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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

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Who was Tirumalai Krishnamacharya?

Widely referred to as the father of modern yoga and the teacher of teachers, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, is the source of the teachings that we share here at The Yoga Institute. 

An extraordinary individual, whose entire lifespan was dedicated to the study, practice and sharing of yoga, and healing others. With multiple degrees in subjects including the Vedas, Ayurveda, Astrology, Indian Philosophy and Yoga, Krishamacharaya was an avid scholar.  He was also a family man, a teacher, healer and mentor.

The Most Famous Yogi You May Not Know Anything About

An ancient system, yoga’s development can be traced back thousands of years, with key texts and oral tradition providing a precious, and often fragile, gossamer-like thread to the present day.   Its practices and processes were not linear, with varying focus and credence given to particular aspects over the millennia, and the emergence of distinct branches of yoga, including Hatha yoga (most associated with the use of the physical body in the journey towards spiritual liberation).

The political landscape in India under colonial rule, however, saw Hatha yoga fall into decline, at peril of disappearing. A small group of individuals in the 19th century, keen to see the heritage of Hatha Yoga endure, worked hard to maintain a fragile unbroken thread of knowledge continue to be passed down.

Krishnamacharya was born in southern India in 1888, and began learning and mastering the Vedic darsanas (philosophies) as a youth, and later going on to more study including Ayurveda, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the Sanskrit language.

Physical postures (asanas) are scarcely referenced in yogic texts prior to the modern age.   Krishnamacharya spearheaded their elevation and refinement, and developed new asanas and techniques, including precise and therapeutic ways they could be sequenced. A key contributor to the survival of Hatha Yoga to the present-day, he left an evolutionary footprint on postural yoga, cementing the concept of an intelligent and sequential flow of movements, and linking movement to breath.

Krishnamacharya ‘s legacy goes well beyond that of elevating physical movement and breath, however. His expertise on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras and the Sanskrit language, also helped challenge the way the Sutras were being taught. Knowing that the transmission of the Sutras relied on processes of translation and interpretation, he offered slightly nuanced ways of unpacking each sutra, based on his deep understanding of the Sanskrit language. For example, it’s common to see the translation of the second sutra as, “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind”, and while this is not incorrect (indeed, it’s a tidy and readily-accessible way for people to learn that yoga is about more than physical postures), Krishnamacharya went deeper into the complex nature of each Sanskrit word chosen in the original text; he offered up an interpretation for the second sutra that went beyond calming an easily distracted mind, that Yoga was about developing the power of the mind, to bring select thoughts together in a clear, and laser-focussed way, helping the mind be capable of extraordinary (perhaps even supernatural) abilities.

Krishnamacharya celebrated the unique path and abilities of each individual, and at the core of his philosophy was for yoga teachers to teach what was authentically inside of them, customised to the needs and situation of the individual.  This approach to teaching is called viniyogathe appropriate application of yoga based on the needs of the individual and the situation.

Despite his dedication to academia and study, Krishnamacharya was keen for people to balance dedication to knowledge, with commitment to daily practice and self-observation. He taught that yoga was to be an experiential learning, that students would learn the teachings and apply them in their real lives. He wanted the wisdom to be passed down by people who had accumulated lived experiences of the teachings, by those who mindfully observed how elements of the teachings showed up in their own daily lives.

Passionate about sharing his knowledge, he wrote several books (including the Yoga Makaranda in 1934) but always attributed the wisdom to the divine and to his own teachers.   This resistance to take major credit for his own innovations and work – coupled with his lack of international travel and limited English language – meant that his role in helping yoga reach millions of people around the world, was not widely understood or valued until the latter part of the 20th century.

It was only in the latter part of the 20th century when his own students picked up the mantle to share yoga more broadly, their travels, teachings and writings captured the imagination of the world and inadvertently catapulted Krishnamacharya’s students to fame in their own lifetimes. These include Patabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar, Indra Devi, Srivatsa Ramaswami, A.G. Mohan, and his two sons, T.K. Sribhanshyam  and T.K.V Desikachar (the latter being a teacher and mentor to our founder and director, Michael de Manincor). 

