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Explorations into interoception and embodied anatomy with Donna Farhi.

by Lucinda Staniland,

On a rainy Saturday morning in Auckland, I found myself in a packed auditorium, with around 85 yoga teachers and students, and several hundred fitness professionals, listening to renowned international yoga teacher Donna Farhi give a keynote presentation on interoception and kinesthesia. As Donna lead us through ten slow diaphragmatic breaths, the whole audience dropped into deep, yet focused, stillness.

There were so many magical moments like this at the Hauora Yoga Conference: Moments of a profound collective experience, sometimes of quiet and stillness, and at other times of laughter, sadness or gratitude.

I’d been nervous when I arrived, not knowing what to expect from New Zealand’s first ever Yoga Conference. How many people would be there? Would I know many of them? What would it feel like? As a yoga student, would I feel welcome at a conference created to deliver yoga content for professional development?

As soon as I arrived at the onsite accommodation and settled into a conversation with my fellow conference-goers and roommates I knew I was in the right place. My three days at Hauora were easeful, flowing and full of fun. Yes, the days were very full and yes, there were the usual logistical niggles that come with a first-time event. And yet, the overall energy of the event was so positive and supportive that everything felt just right.

J. Brown leading his signature workshop, Gentle is the New Advanced.

The Hauora Yoga Conference grew out of conversations between Richard Beddie, CEO of the Exercise Association of New Zealand, and Persephone Singfield, a Christchurch yoga teacher and founder of Courage My Love.

After presenting at the annual Fitex Conference in 2015 Persephone wondered why the support that she saw offered to the fitness industry – which includes political advocacy, resources and tools around employment law, membership agreements, and health and safety standards, as well as the opportunity to come together annually for learning and discussion at a conference – wasn’t available to the yoga industry too.

So they made it happen. With Persephone on board, Exercise NZ put down the groundwork to both launch HYC (co-timed with the Fitex conference) and to reinvigorate Yoga New Zealand, formerly a branch of Yoga Australia, and support it under the Exercise NZ umbrella.

So there I was, listening to Donna Farhi, one of my all-time favourite yoga heroines.

I was surprised to learn that in addition to Donna’s many years of teaching, her journey into anatomy and interoception has been literally “close to the bone,” after she sustained two breaks to her pelvis last year. During her keynote, the x-ray of her broken pelvis caused a sharp collective intake of breath, followed by a lot of wincing. Ouch. That was a not a happy pelvis, let alone a functional one. And yet, a year later, the women in front of us was standing tall and strong. You couldn’t tell. It was a moving testament to the healing capabilities of the body when aided by a commitment to interception and a deep understanding of anatomy and movement.

Celebrating Jase alongside Amy Green, Kylie Rook, and Persephone Singfield

Another standout moment of collective magic was Jase Te Patu’s presentation on yoga and mindfulness from a Maori perspective.

Jase’s passionate, open presence grounded the conference into the context of Aotearoa New Zealand right from the very beginning. In his evening presentation, he had us all laughing, crying, connecting with each other, and thinking deeply about what Hauora and wellbeing really mean.

I was also lucky to be present when Jase won ‘Mind Body Instructor of the Year 2018’ at the NZ Exercise Industry awards on Saturday night. With people like Jase on board, I’m tremendously excited about where the NZ Yoga community is headed.

The workshops (and there were many, from a wide range of local and international teachers), were all packed full of juicy, embodied goodness.

Some favourite moments for me were ‘joy bubbles’ in Kylie Rook’s fascial flow workshop on vagal tone, discussions about yoga and emotional health with Katie Lane, an embodied exploration of the deep front line with Chaitanya Deva, and a gentle and playful exploration of the Shakti Mat with Keishana Coursey. I missed out on J. Brown‘s signature workshop, Gentle is the New Advanced, but I loved how strongly that sentiment showed up in the words and actions of many of the Hauora presenters and attendees.

Getting up close and personal with the Shakti Mat in Keishana Coursey’s Sunday morning workshop.

And then there were the people of the NZ Yoga community, many of whom I was meeting for the first time.

As someone who works in the yoga industry in an almost 100% online capacity, it was an immense delight to be surrounded by the real-life, in-the-flesh yoga community. For once, my emails took a back seat to real-life conversations and interactions with yoga teachers, students and business owners from all over the country. I didn’t check my inbox once.

Wonderful as they are, events like the Hauora Yoga Conference don’t happen by magic. So I’m profoundly grateful for the time, effort, love and sheer hard work that the many organisers, volunteers and presenters put into making it happen. I’m grateful too for the people like me who turned up, not knowing what would happen or what it would feel like but trusting that they were in the right place.

