Natalie is a registered psychologist and a Yoga Therapist, passionate about making yoga accessible, inclusive, and body positive for all.
Natalie’s broad-reaching work includes supporting survivors of domestic violence, indigenous communities, adults experiencing mental health issues, women with body image challenges, and people with acquired physical and mental impairment.
Recognising that often mental trauma is stored physically, Natalie is an advocate for helping people understand the mind-body connection and combining talk therapies with movement therapies.
Dr Judy Lovas is dedicated to quality education in evidence-based Relaxation Therapy for anxiety, pain, depression, sleep disorders, trauma and chronic conditions.
Judy has a PhD from Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney and an eclectic background in psychology, tertiary education, massage therapy, research and clinical practice. Judy’s keen interest in health and medical science plus her passion for high quality education combined to create Art & Science of Relaxation in 2010.
The Art & Science of Relaxation offers workshops to the general public, to organisations and corporates, as well as teaching medical professionals and other allied health professionals how to clinically apply relaxation therapy. Judy is also a sought-after speaker and teacher.
Donna is a Yoga Therapist, Esoteric Therapist and Massage Teacher.
Donna offers bodywork therapies, yoga classes, massage, gentle exercise and meditation classes, workshops and retreats all with the focus of supporting her clients to develop a deeper and more loving relationship with their body and being. Amongst her range of specialities is breast cancer support.
Her clinical experience involves one on one sessions where she works with clients who present with an injury or physical condition, emotional stress/issues, anxiousness, a depletion in energy, tension or simply wanting to deeply rest, reconnect and restore. She brings a warmth, openness, deep care and commitment to her clients offering them the space to let go and be themselves.
Special Event: Reconnect with your natural, harmonious state of wellbeing
Friday 20 May to Sunday 22 May 2022
In-person (Baulkham Hills, NSW) or Livestream Online
The Yoga Institute is a proud affiliate of this nourishing immersive workshop, hosted by graduate of our Yoga Therapy Training and member of our mentoring faculty, Catherine Sherlock, and facilitated by Director of the iRest Institute Australasia, Fuyuko Saramura-Toyota.
It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness and stress of the world.
If you’re experiencing overwhelm, anxiety or exhaustion, know that these are important messengers. Perhaps they’re letting you know that the pace is too fast and the doing too intense. Perhaps they’re asking you to slow down and take time to reconnect to a sense of self, a wholeness and peacefulness, that lies deep within you.
Slow Down and Reconnect During This iRest Yoga Nidra Immersion
During this iRest Yoga Nidra Immersion you’ll be guided to rekindle and nourish this connection through the entry points of your body, breath, and mind.
Through gentle and compassionate self-inquiry you’ll learn how to befriend yourself, and in doing so, find an ease with life as it is and a felt-sense of harmony return.
No prior knowledge or experience is necessary. Come enjoy a restful, playful program for enhancing self-care, self-love, and the return of effortless wellbeing, joy, and delight!
What is iRest Yoga Nidra?
iRest Yoga Nidra is a research-based meditation, relaxation and healing protocol. It offers a portal for awakening to your essential nature, deeply calming your nervous system and integrating difficult thoughts and emotions. A beneficial personal practice, iRest meditation is also a brilliant adjunct for healthcare and healing professionals.
Research shows iRest effectively reduces stress, insomnia, anxiety, depression, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, and enhances joy, equanimity and well-being in daily life.
Through experiential practice and dynamic dialogue, you can:
Explore the 10-Step iRest Protocol to enhance your meditation practice
Foster wellbeing and cultivate resilience against burnout, stress, and anxiety
Learn a few effective tools for skillfully meeting difficult emotions and beliefs in daily life
Learn how to slow down and reconnect with yourself
Develop and access an inner resource of wellbeing, ease, security, and peace
Experience BodySensing in movement meditation for deep peace
Practice BreathSensing for increased energy and deep relaxation
Awaken to your essential wholeness
What To Expect On This Weekend
This is a 2-3 day, non-residential event to learn the practices of iRest in an highly experiential environment. At Immersions you’ll be guided first-hand by seasoned staff who will help you understand the basics and develop a personal practice.
A deep dive into the iRest teachings
This weekend immersion will consist of:
Teachings and discussion.
iRest group practice.
One to one iRest practice with a partner.
The only physical yoga movements included in the weekend are very gentle body sensing exercises.
You will remain in control of your experience. If you are not comfortable with any of the practices, they can be modified.
Experience the 10-Step iRest Protocol
The very rich philosophy that underpins the iRest protocol, based on ancient yogic texts and the wisdom of modern psychology and neuroscience has been distilled into the 10 steps of iRest. They elicit brain wave states that evoke a profound depth of relaxation and rejuvenation.
It could be said that these 10 steps are Universal truths that lead you to peace, happiness and wholeness – to return you to your innate state of simply being – to get acquainted and familiar with that part of you that remains unbroken and is always whole and complete. It is spiritual exploration, without any trace of religion.
