Monday, March 17, 2014

Tips for the New Yoga Teacher

When asked what it takes to be a good yoga teacher,
Seane Corn, an acclaimed yoga teacher, replied:
“Having a committed personal yoga practice helps”

With that in mind here are some useful tips:

1. Remember why you are teaching yoga:
Most likely you decided to teach yoga because of YOUR love of yoga. It is up to you to impart this to your yoga pupils, so that they also develop this love of yoga.

2. Remember what yoga is:
Bringing harmony and balance to all levels of our being! Union, integration, balance!

3. Teach what you know:
Even though you may not be able to do a practice properly if you know how to teach it properly you can teach it! Be focussed while teaching. Be clear, simple and straightforward.

4. Be adaptable and prepared:
Prepare your classes ahead of time and stick to the plan, but at the same time be prepared to change or adapt something if the need arises. Have options for beginners and more practiced pupils.

5. Remember they are people, you are teaching:
They have feelings, emotions and want to feel good. Make the class about them - not you. Be engaged with your pupils. Do not get so involved in your practice in front of the class that the people are neglected or ignored.

6. Make eye contact with your pupils:
Watch students and walk around your class. If need be make soft physical contact to help correct a pose.

7. In the beginning keep it simple:
Teach asanas and pranayama that you know well yourself. As you incorporate more involved practices into your personal practice and become skilled at them, then introduce them into your class teaching. Repetition can be a good thing for newbies.

8. It’s not about you – be a light unto those attending your classes!
Ask yourself again: ‘Why am I teaching yoga?’

For Yoga Teacher training:

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Yoga for Recovering Injured Foot

In a hurry to get out of the shower to close a banging door on a windy stormy morning, I kicked my left toes against the ridge of the shower door. Oweeee, yoweeee…. was that sore and blood all over, and the worst of it all – I had a Yoga class to teach 20 minutes hence. Cleaned it up, wrapped torn toes with a band-aid, took loads of arnica, other homeopathic remedies and of course my own home-made FlexiBod (for healing and restoring muscles, ligaments and joints) and hobbled off to the class. Ironically the theme for the week’s classes – was – you guessed it – feet…. Grounded-ness; stability; taking weight down through our feet; balance; deep gratitude for what our feet do for us each and every day. Managed to get through that one hobbling and wobbling.

Repeated the remedies all through the day as well as binding the toes (thought by now, one was broken) and added a few rounds of tapping - for the pain, the discomfort, the bruising, the embarrassment of kicking the shower after 20 years of daily use, the thought of a lengthy recovery period if a toe was broken… and other aspects that presented themselves. The following day I taught the yoga class and still my achy, oh-so-sore toes and foot, but it wasn’t as bad as I had expected it to be! The next day I was scheduled to teach for an extra long yoga class/workshop – two and half hours of “Yoga for the Core” – managed to get through it okay but by the end the foot was super-sore. After the class continued the remedy/tapping routine and took some rest. Was amazed that there was hardly any bruising, swelling was already down, and when there was no pressure on it – no pain either. The following morning apart from the lacerations it felt astoundingly better, just a bit of a bruised feeling in that second toe and under the foot in that vicinity. Even went for a long walk with the dog. Yay….

But never-the-less now have to plan the week’s morning Yoga classes, so decided to do a routine that does not require putting much pressure on the feet or too much standing, etc (quite the opposite of last week’s classes!) So here it is – a ‘floor yoga class’ for a winter’s morning:

• Centre in Sukhasana
• Kapalabhati – 3 rounds
• Optional Sithali 3x (cooling breaths for those with the hot-flush reaction)
• Neck & shoulder looseners
• Baddha konasana and variations for opening the hips and preparing the lower back
• Side bends in sukhasana
• Twists in sukhasana
• Baddha konasana forward bend
• Janu sirshasana
• Pascimottanasana
• Uppavista konasana
• Gomukhasana for shoulders and upper back
• Navasana and variations
• Rolling ball with all variations; ending with plough to pascimottanasana rolls - 6x each
• Sarvangasana to plough to bridge to matsyasana sequence
• Apanasana both legs 4x
• Cobra sequence to warm up and energise
• Balasana
• Sit up for pranayama: repeat kapalabhati and sithali as above
• Yoga nidra in Savasana

Friday, April 5, 2013

Ayurveda Routine for Autumn

Many of us in the Western Cape enjoy the beautiful, cooler days of Autumn – I know this is my most favourite season. Instinctively as the days and nights become cooler we feel the need to change our eating and life-style patterns. Perhaps we add a blanket to the bed, a warmer top and socks in the evenings, and start making more stew-like or soup dishes for our main meals.

