in my twenties during university, and practiced yoga on and off for ten or so years. After working for NSW TAFE in Health and Recreation Curriculum Development for some time, I decided in 1996 that I wanted to have my own business in the world of natural health. I studied Shiatsu Therapy and started a clinic in Dee Why, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, with a fellow student. Study in Shiatsu Therapy requires a lot of body movement and yoga studies as well as learning to provide Shiatsu massage. One of my Shiatsu teachers started a school in Bondi Junction called the ZEN Renaissance Centre just after I finished my course, where he wanted to teach the principles of Oki Do Yoga, applying meridian studies to yogic theory. I decided to further my studies there and by the year 2000, when I completed the yoga instruction course, I had begun to teach classes in both Bondi and Dee Why.
What’s your personal practice?
My personal practice involves constant mindfulness (I emphasise the word practice here!), attention to the environment around us as the seasons change, as well as regular asana, breathing and meditation practices. I try to put each practice into my day wherever there is a chance to do so.
How is Japanese Yoga different to Hatha Yoga?
Firstly it is based on the meridian system (the same system as acupuncture) and not on the Chakra system. It has its roots in ancient Chinese theory but was also practised in Japan.
The style I teach was inspired by the late Japanese zen yoga master, Masahiro Oki who blended Traditional Chinese Medicine with Hatha Yoga. Oki Do Yoga includes tapping and massaging with a lot of floorwork , but in my particular teaching I also incorporate many standing postures as well as flowing styles.
How can this practice help you connect with nature and the seasons?
It’s mostly about us being in touch with the changes of the seasons. We might not notice that in the winter a lot of us feel a bit lonely or things are too quiet or we have gone inside ourselves. You can use the energy of the kidney and bladder meridians in the Winter to help you feel grounded and present during this change.
What will the workshop focus on?
I’d like to let others know about the benefits of Japanese/Oki Do yoga perspectives. The practices support us in feeling more connected with the world around us as we are working with the same transforming energies in our bodies.
We’ll cover simple yoga practices that make a big difference to energy flow and state of mind. We’ll focus on balancing energies and the nervous system so the body can come back to its natural healing state and will work through a yoga practice that is felt on energetic as well as physical, emotional and spiritual levels.
What is your yoga teaching schedule like at the moment?
I teach nine classes per week (when I don’t have a broken foot – Sarah freakily broke her forefoot in February after a falling over the kids’ toys!) I teach both community and private classes. My classes are in Port Macquarie and Wauchope mainly, though I have taught in other nearby communities – Byabarra and Comboyne.
pic credit Tim Gouw at Unsplash
We had a chat with IYTA lecturer Sarah Manning on her upcoming Yin Autumn workshop, how the pandemic has affected yoga in Singapore and her exciting new projects…
Q: How is life?
I am busier than ever and I’m trying lots of new things. With any change we have to make the best of it and move forward. You can sit in a big hole and say I can’t do it, that you’re too old or you can throw yourself in there and be embarrassing and willing to be a bit of a fool. As you get older you get willing to wear that purple hat and ask for help. So I’m busy and I’m learning and it’s good.
Q: What’s next with the IYTA?
I’m running a three-hour online Autumn Yin Yoga workshop for the IYTA on April 24.
Yin is an opportunity to slow down, to go inward and develop awareness of your body, your energy and your state of mind. When you are in a country that has seasons it gives you an opportunity to just pause and reflect on what you will store in the memory banks.
This workshop will include discussion about the meridians and anecdotal stories relating to the lungs and large intestines meridians. And the emotions of grief and letting go. In Qi Gong they call it the energy of drawing inward and is used for storing energy in the lower dantian.
Q: Tell us a bit more about your yoga projects
I’ve chummed up with a techie, an Ayurveda practitioner and a fertility coach and the four of us are creating a 30-day fertility program which is on an App.
It’s tailored by women’s doshas and menstrual cycles and I’ve created around thirty minute yoga sequences!
I’m also heIping a friend who practises Arvigo massage and she and I are also working on promoting creating holistic health for fertility. The other project is offering Yin teacher trainings here in Singapore which is both face-to-face and online – so teaching both together has been another steep learning curve!
Q: How has the pandemic affected yoga in Singapore?
