Yoga Nidra Teacher Training; the first of its kind in South Africa
12 May 2019
Written by Tarryn James
"The mental stability obtained through the power of yoga is known as Yoga Nidra" - Shri T. Krishnamacharya.
Hridaya School of Yoga, based in Sandton, is excited to host a Yoga Nidra Teacher Training in June this year, the first of its kind in South Africa. We got in touch with Bettina and Pamela-Frances Stuetz, co-founders of Hridaya School of Yoga to find out more about the value of Yoga Nidra and what you can expect on their upcoming training.
Hridaya School of Yoga opened its doors in 2018 as a Yoga studio offering private Yoga and Yoga Nidra. The idea of opening the studio was birthed with the understanding that all traditional yoga should ideally be taught one-on-one. Bettina Maria Suetz and her daughter, Pamela-Frances, both trained and certified in Yoga and Ayurveda, felt that creating personalised yoga would be the focus for their private classes, taking into account the three doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha. and the gunas Sattva, Rajas and Tamas and addressing imbalances in the individual, as well as taking into consideration injury and illness, and thereby creating a yoga practise to suit and benefit each individual.
Yoga thus meets the individual where he or she is at in this moment in his or her life. “We therefore strive to authentically instruct in yoga to improve health and well being. We teach yoga for the individual according to the teachings of Krishnamacharya. We adhere to the fundamental guidelines that Krishnamacharya lays out that yoga should be taught one-on-one especially when there is illness, injury and other factors that need to be corrected first. When teaching group classes we strive to keep to the vinyasas laid out for each asana as taught by Krishnamacharya.”
In 2016, Bettina found herself going through an extremely difficult time and was suffering from a mixture of depression, anxiety, stress and insomnia. “I began searching for something that would help me calm my nervousness and anxiety and found the techniques of Yoga Nidra.” said Bettina, explaining how she started incorporating this into her daily routine and began to experience the profound effects thereof. “Through Yoga Nidra I could create an oasis of healing inside that I could access at any time." This inspired her to complete her training as a Yoga Nidra Teacher.
Yoga Nidra should firstly be understood as a state of consciousness. In this context, as described by Sri T. Krishnamacharya, known to many as the father of modern Yoga it is - " The mental stability obtained through the power of Yoga is yoga-nidra". This means that arresting the fluctuations of the mind is yoga-nidra, the goal of all yoga practice is to control the mind as K. Pattabhi Jois says.
Yoga Nidra in modern times has become synonymous with relaxation. The reason for this is that Yoga Nidra, depending on which yoga lineage and Yoga School one adheres to, introduces relaxation techniques that work through the “annamaya kosha”, the physical body. These techniques utilise, visualisation, guided meditation, breathing excercises (pranayama), so bring the body to complete rest.
In this training, Yoga Nidra is addressed in the context of a state of consciousness as well as a practice to bring about profound stillness and silence. “As Swami Veda Bharati says it is important to know in which context we are speaking about Yoga Nidra, so therefore we cover all these aspects in our training. “
“Our training includes the theory as well as the hands on practice of Yoga Nidra.” says Pamela. As such the student will learn to teach asanas, pranayama, various guided meditation practices known as rotation of consciousness in the body. “We cover ancient yogic texts on yoga-nidra and teach the techniques of Sage Yajnavaklya and Sage Vashishta which are known as the Eighteen Vital Points.” Pamela teaches the Yoga Nidra practices of Swami Rama that include a journey through the body known as Shavayatra, in which a pin point of light is visualized or the feeling of energy is brought to the awareness of the practitioner at various points around the body. By doing this practice the practitioner uses his mind to solely focus on the points of the body and by doing so the mind can not wander and engage in other thoughts and so this creates one pointed focus. This is how the mind becomes quiet. through these practices a deep sense of peace and tanquility and utter silence can be attained. Through this silence we experience deep rest, and healing. The body feels completely relaxed and restored. In this space of silence is where deep healing occurs. Yoga Nidra is a practice that can be done by young and old alike.
“I would say one of the key benefits of Yoga Nidra is the profound relaxation it induces.” says Bettina going on to explain that one of the components the student will learn is how to remain present, how to self regulate, and how to access this stillness within.