Autumn is predominantly a Vata-type season – cool, dry, light, rough are some of the qualities of vata and these attributes start to show within and without our bodies. Perhaps you notice the rough skin on your heels after the sandal season of summer. Vata dosha is the dosha of movement and thus it governs the other two doshas - pitta and kapha, and at this time of year if not carefully pacified will cause aggravation to the other two if it becomes imbalanced.

Vata is responsible for all movement within the body – think of neuron impulses of the nervous system, the movement of wastes out of the body, the breath flowing in and out, blood flowing through the blood vessels, even speaking uses the attributes of vata, and these are a few amongst many other functions relating to movement. Vata is seated in the colon (predominantly) therefore any aggravation or imbalance will most likely manifest here first, with symptoms such as bloating, gas, constipation. Other signs of vata imbalance are dry lips, dryness inside the nostrils, dry or parched skin, erratic sleep patterns, irregular appetite, stress and tiredness. If you notice any of these changes it is time to start a vata-pacifying regime and routine.

In autumn, we look to bring balance to the vata dosha by focusing on the opposite qualities to those of vata. Choose grounding, warming, moisturising and nourishing foods and lifestyle to offset the dryness and cold. Stillness such as meditation and routine, regularity and rest bring harmony once again.

All these tips are especially significant to do if your predominant dosha is vata, or you are in the vata stage of life (older age).

Ayurveda for Autumn Summary:
• Focus on warming, nourishing foods, rich in oils and ghee, warming spices such as ginger, cumin and cinnamon. Have warm soft breakfasts such as porridge to which you can also add some spice. To help you sleep, have a warm milk drink at the end of the day with some ginger, a grating of nutmeg and a bit of sugar added. Avoid dry foods like breakfast cereals, dry muesli, pop corn, and stay away from ice cold drinks and foods. Stick to regular meal times and for better digestion, try to have the main meal near midday each day.
• Stay hydrated by drinking sufficient pure water each day.
• Take care of your skin by self-massaging the whole body daily with warming sesame oil. Try nourishing face masks made with natural ingredients from your kitchen. See below.
• Increase times of stillness and meditation in your day, let this be a time to connect with yourself and settle any movement. Also reduce anything that contributes to excess movement, for example travelling, rushing around and fast and vigorous sports or yoga. Slow down by going for a walk in nature, practice calming and grounding yoga poses, do slow deep balancing pranayama, meditate, write in your journal, listen to beautiful music, etc.

Nourishing facial mask: Take 2 Tbs honey and blend well with 2tsp milk
Apply to face, leave for 10-15minutes then wash off with lukewarm water.

Use almond oil with a few drops of vata pacifying essential oil blend to the face and leave on overnight.

Monday, March 5, 2012

What is Yoga Therapy?

Over the weekend a group of Yoga Teachers gathered to start a new training journey, which will take 3 years to complete. Their goal is to become qualified as: Yoga Therapy Teachers.

One afternoon we sat discussing the concept of yoga therapy – how does it differ from attending a normal yoga class; why is it carried out on a one-on-one basis; all these questions required an answer.

The definition by International Association of Yoga Therapy is:

“Yoga therapy is the process of empowering individuals to progress toward

improved health and wellbeing through the application of the

teachings and practices of yoga”.

It seems even many practitioners of yoga do not know how beneficial yoga is! Not only is yoga an ‘exercise system’ as most class attendees think, but it is a powerful way of transformation for body, mind and soul. Yoga is both a science and an art. Yoga is a scientific system of self-investigation, self- transformation, and self-realization that originated in India, over 5000 years ago. The art is dependant on the skilled Yoga Teacher who puts it together into a sequence that supports and balances all levels of the practitioner’s being. A Yoga Therapy teacher who works with a person in a one-on-one situation plans the session to directly benefit that particular person’s constitution and imbalances within that.

If you attend a yoga class and develop a problem – whether it be physical, internal, mental, or anything else discuss it with your teacher first! Perhaps you need not go for that painful, costly surgery that is recommended by the Surgeon you just visited! Unless it is an emergency, Yoga Therapy may just be able to help.

The Yoga Therapy teacher requires specialized training and skill development to support the relationship between the yoga practitioner and teacher to effect positive change for the individual. Perhaps you should approach your Yoga Teacher as a first resort and not the last resort…. If she is skilled at yoga therapy you may be pleasantly surprised at the wonderful benefits you can gain.

