Author: Kirstie Christensen

Sleep is a gift from Nature

Sleep: an important consideration in personal practice design

A gift for maintaining health and wellbeing
A gift to assist in healing 

How is your sleep?

Sleep is an important area to consider in your self-care or healing regime. This is also a question that will be considered in some detail by a well-trained Yoga Therapist or Yoga Teacher, when working one-on-one with a client. 

Sleep is a vital aspect of our daily routine and a priority when it comes to looking after ourselves and others. Some sleep proponents express that sleep is one of the MOST important pillars for the protection and maintenance of health and wellbeing (Walker, 2017). 

Sleeping problems very common in adults

Despite the importance of sleep, experiencing sleep problems is very common in developed countries. Inadequate sleep (of either duration or quality) and its daytime consequences, affects 33-45% of adults in Australia. These problems occur across all age groups.

(https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/pdfs/surveys/SleepHealthFoundation-Survey.pdf)

So why do we need sleep?  

The reasons are many but the bottom-line is that sleep is a fundamental support for the vital functioning of many of our bodily systems. Put simply, sleep is integral to optimal functioning and health. Sleep is the process through which we rejuvenate, repair and revive our systems. This is the time when both our body and mind go through repair and rebuilding.

What happens when we don’t get enough sleep?

“…– routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer. Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimers disease. Inadequate sleep even moderate reductions for just one week – disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic.” from Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.

What is the perspective of yoga and sleep? 

In the context of yoga, sleep is considered an activity of the mind and is termed in Sanskrit as ‘nidra.’ In the state of nidra (sleep) there is “a tamasic state” of mind cultivated. 

According to yoga this ‘tamasic’ state is one of three states of mind. These states are referred to as the gunas:

  • Tamas – the ‘tamasic’ state is dull (heavy, stuck, sleepy)
  • Raja – the ‘rajasic’ state is excessive (racing thoughts)
  • Sattva – the ‘sattvic’ state is balanced (calm, ease, clarity, flow) 

As part of our humanness we all experience these mind states and they affect our functioning on both a physical (gross) and mental (subtle) level. These states of mind support us in our activities of daily life, they work individually and together to support balance and mitigate the effects of each other. 

How is your state of mind right now?

As you read this article – is your mind active and thinking about all that you can do with this information (rajasic)? Are you feeling sleepy and a little dull, ready for a nap (tamasic)? Or are you knowingly, calmly, present and focussed on all that I am sharing (sattvic)? 

The state of sattva is the middle ‘sweet’ spot – we aim to live in this state of balance as much as possible. Rather than a state of excess activity OR a state of excess inactivity. To live in these extreme states over extended periods is what leads to chronic imbalance and poor health.

Yoga and healthy sleep  

If we sleep in a state of pure TAMAS it is considered very healthy sleep. If our sleep is overpowered by tamas – no thoughts (abhava) then one wakes after a night’s sleep feeling fresh as a daisy!

A regular yoga practice can support us in reaching this deeply restful state during sleep and maintaining a ‘sattvic’ state more of the time during our waking hours.

national survey found that over 55% of people who practiced yoga found that it helped them get better sleep (Harvard Health). Other studies have looked at specific populations – particularly the elderly where insomnia is commonly experienced. It found the impact of a long-term Yoga practice had a positive effect on sleep quality and quality of life.

As always with yoga, the practices that best support someone to improve their sleep will vary considerably depending on the individual – there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer.

Sleep as an aid to healing in yoga therapy

Because sleep has such a key role in rejuvenation and healing it is an essential consideration for Yoga Therapists and Yoga Teachers working in one-one settings. As such it is an important component of what yoga teachers and yoga therapy trainees learn about in our Yoga Therapy Training program.

Questions to ask about sleep in developing a personal practice

Whether considering your own sleep or a client’s in relation to developing a personal practice, there are some important questions to explore:

  • How is the quality of your sleep? 
  • Do you wake during the night?
  • How many hours’ sleep do you normally get each night?
  • After a night’s sleep do you wake up feeling refreshed? 
  • Are you aware of / do you remember your dreams? 
  • If so, How often? What is the content of your dreams? 

As a yoga therapist, understanding these aspects of ones  sleep routine and experience is very much part of the history taking process. This information provides a holistic view and  will further assist with the  development of an appropriate practice to support a person and if required focus on better sleep.

If looking to improve your own sleep through a personalised yoga practice, exploring these questions with the help of an experienced yoga teacher or yoga therapist, will allow them to design a practice that best supports you. 

Written by Lisa Grauaug,
Course Director of our Yoga Therapy Training program

Upcoming 100hr Yoga Therapy Foundations Module CLICK HERE

Chanting is an ancient practice with mental health effects

Meet Gemma Perry. Gemma is a graduate of The Yoga Institute, she has been practicing and studying chanting for over a decade, she’s currently undertaking a PhD to try to uncover some of the science behind chanting.

By Amy Fallon Shared from ABC app

Chanting is an ancient practice with mental health effects that might apply to our busy lives.

A woman smiling at the camera

Scientific studies have found that chanting can decrease stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as increase positive mood, feelings of relaxation and focused attention.

The first time Gemma Perry tried chanting, she had no idea what to expect.

“I was at a yoga studio and everyone was chanting a particular phrase 108 times and I didn’t know what was going on,” she says.

But Perry, who was suffering from severe depression, says she found chanting to be so therapeutic she tried it again the following week.

A decade on, she’s undertaking a PhD to try to uncover if science can explain it.

Despite having been practised for thousands of years by almost every culture in the world, many consider chanting to have only spiritual advantages.

