Awareness is at the heart of the learning

Recently, a very well-known and highly respected teacher leading a taught session which included mindfulness, made a claim that really sparked my attention.  He said ‘it is unusual for a 200hr teacher training to include mindfulness‘ and that it is a key skill for developing a more subtle awareness of yoga.

Thankfully this was an online training and my laptop was on mute, or he would have heard me exclaim ‘Our trainings include mindfulness!!‘.  When designing the curriculum for the 200hr yoga teacher training (Yoga Fundamentals) and the 30hr restorative yoga teacher training (Restorative Yoga Fundamentals), it felt key to include some experience of mindfulness.  I find this a wonderfully rich way of developing awareness. We learn by doing: guided sitting practices, mindful movement, body scans and opportunity for group reflection.

Though the roots of mindfulness are Buddhist, the mindfulness approach that we take is completely secular. The skills taught in this approach have been and continue to be evaluated thoroughly, and shown to have a high degree of effectiveness in a variety of contexts. As the popularity of mindfulness continues to rise, so too do the number of published popular journal and peer reviewed research articles. Useful sources include the Mindfulness Research Guide, and the American Mindfulness Research Association.

We have a vibrant community group who gather regularly online for a mindfulness practice – many of whom are graduates of our Fundamentals courses.  It is an open invitation to join, there is no charge.  Details may be found on this site, in the ‘Practice Together‘ section.  I hope to welcome you to the group in our upcoming practice!

Practice does not mean rehearsal

I am a big fan of re-reading books.  There are some on my shelf that I dip into regularly for inspiration, including ‘Whever You Go, There You Are’ by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  It is the sort of reading where it is possible to discover new layers of meaning and applicability every time I delve into its chapters.   

This morning I opened the book to the chapter entitled ‘Practice Does Not Mean Rehearsal’.  As one of my life patterns is to strive for accomplishment, this really resonated with me today.   How many of us are practicing yoga with the idea that we get ‘better’ at it the more we practice yoga?  How human of us!  

‘The spirit of mindfulness is to practice for its own sake, and just to take each moment as it comes – pleasant or unpleasant, good, bad, or ugly – and then work with that because it is what is present now.  With this attitude, life itself becomes practice.  Then, rather than doing the practice, it might be better said that the practice is doing you, or that life itself becomes your meditation teacher and your guide.’ – Jon Kabat Zinn

This week I’ll be leading a practice with the intention of exploring balance.   In the movement part of the practice we will use asana as a way of experiencing the felt sense of our bodies within symmetrical and assymetrical poses.  Using this exploration as a way of practicing our noticing, we will also bring awareness to what we experience as a feeling tone – tuning into what is present for us.  The practice will include a long Restorative savasana, so bring your blankets!

Join us on Friday 27th Jan 2023 (18:00-18:45 CET / 17:00-17:45 GMT) on Zoom (click HERE to register).  Zoom links will be sent out the day before.

Breathing Space: a short guided practice

Take a moment to reconnect, to pause and to notice.  This 3 minute practice is called a Breathing Space.  Use this recording to guide you to a mindful awareness of this moment: it can be a helpful way of learning to be awake to your life.


A Subtle Map of Self: The Layers of the Koshas

Koshas are often referred to as layers. This is a helpful image for understanding this inner landscape of the self: the first layer is the most accessible and the innermost layer is much more subtle. As our yoga practice becomes deeper, it is helpful to have a guide to the contemplative aspects of ourselves.

The outer layer is the annamaya kosha. This is our physical body, and one that we are aware of when we experience physical sensations. We feed this body with nutrition and with movement. We also feed ourselves with breath, bringing us to the pranamaya kosha. This breath-body is also our life force. This kosha works on both a physiological and a subtle level. We bring the physical body and the breath body together in our yoga practice. The third layer is the manomaya kosha. It is related to the nervous system and its expression of thought and awareness. When we slow our practice down and pay attention to the breath, we become aware of thoughts as they arise. Going back again and again to the point of focus helps us to develop a sense of the first three koshas (body, breath, mind).

The fourth layer is the vijnanamaya kosha. A sense of this layer emerges as we move deeper into a contemplative consciousness of ourselves in our first three koshas. This is sometimes referred to as the layer of wisdom. It is where we are able to observe as a witness to our experience. Then the deepest layer, the anandamaya kosha, when we experience integration – a feeling of wholeness and contentment.

The map of the layers is one of self-study, getting to know and accept your own experience, rather than a goal-oriented checklist of progression. Bring your awareness to the moment-to-moment experience on your yoga mat and navigate the map of yourself!


Celebrating the Spring Equinox

The Spring Equinox is when the sun is exactly above the equator and is on its way to moving North (as compared to the Autumnal Equinox, when the sun is moving South). After this point, those of us in the Northern hemisphere experience the tilt toward the sun as our days get longer.

Celebrating the Equinox is one way of connecting with the rhythms of our environment. This can be especially helpful for those of us who are living in urban areas, spending much of our day indoors. Our yoga practice helps us to develop an awareness of our inner environment, as well as our outer environment. The relationship between our well-being and nature is a long established one.

