3 Secrets to Fire up your Home Practice

3 Secrets to fire up your Yoga practice

Not everyone is as disciplined as they’d like to be.  These days with our hectic pressure both on and offline we need a daily practice more than ever. So what keeps us stepping on the Mat day after day?

Here’s 3 quick tips.

1. Set aside  a specific “ practice time” and practice in a place that promotes peace and wellbeing, like facing a view or in your bedroom.

If you have to get up for work at 6 am you’re always going to feel like there isn’t enough time.  We practice before dinner. It’s so easy to put our food on the stove or in the oven while we do the Ishta Mala sequence

2. Do what you can rather than what you think you should.

If I lessen the pressure of having to do a long practice it’s easier to jump on the Mat. 10 minutes often turns into 20 without trying. And do your practice to the time you have available. If you only have 15 minutes for practice. Shorten the number of breaths per pose, or speed up the standing postures and slow down the seated poses.

3. Think of your Mat time as “ ME time”

What does Me time mean? Time to take a break from all the  actions and responses to your thoughts. You can never be the thoughts. Thoughts come and go in your presence. Practice doesn’t stop the thoughts, it puts your attention on the movement and the breath, naturally drawing your mind away from its preoccupation with thoughts. I look forward to my Mat time each day because it’s like taking a breather…

If you need some motivation for practice I’ve just contributed an energizing sequence to a new online Yoga program called “ Zenward”.  Sign up for a month of daily practice or longer and check out my flow…Here’s a short preview.

Byron Yoga Teacher Training in the Ishta System

On a personal note

Being able to share and teach yoga with my partner John Weddepohl has absolutely transformed my life. After 4 years of practicing, travelling and teaching together we feel we have come up with a bullet proof formula which energises and balances the body and totally transforms your relationship with yourself and the world around you. In our new film we share how we both found Yoga and why we now share इष्टम् ISHTAM. The total culmination of Yoga.


Has Yoga been stretching the Truth?

Sexual Abuse in YogaI’m not one to talk I’ve never experienced shattering violence, rape or abuse so I could never stand in the shoes of a victim. But I am deeply horrified and affected by what the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse  has revealed about the true nature of one of our most respected and revered Yoga institutions. Terms like cult leader, sexual deviant, pedophile, rapist and more are words I would have never expected to hear about a Guru whose practices have spawned a generation of devout and learned yogis. Like many; photos of Satyananda adorned my altar, Bihar school books lined my shelves and my own practices of mantra and yantra and my beliefs about the nature of the yogic experience were influenced by what I had read and practiced. Now it seems everything is up for grabs and long time devotees are shunning their names and questioning the very nature of their own experiences as yoga practitioners. Satyananda yoga is on trial and the verdict doesn’t look good.

www.rachelzinmanyoga.comOver the years in small ways I have placed my faith in teachers and ideologies and have had to face the cold hard truth. Something out there can’t save me and certainly not someone who claims that the answers lie in the practices and pure devotion to the Guru. A wise friend once shared,“If someone says you can only come to the truth through me, run a mile.” That’s why when I was a kid and the Jehovah’s witnesses came to my door I’d curl up in a ball and pray I’d never fall under their spell. The idea of any kind of conversion scares the shit out of me.

A few years ago a respected tantric teacher invited me to be her student. She gave me a good serve of what was not quite right with my behaviour. I was full of fear and misgiving and living in a fantasy world and taking initiation through her would be a step in the right direction. I was quite moved that she had singled me out to be her student but at the same time I heard warning bells. Respectfully I declined her offer and ironically she never replied.

imageI did get caught up in a cult of two so to speak when I fell madly in love with a yogi who was fascinated with Shakti ( energy) and how to explore liberation through sacred sexuality. This guy had a power over me which appeared to reach deep into my soul. I could literally feel his feelings and hear his words in my head even when we were miles apart. But how did I know it wasn’t all in my head? I wanted to believe in him and in us so badly I ignored all the signs. It wasn’t until I consummated our affair that the penny dropped. He was just a normal guy who wanted to get his rocks off.

