Much has been said regarding pranayama over the millennia and it is taught now in a spectacularly diverse range of ways. So, before I begin to offer my take on the subject I should like to establish the caveat that what follows represents only one opinion among many and as with all yoga: vive la difference! That being said, what I do say is informed by what is now becoming an embarrassingly large number of decades that I have been practising and teaching pranayama.

The first question I believe one must ask in deciding on how to go about teaching pranayama is what is one really hoping primarily to achieve on behalf of the students by the inclusion of pranayama in a class? Is it included to gently awaken students to an awareness of how much more effectively they can breathe? Is it included to offer one’s students some simple accessible techniques that can be used in a first aid or allopathic sense? As an example, offering Bhramari Pranayama as an option for people challenged with getting to sleep or Agnisar Kriya, Swarna or Bhastrika to aid digestion or for diminished energy levels, or perhaps a cooling breath such as Sheetkari for overheating, say when peri-menopausal. Clearly these are all valid and beneficial applications of pranayama ceteris paribus.

Other approaches are informed by the tenets of various limbs of yoga, for example: Hatha Yoga with its purpose here being to balance the polarities in our body as represented by Ida and Pingala Nadi with the intention being purification at the energetic or pranic level. Kriya Yoga or Kundalini Yoga would further suggest that by balancing Ida and Pingala, Sushumna Nadi is activated and due to this occurring one is able to ultimately experience one’s full potential. Finally, from the Raja Yoga perspective Pranayama can be employed as the bridge between the bahirangas and the antarangas. (the outer and inner of the eight limbs) or in and of itself as a pathway to Dhyana.

One school of thought suggests that as teachers of pranayama we should be mostly guided by what our students want at any given point of time. While this approach has obvious merit and while as a general rule I usually embrace this teaching principle, when it comes to pranayama it is not my preference!

I believe that before students can make an informed decision on what to learn and what to skip they should be made aware of the scope and range of options from which they can choose. Furthermore I would suggest this is best achieved by systematically including pranayamas in our class plans in a way which safely and effectively introduces this wonderful domain of yoga to our students. And therefore when I teach pranayama I endeavour to encourage my students to learn such practices systematically and not in an ad hoc manner. That being said if I do have a student who has a particular issue for which a particular pranayama is potentially beneficial then I would most likely show them that practice even though I would have held back on its introduction otherwise.

Another determinant in selecting from the vast quiver of pranayama practices we have at our disposal today is whether not only am I aware of such and such a practice, but more importantly can I do it, and by that I don’t just mean technically or physically can I do it, but do I really know it? By “knowing” I am not referring to intellectually knowing it but do I have a direct personal cellular and extensive experience of this practice? Because it is my view that if not, then I should not be instructing others in that practice. When we bolt practices on to our repertoire I suggest we are doing yoga a disservice and more importantly regardless of our benevolent intent we are quite possibly doing our students a disservice. Technical mis-instruction can lead to poor foundations and incorrect practice which obviously needs to be avoided. An error of equal significance is where the depth, velocity and frequency of breath are inappropriate to the student’s skill, temperament and/or constitution. More often than not the error I have noticed is the recommendation of too many breaths, too many rounds, too much force, too fast or in some cases too slow a breath.

Perhaps the most telling example of this that I have seen is in the teaching of the category of practices that I know as the Vitalising Pranayamas: Agnisar Kriya, Swarna, Bhastrika and Kapalabhati. These are indeed marvellous practices of course but if taught without regard to the individual’s readiness and capacity I believe they can in fact be harmful. The most common mistake I see is where teachers demonstrate these practices at a rapid rate, with high force and for an extended number of repetitions and rounds; while this may be appropriate for the teacher’s level of skill it is quite unlikely, unless teaching a highly adept group of students, that they are adequately prepared for such a routine.

All practices in this category, while having the potential to be done rapidly and forcefully and for some duration, do not have to be done in such a manner, and particularly initially, for them to be beneficial. Before such a level is undertaken I would suggest that students first technically master the practice at a slower rate, for fewer breaths and rounds, and with considerably less force. So with particularly the well-known classical pranayamas of Bhastrika and Kapalabhati, rather than encouraging students to follow the teacher’s rate of breath I suggest they start with just one breath every two seconds rather than two breaths per second, then over time (weeks or even months) move up to one breath (given this is easily achieved) per second for somewhere between 3 and 5 rounds of 10 gentle and accurate breaths. By accurate I mean with this breath being nigh on purely abdominal with minimal thoracic activity.

Implicit in this recommendation is that the student should already be proficient in breathing essentially purely abdominally without aid of thoracic assistance and without effort. This in turn requires that adequate time is allocated to acquiring this skill in the preceding classes. In truth this can take several months of systematic practice, even if the student is practising outside class which is not always the case.

Equally important along with abdominal breath mastery is that the student has already a good level of proficiency with kumbhaka (retention of both the inhaled and the exhaled breath). The reason I regard this as important is that timely employment of kumbhaka in between rounds significantly reduces the potential for these practices to evoke both hypo- and particularly hyper-ventilation; which is commonly experienced particularly by over-zealous alpha-type students. Hyper-ventilation is more often than not a symptom of incorrect technique.

So, in summary with regard to the vitalising pranayamas I am suggesting that as a rule they are not taught to beginning students, and they are taught after good quality abdominal control has been established and with kumbhaka. That they are initially learnt with a gentle controlled and quite slow breath, and that rounds and repetitions are kept low. If students find the initial form accessible, it is far more likely they will persist and in a natural organic time the force and frequency will evolve in a safe and sustainable manner.

In general there is a logical sequence for introducing categories of practices to one’s students: firstly the Prana Nigraha breath control practices (Abdominal, Thoracic, Clavicular, Yogic Breath, Viloma, using pausing, and Samavritti or equal breath) then the classical pranayamas which in turn fall into three categories: Balancing, Tranquilising and Vitalising. Please note there are within the Tranquilising category two subsets: warming and cooling. Cooling practices include Sheetali, Sheetkari and Kaki Pranayamas, the warming include Ujjayi and Bhramari. When to introduce these practices is typically season-dependent, although constitution may be a factor also. Tranquilising pranayamas are stress-reducing, immediately beneficial, and accessible, also they facilitate the introduction to kumbhaka and in turn further enhance the tranquilising practices. As such I prefer to introduce them first.

Finally what about Nadi Shodhana? Well that is another topic, to be explored next time!

Interested in our Pranayama and Meditation course – start now!

UNDERSTANDING Yoga as a Therapy

tingsha chimes on a mat


Yoga may be said to be as ancient as the universe itself, since it is said to have been originated by Hiranyagarba, the causal germ plasm itself. This timeless art and science of humanity sprouted from the fertile soil of Sanathana Dharma, the traditional pan-Indian culture that continues to flourish into modern times.

Today, Yoga has become popular as a therapy, and most people come to it seeking to alleviate their physical, mental and emotional imbalances. We must understand, however, that the use of Yoga as a therapy is a much more recent happening in the wonderful long history of Yoga – which has historically served to promote spiritual evolution. Yoga helps unify all aspects of our very being: the physical body, in which we live our daily life; the energy body, without which we will not have the capacity to do what we do; the mind body, which enables us to do our tasks with mindfulness; the higher intellect, which gives us clarity; and, finally, the universal body, which gives us limitless bliss.

All aspects of our life – physical, energetic, mental, intellectual and universal are unified through the practice of Yoga, which may also be described as the science of right-use-ness, that is, of using our body, emotions, and mind responsibly and in the most appropriate manner. One of the best definitions of Yoga given by Swami Gitananda Giri is that it is a “way of life.” It is not something you do for five minutes a day or twenty minutes a day. It is indeed a “24/7 x 365” lifestyle.

Illness, disease and disorders are so common in this world, and people everywhere are desperately seeking relief from their suffering. Yoga helps us to think better and to live better; indeed, it helps us improve ourselves in everything we do. Hence it holds out the promise of health, well-being and harmony. According to the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient text which can be said to be a Yoga Shastra (seminal textual source of Yoga), Lord Krishna the Master of Yoga (Yogeshwar) defines Yoga as dukkhasamyogaviyogam yoga samjnitham, meaning that Yoga is the disassociation from the union with suffering. Pain, suffering, disease – Yoga offers a way out of all of these.

One of the foremost concepts of Yoga therapy is that the mind, which is called adhi, influences the body, thus creating vyadhi, the disease. This is known as the adhi vyadhi or adhija vyadhi, where the mind brings about the production of disease in the physical body. In modern language, this is called psychosomatic illness. Virtually every health problem that we face today either has its origin in psychosomatics or is worsened by the psychosomatic aspect of the disease. The mind and the body seem to be continuously fighting each other. What the mind wants, the body won’t do, and what the body wants, the mind won’t do. This creates a dichotomy, a disharmony, in other words, a disease. Yoga helps restore balance and equilibrium by virtue of the internal process of unifying mind, body and emotions. The psychosomatic stress disorders that are so prevalent in today’s world can be prevented, controlled and possibly even cured via the sincere and dedicated application of Yoga as a therapy.

Psychosomatic disorders go through four major phases. The first is the psychic phase, in which the stress is located essentially in the mind. There is jitteriness, a sense of unnatural tension, a sense of not being ‘at ease’. If the stress continues, the psychic stage then evolves into the psychosomatic stage. At this point, the mind and body are troubling each other and fluctuations, such as a dramatic rise in blood pressure, blood sugar or heart rate, begin to manifest intermittently. If this is allowed to continue, one reaches the somatic stage, where the disease settles down in the body and manifests permanently. At this stage, it has become a condition that requires treatment and therapy. In the fourth, organic stage, the disease settles permanently into the target organs. This represents the end stage of the disease.

Yoga as a therapy works very well at both the psychic and psychosomatic stages. Once the disease enters the somatic stage, Yoga therapy as an adjunct to other therapies may improve the condition. In the organic stage, Yoga therapy’s role is more of a palliative, pain relieving and rehabilitative nature. Of course, the major role of Yoga is as a preventive therapy, preventing that which is to come. Maharishi Patanjali tells us in his Yoga Darshan, heyamdukkhamanagatham— “prevent those miseries that are yet to come.”

If the practice of Yoga is taken up during childhood, we can prevent so many conditions from occurring later on in life. This is primary prevention. Once the condition occurs, once the disease has set in, we can use secondary prevention, which is more controlling the condition to whatever extent we can. Tertiary prevention is done once the condition has occurred, as we try to prevent the complications, those that affect the quality, and even the quantity, of a patient’s life.

I would like to conclude this perspective with a word of caution. Yoga therapy is not a magic therapy! It is not a ‘one pill for all ills.’ There should be no false claims or unsubstantiated tall claims made in this field. Yoga therapy is also a science and must therefore be approached in a scientific, step-by-step manner. It should be administered primarily as a one-on-one therapy that allows the therapist to modify the practices to meet the needs of the individual. It is not a “one size fits all” or “one therapy fits all” approach!

When we use Yoga as a therapy, we need to consider both the nature of the person—his or her age, gender and physical condition, and the nature and stage of the disorder. A step-by-step approach must include a detailed look at all aspects of diet, necessary lifestyle modifications, attitude reconditioning through Yogic counseling, as well as the appropriate practices. All of these are integral components of holistic, or rather, wholesome Yoga therapy. When such an approach is adopted, tremendous changes will manifest in the lives of the patients and their families. The quality of life improves drastically and, in many cases, so does the quantity.

As human beings, we fulfill ourselves best when we help others. Yoga is the best way for us to consciously evolve out of our lower, sub-human nature, into our elevated human and humane nature. Ultimately, this life-giving, life-enhancing and life-sustaining science of humanity allows us to achieve in full measure the divinity that resides within each of us.

I wish you a happy, healthy and fruitful Sadhana in Yoga. May your potential manifest in a wholesome, harmonious manner.

Yogacharya Dr. ANANDA BALAYOGI BHAVANANI MBBS, ADY, DPC, DSM, PGDFH, PGDY, MD (AM), FIAY, C-IAYT Deputy Director CYTER, MGMCRI, SBVU ( Chairman, ICYER at Ananda Ashram, Pondicherry (

View all IYTA Blogs


1. Bhatt, G.P. (2004) The Forceful Yoga: Being the Translation of HathaYoga-pradipika, Gheranda-samhita and Siva-samhita (P. Singh, R. Bahadur, & S. C. Vasu, Trans.). New Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers

2. Bhavanani, A.B. (2011) Understanding the Yoga Darshan, Pondicherry, India: Dhivyananda Creations

3. Bhavanani, A.B. (2013) Yoga Chikitsa: Application of Yoga as a therapy, Pondicherry, India: Dhivyananda Creations

4. Bhavanani, A.B. (2014) A Primer of Yoga Theory (4th ed.) Pondicherry, India: Dhivyananda Creations

5. Bhavanani, M.D. (2010) The History of Yoga from Ancient to Modern Times, Pondicherry, India: Satya Press

6. Feuerstein, G. (2001) The Yoga Tradition: Its history, literature, philosophy, and practice, Prescott, Ariz: Hohm Press

7. Feuerstein, G. (2003) The Deeper Dimension of Yoga Theory and Practice, Boston Massachusetts, USA: Shambala Publications

8. Giri, G. S. (1999) Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali, Pondicherry, India: Satya Press

9. Giri, G.S. (1976) Yoga: Step-by-step, Pondicherry, India: Satya Press

10. Ramanathan, M. (2007) Applied Yoga: Application of Yoga in Various Fields of Human Activity. Pondicherry: Aarogya Yogalayam

11. Sovik, R., & Bhavanani, A.B. (2016)‘History, Philosophy, and Practice of Yoga’ in Khalsa, S.B.; Cohen, L.; McCall, T, and Telles, S (ed.), The Principles and Practice of Yoga in Health Care (pp.17-29). East Lothian, UK: Handspring


Guna Dosha and Elements

Just how do the doshas connect with gunas and elements? We asked yoga teacher and Ayurvedic practitioner Robyn Lynch to give us her insight.

