The Yoga Institute Team Recommends….

Engagement, learning, stimulation (and even feeling mentally-stretched or challenged) are not just enjoyable, they can have various health benefits. As can summoning states of gratitude, joy, creativity, laughter awe and wonder.

The 10 Nonnegotiable Needs that must be Met to take us from Emotionally Starved to Satisfied – Giselle Naidu, Elephant Journal

Here’s What Happens in Your Brain When You’re Trying to Make or Break a Habit – Signe Dean, The Conversation

Think Like a Monk – Jay Shetty

Molecules of Emotion – Dr Candace Pert

The Science of Meditation – Daniel Goleman & Richard J.Davidson

‘Mark’s Old Friend And Yoga Master Gary Kraftsow Talks About Yoga’ – The Mark Divine Show, 20 March 2019

‘Yoga & Buddhism, Ep. 39’ – Yoga Off The Mat, 30 October 2020

‘David McGrath – Yamas, Niyamas, and Accordance with Life’ – J.Brown Yoga Talks, 11 September 2023

Revolutionising Healthcare for a Healthier Future – Dr David Beaumont, The Future of Medicine conference, 2023

Star Size Comparison 2 & Star Size Comparison 3 – Morn 1415

97 years of Sir David Attenborough in 97 seconds – BBC

Strong Hearts for Turbulent Times – Global Compassion Coalition

An Antidote for Dissatisfaction – Kurzgesagt

The Freedom of Being Nobody -Ram Dass – After Skool

The Best Version of Yourself – Pursuit of Wonder

Conversations with Desikachar – Heart of Yoga (Mark Whitwell)

How To Help a Grieving Friend -Megan Devine

How To Draw Mandala Art – Vijayta Sharma

The Starfish Story – Kreativs

Happiness – Steve Cutts

Music: Sol Journey Mix – Porangui & Liquid Bloom

The Hidden Life of Trees (trailer linked here)



Contact us here or call 0477 021 219

We believe people create their own health, healing and transformation through the power and practice of yoga.

We know extraordinary education will lead to healthier people, and in every sense, create a better world.

Graduate Story – Shayna King – Graduated 2023

Written by graduate of the 500-hour Teacher Training Course, Shayna King

A New Way Of Living and Looking At The World

Yoga was something I remember feeling drawn to from a fairly young age, but was too scared to try for many years. When I was a teen, I bought a “Yoga for Women” DVD & book set that I found some joy in, but it didn’t quite stick. I finally attended my first class in 2014, more than a decade after purchasing that set! Being from the Bikram tradition it was a bit of a punish, but I enjoyed the calm in my mind and the changes to my mobility.

Unfortunately, it was not to last. Not long after starting, I was fat-shamed by the studio owner and became highly discouraged. I thought that because of my size and lack of flexibility (I started suffering from arthritis when I was in primary school), yoga wasn’t for me. 

Yoga For Everyone

Fast forward to 2020, and someone recommended a local yoga studio to me, and after sitting on it for weeks, I decided to give them a try. I was terrified to say the least, but the teacher was incredible. Her language was kind and inclusive. She said things like “Listen to what your body is telling you, and pull back when you need to. You can push yourself to your edge when you feel ready to”, and “Your worth is not determined by whether or not you can touch your toes.”

What a change this was from the things I had heard in the Bikram studio! Here was someone who was telling me to make my body and ally, not an enemy to be conquered. Everything changed after that class. I started practicing 4-5 times a week, and started to understand that yoga was so much more than asana. Every narrative in every class, regardless of teacher, felt like it was written just for me. I had to know more.

I started reading, talking, asking questions. Religion has never resonated with me, but in yoga I found a way of living and looking at the world in a way that just made sense to me. I knew that if I could, this was a gift I would love to give to other people.

When I asked the owner of the studio if I should undertake Yoga Teacher Training, she responded “I have been waiting for your to ask me this question for a while.” She then recommended The Yoga Institute, and everything just fell in to alignment from there.

Studying Yoga

During Teacher Training at The Yoga Institute, every weekend felt like and eye opener. Going deeper in to anatomy, history, communication techniques, and class planning was amazing.

For me though, the Yoga Sutras were life changing! The depth of wisdom, the way those teachings travelled from the ancients to us, and the relevance to the human condition despite the thousands of years of distance between us was nothing short of transformative. It has since sent me down a path of discovery that I don’t think will end any time soon. 

Paying It Forward

Since graduating from The Yoga Institute, I started teaching at the same studio that changed it all for me. I try to pass on what small flakes of wisdom I have learned, and hope I create positive experiences for the people in my classes.

Yoga has completely changed how I view myself and the world, and I have found a peace that I didn’t know was there. Physically, while I wouldn’t ever be described as “flexible”, I have more mobility at 38 than I did when I was 5, and the arthritis that felt flared up for decades is now quiet 9 days out of 10. 

Whether you want to become a teacher yourself, or you want to deepen your knowledge and personal practice, The Yoga Institute is the place to find it all. Michael and the whole faculty share all that they have in a beautiful, safe, and non-judgemental environment.  

Connect with Shayna

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/juicybits.yoga/


Curious?

We’re Taking Expressions of Interest! – Contact Us Here or

Call us on 0477 021 219

How To Know If You’re Ready For Yoga Teacher Training

Whether you feel drawn to study yoga for curiosity and personal development, or perhaps to one day share your love of yoga with others and teach, studying yoga is for everyone! 

Attending yoga classes can trigger a lifelong love of yoga, and over time you may get a sense that there’s so much more to yoga than simply physical health. You would be right.  

But even the most experienced of yoga teachers will transparently convey, your relationship with yoga and its deep wisdom will eventually plateau just attending group classes in a modern western environment.  Do you feel the call to go deeper and study?

What’s Yoga All About?

The study of yoga is about learning how to manage our human condition, and to help body, mind and emotions fall into a more harmonious and aligned rhythm. 

It is about truly understanding that physical, mental and emotional health are all linked and influence one another and practising greater self-mastery.

Like picking our way through a jungle, it is about slowly removing the beliefs and stories we’ve unconsciously put in our own way that prevent us from seeing what is really in front of us, to know our real selves, to see what’s really possible, and to connect with that which is greater than ourselves.

More Than Physical Health? Yes. It is of course important we look after our physical health because illness and injury can be a difficult and distracting obstacle for our mind and mood to overcome if we want to turn our energy towards contemplating our human condition. Plus, naturally we want to remain pain-free and at ease with our body as the years pass and do the things we wish to do as the years advance.  Yoga can undoubtedly assist.

But with time and guidance, we can come to see how yoga can benefit more than just physical health; it can also benefit our relationships with ourselves, with others, and with our planet.

Studying Yoga

To obtain a good understanding of the broad spectrum of yoga wisdom and techniques that bring together health and growth at every level – physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual – formal study is required. 

This is especially true if we wish to share yoga with others one day, which entails a significant mantle of responsibility as we hold space for others to embark on their own journey of transformation.   Father of modern yoga, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, advised, “Teach what is inside you. Not as it applies to you, but as it applies to the other”.  

In this very succinct phrase, Krishnamacharya talks about a teaching approach that honours the needs and circumstances of each student (a teaching approach commonly referred to as viniyoga). He also recommends that we teach what we know to be true on a cellular level, taking in the knowledge at an intellectual level, and then practising and observing over time until the learnings ring true for us at a more visceral level. In other words, a yoga teacher has undergone their own journey of change and transformation, evolving to embody the attitudes, lifestyle and way of being of a yogi, so they can authentically transmit forward the teachings of yoga.   