We are in a tiny place that has better control of its compliant population and we have a lot more freedoms than most people, but we are being traced. Every building you enter has a QR code and your temperature is taken constantly. For a while the studios were closed but they’ve now opened back up with strict mat distances and 1 person getting bolsters at any one time. Everyone has to wear masks until they are sitting on their mat. As a teacher if I move around the class I have to put my mask on – even if it’s to switch on or off the light!
The experienced teachers who have followers have moved online – you don’t have to travel with online classes. People who really want to work with you will do so in private and pay a premium. The studio where I’ve worked is now closing and renovating so they can transform the space for more private yoga classes and therapy rooms.
Q: How has Covid affected people’s mental health in Singapore?
We don’t have social security, so people don’t have the luxury of wallowing so they have to seek out other ways of making an income as they have no choice. So they just get up and move on.
I think over the next five years there will be a big shake up of the small studios that haven’t been able to sustain themselves.
Q: And what now for you personally?
Well my son Conrad has had to postpone his wedding twice, so they have set the date again for October in the UK – and I’m going to that wedding come what may!
I’m also missing my trips and all my friends in Australia – so hopefully I’ll make it there too sooner rather than later!
| Discover daily practices to help nourish your body and protect against disease |
Andrea Freeman’s day begins with a walk in nature, a special Ayurvedic tea (the recipe will be revealed in her latest IYTA workshop) and oil pulling.
These are just three of the ways Andrea integrates Ayurveda into her day. And those lucky enough to attend her workshop in Perth, WA on Sunday, March 21, will discover many more tips and ways they can stay strong and healthy this Autumn and beyond.
Andrea, a mum of one, developed a close connection with nature while growing up in the English countryside. Her family emigrated to South Africa in the early 70’s where she was educated. Finding out about the “spice route” around the Cape to India and the Spice Islands captured her imagination. Historically black pepper was more valuable than gold! Andrea’s interest in Ayurveda was sparked when she first travelled to India in her 20s.
After completing her Diploma of Yoga Teaching with the IYTA in 2001, she began reading more about Ayurveda (Wisdom of Life) – Yoga’s sister science and decided to undertake a Diploma in Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselling with the College of Mind, Body and Soul in Adelaide.
During her two years of part-time study, Andrea explored the concept of staying in balance and disease prevention. She is particularly fascinated by the doshas and dravyagunavijnana (the qualities of substances in the natural world and how they affect us physically, mentally and emotionally). Also of special interest; the healing power of herbs and spices.
Applying this essential knowledge now gives Andrea tools on a day to day basis to stay in balance through the seasons and her life cycle.
So what’s Andrea’s morning schedule like?
6am – I start the day with time in the garden connecting with nature and practicing Mindfulness
6.15am– I then brew a cup of Ayurvedic Tea (recipe to be revealed at the workshop)
6.30am – while the tea is brewing I enjoy an Ayurvedic self massage (Abhyanga), using warmed black sesame oil and focus on the joints.
I leave the oil to be absorbed whilst at
7am – sip tea while contemplating the day and cultivating gratitude.
Before showering and ready for yoga.
Andrea adds: “My dominant dosha is Pitta and my secondary dosha is Kapha, so I am very mindful of the foods I eat and combine. I eat seasonally and in summer enjoy foods and acitivities that are cooling. Being in my 60’s now, I am in the vata phase of life. Vata is responsible for anxiety and overwhelm and I understand and help my students manage stress.
I make and blend a variety of herbal and spice mixes, to relieve stress, aid inflammation and help the digestive system through sparking Agni (digestive fire).
I also enjoy a daily dose of golden paste (a combination of turmeric, black pepper and coconut oil) for inflammation and a cognitive boost, either in black coffee in the morning or milk in the evening.”
Andrea teaches seven yoga classes a week and offers Abhyanga massages (Ayurvedic full body massages), Indian Head Massage, Ayurvedic Lifestyle consultations and makes many herbal formulations as well as running monthly workshops at her home studio, The Santosha Room.
The 2.5 hour IYTA workshop on Sunday, March 21 will feature:
The seven steps to boost immunity as suggested by the AYUSH Ministry of India which was issued at the onset of the Corona Virus.
Pic credit: Calum Lewish at Unsplash
Stop for a moment and notice your breath. Not just the rhythm, the temperature or even the pauses, but the predominant nostril and direction of exhaled air.
Did you know this forms the basis for a particular style of yogic practice known as Swara Yoga?