For me, as a yoga student who also works in the NZ yoga industry, it was so valuable to have a time and space where I could connect, learn and be in dialogue with the yoga community.

By the third day, I could sense the building energy and excitement building for what Hauora 2019 could be. I imagine it will be much bigger, once the word gets out about how awesome 2018 was, but that there’ll still be that same sense of collective magic, deep learning and more opportunities for important conversations about yoga therapy, yoga teacher training and industry support. I can’t wait!

About Lucinda

Lucinda is the Editor of The Yoga Lunchbox. She has worked at The Yoga Lunchbox since 2012, and she loves the opportunity to be constantly immersed in the world of yoga, and particularly in the vibrant NZ yoga community. Lucinda is a constantly curious learner, particularly in the areas of movement, plants, nature connection and embodiment. She loves to hear from Yoga Lunchbox readers, so get in touch with her via email with your questions, ideas and stories.

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Explorations into interoception and embodied anatomy with Donna Farhi.

by Lucinda Staniland,

On a rainy Saturday morning in Auckland, I found myself in a packed auditorium, with around 85 yoga teachers and students, and several hundred fitness professionals, listening to renowned international yoga teacher Donna Farhi give a keynote presentation on interoception and kinesthesia. As Donna lead us through ten slow diaphragmatic breaths, the whole audience dropped into deep, yet focused, stillness.

There were so many magical moments like this at the Hauora Yoga Conference: Moments of a profound collective experience, sometimes of quiet and stillness, and at other times of laughter, sadness or gratitude.

I’d been nervous when I arrived, not knowing what to expect from New Zealand’s first ever Yoga Conference. How many people would be there? Would I know many of them? What would it feel like? As a yoga student, would I feel welcome at a conference created to deliver yoga content for professional development?

As soon as I arrived at the onsite accommodation and settled into a conversation with my fellow conference-goers and roommates I knew I was in the right place. My three days at Hauora were easeful, flowing and full of fun. Yes, the days were very full and yes, there were the usual logistical niggles that come with a first-time event. And yet, the overall energy of the event was so positive and supportive that everything felt just right.

J. Brown leading his signature workshop, Gentle is the New Advanced.

The Hauora Yoga Conference grew out of conversations between Richard Beddie, CEO of the Exercise Association of New Zealand, and Persephone Singfield, a Christchurch yoga teacher and founder of Courage My Love.

After presenting at the annual Fitex Conference in 2015 Persephone wondered why the support that she saw offered to the fitness industry – which includes political advocacy, resources and tools around employment law, membership agreements, and health and safety standards, as well as the opportunity to come together annually for learning and discussion at a conference – wasn’t available to the yoga industry too.

So they made it happen. With Persephone on board, Exercise NZ put down the groundwork to both launch HYC (co-timed with the Fitex conference) and to reinvigorate Yoga New Zealand, formerly a branch of Yoga Australia, and support it under the Exercise NZ umbrella.

So there I was, listening to Donna Farhi, one of my all-time favourite yoga heroines.

I was surprised to learn that in addition to Donna’s many years of teaching, her journey into anatomy and interoception has been literally “close to the bone,” after she sustained two breaks to her pelvis last year. During her keynote, the x-ray of her broken pelvis caused a sharp collective intake of breath, followed by a lot of wincing. Ouch. That was a not a happy pelvis, let alone a functional one. And yet, a year later, the women in front of us was standing tall and strong. You couldn’t tell. It was a moving testament to the healing capabilities of the body when aided by a commitment to interception and a deep understanding of anatomy and movement.

Celebrating Jase alongside Amy Green, Kylie Rook, and Persephone Singfield

Another standout moment of collective magic was Jase Te Patu’s presentation on yoga and mindfulness from a Maori perspective.

Jase’s passionate, open presence grounded the conference into the context of Aotearoa New Zealand right from the very beginning. In his evening presentation, he had us all laughing, crying, connecting with each other, and thinking deeply about what Hauora and wellbeing really mean.

I was also lucky to be present when Jase won ‘Mind Body Instructor of the Year 2018’ at the NZ Exercise Industry awards on Saturday night. With people like Jase on board, I’m tremendously excited about where the NZ Yoga community is headed.

The workshops (and there were many, from a wide range of local and international teachers), were all packed full of juicy, embodied goodness.

Some favourite moments for me were ‘joy bubbles’ in Kylie Rook’s fascial flow workshop on vagal tone, discussions about yoga and emotional health with Katie Lane, an embodied exploration of the deep front line with Chaitanya Deva, and a gentle and playful exploration of the Shakti Mat with Keishana Coursey. I missed out on J. Brown‘s signature workshop, Gentle is the New Advanced, but I loved how strongly that sentiment showed up in the words and actions of many of the Hauora presenters and attendees.