We have all likely been to a yoga class where the teacher is talking about a concept (such as surrender, letting go, or non-attachment) that doesn’t come across as if it’s being spoken about from the heart, the narrative perhaps having been adopted from what that teacher has heard another teacher talk about and has simply regurgitated. Humans generally have a fairly good instinct on inauthenticity, and a yoga teacher will lose credibility and trust from their students by talking about life skills and pathways that they themselves have not yet truly witnessed as part of their conscious observations of their own experience of life. If we translated Krishnamacharya’s sentiments about teaching what you feel to be true on a visceral level for a more modern age, it may be, “Teach what is inside you…. not what you heard someone else say on YouTube”.

Yoga does not ask of you to accept anything on face value, it differs from religion in this sense. In fact it beckons you to use healthy scepticism on everything you learn and see if it resonates for you.

It in important new teachers are patient and kind to themselves, evolution and growth will continue long after training has concluded, but a quality training programme will most certainly allow opportunities for personal growth to take place during the training phase.

This is why we advocate for a longer training programme, that also integrates into your real life, instead of having you just take a chunk of time out of your life to rush through a whirlwind of intensive training. This allows time and opportunity for learnings to sink in, be pondered and experimented with in the context of one’s own life to ring true for you and settle into your cells, and for you to easily retain these learnings.   At the conclusion of a 500-hour training programme, our students emerge with a new lens on life, accessing greater joy and equanimity. 

What You Don’t Need To Study Yoga

  • A specific degree of flexibility
  • Ability to do specific postures
  • A specific body-type or age
  • An unbroken relationship with yoga practice for years and years

Your age, body shape, flexibility, and physical capabilities are all unimportant in the pursuit of the kind of personal evolution true yoga can offer us.

We know you have been bombarded with certain images that claim to represent yoga in this modern world. The commoditisation of yoga means that selling exercise labelled as ‘yoga’ to capitalise on (and perpetuate) people’s vulnerabilities about their looks, is easy low hanging fruit in our world overly-focussed on aesthetics and outer beauty. Take heart, dear human!

Yoga helps us learn to connect with that part of ourselves that is unchanging, and is therefore available and accessible to every single person on the planet.

Here at The Yoga Institute, we’ve been quietly doing our part for over two decades, in a revolution to help the community understand the many benefits yoga can give our lives, and to help propel the wisdom of yoga forward for the betterment of humankind. Read more here.

How To Know If You’re Ready To Study Yoga Teacher Training

We’re not overly concerned with how long you’ve practising yoga and we’re not at all concerned if you have any physical limitations (acquired or inborne).  A wonderful teacher training candidate for us is someone who:

  • has practiced yoga long enough to know for themselves that they love it, and to have had firsthand experience of some of the benefits of yoga
  • feels motivated to make time for study and practice at home on their own, as well as with us in the classroom
  • genuinely enjoys helping other people and wants to be of service (not an instructor or bootcamp leader)
  • is keen to learn all the various component parts of holistic yoga and how they weave together, and
  • nurtures a curiosity about how yogic philosophy can improve the quality of our lives  
  • has the patience to take joy in and trust the process of learning, rather than just focus on ‘getting’ a certificate as quickly as possible
  • is open to (or keen for) feeling transformation in their own life
  • feels super-excited about the prospect and ready to approach it with open mind and open heart

If you feel most invested in just acquiring a certificate as fast as possible without opening yourself up to real change, we are likely not the provider for you and we wish you well on your journey.   But if you’re ready to change your life (and potentially the lives of others one day), we invite you to contact us for a chat, we would love to guide and nurture you on this special journey.  

Study With Us

Our 100-hour Yoga Studies course (also known as Teacher Training Foundations) is perfect for those who want to study for personal development, interest, joy and to deepen their own relationship with yoga.   It also suits those who want to see how study fits in their lifestyle before committing to the longer 500-hour course, giving you the option to continue on seamlessly if you choose to then undertake the full 500-hour Teacher Training course.

Our 500-hour Yoga Teacher Training course is perfect for those who want to go deep in their exploration of yoga wisdom and techniques, and feel really confident and capable to emerge as a yoga teacher. 


Written by Nicole Small, The Yoga Institute

Contact Us For a Chat

Learn more about us here

Submit Your Expression of Interest here, or

Call us on 0477 021 219

The Lightness of Being Wrong

In this article we invite you to contemplate. What freedoms might await when we learn to let go of our addiction to judgement and being right?

The beauty of the colour grey may not be obvious to everyone, but in it may lie an exquisite reminder of one of life’s greatest pieces of wisdom.

Life is easier in black and white: ideas, events and even people can be neatly grouped and labelled, right and wrong, good and bad.  Tidy. Easy.

Our Addiction To Being Right

In grey, more effort is required.  Life is messy and if we are not ‘right’, we believe we must be that which most threatens our ego and sense of identity: wrong….. maybe even bad.

In order for our brains to even unconsciously arrive at feeling right or wrong, there is a judgement that necessarily takes place first.  Our brains can form a judgement in a tenth of a second!  Our human brains have evolved to make fast judgements to quickly identify ally from foe, safety versus danger.  A skill we learnt a little too well over millennia and have not yet been able to let atrophy in a world where an interaction with a friend, acquaintance, colleague or neighbour does not (or need not) literally threaten our survival. 

Philosopher Carl Jung once said, “Thinking is hard, that’s why most people judge”. 

Judgement quickly formed, it’s easy to then assume our judgement is correct.  Being right is not just self-validating, it can also be highly addictive. As humans, we will sacrifice peace, friendship, contentment, love and even life (our own or other’s), in order to be right.

The alternative  – feeling wrong – is so uncomfortable, we will tell ourselves the stories over and over that restore our sense of self-righteousness, even if it reinforces a disempowering frame of mind such as victimhood.   

Choosing discontent – perhaps even anger, bitterness or powerlessness – over peace of mind and way forward, is a form of self-sabotage. We choose the known of suffering over the unknown of potential contentment, because one path allows us to predict the future; the path of suffering is known and predictable, and we have the illusion of control.  But in order to be able to keep predicting our future, we must keep that anger fresh and alive, by re-telling ourselves the stories.  We even plant the stories in our children, robbing them of their inborne peaceful state, to ensure they carry the outrage too, such is our attachment to feeling ‘right’.  

By revisiting the stories of the past that we have come to so strongly link to our sense of identity, our brain may know we are visiting the past, our bodies do not; they become awash with the same hormone chemicals as the original incident, straining our bodies’ vital functions as it diverts energy to the ‘threat’ and impairing our physical and mental health. 

Feeling wrong could also be so unpalatable because we equate it with with failing.  (How many times have we purchased something that on some level we know was a mistake, but we will retrospectively justify our decision to avoid feeling buyer’s remorse or admit we made an error?)

Failure is not a state our fast-paced, status-seeking, material-acquiring world well tolerates, and concealing that which we define as failure is very energy-consuming.  Fear of failure can make us closed to the possibility of being wrong, and paralyses us in a stunted state of non-growth.

What if we could view feeling wrong as a gift of learning?  Being open to feeling wrong brings learnings and growth within reach.  The world’s greatest leaders in their fields view failure as guideposts, necessary steps in the process towards success, lessons to be learnt.

There is a much-loved old saying, “If we erase the mistakes of our past, we erase the wisdom of our present”.