And regular practice and self-observation can help you discover your biorhythms and give you greater self-awareness.
Swami Muktibodhananda (Mukti) discovered Swara Yoga while studying in India in the 70s – she’s even authored a book on the practice: Swara Yoga – The Tantric Science of Brain Breathing. And now she’s about to reveal this practice at an IYTA online yoga workshop in March.
Mukti says: “Swara Yoga is the practice of recognising which nostril you are predominantly breathing through and what this indicates about your capacities in your current situation and in your current environment.”
Swara Yoga requires you to be observant of the specific nostril through which you are breathing as well as the direction of the breath while exhaling.
For example, Mukti says when you exhale and you put your fingers close to the nostrils – the breath can flow up, down, sideways and central. It’s not always flowing the same way. This indicates a specific energy flow in the body, which relates to a particular element (Tattwa)– air (vayu), water (apas), ether (akasha), fire (agni) and earth (prithvi).
Mukti adds: “For example, if the air is flowing up towards the top of the nose, the fire element is predominating.”
“This can be observed any time, but it is particularly observed at sunrise. And ideally you need to know the specific moon date and which nostril should be flowing to be in harmony with your environment.
“There is a natural biorhythm to which everyone’s swara flows and if your swara is out of sync with this rhythm then you know that there is a disturbance in the body or mind or emotions which needs to be addressed. Swara Yoga does not teach you how to breath as this is addressed in Hatha Yoga.”
Of course, a three-hour workshop will just be an introduction to these concepts, but you will still come away with tools to understand yourself, others and your relationship to your natural environment on a deeper level.
So why isn’t more known about this fascinating practice? Mukti says there are few teachers teaching Swara Yoga worldwide, because traditionally this particular Tantric practice of Swara Yoga was kept secret.
Mukti adds: “In the history of Tantra, many practices have been kept secret because people were not ready for the practices. Today we are well and truly ready to understand our biorhythms. “
Mukti discovered Swara Yoga in 1978 when she was living in a small Yogashram in the middle of India, Rajnandgaon, Madhya Pradesh. She had taught herself to read the Deva Nagari script in which Sanskrit and Hindi are written. Here in the yogashram, she read about the connection of the moon phases and which nostril should be functioning at sunrise.
She says: “I would check every morning and found it was true. It fascinates me that everyone’s breathing and brain hemisphere activities are linked to the specific moon date cycles. And to know that by discerning which nostril you are breathing through, you can understand the outcome of specific actions is invaluable in the process of being more in charge of yourself, to be ‘self-controlling, rather than ‘other’ controlling. I am always interested in yogic methods that increase my awareness of myself and others.
Mukti says that by understanding her own swara, she is able to make more informed decisions.
Mukti explains it can help you to shift out of negative emotions and behaviours such as being judgmental, blaming or being critical or feeling victimised or having a desire to “rescue”.
This is quite a complex subject but Mukti still manages to incorporate it into her general yoga classes by bringing students’ awareness to the fact that they breathe through individual nostrils, as well as through both nostrils evenly from time to time.
And that this cycle of breathing needs to change throughout 24 hours in order to maintain physical and psychological balance. She also explains about sleeping on your side in relation to having a deep sleep (all these aspects will be covered in the IYTA workshop).
Pic credit: thanks to Unsplash and Ale Romo photographer
Turning upside down shifts your perspective, which is so good for us mentally and physically. We caught up with IYTA lecturer, Alex Cogley to chat about headstands!
Q: When did you first start doing headstands and incorporating them into your yoga practice?
First one when I was a kid, but from around 12 onwards I didn’t spend much time on my head again until I was in my mid-twenties when I started doing yoga.
I was taught them as part of the Yoga Synergy courses that were offered in Bondi, and Newtown. Yoga Synergy has a foundation in physiotherapy (both the Directors are physiotherapist), so there was a strong emphasis on safety and the stages to getting into a headstand safely AND coming out properly.
Q: Why you love headstands? And why you do them?
I love the stillness that they bring (but it didn’t initially feel like that, it took practice and patience!). Headstands have many benefits but when I first started doing them I enjoyed the challenge and overcoming my fear of falling out/balancing my body weight on my head… by learning how to get into them properly, and being patience fears are overcome.
Q: Why do you think so many yoga teachers and students don’t do headstands?