At age 96 after fracturing his hip, Krishnamacharya declined surgery and designed a practice for himself to do while recovering in bed. He continued to teach and enjoyed sharp cognitive health right up to his passing at age 101, in 1989. He dedicated his entire life to learning, and then sharing his knowledge, and using his yogic and ayurvedic techniques to heal people.

Honouring Our Lineage

Yoga has a long and distinguished history. Even in ancient times, yoga evolved according to time, place, needs and preferences of the people, a major reason why we there are various branches of yoga (for example, some feel more drawn to a devotional type of practice, others more so to a scholarly approach). Just as there are various branches of yoga, there are multiple lineages within branches and and it is natural that branches, lineages and traditions will overlap as much as they differ.

Honouring a lineage is not like joining a club, nor does it disregard the many other key figures in the modern history of yoga, or indeed anyone’s right to resonate with wisdom teachings from any source. Such thoughts can only lead to separation and the human tendency towards judgement, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘my way’ and ‘your way’. These are not helpful thoughts.

Krishnamacharya himself discouraged the tendency to want to separate categories of yoga. He described all branches of yoga as connected pieces of the same picture, they were all part of an integrated and holistic approach to wellbeing, and indeed to spiritual liberation, stating, “There is no jnana yoga without bhakti yoga. There is no bhakti yoga without hatha yoga”.

He and his son TKV Desikachar even leaned away from the over-use of the teaching approach terminology ‘Viniyoga’, in recognition that labels can lead to separation and judgement, and preferred to view it all as simply Yoga.

We offer acknowledgement and gratitude for Krishnamacharya’s life’s works and his synthesis of so much wisdom for the betterment of humankind.

We acknowledge, honour and give thanks to those who came before, who helped to pass the wisdom of yoga on. By honouring those who came before us, we can better be a link in an unbroken chain of yoga’s rich and healing traditions. Honouring lineage connects our practice to something greater than ourselves, strengthens our ‘gratitude muscle’, and helps protect us from the hazards of over-associating with individual ego. Many believe taking time to honour lineage is also an helpful way to minimise yoga being projected and taught as little more than an exercise class.

In our classroom here at The Yoga Institute, we like to commence lessons with invocations and chants that celebrate the coming-together of student and teacher, and acknowledge Krishnamacharya and his spiritual & intellectual forebears. Additionally, each year we honour this extraordinary man on his birthday on 18th November.

Read more about our lineage and traditions here

You can watch Krishnamacharya practising various yoga techniques here and here.

Written by Nicole Small, The Yoga Institute

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Podcast: The Nature of Consciousness

Our own Michael de Manincor joins the chat on ‘Live Like You Love Yourself’ on the topic of consciousness.

The Yoga Institute’s founder and director Michael de Manincor, recently spoke with podcast host Chara Caruthers, and guest co-host (and TYI faculty member) Lucy Karnani for the podcast, Live Like You Love Yourself. 

The trio’s discussion makes a profoundly deep topic accessible and entertaining.

Pondering whether consciousness is even knowable, the discussion also explores whether the simple act of discussing it, helps each of us move closer to understanding what this meaningful topic means to us personally, allowing the listener to start their own contemplation, to see what resonates.

The trio look at the minefield of language: what do we mean by mind, let alone consciousness, and to unpack this, we go back further to what does body even mean. Some believe that the collection of functions and processes by which we perceive the world, perceive ourselves and navigate the embodied experience of life, is the definition of consciousness, but what then of the processes of which we aren’t aware, or cannot be aware of?

Do the neurosciences that on the one hand help verify so many yogic teachings, also limit our understanding by over-focussing on the brain‘s role as part of mind? Michael posits that mind is a whole body experience, including the heart, the gut, the nervous system, indeed incorporating every system, organ and cell in the body.