These three factors are often brought together when we are trying to understand the nature of being and the nature of balance.

I have found with Ayurveda that the more you know, the more doorways open to different levels of understanding and certainly these three, four if you include Prakruti, are part of this expansive thinking.

Sattva, Rajas and Tamas Quote

Sattva, rajas and tamas are the three gunas that create nature or Prakruti. The three are intertwined, constantly in a state of flux and flow, creating, transforming and completing or destroying. For equilibrium, the three gunas need to be balanced. There needs to be creation, action and completion. There also needs to be not too much or too little of any of these or imbalances occur.

Gunas create our nature and affect the balance of the elements within us and therein our Doshic balance. When I was studying Ayurveda, we learnt about the gunas prima

rily as affecting our mind state.

It is this mind state that then affects the choices we make and that affects our doshic balance or imbalance.

So for example when we spend too much time watching movies, drinking hot chocolate and eating cake, these are all tamasic attributes. Through these tamasic choices, the level of tamas rises within us and we increase the earth and water elements. These earth and water elements constitute Kapha so then we see t

he Kapha quality of heaviness, cloudiness and denseness being increased in our body and mind.

When we are looking to get out of this tamasic state, we need to bring in transformation – the rajasic guna characteristic. This will help to “fire us up” to make choices that are more beneficial for us. These choices, which could be more activity, foods with heating and digesting herbs, even boot camp, could take us out of the tamasic state and create transformation.

If we maintained this rajasic state, we would burn out, however it is necessary to draw us out of the tamasic state. Too much rajas, heated and spicy food, too much activity, too much competition will increase the elements of heat and water in our cons

titution. This is our Pitta element and we might find we become inflamed,

physically with a rash or reflux or emotionally with anger or judgments.

Then once we are out of the tamasic state and have moved into rajas, then weneed to cool that down a little and maintain a sattvic way of being, where we feel balanced. Although sattva is often the one that we are seeking, we still need some rajas and some tamas to keep us on an even keel.

The other two elements, ether and air make up the doshic quality of Vata. Vata is light and responsible for movement within the body as well as the nervous system and enthusiasm. When there is too much of these elements, Vata becomes aggravated and our mind lacks stability, we can become fearful and anxious, our body’s movements can be too fast or too slow or go in the wrong direction, we can feel unstable, physically cold and ungrounded. In this case, we may need to bring in some heavier foods, some slower activities, such as rest – which actually has a tamasic quality.

Imbalance in the three gunas may cause imbalance in the five elements and the three doshic humours, which creates poor health. When we understand the interplay of these three aspects, the elements, the gunas and the doshas , we are better able to obtain and maintain equilibrium and through that create harmony, develop longevity and good health.

Check out Robyn’s website:

Robyn Lynch has been a long time lecturer on the IYTA Yoga Teacher Training course and is a member of IYTA.

Healthy Hips and Shoulders with Karen Nicoll

Most people have tight shoulders or hips – and yet nearly all asanas involve one or both of these joints. Karen Nicoll explains why these areas of the body can be problematic – and how yoga can help.

karen nicoll portrait picture
Karen Nicoll – Yoga Teacher

It’s not surprising many of us complain of tight shoulders and hips when you look at our lifestyle patterns – hours spent sitting in chairs or driving and poor postural habits, such as hunching shoulders or exaggerated spinal curves. This means when we do sit down on our yoga mat our postural and movement habits could exacerbate joint problems. But done correctly well executed and appropriate asanas support the joints. Karen Nicoll has been teaching yoga for 35 years and runs workshops and regular yoga classes.

Five essentials for healthy hip and shoulder joints:

1: Strong muscles to support the joints: Muscles need to be strengthened. With awareness and appropriate alignment, the deeper postural muscles around the joints are strengthened – this supports the joints. When the postural muscles are weak there is extra load on the joints contributing to joint problems. It has been proposed that muscles start to lose their strength after about 48 hours of not being activated. With our lifestyles and habitual postural patterns there are many muscles that aren’t regularly strengthened. Suitable yoga asanas build strength in the weak underused muscles and deeper postural muscles.

2: Appropriate mobility: Ideally joints will have an appropriate range of movement – too much or too little mobility may contribute to joint problems. Ligaments give the joint stability and if overstretched contribute to joint instability and injury. Importantly, overstretching may result in hypermobility, instability and strains. Yoga asanas support the full range of movement of joints.

3: Body alignment: Apt alignment reduces uneven load on the joints and prevents unnecessary wear and tear on the joints.

4: Movement: Moving the joints ensures that the synovial fluid swishes around the joint nourishing the cartilage at the ends of the bones. Yoga movements improve circulation to and inside the joints.

5: S-t-r-e-t-c-h: Healthy muscles are strong and also have the ability to lengthen. Yoga is a terrific way to strengthen and lengthen muscles – when stretching it is the muscle belly that needs to lengthen. To do this, ideally feel the stretch in the muscle fibres – avoid pulling on the tendons and also avoid overstretching the ligaments.

Avoid Shoulder Imbalances

The main shoulder joint (glenohumeral joint) is a ball and socket joint. It is where the humerus (upper arm) meets the scapula (shoulderblade).

Being a shallow joint, the shoulder joint has the ability to perform a wide range of movement enabling us to reach into myriad positions. Interestingly, in our daily movements we often don’t give the shoulder joint a healthy range of movement. Plus, much emotional tension is held in the shoulders. Yoga asanas and movements support freedom in the shoulder area (eg Gomukhasana), although over stretching may destabilise this joint.

The internal and external muscle rotators of the shoulder joint are part of the rotator cuff ie: muscles and tendons that help to keep the humerus in its socket.

Many of our daily shoulder movements involve an internal rotation of the shoulder joint eg computer work, driving and even eating. With these constant movements, the pectoral muscles shorten and the external rotators weaken creating an imbalance in the shoulder area. The shoulder joint then becomes more vulnerable to problems and injuries.

Fortunately there are some yoga movements that utilise and strengthen the external rotator muscles (infraspinatous and teres minor muscles).

Save your Shoulders SOS #1:

Stand in Tadasana with the arms by your side and palms facing your body.

Turn the arms and the palms to face forward.

This is the action of the top arm in Gomukhasana – the external rotators are working and shortening.

To experience internal rotation of the shoulders:

Stand in Tadasana with palms facing the body.

Spiral the arms inward so the palms face behind you.

This is the action of the back arm in Gomukhasana – the external rotators are lengthening.

• Most people need to strengthen the external rotator muscles.

SOS #2: Little Cobra to strengthen the shoulder external rotators.

Lie on your tummy with hands under the shoulders.

Have the elbows off the floor and close to the trunk.

Karen Nicoll Small Cobra Pose
Karen Nicoll Small Cobra Pose

Focus on gently dropping shoulders away from the ears and keeping the elbows in by your sides.

Start to lift the chest and head a little way as you come into a wee backbend (with a comfortable back and neck).

You may notice the elbows moving away from your sides – if so the internal rotators are taking over!

To strengthen the external rotators keep the elbows close to your trunk.

And remember to drop the shoulders away from the ears.

Perhaps come up a little higher – though usually you don’t need to come up very far to strengthen the external rotators.

Either hold up for up to 10 breaths or come up and down 10 times.

Notice how this also opens the chest and heart.

Practice every 2-3 days to maintain strength and to support the rotator cuff.

This movement is usually ok for people with a rotator cuff injury but do not do it if it causes pain.

For more ways to explore asanas to stretch, strengthen and relax with yoga, Karen’s yoga classes are available.

Keep an eye out for our workshops and events throughout each calendar year to learn more about these beautiful yoga movements to keep your body strong and healthy.

Cultivating Balance with Nadi Shodhana

David Burgess explores how to cultivate balance with Nadi Shodhana….

david burgess pranayama teacher
David Burgess Pranayama Teacher

In these uncertain times it is more important than ever to bring a sense of balance and equilibrium into our lives. One of the simplest ways to do this is with a daily practice of alternate nostril breathing.

The word Nadi means ‘energy channel’ and Shodhana means ‘to cleanse or purify’. So through this practice, we are cleansing the energy channels in the body and aiding the natural flow of prana. Nadi Shodhana is practiced by alternating the inhalation and exhalation between the left and right nostrils, thus balancing, and purifying the flow of prana through the two major Nadis of ida and pingala and harmonising the two brain hemispheres.

The practice of Nadi Shodhana, restores balance in both the physical and mental body, and is a method of reducing anxiety and increasing mindfulness and concentration. When we bring our focus to the breath and allow it to flow slowly and deeply with awareness, it calms us by balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems therefore lessening the stress response.

The practice of Nadi Shodhana can be adjusted to suit the ability level of the practitioner, depending on the level of your practice and life circumstances. For some, the basic practice of Nadi shodhana will be enough as a long-term practice. It is a great practice to use in preparation for meditation, however through the inclusion of kumbhakas and bandhas over time, can be a complete practice in itself.


Sit in a comfortable seated position and place your right hand in a position called Nasikagra mudra. The index and middle fingers of the right hand gently rest at the eyebrow centre, and the thumb just above the right nostril and the ring finger just above the left, use these fingers to control the flow of breath in the nostrils by alternately closing one nostril then releasing and closing the other. The breath should be silent and not restricted in any way.

BASIC NADI SHODHANA (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

To begin, close your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril using a count of 1 om 2 om 3 om, then close the left nostril and exhale through the right for the same count. This is then repeated in the opposite direction, inhaling through the right, then closing the right nostril and inhaling through the left. This is one round and considered a ratio of 1:1. Over time you can slowly increase the breath count until the breath ratio is 10:10, so an inhale for a count of 10 and exhale for the same count through the opposite nostril.

This technique balances the breath and the brain hemispheres. It improves concentration, is calming and relieves anxiety. The equal ratio of 1:1 is a soothing rhythm for the brain and heart.

Once the breath ratio of 10:10 is comfortably reached, the ratio can be increased to 1:2, starting with a breath count of 5 for the inhale, and 10 for the exhale. The breath ratio can be built up over time to be 10:20, this high count should only be practiced if it can be done so with ease and without strain.

The ratio of 1:2 is beneficial in that the exhale is extended; it is a very calming practice that moves your body into a state of deep relaxation, switching over to the parasympathetic nervous system.

Throughout the practice, awareness should be focussed on the breath and the counting. Retentions (kumbhakas) are contraindicated for people with high blood pressure or heart problems.

After practising the basic method for a while, you might start to notice a natural pause between the inhale and the exhale and vice versa. Allow these pauses to occur naturally without counting them and let your breath flow naturally and with ease.


In this version an internal breath retention (Antar Kumbhaka) is introduced where you consciously hold the breath in for a count that is equal to the inhale and exhale.

Begin with a ratio of 1:1:1 ensuring the count is equal for inhalation, inner retention, and exhalation. The breath count should be quite low to start with. A count of 5:5:5 is recommended, even if you have reached a much higher breath count in basic Nadi Shodhana. Over time the breath ratio can slowly be increased to a count of 10:10:10 ensuring there is no tension or effort in doing so.

Once that is achieved without strain, the ratio can then be adjusted to 1:1:2. Each time you change the ratio, you should lower the breath count to help you adjust. It is advisable to have at least several months of regular practice using a particular ratio and gradually increasing it, before changing it. So for the ratio of 1:1:2, the breath count should reduce to 5:5:10 and then over time, slowly and without strain, can be increased.

It is important to ensure you are not speeding up the count due to shortness of breath. The breath should flow naturally and with ease. While some might increase their breath ratio easily, for others a lower count may be the more natural option.

Over time, the ratio of 1:1:2 can be changed to 1:2:2 which should be commenced with a breath ratio of 5:10:10, and then 1:3:2 which builds on the internal retention and starts as a breath count of 5:15:10. Ultimately settling on the ratio of 1:4:2 which starts with a breath count of 5:20:10. The ratio of 1:4:2 is the most widely recommended in yogic texts.

These ratios should be built up to gradually and without strain and only once a comfortable practice is achieved with each ratio. The length of breath should increase spontaneously without the use of force.

The inner retention of the breath activates various brain centres and harmonises the pranas.

It is important to remember at any stage or variation of the practice, that the breath should be silent and not forced or straining in any way. More advanced versions of this practice include both antar and Bahir kumbhakas and bandhas.

However, if you are looking for a simple practice that helps you to handle life’s situations in a more balanced and calm manner, then a basic Nadi Shodhana would be a beneficial pranayama practice to make time for in your day.

