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18 Sep
Posted by Nikola Ellis

5 Ways to teach yoga from the heart

I recently ran into Joanne, an old friend and an experienced yoga teacher. She wasn’t feeling very yogic.  “Why can’t yoga teachers just teach from what they know?” she said, exasperated. “If one more teacher quotes Rumi at me, I’ll scream!”

 

Now, Joanne wasn’t suggesting that we have nothing to learn from Rumi or that yoga teachers shouldn’t find inspiration in spiritual texts. That’s clearly not true. Her problem, as she explained, was the use of cookie-cutter scripts in yoga classes.

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13 Sep
Posted by Nikola Ellis

I'm no guru (and that's a good thing)

I’ve been practicing yoga for over 25 years and teaching for 15 years. And I’m a long way from being a guru.

 

I’ve got plenty of diplomas, degrees and postgraduate qualifications as well as many thousands of hours of experience. But the gaps in my knowledge are as wide as the ocean.

 

And that’s a good thing. For two reasons...

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28 Aug
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Yoga, Karma and Social Justice

 

Something happened to me after I’d been practicing yoga for a few months. I started to feel connected to the world around me in ways I’d never experienced before.

 

I first came to yoga as a way to manage crippling panic attacks and find some peace of mind at a difficult time in my life. While yoga certainly helped me deal with my own problems, it also opened up a new awareness of the ways in which my thoughts, feelings and actions were intricately bound up with the lives of others. Bit by bit, I began to move from feeling isolated in my own struggles to appreciating the interconnectedness between myself and the wider world.

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17 Aug
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Why yoga needs a fact-check

Many of us in the field of yoga and other complementary therapies are guided by our hearts. That’s one of the great strengths of natural therapies – being able to connect with clients on an intuitive level and offering more than a formulaic treatment plan. We are also our own favourite guinea pigs – talk to any yoga teacher or complementary therapist and you’re likely to find a personal story of overcoming health problems by using the techniques that they now offer to others. Again, that’s a great strength, giving practitioners deep insight and empathy for clients who are tackling their own health challenges.

 

However it’s important to recognise that just because something works for you (or your kids or somebody else you know), it doesn’t necessarily make it effective for everybody else. Whether it’s a yoga pose or a natural remedy, we cannot assume that something works just because it feels good. If it works for you, AWESOME! Keep going. But if you’re selling your treatment to a client, it’s important to understand the evidence base for what you’re giving them.

 

As the director of an accredited Yoga Therapy training program, I place a strong emphasis on encouraging yoga teachers to develop their understanding and appreciation of the evidence base for what they're learning. There are a lot of claims made in the name of yoga, but some of those claims need a fact-check.

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10 Aug
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Yoga for panic disorder

When I had my first panic attack, I thought I was going mad. The feelings were so frightening and intense, I was convinced that my mind had somehow broken and couldn’t be fixed. 

 

Panic attacks feel like the end of the world, and they’re not ‘all in the mind.’  The whole body is affected by the terror, with symptoms ranging from shaking, sweating and nausea through to chest pain, difficulty breathing and a pounding heart that feels like it’s going to explode. While panic attacks don’t actually cause the heart attack that a sufferer may think is imminent, the experience is no less terrifying. 

 

After months of mis-diagnosis and daily anguish, I was very fortunate to meet an experienced yoga teacher who understood what was happening to me. Thanks to his careful support, I began to heal and my lifelong respect and passion for therapeutic yoga began.

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04 Aug
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Yoga and Eating Disorders – What works?

 

Can yoga help people with eating disorders? A number of studies suggest that it can, but what exactly have those studies been measuring? What do they tell us about how and why yoga can help?  

 

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25 Jun
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Mudras - yoga for airplanes

I just got back from a trip to the USA. 7 glorious days in California, soaking up the sun and sharing my passion for Yoga Therapy with some of the most talented practitioners in the business at the Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research (SYTAR).

 

The only downside was the travel – 14 hour flights each way, plus some pretty hectic freeway action on the way from LA to Newport Beach (it's not far, but that whole driving on the other side of the road thing is tricky when you’re sleep deprived…) So how does a yogi stay sane and healthy on long international journeys? Mudras, of course.

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11 Jun
Posted by Nikola Ellis

The Art of Savouring

I’m about to leave my family for a week to travel to the US. Over the past few days, I’ve found myself savouring every moment with my kids, appreciating every meal and relishing every time we laugh together. It’s a wonderful exercise in staying mindful of the present moment.

If you’ve done yoga for a while, you will have heard your teachers tell you to ‘come into the present moment.’ Sound advice, but what does that mean and how do you do it?

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26 May
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Mudra - Hand Yoga for Healing

If you’ve ever placed your palms together in 'prayer position', you’ve practiced yoga mudra. Perhaps you’ve sat with your thumb and index finger together during meditation – that’s another mudra. Yoga students all over the world are practicing simple mudras every day, but most of us don’t know how and why these special hand gestures work. It’s time to change all that.  Mudras are powerful, enjoyable and accessible to everybody – you don’t need to be fit and flexible to place your hands in a simple gesture. Here’s a rough guide to mudras and how to use them in your yoga practice.

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21 May
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Out of my mind

This week I mislaid my bank card, burned the dinner and forgot a promise to a friend. But I just can't help it. I’m busy. The phone rang. I was running late. The kids were playing up. I’m a bad cook. I’m a rotten friend. I .… STOP!


Have you had days, weeks or even years that look like this? Constantly running from one emergency to the next with voices in your head telling you you’re not good enough and you’ve got to try harder? You’re not alone. Most of us are constantly bombarded by feelings of inadequacy that propel us into a frenzy of activity. Secretly feel your mothering skills aren’t up to the job? Smother those thoughts with a flurry of craft projects, baking healthy snacks and online shopping for educational toys. Feel like a fraud in your job? Stay back late, get in early, check your phone in the toilet and take work home at the weekend.

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