Getting up close and personal with the Shakti Mat in Keishana Coursey’s Sunday morning workshop.

And then there were the people of the NZ Yoga community, many of whom I was meeting for the first time.

As someone who works in the yoga industry in an almost 100% online capacity, it was an immense delight to be surrounded by the real-life, in-the-flesh yoga community. For once, my emails took a back seat to real-life conversations and interactions with yoga teachers, students and business owners from all over the country. I didn’t check my inbox once.

Wonderful as they are, events like the Hauora Yoga Conference don’t happen by magic. So I’m profoundly grateful for the time, effort, love and sheer hard work that the many organisers, volunteers and presenters put into making it happen. I’m grateful too for the people like me who turned up, not knowing what would happen or what it would feel like but trusting that they were in the right place.

For me, as a yoga student who also works in the NZ yoga industry, it was so valuable to have a time and space where I could connect, learn and be in dialogue with the yoga community.

By the third day, I could sense the building energy and excitement building for what Hauora 2019 could be. I imagine it will be much bigger, once the word gets out about how awesome 2018 was, but that there’ll still be that same sense of collective magic, deep learning and more opportunities for important conversations about yoga therapy, yoga teacher training and industry support. I can’t wait!

About Lucinda

Lucinda is the Editor of The Yoga Lunchbox. She has worked at The Yoga Lunchbox since 2012, and she loves the opportunity to be constantly immersed in the world of yoga, and particularly in the vibrant NZ yoga community. Lucinda is a constantly curious learner, particularly in the areas of movement, plants, nature connection and embodiment. She loves to hear from Yoga Lunchbox readers, so get in touch with her via email with your questions, ideas and stories.

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by Lucinda Staniland,

Flow.

We’ve all heard about the concept of a ‘flow state’ – but what is it really? What does it feel like in an embodied sense? And what stops us from experiencing it?

Dr. Scott Lyons has an intimate relationship with flow.

He’s a Clinical Psychologist, a Mind-Body Medicine practitioner, the co-founder of Embodied Flow yoga with Tara Judelle, and a voracious learner who has explored many healing modalities. (Seriously, check out his bio – it’s off the hook). He has a multi-dimensional approach to healing the body, mind and spirit, and his many clients speak very highly of his skilled, sensitive and empathetic perspective.

In this interview, Scott and Kara-Leah explore the flow state in words, in their own bodies and in their interactions with each other. It’s a playful and embodied example of what flow looks and feels like in real life.

They also explore the relationship between Non-Dual Tantric Philosophy and quantum physics, why Yin Yoga is not about collapse, and Scott’s upcoming workshops in New Zealand on Embodied Flow Yin yoga and Somatic Stress Release.

Scott Lyons on What it Really Means to be in Flow

Scott Lyons on What it Really Means to be in Flow - YouTube

Events with Scott in New Zealand Embodied Flow Yin Yoga: 100Hr Immersion | Kawai Purapura, Auckland | February 26 – March 3, 2019

Embodied Flow Yin Yoga is a gentle, integrative practice that creates a sacred space where time expands and slows down for you to catch up to your deepest sense of self. This approach combines a unique blend of yin poses, guided imagery, experiential anatomy, movement meditation, five elements Chinese medicine, breath work, mantra and mind-body medicine practices.

Find out more.

Somatic Stress Release Level I: Foundations | Yoga Nadi, Queenstown | March 20 – 24, 2019

This comprehensive 5-day immersion introduces students to Somatic Stress Release, addressing the underlying psycho-physical patterns associated with stress while promoting well-being through the lens of body-oriented therapies. It is open to anyone (i.e yoga teachers, therapists, parents, teachers, etc) who wishes to addresses stress from a multidisciplinary holistic approach.

Find out more.

Quotes from the interview On Flow:

“It’s likely we’ve all had an experience of flow state: A moment of arriving into flow where we actually experience a shift in time, a deep attention to what we are doing. There’s a sense of the self-critic disappearing and we are totally absorbed in the relationship of what we’re doing.”

On Intuition:

“Intuition is the subtle communication of consciousness.”

OnNon-Dual Tantric Philosophy & quantum physics:

“One of the things I love about Non-Dual Tantric Philosophy is just how parallel it is to the constant discoveries in the field of quantum physics.”

On Embodied Flow Yin yoga

“What does it mean to come inward and not collapse?”

“One of the beautiful things about Yin practice is that we have the space and time to support someone to come into themselves with what is present in that present moment.”

*** Proudly sponsored by Dr. Scott Lyons ***

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A vision for The Powa Centre, an ecologically-driven complex which houses a range of financially sustainable, cross-pollinating businesses all under one roof. Within Powa Centre, busy individuals can access a variety of activities, services and products to empower them, engage them with their spiritual side, strengthen the community and ultimately the planet.

by Melissa Billington, MYOGA Freedom & The Amazon Academy

The advantage of growing up in the alternative health realms is that I’ve seen the evolution of these arts & sciences over a number of decades. My mother was doing yoga while I was in the womb & a few years later she became a massage therapist. When she worked in a health food store, I would hang out in the back. When we were Buddhist we chanted and had an altar in our home. Our family heritage to the pre-colonized Powhatan “Indians” of what’s now known as Virginia added to our hippie interest in all things “back to nature”. As a creative, I didn’t suspect the most intensive training & career I would invest in would be yoga, but it turns out this apple did not fall far from the tree. So I’ve seen the growth of yoga, so-called spirituality, health food, & alternative wellness practices in a number of countries over a number of decades.

When I arrived in New Zealand in 2005, there was barely any mainstream recognition of the growing yoga world, or where it seemed to be heading.

What I also saw in those first years of living in NZ was that there was no regulation on teacher training; there were no industry standards. This didn’t bother me, for two reasons. One, I’d been doing yoga since I was young & I knew that my professional credentials were covered by my teacher training in 2002 & my US Yoga Alliance registration since 2003. Two, yoga has all-ways been a practice of direct revelation for me so while #1 is true, I also value keeping yoga regulation an internal process as much, if not more, than one governed solely by outside “experts”. What we have here, in this time & place, is the opportunity to learn from how others in the US, Europe & Australia have created industry standards that continue to evolve with the changing industry.

The Hauora conference & the creation of Yoga Alliance New Zealand in recent years are current signs that we are in the middle of clarifying what yoga has been, is now, & could be.

Nearly 8 years ago, a vision that had been percolating in my consciousness for years condensed into words & images I could share with others. While I was holding down the fort of my Wellington studio, Powa Centre, I presented the bigger iteration of it for a business fund. Powa Centre was a finalist, but didn’t win the support it needed to actualize a multi-million dollar self-sustaining living building & wellness complex. Go figure! Only two years prior, while taking on the commitment to the Marion Street commercial lease, I asked Kiwibank for a business credit card or overdraft to support MYOGA as I developed it in a nascent market & during the recession! They questioned whether yoga was really a viable business & I brazenly told them that they would soon see. And only 5 years prior to that, when I first landed in NZ, I was startled to be asked by more than one person whether yoga was a cult.

What I saw, when the vision I had for Powa Centre was refused, was that more individuation would be needed first. Tink Stephenson, who shared a very similar vision, & I made an audio recording to evoke the feelings of the space we envisioned. We wanted people to see it for themselves, without locking it into existing technologies or structures. But we also had our vision board of inspirations & the architectural sketch I had commissioned for the funding competition. Aside from the wonderment over how to fund such a vast & expensive vision, everyone’s response was that they wanted to BE in such a place–they wanted it to already exist.

What I mean by saying that more individuation was needed, is that it seemed pretty apparent to me in 2010 that each yoga teacher needed to establish their own style & brand & studio, before any clear & effective collaboration could happen. Powa Centre was my answer to the ridiculous reality of each person trying to manage all the logistics alone–maintaining the physical space & paying for it, developing & maintaining the style & particular brand for the chosen style & then implementing that in all forms of promotion, managing the finances & the teachers or staff, cultivating student relationships, keeping up with training, and on & on & on. The Powa Centre was modeled on places like Kripalu Center, Esalen & Omega in the US. These places hold to a clear ethos which allows for all the many streams flowing to the sea, to share their individual expression of that central ethos. The physical spaces are neutral enough that a group can come in & make it their own without having to own the space, or, more likely, be owned by it.

Only 12 years ago the NZ community included people who still thought yoga was a cult. About five years ago there was an upsurge of teacher trainings & then suddenly we had a “Yoga Industry”. I became so wary of this trend that I took myself on sabbatical to consider what it might mean overall & how I might continue to play a part somewhere along the line. For while the increase of yoga visibility was great for all those who wanted to up-level their practice & could do so through a 200 hour training, it was not necessarily so great for the general populace whose first exposure to yoga was from a first-time teacher. Much of my work early on in NZ was educating people about what yoga really is.

I want to stop here for a second & pay homage to all those, known & unknown, who have put in the hard yards to pioneer yoga here in Aotearoa. Without them we wouldn’t be here now.

I am such a huge advocate of the Basics of yoga that this is what I’m sharing with folks at Hauora–The Challenge of the Simple. I’ve all-ways loved working with people who are new to the field by demystifying it, making it accessible, while at the same time slipping in the metaphors & teachings as best I could. These days I’m not so sure the general population are all that much more educated on what yoga is or could be, as that’s a big topic & involves more than a few gym-yoga classes, but at least there’s a wider receptivity to it as a practice. I was astounded recently, while teaching in a corporate environment, to have far more folks in the yoga class than the pilates one. That was another sign that yoga has become accepted enough for people to feel it’s more popular than frightening, though it still remains more firmly rooted in the realms of the privileged, which is why I’m holding a discussion at Hauora on Social Enter-Prize-ing Yoga.

Now what we face is teasing out what is “good” yoga, which is obviously subjective. Yet if we’re all looking to agree on industry standards of what is good yoga, then how do we come to collaborate on & agree with that vision?

What have we learned in our individuation–in our pursuit of the style, brand, studio that sets us apart? What ties, or yokes, us together beyond our need to differentiate? Although frustrating to me at the time, since I dearly wanted to exist within such a world as the vision I had of the Powa Centre, it was also just plain clear. We’re in a natural progression from the individuation & stabilization at Muladhara chakra to the relational at Svadisthana. If we haven’t clarified who or what we are, merger is a mess. These things can’t be rushed. It is only now that enough people have been practicing & teaching & growing in this realm long enough that we can have the deeper conversations on a wider scale.

As Hafiz wrote:

At This Party

I don’t want to be the only one here
Telling all the secrets –
Filling up all the bowls at this party,
Taking all the laughs.
I would like you
To start putting things on the table
That can also feed the soul
The way I do.
That way
We can invite
A hell of a lot more
Friends.

So here we all are–a hell of a lot more friends! Such fun to be having these conversations now, to be sharing the field with all those who will be present at Hauora.

For years I’ve been steeped in the Wellington sangha’s (that is no longer bound by city borders) conversations of:

What is yoga? What is good yoga? What is good training for good yoga? What is good, commensurate pay for good teaching? What constitutes good teaching? Should yoga be a service & not be charged? How do the yamas & niyamas translate into studio ethics & influence relationship dynamics? Can anyone “own” the practices? These and so, so many more inquiries.

Powa is a Powhatan word that is perhaps similar to the Te Reo Māori word mana & relates to the word powwaw, meaning to dream together. In the core shamanic drumming journeys I lead, the careful crafting of the intention, or the question, for the journey is crucial. One of the best ways to phrase a question, that I’ve learned through journeying–which is essentially a practice of dreaming separately but together–is to preface it with, “show me”. I suggest, as we journey & dream together at Hauora, that we ask,

“Show me what yoga would look & feel like in its purest, most beneficial form. Show me how yoga is, or could be, different in Aotearoa.”

Auckland, New Zealand. November 23 – 25, 2018.

Join Melissa Billington and other yoga experts at the Hauora Yoga Conference, a three-day educational event where the professional yoga community in Aotearoa New Zealand connect, discuss, learn, innovate and practice together. Educate yourself, practice yoga and be part of national discussions with our selection of Clinics, Masterclasses, Workshops, Discussion Panels, Keynote Speakers and more!

The first 20 Yoga Lunchbox followers who book will receive $200 off the ticket price.

 Use the code yogalunchbox when you book to receive your discount.

More details & tickets here. About Melissa Billington:

Melissa Billington’s hippie parents introduced her to yoga while still in the womb. At 6 she went to Kripalu Ashram, at 16 she began Kundalini Yoga and, after leaving the US in 1999 to roam India, she returned to Kripalu for her 200 hour certification in 2002. Although privileged to teach in a number of countries, Aotearoa New Zealand is where she’s lived the longest (since 2005) and feels the most at home. In 2008 she opened Powa Centre in Wellington and organized her teachings as MYOGA—freedom to unfold, with the aim to empower others to empower themselves. Melissa has certifications in Pregnancy Yoga, Radiant Child, Forrest Yoga Advanced, and has been an ERYT with the Yoga Alliance since 2004. She formulated and led two 200 hour teacher trainings, taught on TVNZ’s Good Morning Show, and in the local women’s prison, for two years. In 2014 she put her teachings online and in 2015 she took a “spiritual sabbatical” to question the Yoga Industry, and to write a memoir for her Seasons teachings. On walkabout, Melissa connected deeply to the welfare of water, women, animals, trees and children, which has led to the next up-leveling of MYOGA–The Amazon Academy–launching soon!

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