It’s only now that its physiological and psychological benefits are being accepted more widely in the West.

“Scientific studies have found that chanting can decrease stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as increase positive mood, feelings of relaxation and focused attention,” Perry says.

“It is possible that, regardless of the tradition or belief system involved in the chanting practice, chanting may have a physiological and psychological effect no matter what you are chanting.”

Repetitive vocal chanting can have a direct effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, Perry says, as it can slow breathing and activate the vagus nerve.

“We still don’t know scientifically if it matters what you chant or not,” she says.

Chanting can improve attention and lift mood

For her PhD, Perry is studying the psychological effects of chanting from many diverse traditions, as well as the differences between styles of chanting, such as silent or vocal mantra repetition, done either individually or in groups.

According to the results of a 2016 study by Perry, Professor Bill Thompson and Dr Vince Polito, also from Macquarie University, chanting the universal mantra “Om” for 10 minutes improved attention, contributed towards a positive mood and increased feelings of social cohesion.

The study found that a positive effect and altruism increased more following vocal chanting than silent chanting.

Mental health system isn’t working

Another study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2018, found that “mantram” repetition therapy — which involves silently repeating a spiritually-related word or phrase selected by each individual from a recommended list — was effective in treating veterans diagnosed with military-related post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD).

A separate paper published last year in Federal Practitioner concluded that similar practices such as mindfulness, meditation, and yoga aided health care workers with “small-to-moderate improvements in emotional exhaustion, sense of personal accomplishment, and life satisfaction”.

Other research has found that chanting increased cerebral blood flow in areas of the brain known to deteriorate in Alzheimer’s patients.

Perry says ancient Egyptians believed chanting encouraged flooding of the Nile and would yield successful crops, while Indigenous Australians used the practise to aid them in finding water and navigating land.

Her research has taken her to Hare Krishna, Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh temples in Australia and abroad, while she’s also shared chanting practices with a high school and big corporation in Sydney.

“I’m discovering new traditions and practices all the time,” Perry says.

“Someone got in touch recently who was a Zoroastrian priest, from one of the oldest practiced religions in the world.”

Chanting combines music therapy with meditation and mindfulness

As a musician and avid music fan, Professor Thompson has benefitted enormously from meditation, which he started aged 16 after spending 12 months training under a yogi.

He is now studying a range of music-based interventions that benefit wellbeing, quality of life, and cognitive-motor functions.

“Chanting is one example of how music can enhance wellbeing and quality of life — and an interesting one, because it combines many elements of other music-based activities, but also includes meditation and mindfulness elements which may add fuel to the power of music,” Thompson says.

“Vocal group chanting provides more opportunity than silent chanting for deep connection with other people, and this might help to explain the enhanced impact on altruism.”

Thompson stresses that while chanting can bring a range of psychological and cognitive benefits, it will only work if people are genuinely interested in the practice, and enjoy it.

The perseverance, though, is worth it.

“Once you’ve practiced meditation for many years, most people tend to change the way they approach daily life, placing value on a sense of equanimity and mindfulness that is not restricted to an actual meditation session,” he says.

Chanting is simple and easy to learn!

Podcast: Good Morning, I Love You


“Allow a gentle smile on your mouth, you can kind of feel how it shifts the entire physiology. So that’s kind of a concrete, physical way of shifting into this attitude of welcoming and safety.”

Insights at the Edge’s Tami Simon speaks with Shauna Shapiro about the neurology of self-image and why conscious acts of self-compassion greatly enhance our well-being. Shauna comments on practicing mindfulness with warmth and open affection, as well as how this gradually cultivates empathy. Tami and Shauna also talk about “trusting the good heart” and the possibility of changing our baseline levels of happiness. Finally, they discuss why changing ingrained habits is so difficult and the subtle power of the daily self-affirmation, “Good morning. I love you.”

Dr. Shauna Shapiro is a professor, author, and internationally recognized expert in mindfulness and compassion. Nearly one million people have watched her TED talk called “The Power of Mindfulness,” rated one of the top ten talks on mindfulness.

With Sounds True she has written a new book called Good Morning, I Love You: Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Practices to Rewire Your Brain for Calm, Clarity, and Joy, where she brings alive the brain science behind why we feel the way we do about ourselves, each other, and the world, and she explains how we get stuck in thinking that just doesn’t serve us. What I loved about talking with Shauna Shapiro is that here she is, a scientific researcher, PhD clinical psychologist, and she helps us understand the brain science behind how a very simple act, an act any of us can do each morning and say to ourselves, “Good morning, I love you,” might be one of the most powerful acts we can take on a regular basis.

What we practice grows stronger. Good morning, I love you.

Listen to conversation

Enjoy!

Find Refuge from an Overwhelming World

We all get the feeling of being overwhelmed at some point or another. For some, it may be once a year while for others it’s a daily occurance. If there’s ever an article to give you the words of wisdom you need to overcome this overwhelming world we live in, it’s this one.

By: Judith Hanson Lasater via Yoga Journal

Patanjali writes in his most famous Yoga Sutra (1:2): “Yoga is a state in which the agitations of the mind are resolved.” This means that through yoga, we can stop identifying with fear and anxiety, for example, and begin to settle into the now—into an internal silence. Perhaps you have had a glimpse of this state on the mat, walking in the woods, or while worshipping or praying. This deep state of silence Patanjali describes is the residue of our practice but not the asana or meditation practices themselves. We miss the real practice when we are attached to the techniques instead of the residue, or the aftertaste of the practice. When we start to understand that the asana is not the yoga, we realize that the afterglow the asana leaves in our nervous system is the true yoga. This can lead to the radical awareness that refuge can be experienced anywhere, anytime, because it can truly be a choice.