We do not need a new calendar year to make fresh choices and implement change. We do not need a new week, or even a new day. Each breath is an opportunity to choose again, choose again, choose again.
As one year folds into the next, however, it can naturally be a time when our thoughts revisit the past, scanning for meaning and take-outs, and then to the future, possibly making plans and choosing things we would like to move towards.
Can we take learnings and blessings from the past instead of over-focussing on what we didn’t like? Can we harness the enthusiasm for change while avoiding the pitfalls common to New Years Resolutions? Here we take a look at some possible steps leading to new aspirations and their implementation, with the yogic outlook on change and acceptance.
The transition from one year to the next can offer a precious opportunity to reflect. Reflection gives us the opportunity to pause amidst a hurried pace of life and potentially see things with greater clarity than through a haze of in-the-moment, reactive emotions. It can be a valuable way to untangle thoughts and derive learnings from experiences.
Reflection for many people means simply looking at our externalities: what went well, what was difficult, what happened to us.
Our brains are pigeon-holing machines, they love to categorise and label things, this is good, that is bad. We may enjoy a chuckle and the feeling of solidarity that comes from farewelling a year collectively deemed to be ‘bad’ through shared jokes and memes.
But let’s pause: Was the year really all bad? What if we resist putting a label on our years? And do we really want to wish time away?
Because of our brain’s tendency to give greater focus to circumstances that gave rise to difficult emotions rather than pleasant ones (a phenomenon known as negativity bias), a practice of reflection based entirely on external circumstances can end up being an unsatisfying replay of everything we found challenging without the counterbalance of all the things we can feel grateful for.
TIP 1:If revisiting the circumstances of the past year, be mindful to include a list of the many, many things that went your way and that you feel thankful for.
When we’re feeling irritable this can be more challenging; pause for conscious breath to feel the lifeforce moving inside you. We can thank our cells and organs for their hard work every day, thank our microbiome for extracting nutrients and bolstering our immunity, we can feel gratitude for the privileges of modern living including clean, drinkable water on tap. Once you get started, gratitude tends to snowball under its own momentum!
TIP 2: If the past year included genuine struggle or misfortune, sadness may be an appropriate and healthy response. You can allow yourself to feel sadness without setting up camp there. Sadness is a tunnel, we all have to through it at some stage to get to the other side, but take heart that sadness is a tunnel, it need not be a cave. Be gentle and patient without yourself.
TIP 3: Reflect on what lessons the past year might have given you. What learnings would you like to carry forward? Maybe the year affirmed for you just how strong you really are, what people you want to surround yourself with, or to take some of the joys of slower living that arose out of lockdowns, into regular life. (See ‘Lessons from Lockdowns’).
Sidenote 1 –Lessons from Lockdowns
We can be hopeful of no further lockdowns while still appreciating the lessons lockdowns of previous years have brought to us:
1. The importance of looking after our physical and mental health 2. The power of community and connection 3. The soothing and healing power of a connection to nature 4. The joys of a slower pace of living and time for hobbies 5. Things like job titles, brands, and Hollywood & Instagram celebrities all seemed less important, while scientists, academics and healthcare workers were elevated and bestowed society’s attention and admiration
Now is our chance to hold onto some of the wisdom that revealed itself to humanity during our more challenging days, and carry it forward.
For yogis, the word reflection more often actually means self-reflection or self-enquiry, rather than reflecting on external circumstances. We can acknowledge the externalities (and especially the things we are grateful for) and then turn our attention to our inner selves.
Self-enquiry is also referred to as svadhyaya, the fourth niyama (personal observance) in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, related to self-study and introspection.
Classically associated with mantra or scripture recitation, a modern take on svadhyaya is any activity that allows us to quietly observe ourselves: our thoughts, emotions, actions, motivations.
Self-enquiry can both play an important role in our spiritual journey as it expands our self-awareness: Self-analysis helps us examine not only our actions and reactions, but also the deeper layers steering our actions and reactions, namely our underlying beliefs, patterns and attitudes. Why did we react that way? Why we were so quick to judge that person? Taking time to be curious and note these can help us identify new ways of being we might wish to work towards.
Self-enquiry requires mindful vigilance of our mind’s journey, lest our self-reflection mutate into a looping reel of all the things we don’t like about ourselves, with all of our perceived flaws and mistakes playing over and over. Yogic self-reflection is about noticing with curiosity and compassion for ourselves, not admonishing or shaming ourselves for being human. It’s helpful to also reflect on instances where you responded in a way the you from years ago may not have. Acknowledge the work you have already done becoming the person you want to be.
A simple example of self-enquiry may arise when we observe our patterns in asana practice as we enter discomfort. A breakthrough for yoga practitioners is when they truly discern the difference between discomfort and pain. We never move into pain on our mat, but we can learn not to immediately run from discomfort. If we are honest about our body’s messages and learning to distinguish unpleasantness from pain, we can learn to sit with discomfort and thereby see our incredible capacity for strength and tolerance. Lessons on the mat then seep into our daily lives.