Multiple Truths & Rights

In our journey towards self-compassion, we accept that we wont always make the best decisions, and that’s okay.  It doesn’t mean we give ourselves carte blanche to speak and act without considering consequences, it simply means we forgive ourselves for our past, and try again going forward.  Like falling out of a tree pose or other balance, it’s not the fall that matters, it’s what we choose to do next.  With practice, we shed the feeling that the fall was a failure, and see the fall as yet another wonderful opportunity to notice something about ourself, and to try again.  Similarly, what if we could view feeling wrong as a teaching, instead of overly-focussing on our wounded ego?

Forest monk, Björn Natthiko Lindeblad performs a simple exercise when he feels the commencement of tension or conflict, a mantra for his cells to digest, a moment to embody a response instead of a reaction, “I May be Wrong, I May Be Wrong, I May Be Wrong”. 

We invite you to explore if this possibility lifts an energetic heaviness from your shoulders. Is there a lightness in freeing yourself from always having to be right?

Author Mark Matthews states, “Apologising does not always mean you’re wrong and the other person is right. It just means you value the relationship more than your ego”.

This does not suggest that we ought all practice being doormats to avoid confrontation, as self-repression is unlikely to be healthy for our psyche and blocks our energetic centres.  But what if self-expression of varying viewpoints were not necessarily tied to a sense of conflict?  The notion may seem paradoxical at first, but what if we could practice holding space for others to feel seen and heard, without judgement, creating space where it is safe to express what you see through your unique lens.

What if different views could all be someone’s truth?  Yogi Sadhguru describes this concept of believing our truth to be the only truth as mistaking perception for conclusion, we are haplessly and ignorantly peering out at life through an unclear lens, mistaking our ‘reality’ as a one true reality. 

Conflict exists in the place in our mind where there is right and wrong, a simple dualistic set of two states.   Polar opposites and inarguably set in stone, right?  But who’s stone? 

What happens if we consider that there may be multiple, even infinite, ‘rights’ or truths?

What is we replace the word wrong, with the phrase “right for you”?  

Consider, one person’s honesty is another’s unkindness.  

One person’s humour is another person’s hurt.

One person’s rejection or distance from us, is another person’s self-preservation or unconscious self-sabotage.  

One person’s hostility is another’s cry for help with their deep wounds.

One person’s personal choice for themselves may be the opposite of what feels right to another.   

When our ego cannot accept that someone else’s choice may feel just as right for them,  we find people with whom we can repeatedly reinforce how wrong these others are, we praise our own ability to see ‘the truth’ and we judge and label the other ‘sheep’. 

Toltec wisdom author Don Miguel Ruiz suggested, “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream”.

It can be a challenging practice to truly consider that there may not be one single right, merely right for one and right for another.  Can we observe our past behaviour and notice where we have judged others: their political or societal view is wrong, their health choice is wrong, their food choice is wrong, the way they make a living is wrong, even the way they practice yoga is wrong.  Such thoughts can drain our energy and keep us tied to the futility of trying to control that which is not in our control. 

Ego’s brilliance is that it can hide in plain sight and lead us so far into separation without us even being aware that it is indeed Ego in the driving seat. 

Think of a person who feels like a beacon or guide for you in your spiritual journey.  Do they practice allowing their way of being to organically radiate out to others, or are they still focussed on control of outer circumstances and trying to force their way of living, thinking and being onto others? 

The yoga practitioner’s journey is about creating a shift in one’s own life, not using one’s spirituality as a badge of honour to others. Where we notice we may be using our spirituality to flatter ourselves and feel superior to others, is a clue that Ego has snuck in and grabbed the wheel without us realising. 

Recall, there is no yoga posture named for the “Superior Warrior”.  Because feeling superior to others is unhelpful to our life’s journey, and to peace and harmony on the planet. 

Through yoga we learn to take refuge in the lightness of not knowing, that we do not always need to have all the answers and feel right, and that we can walk this life peacefully and lovingly with others without trying to recruit them to our way of thinking or feeding our ego by continually reminding ourselves “how wrong they are”.  We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t form opinions or wish to express them, but we where we deem it necessary to share an opinion, we can practice doing so in a way that doesn’t belittle another’s opinion and cause conflict. 

Our belief or opinion can be right for us, distinct from the illusion of one single truth. 

A Place Devoid Of Right and Wrong? 

Let’s journey further. 

Poet Rumi wrote of a place beyond the labels we have created as humans, beyond right and wrong. In Rumi’s field, we acknowledge that we can control our words and actions, but we must detach from the outcome, surrendering it to a greater force. That – just like other people – is not for us to control, and we can release ourselves from the self-appointed job of trying to make others come on board to our version of ‘right’. 

If everything is energy and we are all drops from the same energetic ocean, it follows that we are not just connected, we are one.  Right and wrong cease to exist, and so too, therefore, does conflict. What is there were a place devoid of right and wrong?

It’s a challenging concept for humans that are taught at a young age about ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ as the primary means of regulating our behaviour. Doing the ‘right’ thing meant we were ‘good’ and that lead to approval. Our child’s mind may even have equated it to love or protection.  (Simply pondering Rumi’s field may require some courage and perseverance) 

Those Who Challenge Us May Be Teachers In Disguise

What if beyond the people who you deem have come into your life as blessings, are those that that come as potentially your greatest teachers, presenting you with the difficult lessons that sculpt you into the spirit best ready for the life after this one. 

Instead of circulating irritated or angry thoughts, we can try a thought such as, “Thank you for teaching me patience”, or “Thank you for teaching me forgiveness”, or “Thank you for teaching me compassion” or “Thank you for reminding me that just because I made a decision that felt right for me,  doesn’t make others’ choices for themselves less valid”, and so on.  What starts out as a type of mantra may transform into genuine gratitude, feeling fortunate that we have learnt such valuable life skills and seeing how far we have come on life’s journey of personal growth. 

When we hold space for others to speak, in addition to hearing their words, can we interpret what may be in their heart?  In times of stress, many people lose a degree of articulation.  In addition to their words – which may tumble out in a clumsy or prickly fashion – can we tune into what may be in their heart, consciously holding back the desire to form a judgement at least until we gather a sense of what is in their heart, their feelings and motivations?  Does this give us a glimpse of any un-met needs and bring us a step closer to understanding?  

The person or persons who challenged us and had us clinging to being ‘right’ for so long, can become someone we look at with greater equanimity, perhaps even a new softness. Maybe even true forgiveness. Mahatma Gandhi declared forgiveness to be an attribute of the truly strong person. 

The process of mastery over our old ways of being is not a one-off choice, it is a lifelong series of choices: choosing over and over and over and over, to give up the addiction to judging and feeling ‘right’, and allowing the process of life to just be, gradually becoming the humble & peaceful warrior.

The peaceful warrior spends time and energy to ‘know thyself’, learning not to attach self-worth to being right or ‘perfect’. They catch themselves in judgemental thoughts or on the brink of harsh words, gossip or attack, and course-correct.  They spend time getting beyond the parameters of the self, and consciously connect with that which is witnessing the self. They accept they will make mistakes in thought and deed and choose to learn from them, cultivating a self-compassion that then radiates out to others.

If Rumi’s field were a colour, might it be the beauty that is grey, where we let go of our black-and -white thinking? 

Continue reading

Transition to Springtime with Yoga & Ayurveda

Welcome the Spring season with some conscious tweaks to your routines, practices and self-care to optimise health and spirit.