Yoga practices help us get there. By helping to change what we are focused on, asana can become the foundation for us to find the courage and awareness to turn toward our lives with curiosity and presence—to take refuge in the moment. When we try a new, sometimes scary, pose, we are practicing courage, and when we are present to bodily sensations on the mat, we create a new habit of awareness. Restorative Yoga poses are particularly helpful. For example, time spent reposing in a supported Savasana (Corpse Pose) can reinforce that you are “enough” and have value simply because you exist. That’s because Savasana tells your nervous system that it is OK to let go: that you do not have to be doing and producing all of the time in order to feel full and content with who you are. The Savasana practice here helps foster the unimaginably important and radical understanding that you are not your thoughts. As you lie still with your eyes closed and nothing to do, all you have to focus on are your thoughts. You can learn to watch your thoughts rise and fall like clouds in the distant sky. The ability to be even slightly free from the tyranny of one’s thoughts is the beginning of moksha, or the only true freedom.

Pranayama can offer us a way into a state of even deeper contentment. Besides inhalations, exhalations, and breath retention, there is something else that you can contemplate during your breath practice: the utter silence that presents itself between the inhalations and exhalations. Focusing on the moments when you are not inhaling, exhaling, or holding your breath (the natural state of suspension in between the inhalation and exhalation) can have a profound effect on your mind and nervous system. When I practice this focus, it verifies for me that true refuge can only be found within myself and does not come from outside sources. When I’m in this state, I have no worries; I’m totally content with what is.

Finding Acceptance

If you meditate, you know too well how powerful the constant barrage of arising thoughts can be. But meditation can help you create refuge in the midst of your mind. Here are three ways it can work:

  1. During meditation, cultivate the habit of accepting things as they are. You may not like the noise outside your window right now, but you can stop fighting it with your mind. 
  2. Cultivate the willingness to love your judging mind instead of fighting it. This is very powerful. Taking time to be quiet and aware can help us see clearly that we live with a constant and unremitting critical mind. We judge ourselves with ferocity, and we judge others without surcease. It’s a radical practice to notice this and actually contemplate the opposite—loving the humanness of our judging mind. This is a form of self-care that is especially liberating. 
  3. Simply be present. Wrap yourself in the mantle of the present moment. When you sit to meditate, allow yourself to feel the moment, hear the moment, and be the moment.

Click HERE to read the full article


Meet The Author: Judith Hanson Lasater

Judith Hanson Lasater, Ph.d. in East-West Psychology and physical therapist has taught yoga around the world since 1971.  She is a founder of the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco, CA, as well as of Yoga Journal magazine.  

Ms. Lasater trains yoga teachers in virtually every state of the United States, and is often an invited guest at international yoga conventions.  She is president emeritus of the California Yoga Teachers’ Association as well as the author of numerous articles on yoga and health for nationally recognized magazines.  

Her most recent book is Restore and Rebalance: Yoga for Deep Relaxation, Shambhala Press, December, 2017. A complete list of Ms. Lasater’s nine books can be found here. She has also created numerous digital courses about teaching and practicing yoga.

Tap into the Healing Potential of Yoga

There are a myriad of ways to transform your health through Yoga.

Were you aware of the array of benefits that Yoga has been shown to offer people when it comes to ones health and healing? Current research continues to support the validity of such claims (Harvard Medical publication – An Introduction to Yoga). This report reveals with clinical research that Yoga offers so much more than a physical stretch, a way to strengthen and tone your body. It in fact it has a powerful effect on your whole health.


The Health Benefits of Yoga

The list of yoga’s health benefits is quite long and continually growing and more research is done. When it comes to scientific research, yoga is a tricky topic for many reasons, the main one being that there are so many types and styles of yoga. Each style and teachers offers something a little different. Some classes are more asana (physical) focus, while others focus more on pranayama (breathing) or meditation. The bottom line is that yoga has a lot to offer.

Harvard Medical School Special Health Report “An Introduction to Yoga” dedicates a chapter offering an overview of the research on yoga’s physical and mental benefits. Listed in this chapter:

  • Reduced Stress
  • Better Physical Health
    • Reduced risk of heart disease
    • Improved diabetes management
    • Back pain relief
    • Less arthritis pain
  • Better mental health
    • A sharper brain
    • Less depression and anxiety
    • Relief for PTSD
  • Increased well-being
    • Better sleep
    • Better body awareness
    • Weight loss
    • Greater happiness
    • Youthfulness

The publication also mentions “Why yoga has so many health benefits”

  • It taps down on stress
  • It reduces inflammation
  • It tones the vagus nerve
  • It amps up immunity
  • It changes your brain
  • It turns on genes that promote health

Yoga is the perfect remedy to assist with everything from heart disease to high pressure to anxiety and depression. 

Yoga is a mind-body practice that considers the whole person.  A yoga practice may include postures – either static or dynamic movements, breathing techniques, calmative or relaxation practices, practices that enhance vitality, or more contemplative practices such as meditation.

How we approach ones Yoga practice to restore health and provide healing ALWAYS depends on the person. Often when we are limited, or suffering with our health we forget or cannot see the other aspects of our being that we can tap into. Yes – we forget our potential – a well trained and experienced Yoga teacher or therapist can assist people to awaken these other aspects of themselves and see the potential for better functioning, health and healing.

In the Harvard Medical publication on Yoga there was mention of a Clinical Cardiology study where a yoga programme was shown to increase the flexibility of blood vessels by 69% and it even helped shrink blockages in arteries without the use of medications! Now this is promising.