Explore the beauty and benefits of Pranayama with David Burgess on the IYTA’s popular comprehensive course: Meditation and Pranayama – visit the website to find out more:

YOGA Intelligence – Exploring the Spine

Exploring the spine

Tracy Hewson explores the spine and its relationship to yoga and the breath…

Be careful what you water your dreams with. Water them with worry and fear and you will produce weeds that choke the life from your dream. Water them with optimism and solutions and you will cultivate success. Always be on the lookout for ways to turn a problem into an opportunity for success. Always be on the lookout for ways to nurture your dream.”– Lao Tzu

This opening quote speaks to me in volumes about the relationship between the body and the mind. Without a positive and well-watered mind, the body starts to cease functioning to its best ability. As we water the mind with optimism and solutions, success is in reach. This then filters into the body and allows us to be strong and healthy. Yoga and the breath, I believe, is the bridge to get there. The spine is our support structure and without it we would not be able to stand, sit or kneel. There are many intricacies to each of our vertebrae: One of support for the next layer, the discs in between to support that structure and the spinal processes at the posterior of each for the vertebrae all have their own function. The lateral wings of each vertebrae have holes or foramina to support the entire central nervous system. When we start to look at the connection to the central nervous system and what that feeds to in the body, this is where it gets interesting….

Tracy Hewson Yoga Teacher

The interconnectedness of the entire body is the best machine I have ever come across and because of this interconnection with bones, central nervous system and the chakras, this, I feel, has a deep connection to the teaching of yoga and the breath. As the emotional body plays an integral role in breath work, so too the spine and each of the spinal vertebrae play an integral role in supporting the body. The link is that each of the cells in our body has a memory and this memory carries energy and so when the spine is in misalignment, the feeling or emotional body comes into play.

Each of our vertebrae has an intelligence – for example, Thoracic vertebrae number 9 aligns with the heart chakra and the intelligence for this vertebrae is ‘Know that your love is your energy force. When you know you are love, you understand that love is your power.’ A new thought pattern we can bring to mind that aligns with this area of the spine is ‘I claim my own power. I lovingly create my own reality.’

The mind, body and breath are intimately aligned in a mysterious connection that influences every part of our lives. Learning to move through your yoga practice with mindfulness and breath awareness are valuable tools in helping you restore and enhance your life. The invitation is to understand the core belief at any area of the spine where tightness or tension presents and then bring a new thought pattern into the mind’s awareness, through the breath. This may be helpful as a positive affirmation to carry forward into life and open up to changing old thought patterns or beliefs.

‘Thought is creative’, simply means, what you think about expands, and what you think about you get more of. When you change your mind to a positive choice, you change your life. As I have delved more into the power of using the breath, it has added another layer to my awareness as to how powerful the mind is and without a positive change in mind, the body has less chance to heal. So what’s the thought behind it? Why not simply catch the thought that may be keeping you limited. Choose to change the thought to something positive and then the body becomes free. The body is not weighed down with that limiting thought any longer. This makes space in the body for the new to enter. A new thought pattern, a new belief, a new and positive affirmation is now able to be absorbed into the cellular level.

Through my exploration of the spine I have learnt that every vertebrae has a positive concept to keep it healthy and every organ in our body has its own positive concept. Each chakra has a different learning experience and governs different areas of the body. By using the breath to breathe out the energy behind the emotions that keep us limited, we can empty out the negative and create space for positive ways, healing limitations, fears and thoughts of guilt and suffering so we can enjoy life. I am drawn to continue to explore the spinal column and all its intricacies as it is the core of the skeletal system and everything stems from there. Just like the breath, it is like the string that links all the pearls together.

Tracy Hewson is an IYTA member, Yoga teacher, Breathwork Practitioner and group facilitator. She has also worked as a radiographer. She says: “I absolutely love teaching yoga with a therapeutic approach and I am enjoying interweaving the metaphysics of breathwork through all of my practices.” To find out about Tracy’s Yoga Intelligence Masterclass – The Spine visit

Want to teach yoga? Then discover the IYTA difference

Choosing the right yoga teacher training course is difficult. Discover the reasons why some of our current students picked the IYTA – and why they’d recommend it to others…

The gold standard of yoga courses!

“The course was recommended to me as the gold standard of yoga courses! The reputation of the diploma is excellent and when I attended the information session, everyone was very welcoming and friendly.

“Now I’ve nearly finished the course, I would definitely recommend it to others. Another reason I’d recommend it (and something I wouldn’t have thought about before embarking on the course) is the commitment to the origins and culture of yoga. So often yoga courses are focused just on the asana with a little bit of pranayama, without acknowledging the Indian heritage and I love how the IYTA values this.”

Ellanor Clark, Moss Vale, NSW


It’s the perfect way to learn

“I liked the fact the course was run over a year, rather than an intensive 1-2 months. This way you have a long period to absorb and learn. The IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching starts with the foundations and builds upon that – which is great as you then branch off and learn about all the other aspects of yoga. It’s also a bonus that the course is internationally recognised.

“I loved having the Posture Reviews where you are face-to-face in a small group with the opportunity to ask questions and share your thoughts while having a teacher guiding you. It’s the perfect way to learn.”

Jennie Alexander, NSW  


Gives you the tools to teach anyone

“The reasons I chose the IYTA to complete my Yoga Teacher training are because it is not aligned to any specific tradition and because of the variety of teachers who offer a wealth of experience and knowledge.

“This course covers so much more than yoga asana, giving you tools to be able to teach anyone. I highly recommend the course if you’re looking for a deeper understanding of safe yoga practices that suit all ages and levels of experience.

I am so grateful to have found these wonderful teachers.”

Jimena Cueva, NSW  


Each Study Weekend I feel as if another layer has peeled away

“I would highly recommend the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga teaching – it is a well balanced and in-depth course, which encompasses the history, physiology and philosophy of yoga as well as the pranayama, meditation and asanas. It’s been fantastic.

The way the course is structured is really interesting – as well as the knowledge gained, it has also felt like a self-exploration. I went into the course purely out of interest as I’d been attending classes for 18 years and I had no desire to teach. But from the teaching practice on the course and making myself confront my nerves and stand up and teach others, I’ve boosted my confidence to the point that I am now seriously considering teaching.

The lecturers are all kind, supportive and generous with their time. Each Study Weekend I feel as if another layer has peeled away and I leave with so much wisdom and insight. I would definitely recommend the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga teaching course – I’ve really loved it. “ 

Michelle Lhotka, NSW

I have a great support network

“I chose to do the IYTA Diploma of Yoga teaching because it was a flexible structure which suited my full-time work. I felt it was a very thorough program which provided a lot of information about the history of yoga and the Sanskrit origins.

“I’d absolutely recommend it – you get expertise from many yoga teachers – so you don’t just learn from one teacher. All the lecturers are accessible and everyone is so approachable and willing to help. I like that it is run over the course of a year which gives you time to look through all the information and understand it on a deeper level.

“At the end of the course I will feel ready to teach and I have a great support network – not just from the people on the course, but from the wider IYTA community.”

Rashad Moussa, NSW


I like the blend of online and face-to-face learning

The main reason I chose the IYTA was because it is a comprehensive, well laid out course which includes the rich, historical teachings of yoga. Since I’ve been doing the course, I’ve been impressed with the broad range of lecturers who are all adept at what they teach.

I also like the blend of online and face-to-face learning and I’ve found the format works well for busy people who are working full-time.

Now I’m on the course it’s even better than I thought it would be and it’s also shown me that you don’t have to be someone with the ideal slim body who can turn themselves into a pretzel!

I’m turning 50 this year and it’s been great to learn how to apply yoga to the older demographic. I feel I would be confident at the end of the course to teach and a better practitioner because I’ve had been taught by such a wide range of knowledgeable teachers.”

Mariko Endicott-Davies, NSW


It’s the most in-depth and comprehensive course available in Sydney.

I chose to take part in the IYTA Diploma of Yoga Teacher Training because fromIYTA student my research it stood out as the most in-depth and immersive course available in Sydney. I love yoga and wanted to learn as much as possible, this course definitely provides you with enough material to learn as much as you want about the many different aspects of yoga, as well as leading you down research paths you may never have considered before the course. I like that the course is spread over an entire year, it gives you plenty of time to practice what you’re learning, integrating new information into your life, it is great to watch the changes you make and to watch the benefits that it brings to your life.

I would highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to learn a lot about yoga, as well as how to begin the process of teaching yoga’s beneficial components to other people. The course requires commitment and perseverance, but I can attest that it gives you as much as you give it. I am nearing the end of my study, but could imagine continuing if the course was longer. I know that when I look back on this year I will be forever grateful to myself and everyone who’s made this experience.

Find out more today about our wonderful IYTA Diploma of Yoga teaching – spaces are now available for our 2023 course!


Want to be a yoga teacher? Read this first!

choosing the right yoga teacher training

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 55 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?

1: 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?

2: 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?

3: 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?

4: How is the course assessed? Are there regular check-ins to ensure you are properly absorbing the information? Is there someone you can contact outside of the lecture hours for help and advice?

5: 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 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 (which is also available online and for students anywhere in the world). The Foundation 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 please click HERE or contact our Course Manager, Deb Collie at: [email protected] or call 1800 449 195


Welcome to country, our retreat and Aunty Ros!

At the start of our retreat you’ll experience an intimate and inspiring Welcome to Country with IYTA yoga teacher and Dharug elder, Ros Fogg.

We chatted to Ros to discover a bit more about her fascinating heritage…

Ros is the Chairperson for the Muru Mlttigar Aboriginal Cultural Centre and her rich personal family history pre-dates colonisation.

She is a descendant of the Elder and respected, clever man Yarramundi. Maria (Yarramundi’s daughter) was one of the first Aboriginal girls to be educated in Australia.

Gomebeeree, Yarramundi and Maria (whose Aboriginal name is unknown) were part of the Boorooberongal Clan of the Dharug Nation – among the first impacted and displaced Aboriginal Countries (mobs) in Australia.

In fact the Dharug people were forbidden by the British colonisers to speak their own language or practice traditional culture – instead they were forced to learn English. As their stories weren’t documented it meant it only took a couple of generations for the language and much of their rich culture to be almost lost.

Growing up, Ros was aware of her strong Aboriginal heritage but not inclined to admit to it due to the prejudice and ignorance in Australia at that time.

Ros remembers in her Social Studies classes that the Aboriginal People clans were often compared to the Stone Age people and there were connotations they were backward.

Thankfully there has been a shift in recent years in the understanding and Acknowledgment of the Aboriginal people, being able to stand up and be recognised as the First people of Australia and hence the true and rightful owners of this country.

And Ros has been able to celebrate and share her family history.

As well as being involved with the Muru MIttigar Aboriginal Cultural Centre, Ros has been part of consultancy work for several large projects on Dharug Country, such as the Sydney Metro and the NSW Department of Education.

She’s also done many Welcome to Country ceremonies – including opening the IYTA’s 50thanniversary event in 2017.

Ros’ adult children are all involved and contribute to maintaining the Dharug culture on Country. Her eldest son, Brad has been working to revitalise the Dharug language for the past 15 years.

Ros says: “We know certain words from the language, but it will never be totally resurrected as too many generations were banned from being able to speak it.”

When Ros leads the Welcome to Country she will explain the difference between a Welcome and an Acknowledgment and explain how we as yoga teachers can do a genuineAcknowledgment of Country. She’ll be able to explain more of her rich family heritage to promote understanding and education.

As a yoga teacher she is also able to help us integrate the rich history of the land we all call home with inspiration and optimism for the future for our students.

Book on to our IYTA Retreat NOW – be quick spaces are filling fast.

Nourish and connect

Enrich your understanding of culture and connection at our upcoming IYTA retreat

We’re delighted to be hosting Jem Stone and Eve White as well as our own Ros Fogg at our annual retreat this October.

The highlight of our Retreat will be the Cultural Awareness training run by Jem and Eve, and there are also a host of other activities including a yoga movie night, yoga nidra session, daily yoga classes, nature walks and swimming and spa time.

The retreat – set amid 60 acres of pristine bushland – includes delicious freshly cooked vegetarian meals and accommodation.

Embracing the Indigenous heritage of our wonderful country and fostering a connection with the earth and nature are ways you can deepen and enhance your and your students yoga experience.

All about Jem and Eve

Jem Stone is First Nations woman, who has been gratefully living on Wurundjeri Country since 2011. She has worked in the wellness industry for more than two decades. Jem is a Yoga teacher, Wayapa Wuurrk Practitioner and Trainer, Rebirthing Breathwork Therapist and Educator, We-Al-Li facilitator, Dadirri and Meditation Teacher, Sound Healer and Cultural Consultant.

She is currently a director of Ngungwulah Aboriginal Corporation and Yaan Circle member.

She says she began the trainings, “To create reciprocity between the wellness industry and first Nations Culture.”

And she stresses the importance of learning directly from First Nations people. She says: “Learn from us not about us.”

Eve White began teaching culture through art at schools whilst also teaching yoga in yoga studios.

She would begin every yoga class with an acknowledgment and share insight into First Nations ways, which she says, “felt like a wonderful connection.”