TIP 1: When observing tendencies that you would like to work on, keep your inner critic in check by recalling that we all have traits that do not serve us, we all have a darker side. In many cases, we can even be blind to them, so congratulate yourself on identifying and acknowledging a quality you would like to work on.
TIP 2: Similar to above, we all make mistakes. Mistakes can be amongst our greatest teachers. Acknowledging them is akin to accepting constructive feedback as a gift. A mistake is just a lesson in another form. Practice forgiving yourself.
Sidenote 2 – Do your New Year resolutions include changing the way you look?
For many people, the new year is a time to plan to change something about their appearance. New Years Resolutions are often about our outer self and the way we look. If you search poll statistics on what ratio of people state ‘weight loss’ as their number one resolution, you will find around half of all New Years Resolutions are related to losing weight.
It is indeed important to look after our physical health, eating well and staying active are important pillars in physical health, but weight and shape do not necessarily correlate to good health. If deep down, your goal each year is motivated by a desire to change your outward appearance, we invite you to build a different relationship with your body.
Believing we can deprive or overwork our bodies to yield to our wishes indicates a disconnect between a person and their body. Your body is not something separate to your heart and mind that can be punished into submission.
Continued yoga practice helps us re-connect with our body: to feel love and gratitude for the myriad of things it does for us each and every day, to marvel at its ability to move, to assimilate food, to heal, to dance, to see, to hear, to touch, to smell, to send us messages when we need to slow down and rest, to carry things, and to carry us through this life. With regular yoga practice, we can accept genetics and physical limitations and importantly, shape.
We come onto our yoga mats to honour our bodies, not to punish them. Our bodies deserve our reverence, not our scorn. Our shape may never change but our health can. Critically, so too can our mindset around our bodies and the way we cultivate self-love and self-esteem.
A true and honest yoga practice can set us free from self-worth linked to appearance and other temporary conditions such as youth. Through yoga we learn to value that which is unchanging within us.
May you come to see that you are already precious and perfect, just as you are.
Continue reading below to learn more about the difference between resolutions and intentions, and swapping goals based on rigid end-results or achievements, for loving practices based around lifestyle change and mindset shifts.
Resolutions and Intentions
A new year can be an appealing time to think about letting go of certain things and practising new things, especially if you have just spent some of the holiday period in self-reflection. The natural extension may be to choose things to work on. We can do so in a conscious and sustainable way.
Many people liken their efforts to change as ‘self-improvement’. It’s an easily understood and widely used phrase and while its usage is not really problematic, it’s not quite accurate either. The yogic approach to change is about developing practices that move us closer to our true nature. It’s arguably not really about self-improvement as your divine, true nature needs no improvement. It’s more about regular practices that serve us to shed what is an obstacle to our true selves.
Resolutions, intentions, proclamations?
If we start each new year with the vague but dogged proclamation, “This is going to be my year!”, our mind is already clinging to the notion that everything will go our way. We are already exhibiting resistance to the natural flow of life. It’s the flipside to looking back at a year and dismissing it as just ‘bad’.
Change can be a very worthwhile pursuit, but not always easy. Start with small, specific and manageable actions that you can add on to later, and try to resist the urge to predict the outcome, instead focussing on the lifestyle change.
Herein lies the difference between resolution and intention:one is very results-oriented, the other more about changing our mindset and developing beneficial practices. One doesn’t leave much space for missing a day or making a mistake, while the other is patient and forgiving, and moulds to your real-life.
The word ‘resolution’ may inadvertently capture a somewhat rigid, all-or-nothing sentiment, meaning the first time we even slightly deviate from a fixed goal, some unkind self-talk kicks in and we may feel inclined to give up.
Intentions (often referred to in yoga as sankalpa) are not about your daily/weekly /monthly outcomes or achievements, they are about how you are being and living. Intentions help guide our actions.
Resolution: the focus is on the end-results and is dependent upon willpower
Intention: the focus is on your attitude and the way you live, and is self-energising
If resolutions work well for you, fantastic! But they don’t work well for everyone, so intentions can be a good alternative.
How does sankalpa work?
A sankalpa is a statement of a deeply-held value and phrased as present-tense affirmations, rather than future-tense desires.
Let’s say your goal is to be more patient with yourself and others. You may bring this awareness to your senses at the start of each yoga practice with a simple statement such as, “My true nature is patience and kindness”, and then during your practice as you are noticing how postures feel in your body and noticing your breath, observe if this trait pops up. You may notice yourself feeling frustrated or impatient with yourself (or with your teacher). Try to catch this emotion ‘in the act’ without judging yourself for it, “Ahhh, I’m being visited by impatience again!” . In this way, we are practising being aware of how we’re being.
You may like to then revisit your sankalpa as an affirmation after some pranayama or meditation when your nervous system is relaxed and brain waves are more receptive to suggestion. We can additionally summon gratitude for the way of being we are moving towards. It may seem counterintuitive to feel gratitude for something we don’t yet have, yet the more we can practice feeling gratitude for something as if it has already manifested, the more we pull it towards us.