Without a doubt this time-tested ancient practice – Yoga – is here to stay and we look forward to continue to hear more about Yoga’s vast application and usefulness to transform health and support healing.

“Tone and strengthen your body while you lower blood pressure … ease back pain … reduce the risk of heart disease … and improve your memory with YOGA!”

To read publication: CLICK HERE


How can we support you?

Interested in teacher training? Visit our webpage
Interested in Yoga Therapy Training? Visit our webpage
Interested in developing a personal home practice? Visit our webpage

Have questions’? Email or call: kirstie@yogainstitute.com.au (02) 9929 2774

Finding words right now is not easy

The devastation and loss of lives, homes and our precious bushlands has been painful beyond words.

We would like to acknowledge the Australian bushfire crisis here in our home country and the shocking effect this is having on our people, our land and our wildlife. We would also like to acknowledge the impact on people’s mental health and sense wellbeing and recognise the countless acts of courage, heroic rescues, simple acts of selflessness and community in the wake of this national disaster.

We send blessings and prayers to all beings and our land. We hope this disaster, this wakeup is managed with intelligence and care. It certainly is amazing to see the national and global support for this crisis. 

Feeling helpless? How can you help?

During this time of devastation it is natural to experience despair, anger and even blame. Try to shift your attention to inspired action, together we can make monumental change in this new decade, here are three ways…

1. DONATE MONEY

This may seem impersonal or indirect but it’s what our local charities and communities need the most.

Support your local fire service:

Support the local wildlife:

Support disaster relief:

Support affected businesses and communities:

2. SEND A LETTER TO YOUR LOCAL MP

A single letter may not change anything – but thousands will. If you are disappointed in our governments’ climate inaction, now is the time to speak. On Saturday, Anna Rose Richards drafted a letter Australians can send to their local MP demanding action in the wake of our bushfires. Having worked in parliament for four years, Anna felt it was important that Australians know that in the long term, legislative change is crucial.

In the days since Anna drafted it, the letter has gone viral. Politicians can’t and won’t ignore the call of voters, so it’s time to make our priorities clear to them. Read Anna’s full post here and get the template letter here.

3. VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME

If you’re closer to the affected areas, consider helping your local disaster relief organisation with whatever time you can offer. Here are a few suggestions but we but recommend doing your research to see what’s available locally.

  • BlazeAid
  • Foodbank
  • The Salvation Army
  • Red Cross
  • St Vincent De Paul Society
  • Your local Rural Fire Service
  • Your local wildlife rescue service

The devastation is unfathomable, and the fires continue to burn, remember any small act of kindness counts.

The devastation is unfathomable, and the fires continue to burn, remember any small act of kindness counts. 

​​​​​​Read this article: ‘16 Acts of Kindness that’ll Make Every Aussie Proud’

With love and compassion, The Yoga Institute Team

February 26th, 2020: Ayurveda Monthly Workshop

“The People’s Medicine”

The Yoga Institute is very excited to invite you to join us for monthly Ayurveda Workshops with Eleni Tsikrikas

Did you know? Ayurveda is Yoga’s sister science and the planet’s oldest nature based self care system. Its goal is longevity and vibrant health for you. Ayurveda offers a view of health that is practical and simple. It empowers and encourages each of us to participate in our health and longevity.

Date: Wednesday 26th February
Time: 6:30pm – 8:00pm, followed by tea for those who’d like to stay
Facilitator: Eleni Tsikrikas
Cost: $44

Join Eleni Tsikrikas, certified Ayurvedic teacher and healer with over 12 years of clinical experience and certifications in Yoga and Western Herbalism. This will be a  truly innovative and wonderful series of monthly Ayurveda workshops.

Each month we will introduce a new food or lifestyle theme and give a short talk, followed by an interactive discussion. You will walk away with a foundational knowledge of each topic along with some practices that will enhance your life and health.

Who is this for?
This unique workshop is especially held for anyone interested in Ayurveda.

What students say…

“Thanks so much for last night. I felt quite buzzy when I woke up! Such incredible food for thought, to linger over and unpick and explore. I loved Eleni’s clear explanations of how things connect and intersect. I know I’m just dipping my toes in the water. I’ll be back for more …” Bridget

_______________

August 14th – 16th, 2020: Presentation Skills and Workshop Design for Yoga Professionals

“SHARING”

“This was the best workshop I have done in years. This course had an immediate impact on my business, my confidence and my ability to communicate my message.  Lucy is incredible.” Katie Dutton, All Souls Yoga

A specialised experiential skill development workshop

As a yoga teacher or a yoga therapist, you may be asked to give a presentation about what you do, speak at a conference, or to provide short courses on topics in which you have expertise. Or, you may decide that you want to start offering retreat or workshops to your students or to train other yoga teachers and therapists.

If so, Presentation Skills and Workshop Design will provide all the information that is required to plan, organise and professionally deliver your presentations or workshops. As a result of attending this workshop you will learn ways to shorten your preparation time, tailor your content, genuinely engage with your various audiences and facilitate the learning process.

About the Program

This will be a highly participatory program where you will be introduced to tried-and-tested planning tools for presentation and workshop design. There will be role play of presentations to use these organisational tools and specific communication skills practised to enhance your presentation delivery. And finally, communication fundamentals will be discussed to make sure that everything you share is tailored to the specific group with whom you are working.

Because this is a “learn by doing” workshop the numbers will be limited to only six people. This will ensure that there is enough time for true skill development and evolution, as well as the opportunity to receive personalized feedback.