She is part of the Yaan Circle Family and was keen to offer more in this sacred space of yoga, adding: “It felt only right to connect and honour the sacred land that we practise on.”

Eve founds her work understandably rewarding. expecialliy: “Encouraging others to dig deep and connect with the First Nations ways and witness others finding synchronicity in both these cultures and rediscovering their own unique culture.”

She advises we all embrace cultural awareness in our practice and classes, take time to connect with the land we practise on, slow down to witness nature’s symbols and allow the wisdom to flow through you passing it on to others.

Learn how and delve deeper into this profound teaching by booking into our Annual Retreat


Align online

Somatic Yoga lends itself perfectly to online classes – you can be in your own space, yet connected with the teacher – and even wear your Pjs!

There are very few Somatics classes being offered face-to-face in Australia, so having a workshop online is a rare opportunity to experience what it’s all about.

IYTA ACT rep, Katrina Hinton is an expert in Somatic Yoga and will be running two half-day online immersions drawing from Hanna Somatics and the latest work of the brilliant Australian rehabilitation therapist and lecturer, Joanne Elphinstone. The two sessions will be held over two weekends in September.

Katrina says: “Somatics is essentially an internal experience. The practice is all about turning our awareness inwards to our sensations: intéroception as opposed to proprioception; how we experience ourselves in space. We are guided through movements with suggestions and visualisations to help explore and sense, the spaces inside us.”

Katrina adds that the style is perfectly suited to online learning because you are mostly lying down and translating the cues into very subtle movements.

She says: “The movements are performed very slowly in unison with your breath. Everyone moves at their own pace. Unlike a typical yoga class the energy is quite contained with the focus on connecting mind to subtle sensations; so doing it in the comfort and privacy at home is ideal; no distractions and you can even do it in the dark in your pjs if you wish!”

Accessing classes and workshops online has become the new normal since Covid. It keeps us safe and connected and for practices like Somatics it works very well.

Katrina says: “It was a great way to reach out to my students during lockdowns and I’ve retained a hybrid class since in case people are travelling or have a sniffle they don’t want to share.

“Personally, I love the luxury of choosing fabulous learnings online! Ones that I may not have been able to travel to, access or squeezed into schedule are so much more possible when all I have to do is login.

“The beauty of an online workshop is having the recording so you can stop, go back, replay a bit that you need to hear again to fully digest.”

Katrina’s IYTA online workshop is punctuated by opportunities to experience the sensations in your body so you won’t be sitting for hours on end not moving.

She says: “We will embody each concept throughout the two three hour sessions so you will need to be in a space large enough so you can walk around, maybe even dance around and spread out on the floor.

“We will use the technology to breakout into small groups and bounce ideas of each other much as we would face to face. You will need someone to take full length photos of you or master your ability to take a time-delayed shot of yourself. We will be then using these in our own postural assessment.”

  Participants will also:

  •   Learn about the work of Thomas Hanna and Joanne Elphinston
  • Understand how three postural archetypes might relate to your own posture
  • Look at key postural reflexes and the importance of head position
  • Learn a new vocabulary for cueing in your teaching to promote ease and grace
  • Discover a new technique for the functional and easeful head position
  • Explore the importance of reflexes in the feet
  • Experience greater sensor input and sensation in the feet
  • Learn about fascia, promoting postural tone and boosting sensory input and interoception.

To book in click HERE


Yoga puzzle pieces from the past

The history of yoga is a vast subject and one which I personally find I need to dip into every now and again… eventually the pieces start to fit together like a 1000-piece jigsaw, but while it is fun to attempt this puzzle it can also be overwhelming – and you really do need guidance along the way!

Which is why the IYTA is so fortunate to have yoga teacher and mentor, David Burgess heading up our Yoga Philosophy Department on our Diploma of Yoga Teaching AND running regular workshops for members.

David has spent more years than he’d care to admit digesting yoga history, theory and philosophy.

He is incredibly humble (and no doubt will likely wince when he reads this) and is one of the most knowledgeable minds on the history of yoga in Australia today.

Which is why if you have any interest in discovering yoga beyond asana you MUST register for our workshop on the History of Yoga.

This is a three-hour workshop – so a bite-sized insight into the depth of yoga from how it first came about to how it has evolved, changed and morphed into the hugely popular pastime we know today.

So what piqued David’s interest in yoga history?

  David recalls a couple of decades ago he was sitting in a lecture entitled the History of Yoga, which was being given by a famous Swami.

He says: “She was an amazing storyteller, and I was enthralled. She came from that wonderful tradition of storytellers that didn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story and we were regaled with tall tales and true! Given my temperament, the challenge though was, for me to separate out the fact from the fiction: the wheat from the chaff, the facts from the myths.”

David explains he wasn’t at ease with the hypothesis that Yoga was brought to the Indian subcontinent from the island of Lemuria many millions of years ago by large birdlike creatures as propounded by some founding members of the Theosophical Society. Equally he struggled with the thesis that the ancient Gods of India (Vishnu and Krishna) are aliens as propounded by some.*

He adds that it isn’t that wisdom cannot be found in mythology, but he didn’t personally subscribe to what appeared to be “magical thinking.”

He says: “This is not made easy due to the antiquity of the Indian story and hence the lack of supporting primary evidence. Today much is still open to conjecture, much is still being discovered and much is being debunked so an open inquisitive mind remains important.”

  A (very) short history of yoga!

Asked if he can pinpoint three main historic milestones, David says it depends on who is asking and what books he’s reading or podcasts he’s listening to!

Today, David says:

#1: Whenever the Vedic texts were first collated which is around the middle to end of the second millennium BCE, as this body of knowledge is the foundation of Sanatan Dharma.

#2: Next for me is the Sramana movement including the contributions of Buddha and Mahavira around the 5th BCE where ritual became more focussed on inner transformation rather than outer boons.

#3: The systemisation of Samkhya and Patanjala Yoga around the 4th to 2nd CE are shoo ins.

#4: Adi Shankaracharya 8th CE for so many things including his commentaries on Advaita Vedanta, his creation of the 4 Maths and particularly for establishing the Dasnami order of Sannyasa.

#5: The articulation of Hatha Yoga from the 13th CE onwards (Dattatreya, Gorakhnath, Matsyendra and Svatmarama.

#6: Introduction of Yoga to the west via Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th CE

#7: The teaching and prolific writings of Swami Sivananda and the subsequent spreading of his word by way of his disciples

#8: : The teaching of Krishnamacharya and the subsequent spreading of his word by way of his disciples!

The timely sprinkling of relevant historic yoga gems into your class will help enhance and deepen not just your, but your student’s yoga experience.

As David says: “One of the most influential teachers in my life would most stridently say: Understanding yoga without practising it is patently next to meaningless, but so too is practising without understanding.”

  • If you feel like you need to fill in the gaps and put more pieces of the puzzle together then sign up to David’s Yoga History Workshop which will be running on Sunday, August 14 live and online via Zoom.
  • And don’t forget our Yoga Studies course which covers yoga history, philosophy and more in easy-to-follow and accessible online lectures which you can do at your own pace.

David’s favourite history quotes

  History is philosophy teaching by examples


History may not repeat itself, but it does have a rhythm

Mark Twain

History repeats itself, firstly as tragedy and secondly as farce

Karl Marx

Don’t make me repeat myself


When Alice is confronted by the Cheshire cat, of whom she asks, “Which path shall I take?”

“That depends where you want to go” the cat answers. “If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take”

Lewis Carroll

We make our destinies through our choice of gods


The gate of history turns on small hinges, and so do people’s lives. The choices we make determine our destiny

President Thomas S Monson.

* David advises doing a quick search on Google for “Krishna and aliens” …and you’ll see what he means…!


Managing Mental Health

As we navigate the changing course of the pandemic it’s time to prioritise our mental health and wellbeing. Marg Riley will be presenting at TWO upcoming IYTA events. Here she shares her advice and thoughts…

Marg Riley is well qualified to give advice on mental health. She’s worked as a school psychologist and senior psychologist.

But how has she coped personally with the challenges of Covid?

She says: “I keep reminding myself that we are still in the midst of the pandemic although most of us are behaving as though this is not the case!”

She adds that she, like many, have found it a bit of a roller coaster ride.

She says: “Originally it was like occupying an extended liminal space and I approached that with curiosity.”

At this point, Marg did daily Gayatri Mantra chanting with Deva Premal and Mitten, but then as more yoga and meditation invites landed in her inbox, she became overwhelmed and swapped the mat for the garden.

She says: “I needed some really grounding activities and went out into my huge garden and undertook several big projects (thank goodness for Bunnings deliveries) which were a moving meditation and so exhausting that I couldn’t think by the end of the day!”

But as grounding as this was, it was still a huge challenge for Marg to be disconnected from friends and my family (based in both Canberra and Queensland).

Eventually Marg found herself homeschooling two of her grandchildren aged five and eight in the first lockdown. Home schooling was Equally rewarding and challenging!

It wasn’t until the second lockdown that Marg found herself embracing Zoom, teaching online classes and reconnecting with her students.

She says: “Throughout the whole time one way I’ve managed the stresses and challenges is to focus on the Niyamas: particularly santosha, tapas and svadhyaya. This has enabled me to maintain my equanimity most of the time. I’ve kept journals, focussed on acceptance of what is, worked hard on big projects and kept studying.

Once I was ready, I did a couple of Online courses: Befriending the nervous system- with Rachel Noakes, yoga teacher from Ray of Light and a course with Robbie Bosnak who is a Jungian psychotherapist. Robbie developed a technique called Embodied Imagination which I’ve studied previously and was a big feature of his teachings.

At the end of Robbie’s course, I was well and truly “ready to fall in love with the world again”

Marg’s SIX tips for healing and nourishing our mental health

Marg emphasises the value in managing our own nervous system, being aware of how regulated we are feeling, and having practices in place that allow us to restore personal equilibrium so that we can co-regulate others around us. There are so many circumstances that impact on our own mental health, but Marg particularly recommends:

#1: Get Support: Ensure you have some appropriate support whether it’s from family or friends or a professional.

#2: Find a routine: As much as you can maintain a steady routine as this can provide a stable base when things feel wobbly.

#3 Get the Basics in place: Prioritise basic things like attending to diet, exercise and sleep although all these can be challenged by mental health struggles.

#4: Soothing Practices: If you are a yogi reconnect with practices which you find soothing. Perhaps the Niyamas have some messages for you?

#5: Take time out: Consider whether you need to quarantine some time out for yourself?

#6: Reignite your Passion: If you have a passion that has fallen by the wayside, reignite it if you can as this can be the key to re-establishing vitality. And do this slowly and steadily as restarting activities can be super hard when your resources feel depleted. 

Yoga practices to encourage thriving

Marg says: “For me that is slow mindful yoga that enables interoception (awareness of internal sensations) to allow you to get intimately acquainted with your nervous system. Be mindful of whether the system needs to be upregulated or down regulated.

“If you are feeling edgy or anxious and the system requires down regulating, start actively with things like bouncing and shaking it out, dynamic versions of asana, forward folds and twist. Moving gradually to stillness.

“If the system requires up regulating start with small gentle movements such as pawanmuktanasana, gentle limbering lying down and moving to gentle chest opening practices and then standing.”

If you are struggling to still a busy mind, then Marg recommends Mantra meditation, which she says can be helpful rather than focusing on thoughts.

She encourages rhythmic movement to help soothe the nervous system.

And adds that she generally incorporates practices where the movement will take care of the breath rather than focusing too much on the breath (which can be tricky).

Finally her go to practices for vagal toning (the Vagus nerve is the main part of the Parasympathetic nervous system) are chanting and humming.

Want to find out more!? Marg will be part of our panel of presenters for our Yoga for Mental Health Event on Saturday, July 16. She is also presenting an in-person workshop: From Surviving to Thriving in Canberra on Sunday, August 14 from 9am – 5pm. To find out more click HERE  





Why you SHOULD wear fluffy socks during Winter Yin classes!

One of the best things about winter is wearing fluffy socks and doing some Yin Yoga… and you can enjoy both (and more) in Sarah Manning’s Winter Yin IYTA Workshop.

When I caught up with Sarah to chat about her upcoming three-hour workshop In July, she had just begun a four-week adventure on her new boat in Europe.

We chatted as she sat in an internet café in Maastricht. It’s a welcome trip for Sarah, who normally resides in Singapore and has (like the rest of us) been holed up for the past couple of years.

And she’ll be back just in time to teach Winter Yin on Sunday, July 10 – live and online for the IYTA.

As I sit shivering in Sydney and Sarah swelters in Holland, she explains that warm socks are an essential part of staying healthy and balanced through the winter.

“The kidney meridian starts at the base of the foot, with the Kidney 1 acupressure point (also called Bubbling Spring), if you are walking around with bare feet on a concrete floor, you are inviting cold into your system. So you should be keeping kidney 1 warm – and wearing those warm, fluffy socks!”

Sarah’s class is all about creating balance through the elements. Because in Singapore there are no distinct seasons, Sarah tends to focus her classes on the five elements.

She also likes to incorporate the Vayus – the movement of energy through the body – water (winter element) is a descending and cooling energy, Wood (spring) is expansive, fire (summer) is ascending, earth (late summer) is stability and metal (autumn) is inward and condensing.