Yoga and its sister-science ayurveda teach us how our lifestyle choices can help us live in better harmony with ourselves and with the world around us.  Amongst the benefits are that we feel balanced, at ease and more resilient, with strong mental, immune and digestive function.

You may notice yourself intuitively altering some lifestyle choices as the weather warms.  Acknowledge where you are already tuning into the earth’s changing conditions, and consider some easy and straightforward ideas that you may not yet be trying out.

It’s important to recall that what is right for one person may not be as effective or right for another (or may even be detrimental).  You likely know this already from your yoga practice, and the same principle is certainly true through an ayurvedic lifestyle lens.   As with a new yoga posture, gently feel your way with any new self-care techniques and lifestyle practices, and observe the effect on your individual body and mind.   How does it make you feel?


What is Going on as The Seasons Change?

In Ayurveda and Yoga, the human body is a microcosm of the planetary and cosmic environment. If we imagine snow melting and the flowing water meeting the earth, this is representative of the microcosm too, as the cold stillness of winter gives way to increased movement and warmth, and the energising of winter’s stagnation.

While the cold weather months are suited to slowing down, taking extra rest, re-grounding ourselves with warm, heavy foods and learning to enjoy more quiet time in our own company, Springtime calls us to begin to shake off winter’s stagnation, re-stimulate our bodies, re-energise our social connections, and letting the warmer weather influence our food and movement.   

For those already familiar with some of the principles of ayurveda, Springtime is associated with the Kapha dosha, the dominance of the water and earth elements.  Humans and indeed everything in the universe are comprised of a combination of the 5 elements, the building blocks of Nature: earth, water, fire, air and space. The varying ratios of each element in each of us determines one of three energetic bodily humours, called doshas.

Air + Space = Vata Dosha

Fire + Water = Pitta Dosha

Water + Earth = Kapha Dosha

Most people will typically have one or two dominant doshas, some are tridoshic. 

Our doshas influence our behaviours, anatomy & physiology, tolerances, tendancies, likes & dislikes, and so on.  (Our most dominant dosha(s) is typically the first one to be knocked out of balance as life’s circumstances toss us around like a leaf in a stream, or simply lack of appropriate self-care.  So our dominant dosha needs particular care to be placated).  

But doshic influence can also be seen in seasons, times of the day, and the three major trimesters of our lives.  The three doshas can also influence certain areas and organs of the body.  (The Kapha dosha is mainly dominant in the upper body, such as the chest, stomach, heart, throat, sinuses).  

Simply put, even if your particular inborne elemental constitution (known as prakruti) is something other than a Kapha dominance, the seasonal change to the Kapha-dominated Springtime may mean any of us can benefit from some Kapha-placating choices.

For our purposes here, all you really need be aware of here is that Springtime can be a great time to change up your routines and practices and choose some appropriate energising, cleansing and stimulating practices.

Spring brings new growth of plants and the arrival of many baby animals.  So, just as your intuition has likely suggested to you, it’s a great time for ‘new-ness’!  New things in your daily routine, a change-up to your physical workout, a fresh look at your food intake and the re-energisation of some social circles. 

Imagine that melting ice once again. As it reaches the earth, there’s a sense of lubrication and juiciness, and when things are in balance, this flow represents the removal of accumulated Kapha.  But the union of water and earth also creates mud – associated with heaviness, stickiness and congestion.   In our human body microcosm, we may well feel a little lethargic at the start of Spring, or encounter increased mucous and other respiratory issues.   Recall that Kapha sits in our upper body area. 

Below are some suggestions to experiment with to help you ease into the new season and use the surrounding re-entry of moisture, movement, softness and re-birth to our advantage. 


Movement  – Open Your Heart & Shake It Up!

Just as animals awaken from hibernation and begin to stretch and wriggle before they attempt to run, your body may not feel ready to launch straight into very vigorous and athletic forms of yoga (and other movement) if that’s not been part of your winter routine, without some gentle transitioning.   (And remember, when we also take into account how we feel mentally and emotionally, there is always a place for slow and gentle movement, and conscious rest, in any season).

While winter is about enjoying routines, Springtime invites us to experiment more and change things up. If you haven’t been doing any physical movement in the morning during the colder months, consider changing up your daily routine in Spring with some morning movement. The sun is now rising earlier so if we tweak our waking time to be a little earlier  – in line with nature’s movements – many of us can find ample time to play with some physical movement before we start the rest of our day.

And while we’ve all likely been indoors quite a bit in recent months, the warmer weather may call to you to try some physical movement outdoors, enjoying the explosion of colour happening around us, the new floral perfumes in the air, and safely topping up on vitamin D levels from Father Sun.   Being outdoors allows us to truly notice how nature responds to the change of seasons.  In doing so, we are using mindfulness to train ourselves to be more present with the here and now.  

Consider physical movement that activates your circulatory system (perhaps like brisk walking, hiking, cycling or swimming) and makes your feel energised and positive (perhaps like dancing).

In the asana portion of your yoga practice, consider including:

  • Sun Salutations: Great for getting stagnant energy moving, and can help your mood feel uplifted

  • Backbends & Heart-Openers: Can give space and freedom to the chest and lungs, and move congestion. Imagine yourself uncurling from hunched ball (similar to the hunched posture we tend to adopt in cold weather) into chest-opening expansion. Like a Springtime flower!

    You can try Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), Salabhasana (Locust Pose), Ustrasana (Camel), Bhujangasana (Cobra) and Viparita Virabhadrasana (Reverse Warrior).  

  • Inversions: Postures such as Sarvangasana (Shoulder-Stand) can stimulate circulation and drain the nasal passages.

As with all postures, some may not be accessible or appropriate for everyone.  If you have a known condition (such as back, neck or eye issues, or blood pressure issues, or are currently pregnant) your yoga teacher can offer you modifications or alternatives that allow you to practice in safety, and with the appropriate balance of challenge and comfort.


Pranayama – Move That Energy Into Spring Clean Mode!

‘Spring clean’ doesn’t just refer to your house.  It’s the season to clear your human home. Breathwork is a powerful way to remove toxins.  Your unconscious breathing is designed to remove around three quarters of your body’s toxins.   Conscious breathing practices direct the life-force (prana) to areas of our body, stimulating the body’s organs and systems and allowing them to do their jobs more effectively.  As a bonus, conscious breathwork can down-regulate our stress (and therefore inflammatory) response, soothing the over-active immune system that contributes to allergy conditions such as hayfever.

Kapalabhati (Skull Shining Breath) is an active exhalation as your contract the lower belly and a passive inhalation as lower belly muscles are relaxed. It works the trunk of the body where Kapha resides. It stimulates circulation and energises. 

Kapalabhati may not suit those with heart and blood pressure conditions, during pregnancy, or if it causes you to feel more anxious.  

Bhastrika (Bellows Breath) is an active and forceful exhalation and inhalation, generally linked to arm movements up and down in a pumping fashion.  Bhastrika is energising, clears nasal passages, strengthens the abdominal muscles, and removes excess phlegm.   

Bhastrika may not suit individuals with blood pressure issues, pregnant or menstruating women, those who suffer nosebleeds easily, and as always, if it causes you to feel more anxious.

Breathing can also feel easier with Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing) for issues in the nasal passages, and Brahmari (Bee Breath) for issues at the back of the throat.  


Food – Lighten Up and Go Seasonal!  