Details and Bookings

Date: Friday 16th – Sunday 18th August 
Time: Fri 6:00pm – 8:45pm Sat 9:30am – 5:30pm, Sun 8:30am – 4:30pm 
Location: The Yoga Institute, Cammeray
Facilitator: Lucy Karnani
Cost: $520

***limited to 6 participants 


 

Course Recognition

Yoga teachers attending this course can earn 16 Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points towards their Yoga Australia membership. There are no prerequisites or assumed knowledge for this course.

If you are not a yoga teacher but are seeking skill development in this area, this program could still be appropriate for you; please contact us to discuss your situation. 


More Information

To find out more about this course please contact Kirstie Christensen:
Ph: (02) 9929 2774 or teachertraining@yogainstitute.com.au


About Lucy Karnani

Lucy has been leading training programs and coaching individuals in effective communication for nearly 30 years. Transitioning out of the corporate world in the early 2000’s she came to a regular and committed personal yoga journey and as such is passionate about the transformational value it can bring to a person’s life. Now she feels blessed to be sharing both her loves – Conscious Communication and Yoga! She has been leading Communication Skills training workshops for yoga teachers and therapists since 2012, both as part of yoga teacher and therapist training programs, as well as stand-alone programs offered by yoga studios in both Australia and the USA. She is the co-author of the book “CONNECTING -Conscious Communication for Yoga Teachers and Therapists”.


What past participants say

Continue reading

Meet The A Team

Here’s your chance to meet The Yoga Institute’s talented, passionate and highly experienced Yoga Teacher Training & Yoga Therapy Training Faculty on a deeper level!

We asked each faculty member the same 5 questions, so you can truly see their unique personality, perspective, and experiences shine.

Michael de Manincor

1) Please write your brief yoga history and involvement with The Yoga Institute?
Brief??? 40+ years worth … many wonderful and sometimes challenging teachers and experiences. 
Most significantly, studies and practice in India, under the guidance of my teacher and mentor, Mr TKV Desikachar.
Founded The Yoga Institute in 1999 (originally called Integrative Yoga, then Yoga Sanga), and have remained Director for 20 years.

2) What’s the greatest benefit you have gained from your yoga practice? 
Whilst I love the practices of asana, pranayama, meditation, chanting and more, the study and sharing of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras constantly keeps me both amazed and humbled about what these teachings offer us in understanding our human condition, suffering, and opportunities for personal and collective transformation.

3) Personal shoutout! What lights you up?
Seeing the journey of change and transformation in people’s lives.

4) Where’s your happy place?
At home, in the ocean, in a forest, or in Italy.

5) What are your qualifications?

  • BA (Hons, Psych), Grad Dip Ed, M Psych, PhD
  • Registered Senior Yoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist, Yoga Australia
  • Registered Psychologist, AHPRA

Lisa Grauaug

1) Please write your brief yoga history and involvement with The Yoga Institute?
I have been involved with The Yoga Institute from creation. My involvement has been diverse – I love it this way. From being a student, to working in the office, right through to hosting an array of events, being part of the teaching faculty and more recently developing Graduate Yoga Teacher training and Pre & Postnatal Yoga Teacher training. 

2) What’s the greatest benefit you have gained from your yoga practice?  
I have practiced Yoga since my late twenties, initially drawn to the fun gymnastic nature of the physical postures & from here I began asking the question well what is Yoga ? I soon realised that to understand this there was further study required. I then spent many years learning from a number of amazing teachers, continually feeling inspired by the richness and depth of Yoga philosophy. I have now come to a place that the intellectual pursuit of Yoga is endless, realising that being with my own yoga practice is what is most rewarding – which has now become part of my everyday. Through my continued study, curiosity and dedicated practice Yoga has provided me with a personal unfolding, and with this it has brought many realisations. I truly hope that with the practice I will grow old with the wisdom that the children and the world needs in this moment.

3) Personal shoutout! What lights you up?
Teaching groups, teaching individuals. Having the opportunity to share Yoga and then seeing the benefits it brings to peoples lives. I also really value collaboration and value the diverse faculty at The Yoga Institute.

4) Where’s your happy place?
At home, being with family, friends, travel and beyond this a simple life, -I love the water and swimming.

5) What are your qualifications?

  • Bachelor Applied Science (Nursing) specialising in Neonatal Intensive Care
  • Bachelor of Psychology followed with a Master of Psychology (Counselling)
  • Registered Psychologist (AHPRA)
  • Certified Yoga Teacher (Yoga Australia) , Certified Yoga Therapist (Yoga Australia & IAYT)

Kirstie Christensen

1) Please write your brief yoga history and involvement with The Yoga Institute? 
When it comes to unlocking the transformative power of yoga, we
all have a story. For me, a fractured spine initially led the way. I had an accident in my twenties and the residual effects of my injury were complete frustration in my inability to move, and chronic pain which was affecting my emotional and mental wellbeing. Yoga became a journey of self-reflection; a life changing place where I could use my physical body as a vehicle to improve my mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. I commenced my studies at Nature Care College, before completing my Diploma and Advanced Diploma of Yoga Teaching at The Yoga Institute. I left a corporate job in 2014, with no plans in place. My first stop was back to my second home, The Yoga Institute. I stared covering classes, which lead to a Teacher Training Coordinator role. Being a small business I wear many hats, including marketing, mentoring and most recently the General Manager hat. I feel so grateful to work with a beautiful, supportive and inspiring team, of people.

2) What’s the greatest benefit you have gained from your yoga practice?
Yoga is a like a toolbox, it is made up of simple, life long and invaluable tools that anyone can learn. The practice of yoga gives me clarity and calm in the chaos of my everyday life. Yoga is a gift I feel so grateful to have been given.