"Yoga is preventative, maintaining and corrective…

so where ever you are on your healing journey …

YOGA is best!"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How does a Yogi view 'Life after Death'

Today I was asked an interesting question from a Christian's perspective: What do yogis believe happens to them after dying? An interesting topic to start this blog run for 2012!

I am no expert on what happens after death.... just as no-one else can be either, as no-one knows until they experience it and then are not here to tell the rest of us.

As I said in my interview in the Yoga Awakening Africa magazine ( I am not religious but respect all religions. The spirituality that I practice is an inward worship of God and reverence for all that is. I do however, hold Jesus (who attained what is referred to as Christ-consciousness, hence his title - Jesus Christ) in the highest esteem as my opinion of him is that he was most definitely a well-practised 'yogi' in all respects (Chap 3 of Patanjali's - Yoga Sutras - describes the gifts given to one who attains the highest states of consciousness (samyama=dharana, dhyana, samadhi), such as he demonstrated with various 'miracles' he performed. His example in life has influenced humanity for 2000 years and that says something in itself.

Modern day yogis can be of any religion or no religion so may have differing beliefs dependant on that! The origins of yoga come from the country of India where the predominant religion is Hinduism and hence many think that Yogis "believe" the same as in Hinduism, which is the belief in reincarnation -taking on another physical body depending on their karma 'accrued' in this life-time. I prefer not to have 'beliefs' as 'knowing' is readily available to each of us if we can still the mind sufficiently to tap into it.

After this long explanation.... the question 'what happens to us after death?' boils down to the religion/beliefs of the one who practices yoga.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

FlexiBod (not only for increased flexibility)

Not many people in the 'yoga/EFT' world know that I am an ex-chemist, because I don't often talk about it. I loved being a scientist and chemist but chose to give it up due to the passion I have for Yoga and also the toxins that I worked with in the laboratory. Dreadful things like mercury, lead, cadmium, vanadium, aluminium, tin, to mention only a few!!

So a few years ago when I was going through a particularly 'stiff and sore' phase I decided to research and manufacture a natural product for this. As the guinea pig I took it for a number of months and had good results. Muscle pains disappeared, feet aches were non-existent, and the bonus increased flexibility - good for yoga - that's for sure! My students noticed and soon I was making it for them too..... and still do!! It has also morphed into another product for elderly pets... called (you guessed) "FlexiPet"

Here is a basic run down of the product - a beautiful light green powder, which is swallowed down with a glass of water (or put into the pets food).

Flexibod - Nutritional Supplement

Formulated by Anne Combrinck (ex Analytical Chemist) with natural ingredients that have been well researched, tried and tested.

Contains MSM, Spirulina, Barley Grass, Vitamin C, Calcium, Magnesium, Trace Minerals & Tissue salts

What it does:
· Increases flexibility throughout the body –good for yoga! Less joint & muscle stiffness
· Reduces recovery time if you injure a muscle, tendon or ligament
· Increases energy
· Promotes elasticity, strength, and the general health of our bodies' tissues
· Detoxifies at cellular level
· Balances acid/alkali levels reducing joint problems
· Relieves inflammation
· Boosts the immune system, fights free radicals
· Healthy metabolic processes such as tissue growth, digestive metabolism, and water retention
· Trace minerals aid absorption and effectiveness of other constituents
· Improves collagen repair in skin & other tissues (no more wrinkles?)
· Delays aging effect
· Speeds up wound recovery, treats constipation, eliminates excess fat
· Contains organic iron – helpful for anaemia
· Spirulina is a probiotic that protects intestinal flora, improves digestion
· Barley green is anti-arthritic, anti-gout & anti-carcinogenic. It is a cell food.
· Reduces joint, muscle and 'bone' pains

These are only some of the benefits!!

To take – before breakfast – on tongue (or mix 1 teaspoon into a small quantity of water or fruit juice, swallow) and then follow with a full glass of water – the taste is tolerable - but oh so worth it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pregnancy Yoga - More Information

Pregnancy Yoga

Pregnancy Yoga classes, taught by a Yoga Teacher with additional and specialised training in this field, provide opportunities for expectant women to develop greater vitality and awareness of their bodies. These classes also deepen their relationship with their unborn baby. Gentle postures, breathing, visualization and relaxation are learned which cultivate, flexibility, calmness and confidence in preparation for labour and childbirth. Women are empowered to develop their ability to access greater relaxation, comfort, and enjoyment. Calm, strength and flexibility ease the birthing process, thus reducing pain and increasing the joy of giving birth. With the guidance of the Pregnancy Yoga Teacher, women prepare for an active, normal and natural birth.