Your intuition is likely already giving you some guidance in this area.   Just as we tend to seek out heavy, warming foods like stews and roasts in winter, warmer weather will generally influence our choices more towards lighter foods and smaller portions.  You may also notice feeling more drawn to foods with high water content, such as salads and juicy fruits.  This is your body helping you to eat seasonally and stay hydrated, so go ahead and place a hand on your abdomen and your heart, and give your body some thanks and gratitude!   

Some people will lean towards a ‘cleanse’ at this time of year, but this is a very personal choice and should be well-researched or better yet, under the guidance of an ayurvedic practitioner or qualified nutritionist or naturopath, especially if your cultural conditioning associates the word ‘cleanse’ with starving yourself or otherwise trying to bully your body to your will.

It should be noted that an Ayurvedic cleanse does not entail severe calorie restriction, extended periods or other fad-like approaches that over time can lead to nutritional inadequacy, hormone disruption or an unhealthy relationship with food intake.  

In a yogic lifestyle, we honour the body, we do not seek to punish it. 

We are seeking ways to allow the body to do what it already knows how to do, more effectively. We are not looking for ways to beat our precious body into any kind of submission, or bend it to our will such as for aesthetic change. (The learned yogi recognises that vanity stems from an over-association with our ego, one of the core causes of human suffering – known as kleshas – and neglecting to regulate this tendency will take us further away from true contentment).

Through yoga and ayurveda, we simply get out of of our own way to vibrant good health, with practices that allow it to return to its natural state of physical homeostasis and mental & emotional balance.

Trust that your body knows how do all of its amazing functions that it does for you, each and every second of the day. Our appropriate lifestyle choices help us ‘get out of our own way’ so the body can best do its incredible work. For some this may mean reducing digestive efforts for a time. It may mean a cleanse, or it may simply be a practice of reconnecting with your body’s signals for food, rather than eating by a clock. Most of us live like grazing animals in a modern, busy world, consuming food whenever it is in reach, unconscious eating while doing other tasks, or eating regularly by the time of day because it suits our schedule, rather than tuning in to what our body tells us it needs on a given day.

Individuals with a known Kapha dominance may well find short cleanses or fasts helpful to lift an energetic heaviness. A ‘mono-diet’ is a period of time on a very simple food intake plan, to make things easy on our digestive system and give our body a chance to do more of its other jobs such as important cellular repair and rejuvenation.

In ayurveda, a cleanse generally means just a few days on an easily digestible dish such as kitchari (or kitcheree), a delicious dish comprised mainly of lentils, rice, spices and some vegetables, together with a small portion of health-giving fats such as  ghee or coconut.  Through a western lens, this simple dish provides a wonderfully balanced meal of the 3 major macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fats, yet is easy on our digestive system.

The effort our bodies usually need to digest our food can then be re-directed to other functions.

The Spring season may simply mean reducing deep-friend, sugary and dairy products which can all aggravate Kapha, and lead to increased congestion, and increasing water and seasonal fruit and vegetables. 

Pay attention to the different fruits and vegetables that cycle into season throughout the year and select seasonal produce.  You can access help here.

Kapha-reducing foods in particular include produce with pungent and bitter tastes. For example: leafy greens (such as broccoli, cabbage, spinach) apples, lemons & limes, legumes, cherries, pomegranate, and digestive spices such as black pepper and ginger.   


Other Self-Care Top Tips – Let Those Cells Know They’re Loved!

Self-Massage – Known as abhyanga, self-massage is beneficial for all individuals of any constitution*, in any season.  By virtue of the fact it is self-massage (not massage performed by someone else) it sends a strong message to our cellular and energetic selves about valuing ourselves and prioritising our own wellbeing.

Amongst its many other benefits are that it increases circulation, aids lymphatic drainage, relieves fatigue and stress, tones muscles, soothes joints, calms the nervous system and promotes better sleep.  Whew!  No wonder so many ayurvedic experts call it their absolute non-negotiable daily self-care practice!

Abhyanga is generally performed in long strokes, toward the heart and lung area,  encouraging blood and lymph to travel to where it can be ‘cleaned’.  It also traditionally includes a foot massage as the finishing touch to ground and calm  us – yes, please!   



We can tweak self-massage to suit our needs with the application of different oils. For example:

Pitta (requiring cooling) Coconut or Olive oil

Vata (requiring warming & lubrication) Sesame or Avocado oil

Kapha (requiring circulation boosters): Mustard seed oil

*Except when recovering from surgery or major illness, and during menstruation. Abhyanga is traditionally performed in a very stimulating fashion , all over the body, so not suitable during pregnancy either,  however alternative gentler forms of touch therapy can be beneficial during pregnancy; speak to your doctor to sound out what kind for massage, if any, feels right for you during pregnancy.   


Nasal Rinsing – Known as Jala neti, nasal irrigation can go right to the heart of resolving some of Spring’s irritants, by cleaning out the sinus passageways of bacteria, pollutants and allergans.  It is performed using a neti pot, which resembles a small teapot, to direct water in one nostril and allow it to flush out the other, and is done ideally in the morning.  

Nasal rinsing is generally done with a saline solution to increase anti-bacterial properties, but some people prefer water alone to prevent risk of accidentally over-drying the fragile mucous membranes with salt over-use. 

NB: Jala neti is distinct from its cousin, nasya, which is nasal irrigation performed with oil instead of water, and just as oil and water don’t play well together, jala neti and nasya are ideally done on different days if you are going to try both.   


Curious to learn your Ayurvedic dosha so you can zero-in more precisely on lifestyle food and self-care tips best suited for you?  Take a Dosha Quiz here.  

We hope the Springtime is a time of curiosity, positivity and wellbeing for you.   Ancient Wisdom, Modern Living!

Written by Nicole Small, The Yoga Institute

Learn more about:

Meet The Yoga Foundation – Our Not-For-Profit Sister Organisation

Have you met our “sister” yet? We are proud and so delighted to introduce you to the life-changing work of The Yoga Foundation.

The Yoga Foundation is a leading not-for-profit providing research-based programmes to support the mental health of at-risk groups.

In the early part of the new millennium, founder and director of The Yoga Institute, Dr Michael de Manincor (counselling psychologist and one of Australia’s longest serving yoga educators) wanted to find a way to connect the life-affirming benefits of yoga with those experiencing disadvantage and hardship.  

His wish was not only for yoga to be accessible to those who might otherwise miss out, but importantly for yoga to be offered to people facing a range of challenges in a way that made them feel safe, comfortable, included and free of any sense of judgement.

In 2009, our not-for-profit sister organisation – The Yoga Foundation – was born.

The Work of The Yoga Foundation

A fully independent organisation, The Yoga Foundation serves as a central hub for like-minded people and groups to work together collaboratively, with the common interest of preventing at-risk people in the community from failing through the cracks by improving their wellbeing and quality of life.

Underpinning the work of The Yoga Foundation was Michael’s own findings in his PhD research into how yogic techniques could be applied to treat mental health conditions, especially anxiety and depression.

Being able to provide hard evidentiary data on the benefits of yoga, and specifically the bespoke programmes delivered by The Yoga Foundation, remains at the core of how the foundation successfully partners with so many other groups and people in the community, and provides sustainable programmes to those who really need it.

For the last decade, The Yoga Foundation has been lead by executive Jessica Hobson whose role as CEO continues to expand The Yoga Foundation’s reach to people in need.