Perhaps your goal is around health, you may choose a sankalpa such as, “My body is strong and healthy”, or “My body’s natural state is health and wellbeing”, or “I am already whole and healed”.
Practice without attachment to result
Through sankalpa, we let go of the striving and pushing of a conventional resolution, but this does not mean we cannot utilise effort. Desire alone is not enough to create change.
There exists a degree of persistent effort (known as abhyasa). For example, if we lack the discipline to bring awareness to our sankalpa on a regular basis, the desire to be more patient will likely remain just a wish. We’re not talking about a forcing, pushing kind of effort; it may be as simple as diligently creating the space in your day for a 5-minute conscious breathing practice, creating the opportunity for yourself to walk barefoot on the grass, or to give yourself a foot massage in the evening. These is a degree of effort to help these practices become regular and consistent in your life, but they manifest very differently to the willpower-propelled efforts of results-oriented resolutions.
Similarly, we can draw in help and guidance to learn and grow, but we cannot outsource the work. The effort and responsibility to make a shift in our life will always sit with each one of us.
Each new year brings a raft of commercial enterprise ready to convince you of a personal growth or self-improvement quick-fix. Choose your source of learnings and guidance with deliberate discernment and be willing to create the space in your life to do the work: slow, steady and far from the glow of social media and other external sources of validation. Your character is what you do when nobody is looking.
Gentle practice allows us to balance effort (abhyasa) without attaching to an outcome (vairagya).
If your constitution is typically one of action and striving, it may take more practice to ease back on striving and a focus on results. If your constitution is typically easygoing, it may take more practice to bring about consistency with the effort part of your implementation. We are all different, so just allow your path to be your path as you journey.
“No matter what situation we find ourselves in, we can always set our compass to the highest intentions in the present moment” – Jack Kornfield
Choosing your sankalpa
Below are some ideas of things you may like to let go of, or embrace. Your reflection and self-enquiry will help you think of others too. If one of them leaps out at you, it may help you consider formulating a sankalpa to take forward.
Things you may want to let go of:
Comparison to others
Toxic or unsupportive people
Making yourself smaller for other people’s comfort
Things you may want to embrace:
Communicating your needs
Listening to your body
Listening to your inner voice
Nourishing your inner child with more play and laughter
Learning more about the philosophy side of yoga
Prioritising self-care routines
Opening your heart to new experiences and people
Patience and kindness
It’s never too early or too late
To change your life, change your choices. Recall that you can start any new way of thinking or living right now, with each new breath.
Now pause and take a deep and slow breath…… If you don’t like the thought in your head or would like a different state of being, every moment has the freedom to start afresh and choose again. One of the gifts of being human is that we have evolved to be conscious of our own existence, and aware of our own awareness. We have the privilege of being aware of our own existence, to select the thoughts that are allowed to be in our head, and to choose how we are being. What a magnificent gift – Happy New Year!
Congratulations! You’ve completed your 500-hour Yoga Teacher Training with The Yoga Institute!
Whether you have just recently completed your training, or you completed it a little while ago, take a moment to bathe in the satisfaction of your achievement once more, well done!
In the words of Desikachar “keep the river flowing.” May you maintain the authenticity of the teachings of Krishnamacharya and may you make these teachings relevant and applicable in our modern lives: “Ancient Wisdom Modern Living”
Here we cover some tips for steps to take to get your yoga-teaching career off the ground, and scroll further down for information about further studies.
First Steps After Receiving Your Soft-Copy Certificate
There are 3 important steps you can take now:
1. Find a convenient First Aid course and obtain your First Aid certificate, and
3. Obtain insurance cover from a suitable insurance provider for public liability and professional risk insurance (Yoga Australia members can receive group discounts, or you may find another offering that suits you)
We can’t wait to hear where life takes you now, and we love hearing how our treasured community is going years after their studies.
Not only do we take a great deal of pleasure in staying in touch with our students after your Teacher Training has finished, but we also love sharing students’ stories with the rest of our community. Never underestimate how inspiring, reassuring, relatable and beautiful it is to allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable and share our stories with one another. Everyone’s story can help encourage and embolden others to make a positive shift in their life.
If you would like to guest-author a short article for our blog on your yoga journey, we would be delighted!
You can write an article about 500-1000 words in length that will inspire other people. Here’s some helpful reflections to help get your creative juices flowing:
Your yoga journey (how you found yoga, what was going on for you when when yoga came into your life, any stops and starts and what was the lightbulb moment for you)
What effects yoga has had in your life
What was your Teacher Training experience like (such as challenges, favourite aspects etc)
What you’re up to you now or what you’re working towards now
Would you recommend The Yoga Institute’s Teacher Training Diploma to other people
Anything else about your yoga story you’d like to express
If you prefer to write something briefer, we welcome testimonials from previous students, no matter how long ago you started or finished.