Listen in for the discussion around what terms like self-realisation and enlightenment relate to consciousness; as our yoga practice leads us to enquire about our true self and the nature of our existence, we are invited to explore letting go of the sense of self, who we think we are. The prospect of dissolving our attachment to who we think we are is understandably daunting, even terrifying – to truly let go of all the things we have spent carefully constructing as our sense of identity. As our yoga practice draws us closer to this stage, however, the sublime paradox exists that it is the self, the “me” that wants to know self-realisation, that wants enlightenment.

Enjoy this playful and candid exploration of life’s biggest questions!


Keen to take your yoga to a deeper level?

Our study options aren’t just for aspiring teachers, but for anyone who wants to deepen their personal practice or simply gain a better understanding of the breadth and depth of the life-affirming practice of yoga. All of our courses are birthed from the teachings of yogic philosophy, yogic psychology, to aid in all aspects of wellbeing.

Interested in our 500-Hour Teacher Training Course?
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Prefer to start with a smaller commitment?

Learn more about our 100-Hour Yoga Studies course

Fascinated by yogic philosophy?

Our popular 6-week Sutras Studies courses may be currently on hiatus but will be back!

Take a yoga class with our faculty members

Members of our teacher-training faculty give a yoga class on Saturday mornings at 7:30am.

Read more here and see our Cammeray Yoga schedule for this and other yoga classes you can sample and enjoy!

Get in touch:
Email: teachertraining@yogainstitute.com.au

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What Does Philosophy Have To Do With Yoga?

Many people approach the start of a deep dive into yoga study with an impression or inkling that there’s some kind of philosophy attached to yoga – usually from brief references made during yoga classes.  But until you actually study yoga in a comprehensive way and see how all the various parts fit together, you may well be wondering, “What on earth does philosophy have to do with my yoga and why should I bother to learn it?”

Many of us will be familiar with yoga classes featuring snippets of wisdom amongst the asana and breathing practices.  Perhaps you were invited to ponder how pushing yourself beyond your physical limits or paying attention to your own negative self-talk were contrary to the yogic principle of ‘do no harm’.  Maybe you were invited to contemplate ‘surrendering’ into a particular posture.

For yoga enthusiasts yet to undertake any formal yoga studies, it may be difficult to see the big picture that your yoga teacher is so keen to reveal to you and why.

Even for very experienced yoga teachers, weaving the wisdom of yogic philosophy into mainstream classes can be a challenge.  Yoga teachers are attempting to meet people where they are at, and for many, this is a patient and loving journey to helping people simply see that yoga is about far more than just physical postures.

This can be a slow transition. Yoga teachers are very aware that many of their students have turned up for a physical workout, and all the specific benefits that go along with physical prowess.  They know that if they talk about philosophy for 15 minutes, there’s a risk this may be too-much, too-soon for some people who then don’t return, and a bridge may be lost.   So yoga teachers tend to take a gently-gently approach, dropping little breadcrumb pearls here and there, to gently move people towards an interest in observing their own thought patterns and way of being.

What yoga is really all about

What your yoga teachers have been doing is fostering opportunities for you to change the way you think.

Because, let’s face it, on some level you already know that once you’ve nailed the perfect chaturanga/headstand/splits etc, the satisfaction will wear off and there will be something else to replace this desire, and we’re suddenly back to a state of striving with feelings of dissatisfaction or lack. 

“You know what happened when I finally got handstand lotus in the centre of the room?


…..I still had to go home and wash the dishes” (Judith Hansen Lasater)

This snapback sensation of dissatisfaction is true of any goal or acquisition that is external to us, where we place our ‘happiness’ in the hands of things are temporary by nature (such as physical prowess…one day we will age), or where we over-identify with goals that feed our ego.  Feeding our ego doesn’t satiate its appetite; to the contrary, being fed makes ego’s appetite stronger, so it needs to be fed over and over and over, more and more. The result is that we are constantly chasing something outside of ourselves to feel better. 