Evidence-Based Programmes and the People They Can Benefit

Working with government agencies, NGOs and service providers in the health and disability sectors, The Yoga Foundation’s focus is on supporting the mental health of vulnerable people and helping to positively change their experience of life.  This is done by creating evidence-based, tailor-made yoga programmes for a variety of people and groups including:

  • veterans with PTSD
  • people affected by homelessness,
  • women affected by domestic violence,
  • at-risk youth,  
  • people with persistent and long-term mental health challenges,
  • people in the criminal justice system, and
  • refugees and asylum seekers,

The Yoga Foundation’s evidence-based programs offer a ‘whole of person’ approach and are designed to support people physically, mentally, emotionally and socially as they recover from mental ill health, domestic & family violence, addiction and trauma.

Want to Learn More or Get Involved?

  1. Warm and open your heart:

2. Visit The Yoga Foundation website here

3. You can donate or sponsor a programme here (The Yoga Foundation is a registered charity, and all donations over $2 are tax-deductible).

4. Contact the team at The Yoga Foundation or subscribe to their newsletter here

With gratitude and love

Written By Nicole Small, The Yoga Institute





Benefits of Retreat

If peace and calm are always found from within, why go on retreat? Well, there are actually oh-so many ways that a retreat can benefit your overall health and spiritual journey.

The Difference Between a Holiday and a Retreat

Holidays and retreats can both offer important health benefits to humans as a potential circuit breaker to the cycle of stress, and they can share some characteristics. For example, both may be immensely pleasurable* but the key distinguishing factor is this:

HOLIDAY

  • A holiday in the traditional sense of the word, is an escape, rest or distraction from our day-to-day life. If it actually does permit us to hit pause on our problems and relax, those problems will likely still be there when we return to our real life. We’ve all heard friends bemoan the loss of the ‘holiday feeling’. Like a wave on the shore, the thoughts that make us suffer come rushing back.

VS

RETREAT

  • Retreats are sometimes called ‘wellness holidays’ or the like, but a retreat’s purpose is to give us our best chance of returning to our lives a slightly different person. Relaxation and inner work are not left to chance, they are vital elements of a retreat. It’s a chance to shed some of the weighty layers we unconsciously put on ourselves that cloud of vision of what’s truly real and rob us of a peaceful life.

* Pleasure?! Yes, we said pleasure! Yogis need not eschew pleasure. We simply do the daily work to have the wisdom to not mistake cravings, temporary pleasures and dopamine hits, with sustained contentment, joy or bliss. There is a huge difference between consciously choosing to enjoy a drink or watch a movie for example, and being a servant to unconscious habits and patterns. Indeed at the heart of Yoga, is our ability to remove the veil of the unconscious, conditioned mind and use our free will with clarity.

Spartan and monastic retreats can play a role at certain points in life, depending on the lessons we most need to learn at that point. It is okay to remove certain discomforts that may act as unnecessary distraction so we can practice being with discomfort of others kinds.

Think of a comfortable retreat the same way you would think of creating a comfortable environment for savasana or meditation. For example, when we put on a jumper or blanket in savasana, we remove the distraction that cold may cause us, giving ourselves our best chance to stay relaxed and focussed.

Sometimes the kindest thing we can do for ourselves is allow ourselves to be comfortable, in an effort to minimise unnecessary distractions as we prepare to go inwards.

Benefits of a Retreat

  1. Give your yoga practice a new lease of life
    It’s useful to plug back into teaching sources that resonate for you, to fall in love with yoga all over again, re-energise your sadhana and extend both your intellectual and experiential understanding to deeper levels. Learning is a lifelong joy.

  2. Precious time for self-care and reflection
    We all know that self-care and reflection are not luxuries, they’re important. But we’re all works-in-progress and some days are easier than others. Sometimes we all need circumstances that feel like time stops for a bit so we can remind our body, mind and spirit what self-love and self-reflection feel like, and re-kickstart these elements of our lifestyle practice…..connecting with our thoughts, feelings and actions without judgement, and sending a message to ourselves that we are worthy of love and care.

  3. Healing effects of Nature 
    Science backs up your intuition that spending time in natural environments is beneficial for our physical and psychological health, and makes it easier for us to experience elevated emotions.

  4. Change of Scenery & Routine
    Your brain loves routine because it’s energy-efficient (and we can use this fact to our advantage if we practice establishing healthy routines). But we need only recall during the pandemic’s lockdowns how monotony played tricks on people’s brains, the days blurred into one and many people’s mental health suffered.

    Your brain needs a shake-up to routine now and then for optional functioning. Diversifying what our five senses take in each day and exploring new and novel experiences stimulates the hippocampus area of the brain, important for emotional regulation. Switching up our daily routines may also foster greater chances of breaking old habits.


    Being out of our usual environment can also be helpful for inner-work where we endeavour to address our attachment to identity (ego). Without our job title or usual tasks, without our immediate sphere of people, without all the things that we use to anchor ourselves to an identity, we can explore what it feels like to not have try and be the good worker, good boss, good spouse, good friend, good parent, good child, good neighbour and so on.


  5. Digital Detox
    Our devices trigger the same chemicals in our brain as gambling, explaining how we can get addicted to our devices. A time-out can help break the cycle so we can be more conscious of technology-usage. There’s also evidence that it can improve sleep, assist with some depression and anxiety symptoms, improve our eyesight, and give us a greater sense of life satisfaction.

  6. Balance The Nervous System & Heal
    Practices like asana, breathwork, meditation and mindfulness can switch off the body’s stress response and allow our sympathetic nervous system to move into rest and repair. This is the state necessary for cells to repair.

  7. Spending Time with Your ‘Tribe’ of Like-Minded People
    Connecting with people who lift you up, accept you as you are, encourage and listen to you can have a very real effect on physical and mental health.

  8. Positive Changes To Brain Chemistry
    It’s perhaps no surprise that retreats can switch off the hormones of stress and release the feelgood hormones, but science is curious to learn more about what makes people report feeling greater perception of their own health and wellbeing, and elevated emotions that endure after retreat, making space for healing, compassion and creativity.

Written by Nicole Small, The Yoga Institute

How Can We Help You?

Local Retreats –Read More

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Yoga classes at Cammeray – Read More

Graduate Story -Juliana Salgado – Graduated 2022

A Love Affair With Yoga

Written by graduate of the 500-hour Teacher Training Diploma, Juliana Salgado

As a child I’d always been drawn to activities like gymnastics, capoeira, and dance. My teenage years were at the beach with friends doing all kinds of poses like hand and headstands. The playfulness of it all always made me happy and now, looking back, helped shape the way my body feels when moving.

Yoga came into my life not long after I was 20. I started out focusing only on the asana side of things. Again, only looking out for the playfulness yoga could bring. I had a private teacher for a while, a dear friend of mine who introduced me to yoga and ignited my curiosity. Later on I took a few studio classes – mostly vinyasa practices – but I always felt like something was missing.

Like in dance classes I took when younger, I felt like I was following someone else’s lead without too much room for freedom of expression or, in this case, attending to my body’s needs/wants.

There was a disconnection and for that reason I was on and off for a good part of a decade.

The Decision to Study Yoga With The Yoga Institute

I’m originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and moved to Sydney in 2016. At that point in my life I was all over the place. I had just turned my life upside down and moved across the world in a span of 3 months. Quit my job, sold everything I had, said bye to family and friends, bought a one way ticket! And what was supposed to be 5 months only, it’s now more than 6 years.

As most international students, the start of a new life in another country is challenging and, more than anything, a humbling experience. It’s almost like everything you’ve done up to that point doesn’t really count or matter.

My first couple of years I dedicated myself to improve my English and study what could complement my formal qualification – Psychology. So I did a diploma in Counselling, followed by Resource Therapy.