Firstly, the neck/head is such a delicate structure there are concerns regarding injuries… you don’t ever fully know your students’ full medical history, they may tell you about their obviously physical conditions, but it is often the emotional and mental tension that causes tension and stress, especially in the head, neck and shoulders… especially in our sedentary society where we are required to sit for prolonged periods and therefore putting additional tension and wear/tear in the neck and shoulders and spine. There are many inversion alternatives that offer the same benefits but are more accessible to students.
Q: What are the key safety points?
This is a long answer and will be addressed in the workshop (Alex is running her headstand workshop for the IYTA in March). It’s more than just not being suitable for students who are pregnant, unmedicated blood pressure, neck injuries, eye issues (detached retina, glaucoma) and some heart conditions…. it’s an individual’s physical, emotion and mental state too…
Q: When do you do your headstand practice? How long do you hold your headstand?
When – well I suggest once you have completed the standing poses, or at the end of the practice… body warmed up, not tired, core engaged. How long – as long as you feel comfortable when starting… and then build to 1min, 2min, 5min, 10min for more… to a point that feels like you’re in Tadasana but on your head!
I only teach headstands as part of a course, or when I know the whole group or individual well – never to new students in my class (or if I’m doing a cover class), as I need to know their bodies, lifestyle / background etc. However, if you are confident with teaching a headstand, and it is suitable for the group or individual then do it, as the benefits are so worthwhile.
Q: Is there any time you don’t do your headstand practice?
Traditionally inversions aren’t practiced in the first three days of a menstrual cycle, due to affecting the flow of blood plus some women’s core are not so strong in this phase, and therefore not so supportive in the inversion. I think due to our lifestyles we need to look at a lot of other issues – prolonged desk work, tension, stress – headstands can help BUT only when a student is able to go into them without tensing all the wrong muscles and potentially putting themselves at risk of injury. Headstands are suitable for all levels of practitioners (apart from complete beginners) however, it is advised that students have some yoga experience of a least 2-3 months. I would recommend that students have body awareness, an open mind, desire to try something new and approach them with a sense of fun. Students should be able to hold Downward Dog, Wide-Legged Forward Bend, Forearm Plank, and Dolphin for a minute each.
Q: Anything else to add?
Headstands are challenging so the ego needs to be left behind and an acceptance of where each individual’s body is at, on that day, in that moment is essential.
What are the five main conditions of the ageing body – and how can you stay youthful with yoga?
At first the signs of ageing can be subtle – feeling a little stiff when we get out of bed in the morning, finding our jeans are a little more snug and perhaps noticing an extra line or two when we scrutinise our reflection in the mirror.
These changes tend to happen from our mid-40s and affect everyone in different ways. How we look and feel is unique to us and in part due to our lifestyle, environment, genetics, mindset and work conditions.
Ageing is a fact of life, but yoga can help us to stay youthful in mind, body and spirit. Which is why Seniors Yoga is becoming increasingly popular.
The IYTA’s Beryl Broadbent has written and presents a hugely popular two-day training to help yoga teachers focus on the needs of students aged 50+
She has been teaching yoga for Seniors for the past 25 years and presenting the IYTA’s Senior Yoga Training for the past two years.
Beryl says: “Yoga can bring focus to the mind by helping people get back in touch with their breath. In the past 25 years, yoga has been widely accepted as a health regime and a lot of people start yoga because it is accessible, gentle and simple. It is beneficial in many ways – from improving posture to encouraging deeper sleep, awareness of the breath and helps people connect with others and their communities.”
FIVE main conditions of ageing
#1 – Arthritis and getting stiffer – arthritis can occur at any age, but it tends to be more prevalent as we age. We can also find our joints can become stiffer and we find it harder to climb stairs and get up off our yoga mats.
Beryl says: “I have a lot of students who were athletes or runners and as they age, they find their body can’t handle ballistic impact movements. Yoga helps to keep joints mobile and active in a safe and controlled way while reducing the severity and pain of arthritic conditions.”
#2 – Weight gain – as you age you lose muscle mass and typically become less active which means you’ll burn less calories. Our hormonal balance also changes as we go through menopause – and don’t forget men have their equivalent of menopause too. Beryl adds that as our children become more independent, our workload around the home shifts (of course this is a benefit, but the downside is that we aren’t running around as much and as such our activity levels drop.)