Choosing a teacher training programme can be confusing and potential students love hearing from the people who’ve already walked the path about what it was like.
Feel free to contact us for a chat or send your testimonials and bio-articles through to firstname.lastname@example.org
We’d love to stay in touch and hear how you are doing!
Like to Teach in our Cammeray Studio?
The beautiful studio you know so well at our Cammeray premises is available for hire if you are interested in holding classes, workshops or special events in our lower-north shore space.
Try our introductory offer where, for a series of bookings equivalent to 1-month, you are only charged according to attendance, allowing you time to establish yourself and build up a client base.
We will also publish your class on the online timetable as well as a short bio about you on our Cammeray Yoga website, and you may place flyers at our front door and in the lounge area.
Enjoy coming ‘home’ to where it all started and let us cheer you on!
Giving Back to the Community
You may be interested in community giving by way of:
donating some proceeds of your yoga work, or
donating your time to teach for a not-for-profit charitable organisation such as The Yoga Foundation.
You can see some of our TYI alumni here, and contact The Yoga Foundation here.
Continuing your learning is an important part of your yogic journey, not least for the enrichment of your personal journey and to continue to deepen your understanding and experience of a yogic lifestyle, and to learn how best to care for your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
Being a qualified yoga teacher also brings with it a mantle of responsibility to continue learning so that we may best support our clients. This is referred to as Continuing Education (CE) or Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
All Yoga Australia members must earn at CPD points each year of membership to continue to be listed as a Registered Yoga Teacher. Visit the Yoga Australia website to learn more about annual requirements.
Continuing Education courses will display CPD points offered per course and can be done to satisfy annual CPD requirements or simply for the love of learning.
Some further studies will even enable you to add another qualification to your credentials, such as being able to call yourself a Yoga Therapist.
Yoga Therapy – An Additional QualificationOpening Even More Doors
We encourage you to start teaching after the completion of your Teacher Training Diploma. At some stage you may feel drawn to the idea of undertaking more studies in order to upgrade your qualifications. Perhaps you find yourself interested in the expanding and exciting career path of yoga therapy.
All yoga has the potential to be healing. Empowering someone with a persistent or specific condition or illness towards their own healing journey means that a one-on-one approach can work superbly well and some people mistake this to be the delineation between the work of a yoga teacher and a yoga therapist, but yoga therapists can also with groups of people.
The true distinction between the term yoga teacher and yoga therapist is simply to recognise significant extra experience and formal training.
A yoga therapist’s knowledge, approach and skills are based on source yoga teachings and yogic principles, integrated with biomedical and current evidence-based western medicine. Yoga Therapy is a comprehensive, holistic approach that considers all aspects of a person – to include body, breath, mind and lifestyle.
As yoga practitioners, many of us have felt yoga’s benefits firsthand when it comes to our mental wellbeing, even if only to soothe our mood on a stressful day or feel a little brighter on an uphill day. Yoga is ultimately about developing our capacity to change the way our minds work, where our typically easily-distracted mind is neither in a state of agitation (kșipta) or a state of depression (mūdah), so it is little wonder that yoga practitioners can experience glimpses of yoga’s potential for mental wellbeing.
You may need no convincing when it comes to yoga’s therapeutic capacity, but you may be curious about how it actually works.
Mental wellbeing – where yoga meets science
While the modern western paradigm may define mental health as a simple absence of mental illness, the yogic view of mental health is more expansive, including the mind at its optimal functioning, clear, calm, focussed and self-aware.
In yoga, mental health is not simply the absence of a condition. Nor is it the absence of a particular emotion such as sadness, as feelings like sadness can be an appropriate response to some circumstances. We can therefore, stay away from labels such as ‘positive emotion’; and ‘negative emotion’. The emotion itself is not the problem; problems arise when we don’t know what to do with a certain emotion. That is, it is how well we deal with the circumstances and our emotions that describes our mental wellbeing.
Resilience then, does not mean we wont be visited by tough emotions in life, rather it refers to our ability to get back to a state of balance and steadiness (equanimity).
It is satisfying to see an ever-bourgeoning pool of scientific studies in reputed peer-reviewed scientific journals, providing mounting evidence for yoga’s evidence-based efficacy to assist treatment of multiple type of mental health issues, including serious and chronic issues.
How does yoga help mental wellbeing?
We often hear about certain poses for depression or breathwork for anxiety and such, but the reality is there is no magic pose or breath practice that suits any one condition.
An integrated yoga practice is a holistic system, capable of engaging with thoughts, feelings and actions at once, that does not see to treat the ‘illness’, it simply serves the person as a whole.
“As a yoga therapist, focus on increasing people’s quality of life, not on curing diseases” – T.K.V Desikachar
The connected nature of an integrated yogic practice
It may be tempting to try and separate yoga’s ingredient components to their effects and benefits – “asana provides this”, “meditation provides that”, and so on – and while we can do this to an extent, it’s useful to remember that the 8 limbs of yoga are not a disparate collection of steps, done one after the other in isolation, but elements that will overlap and bleed into one another. Separating the concepts reduces their power.