Sarah adds: “The Chinese meridians are sensitive to seasons, so the Daoist believe the universe around us is a complete story of something in nature that is constantly changing and moving towards (in)balance and take that same concept into the body.

“The body too is constantly in flux and stimulated by outside influences particularly vibrations and seasons and if you imagine the weather comes in and creates flood – we have an excess of something or sometimes a deficit and drought.”

The element for winter is water, which is sensitive to cold – and Winter Yin works with the kidney and urinary bladder meridians.

“Cold creates stagnation and pain,” says Sarah.

“And when we are looking at winter, we are looking at fear as the driving emotion. For example, if a trauma happens to you, that creates fear and it will affect the flow of the energy in kidney and urinary bladder.”

This coldness results in stagnation and stagnation often causes pain. This could manifest as menstrual or back pain – and Sarah says the way to counteract this is to create movement and warmth.

Sarah’s Winter Yin workshop will follow the format of her previous IYTA seasonal workshops – with around 45 minutes of Power Point presentation, followed by a practice with discussion and feedback time – an opportunity to reinforce the eight pre-existing conditions that make being a yin teacher challenging, such as: stimulating the connective tissue of the joints, how to accommodate people with bad knees, neck, back, shoulder problems, hypermobility and pre and post-natal students.

As we finish our chat, Sarah heads back to the boat – to teach a Zoom class! Covid has meant that she now has a regular Zoom schedule of classes – and she’s still teaching two a week while on holiday.

She adds: “I was lucky working with a small studio that pushed immediately into online classes and it pushed me to use technology that I wasn’t so comfortable with. It a gift as I now teach a lot of classes online.” Sarah has even created an online fertility yoga program called Be Natural – a 30-day fertility yoga program tailored to help women focus on their stage of ovulation and Ayurvedic dosha.

Sign up to Sarah’s Yin Yoga Teacher Training!

And Sarah’s running a live Yin Yoga online training program which is being run with IYTA. For more information on this please click here.


Meet our new Membership Secretary

Discovering mindfulness as a teenager led Tara Van Toorn to practise yoga at an Ashram on The Ganges. She’s now a yoga teacher, a mum-of-two – and our new IYTA Membership Secretary.

  Here she tells us a little more about her yoga journey…

As a teenager, Tara Van Toorn practised mindfulness as a way to regulate her emotions.

She says: “Mindfulness led me into yoga – both practices helped immensely with the big emotions associated with being a teenager – and I just fell in love with yoga.”

After leaving school, Tara went to University where she studied Social Sciences, focusing on criminology and criminal justice – and she was keen to help reduce reoffending rates in the younger population. She says: “I’ve always been interested in how the mind works, mental health and how we can keep ourselves healthy and manage emotions.”

Once Tara graduated, she headed to India, where she immersed herself in yoga – staying at a beautiful ashram in Rishikesh and travelling the country. She met her (now) husband, Brent, a New Zealander, in Thailand and they worked and lived in Japan for 18 months before settling in Sydney.

Back in Australia, Tara found part-time work in a corporate marketing role. It wasn’t quite what she’d planned, but she enjoyed the job – and the freedom it gave her to continue to explore her passion for yoga. She became a mum to Bodhi and two years later, had another son, Phoenix.

By this time Tara and Brent had moved to Jamberoo, NSW and Tara spent her lockdowns finally completing her yoga teacher training.

She says: “Once I had children I started to feel like I wanted to make a positive difference in the world. I knew how yoga had helped me and I was keen to share that with others. I particularly love the philosophy of yoga.

“When I came to Jamberoo I was so lucky to find the retreat where I now teach and I attended Alana Smith’s yoga classes for my personal practice.

“Alana and I hit it off. We’re very similar and I’d often stay after class – and we’d do private kirtans together!

“When Alana mentioned the job as Membership Secretary with the IYTA I was very excited. I felt like this was an opportunity for me to combine my work skills with my passion for yoga.”

Tara says she is drawn to the IYTA for its strong history, ethics and sense of community. She’s only been in the role a couple of weeks, but she’s already loving it.

She adds: “I’ve had some beautiful calls from people who have been members for 30 years or more. It’s been really joyful and wonderful to chat. I’m keen to get involved with projects to celebrate the members and I’m looking forward to getting to know our members and fostering a sense of community as the Membership Secretary.”


Ayurvedic Breakfast Fruit

As the temperature starts to dip, what better way to start the day than this delicious Ayurvedic breakfast with spices and fruit. Thanks to IYTA member (and past President), Patricia Wigley for the recipe



1 x pear

1 x apple

2 x fresh dates

small knob of fresh ginger

2 x cardamom pods

sprinkle of cinnamon

optional: 1 teaspoon of ground linseed

1 teaspoon of ghee



1: Finely chop pear and apple and place in a saucepan with a small amount of water (enough to cover the fruit)

2: Chop the dates and add to the pan with the spices

3: Bring to the boil, reduce and simmer until the fruit is cooked and soft.

4: serve warm with 1-2 teaspoons of freshly ground linseed and ghee


Eat while warm and enjoy ?

Go Ayurvedic this Autumn!

How can Ayurveda and Yoga help us optimise our health in autumn? Our writer and yogi, Tessa Hoffman chatted with Sydney-based yoga therapist and Ayurveda expert Patricia Wigley

Health is a dynamic state of wellbeing, not just an absence of disease. Ayurveda (sometimes translated as the Science of Longevity) is the sister science to Yoga and is all about how to maintain homeostasis or regain balance in our individual constitution (dosha) for optimum health and a long, healthy life. We are then supported in our practice of yoga to fulfil our potential.

The doshas are biological principles in nature which govern all life. In Ayurveda there are three doshas: Vata (air/ether) Pitta (fire/water) and Kapha (earth/water). Each person has a unique balance of these elements, though typically one or two will dominate. Our doshas are constantly in flux and influenced by diet, lifestyle, the weather, our state of mind and emotions. A basic understanding of which dosha or doshas are dominant can help us determine the food, drinks and activities most likely to help keep us balanced.

The principle (guna) of sattva brings balance, so aim to bring sattvic qualities to your lifestyle and diet practices. Sattvic food is fresh and unprocessed and sattvic activities bring clarity and calm to the mind. This means letting go of inappropriate or excessive activities and foods which overstimulate (rajas) or create dullness or lethargy (tamas).

The Ayurvedic text the Charaka Samhita states that being in relationship with Nature, the universe and our own divine inner nature is integral to true health. From this teaching we can see the importance of aligning ourselves and responding appropriately to the rhythms of nature. The cycles of the seasons are reflected in our own internal rhythms.

What are the nature and characteristics of the season of autumn according to Ayurveda?

After the expansive heat of summer, the Vata qualities of dry and cool begin to be predominant. In early autumn as days get colder and often windy, a Vata person may say they can feel the cool change ‘in their bones’. As autumn moves towards winter the Kapha qualities of heaviness, cold and wet often become more predominant.

Because like qualities increase like, dry, cool and windy conditions can aggravate the Vata dosha especially in early autumn. The cold and wet qualities affect both Kapha and Vata (somewhat) in winter. Those with Pitta predominance may enjoy the approach of cooler days, however this is a good time for them to address any imbalances the heat of summer may have created (fire is dominant in Pitta dosha).

How do these characteristics influence the body and mind?

The change in temperature can bring imbalances including allergies, hayfever, and colds as the body throws off effects of excess heat and toxins (ama) which accumulated in summer. It is important to encourage regular daily elimination to help the body rid itself of these wastes. Triphala is a traditional Ayurveda mix of three herbs which can support digestion and aid elimination suitable for all doshic types.

Perhaps you may observe a reluctance to let go of the warmth and expansiveness of summer, that unwillingness to accept change? Check out the Meditation on Autumn below to see how the energy of this period can affect us on many subtle levels.

What foods and beverages should we consume (and avoid) in autumn, and why?

Look around and see what is available in this season. Nature provides us with an abundance of foods that our bodies need at this time of the year to stay balanced.

The following regime is recommended for all doshic types:

  • Include root vegetables and greens according to local availability. Fruits such as apples and pears, stewed with dates, sultanas and spices such as cinnamon, cardamom and cloves are ideal.
  • Eat warm, nourishing cooked meals made from fresh unprocessed foods. This is not the time for salads. In the evening, try khichari or just three or four vegies steamed together and sprinkled with spices specific for your dosha.
  • All-in-one dishes like soup or khichari – a dish comprised of rice, moong dhal, warming spices and sometimes vegetables – are ideal for autumn days.
  • Avoid eating dry, hard, porous, rough (Vata qualities) or leftover foods (tamas). Like qualities increase like, so balance the dry and cool qualities of Vata by eating warm soupy foods.
  • Include ghee and good quality oil to balance Vata. Garlic and onions are an option to boost the immune system however use in moderation because they are rajasic, promoting a tendency to activity and a busy mind.
  • Include calming and warming herbal teas using chamomile, lemon balm and slices of fresh ginger.
  • Cook with spices like ginger, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, hing, black pepper and turmeric to aid digestion.


What yoga poses and sequences are most beneficial in autumn, and which if any should we minimise or avoid?

In autumn Vata pacifying sequences are good.

  • Always practice with breath-centred focus, moving into and out of the postures with awareness using the breath. Work with the ujjayi breath – if you lose it you are working too hard.
  • All sequences which work into the joints (pawanmuktasan series)
  • In the morning include Salute to the Sun done slowly and mindfully with the breath to support peristaltic movement and agni (digestive fire) considered the basis of good health in Ayurveda.
  • Standing poses are grounding, try flowing sequences moving from Warrior I, II, Reverse Warrior and Warrior III.
  • Forward bends like parsvottanasana, prasarita padottanasana, janu sirsasana and paschimottanasana create pressure on the abdominal area and promote warmth in the body. Always modify as necessary to suit the individual.
  • Balancing poses eg tree pose (vrksasana) and variations done with drishti and soft focus can promote calm and are grounding and centering.
  • Cobra (bhujangasana), locust (salabhasana) and bow pose (dhanurasana) are warming and stimulating. Always practice gently with care.
  • Twists will help the body get rid of toxins while massaging the abdominal organs.
  • Finish in savasana to rest before sitting to savour the effects of the practice and prepare for the rest of your day.
  • A short practice to wind down in the evening before the evening meal is also recommended for releasing any built up tension from the day and ensuring a better quality of sleep – one of the three pillars of good health, along with diet and exercise.

Which pranayama and meditation practices are most suitable?

  • In the morning get your breath moving for 20 minutes before you eat anything. This can be done with a breath-centred asana practice or by walking in nature. You can count your steps to the breath. Start by observing how many steps you comfortably fit to the in and out breath, then try four steps to the in breath and four steps to the out breath.
  • Include the ujjayyi breath in your practice. Use the mantra So Ham as you sweep your awareness from navel to throat with the inhale and throat to navel as you exhale. This cleanses the centre energy passageway from navel to throat. This can be done seated in sukhasana or in savasana.
  • If you have time for nothing else include alternate nostril breathing (nadi sodhana) for several minutes before meditation.
  • Practice a relaxing form of meditation that brings stillness and silence to the mind and senses.
  • Seated meditation after asana and pranayama in the morning will prepare you for your day. You will be alert and clear.
  • Practice yoga nidra before lunch or mid-afternoon (not too close to lunch). Savasana is grounding and centering. Keep warm covered with a blanket and have a support under the head, knees and hands.

What other Ayurvedic self-care practices are helpful?

  • Start your morning with a regular half hour walk after glass of warm water with few drops of lemon. Walk briskly or use this time for a walking meditation or pranayama. But be out in nature.
  • Abhyanga (oil massage). Practice daily, if possible in the early morning or late afternoon. Follow with a hot bath or shower. Feel the resulting sense of being nurtured and nourished.
  • Apply a little ghee or oil to the nostrils a few times a day to maintain health mucous lining and prevent drying out.
  • Follow a relaxed and regular daily routine. Eat at regular times, exercise before breakfast (half hour walk in nature ideal).
  • After a meal lie on your left side in the pose of the Buddha (pictured).
  • Avoid stress and strain as much as possible and do not over exercise (rajas).
  • Avoid constipation – regular elimination is vital to health.
  • Autumn is a good time to declutter your house and car. Enter winter with a simple clean living space.
  • Early to bed (by 10 pm) and rise early.
  • Gentle cleansing or fasting is recommended for all doshas in this season. This can be done in many ways so consult an ayurvedic practitioner for a program to suit your needs. Fasting for more than two days should not be undertaken without professional advice.
  • For two weeks try fasting between 6.00pm and 8am.


Patricia shares one of her favourite practices for autumn

Read this passage and contemplate your own inner connection to the seasons – how each season makes you feel. In which season were you born, or have you married, had children or lived through other major events? Then focus on autumn and your connection with this season. Ask yourself what autumn has to teach you.

‘In Autumn the world starts to shed what it no longer needs and silence is released from the flowers and flows out of the earth into the world of humankind.

Autumn has come to teach us that all things in the world and within us have a beginning and an end. Yet this season can entrap us in attachment to the past while denying the future.