It seems everywhere you look people are being abused, gurus are being exposed, teachers are found fallible. Some teachers with smaller followings write long winded apologies, promising to curtail their personal sexual habits, while others have died long before exposure. Focussing on the teachers and their behaviour can’t ameliorate the long time suffering of the victims and how can a public apology ever heal the very private scars of those individuals who had no choice but to acquiesce.

450px-Pilgrim_in_PashupatinathIt’s a difficult situation. Those who think they know pontificate on spiritual platforms using  phrases like, “its all karma baby” or try to justify the actions of their beloved Guru’s. Trying to placate the situation and preserve the tradition only makes things worse for the victims. It’s like trying to keep the lid on a pressure cooker. It doesn’t work.

Personally I feel it will take time for the whole yoga community to come to terms with this blow. Students will be more scrupulous, questioning the true meaning of yoga. We will still want teachers only the quality, background and benchmarks of the teacher will be as important as the tradition they represent. Blind faith will be a thing of the past.

www.rachelzinmanyoga.comIssues of Sex and power it seems are a current topic. In the hit series “ Masters of Sex”, which explores the lives of scientific pioneers Masters and Johnson it’s an eye opener to see how ignorant we used to be about what the body felt and experienced during sex. In the 1950’s there was no sexual freedom and women were treated very differently to how we expect to be treated today.

It’s shocking to think that with all we have learned about our bodies that people in positions of power still can and do take advantage of their students. It shows the fragile nature of our minds, how much we long to know and understand who we are and how some of us are unsure or afraid to come forward when that sincerity is abused.

lighthouseIt’s been hard to peruse the Facebook groups specific to the Royal Commission case and hear first hand the very real anguish of the survivors. It’s a place for people to encourage each other to open the wound so it can heal. A comment was made by someone about the leeches that line the paths at the Mangrove Mountain Ashram. “Has anyone noticed the leeches on the Ashram, the way they eat away at your ankles, feet, legs sucking your life blood. Seems to me this was natures/creations warning, anyone joining the project would have their life eaten leeched away.” 

The funny thing about leeches is you don’t feel them until its too late. Their first bite anaesthetises you. To me it’s a very real symbol for any so called “spiritual movement” that promises enlightenment. We get drawn in and by the time we’ve cottoned on to what’s really going on it’s too late. Some of us still can’t believe it, refuse too even when the truth is staring us in the face.05012009(009)

As some people have shared on the site “denial” is not a river in North Africa. It’s a very real phenomenon that protects us from facing reality and accepting our pain. I for one am so grateful all this has come out. However painful the truth is lies and coverups are worse. They go against the very core tenets of Yoga reflected in the Yamas and Niyamas. Once the Truth is bared everyone can move forward. To me that’s what I have always loved about life. It’s relentless roll into the new.


A Morning Yoga practice

Byron Yoga Teacher TrainingYesterday one of my students reposted a video from DoYouYoga.com about morning rituals. It depicted a scantily clad yogini littered with tattoos making a simple cup of herbal chai which progressed to a not so simple morning yoga sequence in a dimly lit apartment. The music was engaging and the yogini’s execution flawless. It’s hard not to aspire to that when you start your practice. But I am here to tell you that no matter how beautiful the lens and how dedicated the student the way we look in our everyday practice is far from perfect.

In response to the post I put together this little piece on what has become of Yoga.

Yes its true I am an early riser and absolutely love my yoga practice- but I definitely don’t bother to dress up or have a cup of tea and I actually have to make myself do the practice. Once I am on the mat and I start I’m fine and then when I finish I’m like ” What was all the fuss about?” Part of the reason I am able to hit that mat every day is the consistency of the sequence. I practice  Ishta Mala. It is nourishing for the tissues and has a beautiful seated sequence that literally detoxifies the body while building Ojas ( immunity). I was introduced to the practice by South African Yogi John Weddepohl and I haven’t looked back. I no longer injure myself, have incredible strength and stamina and when I choose to do a different sequence ( like the one in the video) I have all the flexibility and vigour needed. I am so passionate about daily practice and a practice that can be repeated and memorised that we now teach it on our retreats and trainings.