But we need not live this way, with this restless mind, craving and heartache.

What if being human came with an instruction manual that taught us possible ways to free ourselves from suffering? 

‘Enlightenment’ is a big concept – worthy of its own libraries of content – and can be tricky to wrap our heads around.   Some people prefer to see themselves simply on a journey towards sustainable calm and contentment.

A sense of sustainable contentment and peace comes from within, so it is changing the way the mind works that forms the foundation of yoga.  

We can use physical movements to work through the body – being the most accessible and relatable layer of our selves – but the real shift happens in our mind and emotions.

Here at The Yoga Institute, we often use the terms yoga philosophy and yoga psychology interchangeably, as we guide people to see the influence these learnings can have on mental and emotional health.

Through yoga we learn to observe ourselves as if observing a third person. This self-awareness gives us the freedom of clear-thought, so we can make conscious choices in our lives and not suffer unnecessarily at the constructs of our own minds.

For example, we’re all familiar with the little inner-critic that says things like, “You’re not good enough”, “They don’t really like you”, “That only works for other people, you can’t do it”, “You’ll never heal”, “Life will always be hard”……. Yes, that voice, we all have one! We could all benefit from being present enough to choose not to believe every thought that pops into our heads, right?

Just because a thought arises, doesn’t make it true. You are not your thoughts. This is the gift of yoga.

But we can’t exercise our right to choose which thoughts to believe, if we don’t actively practice monitoring and observing our thoughts. Without self-awareness, our thoughts will take us down some deep and self-limiting rabbit-holes faster than you can say “Yoga pants”! It is the practice of observing ourselves that allows us to select which thoughts we will engage with or entertain. We do not need to be passengers.

This is why here at The Yoga Institute, we often say, “Anything you do with attention to how you feel and how you are being, is doing yoga”. Every moment of the day is an opportunity to observe how we are being.

The human instruction manual

Yogic philosophy is often referred to as a blueprint for how to live well, how to how to live happy, healthy and peaceful lives with the double-edged gift of being born into the human condition.  

Our true, unchanging self  – with its calm, loving and peaceful ways –  is already there and has always been there; our work in as humans is to learn how to remove the mental blockades we’ve made for ourselves to re-connect with our real selves.

“Whaaaat?”    Ok, let’s re-phrase this a bit more plainly for the modern era:

Put another way, Yoga is ultimately about mental and emotional health, with an array of wonderful physical side-benefits.

People who have experienced the benefits that yoga can bring – benefits that go well beyond the physical level, such as a sense of calm or greater patience – make ideal candidates for teacher training.  Their own lived experiences tell them that yoga isn’t just an exercise class, that there’s something more here.

Yoga, spirituality, religion – how do they all fit together?

It’s important to note that Yoga is not a religion, as can on occasion be misinterpreted. With consciousness, humans sought to find practical answers to life’s most profound questions. History shows us this quest can lead to the existence of religions, but there is an important distinction between philosophy and faith.

In yoga we contemplate the concept of ‘self’ – that unchanging part of ourselves, that part of ourselves that knows that despite how our physical appearance changes over a lifetime, and despite how much our opinions, attitudes, likes, dislikes and so on are all subject to change over our lifetimes, we recognise it’s still us inside, there’s something unchanging within us – and this can feel quite spiritual for some people.

Nothing in the study of yogic philosophy asks for you to accept or believe anything on face value. We discuss at length the lessons Patanjali may have been endeavouring to impart, looking at multiple interpretations and translations. Your part is simply to be curious, see what resonates for you, and to see how things may show up in your own life.

Yoga does not seek to override or supplant anyone’s existing religion. It can co-exist and even enrich people’s faith systems. Yoga does not tell us what to think, it teaches us how to think with greater clarity.

To connect with one’s unchanging self is to simultaneously witness that we are also connected to – and part of – something greater than ourselves. This process and experience is not restricted to people who align with a particular earthly set of beliefs, it is the birthright and potential of every single human being, irrespective of the presence of a religion or not.

