iRest Yoga Nidra coming to New Zealand

Back in 2005 when I had already been teaching Yoga for a couple of years but was scouting around for further studies and looking for potent teachers, I came across Donna Farhi’s books and was immediately hooked in to her approach … mindful, detailed, precise and heartful. A great combination of being grounded in the tradition yet also evolutionary – like a true Yogini!

Donna of course remains a primary teacher for me. In her her books she mentions a close colleague, Dr Richard Miller, so I began to check out his offerings also, online interviews, audio recordings and more. 

I’ve been following Richard ever since and I consider him really to be my meditation teacher. Richard has founded the Integrative Restoration Institute and formulated a brilliant contemporary approach to the ancient practice of Yoga Nidra – iRest®.

From Richard’s website …

What is iRest Yoga Nidra and How Does It Work?

iRest Yoga Nidra meditation supports psychological, physical and spiritual health, healing and awakening.

iRest is an accessible meditation protocol that is integrative, as it heals unresolved issues and traumas, and restorative, as it aids practitioners in recognizing the underlying peace of mind that is always present amidst all changing circumstances in life.

Due to its effectiveness and ease of use, iRest has proven to effectively support the healing process across a broad range of populations, including those with PTSD, chronic pain, sleep issues, high stress, depression, and anxiety.

 My iRest Journey

While I first came across Yoga Nidra back in 2003, it is iRest with it’s intelligent 10 stage protocol and meaningful modern approach that has become my regular meditation practice. While experiencing profound states of relaxation, iRest has helped me navigate the challenges in my life emotionally and mentally as well as helping me understand and experience subtler states of meditation.

In 2013 and 2014 I attended Level 1 and 2 iRest Yoga Nidra training and I’m currently on the certification program.

The exciting news is that my colleague and friend Una Hubbard (Una’s website) and myself are hosting New Zealand’s first iRest Level 1 training here in Auckland in February 2017.

This training is highly recommended. The training manual itself is an amazing resource that will serve participants for many years to come. The trainers, Fuyuko Toyota and Jennifer Cabanero, as well as being close friends, are absolutely exceptional teachers.

Bookings & Full Info Here >>


Your Shining Vulnerability

Last month I attended a wonderful seven day iRest Yoga Nidra retreat in Melbourne with Anne Douglas and Fuyuko Toyota. They are such wonderful teachers indeed – a beautiful experience. About half way through there was rich discussion on being vulnerable. It stirred up a lot of emotions for me and I spent much of the next 24 hours writing and journaling. Eventually, a poem arrived … I thought I’d share it …

Your Shining Vulnerability

Your being vulnerable is a gift
Offering me a world of compassion.
Warm gratitude indeed,
For your willingness to reveal and open yourself.
Your heart transparent and clear;
True, strong, resilient and natural.

And there is a kindness here arising for myself,
Who for countless lost years has suppressed vulnerability;
Closed off, fearful of judgment, rejection and abandonment.
Now I see – this is no fault of mine,
Just another story visiting.

Your being vulnerable is a shining, generous light.
Now trust begins to blossom,
And a permission is quietly arising
To open to what I have hidden for so long.

Ah … this light … is a lover of love!
And the silence inside is magnified a thousand times.
With humility, awe, and a tender presence,
I am with you.

Favourite Online Yoga Resources

I regularly check the internet for inspiration, ideas, information and practice sessions, so I thought I’d start an ongoing list of favourite resources.  I hope you find it useful. Do comment below with some of your favourite resources and I’ll check them out and add them to the list too!

1. Sequence Wiz:
Olga Kabel’s website is much more than intelligent sequencing … it’s packed full of useful info from core awareness to hip stability.

2. The Yoga Lunchbox:
Run by Kara-Leah, New Zealand’s very own online Yoga magazine has heaps of useful articles, often controversial, discussions and video interviews. [Read more…]

PRESS RELEASE: Introducing Our New Yoga Teacher Training

Yoga Teacher Trainig websiteFour highly experienced yoga teachers have joined together to create the Centre for Contemporary Yoga Studies, based in Remuera. With over 80 years of yoga practice and teaching experience between them, Dyana, Karla, Neal and Vincent co-founded the centre with one key aim – to deliver excellence in all their classes, workshops and courses.

First Training Course Starts 26th September!

Together they designed, developed and presented 12 yoga teacher training courses over the past three years, a combination of 200-Hour and 300-Hour programs with Yoga Alliance accreditation. The 130 trainees from those courses have provided glowing testimonials, and the teachers are now known throughout the yoga community for these highly regarded programs.

Dyana Wells
Vincent Bolletta
Karla Brodie
Neal Ghoshal

Dyana Wells explains, “We have the same teachers with the same unique style of training, plus a new dedicated studio space. The centre enables us to provide a ‘whole school’ approach, which we were unable to do when the trainings were run in other locations. We now take responsibility for the quality, direction and vision of all aspects of the trainings.”