For example, if we liken the physical postures of yoga (asana) to simple exercise, we could well say that this portion of the practice provides for release of tension in muscles, a release of feelgood endorphin hormones, and even improved satisfaction with body image. All true.
But when we practice asana, we can be drawing from the banquet of yogic elements: we link our movements with conscious breath, we use mindfulness and concentration to notice sensations in our body. We may be incorporating chanting and mantra. We practise moderation each time we make a conscious choice not to over-extend, and non-judgement and kindness for ourselves when we notice a self-critical thought arise and let it subside…..and so on.
When we meditate, our chosen pose is a form of asana, and we may combine our meditation with conscious breathing or mudras. And once again we are using awareness to practice noticing the lapses in our concentration.
In a yogic lifestyle, the eight limbs of yoga are working together to regulate the turbulence of the mind.
Yoga, therefore, can provide that nice instantaneous sense of wellbeing we all enjoy immediately after a class, but when we allow the component ingredients of yoga to work together over a regular practice, a powerful and more lasting effect is emerging.
We are not just benefitting from a short-term ‘relief’ from distress, but are actually changing our brain and way of being.
The science of our yoga practice
It was once believed in western thought that the brain was not capable of change after childhood, that it became fixed. Today we know the opposite is true. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change its structure, chemistry and function. The ancient yogis knew this.
A quick biology lesson on neuroplasticity
Cells are the biological building blocks of life. There are hundreds of different types of cells in the human body. Our brain and spinal cord comprise that marvellous control centre known as the nervous system, and the chief nerve types in the nervous system are neurons and glia. Neurons are information messengers, all of our actions, thoughts and emotions are signalled by neurons.
Every time you think, feel or do something, neural pathways in your brain light up as cells communicate with one another along network tracks, like train tracks or a road. You may hear the term ‘synaptic response’: The synapse is tiny space between cells where chemical or electrical messages flow from one cell to the next.
If our way of thinking, feeling or doing is well-established, we call it a habit or a pattern (or in yoga, we refer to ‘samskaras’). The brain loves to rely on habits and patterns, because they consume less glucose (energy) than making conscious choices, thereby conserving glucose in case you need to fight or flee from a threat!
The neural pathway is carved deeper and deeper each time it is travelled, making it easier and easier for our brain to travel that road… regardless of whether that habit serves us well or not.
But when we choose a different emotion, learn something new (including observing our yoga practice with a curious beginner’s mind) or think about something from a different perspective, the communications signals between cells starts to travel in a new road.
The more we practice this new way of thinking, feeling or doing, this new road is carved deeper and becomes more second nature and therefore easier and easier to maintain. The old roadway weakens with reduced use. Habits are therefore, not necessairly a bad thing, we can make them work for us.
What else is going on with sustained yoga practice?
The integrated yoga practice is capable of:
Naturally producing chemicals similar to what pharmaceutical companies aim to reproduce in a laboratory
serotonin – stabilising mood and helping digestive processes and sleep (acting as a precursor to the sleep hormone melatonin).
dopamine – also playing a role in the above-described functions, as well as memory, learning and motor function.
GABA (Gamma aminobutryic acid) – reduces activity in the nervous system, producing a calming effect.
Making our brain waves (your brain’s electrical activity) more coherent The typical neuron looks like a little hairy tadpole, its furry-looking tentacles (dendrites) receiving information from other cells, and its tail (axon) transmitting signals outwardly. They transmit at the same strength and speed, but what can vary is the frequency of these electrical pulses. Neurons tend to like to sychronise their electrical firing in rhythmic bursts, like waves.
Brain waves are measured in Hertz, the cycles per second. You may have heard of beta, alpha or delta waves. Delta waves (1-4Hz) are common in dreamless sleep. A dominance of delta waves in an awake state can make concentration difficult. Beta (12-38Hz) is our normal waking state when our attention is directed towards an activity or task, but we don’t want our brains still processing information at a high level when we’re trying to sleep. Alpha waves (8-12Hz) is like our reflective state, awake but at rest. Theta waves (4-8Hz) are associated with daydreaming and sleep.
Meditation in particular, enables us to move to lower frequency, giving rise to the opportunity to respond rather than react. Some seasoned meditators display gamma waves, even when not meditating.
Increasing grey matter in the Hippocampus and frontal sections of our brain Grey matter is associated with learning, memory and thought processes, while our frontal lobe is responsible for decision-making and self-control.
Reducing grey matter reduction in the amygdala (fear centre) The amygdala is what drives our fight or flight response. When in operation, the healing and rejuvenation of the rest and digest response cannot function. Yoga placates the amygdala’s activity.
In this way, we observe how yoga practice can result in improved concentration and self-awareness, better impulse control and mood regulation, the ability to respond to circumstances rather than reacting, increasing patience and tolerance (reducing the power of external stressors), and the release of long-held held-emotions and patterns.