End of 2019 I was going to a few yoga classes and just felt all very transactional, superficial. I was also missing studying – I was working a lot at that time and didn’t feel the work I was doing was filling my cup.

After talking to a few friends and my now husband, I decided to do a yoga teacher training course for my own personal practice and self care/awareness.

From all my research, I was between 2 courses. I went and visited the two, and came out of the Yoga Institute without a single doubt that it was the place for me.

The whole approach of viniyoga resonated so much with me. No one size fits all. I remember after my first asana class as a try out – I was just all-smiles! I felt the connection to yoga like I hadn’t felt before. I knew a 500-hour training would be much more comprehensive and supportive of the journey I was willing to take. I was very enthusiastic about the fact that Michael de Manincor is also a psychologist. I had a feeling that the discussions would be extremely rich and couldn’t wait to dive into the yoga sutras! So I joined the 2020 group, and I’m so grateful I did!

March 2020 and covid came along. The Yoga Institute adapted the training so we could keep going, and so did we. What was so special to me about the training was that asana studies + practice, the playfulness I’ve always been attracted to, was only a part of it; the course took me to deeper subjects: Yoga sutras, meditation, communication, and personalized yoga practice were my favorite subjects!

In saying that, I’ve learned so much from all of it that it is hard to point out highlights. However, the most special moment to me, was at the end of the course, when we went for our residential (teaching practice). I designed a practice around the theme courage and while I was sharing my words with the class I was hit by a wave of emotion and started to cry. It was like at that moment I came to realize that this is what I meant to be doing. I let the tears come out and everyone just sat there with me. Reading everyone’s feedback of the class afterwards and all the kind words I received makes me emotional to this day. Such a beautiful community!

Life After Training

I think life has ways to help and, sometimes, test us. Covid times were quite challenging. My job moved location and I decided not to stay with the same company. I thought – perhaps this is it!

I was certain I was going to dedicate myself fully to yoga at that point, but… I got an offer from another company pretty much the same day I interviewed and made the decision to accept the job. Yoga was, again, in the background.

I got married in April 2021 and hubby and I were talking more and more about a baby so I decided to continue studying and engaged on the 50h Pre & Post Natal post grad course with the Yoga Institute, under the guidance of Lisa Grauaug.

The course was eye-opening for me! I knew very little about pregnancy, birth, postpartum and I’ve learned so much!

I fell pregnant in August 2021 and all that rich information couldn’t have come at a better time! Coming from Brazil where the C-section rate is one of the highest in the world, I had a lot of fear around birth. The course opened the possibility for me to change my view about the whole process and to choose for a natural and mindful pregnancy & birth.

My pregnancy was just bliss! Apart from some sickness at the beginning and covid at 30 weeks, it was just amazing. Yoga played a huge role in my wellness. Physically and mentally.

I planned for a homebirth. After 3 days of labour, and a transfer to the hospital, we met our baby boy Kai. (I share the whole story in my journal). I can not even begin to describe how much yoga supported me through this life-changing experience. The endurance and mental strength that was required is something extraordinary (just amazing what women can do). And following birth, the healing and uncountable hours of breastfeeding. Yoga is really a gift for me!

At the time of writing, Kai is almost 10 months old and he’s my yoga buddy. We’ve been practicing since he was about 6 weeks earthside and I can honestly say motherhood has been the most yoga I’ve ever done in my life. So much presence and connection.

During this time caring for Kai and for myself, my passion for Yoga only grew. Especially supporting women on their journey – whatever stage of life they are at. So I founded AwakenLife Yoga, in which I offer several services. At the moment I’m mostly focusing on 1:1 private personalised yoga clients and counselling, pregnancy + postpartum mamas, and in May launching 2 retreats called Yoga, Art N Sip. Soon group classes and workshops!

So when I say I think life has a way of helping and testing us, what I really mean is that life has a way of giving us opportunities for us to take, or not, that could bring us closer to where we want to be. I certainly took my time with my studies (and I thank all the teachers at the YI for the patience and support) and sharing my knowledge with others. I trusted my timing and I feel now is the time to blossom.

I’m so grateful for all the learnings and can’t wait to keep learning with them. With a heart full of gratitude, Juliana


Contact Juliana

W: https://www.awakenlifeyoga.com.au

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/awakenlife.yoga/


Curious About Studying Yoga Yourself?

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TKV Desikachar – Our Cherished Bridge To The Source

TKV Desikachar

If the name TKV Desikachar is new to you, we feel privileged to provide you an introduction to this cherished beacon of yoga’s wisdoms, who helped sow the seeds of global modern yoga outside of India.

TKV Desikachar (1938 – 2016) is a well-known and respected figure in the history of modern yoga. The son of legendary Tirumalai Krishnamacharya  – referred to as the father of modern yoga – Desikachar was part of a group of students under the tutelage of Krishnamacharya in his home country of India. 

Krishnamacharya had left an evolutionary footprint on postural yoga, cementing the concepts of an intelligent and sequential flow of movements for individualised and therapeutic benefit, and linking movement to breath.

Desikachar & Krishnamacharya with Indra Devi

Krishnamacharya is the source of our teachings here at The Yoga Institute, thanks to Desikachar, whose English language skills & travels, combined with his extraordinary understanding of his father’s deep reservoir of knowledge and his disarming & loving ways, enabled him to live as an embodied bridge between the ancient wisdom derived from his father, and the peoples of westernised nations like Australia and New Zealand.

In the latter part of the 20th century, Desikachar and his fellow students took his father’s teachings to every corner of the globe like seedlings in the wind and cemented the basis of modern yoga as we know it globally today. 

He was particularly instrumental in securing movement linked with breath and proliferating the teaching approach developed by his father, known as viniyoga. That is, that yoga is most effective when the teacher has the skills and care to adapt yoga to the unique needs, conditions and interests of the individual in question, rather than making the individual adapt to a certain style of yoga.   

And just as his father had sought to unify different branches of yoga, Desikachar was also a force for unity: he wanted this beautiful teaching approach to flourish, but was happy for it to lose any attachment to a name or ‘brand’, knowing that labels would only lead to separateness in yoga.  For Desikachar, it was simply Yoga, with a capital Y, tailored for each person’s needs.

Our Connection to Desikachar

Founder and director of The Yoga Institute, Michael de Manincor, was so inspired by Desikachar’s book, The Heart of Yoga, that he sought Desikachar out to take his already long-established yoga practice and knowledge, to a new and deeper level. Michael had the great fortune to be taught and mentored by TKV Desikachar, both in India and Australia, over an expanse of years in the new millennium, and credits their connection with forever changing his life. Their student-mentor relationship (and friendship) endured until Desikachar’s passing in 2016.

Here Michael shares some of his favourite illuminations from Desikachar

Their connection has lead to the transmission of yoga’s wisdom to countless people here in Australia, who have sought out The Yoga Institute to take their yoga deeper, and bring about a shift in their own lives.  

During a visit to Australia many years ago, when Michael asked Desikachar how to thank him, he replied, “Keep the river flowing”, and to this day, that is our mission here at The Yoga Institute, to help more and more people access the authentic, transformative and healing powers of yoga. 

Here at The Yoga Institute, each 21st day of June, we joyfully celebrate the birthday of TKV Desikachar in conjunction with the International Day of Yoga!