I hope you enjoy the view into my morning practice and If you feel like inspiring your yoga practice, gaining new skills which will enable you to teach yourself and find out the true and real meaning of yoga without the branded hype- we still have some space in our upcoming Teachers Training October 13- November 21, 2014.

Poem from ” Morning Pranam”

its not about the clothes i wear or the tattoos i have its life itself flowing through this body

Its not about the breath the mind or some notion I have of what yoga is

Its not about how many poses I can strike, how much I can push my body

Its about being with what is as it is

no more

no less

so what is this practice?

Divine worship

an offering of love

without expectation of reward or gain

everything is already gained

at birth it is so

the practice is a dance and a flowering

the breath glides in and out and if I falter

it is not me who falls

only the body seems as though

moving  through contrasting layers

none really knows anymore what yoga is

because everyone has their own idea

even this yoga has become a conditioning

we have forgotten ourselves in the practice

lost to ourselves all the while experiencing ourselves

thinking the yoga is necessary for stilling the mind

The mind will never be still

just as I as an individual am never still

thats why the movement is so potent

its is my nature to move

in the presence of what?

that is the question that begs an answer

Byron Yoga Training in the Ishta system

From little things BIG things Grow

Byron Yoga Teacher Training in the Ishta System“From little things big things grow.” I used to love that song especially when my son was little. If you’ve ever raised a child you know how intense it is at the start. How every second of your time is consumed with feeding, burping, diaper changing and trying to get some bit of rest in somewhere. As the baby grows time has a way of stretching out and a symbiotic relationship unfolds where you take the time you have and use it wisely. Before you know it your baby is a child, teenager and then an adult and BOOM you have all the time in the world. Those childrearing years are a time of in breathing; you take as much air in as you can, learning all the way and then when its all over you breathe out. Some women try to fill the gap by keeping busy but the wise ones stop and go quiet, taking time to reflect and savour the 17 or 18 years of devotion and dedication. There is  a pause and a reconciliation and it’s enough.

Byron Yoga Training in the Ishta SystemWhen someone decides they want to do a yoga teacher training it’s a little like being pregnant. They are incredibly excited about whats about to take birth. They look for a course they feel suits them best and once enrolled do all the necessary things to prepare themselves. Like taking extra classes, reading lots of books, buying all the gear and so on. Once on the course they go for it. Like child rearing there is no time to stop, there are requirements to be fulfilled, asanas to learn, philosophical concepts  to be swallowed and all sorts of personal realisation to be had. Whether the course is 4 weeks, 6 weeks or 14 days its seems as if time has swallowed them whole and at the end in the final circle they feel just like that empty nester. Now what? 

Byron Yoga Training in the Ishta systemIn most cases a newly graduated teacher forgets to breath out. They forget to stop and integrate what they have learned. In my own life as a teacher I knew the value in stopping and took my time to teach. I started slowly with one class a week. Knowing when to ask a more senior teacher for help if I was confused about a posture. When I was starting out almost 30 years ago there weren’t the opportunities there are now to keep training. We didn’t have weekend intensives, or week long immersions or even advanced trainings in exotic locations.

There’s so much pressure now from accreditation bodies like Yoga Alliance and Yoga Australia to keep upping our credentials. We’ve been conditioned in the last ten years to think that after our first Teacher Training we are under qualified and that unless we do more we won’t know what we are doing. We have made yoga so complicated when actually its the simplest of the simplest. In any yoga class a teacher shares what they know and the student happily follows. A beginner doesn’t expect their teacher to be a fancy high flyer who knows the ins and outs of chakra weaving, tantra breathing and hula twirling. They simple want to be led through a sequence have a nice relaxation and get on with their day. So why do we feel so inadequate as teachers if we don’t have 1008 hrs of training under our belt? And why do we think doing yoga on some island is better then studying with our mentors in our hometown? 

