Yoga Therapy is getting a lot of attention - yoga teachers, researchers and the media are all talking about it. But what exactly is yoga therapy and how is it different to regular yoga teaching? Here are two definitions of Yoga Therapy:Read More
The ancient sage Patanjali defined yoga as a state of mind in which all our conscious and unconscious patterns of belief quieten down. It’s the process of letting go of all the things you think (or subconsciously believe) about the world so that you can see things as they truly are.
That’s not something most of us can do at the drop of a hat, which is why Patanjali gives us an 8-step program for moving towards that state of absolute clarity – the Eight Limbs of Yoga.
The first two steps, Yama and Niyama, are guidelines for living a good life with clean living and healthy relationships at the top of the agenda. Next, Patanjali tells us to practice the aspects of yoga that are most familiar to Western students– asana (poses) and pranayama (breathing techniques). We're then asked to switch off from external distractions and move through the three stages of meditation, ending in Samadhi – the state of blissful awareness that we experience when all the mental noise and habits stop.
The first seven steps are all preparation for that final state of transcendent bliss, but we often don’t approach our yoga practice in that way. Asana becomes a form of exercise, novelty or distraction rather than preparation for a practice that promises to deliver the peace and clarity that we’re craving. So how do we approach asana in a way that makes it an effective part of our journey towards Samadhi? By putting the breath at the very heart of every practice.Read More
How many hours yoga teacher training have you done? 200hrs? 350hrs? 500hrs+? There is a seemingly endless array of post-graduate yoga teacher training options. How about a 40hr yin training? Perhaps a weekend course on how to teach kids yoga. What about prenatal, somatics, fascia, acro yoga, adjusting, alignment or a course to help you market your classes? With such a dazzling variety of trainings, there’s one question I’d like to ask. How much yoga teacher training is enough?
I’ll follow that question up with another one. How much of the training you’ve already undergone do you use in your everyday teaching? Actually, how much of it do you even remember?Read More
Heart disease is the single leading cause of death in Australia. There is now a significant body of research to demonstrate that Yoga Therapy can play an important role in helping people to manage heart disease.
The European Journal of Preventative Cardiology found that yoga (and not the active, exercise kind of yoga) is comparable to walking and biking when it comes to cardiovascular health.Read More
“What yoga pose is good for back pain?” I’m sitting opposite Jade a newly qualified yoga teacher who’s just started mentoring with me. “Well”, I begin, “where is the pain?” Jade describes her student’s lower back pain and I ask a few more questions. How did the pain start? What is the student’s lifestyle? I suggest a few simple poses and ask Jade to teach them to me. She teaches the asanas, but doesn’t pay much attention to the breath. When I ask about her instructions for the breath, she seems surprised. “I thought we were focusing on the lower back,” she replies.
It’s never about the lower back. Or the neck pain. Or the anxiety. Or the eczema. As a yoga therapist, it’s always about the whole person. While it would be great if there was a yoga pose to fix every health issue (imagine a doctor prescribing ‘take two down dogs and call me in the morning!’), therapeutic yoga is a more subtle approach to wellbeing. It’s also more thorough. Jade’s student certainly needs to work on stretching and strengthening his back in order to relieve the pain, but any qualified physiotherapist could provide a set of exercises that would do that. Why do yoga if a physio can fix it?Read More
Pranayama, or yogic breathing, is an important part of yoga. But many yoga classes focus on the physical postures and don't include many breathing techniques. That's a shame because pranayama practices can make a big difference to how you feel - and fast.
The way we breathe directly influences the way we feel, think and behave. That's because our breathing regulates the autonomic nervous system. Each time we inhale, we activate the sympathetic nervous system - that's the 'fight or flight' mechanism that readies us to deal with looming threats. Each time we exhale, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system - this is the 'rest and digest' function that allows our bodies to go into repair mode, sleep soundly and build nurturing relationships.Read More
What's wrong with this pose? Nothing. Nothing at all if you are super flexible. But there are many people for whom practicing this pose is unhelpful (and, depending on your spinal health, dangerous). That's why we don't include this pose (it's called Kurmasana) in our 200hr yoga teacher program. We don't teach it in our studio classes either.
So what DO we teach?Read More
Ever been to an ashram in India? Many westerners are surprised to find that, far from being tranquil retreats where frazzled city dwellers find their inner zen, they are bustling community centres.
Ashrams provide the schooling, food, medical assistance and social safety-net that their communities would otherwise lack. I’m not idealizing the ashram system and I’m well aware of the unsavoury side of some of them. But the idea of yoga as central to a network of social projects that benefit the community resonates strongly with my personal philosophy.Read More
It's tough teaching general yoga classes. Have you ever watched new students struggling while wondering if the more experienced students were bored? Perhaps you've felt bad at the end of class because you didn't get around to offering an adjustment or modification to every student who would have benefited from one.
If that’s a familiar scenario, it’s time to change your approach to teaching open group classes and learn how to put your students at the very heart of the practice.
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.Read More