The book ‘Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness’, (written by Qing Li, a physician and researcher in Japan), describes the positive impact of forests on health and well-being. One such example of this includes a small scale study Li conducted to examine the impact of ‘forest bathing’ on the sleep patterns of individuals in highly stressful jobs in Japan. The study participants did not vary their usual amount of physical activity (e.g. they walked as much as they usually did in their daily lives in urban settings). The factor that was different was location. After walking in a forest, they were significantly less anxious and had better quality sleep.

Forest bathing involves simple steps such as: engaging all of your senses; take your time (no need to hurry); try activities in addition to walking (do some yoga in the woods); and appreciate the silence. Spend some time in nature amongst the trees and enjoy the Equinox!


Are all stress reduction techniques the same?

If the intention is to reduce stress, does this mean that all stress reduction approaches work in the same way? The answer is no, relaxation response and mindfulness meditation affect the brain in different ways. These two well-known and thoroughly researched interventions for stress-reduction (one based on Herbert Benson’s work on the ‘Relaxation Response’ and the other being the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction from the work of Jon Kabat Zinn) were compared by a team at the Harvard Medical School (click here).

Although both approaches implement meditation, they come from different traditions and employ different techniques to reduce stress. The research reported that the programs, though both beneficial in reducing stress, work through distinct neural mechanisms. Both have benefits but they work in different ways. The body scan is a technique used in both interventions. The scan delivered in the relaxation response program involves placing awareness and deliberately relaxation the part of the body. Scans showed that this technique affected parts of the brain that are associated with deliberate control. In the mindfulness body scan (which is taught as deliberately placing awareness without changing anything), areas of the brain associated with sensory awareness and perception were affected.

Both programs are beneficial but they are working in unique ways. Knowing these characteristics may be helpful to understand when one is making a choice about stress reduction programs.

Yoga and resilience

Can yoga help me to develop my ability to calm down after a stressful situation?

A growing area of research is investigating why yoga can be helpful in establishing a more healthy response to stress. One research team (read the full paper here) suggested that this is related to yoga helping to increase vagal tone. The vagus nerve (a cranial nerve sometimes referred to as the ‘wandering’ nerve as it travels throughout our bodies and helps us to regulate the respiratory, nervous and digestive systems). Its relationship to all of these systems is as a regulator of our major bodily functions. Vagal ‘tone’ is the state of the vagus nerve: when we have ‘high’ vagal tone, this indicates having an easier time moving from a stressed state to a calm state. It is a marker of body-mind resilience. So the conclusion is that yoga practices are a potential source of improved body-mind resilience.


Pranayama for health and well-being


Within our conscious control, breathing is one of the ways we can make a change to our health and wellbeing. For example, we have the ability to slow our breath down to help shift into a more calm and relaxed state. Research investigating pranayama (yogic breathing practices) has involved various aspects of its effects on the body-mind.

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is the control centre for ‘Fight or Flight’ response (sympathetic), the ‘Rest & Digest’ (parasympathetic), and the cardiovascular, respiratory and digestive systems. Our breathing has a direct connection to the vagus (wandering) nerve, which is a key part of our nervous system. For example, when we experience stress, we quickly move into a mode where both physically and mentally we are primed for survival and quick action. We are also capable of activating our relaxation response, which in many ways are the opposite to those of the stress response. Pranayama is one of the ways that we can recruit the respiratory system to cultivate this relaxation response.

Effects of pranayama on hypertension

Pranayama and its role in reducing anxiety

Frequently Asked Questions about Yoga Fundamentals Teacher Training


How much yoga experience do I need to enroll in the program?  We ask that trainees have at least 3 years of yoga* experience. The intention of this requirement is to ensure that trainees have developed a relationship with yoga, or *another related discipline, and to have an established practice. The precise amount of experience within this time frame is something that we will discuss in interview.

How do I know if my physical yoga practice is “good enough” for teacher training?  The physical yoga practice is less important than the overall relationship to the practice. For example, we ask that trainees understand that there is a degree of physical challenge in the training, but overall we are interested in each individual’s dedication to their practice, rather than strictly ability.

How demanding is the training?  The demands of the training are twofold:  1. your commitment to the program: we ask that you spend time on personal practice between training modules, there is advanced reading in preparation for each module, and you will be assessed to ensure you have adequately understood each module (see below for details about assessment).  2. physical demands: we ask that you are able to participate in a standard-level Hatha yoga class, with some flow components.

Is there credit for yoga teacher training hours completed in another program?  At the moment we do not have a policy for transferring TT hours from other programs.

Application process

How do I apply?   The application form may be completed and submitted online. The final date for doing so is 1 December 2018.  The application does not commit you to doing the training, but lets us know of your intention. Your agreement to take part comes after the interview (see below), when you are invited to attend and pay your deposit.

After I send the application, what can I expect?  You will be sent an email confirming the receipt of your application. We will then be in touch to invite you to interview. The interview is an informal opportunity to meet two of the teacher trainers, to ask any questions you might have, and to ensure that this training is for you.