3) Personal shoutout! What lights you up? 
Life lights me up! I am a curious person, I love to learn and love to share. Teaching yoga to tween and teen girls is my latest light up! As a mother of three girls, it is my mission to empower girls to feel motivated, enthusiastic, brave and confident.

4) Where’s your happy place?
Yoga has taught me to see the extraordinary in the ordinary. I am at my happiest with my three beautiful girls somewhere in nature, we love camping in the bush, surfing in the ocean, skiing in the mountains and getting crafty in the backyard.

5) What are your qualifications?

  • Diploma of Yoga Teacher Training
  • Advanced Diploma of Teacher Training
  • Level 1 iRest Training
  • Current yoga therapy student

Gill Kamsler

1) Please write your brief yoga history and involvement with The Yoga Institute? 
My first introduction to yoga was in the early 1980’s. Weekly classes and workshops quickly became an integral part of my self care.
Yoga teacher training introduced me to Krishnamacharyas’ teachings and a connection to The Yoga Institute. I discovered breath centered practice and felt like I’d truly come home.
At the Yoga Institute, as a faculty member, I have taught general classes, modules on meditation, sound & mantra- also mentoring students on the teacher training programmes. It’s inspiring being part of a team of people dedicated to teaching and supporting others brought together through yoga.
My personal path of study is ongoing, and I value sharing what I’ve learned and experienced. The classical Yoga tradition is ancient but still extremely relevant today and the depth of knowledge is to be shared- it’s not ours to hold onto.

2) What’s the greatest benefit you have gained from your yoga practice? 
Having raised 3 kids (now adults!) and continuing to experience the rollercoaster of life, yoga has been a lifeline- supporting me to be aware of myself & the ongoing changes around me. With this awareness comes mental steadiness and the ability to step back and form clear choices. Teaching and practicing with focus on the breath brings a deeper level of mindfulness which washes into all we do- both on & off the mat.
Yoga practice provides us with a lens or philosophy to help view and understand life, relationships and ultimately the mind. Through study of the Yoga Sutras, we gain tools to improve ourselves- to naturally be more kind, compassionate, joyful & ultimately steady of mind.

3) Personal shoutout! What lights you up? 
Teaching, studying and sharing my love of Yoga!

4) Where’s your happy place? 
I prefer to think of the contentment that comes from within rather than happiness- which is often based on something external that changes- like our senses. We can feel a sense of contentment in all that we do- it comes from letting go of sensory seeking & connecting to our internal quietness or steadiness. So I try to carry contentment on the Yoga mat and off.

5) What are your qualifications?

  • Diploma of Yoga Teacher Training
  • Modules 1-7 Yoga Therapy, Sound for wellbeing
  • Win Yogic Mindfulness
  • Minding the speech
  • 4 years (plus ongoing) study of Yoga Sutras.

Lucy Karnani

1) Please write your brief yoga history and involvement with The Yoga Institute? 
I came to yoga, or rather yoga came to me, in the late 90’s while I was living just outside New York City. I practiced with increasing frequency throughout the next decade; predominantly by attending classes. In 2009 I learnt the amazing benefits of a daily personal practice when I was introduced to a specific pranayama, breath and mediation series which I committed to for 90 days. After having experienced a whole milieu of health challenges (some of which needed specific medical intervention) I found myself feeling truly well and vital in my mind and body for the first time in over 10 years. Inspired by this, I completed my first YTT in the USA and soon after moving to Sydney in 2011 found my way to the The Yoga Institute where I studied further with Michael de Manincor. In this last decade I have had the great good fortune to study with many teachers both here and in the USA such as Richard Miller, Leslie Kaminoff, Ganesh Mohan, Amy Weintraub, VidyaMa Caroline Dell’Uomo, Devarshi Steven Hartman, Donna Farhi, Heather Plett and many more. Given my background in the corporate world where I coached, trained and consulted in face-to-face communication skills, Michael asked if I would develop workshops in this area for yoga teachers and therapists and as such I have joyfully been part of the TYI faculty since 2012.

2) What’s the greatest benefit you have gained from your yoga practice?  
The greatest benefit I have gained from my regular personal practice is an ability to slowdown, pause, come in the moment and be in the witness – after which I can more consciously make choices about what I say or do next. The movement and breath aspects of my practices have also helped my still sometimes “health challenged body and mind” become and stay strong, flexible and vital. I also get a lot of personal joy and nourishment from teaching yoga – both to small groups and individually.

3) Personal shoutout! What lights you up? 
Spending time with like-minded and like-hearted people who are curious about this journey called life!

4) Where’s your happy place? 
With my family when everyone is getting along 😀!?

5) What are your qualifications? B App Sci – Physical Education

Ute Koehler

1) Please write your brief yoga history and involvement with The Yoga Institute? 
My passion for Yoga started when I was in my teens. I very soon developed a love for this ancient practice and its many styles and tools. After completing my first teacher qualification in a Power Vinyasa Style, I have continued my studies with The Yoga Institute. Under the guidance of Michael de Manicor, I have completed the year long Diploma of Yoga Studies & Teacher Training as well as the Advanced Diploma of Teacher Training. Since then, I have continued my practice and the study of yoga including yoga therapy (3 year course), yogic mindfulness and the Yoga Sutras. Apart from teaching general classes, I focus of teaching seniors with the aim of healthy ageing.
I am committed to teaching and sharing Yoga, making it accessible for each and every individual, whatever their experience.