A lot can be said about what is yoga. One meaning of the word yoga is to tie the threads of the mind together. Yoga is not a religion. But a religious person can use yoga. Whether you’re a religious person on non-religious person, you need a mind to understand life….. Yoga is not a religion, it is a discipline.” (TKV Desikachar)

Sources of Yogic Philosophy

You may on occasion hear of ancient texts such as The Bhagavad Gita, Patanaljali’s Yoga Sutras, and their older forebears, The Upanishads and The Vedas.

The Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras are often seen as the distillation of the existential wisdom that had – up to their creation – been passed down in either in oral tradition or in extensive volumes of literature. 

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras

For thousands of years before Patanjali write the Yoga Sutras, humans had been contemplating who was the observer of their own actions, reflecting on the concept of ‘self’. 

As you may well expect, a comprehensive instruction manual for how to live with the human condition, may get very long and complex after all those years.

Patanjali sought to condense the recipe for freedom from suffering into a more succinct text, elegant and almost poetry-like.  Each sutra is about one sentence long (sometimes two or three), and totalling less than 200 all together.   

The resulting text, consisting of 4 main chapters, was abundantly more portable and easy to reference.  However, so much depth has been packed into the careful and deliberate choice of words in each sutra, that its richness is best revealed with the help of someone to guide us and help us unpack each sutra and guide us around how we can observe this for ourselves in our real life.  

The 8 Limbs of Yoga are perhaps the best known section of the Sutras, including ‘codes of conduct’ referred to as Yamas and Niyamas.   Books and books can be written on each sub-topic and the sub-topics under that, and so on.  However, the 8 Limbs are only a comparatively small piece of the broader wisdom on offer.   

With the help of an experienced guide to unravel the ancient wisdom, and the encouragement to then notice these aspects showing up in our lives and to experience their teachings beyond their academic contemplation, well, this is when aha! moments happen.    And the seeds of transformation start to grow and bear fruit. 

Why we place so much importance on yogic philosophy

Our mission is to help people deepen their love and understanding of yoga, and to help people share the healing power of yoga.  Particularly for those people who feel drawn to learn how to teach yoga to other people, there is a significant mantle of responsibility.   

At The Yoga Institute, we dedicate a lot of time exploring yogic philosophy and helping people see the mind-body-spirit connection.

Having a suitable guide, plus the time and spaciousness to allow aha! moments to occur is critical to quality yoga training, so that you may in turn guide other people towards their own shifts and transformation. 

As people grow and change with their yoga journeys, they not only become calmer, more resilient to change and stressors, with a greater sense of wellbeing and contentment, they love and accept themselves better. They then go on to foster better and more caring relationships with others, and to be more responsible custodians of the planet.

Learning and living yogic philosophy helped former student Natalie in her own life, as well as how she connected to others as a teacher.  Read more here.

When we can love and accept ourselves, that peace will radiate outwards to others.

Yoga: making the world a better place, one person at a time!

Written by Nicole Small, The Yoga Institute

Keen to take your personal yoga practice to a deeper level?

Our study options aren’t just for aspiring teachers, but for anyone who wants to deepen their personal practice or simply gain a better understanding of the breadth and depth of the life-affirming practice of yoga.

Interested in our 500-Hour Teacher Training Course?
Get course prospectus
Join our next information session

Prefer to start with a smaller commitment?

Learn more about our 100-Hour Yoga Studies course

Get in touch:
Email: teachertraining@yogainstitute.com.au

Join us, together we will grow, learn and inspire.

Graduate Story: Stephanie Musgrave – Graduated 2019

Peeling back the curtain on the practice of Yoga

Written by graduate of the 500-hour Teacher Training Diploma, Stephanie Musgrave

Steph’s Yoga Journey

I came to Yoga while working in a fast-paced corporate environment and immediately fell in love with the stress release that my daily asana practice at a local gym gave me.