Hear Desikachar Share His Wisdom

Watch the gentle and wise Desikachar discuss yogic concepts in this video here (with gratitude to fellow student and friend of Desikachar, Mark Whitwell)

Written by Nicole Small, The Yoga Institute

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Posture In Focus: Warrior II

Let’s unpack the features of Warrior II to enjoy its full benefits in safety.  

One of a collection of standing poses (mostly lunges) grouped by the Warrior name, Warrior Two is perhaps one of the most iconic standing poses.

Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)

Also known as: Virabhadrasana II

Vira  =  Hero or Warrior

Bhadra = Good or auspicious

Asana  = Pose

Functional Classification

Samasthiti (spine is straight)

Benefits & Effects

Opens chest

Creates expansion in entire body (space in the joints)

Strengthens legs, ankles, knees, and feet-arches

Improves balance

Stretches hips and shoulders

Builds concentration and focus

Warrior Two is a beautiful combination of power and peace.  While building strength to many parts of the body, we consciously soften other areas, such as facial muscles and eye gaze.

Vinyasa Krama, Breath and Drishti (The How To…..)

There are many varied and creative ways to enter into Warrior Two.  One of the classical ways to enter and come out of the posture is:

  1. Stand in samasthiti
  2. Take a stride sideways, feet parallel
  3. Turn the left foot out, hips remain facing front
  4. Inhaling, raise the arms from the sides to shoulder-height, palms facing down
  5. Exhaling, bend the left leg, keeping the knee in line with the ankle, and turn the head and gaze towards the left hand. Maintain a straight back, tilt the pelvis under. Balance the weight between both feet. Breathe naturally.  Hold for a few breaths as desired
  6. Inhaling, straighten left leg, turn head back to centre
  7. Exhaling, lower arms to sides
  8. Turn the left foot back to parallel position.
  9. Bring the feet back together, back to samasthiti
  10. Repeat on the other side.

This vinyasa krama can be varied for different ages, abilities, and other circumstances.

Alignment and Things to Watch For

  • Press the outer edge of the back foot into the mat and lift the arch of the foot.

  • Keep the torso vertically upright (shoulders over hips), and spine neutral (not over-arching).

  • Hip and shoulder girdles face the side of the mat while the front foot points towards top of mat.  The sacroiliac joint (SI) is a joint that connects the base of the spine (sacrum) with your hip bone. It does have a small amount of mobility, but its primary function is stability, so it’s important to respect its range.  Turning the chest to the side can be more challenging for people with more limited SI mobility and may require more spinal rotation. (If the chest is not facing the side, nerves branching into the arms can be compressed and cause tingling).

  • Imagine drawing your heels towards one another to activate inner thigh muscles.

  • A sensation of external rotation in the front leg prevents the bent knee rolling inwards and dumping undue pressure on the knee joint, specifically the shock-absorbing meniscus tissue and the stablising medial collateral ligament (MCL).  Aim to keep the kneecap in line with your second toe.
     
  • Stacking the knee precisely over the ankle can be a useful safety measure.  Weight-bearing in the knee increases as the knee moves forward of the ankle (specifically on areas like the stabilising anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). So, encouraging students’ knees not to move forward past the ankle can be a good way to err on the side of caution, especially in a big group class, for people with ACL injuries, people with knee pain or for beginners while people may be building up strength in their quadriceps (thigh muscles). But also let’s recall: your knee extends further out than your ankle every time you take a flight of stairs or walk up a hill.   True risk levels may depend on how far further forward the knee is, whether that person is carrying ACL issues, how long the pose is being held for and how strong the practitioner’s lower limbs are*.  


  • Some people may crunch shoulders up towards the ears.  Shoulders drawn back and down can feel more comfortable and release unnecessary tension.
What is right for one person may not be right for another

* Observe the father of modern yoga, Krishnamacharya, in a similar lunge posture, intimately familiar with his own body’s limits, moving into a deep lunge with his knee a little further forward than his ankle. Many yoga teachers today would rush to “correct” him, preferring to have codified rules that apply to everyone. Indeed this knee positioning may not be safe or appropriate for everyone, but is an apt reminder of the principles of viniyoga.

Onward Sequencing

Some progression ideas may include Half-Moon (Ardha Chandrasana) or Extended Side Angle (Utthitha Parsavakonasana)

Preparations and Counterpose

Some prepatory suggestions may include:

  • Sun Salutations
  • Seated Bound Angle (Baddha Konasana)
  • Tree Pose (Vrikshasana)
  • Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana)
  • Triangle (Trikonasana)
  • Goddess/Horse (Utkata Konasana)

Counterpose examples may include Mountain (Samasthiti), Wide-Legged Forward Fold (Prasarita Paddotanasana) or even repeat a sun saluation.

Modifications & Adaptations

  • Reverse Warrior (Viparita virabhadrasana) is accessible by simply moving arms, torso and gaze, lower body stays in place.
  • A wider step may better accommodate the ability to lunge more deeply, while a shorter stance may relieve pressure in the knees and help you feel more stable
  • Resting the bent leg over the edge of a chair can help your body get a taste for the pose. There is no need to get your thigh parallel to the ground unassisted, especially before your body is ready.  
  • Experiment with arm posture such as cactus arms or prayer hands
  • Try kneeling Warrior II

Contraindications

People with neck issues may opt to keep their gaze to the side of the mat, and people with blood pressure, knee or hip conditions may like to seek the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher or yoga therapist.

Interesting Sidenote: War & Peace?

Many people are intrigued or confused to find postures named for warriors, and those that have delved into the philosophy of yoga may be familiar with the notion of non-violence, so it’s fair to be curious about the postures’ names.  

Indeed, part of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is the 8 Limbs of Yoga, including the Yamas and Niyamas – a collection of suggested practices and observances for on and off your yoga mat that encourage us to think about how we think and behave towards ourselves and others – and the very first Yama is that of Ahimsa (non-violence or simply ‘do no harm’).  

A quick example on the mat: We are practicing non-harming towards ourselves when we don’t allow our ego to push us into poses or depths that are beyond our body’s safe limits.

Quick example off the mat: We are practising non-harming for others when we choose to refrain from gossip, or when we protect other living things.

So, if non-harming is one of the suggested guidelines to progress our spiritual selves, how does the reference to battle fit in?  Well, recall that yoga is all about helping us to manage our human condition.  Becoming peaceful in our mind, to ourselves, and others is not without effort.  We do not simply choose once; it is an ongoing process of observing ourselves and choosing, observing ourselves and choosing, observing ourselves and choosing, often against very ingrained and tempting patterns.

Patanjali summarised humans’ cause of suffering with the klesas, those aspects of our underlying operating system – mostly not even visible to us – that impede our spiritual growth: self-ignorance, ego, attachment, aversion, and fear of misfortune/death. All play a role in being obstacles for us, but we could say that all klesas arise from the first one: self-ignorance (Avidya in Sanskrit).

The analogy of battle can be seen in stories of Krishna and Arjuna, and stories of Shiva, for example. The stories are not glorifying combat or battle, they are stories to be unpacked and interpreted, not taken literally.   It is not just yogic texts that employ the use of metaphor, it is a commonly used literary tool in an array of spiritual and religious texts where the lesson is couched in a tale.

The reference to the Vira (‘heroes’ and ‘warriors’) may serve as a reminder to us of the conscious efforts we need to make in our struggle against our own self-ignorance and other obstacles to spiritual freedom.  

Written by Nicole Small, The Yoga Institute

Virabhadrasana II – Muscles of the Lower Body: Image courtesy of our partners at YogaAnatomy.net

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