In Seniors Yoga classes, depending on the ability and age range of the students, Beryl will often bring in some aerobics movements such as marching, heel taps, easy walks and even grapevines.
#3 – Posture – as we get older there is a tendency for us to hunch forwards and for the back to round resulting in a stooped posture or even a kyphosis. We can also suffer bone loss.
Yoga encourages us to stand tall and to release neck and shoulder tension, open the heart and breathe deeply into the lungs and feeling the entire rib cage expand and release with the breath.
Beryl believes in focusing on postural awareness. She says: “I find that shoulder rolls help to loosen up the chest and release into the shoulders. I encourage students to feel the shoulder blades slide down into the hip pockets and think of having angel wings fold across your back, to encourage the chest to open and the shoulders to soften.
#4 Cardiovascular health and high blood pressure – as we age our risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke all increase. Many people aren’t aware they even have high blood pressure, so it’s important they have regular health checks. Yoga helps keep people active, can reduce stress and helps to keep body weight regular. Some of the breathing techniques such as Nadi Sodhana may have a direct impact on our cardiovascular health.
#5 Stress of midlife – the stress of ageing is a different kind of stress than in our earlier years. We are unlikely to have the responsibility of children, we may lose our independence, have to readjust to retirement and cope with grief and loss. There are also the physical symptoms of ageing to deal with such as loss of hearing, sight and mobility. As we know, yoga helps us cope with the changing landscape of our life and gives us tools to ease stress, tension and anxiety.
These are just some of the ways ageing can impact us – and some of the ways yoga can help. To discover more about this wonderful practice sign up to our two-day training NOW
The IYTA course is available online and face-to-face and Beryl will be delivering the course face-to-face in Brisbane on March 13 – 14, 2021
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.
The IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching can change your life – here ten of our 2020 students share their experiences…
Start the New Year with a new direction and do something poistive, challenging and rewarding by becoming a Yoga Teacher. You never know it could change your life. Here TEN of our 2020 students share their story.
#1 Kana Nobuhara – 37, Dee Why, NSW
Initially I was doing Bikram’s yoga for about ten years – I thought about doing that training, but I didn’t want to be restricted to one style of yoga or study overseas.
I was about to commit to doing a yoga course and then I fell pregnant, I thought I’d have to put it on the back burner, but I miscarried.
As devastating as it was and my husband in February (2020) said: Well why don’t you use this opportunity to do the yoga course. I had started doing pre-natal classes – that introduced me to other forms of yoga which I started to appreciate again
That led to me to be more confident and open minded about exploring other forms of yoga and so I searched online. I wanted to find the most established school in Australia – and I found the IYTA.
I liked that there was no one form of style and it provided a really good grounding holistic view of yoga.
At that point I’d missed the first weekend, but it wasn’t a problem as I was sent the recorded lectures, so I caught up. Then I fell pregnant again!
It’s been my best decision I’ve made in my life.
At this point in my life – it’s come together in regards to my dharma. There are so many knowledgeable teachers who are familiar with pre-natal yoga that I wasn’t concerned.
Being pregnant on the course has been really nourishing in so many ways – it really has helped me gradually prepare myself for childbirth and being more connected to my mind and body and with the asanas and chanting and mantras and how that all comes together and how I can utilise all those tools to benefit my whole pregnancy journey.
I would love to teach! I want to focus on motherhood initially and devote myself to that, but I think yoga is absolutely essential in terms of helping people become more in touch with their bodies – I’ve been teaching my friends and it’s encouraging this course is already impacting my group of friends.”
#2 Rachel Smith, 30, Balmain, NSW
“I’ve always wanted to learn more about yoga. I did a lot of research and the IYTA DYT course seemed like a good choice.
I like the gentle and holisitic approach and you learn to listen to your body.
It’s been intense – I think it has helped doing this course during lockdown… it has given me a focus and encouraged me to give myself time to do the meditation and pranayama and practice each week.
The residential has been good – it’s been great to meet all the online students and get to know each other a bit more.
The course has definitely helped to improve my daily practice and given me a great foundation in yoga and for teaching.”
#3 Rachel Sands, 47, Fish Creek Victoria, South Gippsland
“I wanted to diversify my income moving into older age… I work in public health four days a week and I see being a yoga teacher maintains yoga in my life. It also forces me to stay engaged with yoga and to own it a bit more and thus to also shift away from a day job if I so choose.