After 7 years of regular practice, I was really interested in learning more so I decided I wanted to become a teacher to hopefully share the benefits that I had received with others. I definitely was obsessed with mastering more challenging poses, and had a misconception that a Yoga teacher should be able to hold handstands, headstands etc and generally have an aura of mystery around them.

I laugh now as I was well and truly unconsciously incompetent in my knowledge of what a teacher could be (hint, it’s a lot more and deeper than this!) and it’s thanks to the institute that I was able to peel back the curtain on the beautiful practice of Yoga.

Why The Yoga Institute

You never forget a great teacher right? I had developed a habit of testing out every Yoga studio I came across and had experienced a few amazing teachers who were extremely knowledgeable, confident and most importantly, kind. After chatting with them they had one thing in common, they had done their training with the Institute.

I had also looked into a few other courses offered in Australia but the Yoga Institute really stood out amongst the pack as it seemed to offer the most extensive training on both a practical and theoretical level and also didn’t portray the perfect “instragrammable” yoga bodies in their marketing. To me this suggested a deeper level of course on offer. 

During my year of training, my whole perception of Yoga completely changed: it went from viewing Yoga as a physical act with a bit of breathing thrown in, to understanding that it is a rich philosophy steeped in history and a way of life that can set people on a path to have a more stable and calmer mind through a number of tools, not just asana. Through studying the Yoga Sutras, and developing a daily meditation practice, I was able to become a much less anxious person and release unrealistic expectations of myself in life and misconceptions of what a Yoga teacher should be. After teaching in the real world, these realisations would be far more beneficial to my students than being able to fold myself into a pretzel.

After The Yoga Institute

The course brought many unexpected joys; like making lasting friendships, tools for pregnancy and motherhood, and giving me the confidence to go out and teach!

After graduating, I set up a little home studio in a barn where I was living in Glenorie, and was ecstatic every Sunday when people from 21 years of age to 65 showed up on my door for class. It was the Yoga Institute’s focus on experienced-based learning and adapting classes to all individuals that enabled me to achieve this. Shortly after I opened up the barn, a boutique gym Platform Fitness also launched near me and I joined them as a teacher leading up to 9 classes a week. When I was teaching there, it gave me a sense of purpose that I had never experienced before in my life.

Then my husband and I moved to the Central Coast and I became pregnant, so I had to say farewell to my gym family. A challenging early pregnancy coupled with covid lockdowns meant I had to lean heavily on the lessons of Yoga such as surrender and self-study during this time, as I had to let go of my pre pregnancy asana practice and teaching role due to intense morning sickness.

After all of that, the thing that I am most grateful for in my Yoga training at the Institute is that many of the tools I learnt there (movement, pranayama breath work, mantras, sound and surrender) served me during the birth of my son. My empowered labour set us up for a great to start to his life and motherhood in general, which was definitely an unexpected benefit of the course!

I do hope to get back to teaching in the near future and delve more into pre and post-natal Yoga, as well as Yoga for children, but for now I am content with caring and nourishing a little human.

You can contact Steph via Instagram @stephfugar or via email at Stephanie.musgrave23@gmail.com 

How can we support you?

Our study options aren’t just for aspiring teachers, but for anyone who wants to deepen their personal practice or simply gain a better understanding of the breadth and depth of the life-affirming practice of yoga.

Interested in our 500-Hour Teacher Training Course?
Get course prospectus
Join our next information session

Prefer to start with a smaller commitment?

Learn more about our 100-Hour Yoga Studies course

Get in touch:
Email: teachertraining@yogainstitute.com.au
Phone: 0477 021 219

Join us, together we will grow, learn and inspire.

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Yoga teacher

Graduate Story: Christine Chu – Graduated 2020

Yoga as a microcosm of life and a pathway to conscious living

Written by graduate of the 500-hour Yoga Teacher Training Diploma, Christine Chu

From my first exposure to yoga, I always knew I would be a yoga teacher. It was only a matter of ‘when’.