Yoga is increasingly coupled with allied health and found in mainstream medical environments as evidence of its effect on mental wellbeing becomes irrefutable.
The scale of global mental health problems
There are many different types of mental health issues, such as depression, dementia, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), eating or substance abuse disorders, and anxiety (which includes things like phobias, social and panic disorders and generalised anxiety disorders).
Across the spectrum of problems, it is estimated that over a billion people globally are impacted by a mental health issue. In Australia, it is estimated that half of Australian adults will be impacted by a mental health issue at some point.
Advocates for government investment into mental health point to the estimated US$2.5 trillion lost to the global economy each year by poor mental health. Despite the magnitude of the statistics and the strong economic case for investment in mental health, a report collated by the World health Organization in 2017 concluded that member nations were spending less than 2% of their annual budgets on mental health.
Globally, many people with mental health issues are unable to access mainstream treatments for mental health issues, or are unsuited to use them because of possible adverse side effects.
Yoga is held to be a safe and relatively accessible treatment, with efforts towards expanding yoga’s accessibility (such as The Yoga Foundation) helping to stretch the reach even further.
The pandemic’s effects on global mental health
The full effects of the pandemic’s impact on our mental wellbeing is likely yet to be fully-felt, let alone fully-measured. Yet logic tells us that the distress caused by loneliness, isolation, loss of income, fear of job-loss, lack of human touch, fear of infection, and bereavement will all take a heavy toll on human health. Already psychologists and therapists are reporting a rise in the occurrence of anxiety and depression.
The pandemic will likely elevate mental health on the list of global health priorities if we are to avoid a knock-on crisis.
Written by Nicole Small, The Yoga Institute
Don’t struggle alone: Contact Lifeline or your primary healthcare practitioner if you need help
Experience yoga: View our Cammeray Yoga timetable here (when we can’t hold in-studio classes, you can still find classes online)
Yoga Therapy faculty member, Dr Shaun Matthews, shares his soothing and nourishing recipe for Indian lentil soup, a comforting and satisfying dish for cool weather, but still light and gentle on digestion.
What’s so good about Dahl?
In the ayurvedic tradition, food can not only be healing for the body, but also for the mind and consciousness. Once legumes such as lentils are cooked in a recipe such as dahl, they become highly suitable for anyone, of all body constitutions, and have a lovely sattvic effect, meaning it can bring about qualities such as calmness, mental clarity and balance. Sattvic foods help bolster our ojas (a vital essence aiding immunity, happiness and longevity).
In the western scientific school of thought, dishes such as dahl offer a power-packed infusion of important nutrients, such as protein, fibre and minerals. Legumes such as lentil and mung beans contain high levels of protective polyphenol compounds that have an anti-inflammatory effect, aiding a wide range of conditions and protecting against illness.
The addition of the culinary herbs brings their own powerful contribution to health and wellbeing.
Making Dahl at home – recipe from Dr Shaun Matthews
1 cup mung dahl or red lentils
3-4 cups water
1 teaspoons turmeric powder (which Dr Matthews calls the ‘medicine cabinet in a jar’!)
2 tablespoons ghee or favourite oil
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 bunch English spinach, finely chopped
1 pinch asafoetida
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground back pepper
1 green chilli (optional, and strong Pitta constitutions should refrain from using chilli)
1 lemon, juiced
Celtic sea salt
1/2 bunch of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
Wash lentils well, at least 3 times. Add water until soup is as thick as you like it. Bring the mixture to a boil in a large saucepan. Scoop off froth and discard.
Add 1 tablespoon of the ghee , ginger, and turmeric powder and simmer over low to medium heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk the mixture to make a smooth, thick soup. Stir in spinach and keep on gentle heat.
Heat the remaining ghee in a small frying pan or spice skillet. Add asafoetida when the ghee is hot, then the mustard seeds until they pop, followed by the cumin and pepper. Carefully pour the mixture directly into the dahl and mix well.
Stir in the lemon juice and salt and garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Cover and allow to settle for 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!
Recipe reproduced with kind permission from Dr Shaun Matthews, from his book The Art of Balanced Living. The expertise of Dr Matthews’ 3 decades of Western medicine and Ayurvedic practice underpins this beautiful and easy-read, making the principles of improving one’s own health through ayurvedic lifestyle changes, accessible to anyone.
Dr Matthews is part of our teaching faculty on our 650-hour Yoga Therapy diploma.