Byron Yoga Training in the Ishta SystemBecause we have forgotten to pause and take in everything we have learned. We think that self improvement is equal to doing more when actually the whole purpose of learning yoga and doing yoga hopefully leads to the understanding that there is nothing you NEED to do to be your SELF. By no means am I saying don’t do further training, and of course seek out teachers that inspire you and help you grow. The message here is to take your time. Give yourself a year or two to let the little things grow. To see what the real questions are if any. Develop your own practice, be with yourself on the mat without outside stimulation. Practice and practice some more and understand what it means to truly listen and be still. And then when there is no pressure dive deeper.

To find out more about our upcoming Level 1- 350 hr Yoga Alliance and Yoga Australia accredited training visit www.rachelzinmanyoga.com


The Absolute Beauty of Knowledge and Ignorance

On our recent travels to South Africa we made this little film sharing a bit of what John Weddepohl is all about. Big thanks to Ryan Beifus and Nora Wendel for all their media expertise.

to find out more about our upcoming Retreat and Teachers Training visit www.rachelzinmanyoga.com

Ten things you may not know about me

Rachel Zinman Yoga

The following post is inspired by Brook McCarthy’s recent blog on Yoga Reach I thought it was so cool to find out more about Brook and thought it would be a fun exercise for me to go outside the box and expose myself a little more. Let me know what you think and don’t be shy I’d love to hear something new about you too.

I am a real Dutch girl
I was born and spent the first 7 years of my life in Holland and yes I speak dutch – the equivalent of a seven year old. Another fun fact from my dutch days; apparently in kindergarten on the Queen’s birthday I swallowed a small whistle.

I’m kinda sporty
In my formative years I played tennis, was on the gymnastics team, loved cross country skiing, the odd downhill ski, was an obsessive biker and used to jog daily.

I trained to be a Waldorf Educator
While my son was young I enrolled in a foundation year at our local Waldorf school and really enjoyed learning about the process of education. For my practical I taught in all the grades and honed my skills in story telling, craft and singing. I was actually considering applying for a job at the school but Yoga won out in the end.

I built my own Loo
When I bought my first property in Goonengerry, NSW my boyfriend insisted that the most important item to have was a composting loo. In those days you had to build one. So that’s what I did. I got mighty handy with a hammer, saw, wood and nails and built my loo next to a spectacular view.

I ran a sweat lodge for a Women’s retreat
Back in my 30’s I was employed as an activities coordinator at the Cape Retreat in Byron Bay. I introduced the women to ritual through the cleansing effects of a Native American Sweat Lodge ceremony. I spent most of the time shovelling rocks and generally sweating to death but it was pretty fun all the same.

I had a home birth in the water
I still can’t believe how lucky I was to have a lay midwife with 1000 births under her belt and the encouragement to birth at home in the water. It took me 36 hrs, I had no medical intervention and was able to pull my son out of the water and watch him take his first breath.

I really don’t like amusement parks
When I was little my parents took me to Disneyland. Everything was going swell until we went on the “ Tomorrowland” ride. I happened to see a model of tiny people emerging from the tunnel we were about to enter and was convinced I would shrink too. I had a tantrum right there and then and refused to get on the cart and have avoided amusement parks ever since.

I’m a freak for water
I’ve never particularly craved hot drinks and can’t make a good cup of tea or coffee. Juice is too sweet and soft drinks make me burp. If I come over for a visit I am happy with a glass of water but if you think I’m easy to please forget it.  I’m as fussy as an expert tea drinker. I like my water filtered or enjoy spring water’s many top name brands.

My Ballet career peaked at age 10
Most people know I was a professional modern dancer and choreographer. However Ballet was my first love. I was lucky enough to star as Clara in the Nutcracker with the Boston Ballet at the age of ten. My parents still wax lyrical about the moment I sat on the shoulders of the transformed Nutcracker and commanded the christmas tree to rise to towering heights.

I’m pretty spontaneous when it come to creativity
Whether its writing, dancing, singing, painting, photography or amateur film making, I like to dive in quick and get the job done. Some people like to nut out every word in a sentence or work through a painting with incredible detail. I don’t really have the patience or the tenacity. I like to be spontaneous when I create and don’t really bother about it being perfect. If I like it thats good enough for me

So now its your turn tell me something new about you :).