I was fortunate to discover yoga in my youth at 14. After viewing photos and videos on social media, I was instantly drawn to inversions and the playfulness of the practice, but what captivated me most was an unshakeable sense of liberation and an inclination to share it.

My self-practice developed with great ease and consistency. I practiced unguided daily, until yoga was offered as an extracurricular school activity to which I latched onto quickly. After my first official class, I remember rising up from savasana seated across from the teacher, with a great sense of homecoming and knowing, “This is the role I want”.

There were countless other instances where I had these experiences of knowing, but I blindly assumed yoga had the same effect on others and lightly brushed them off.

Ultimately, I came to realise that not all individuals appreciated yoga to the marked depth as I did. Almost each night after school and still to this day, my head hits the pillow with yoga philosophy and teaching on my mind.

Enter The Yoga Institute at 19! 500hrs and many months later, I am now blessed to be sharing this practice.

What Yoga Means To Me

I believe yoga is a microcosm of Life. What we experience in the world around us – impermanence, fear and obstacles – can be preempted and explored through yoga. The only requirement is an attunement to breath and a willingness to learn.

The beauty of the practice is that it grows as we grow- changes as we change. If we are willing to become quiet, turn inwards and remain consistent, our ability to navigate the world and our mind with ease and resilience grows stronger. Yoga is a physical discipline which, if given time, transforms to a mental discipline. It is a pathway to conscious living.

Creating a Sense of Homecoming for Others

Today I am completing my final year of physiotherapy studies and allowing it to inform my delivery of safe and functional yoga classes and workshops. Although the Western expression of yoga is heavily imbued with asana, I seek to further weave through the gifts of breathwork, meditation and philosophy to the Western understanding of yoga. I hope each practice moves students closer to their own homecoming (in whichever form that may be) and a remembrance of the empowered, creative beings we all are.

“Life is a GPS, you can’t go wrong, but you can prolong”

To any out there who are considering Teacher Training at The Yoga Institute (or any individual considering a new path or life change of any sort)- I look at you, and I see me, living another life.

We are all our greatest obstacles or our greatest launching pad. I firmly believe the resources, support and opportunities leading you to your goals are already here and simply waiting for you to get out of your own way.

Come with ease and a beginner’s mindset – You won’t go wrong and you will not be disappointed.

You can contact Christine via Email: christinechuyoga@gmail.com or Instagram: http://instagram.com/christinechuyoga

How can we support you?

Our study options aren’t just for aspiring teachers, but for anyone who wants to deepen their personal practice or simply gain a better understanding of the breadth and depth of the life-affirming practice of yoga.

Interested in our 500-Hour Teacher Training Course?
Get course prospectus
Join our next information session

Prefer to start with a smaller commitment?

Learn more about our 100-Hour Yoga Studies course

Get in touch:
Email: teachertraining@yogainstitute.com.au
Phone: 0477 021 219

Join us, together we will grow, learn and inspire.

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Graduate Story: Marion Just – Graduated 2020

From Gym Junkie to Aerobics Instructor to Yoga Teacher

Written by graduate of the 500-hour Yoga Teacher Training Diploma, Marion Just

It was in my early 20s that I embarked on a path to get healthy and fit, learning about good nutrition, eating less and exercising in the gym…. ALOT!  I was a serial gym junkie.. even becoming an aerobics instructor for a few years.

Then one day (still in my twenties) while working in the city I checked out the Adyar Bookshop in York Street where I discovered an entire wall of yoga books.  Intrigued I decided to try this yoga although there were very few studios in which to practice.  I dabbled in a few classes, but it didn’t excite me enough, so I stuck with sweating out in the gym until my late 30s.

It was at that time I discovered the first Australian Bikram studio had opened up near my home on the northern beaches.  I knew about this Bikram yoga as it was the only book I purchased at the Adyar Bookshop.  So I gave up the gym for another sweat filled room in Bikram’s studio -aka- the “torture chamber” for almost 10 years.  Then another type of strong and strenuous yoga landed on our shores – Vinyasa Yoga.  Woohoo!