2) What’s the greatest benefit you have gained from your yoga practice?  
My yoga practice has encouraged me to become more mindful in my daily life. A regular yoga practice is so effective in helping you with a wide range of illnesses and stressful situations. It is so much more than ‘just a simple exercise or stretching routine’. Using the breath to connect the mind and the body has such a powerful impact on the mental wellbeing. For me that was one of of the key factors that I have learned when training with Michael.

3) Personal shoutout! What lights you up? 
Learning more about the philosophies, world views and teachings that emerged in ancient India. I also enjoy long walks in nature and spending my time with my family and friends.

4) Where’s your happy place? 
If we try to define ‘happiness’, the dictionary would probably say that it is a ‘state of being’. I am personally not too sure about that – I would rather refer to it as a temporary emotion. Happiness is centered around what you think will bring you happiness, but as life shows, it might never be enough. Once we acquire or find what we think will make us happy, it tends to loose its meaning very quickly. So very often people spent their lives in this never ending pursuit of happiness. I therefore think that the expression ‘contentment’ is much better. Striving for contentment, a state of balance, allows your mind to focus on living a more meaningful life – not a life in constant pursuit. And that place can be everywhere.

5) What are your qualifications?

  • 200hrs Power Vinyasa
  • Diploma of Yoga Studies and Teacher Training & Advanced Diploma of Teacher Training with the Yoga Institute
  • 3 years of Yoga Therapy studies
  • Yogic Mindfulness Training
  • Studies of the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita
  • Certificate in Restorative Yoga and Meditation

Rosie Caunt

1) Please write your brief yoga history and involvement with The Yoga Institute? 
I have been practicing yoga for 35 years and teaching for 20 years.

I have been involved with The Yoga Institute since it was Yoga Sanga around 17 years ago. I taught a little on the teacher training course then and a lot on the Friday course when The Yoga Institute began. I taught asana pranayama meditation sometimes energetics and professional yoga teacher. I also had my own studio for 10 years or so in Lindfield then Mona Vale.

2) What’s the greatest benefit you have gained from your yoga practice?
Yoga for me is about the way I live my life. How I interact with everyone and the environment and how I care for my body and mind.

3) Personal shoutout! What lights you up? 
Teaching and training mentoring running workshops lights me up. My creativity flows and I love that. I also love to ocean swim and read. I am a curious person and enjoy to keep learning

4) Where’s your happy place? 
My happy place is in the water and camping in the bush.

5) What are your qualifications?

  • Cert in Education
  • B ED hons
  • Cert 4 in training
  • Cert in health yoga
  • Kinesiologist
  • Certificate in studies of death and dying
  • Yoga therapist
  • Thousands of hours of yoga training (Some with Desikachar and Kausthub Desikachar)

Kristen Melville

1) Please write your brief yoga history and involvement with The Yoga Institute? 
I started practicing yoga in 2002 and ten years later I took the plunge and completed the diploma of yoga teacher training at The Yoga Institute to deepen my understanding and practice.

The following year I started working a few hours per week for The Yoga Institute to help with marketing. This work is small in terms of number of hours per week but huge in terms of passion and meaning for me.

Having experienced the power of personal practice and these teachings, I love being part of this beautiful team of people and putting this out into the world. It’s wonderful to be marketing something I believe in so strongly and helping more people experience The Yoga Institute.

2) What’s the greatest benefit you have gained from your yoga practice?  
An ability to stay steady and grounded and connected regardless of what life brings.

3) Personal shoutout! What lights you up? 
Learning more about the mind and meditation and snow skiing!

4) Where’s your happy place? 
Nature is my happy place, especially in the mountains or the ocean.

5) What are your qualifications?

  • Diploma of Yoga Teacher Training
  • Masters of Marketing
  • Certificate of Digital Marketing
  • Certificate in Meditation Facilitation

Michela CaselliMichela Caselli - Yoga Teacher, Teaching Yoga for Children Trainer

1) Please write your brief yoga history and involvement with The Yoga Institute?
In 2010 I enrolled in the Advanced Teacher Training Course with The Yoga Institute. The same year I started teaching general classes and in 2015  I joined the faculty and mentor team. My dream came true in 2016, Michael and I, with our family heritage and love for Italy achieved our dream of running yoga retreats in Italy. Savour Italy has since been an annual retreat. 

2) 2) What’s the greatest benefit you have gained from your yoga practice?  
The understanding that it’s all in my hands, that the change I desire in my life depends on me. My daily personal practice plants the seed for my transformation.

3) Personal shoutout! What lights you up? 
It lights me up to see people passionate for something and making efforts to contribute to their direct environment.
It lights me up finding the time to be in the ocean and see that every single wave is different and I have to adjust to their uniqueness.
It lights me up dancing in the lounge room with my husband and and my son.
A proper made TiramisuIt lights me up… very rare thing in Australia!

4) Where’s your happy place? My family 

5) What are your qualifications?

  • Master degree in International and Diplomatic sciences
  • Diploma in Business
  • Diploma of Yoga Teacher
  • Yoga Therapy
  • Italian Diploma of Sommelier

How can we support you?

Since 2001 The Yoga Institute has taught and mentored hundreds of students who have gone on to become amazing yoga teachers. We’ve grown a beautiful community of people who have changed their own lives and the lives of others through exceptional yoga teaching. We are humbled to have been part of so much positive change.

Interested in Yoga Teacher Training? get prospectus and join our next information session

Pranayama Course Sydney

Prāṇāyāma: The Breath 101

Use the breath to stay calm.