This year, Hridaya School of Yoga will be hosting a Yoga Nidra Teacher Training which is the first to be offered online and in person in South Africa. The online feature offers the student the opportunity to study at his or her own pace, especially for those students with prior commitments of work and/or family. The value of in person training is that the instructor can lead the students in the guided meditations of Yoga Nidra as well as allow the students experiential teaching, to practice their techniques and receive immediate feedback.
Those who attend this training can expect to learn to teach asanas, pranayama, various guided meditation practices known as rotation of consciousness in the body. One of the aims of this training is to educate teachers on how to become sensitive to the needs of the student in any setting, equipping the teacher to work with clients that are suffering from depression, anxiety, PTSD and so forth.
In yoga, the fluctuations in the mind are known as citta vritti, and the practice of yoga as a whole seeks to reduce these mental fluactuations. In Yoga Nidra in particular, the muscles of the body are, as a first step in this process, brought to a completely relaxed state. This is essential, that all the muscles in the body relax completely. from here, when the body is completely at rest, the mind is brought to rest. Yoga Nidra is the only practice that allows the brain, the central nervous system to completely rest. In yogic thought when the mind is at complete rest, the prana can be used for healing. Prana and consciousness are shiva and shakti, the masculine and feminine principle. Shiva, the maculine principle is pure consciousness and shakti, the divine feminine is the universal prana. “As we work through the various techniques of yoga Nidra we draw in prana.” says Bettina, “When the mind is controlled, or at complete rest, the prana is used for healing. this is what makes Yoga Nidra a technique of healing in the body and mind. Prana is life-force or life energy, and is what moves consciousness.“
“In our teacher training the student will learn various asanas to calm the mind, pranayama to focus the mind on the breath and experience the different layers or sheaths, known as Koshas, especially the pranamaya kosha.” says Bettina. With our holistic approach and in-depth training, the student will be guided step by step to understand how the koshas veil the true Self.
This training is open to yoga instructors, therapists, bodyworkers and healthcare practitioners who are interested in bringing this enormously therapeutic practice to their clients. “Yoga Nidra can be practised during pregnancy, as it induces deep relaxation for the mother to be” says Bettina, explaining that it is a valuable resource for the mother-to-be during pregnancy as well as after childbirth
What makes our training unique is that it includes the rich yogic philosophy of the original term of yoga nidra as a state of conciousness, known as Turiya, a state beyond the waking, dreaming and deep sleep states, as well as detailed explanations of the techniques of asana, pranayama and yoga nidra meditation to still the mind and prepare for the profound silence experienced in yoga nidra. In truth this is not an experience since it is complete non-doing, where mind merges in the hridaya, the spiritual heart known to many yogis.
“In our modern lives, when we are all moving fast and have a constant obsession with faster, better, and so on, we hardly take the time to rest our bodies.” says Bettina,”We are constantly thinking, constantly in a state of action, with little time to meditate, to recharge, to live in a balanced or sattvic way.” This is where the benefits of Yoga Nidra can be extremely beneficial to address physical, mental and emotional stressors.
"Yoga Nidra can therefore be extremely beneficial to those who suffer from high anxiety, PTSD, physical injury, illness and diseases, worry, stress, etc, as it creates an oasis, a sacred space that we can access, at any time to find healing. Yoga Nidra has been noted to treat a wide variety of conditions such as migraine, heart disease, auto-immune disorders, depression, addiction, insomnia, chronic pain, diabetes, back pain, heart disease, allergies, chronic muscle tension, stroke, PMS, hot flushes, GI disorders - irritbale bowel, constipation, nausea etc, weakness, fatigue, high blood pressure, asthma, sleep disorders."
This training is only the start for Hridaya as they look forward to moving to larger premises and offering more teacher trainings in the future. Some of these future trainings include a 850hr Certified Yoga Therapy Teacher Training as a follow on to the 100hr Online Introduction To Yoga Therapy Course.Hridaya School of Yoga' s emphasis lies in the therapeutic value and the healing qualities that Yoga can bring to everyone.
Find out more about Hridaya’s offerings here: