Tag Archives: yoga teacher training

Therapeutic Gentle Yoga

I am studying therapeutic gentle yoga with Rev. Padma Devi at the Special Yoga Foundation in London.  The course is spread over 100 hours at weekends throughout the year. To date it has been a revelation….

The first weekend I arrived with my notebook and pen to hear Padma say, ‘If you’re expecting to get a list of ailments with a corresponding list of yoga postures – think again’. I realised that’s exactly what I was expecting, but that’s not how Padma works.


The course notes she supplies cover only a fraction of what we discuss together in class. Thanks to Padma I have been introduced to the work of Bruce Lipton and Rob Williams, the fantastic programme for overcoming heart disease by Dr Dean Ornish,Reversing Heart Disease

and the truly horrendous statistics that you discover if you Google bisphenol A.  I come away with a reading list that will require at least 2 more lifetimes.  I have a book pile entitled ‘READ ME NOW!’ that includes work by John Stirk, Candace Pert, Nischala Joy Devi, and Fiona Agombar. At the top of the pile is a little book on self healing using tuning fork sound therapy entitled, ‘How to Fork Yourself’ (by Debbi Walker).

Padma has taught me that less is always more in yoga, especially when teaching people with chronic pain.  I have learned how big an impact toxic and emotional overload have on our health. For example, it’s enormously hard to help yourself if you suffer from fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.  If you just fight back from a place of anger and fear, you are feeding the pain.  There has to be a moment of acceptance and surrender before any healing can take place and even then it requires enormous commitment and strength of will to make a change.  I have deep admiration for people who, faced with all this, still manage to get on with their lives. Acceptance and surrender are things we know about in yoga.  Other things we can offer are being inside our bodies rather than outside (and learning to listen to them), breathing well and practicing yoga nidra.  I am beginning to think that Yoga Nidra (and Tamla Motown, but then I’m old) could save the world.

When we looked at problems of heart disease and blood pressure, we were privileged to have two volunteers so Padma could show us how she works. ‘Can you see where the breath is?’, she asked us when working with a man who’d had a triple heart by-pass.  And we could – way up in the top of the chest.  We also noticed his reluctance to perform any movements that involved opening at the heart centre.  Unsurprisingly he was very protective of that space and Padma scaled down the movements to a point at which he felt comfortable.

Our other volunteer was in charge of a station on a major transport network, coping with an average of two suicides a week. Needless to say, they suffered from high blood pressure! Just a brief introduction to abdominal breathing proved to be mind-blowing and was followed by a request for someone to organise a yoga class for people working at the station..

It’s an exciting time to practice yoga.  The scientists are just beginning to catch up with us, and we are perfectly placed to really help people in this difficult and isolating age we live in.

Om shanti. xxx





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A lesson in the Sivananda tradition

I spent a lovely morning yesterday at a class offered in the Sivananda tradition by Helen, another local teacher here in mid Wales.

Founded by Swami Sivananda,  the spread of Sivananda Yoga in the west is a direct result of the travels of his enthusiastic pupil,  Swami Vishnudevananda.   Swami Vishnu established ashrams and yoga centres all over the west, offering classes retreats and teacher training courses.  Since establishing the first western Yoga Teacher Training course in 1969, 30,000 teachers have been trained in the Sivananda tradition.

Swami Vishnu condensed the many separate classic yoga texts into five, simple rules for living:-

Proper exercise;

Proper breathing;

Proper diet;

Proper relaxation and

Positive thinking and Meditation.

He also radically pruned the number of asanasa to a core of 12.

1. Sirshasana – (Headstand)

2.Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)

3.  Halasana (Plough)

4.Matsyasana (Fish)

5.Paschimotanasana (Seated Forward Bend)

6. Bhujangasana (Cobra)

7. Salabhasana (Locust)

8. Dhanurasana (Bow)

9. Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Spinal Twist)

10.  Kakasana (Crow)

11.  Pada Hasthasana (Standing Forward Bend)

12.  Trikonasana (Triangle)

Between postures the practitioner rests in Savasana.  I particularly like this because when I first began yoga in the 1980s my then teacher (trained at the Iyengar Institute) would always suggest that we rested in between postures in order to assimilate the practice.

There is also great emphasis on chanting in the Sivananda tradition.  I am quite new to chanting, but I very much enjoy  it, and I’m hoping to expand my knowledge of it in the future.  There is a wonderful power in many voices making the same sound, especially if there are both men and women chanting, which expands the range considerably.

I was interested to learn that pranayama is normally practiced at the beginning of a Sivananda Class (apparently in the early days students would do their asana practice and then leave, so Swami Vishnu moved the pranayama work to early on in the session).

After a guided relaxation, we finished with more chanting and a short period of meditation.


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Unexpected affirmations

Once a month I attend a British Wheel of Yoga teacher training tutorial.  I am lucky to be part of  a delightful group of student teachers and to have two wise and compassionate tutors.

We recently had to prepare a micro-teaching practise and we divided into groups to teach one another.  One of my fellow student teachers decided their lesson plan was not up to scratch and rewrote the entire thing during our lunch break.  In that short time they produced a wonderful, flowing vinyasa for the wide-legged forward bend, explained the sequence perfectly, demonstrated it where necessary, and we all thoroughly enjoyed doing it.

After every practise like this, we give and receive feedback. Our group’s feedback was very positive. We also expressed our admiration that our friend had produced this plan in such a short time.  They shook their head and found it hard to accept our praise.  One of our tutors had been observing  us and intervened, saying how easily we all accept criticism – we assume we are no good at something and deserve to be derided.  However, it is even more important to make a space in our hearts to accept praise when it is deserved.

‘Place the palms of your hands over your heart centre, and say to yourself, “I did well”‘, said our tutor.  Our friend had to repeat this three times. ‘I did well’, ‘I did well’, ‘I did well’.

I offer this to you as an unexpected affirmation, and I invite you, next time you do something well, to make a space in your heart to acknowledge it.

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