When will I find out if I have been accepted into the program? Is there a chance I may not be accepted?  We will let you know at the end of the interview. In some circumstances, we might recommend that an individual do some further practice before applying to join the training for the next intake. Otherwise, you will then be invited to join the training, and your spot will be confirmed once your deposit is paid.


What kind of yoga is taught? What kind of yoga will this program prepare me to teach?  This is a training in Hatha Yoga. This will include: yoga asana, anatomy + movement, meditation, philosophy, yoga lifestyle, ethics, communication, and the business of yoga. This program is designed to give trainees a thorough foundation for learning the craft of teaching yoga, from which trainees can then decide on specialisms.

What type of certification will I have when I am done?  Trainees who successfully complete the full program will be able to apply for a 200 hour RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) qualification from Yoga Alliance. This is an internationally recognised teaching qualification.

What is Yoga Alliance?  Yoga Alliance is a USA-based organisation dedicated to promoting and supporting the integrity and diversity of the teaching of yoga. The Yoga Alliance Registry is a highly recognised credentialing program for yoga teachers and yoga schools.


What sort of homework and assessment will be involved?  

  • The course will include personal practice (yoga, meditation and pranayama), reading, reflective journalling, written reports as well as practical hands-on teaching experience.  You are required to do preparatory reading and other work, including mindfulness practice, for each weekend module.
  • Students will be required to attend 20 yoga classes (of at least one hour in duration each) taught by a certified teacher in any yoga tradition. For each class, students will be asked to write a short entry in their workbooks about their experience in that particular class.
  • All students will be required to teach two Community Classes at Radiant Light Yoga, with one member of the teacher trainers attending. Feedback will be given from the trainer.
  • In addition, each student will be responsible for teaching to the group of trainees. Feedback will be given from the teaching panel (made up of at least 2 teacher trainers).
  • You must also satisfactorily complete a number of other assignments during the course, on anatomy, decoding Sanskrit, yoga philosophy and history of yoga. Other assignments will include topics such as class planning and sequencing. Informal assessment will be ongoing throughout the year.

Further training/opportunities

Will you offer more training after the Fundamentals course is finished?  Yes, our intention is to offer additional specialised trainings and other continuing professional opportunities. You are also welcome to attend additional electives,  at your own cost.

Will you assist me in my career development as a yoga teacher?  After the training is completed, we will offer a mentoring programme to those who would like to continue receiving support. Radiant Light Yoga will also offer teacher development opportunities to those who wish to teach at RLY.


How many trainees will there be?  We are limiting our total number to a maximum of 25 trainees.

Do we have to bring our mats, own notebooks, etc?  Yes, please bring your own mat. Other props will be provided.

On the Saturdays, what are the arrangements for lunch?  We will have an hour for lunch on Saturdays, and you are very welcome to use the kitchen at RLY (we have a fridge, cooker and oven – sorry, no microwave) to prepare your own food. There are a few small supermarkets nearby.

What hours are required for the course, outside of weekend modules?  We ask that you commit to a regular yoga and meditation practice, as well as reading.

Can I record the lectures and other sessions?  Permission to using electronic recording (audio or visual) must be made directly to the teacher of that session. We ask that recordings made during the training be used only for your benefit, and kept strictly to yourself, not shared with any other party.


What if I have to miss a portion of the training?  If any part of the taught modules is missed, you will be responsible for making up the missed work by attending that module in the training for the following year.

Costs and payments

May I pay my tuition in installments?  Yes, in 3 installments.  The total cost of the training is €3000 (including VAT). This price includes all teaching costs (including all weekend modules and 1 elective) and the workbook manual. There are X books that are required reading. You may purchase these independently or through RLY.  If your application is successful, you will be asked to pay a non-refundable deposit of €750. The next payment of €1250 will be due before 1 January 2019, and the final payment of €1000 is due before 30 June 2019.

May I have a discount on my regular class pass?  We require that trainees attend 20 classes taught by a certified yoga teacher, but these do not have to be at RLY. However, those attending the training will be offered a 20x class pass as part of the training. Additionally, an Annual Pass may be purchased with a 50% discount (but it must be purchased within the dates of the teacher training course, not after completion).

Mindfulness Based Childbirth and Parenting

The Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting Program (MBCP) is an adaptation of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR) founded by Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.

In this shortened version of the MBCP program, expectant parents practice mindfulness meditation, yoga and mindfulness in daily life. As we actively cultivate mindfulness together we may find that we are able to more fully live the joys and more gracefully navigate the inevitable challenges of this life transforming time while building a foundation and a lifelong resource for healthy living and wise parenting.
In this class we will:

• Access deep physical and mental relaxation
• Learn to engage the mind to work with pain during labor
• Increase confidence and courage for the experience of labor and delivery
• Practice prenatal yoga for strength and flexibility
• Develop skills for managing stress in pregnancy, parenting and daily life
• Enhance partner communication skills
• Become more aware of our own approach to parenting

Cost for 4 weeks: €100 per person (partners are very welcome)