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15 Oct
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Take two down dogs - what yoga therapy isn't

 

“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?

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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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25 Mar
Posted by Nikola Ellis

3 Ways yoga helps asthma

My daughter is one of the 2 million Australians with asthma. She was just three years old when she was diagnosed and we were gob-smacked. None of the usual contributing factors applied to Ruby and we didn't know how to help her beyond ensuring she took her medication correctly. Fortunately her condition is now stable, but for many people asthma is a serious condition that has a major impact on quality of life (not to mention scaring the pants off anxious loved ones).

 

As a yoga teacher, I knew instinctively that yoga could help my daughter’s asthma. Her diagnosis set me off on a path of discovery and now, over a decade later, I teach many asthmatics the simple techniques that can help them manage their condition. There are many yoga tools that can make a big difference to asthma sufferers - here are just three ways that yoga can help.

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10 Jan
Posted by Nikola Ellis

3 reasons why you should become a yoga therapist

Remember the buzz when you started your first yoga teacher training? The pure joy of doing something truly meaningful with a group of like-minded people? Then there was the excitement of taking your first steps as a yoga teacher – scary but oh so rewarding. 

But somewhere down the line, thoughtful yoga teachers begin to wonder what more they can offer the world beyond teaching 60 minute group classes. They notice that many students struggle with the poses or ask for help with injuries and realize that the ‘group-fitness’ model of teaching yoga isn’t working for lots of people. Including them.

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09 Jan
Posted by Nikola Ellis

how to become a yoga therapist

Yoga Therapy is a rapidly growing discipline with hospitals, clinics and other healthcare environments across the world employing qualified Yoga Therapists. Yoga Therapy training provides the skills and confidence to work safely and effectively with people living with a broad range of physical, emotional and psychological issues.

 

What is Yoga Therapy? Find out here.

 

But what does that training involve? And what are the pathways to accreditation as a Yoga Therapist? Here’s an easy step-by-step guide.

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07 Jan
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Why modifying a pose isn't yoga therapy

A student arrives at one of your regular classes and tells you she’s got a disk lesion. Just behind her is another student who mentions he’s got a bit of tendonitis. And there, right at the back, is a new student who you can see is struggling to keep up before the end of the warm up. How do you manage all these diverse bodies in one class?

 

And those are just the injuries and restrictions that you know about. With 1 in 3 Australians receiving a cancer diagnosis during their lifetime, 2 million Australians experiencing anxiety and up to 80% experiencing back pain, you can be sure that for every student who tells you about their condition, there are several others suffering in silence.

 

Yoga is, and always has been, therapeutic. But the rise of large group classes and the popularity of flowing vinyasa styles has created a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to yoga that just doesn’t work for much of the population. How do you stop and modify a practice for students with injuries when you are demonstrating a non-stop flow sequence?

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06 Jan
Posted by Nikola Ellis

two yoga myths that are giving you back pain

Got lower back pain? You’re not alone. Over 80% of us live with lower back pain*, most of which is not caused by disc injury or serious illness. But if you’ve been trying to relieve the pain with some serious stretching, you might be making it worse.

 

The most common cause of back pain that we see in our Yoga Therapy Clinic is poor postural habits. If you spend a lot of time sitting or driving, it’s going to take more than a general work out to keep you pain free. And going for the burn with some killer back stretches could be compounding your woes. Here are two back pain myths that could be preventing you from living pain-free.

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05 Oct
Posted by Nikola Ellis

Lighten up!

I kick start many of my morning yoga classes in Spring with Kapalabhati. Kapalabhati is an uplifting, detoxifying and energising practise that is often confused with pranayama. Yes, it works with the breath, but it's actually a kriya - a cleansing practice. It's English translation is "skull shining breath" and it really feels like you've cleansed your frontal lobes after a session of Kapalabhati! 

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