Autumn is about the start of decay and how this belongs in the natural order of things.

Autumn encourages you not to be trapped by your own fears but to understand them so that they may set you free from fear and small-mindedness.

Autumn brings the message that nothing is isolated or separate, all things are connected.

Autumn is the season that teaches self-reliance and offers the serenity of experiencing the connection of all life as a conscious but natural experience.’


Source: The Tibetan Art of Serenity: How to Heal Fear and Gain Contentment by Christopher Hansard

Patricia’s recommendations for further reading

Cate Stillman – Body Thrive

Laura Plumb – Ayurveda Cooking for Beginners

Shaun Matthews – The Art of Balanced Living


Patricia Wigley is has been teaching yoga since 1991 and holds qualifications in yoga therapy Ayurveda, counselling, nutrition and Anatomy and Physiology. She is Vice President of the Australian Association of Yoga Therapists (AAYT) and a past president of the International Yoga Teachers Association IYTA.

Tessa Hoffman completed her Diploma of Yoga teaching in 2016 with the IYTA. and now lectures on the topics of yoga, philosophy and anatomy/physiology. Tessa as a background in journalism and is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Applied Science (Occupational Therapy) at the University of Sydney.

* This article first appeared in the IYTA magazine, International Light.




Meditation on Personal Power

Reflect on your inner strength with this guided meditation, by much-loved IYTA Yoga teacher, Margaret North

One aspect of personal power would be our ability to choose a personal positive feeling when a negative one might be emerging. For instance, personal (spiritual) power enables us to move from frustration to patience, from boredom to vitality, from hurt to understanding, from grief to gratitude…

Let us now go into our inner place of peace …

Let us take plenty of time to do that, ensuring that every limb is supported and completely relaxed and our thoughts are slowing, slowing, s-l-o-w-i-n-g…


Let us focus on our spiritual heart, wherever we perceive that to be …

That is the infinitesimal atma wherein resides all our spiritual strength, all our fortitude, compassion, sweetness, love … every one of our abundant and inherent personal positivity and strengths.

It may be at this time that we have the need of one particular strength or positivity, then let us see the seed of that residing in our atma…

It may be that we can identify no particular need, then let us see unbounded wisdom and positivity residing as a seed in our atma…

When we have a firm awareness of the source of our strength …. let’s take our time, let’s feel it … identify it … become truly aware of it …

When we are truly aware of that spiritual strength let us watch … slowly … slowly … as that tiny seed grows and spreads throughout our body. We keep focused … we keep it slow …

Then, filled with that positive force, let us see that positive force spreading out into our aura … take time … let’s take plenty of time …

We can now feel ourselves imbued with our positivity and our strength. It is within us, suffusing us, surrounding us, spreading out into our world …

We know it is the only way to be. We feel so strong, we lift ourselves taller, feel the lightness in our being … and inwardly we have changed. We have brought what is always within us to the surface, to be used for positive change.

We are strong.

(atma: Sanskrit word that means inner self, spirit or soul.) 

  • Margaret has been practising yoga for 50 years and, since her IYTA graduation in 1979, teaching hatha yoga as her major occupation for 40 years. She established the Kuring-gai Yoga School in 1979 which, since 2005, has been owned and led by Liz Kraefft and where she continues to teach. A deep study of yoga philosophies and meditation for some decades has brought her much inner peace. She conducts meditation groups in Mosman.

Restorative Yoga – a massage for the soul

  Restorative Yoga – it’s like chicken soup, watching a favourite movie or stroking your pet dog. It’s calming, soothing and comforting. For me it’s like coming back to myself. Giving myself time to simply be, time to observe my mind and body unravelling from the many strands of life.

In everyday life we are moving through a constant barrage of situations and experiences. Some good, some not so good, some challenging and others rewarding. The continual maze of life. And if we don’t stop every so often and press pause, then we don’t see the full picture with a clear perspective.

More and more people are experiencing the benefits of Restorative Yoga – out of all the different sessions I teach it’s the one more people are gravitating towards. And that includes the classes I teach at my local gym.

It gives us permission to hold ourselves in a collective space – and when teaching in a room full of people that energy is palpable – it’s as if the entire room is having a long, slow and luxurious yawn.

Which is why the IYTA Restorative Yoga training is such a joy to teach.

Can you imagine – two full days of exploring these shapes, using props and delving into the benefits of this slow-moving and mindful practice. Not only are you experiencing it first hand but you are learning how to share this with others.

I first came across Restorative Yoga while teaching Pre-natal Yoga. I used to set up the students in Reclining Goddess pose – a little like a five star version of Supta Baddha Konasana – it was totally dreamy and you knew it was good for you just by witnessing worry lines melting away like thawing snow.

Post-natally it was even more indulgent – a way to realign the body from hours of breastfeeding and rocking a fractious baby. And it made me wonder why we all couldn’t experience the joy of these poses – to coax our weary, tense bodies out of their malaise and help empty our over-full minds.

And so I began my practice. I loved exploring these poses, either in pure, unadulterated silence or with a Guided Relaxation to focus upon.

Judith Hanson Lasater has written some wonderful books which detail the most gorgeously supported poses. I’ve tried them all! I also developed my own book with around 25 poses – divided into foundation poses (with minimal props) to advanced (with additional props). This forms the basis for our two-day training.

I now tend to sprinkle a restorative yoga pose into my yoga classes – other times I will do a pure Restorative Yoga experience. It’s like a massage for the soul – and also helps us to tune into the soft flow of the breath and tranquilising pranayama techniques.

These days I have a stack of props on hand for when I need to step off the treadmill of life and come into a quiet, nurturing space. I’ll stay for a while – however long I can and then step back into the rhythm of the day renewed and refreshed.

If you would like to experience Restorative Yoga with Katie Brown (author of Guided Relaxation), then come along to our face-to-face training in Melbourne on May 14 and May 15. Details and bookings HERE. 



Move with ease and grace

Helping people to move freely within their bodies – and life – is our new ACT State Rep, Katrina Hinton’s mission, as she explains…

Do you find the older you get the more the ‘meaning of life’ questions become more regular popups in your consciousness? I believe they are often prompted by the big milestones like large number birthdays, older family members passing or perhaps just getting to a point where we look back and wonder what’s it all about.

This has certainly been the case for me losing both my parents in the last three years. The finiteness of life has landed and prompted an urgency to fulfil my purpose on this earth. The answers aren’t all there yet and may never be but one thing is now clear: I want to help people feel free to move in both their bodies and minds and with this, find an ease and grace that permeates throughout their lives.

I believe in trusting the wisdom of our own soft animal body (thanks Mary Oliver!) and our body-mind-system. I believe we are ultimately responsible for our own wellbeing. We’re the ones who inhabit our unique Soma and the only ones who know how it feels. If we can learn to truly listen in, we can learn how to discern what we need. At times it can be confusing especially if we’ve been living in our heads, or with chronic pain and dysfunction which make it harder for us to find clarity. It can help to receive coaching from a specialist to help us get out of our own way and find the path perhaps a little more directly to our recovery or comfortable place.

All of my trainings have been aimed at unpacking the mysteries of why and how we move the way we do, why we get injuries or pain and how to relieve it. I’ve reached a place where I know what to do to support my own health and the most easeful movement for my body at this point in my life. I’m now ready to help other’s make their way to more ease and function so they can enjoy doing what they love.

Katrina will be running a Somatic Yoga Workshop in Canberra on May 7 & 8

Katrina’s Yoga journey

It’s been illuminating to look back and see the countless events and choices that led me to this path. A defining moment was rupturing my ACL playing soccer and fearing that my career as a yoga teacher would be over before it started. I’d just begun my 500-hour Advanced Diploma in Yoga Teacher Training at Nature Care College in Sydney the year before. But rather than hold me back, that injury set me on a path of seeking balance and unravelling how one’s body compensates for injuries.

Nature Care College provided an amazing foundation and I trained with some of the luminaries of the Australian yoga scene. I was exposed to Donna Farhi’s teachings and a few years later was lucky enough to spend three weeks in Christchurch in a transformative advanced teacher training. My appetite for learning was kindled as Donna introduced us to many wonderful movement modalities and teachers including Thomas Hanna’s Somatic movement education and Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen’s Body-Mind-Centreing.

I set off down a path of training in Hanna Somatics with several teachers and have used the principles everyday in my own healing of postural issues incurred by 30 years in computers and management consulting not to mention the impact of the ACL long ago.

I have also explored healing through the Feldenkrais Method and Alexander Technique and more recently, I trained in a brilliant movement education method called JEMS, named after Joanne Elphinstone; a gifted wholistic rehabilitative physiotherapist, coach and teacher based in Wales.

This year I am very excited to be embarking on a Graduate Diploma in Yoga Therapy which can only broaden my delivery framework and be a great way to connect with other yoga therapists and allied health professionals in the Canberra and wider community.

I have been teaching yoga since 2008 after my initial 500-hour training and started a corporate class at my day job in a software development organisation.

On moving to Canberra from Sydney, I started teaching relief classes at different studios, teaching public servants in their lunch hours, and eventually inheriting my own class from a legendary Canberra teacher Ursula Huber. Some of those original students remain to this day 11 years on.

Over the last ten years, I have taught at women’s gyms, presented at local yoga conferences and festivals, hosted sold-out workshops and continued to teach my intimate functional yoga and somatic classes out of my home studio.

I take delight in hosting women’s retreats at beautiful locations including Heartspace at Yass and at venues near the beach on the far south coast. I have a dream to run retreats using the healing connection to country and practicing in nature and one day, lead a squad of like-minded women to play, explore and immerse in the magical culture of Bali.

I have been coaching clients for five years in postural assessments and providing follow up programs to reach my client’s goals. I love helping clients restore their freedom of movement through re-connecting their brains with their bodies. When you can truly tune in to your sensations and quality of your movement and breath, you can become aware of habituated physical (and emotional) responses to stress.

I am delighted to step into the role as the ACT representative for IYTA. I think it’s so important that the association is founded on the basis of excellent standards of yoga teacher training. I am a living example of passionate life-long learning but our foundation training is a critical launching pad for the rest of our yoga path whether that be teaching or for our own wellbeing. I aim to support this continued learning through community events in the ACT and broaden the reach with the help of social media platforms and through my own networks.

Book into Katrina’s workshop HERE

Discover the Prana Vayus with Patricia

  We sat down with Patricia Wigley to chat about this upcoming IYTA workshop. Patricia is the Vice President of the Australasian Association of Yoga Therapists and an Ayurvedic Consultant. She is also a past president of the IYTA.

The prana vayus are the five pranas (prana vayu, apana vayu, samana vayu, udana vayu and vyana vayu), that govern the body. Together they form the pranamaya (also known as pranamaya kosha). It is the breath itself, as well as energy, vitality, or life force.

  In this two-hour workshop you will discover how to balance these five movement/prana flows to create a heightened function of the physiological systems of the body and the more subtle levels of mind and awareness.

Patricia says: “It is so important that we move prana or heighten the movement of prana in a soft and flowing way – think Sthiram and Sukham of the Yoga Sutras (steadiness and ease) – so we are moving without effort.”

She adds: “Prana is central in the teachings of Yoga and so in this session we will be visiting how we can work with all our Yogic tools to support the soft flow and intelligence of Prana through our body/mind. How we work with our awareness and the breath is key.”

This online workshop is a combination of theory and practical and Patricia will be guiding participants through yoga flows with the breath incorporating the Ayurvedic elements, chakras and mantras as you experience the movement of the Prana Vayus through the physical body.

It’s something that, as yoga teachers, we tend to incorporate naturally, but, as Patricia says: “It can be beneficial to revisit what we already know and look at it as if it is new. Imagine this is the first time in the pose/practice. Notice what sensations you are aware of, what is happening with the breath and prana.”

For example, in Tadasana if you come up to the toes in a balance and raise both arms in the Breath of Life, then you stimulate the prana in the upper body and the udana flow (upward flow from the throat to the head connection between the brain and the body).

Then with the exhalation as you lower, you are balancing the apana vayu and that important connection with the lower abdomen and apana – helping the body let go of waste. So the inhale is energising and lightening and the exhale releasing letting go.

Patricia says: “The breath is the the tool by which we know that we are working in a way that is beneficial to the body. So if the breath becomes jerky or strained then we are creating the stress response and not balancing the important response of the Parasympathetic Nervous System.”

During the pandemic, Patricia has been teaching most of her classes online. She says: “I don’t mind online, I do prefer face to face for the immediate feedback that you don’t get on camera, but online classes are very convenient, a lot of my students have been coming a while, so they are comfortable within the poses and I think they are happy don’t have to sit in traffic to get to the class!”


Book now for this workshop to ensure you don’t miss out!



Meet Peta!

From running a gym, to being a mum and coordinating our IYTA events and workshops – meet our new Post Graduate Courses and Events Manager – Peta Jolley

  Q: How did you first find yoga?

I discovered yoga at the age of five in my prep year at Aireys Inlet Primary school with my teacher. He would weave asanas into the days learning and make it fun, and then take us through a Yoga Nidra at least once a week – it’s stayed with me ever since.

Q: Why did you decide to become a yoga teacher?

Before having my daughter, Eva Rose, I worked in a variety of roles including a career as a youth worker. But after becoming a mother, I wanted to do something different.