The course has been profound and it wasn’t at all what I expected. I don’t think I did it for the reasons for which I am now grateful of – I went into it in a pragmatic way, but what I’ve got from it is so much more and I wouldn’t have thought I would have experienced that.
I will be so sad when it finishes. It is a framework in my life that keeps me engaged in learning and progressing and it gives me an emotional support .
Absolutely I would recommend this course. I have appreciated the inclusive philosophy and that it’s ok to be where you are at and ok if your body doesn’t do what the picture says and I love that we are given these tools to allow everyone to participate. And I have enjoyed the diversity of teaching styles I have been exposed to.
I’m really grateful with the standard of pranayama and meditation instruction.”
#4 Amanda Mealing, 40, Moree, NSW
“I just wanted to know more about yoga – I went online and searched. There were lots of different courses and I like the approach that IYTA had welcoming in lots of different teachers and different aspects of yoga. It didn’t seem like it was going to be a rigid set of beliefs – and the correspondence was huge knowing that I wouldn’t get to Sydney a lot of weekends. I liked the way it was over a year so I would incorporate it into my life…
I love it – it’s been so good – the teachers have been amazing, the other students have been amazing – it is so well set up and timed as far as every step that comes next in the program you are ready for it… an integrated way of learning and also the correspondence has been helpful – during Covid the guys put in extra effort to do the classes via Zoom.
I’ve been very grateful to have this course to help keep me grounded during the madness of the year – I think I’m a lot calmer than if I hadn’t been doing the course
Sometimes I don’t realise the effect it is having on me..
I absolutely recommend it.”
#5 Stanja Buvac – 43, Dulwich Hill
I decided to do the course to improve my personal practice and overall wellbeing and learn pranayama and meditation.
Why IYTA? I’ve done a lot of research and found this course is comprehensive and covers not only asana and philosophy but pranayama and meditation in comparison to the majority of others.
It is quite challenging but good challenging – it makes me learn and it is quite harder than I thought it would be. There is so much to learn – definitely more hours than in any other course.
Because you do it over the year it gives you more time and space for all this knowledge to settle so it isn’t that intense training which you don’t have time to absorb.
And in pranayama and meditation you can’t do that in a short course.
I absolutely recommend it, because it challenges you – and changes your life if you are open to a change… and expands and deepens your knowledge and understanding about life.
I feel like it has changed my life – it has shifted my perception in many ways – learning about different bodies and anatomy and Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga. You do this course and you start to really dig deeper – and you understand yourself better. Professionally I fell in love with pranayama and edition so I would like to teach meditation and pranayama, I think I would find it more enjoyable than teaching asanas…
I can embody that more. Physical part is not as important as those deeper levels… “
#6 Junko Wong, 45, Ultimo, NSW
“I decided to do this as I had been practicing yoga for 6-7 years and I wanted to learn more especially about pranayama, meditation and philosophy. I’d been doing a lot of asana work but not much else.
Pranayama, meditation and philosophy was included in this course in particular. And I was also aware of the good reputation of the IYTA and that is was a well-balanced and good course.
I really like the course it covers so much and the teachers are all very different. I’ve learnt a lot. The study weekends are quite intense and it can be overwhelming but there is a lot of support from all the teachers and students.
I think in the beginning I wasn’t sure if I wanted to teach but now I am more keen to teach – starting with friends and perhaps hiring a community centre. I work as a support worker in a preschool, so I might do yoga for children.”
#7 Audrey D’Souza – age 60, Pymble
“I go to the Kuringai Yoga School and have been going for many years. I enquired about this course about two years ago but in Sept 2019 my mum passed away and I was very involved in caring for her, when that happened I started to think about now it’s time for me.
I didn’t know what I was going to do and then I got the reminder email about this course and the moment I saw that, I thought: this is it, I am doing this…
I did check out a few others courses, but I came back and spoke to Lynne and Margaret – they couldn’t speak more highly about the IYTA course. I asked them am I ready? Audrey I know you and I think you are absolutely ready, I was told, but they warned me I would have to work hard!
So I enrolled and I haven’t looked back since. The course is great – it is so comprehensive. It is covering the whole yogic lifestyle as opposed to just asanas. Doing the yoga philosophy part of it has sparked a great interest in me and I am waiting to jump in and learn more. I need to go and learn more.