New initiatives run alongside the training courses, including year-long mentoring, professional development workshops, private tuition and up to 15 yoga classes each week.

Young professionals in the 25-45 year-old demographic are strongly represented in the yoga teacher training courses, while everyone from 16 to 60 is welcome alongside them.

Karla and Neal regularly teach with Donna Farhi, including training spells across the Tasman. Dyana has a long association with Wellpark College, and is well known for disappearing on month-long retreats in places like Canada. Vincent is a frequent traveller too, a regular at conferences and yoga therapy workshops overseas, which includes tutoring 200-hour training in China.

Neal Ghoshal says, “I feel incredibly privileged to be part of the Yoga teacher training courses. These indepth and inspiring courses are designed to grow not only students’ skills in teaching Yoga but also to develope a deep and life-long love of the practice. I feel honoured to be part of such an experienced and professional teaching team. These are the courses I wish I had taken when I first embarked on my Yoga Teacher journey.”

Vincent Bolletta adds that the Centre’s collective philosophy is “to establish a professionally run educational facility that offers both excellence in learning as well as providing a supportive environment that assists the journey of all students.”

The ‘whole school’ approach also extends to ‘whole person yoga’, a step on from the recent mind-body emphasis.

Karla Brodie explains: “Studying with my current mentor and teacher Donna Farhi has attuned me into practice that is nourishing, embodied and steeped in kindness. That kindness extends to my self, to all of my body systems, and to all of my cells. It’s a joy to share yoga practice that is kind, nourishing and eternally interesting.”

If you’re interested in getting right down to the DNA of yoga, perhaps the Centre is the place for you.

Emma, from Adelaide, had this to say:

Recently, I had the honour of being taught and guided by Neal Ghoshal on a teacher training program. His gentle manner was only eclipsed by his breadth of experience and knowledge in the art of being a Yogi.

Full Info & Bookings >>

Donna Farhi on Yoga Nidra

From our Yoga teacher, Donna Farhi …

Donna-Farhi“Recently I taught a weekend workshop on the practice of Yoga Nidra in Hobart, Tasmania. After reading the evaluations from the fifty people who attended, I was struck by how many of the participants commented on their desire to be more emotionally open yet not knowing how to do this or where to begin.

Register for The Heart Aroused workshop and receive a free 40 minute Yoga Nidra recording!*

Very few of us arrive into adulthood having had any training in being with many of our experiences or communicating our feelings to others. Yet, in just a few days of using the simple practice of Yoga Nidra many of the participants felt this had given them essential skills for learning to meet, greet and manage their experiences in a way that built their confidence in opening to life’s inevitable changes.

Central to building this new skill is understanding that there is no part of us that needs to go into exile to do this practice called Yoga. When we learn to meet our experience in the same way that we would meet a good friend we gradually build our capacity to be with ourselves when we’re up and when we’re down.

If there is no ideal way to be, and nothing that needs to get squashed or stowed away, we can welcome our experience in the same way that we might attend to a friend who has arrived at our door in distress . . . with compassion and with a listening heart.

Learning to befriend ourselves in this way is one of the most palpable ways that we can instill a sense of kindness towards ourselves and towards others.

I certainly understand how frightening it can be to open to emotions without having the skill to manage the experience. During my early adulthood I struggled with debilitating depression, anxiety and at times overwhelming despair brought about by trauma from my childhood. Looking back I see that I often put these experiences aside so that I could do Yoga, or more accurately, I did Yoga to control and suppress these experiences. My recent study of the more contemporary protocol of iRest Yoga Nidra, has given me new tools to understand and facilitate the process of meeting experience in a way that allows the individual to gauge their own threshold for being with all parts of themselves in a safe and loving way.

It fills my heart with joy to see how quickly people implement these teachings in a way that is radically transforming both their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

The Heart Aroused Yoga Intensive and Yoga Nidra

In a few weeks I’ll be offering a longer 5-day intensive called The Heart Aroused in Western Australia (full info here >>), and again later in the year in Auckland, New Zealand (full info here >>), where we have the opportunity to explore these teachings in greater depth, and as a complement to embodied practices such as somatic inquiry and organic asana exploration. Both intensives will be accompanied with live music by sound artist Prabhu and Kirtan singer Joan Miller. I hope you can join me for what promises to be a magical journey into the heart.”

with warmth, Donna Farhi

*Yoga Nidra with Donna Farhi: The Beloved Friend (40 minutes)

This potent recording made live during one of Donna’s retreats, focuses on learning to see oneself as the beloved friend so that Yoga Nidra becomes a conscious act of self-blessing.

Donna guides you slowly and gently through “the body house” moving the body into a profound state of relaxation. This is followed by attention to the breath; awareness of and work with balancing emotions; and finally, an innovative visualization to awaken the listener to the unbounded sense of being that is experienced in deep dreamless sleep. As we consciously embody the felt sense of ourselves as calm spaciousness we open the possibility of bringing this awareness into our waking life.