Presented by: Dr Jackie Bailey, Psychologist & Yoga Teacher
Time: 1:30pm – 4:30pm
CE Points: 3 hours
What you will learn:
What is Neurodiversity? – Normalising it as variations of the human brain – Identifying the strengths of neurodiversity
What is autism? – High & low functioning – Criteria needed for diagnosis – How it is assessed/common professionals involved – Effective communication strategies – Clinical implications & what to consider when designing a yoga therapy plan for a client with autism – Sensory needs – Need for routine and predictability – Case study example & hands-on practice in class
What is ADHD? – Criteria needed for diagnosis – How it is assessed/common professionals involved – Clinical implications & what to consider when designing a yoga therapy plan for a client with ADHD – Executive functioning challenges (breaking tasks down, attention, focus) – Case study example & hands-on practice in class
Cost: For 1 workshop: $110, or For both workshops: $195
Bookings to join us live close 6pm Friday 23rd July!
Stay stimulated during lockdown and join us for these fascinating topics.
A 3-part skill development workshop for yoga teachers, yoga therapists, and for any yoga enthusiast with pranayama experience, to deepen their practice.
Based on the teachings of Sri Krishnamacharya, this specialist course takes place over 3 half-day ONLINE SESSIONS to build on introductory breathwork and what you may have come across in yoga classes or teacher training.
No one needs to be told that we need to breathe. We just do it, and survive! Most of the time, it is done without any conscious awareness. And, unconscious habits and patterns soon develop.
However, few of us are taught how to breathe well, and how to change the unconscious habits and patterns of our breathing, to explore or unlock the power of more conscious breathing. Generally, this does not happen naturally, just by itself.
Basic breath awareness is a great start. And then, teaching our system ways to breathe more functionally, is a great improvement. Classical yoga teachings often warn about pranayama practices, without the guidance of a knowledgable and experienced teacher. Here’s your chance!
“The greatest indicator of life span wasn’t genetics, diet, or the amount of daily exercise, as many had suspected. Itwas lung capacity.”– James Nestor, author of Breath: The New Science & Art of Breathing.
What you will learn
The biomechanics and physiology of pranayama
A range of yogic breathing techniques (some rarely experienced or taught in yoga classes)
Conscious breathing practices than can fundamentally change the habit and patterns of our breathing, including respiratory rates and mind states
The benefits and contraindications of pranayama and the safe and effective integration of pranayama with bandha, mudra, kriya and relaxation.
Is this training for me?
This specialist training is part of our Graduate Yoga Therapy Training program. It is open to and suitable for:
Any existing yoga teacher or yoga therapist keen to study with Michael de Manincor, expand their knowledge and gain 14 points towards their Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
Any enthusiastic yoga practitioner with some experience in yogic breathwork techniques.
Graduates of The Yoga Institute’s 500-hour Yoga Teacher Training Diploma who would like to pursue the full Yoga Therapy Training Diploma are required to complete this module
There are no pre-requisites to enjoy this course, but it is beneficial if people have a consistent yoga practice and have had prior experience with various pranayama techniques.
Plus, this training is 100% online, meaning you can do it from anywhere.
Dates don’t suit? These webinars are recorded so you can even do this course self-paced in your own time!
Details and Bookings
Dates & Times: New online workshop dates coming soon – subscribe to our newsletters here
Training Delivery: ONLINE (via Zoom) Facilitator: Michael de Manincor Cost: $330 (+ 10% GST)
Current and past students of The Yoga Institute will have the Advanced Pranayama course added to their profile on our online learning portal, Teachable. Students new to The Yoga Institute will be granted access to our online learning portal where videos and other resources are housed. And we’re here to help you at any step of the way.
There is no compulsory textbook for Advanced Pranayama, though we highly recommend The Heart of Yoga by TKV Desikachar (readily available through online booksellers) as a wonderful companion text.
This specialist training is part of our Graduate Yoga Therapy Training program and will be taught by founder and director of The Yoga Institute, Dr Michael de Manincor, who has been practicing, teaching and doing research in pranayama practices for more than 30 years.
Under the personal tutelage of Mr TKV Desikachar, Michael embodies an authentic approach to yoga, following the traditions of Desikachar’s father, T Krishnamacharya (also widely referred to as the father of modern yoga).
Passionate about how yoga can improve the quality of life for anyone, Michael has a special interest in how integrated yogic techniques can offer people mental health and contentment.
“A heartfelt thank you. Michael, you are wise, kind, knowledgeable, mischievous and above all an inspiration! Thank you for all you have taught me.”
“I love learning through the Institute and with Michael. The learning is comprehensive, has depth, is practical and it keeps going well beyond the actual course” – Jules
“The Yoga Institute is making a wonderfully positive impact on the yoga world here is Sydney and nationwide. I really can’t praise the school highly enough and don’t have the superlatives in my vocabulary to do it justice.”– Billy
“I am very grateful to Michael for being such a knowledgeable, caring, and inspiring teacher and mentor” – MR
“I found as we re-visited the study of pranayama and asana I became more confident with using these tools in my own practice and in guiding others in their practice”– Tina
DISCOVER THE POWER OF THE BREATH TO LIVE A HEALTHIER, HAPPIER, LONGER LIFE
The Yoga Institute acknowledges the Cammeraygal people of the Eora nation as the Traditional Custodians of the land on which our centre is based. We also acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia, on which our community live, learn and practice. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.