Birth and Nurturing the Baby are Natural
It may seem strange that a mother needs to prepare for birth and motherhood; after all they are completely natural, instinctive and biological functions. Women’s bodies are ideally designed and adapted to carry, give birth to and nourish their young, just like any other mammal. However, unlike other mammals, humans appear to be the only species that has such difficulty fulfilling this instinctive potential.

This has not always been the case though. Many cultures, throughout the ages, have honoured and respected the power of women to give birth and nurture their young as central to life. It is only in our ‘modernized’ world that the power of women as birth-givers has been steadily degraded and replaced by the science of obstetrics.

Why Practice Yoga in Pregnancy?
Attending yoga classes that are specifically adapted for the pregnant woman, means that a conscious choice has been made to devote some time to honouring and nurturing yourself and your unborn baby during this special time. As yoga brings your mind and awareness into your body it awakens the awareness of your baby inside and deepens your connection with your child. You will feel more in touch with your inner self, more connected to nature, and you begin to discover that the power to give birth and nurture your baby lies within yourself. This is also very helpful after the birth.

Physically …
During pregnancy, energy levels fluctuate and may leave you feeling exhausted for no reason. Your body is using enormous amounts of energy to ‘create’ a brand new human being, and misusing your body can result in excess tiredness. Physically, yoga teaches how to keep the posture correct as the centre of gravity changes throughout the nine months; it strengthens the back, tummy, shoulder, arm and leg muscles to be able to carry the baby comfortably and easily; it keeps you fit and thus an adequate supply of oxygen and nutrients flowing around the body and to the baby; it improves circulation of other fluids in the body helping to prevent swollen ankles and other oedemas. These seem to be ‘side benefits’ when you consider how yoga prepares the body physically for the birth. It helps to open up the hips and pelvis, creates more flexibility, and strengthens muscles that are needed for the ‘pushing’ stage of labour. After all, what does ‘labour’ mean – hard physical work! Therefore it makes sense to prepare the body with stretching, breathing and physical exercise.

Mentally and Emotionally ….
On other levels, yoga helps to bring your whole being into balance. It influences the mind and body positively, benefiting you emotionally. Yoga especially with a focus on breathing quietens the mind, allowing you to feel more peaceful within yourself. It is calming and reduces anxiety - you feel more present in your body and thus mentally and emotionally balanced.

Pregnancy is a natural state of ecstasy and celebration. There are many peaceful and blissful times to be enjoyed during these months. Yoga can help you make the most of the contentment, well-being and fulfilment which women can experience when they are pregnant. Its benefits will continue in the many pleasurable hours you will spend with your baby after the birth.

Preparing for Birth and Coping with Labour
In most traditional societies, women are encouraged in pregnancy to build up their strength and improve their fitness in readiness for the birth. On the whole they give birth easily, and we can do the same.

The processes of birth are involuntary, they happen without your conscious control. The sensations experienced during the hours of labour as your body opens to give birth are very powerful. They take you to your limits of endurance. There are times of extremes both pain and pleasure, ecstatic highs and deep dark lows involved in the extraordinary inner journey which brings your baby to birth. Yoga is a wonderful preparation for this. It teaches you to make space between thoughts to focus on what you are feeling in your body and to surrender and let go, which is exactly what you need to do during labour.

Breathing lies at the very heart of yoga practice – without mindfulness of breath the postures are lifeless and static. In Pregnancy Yoga classes breathing correctly and deeply, as well as using the breath as a focus, is learned. Breathing properly throughout pregnancy and labour are important for your baby, who is depending on you for his/her oxygen supply. To be able to concentrate on the breath – the source of all life – can help you get through the most difficult times in your labour.

Many of the yoga postures learned in the class are similar to the positions women instinctively assume in labour. These positions are then spontaneously applied during the labour allowing comfort and ease for the different stages.

Overall Benefits of Pregnancy Yoga
All in all the practice of yoga brings awareness of breath, body, mind and feelings, which enables the mother-to-be to stay in harmony with her child throughout her pregnancy. It gives her the confidence to follow her instincts while giving birth and as a mother.

Anne Combrinck, a Yoga Teacher and mother, used yoga to prepare for her son’s birth and has been teaching yoga to pregnant (and post-natal) women for many years. (This article originally written for SA Journal of Natural Medicine)

She also trains Yoga Teachers, and facilitates a workshop to further train Yoga Teachers to specialise in Pregnancy Yoga Teaching.