Register for The Heart Aroused workshop and receive this 40 minute Yoga Nidra recording free !

The Eight Essentials of Restorative Yoga

Supported Reclined Bound Angale Pose - Salamba Supta Baddha KonasanaA few years ago I enrolled on my second Yoga Teacher Training course for a year at the Yoga Academy Auckland – I was on a mission to learn more about this practice and to equip myself with as much knowledge as I could. If I was going to teach Yoga, then I wanted to be good at it.

About half way through the year, course tutor Jude Hynes gave us a new practice, brought out some Yoga bolsters from the cupboard and introduced us to the wonderful world of Restorative Yoga.

In the first pose Jude gave us – Supported Bridge Pose, I was lying back over the length of the bolster so that most of my body was on the bolster, but my head and shoulders on the floor. An effortless bridge pose. I can still remember this experience: the exact moment when I felt a true relaxation response* deep within me. Tension melting, my body softening, a delicious sort of resting – along with an insight that something very important for me had just occurred.

It was clear right then that Restorative Yoga was most definitely a practice I wanted to explore further. Luckily at the Yoga Academy there was already a teacher specialising in Restorative Yoga – Karla Brodie, and I spent many sessions learning from her, studying with her and we became wonderful friends. We now work together regularly on teacher training programs and retreats. Karla, like our teacher and mentor Donna Farhi, is always developing her approach, enquiring and learning.

In Restorative Yoga we use props such as blankets, bolsters, chairs, sandbags, eye bags and more to support us in our practice. We spend time and care setting up these props so that when we practice they support us fully and we may profoundly relax. Restorative Yoga has it’s background in the work of BKS Iyengar who has pioneered the use of props to help support the body in Yoga postures. Other Iyengar style teachers such as Judith Lasater have evolved the practice and written extensively on Restorative Yoga. Judith Lasater’s Relax and Renew is an indispensable resource for anyone wishing to know more (see resources below).

Whilst our culture promotes a never ending amount of doing, Restorative Yoga is the radical, counter-cultural experience of simply being.

Legs Up The Wall - Viparita KaraniIt’s no surprise then that my Restorative Yoga sessions are my most popular classes. I regularly run “The Big Relax”, 2½ hours of Restorative bliss – it always books out and the only reason I don’t take more people is because floor space is limited. In regular classes, a Restorative posture or two as an ease down towards Savasana is always greeted with wonderful enthusiasm by students. And in my daily life I have found that practicing just one Restorative pose each day, even if it’s just for ten minutes, brings a valuable balance to my busy life (Legs Up The Wall, Viparita Karani, is a favourite).

Restorative Yoga is Counter Cultural

Our culture is built on how productive we can be, how much we can achieve and keep achieving. It can feel as if nothing is ever enough. We can even observe this within the Yoga community itself. As a teacher I often witness the striving for a bigger practice, a more “advanced” practice, the strain to push the body towards extreme positions, and students ignoring the pain that comes with such a practice. I’ve been there myself – in the first few years of my Yoga I pushed my body into postures I saw in books (which had titles such as ‘Learn Yoga In A Weekend’), demonstrated by yogis with an alarming degree of flexibility.

Whilst our culture promotes a never ending amount of doing, Restorative Yoga is the radical, counter-cultural experience of simply being. Yes – there is the effort required to turn up for the practice, to engage in practice, but essentially it is a process of surrendering, an active letting go, of yielding. Which leads us to our first essential point:

1. Yielding

To yield is to surrender. In Restorative Yoga we actively (i.e. consciously) surrender our tension to the force of gravity. We keep relaxing and softening throughout the practice. It is, in fact, a delightful process because for most of us letting go of tension brings great relief to our body and mind. Due to this yielding being an active process, Restorative Yoga is not about collapsing into each posture, as we might slump into an old armchair. Instead, yielding allows us to be in a clear and dynamic relationship with our environment, so that we are very present to this softening of stress and tension, present to what may be revealed from letting go. Indeed, Yoga may be seen as a practice of revelation – by practicing Yoga we reveal what is obscured by our stress – a lighter, softer, more energised, clearer, heart-centered Self. [Read more…]

Moving Towards Our True Nature

Neal GhoshalI have been studying the the iRest approach to Yoga Nidra recently and in the teaching manual, founder and teacher Richard Miller talks about the qualities of our true nature:

Loving, Kindness, Presence, Unconditional, Peaceful, Friendliness, Unattached, Happy, Joyfulness, Faith, Trusting, Transparency, Mindfulness, Responsive, Purity, Truthfulness, Contentment, Luminous, Powerful, Knowing, Full, Empty, Tender, Spontaneous, Authentic, Creative, Intimate, Complete, Aware (and more).

Who would not want these qualities to fill our lives? In fact, they are already present with us (we are always whole) – we can witness kind acts, friendliness, ease, creativity etc. as everyday happenings. We are not so separate from our true nature as we may sometimes believe.

[Read more…]

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