Conscious deep breathing works like a brush and helps to clear and focus the mind. It sweeps and cleanses your body and mind, releasing you from tiredness, fogginess, poor attention and stress. Incorporating pranayama in your yoga practice improves awareness and is an essential element to help you create space for energy, clarity, calmness and concentration.

Content from T.K.V. Desikachar’s The Heart of Yoga

Yoga recommends two possible ways for achieving the qualities of sukha, comfort and lightness, and sthira, steady alertness. The first is to locate knots and resistances in the body and release them. The second possible means for realizing the concept of sthirasukha consists of visualising the perfect posture.

Prāṇāyāma: The Breathing Exercises of Yoga

The word prāṇāyāma consists of two parts: prāṇa and āyāma. Āyāma means “stretch” or “extend,” and describes the action of prāṇāyāma. Prāṇa refers to “that which is infinitely everywhere.” With reference to us humans prāṇa can be described as something that flows continuously from somewhere inside us, filling us and keeping us alive: it is vitality.

The Forms of Prāṇā

There are five forms of prāṇa, all having different names according to the bodily functions with which they correspond. These forms of prāṇa are:

  • udāna-vāyu, corresponding to the throat region and the function of speech
  • prāṇ a-vāyu, corresponding to the chest region
  • samāna-vāyu, corresponding to the central region of the body and the function of digestion
  • apāna-vāyu, corresponding to the region of the lower abdomen and the function of elimination
  • vyāna-vāyu, corresponding to the distribution of energy into all areas of the body

Agni, the Fire of Life

What happens within this movement of prāṇa and apāna? According to yoga we have a fire, agni, in the body, situated in the vicinity of the navel, between the prāṇa-vāyu and the apāna-vāyu. The flame itself is constantly changing direction: on inhalation the breath moves toward the belly, causing a draft that directs the flame downward, just like a fireplace; during exhalation the draft moves the flame in the opposite direction, bringing with it the just-burned waste matter. It is not enough to burn the rubbish; we must also rid the body of it. A breathing pattern where the exhalation is twice as long as the inhalation is aimed at providing more time during exhalation for freeing the body of its blockages. Everything we do to reduce the rubbish in the body is a step in the direction of releasing our blockages.

Practical Aspects of Prāṇāyāma

The object of prāṇāyāma practice is to emphasize the inhalation, the exhalation, or retention of breath. Emphasis on the inhalation is called prūaka prāṇāyāma. Recaka prāṇāyāma refers to a form of prāṇāyāma in which the exhalation is lengthened while the inhalation remains free. Kumbhaka prāṇāyāma focuses on breath retention. In kumbhaka prāṇāyāma we hold the breath after inhalation, after exhalation, or after both. Whichever technique we choose, the most important part of prāṇāyāma is the exhalation.

Prāṇāyāma Techniques

Women and Yoga
  1. Ujjāyī– In one prāṇāyāma called ujjāyī, or throat breathing, we deliberately contract the larynx slightly, narrowing the air passage. Ujjāyī translates as “what clears the throat and masters the chest area.” Ujjāyī breathing has many variations.
  2. Nāḍī Śodhana– We breath in through the partially closed left nostril, breathe out through the partially closed right nostril, and repeat. The name of this breathing technique is nāḍī śodhananāḍī is the passage or vein through which the breath and energy flow; śodhana means “cleansing.”
  3. Śītalī– During inhalation we curl up both edges of the tongue so that it forma a kind of tube, then we breathe in through this tube. During inhalation the air passes over the moist tongue, cooling down and refreshing the throat. In order to be sure that the tongue remains moist, we roll it back as far as possible against the palate during the entire exhalation so that the next breath is just as refreshing as the first. This technique is called śītalī prāṇāyāma. Śīta means “cool.”
  4. Kapālabhātī– In this practice we deliberately breathe faster, and at the same time use only abdominal breathing, not chest breathing. The breath is short, rapid, and strong. Kapāla means “skull,” and bhātī means “that which brings lightness.”
  5. Bhastrika– The word bhastrika means “bellows.” In bhastrika breathing he abdomen moves like a pair of bellows. If one nostril is blocked, then we draw the air in quickly through the open nostril and breath out strongly through the blocked one.

The Gradual Process of Prāṇāyāma

When we take up the practice of prāṇāyāma, we should proceed gradually, step by step. Because we are starting something new, directing our attention toward the breath-not the body-it is important to rest for several minutes after we finish āsana practice and before we begin prāṇāyāma. The time between āsana practice and prāṇāyāma practice is not just to rest the body it also helps the mind to make the transition from one practice to the other.

Breath Ratios

It is possible in prāṇāyāma to fix the ratio between the inhalation, the retention afterward, the exhalation, and the retention after that. The many possibilities for these ratios can be divided roughly into two categories:

  1. The inhalation, the exhalation, and the breath retention are all the same length-we call this samavṛtti prāṇāyāma (sama means “the same” and vṛtti means “to move”). This type of prāṇāyāma practice is good for people who use a mantra in their breathing exercises; they can make the inhalation, the exhalation, and the retention of the breath = last for the same number of mantra repetitions.
  2. The different phases of the breath are of different lengths-we call this viṣamavṛtti prāṇāyāma. The general rule in this practice is to let the exhalation be twice as long as the inhalation.

Focus on Prāṇāyāma

There are certain techniques that will help us maintain concentration in prāṇāyāma. In concentrating on the breath, we can focus on the flow of the breath, the sound of the breath, or the place where the most work is occurring. The latter will be determined by the phase of breathing we are in.

Want to find out more? Join our next Teacher Training Information session to find out more: https://yogainstitute.com.au/teacher-training-information-sessions/

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