My mum was a wonderful seamstress and as I’d been practising yoga, I had the idea of us going into business making yoga pants. I asked my friend Lorraine Bell, who ran a local yoga & reiki centre, if she would stock yoga pants, (the era before designer leggings!) if I made them.

After a long discussion about all things yoga, she asked me: “What are you really looking to step into, Peta?”

My immediate response was: “I want to be a yoga teacher!”, quickly followed by dropping to my knees and asking: “Will you be my teacher?”

Thankfully, Lorrie said Yes!

(And yes, we did make a few yoga pants as well!).

Q: How did you first discover the IYTA?

Again, from my friend and mentor, Lorrie Bell, she loved IYTA and was always recommending it to me.

Q: How much of an impact does yoga have in your daily life?

Even though yoga has been with me for most of my life, it’s been a slow process of integrating it so that it is more of a way of life rather than a practice.

I had carried that heavy feeling of failure if I wasn’t up at 4am and practicing every day, as I thought this had to be the way to be “committed” to Yoga. Then I met David Burgess, and he reminded me that I’m not living on an ashram and therefore have a lot of competing priorities. This was so enlightening for me! Now my Sadhana is four or five days per week and consists of pranayama, meditation, asana, and a daily yoga nidra.

I’ve always had a calling to the modality of Yoga and teaching was another step on this infinite pathway, the learning never ends, and I always remember that I’m a student first, then a teacher. I went on to study with Simon Borg-Olivier, John Weddepohl and Swami Premajyoti Saraswati.

I currently teach five classes per week at our gym MVMNT365, in Warrnambool. I work one-to-one with people in respite at Retreat South, Yambuk and I lead a Yoga Nidra session a couple of times a week in the Salt Therapy room at The Deep Blue resort in Warrnambool.

I’ve also joined forces with my wife Dionne, a chef (see this month’s recipe for one of Dionne’s delicious creations!) to run retreats.

Q: Why did you decide to take on the role of events manager?

I love Yoga, I love events and I love bringing those two things together!

Q: What events/highlights are you excited about for the IYTA this year!?

I’m really excited by both the Yin 1 & 2 in March, which will be open soon for registration and I’m super excited for the new course Yoga Studies Online, Philosophy, Pranayama & Meditation to go live in April!

There’s also the Restorative Yoga which we are running in Melbourne this May, and our Seniors Yoga Training.

To find out about our IYTA events click HERE

And to find out about the retreats Peta runs click here






Want to become a yoga teacher? Here’s August’s story

Since graduating from the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga teaching a year ago, August Smits has found his niche – teaching yoga to the broader community.

August teaches four weekly classes – sharing the benefits of this ancient practice with two mens’ only classes, a yoga class for staff at the Sydney Children’s Hospital and a Chair Yoga Class for cancer patients.

August says: “Part of my philosophy is to open up yoga to a broader community. I think less than 20 per cent of practitioners are men, so two of my weekly classes are purely for men.

He adds: “Teaching yoga with honestly, generosity and compassion gives you insight into who you are.”

He says the key to teaching to the broader community is to run the practice at a slower pace and adjust everything according to who is in the class.

He doesn’t do headstands or shoulderstands. It’s the simpler poses he focuses on, but doing them safely and slowly. “It’s also lighthearted,’ he says with a smile. “And we have a lot of fun!”

Teaching yoga has given August a more balanced and fulfilling work, life balance. The 67-year old works as an architect two to three days a week, teaches yoga and spends the rest of his time relaxing with his family – including his two young grandchildren.

One of the main reasons August has been able to create this life is due to his studies with the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching. The year-long course helped him further his knowledge and passion for yogic philosophy, asanas and learn how to teach classes and adapt poses for all levels and ages.

He says: “It’s a tiny investment for such a phenomenal wealth of knowledge and experience.”

August chose the IYTA course because it was a 460-hour course. He says: “I knew that a 200-hour course would only just scrape the barrel of what there is to learn.”

He says he believes many students fall into the “trap” of enrolling in a cheaper, shorter course, but find themselves lacking confidence and not being able to fully comprehend the depth of yoga required to be able to teach.

He particularly recommends the IYTA Diploma of Yoga course because it is not commercially driven. The IYTA is a non-profit organisation so it is not based on a business model, but offers on-going support and membership of an international yoga community.

August spent time researching yoga schools as he was keen to learn in an environment which was open and friendly to a broad demographic. He said he found the course (which was held both online and face-to-face throughout 2020), physically challenging, but believes he is much fitter and self-aware as a result.

He says: “Physically I have my limitations, but I found that to be more of a benefit than a hindrance with the students I tend to attract. People can relate to me and I don’t take them anywhere that could be unsafe for their body.”

August is also quick to emphasise that age shouldn’t be a barrier to practise. He adds: “Age isn’t an issue with me personally I have a lot of students well over 65 and they’ve always got a conversation in their head that they are too old. I tell them to forget their age – and not to let it limit them.”

So if you are looking for a new challenge this year – especially if you are older – then why not discover the joy of yoga – both professionally and personally to enrich and enhance your life.

The IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga course begins in February 2023. Find out more HERE



A new lease of life with yoga

Enrolling in the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching has given mum-of-three, Audrey a new-found confidence and perfect life balance!

Audrey D’Souza’s first memory of yoga was of her father practising asanas every morning. He was as a fighter pilot with the Indian Airforce and his yoga helped balance the daily stresses of his job.

Although Audrey was born and grew up in India, she attended a Catholic school where yoga wasn’t part of the curriculum. She says: “In India there is a huge awareness of yoga, but I didn’t practice yoga as a child – though we’d sometimes do “play yoga” where we’d cross our legs in padmasana and twist ourselves into shapes, but that was the extent of it!

Audrey and her three siblings moved around a lot as their father was stationed across India. Then at aged 16 she met Selwyn (her now husband).

The couple moved from India to Hong Kong, with their first daughter, Stephanie, before settling in Melbourne in 1993. Within a few years of being in Australia they’d had two more daughters, Samantha and Catherine. With Selwyn often travelling for work, Audrey decided to stay at home to care for their three children.

Seven years later, the family moved to Sydney – and Audrey started regular yoga classes at her local yoga studio – The Kuring-gai Yoga School.

She says: “As a young mum, I loved the relaxation. But I also loved the physical practice – using muscles I didn’t know even existed and I really enjoyed the stretches.”

Yoga became part of Audrey’s weekly routine for the next several years – it became a huge help for her not just physically, but emotionally – especially when her mother became terminally ill. In fact, while caring for her mum, Audrey spoke to her yoga teachers at Kuring- Gai Yoga School to find out how she could learn more about yoga. They told her about the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching.

Audrey says: “I loved the way Liz Kraefft, Cathy Young, Lynne Tome and Margaret North all taught. There was a lot of care and thought to the safety and wellbeing of the student. And most of them had done the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching, so I just knew that was the one I would want to do.”

In 2019 Audrey’s mum passed away and while she was grieving, she knew she had to do something to pick herself up. One day she was working at her computer when she received an email from Amy – who was the DYT’s Course Manager at the time. It was a reminder that the Diploma of Yoga Teaching course was taking enrolments.

The email arrived at just the right time. After having thought about doing the course for a couple of years, she knew the time was right. She decided to sign up. For the next five minutes she was excited, but then terror set in! She rang her yoga teacher and mentor, Margaret North.

“Margaret was so reassuring,” Audrey says. “She knows me so well and told me that I was ready. I asked my husband and daughters and they were all so supportive! They all had more confidence in me, than I had in myself.”

So I enrolled. On the first day I walked into the studio in Crows Nest, NSW. It was great to see a familiar face, Lynne Tome – a teacher at Kuring-gai Yoga Centre, but then I looked around at everyone else and started to panic. At 59 years old I was sure I was one of the oldest people in the room and they all looked so flexible and fit. I started to freak out and wonder what I’d signed myself up to. But it didn’t take long to realise that I was meant to be there, and I fitted right in.

“What came across very strongly to me was how much all the teachers were there to support us. Every teacher gave me the support I needed, whenever I needed it. “

“In the first teaching practice sessions that we did, I was shaking but the feedback I received was very complimentary, non-judgemental and constructive and that’s where the confidence started to build. That confidence grew quickly and soon I was not afraid to stand up and teach, not worried about the mistakes I made, knowing I would be guided correctly. I realised it was so friendly and supportive that in the end I found the teaching practices fun and something I would look forward to. I could stand there and just be myself and that was recognised and appreciated.

“The moment I felt comfortable, I knew I was on my way and I owe that to each and every one of the teachers on the course.”

“In every way I have benefitted from the course – physically, mentally, emotionally – and my confidence has grown.

“I learned much more than I expected to. The course was so comprehensive and besides gaining all that confidence, I gained in knowledge. I also realised that this part of my journey is only beginning I am currently studying Sanskrit, and looking forward to learn more Yogic philosophy, as well as updating my knowledge and skills.”

Audrey is now teaching private classes to eight students and has been booked to teach community yoga classes at the Kuringai Arts School. She’s also teaching meditation classes online with students across the globe!

“Studying the year-long course and qualifying as a yoga teacher has given me a new lease of life. I am happy I have found what I love. Practicing yoga and teaching. Selwyn is still working and my daughters have all grown up and I now feel as if I have the perfect life balance”

After graduating from the course earlier this year, Audrey went on to do the IYTA’s Restorative Yoga Training with Katie Brown and is now teaching Restorative Yoga too. She says: “I’m really happy I did the course and I got a lot out of it. I would absolutely recommend it to others. I think it is particularly important in today’s world and there are so many people who would benefit from it.”

Discover more about our 2023 Diploma of Yoga Teaching course here



Stay safe with your yoga practice

liz kraefft portrait picture

Come along to our free IYTA Lunch and Learn session to discover the art of teaching safe classes for all body types…

Teaching a safe yoga class is the foundation of the IYTA Diploma of Yoga teaching – our students attend their practice to improve their health and posture and it’s our job as teachers to facilitate this.

With the correct training and a proper understanding of modifications and options for yoga asanas, teachers can be well prepared to assist their students.

Join IYTA Diploma of Yoga Lecturers, Liz Kraefft and Katie Brown for this free Lunch and Learn session on Avoiding Yoga Injuries.

This session will be presented online via Zoom and Liz will lead the session. She says: “I want to emphasise good body preparation. The session will be a mix of practical and theory and we’ll start with a full body a warm-up.”

The session will focus on common yoga asanas including: Janu Sirsasana, ustrasana and virabhadrasana 2.

There will also be time for question and answers.

This topic is particularly important now many yoga teachers are holding online yoga classes. Liz says: “I have only taught ten classes via Zoom, as a teacher I found it difficult for me to look at the screen to check everyone’s posture, maintain the flow of the class without compromising my own body too. It’s important that if you are a teacher on zoom then you are mindful that your student can’t always see you and that you select a practise that isn’t too rigorous or complex.”

With all yoga classes, Liz says it is important to reinforce that you are with your own self and not looking to see what others might be doing in the pose. We need to emphasise the non-competitive aspect of yoga and reduce ego within the class.”

Liz runs the Kuring-gai Yoga Centre and has been teaching since 2003. She adds: “If you want to keep up your yoga practice then safety is paramount. If you build a practice with safety at the forefront then you and your students will be able to practise in to their older age in a business sense you will have to have people attend as they know they are safe and they trust you and don’t feel as if they are going out of their depth it is Foundation of the class…

Foster and encouraging this approach by encouraging students to come out of the pose if it isn’t right for their body at that time and to always have alternative poses and practices.

“That’s what we do best at the IYTA – as we want our teachers to understand and know what the best modifications and alteratives are for each pose.”

Liz adds that part of this is encouraging people to mindfully practice for themselves – and being present rather than thinking about what’s for dinner. So they are tuned into their bodies and notice when a position doesn’t feel quite right. It’s also important to encourage two way communication so they are willing to open up to you so you can offer ways to adapt poses.”

This safe yoga experience also encompasses mindful awareness during relaxation practice and using the breath – so it all links to create a safe and nurturing environment.”

Sign up to the free lunch and learn session HERE

And come along to our free open day on November 13 to discover the IYTA yoga Teacher Training difference

From yoga student to lecturer!

Rik Dawson

From yoga student to lecturer!

Two years ago Physiotherapist Rik Dawson enrolled on the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching – a year after graduating he is returning – as a lecturer!  

Sydney-based Physiotherapist Rik Dawson has always been a keen advocate for yoga, but it wasn’t until he sold his physiotherapy business that he decided to enrol in a Yoga Teaching Course.

He says: “I’d been practicing yoga personally for about twenty years and always introduced yoga to my patients and encouraged them to join classes when it was appropriate for them. And taking the course was my reward for selling my business!’

Two of Rik’s yoga teachers had recommended the International Yoga Teachers’ Association (IYTA), so he went along to an Open Day to find out more and was instantly impressed.

He says: “I really liked the spirit of the teachers and it felt like the kind of environment I would want to be in for 12 months!”

He signed up and the course quickly exceeded his expectations. He says: “I didn’t appreciate the meditation would be so well structured and paced and I really appreciated the safety and pace of the asana practice.”