My reason for doing the course… the first reason was myself and my husband – we are both 60 – as we grow older we need to be even kinder to ourselves and to me yoga is the way to go. I also want to encourage older people and help them move in a gentle and mindful way – I want to take my skills to the retirement homes – I want to just do it for the love of doing it.
People say the IYTA is the best course there is around and yes, it is the best course because of everything that it encompasses.”
#8 Andrea Gotham, aged 54, Seaforth, NSW
“My first yoga teacher, Lydia Dyhin was an IYTA teacher and I really liked her style and I was always trying to find a teacher with the same style. Also one weekend a month was really good for me, as I have children and it didn’t interfere with family activities – and I liked the idea of having lots of different teachers who specialised in their individual areas.
I’ve loved the course. Absolutely loved the course. I’m not 100 per cent sure I will teach but the journey has been the most enjoyable experience.
It’s the group of people I’ve been learning with have been so likeminded and the lecturers have been very knowledgeable and supportive.
I would definitely recommend it – for me the journey has been so enjoyable especially this year with Covid. As much as it is rigorous the lecturers all seem to understand you have other lives and it’s not a big deal if you need an extension on something.”
#9 Helen Johnson, age 34, Young, NSW
“I’ve had two incredible teachers who are both IYTA trained and had different approaches, but the same values. And living regionally the ability to be able to do it by distance and the third reason it is long and comprehensive.
I’ve found it amazing, both the teachers and the other students are all so supportive. And the curriculum has been comprehensive, but there is a lot of space to go into self enquiry and insight..
I did it because I wanted to be a yoga teacher, that was my main driver was to become a yoga teacher because of the big gap we have in our community. But through doing it I’ve found how advantageous it has been in deepening my own personal practice.
You guys are all really experts and I view it as an honour to be able to be able to graduate and teach.”
#10 Marcus Reynolds, 61, Newtown
“This course I liked being spread out over 12 months – I didn’t like the idea of a boot camp intensity I thought at my age if I had an injury it would be hard to stick with it. I also know with my learning processes I would need time to internalise and assimilate it.
The course has been great. A really lovely balance between the breathing, asana and philosophy – I knew there was going to be that philosophical approach – the surprising element is how much it has resonated with me.
Understanding about being gentle to yourself, the process accepting of where you are at..
The course has supported that you accept what you can accept – move in that direction and allow yourself to build.
Yoga is such an internal process and one in which there is all this growing awareness of self and the connectedness of yourself as a whole – with mind and breath but to externalise that in terms of the articulation in a succinct way is challenging.
My journey of understanding of my body – the strengths and vulnerabilities. As I’ve started to teach friends I’ve realised what a gift this is to share. And my friends have said they feel inspired so this course has had a ripple effect to my friends… it has positively touched the lives of those I care about.”
Yoga Nidra helped yoga teacher, Alison Mactaggart (Mantradharma) cope with chronic insomnia during menopause and now she is teaching others how to experience the benefits of this ancient practice
Alison or Mantradharma (as she is known by her Sanskrit name), discovered yoga more than 20 years ago while living in London. She says: ‘I started with Iyengar and continued when I moved to Australia.” But it was when she attended a friend’s Satyananda Yoga teaching class that she experienced deeper benefits.
She says: “I felt so balanced and calm afterwards and I realised that that’s how you are supposed to feel after yoga – not activated as I had been after other styles of yoga and unable to get to sleep when I got home.”
And so Alison enrolled in the Academy of Yoga Science at Mangrove and completed her two year Diploma in 2010.
One practice which Alison always found powerful – regardless of yoga styles – was Yoga Nidra. And the Satyananda training dedicated several hours to teaching and exploring this aspect of yoga.
Alison says: “Yoga Nidra is accessible to anyone – irrespective of age, fitness, health condition, race, culture, spiritual inclinations (or not!). It can be practiced in lots of ways and in various settings.”
And it became Alison’s saviour when she was suffering with chronic insomnia during peri and post menopause. She says: “I had the classic pattern of sleeping solidly for five hours and then waking up at 1am and not being able to get back to sleep for three or four hours.”
At the time Alison was living in an ashram and had to get up often around 5 am – and she became chronically sleep deprived. She says: “I would just do back-to-back Yoga Nidra at this time – and you can guarantee that it was the only time I didn’t fall asleep during the practice!”