When I realised yoga was more than just physical exercises

After some 25 years of sweating it out and contorting the body in hot yoga rooms I felt there must be more to the practice than just asanas. 

During those years, Sanskrit words were sporadically used to describe asanas.  Words such as the ujjayi breath, the bandhas and drishti were mentioned.  What did it all mean anyway?  Who was Patanjali?  What were the Yoga Sutras and the 8 Limbs?  Did Patanjali have 8 limbs?  What had I been practising all those years?

What brought me to teacher training?

I can’t really pinpoint what compelled me to seek out teacher training.  There were many opportunities to sign up for teacher training at the heated yoga or the vinyasa studio, but something intrinsically kept holding me back! 

Then one day, I was ready to finally put all the pieces of the puzzle in place – to learn more about yoga’s history and philosophy. 

Oh My Goodness – I signed up!

After scanning the internet I found The Yoga Institute, phoned them, attended the information session and just like that – I signed up! I was very excited. And then the excitement turned to fear.  

What followed were feelings of anxiety, hesitation, regret, uncertainty that I had embarked on an intensive course of which I knew very little and which required a huge commitment. 

My fear rapidly subsided when I had my first session with my fabulous mentor who re-assured me and helped me focus on an important component of yoga – breath control and chanting with a little bit of asana to keep the mind focussed!  Wait…what?

Initially, the practice of chanting, pranayama and gentle asanas to help me release thoughts of attachments while quietening the mind seemed very strange and I didn’t take to it immediately.  I quickly realised and felt the benefits of slowing down and practising breath awareness.  My mentor knew best. 

I learned the importance of not only practising asanas, but also to learn and practise the entire 8 limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  No, not Patanjali’s limbs – the 8 aspects of the Yoga Sutras – a philosophy about how to live life harmoniously.

Post Teacher Training

Since completing my training, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to go back to where it all started for me and to teach a yoga class on Mondays for a short time in the Cammeray Yoga studio, back on the premises of The Yoga Institute!

I currently have a home studio set up where I teach my corporate clients online via Zoom, as well as group classes, and one to one personal yoga training. 

How does yoga fit in my life now and how has it changed me?

Many stages of my life have been filled with sometimes overwhelming challenges.  If I had found yoga in the early stages of my life, I believe I would have learned how to better handle these challenges – I’m certain I would have been a calmer, less stressed person for it.

Any obstacles and annoyances that I encounter now are a lot more manageable when I stop and take time out to practise pranayama and meditation.

To anyone considering doing Teacher Training at The Yoga Institute

I am so pleased that I chose The Yoga Institute for my teacher training.  Each of the teachers are world class, incredibly supportive and thoroughly knowledgeable. 

The co-founders, Dr Michael de Manincor and Lisa Grauaug studied for many years with the son of the father of modern yoga (Sri Krishnamacharya) TKV Desikachar.  My assigned mentor studied meditation with A G Mohan who was a personal student of Sri Krishnamacharya for 18 years. 

The best part of the journey for me has been learning to sit quietly, drawing inwards to meditate, learning to become un-attached to things that aren’t so important, to gain contentment within myself and to connect to my inner light of consciousness.  Hopefully one day I will attain the 8th Limb of Yoga, SAMADHI – to experience bliss and enlightenment!  YES!

You can contact Marion via her website Just Yoga By Marion

How can we support you?

Our Teacher Training Course isn’t just for aspiring teachers, but for anyone who wants to deepen their personal practice and gain a better understanding of yoga.

Need more information?
Get course prospectus
Join our next information session

Get in touch:
Email: teachertraining@yogainstitute.com.au
Phone: 0477 021 219

Join us, together we will grow, learn and inspire.

The Yoga Institute acknowledges the Cammeraygal people of the Eora nation as the Traditional Custodians of the land on which our centre is based.

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