He liked having a range of different teachers delivering the lectures. He says: “They all had a similar philosophy about safety and careful instruction, but slightly different approaches and class structure. It didn’t feel as if there was just one way to deliver a class – there were lots of ideas and different modifications for poses.”

He was also impressed with the support from the teachers and course managers. “I liked how they demanded us to be courageous in our teaching early – to get over our ‘imposter syndrome!’ At first, we began to deliver a five minute flow, before moving into a 15-20 minute sequence so when we needed to teach our final assessment class, I felt ready.”

Importantly Rik had the confidence to teach immediately after graduating – even when a pregnant student arrived in his class, he was able to draw on the knowledge learnt on the course and teach the class confidently and safely.

He also found the course helped his personal practice. “I had become quite passive in my own practice but since the course I’m now far more active. I am more mindful and move in a conscious way with intention. And my body has changed for the better with this approach.”

Since graduating a year ago, Rik – who is also the Vice President of the Australian Physiotherapy Association – has taught two online classes a week for staff at Sydney University where he is also doing a PHD – on developing an online yoga program for seniors.

Rik is now excited to return to the Diploma of Yoga teaching next year – as a lecturer!

He says: “I’m glad I’ve had a year to teach since graduating. As a physiotherapist I obviously have a good working knowledge of anatomy, I can give insight to how the year will unfold and as a former health business owner offer some advice about setting up a yoga business.

To anyone who is considering signing up for a yoga teaching course, Rik thoroughly recommends the IYTA. He says: “The IYTA embraces a nurturing spirit and everyone wants you to succeed and find your own way forward as a teacher.”

To find out more about the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching CLICK HERE

It’s simply the BEST (yoga course!)

Gary Drummond
If you are keen to study yoga, then check out the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching. Here’s one graduate’s story…
Yoga teacher, Gary Drummond is constantly recommending the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga teaching course. He says: “I would say it is the best teacher training course available and everyone I know who has done the course raves about it.”
The internationally recognised diploma is taught by more than 20 expert lecturers. And Gary says he also loved the great vibe on the course – between students and with the lecturers. He says: “I knew right away I’d made the right choice.”
Gary discovered yoga ten years ago when he was struggling with anxiety. He says: “My wife Lorraine suggested I do something to get out of my head. At the time we lived opposite Manly Yoga Studio, so I went along to a class.”
Gary was immediately hooked – and found the yoga practices such as asanas, pranayama and meditation helped him cope with the crippling anxiety he was experiencing. Eventually his anxiety became so challenging that he left his corporate job. Now for the first time in many years he found himself with time during the day and so he began to attending more yoga classes.
After about three months of regular yoga classes, he observed a shift in his mental and physical health – he was noticeably calmer, more content, his sleep had improved and relationships with his wife and kids very much improved as well
Then one evening in class Gary remembers hearing a voice in his head saying that he needed to become a yoga teacher, so he could help other people who had experienced anxiety.
At first he didn’t have the confidence in his ability but the teachers at the studio believed in him. A few of the teachers were lecturers on the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga teaching.
Gary attended one of the IYTA’s Open Days where he learnt about the Foundation Course – a 70-hour course which is taken as an online course or face-to-face for three months starting with the Diploma Of Yoga Teaching (if you do this you also have the option to continue on the full course).
As soon as Gary attended the Open Day he resolved to join the Foundation Course immediately. And within the first couple of lectures knew that he wanted to sign up to the full internationally recognised Diploma.
Once Gary began the Diploma he enjoyed the pace of the course, which is run over the year. This gave him time to digest the information and enjoy the regular monthly study weekends. “We’d all meet early and have breakfast together,” he says. And the group are still in close contact and have regular reunions.
Gary’s been teaching regular yoga classes since graduating in 2018 and has in the process of created specialist workshops for men and people with anxiety and also empty nesters.
If you would like to find out more about the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching and the Foundation Course – then please call us on: 1800 449 195

The IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga was life changing

Intan - DYT was lifechanging

Intan Ridwan’s life has turned around completely after graduating from the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga teaching – she’s left her corporate job and created a successful yoga business.

  When Intan’s doctor suggested she find an exercise she enjoyed she decided to give yoga a try. It was a decision that would be life changing.

She worked in the city and soon found herself attending classes 4-5 times a week during her lunchtime.

At that time, Intan had two primary-school aged children and her husband also had a full-time job, so days were busy and chaotic. Yoga provided a much-needed balance to their fast-paced life. 

The more Intan practiced yoga, the more she wanted to know, so she researched yoga teaching courses and settled on the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga.

She says: “I liked the fact the IYTA was well established and had been around for 50 years. It wasn’t based on any lineage and the course was taught by a faculty of more than 20 teachers.”

The course quickly exceeded Intan’s expectations. She says: “I was an empty sponge soaking up all this amazing information and knowledge.” Intan really liked how the course was structured. You work your way up from a foundation of knowledge and build up your understanding,” she says.

Intan didn’t intend to teach, but it wasn’t long before teaching opportunities arose. At the time, Intan was dealing with some work challenges and in the end decided to leave her job. She said: “The yoga course helped me feel grounded and in a peaceful state where I could make my decision.

And within a couple of weeks Intan was offered teaching jobs. She says: “It was as if I’d shut this ugly door and this other beautiful, peaceful door started to open up and I went along with it.”

Intan, 44, now also a yoga therapist has established her own yoga business: and has says most of her students are in their 60s and 70s. She says: “They say you don’t choose your students, they choose you, which seems to be the case!”

Intan specialises in promoting healthy ageing in people from middle age onwards. “People who want to lead a healthy life and want to maintain health and mobility in their mind and body.”

And for anyone considering studying yoga, Intan wholeheartedly recommends the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga teaching. She says: “It was value for money as it spans an 11 month program and you graduate with the ability to go and teach.” She explains it will always be nerve wracking teaching for the first time after graduating from a yoga teacher training program, but with the IYTA as soon as you stand in front of the class your training just “flows organically.”

Find out about the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga course here

Check out Intan’s business here


How the IYTA’s Yoga teaching course helped Shannon launch a new business

Yoga Teacher Shannon

The high rates of anxiety and mental health issues among teenagers was one of the main reasons high school teacher, Shannon Herps decided to train as a yoga teacher.

Shannon had been practising yoga for a few years and wanted to increase her knowledge of the practice to help her own children – and her students – so she enrolled in the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teacher Training.

The IYTA’s course was recommended to her by teachers at her local yoga studio in Glenbrook, NSW.

Shannon says: “I was a high school teacher I found lots of kids coming through with an increasing rate of anxiety and mental health issues. I had been doing a personal yoga practice for a while. I had done a kids yoga teacher training so I knew how beneficial yoga could be and I wanted to learn more.”

Shannon liked the fact that IYTA course took a year to complete – so not only are the study weekends spread out, but there is time to really absorb the knowledge and research each module thoroughly.

Shannon says: “When I started the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga, I thought yoga was mostly about the pranayama and asana – I didn’t know about all the other aspects and limbs of yoga, such as the koshas and philosophy, so I really appreciated the opportunity to process the information during the year.”

The IYTA course has lectures set aside for posture reviews and teaching practices – so everyone has time to really understand the classical postures – including adapting and modifying them to suit different body shapes, levels of ability and injuries.

Shannon says: “The IYTA appealed to me as there are so many teachers delivering the course and everyone is an expert in their field. There was a great variety of lecturers and subjects from pre and post natal to seniors and children’s yoga.”

And with so many like-minded yogis on the course, Shannon quickly found another student – Ashlyn – who she discovered lived close by and was also a high school teacher! The pair ended up car pooling to the study weekends. The pair have since become great friends and are still in close contact with the rest of their cohort.

Shannon says: “The course also affected me personally. I had Post Natal Depression after my second child and had become a bit perfectionist – I used to put a lot of pressure on myself, but when I did yoga I was able to walk away with a sense of bliss. The course helped me discover tools which helped to manage my own anxieties about being a mum and someone who was working. I learnt how to let go and calm myself.”

After graduating from the course in 2018 Shannon says she was surprised how easy it was to build a yoga career. She says: “I never had to put myself out there – the work found me.”

Within a few months Shannon had created her own yoga business: Little Lotus Studio and was running about five regular classes including one class at a primary school, mindfulness sessions in classrooms, general yoga at two local gyms and private classes at a community hall.

Earlier this year Shannon taught a kids yoga class for Education Live earlier this year during lockdown. It was viewed by over 8000 people when it initially ran in July and another 10 000 last week during school holidays when it was put up again! Shannon’s daughter, Eliza, was her co-teacher and they played with the yoga poses based on the inspirational athletes in the Olympics.

Shannon also sells her own eye pillows. The idea came from when Shannon attended a class and the eye pillow given to her was filled with rice. She says: “They must have been filled with weevils as while I was lying in Relaxation the weevils and rice were rolling down my face! It wasn’t exactly relaxing!”

Now Shannon and her mum make home-made eye pillows using organic Australian lavender and flaxseeds, with cotton washable covers. They are available from Shannon’s website.

For more information on the IYTA’s DYT course please click HERE.

And for information about Shannon please click HERE



IYTA Yoga Teacher Training Saved My Life!

Natalie Purden IYTA TAS rep

It may seem like a big claim, but Natalie Purden credits the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teacher Training with saving her physically, emotionally and mentally. Here she tells why…

Natalie moved to the beautiful isle of Tasmania at the beginning of the pandemic – in that time she’s started working as a barber and developed her yoga business: Yoga Focus.

Since graduating from the IYTA’s Diploma of Yoga Teaching in 2014, Natalie’s simplified her life. She says: “I just cut hair and teach yoga… In the past I’ve complicated my life – but now I’m living the dream!”

She adds: “Yoga has shown me that when things are right, they all fall into place – there are no roadblocks, in fact the road becomes wider.”

Home is now in Launceston with a back deck overlooking three mountains, with partner Sacha who she says is one of the happiest and easiest-going people you could ever meet.

Natalie, 47, discovered yoga in a very unlikely location – she was creating a will at her local solicitor’s firm while living in Griffith, NSW. Her solicitor invited her to join the weekly yoga class that was held once a week in the back of the main office.

After that first class, she was hooked. At the time she was in her early 30s, but could barely keep up with the other students aged 55+!

Her partner at the time would literally push her out of the door to encourage her to attend her “yoghurt sessions,” she laughs.

Then at 34, she moved to Victoria and began attending Val Fraser’s classes. Val was an IYTA member – and told Natalie about the IYTA Yoga Teacher Training Course, so in 2013 Natalie enrolled as a correspondence student (with Val as her mentor) and immediately she knew she’d found her tribe.

She says: “I chose the IYTA because it’s a not-for-profit organisation and it is filled with people who have a very big heart. Everyone’s intentions were very pure and I am sure most yoga teachers are like that – but I found it to be extra true with the IYTA!”

She was also keen to study with the IYTA as the qualification is recognised internationally.

But what really impressed Natalie was how quickly her health issues eased once she’d enrolled in the course.

She says: “My health was quite bad when I started the diploma, I had dozens of food intolerances and allergies. I was highly stressed and had trouble sleeping.

One of the main turning points were the pranayama sessions on the course where Natalie learnt the full diaphragmatic breath which led to her slowing her breathing and she began to experience a deep sense of relaxation.

Her stress levels reduced and her body began to heal and rejuvenate. Her sleep improved, allergy issues such as rashes and itches eased, her anxiety levels dropped, she found it easier to focus and even looked younger!

She also changed her diet – opting for more Sattvic foods such as vegetables, gluten-free grains, rice milk and cold pressed oils.

She says: “I learnt how to breathe into the postures and could feel myself coming out of a state of flight or fight and feeling more grounded. Even now if I don’t do my yoga practice – even for a few days – I can sense myself feeling anxious and not sleeping as well – as soon as I do my yoga, I’m a different person again.”

Today Natalie is about to add more classes to her teaching schedule and has just taken on the role of Tasmania Rep for the IYTA. She is keen to connect with other IYTA members in the state and encourages others who are keen to develop their yoga knowledge to get in touch.

She says: “I’m still learning about the role and attending the IYTA Committee meetings, but I’d love in time to create an IYTA yoga community here and support people as they go through the course, as Val mentored me.”




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

If you missed this event, please check out Lorraine’s kids yoga teaching courses HERE







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


Stay tuned for our next Free Open Day! Visit our events page for details



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.




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.

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




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.





Wood green/brown Liver/Gall bladder 11pm – 3am
Fire red/orange Heart/Small intestine 11am – 3pm
Earth light yellow/brown Spleen/Stomach 7am – 11am
Metal white/grey Lung/Large intestine 3am – 7am
Water blue/black Kidney/Urinary bladder 3pm – 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.

Upcoming EVENTS AND 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

sangha hands in yoga students

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 easter eggs in a white bowl

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

woman sitting looking at sunset in yoga pose

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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!

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:
    No items found.

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:

No items found.

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.

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

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

This Thing Called Yoga

Yoga downward dog on red mat

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.

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

Yoga dolphin pose on mats

10 things to consider before selecting yoga teacher training

Mary-Louise Parkinson, former 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.

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

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.

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.


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.

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.

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