She believes it nourished her and enabled her to have enough energy to manage demanding days in the ashram. She adds: “I still mainly practice in this way now. Though when I teach Yoga NIdra, I often slip into a practice space that nourishes me as much as those I am instructing.”
She also uses her Yoga Nidra practice when she is travelling and on those pre-COVID days when she would be on a 24 hour flight back home to Europe.
She says: “Apart from the challenge of staying awake – it is an effortless way to connect with who we are. I feel passionate about sharing this practice with anyone, and in recent years I have been training health professionals in Sydney hospitals.”
Alison Mactaggart (Mantradharma) is leading a half day online workshop and a full-day face-to-face session in Yoga Nidra for the IYTA – to find out more or book in please click HERE.
Yoga Nidra – Foundations of Transformation
Online – Zoom
Sunday, August 2, 2020
1.30pm – 4.30pm
IYTA Members $55 non-members: $65
This three-hour online session will be an introduction to what yoga nidra is and how the key benefits and effects are achieved through the stages and the practice as a whole.
Unlock the Mystery of Yoga Nidra
Sunday, October 4, 2020
9am – 4pm
Crows Nest Community Centre
Members $197, non-members: $225
The one-day workshop will enable participants to delve a little deeper into the practice and each of the stages. The focus is on understanding how Yoga Nidra supports us to learn the skills to regulate our nervous system so that we can respond more positively to life’s challenges and in the long term evolve into who we are meant to be.
This was a short session to encourage teachers to think about how yoga practices may impact on their students who have experienced trauma.
Some background was provided to form a context for the practical approaches:
Why teach yoga through a trauma informed lens?
Research indicates around 90% of the population experiences trauma at some point in their lifetime; between 8-20% develop PTSD as a result. (Bessel van der Kolk and David Emerson)
“Trauma refers to any threatening, overwhelming experiences that we cannot integrate… after such experiences we are often left with a diminished sense of security with others and in the world and a sense of feeling unsafe within our own skin.” (Pat Ogden)
Experiences that are commonly associated with trauma – developmental (through child abuse/neglect, living with domestic violence), war zones/conflicts as military personnel or civilians, domestic violence, first responders, refugee experiences, natural disasters, accidents and through working with people who have experienced trauma.
Trauma may impact on many levels: physiological, energetic, emotional, behavioural, mental, physical and interpersonal. Across all koshas in fact.
Specific impacts may include hypervigilance, disconnection from bodily sensations, loss of rhythms, loss of trust, past is often present and an exaggerated startle response. Loss of bodily autonomy, loss of choice, boundaries have been disrespected. Suppression of breath, abdominal inhibition, diminished core strength, locked jaw- all of which inhibit breath. There can be a sense of shame about selves/bodies.
Yoga- asana/pranayama/mindfulness/meditation have been hailed as solutions for all that ails us and have been adopted joyously, wholeheartedly and uncritically by many well-meaning people, but they can be very tricky for people who have experienced trauma.
“It is naive at best, harmful/dangerous at worst to assume that any and all yoga practices including breath work are inherently healing for and helpful for trauma survivors.” (Caitlin Lanier)
During the session Marg very briefly addressed the overall goals and general principles of Trauma Informed Yoga classes.
Some practical approaches which can be implemented in general classes as well a specific trauma specific groups were suggested:
- Offer choice in all practices. Use invitational language and language of inquiry such “when you are ready”, “notice, feel, be curious” to encourage making effective choices and develop interoception.
- Use slow, mindful movement to foster present moment awareness and a sense of safety.
- Focus on function rather than alignment for movement and asana to assist in reclaiming/befriending the body. Choose asana/sequencing carefully to support students to move towards safety and comfort.
- Respect boundaries, avoid walking behind or lingering. Stay in view and let students continually assess for safety.
- Suggest stabilizing anchors in the environment eg: open eyes, pay attention to surrounds to shift attention towards something external if a student is feeling dysregulated.
We practised seated mountain, sun breath, standing mountain and tree pose through a TIY lens. The session was completed with a grounding exercise which might be useful if someone was dissociated at the end of class.
Whilst this experience did not prepare us to become dedicated teachers of TIY, it did encourage us to understand that we can have an impact as yoga teachers and that it is important to stay within our scope of practice for everyone’s safety.
A full day session is planned for 2020 to enable IYTA members to understand the nature and impacts of trauma, provide an opportunity for more experiential work and a chance for further discussion.