What experience do I have?
More than 30 years ago as an active teenager, I began to take a serious interest in health, exercise and nutrition. Why? Because like most other people who begin these types of quests, I never really felt 100% and I wanted to feel better.
Aside from being a regular at the local gym, cycling and swimming, I also attended yoga classes on and off for many years before becoming a committed and dedicated yogini in 1997. When I settled for a few years in Sydney’s Inner West after moving from the Eastern Suburbs that same year, I had determined to become a “proper” student.
Finding the “guru”
There is a wonderful saying; “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear” and it really does now seem like an amazing stroke of luck that, after a quick search through the Yellow Pages (no real Google back then..!), I happened to chance upon Simon Borg-Olivier’s Yoga Synergy class in Australia Street, Newtown. I walked backed home to Enmore on a high, totally hooked!
In 2001, after a few years packed full of wonderful classes and Anatomy and Physiology workshops, plus some personal invitations to join Synergy’s very own highly regarded teacher training programs, I decided on a broader approach that would fit more easily into my working lifestyle. Sadly, I experienced so many tragic, personal and life-changing events in 2000 within a short time of each other, that, for the sake of my health, I had to take some time out for reflection. It was therefore mainly for therapeutic reasons that I took myself off to Bali for two months to complete a short, yet intensive 200 hr teacher training course through Louise Seers’ and Yoga Arts (located in Byron Bay) in 2001.
This was directly after 9/11 so the whole group was reeling and we connected quickly. A year or so after this, feeling stronger and with yet more life changes than I could ever have imagined in such a short time, I enrolled in the year-long, full-time Advanced Diploma of Health (Yoga Teaching) course at Nature Care in Sydney. It was only once I had completed this that I started to feel comfortable enough to describe myself as a beginning yoga teacher (of sorts!). My partner and I decided to relocate to Port Stephens with our baby boy in 2003 and it was then I began teaching yoga as a profession.
To sum it up, I’ve accumulated an awful lot of anatomical, nutritional, physiological and psychological knowledge since my health journey began more than 30 years ago as a naive and not-very-happy 17 year old! One thing I can tell you for an absolute fact, is that apart from a few exceptions, there is truly NOTHING to distinguish our emotional and physical health*. Acceptance of life, knowing who we are – this is where contentment, happiness and wellbeing is at. This much I know from experience.
*There are only four types of infections that humans have absolutely no ability to control whatsoever since it makes no difference what state your physical or emotional self is in; these are fungal, bacterial, viral and parasitical.
So…Experience & Knowledge..What can I Offer You?
My own incredible yoga teacher, genetic scientist and physiotherapist, Simon Borg-Olivier, is highly respected and considered to be one of the most knowledgeable teachers on the planet. As well as lecturing other physiotherapists, he is a contributing writer (and occasionally helps deliver) The Masters of Wellness program for the Health Faculty of RMIT. Because of Simon’s teaching, I have had access to pretty much the same material involved in the Uni course and, along with thousands of hours of training, teaching and practise, I have also accumulated more than 750 hours of practical and applied anatomy and physiology. Over time, and with all these teaching and practise hours behind me, what I have learned intellectually has evolved into a deeply practical and intuitive understanding of how faulty postural, breathing and movement patterns impact the physical and emotional body. Thanks to life and self-practise, I do hope I’ve also accumulated some general wisdom, knowledge and a deeper understanding of human nature along the way.
My class is based on rethinking posture and how we tend to move habitually. I continually suggest simple, technical and postural adjustments that may challenge what it is we normally do but that will make a massive difference to how something feels. Once understood, these subtle activations and adjustments can be applied to anything – our daily life and other forms of exercise. Guaranteed, niggles, aches and pains will diminish – if not disappear – for good. It’s important that you understand how these techniques have helped me. I’ve become fitter, stronger, healthier and niggle free. It wasn’t always this way. But do be patient. The hardest thing to change is the mind.
It’s been 20 years for me since I began practising, learning and teaching yoga. Consequently, in accordance with guidelines established by local regulators, Yoga Australia, I am now recognised as a Level 3 (senior) teacher. Members of Yoga Australia are expected to maintain a high standard of teaching. A condition of membership is continuous professional development.
Who I Was
Like many people, I was often anxious and had suffered many non-serious, yet frustrating ailments throughout my life such as irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia, panic attacks, skin conditions and chronic pain (culminating in an inability to do my previous office job). Combine this lot with a few major life events and things did start to get a bit messy at one stage! But I did try – and still do – my absolute best to adhere to a consistent practise on and off the mat as much as humanly possible. It wasn’t necessarily obvious back then, but the practise of yoga is a process that unfolds gently over time offering immeasurable changes. Most of the above anxiety-related conditions are so far away in the past, it almost seems as if I was someone else.
What I do in my classes is blend traditional hatha vinyasa yoga with the principles of science-based, exercise physiology. “Krama” basically means “steps”. Vinyasa-krama is about creating an intelligent pathway. When developing my sequences, as well as incorporating some stretching, strengthening, flowing movements and a little bit of choreography, each posture or exercise will provide some kind of essential framework for the next. Working this way creates amazing results – it works! We aim to learn and understand the fundamentals of each particular pose/fluid exercise as it is placed in the sequence. This means, after the first couple of weeks, participants can let go and actually be “in yoga” because the practice becomes a more fluid – yet dynamic – movement-based meditation. All the while however, we are continuing to build strength and flexibility – without straining the body or pressurising the nervous system. Consequently, over time we alleviate pain and can prevent and manage injuries and niggles in the long-term. Most importantly though, we end up calm and relaxed. In other words, the practice helps to “change our mind” for the better. (**nb: we have lots of fun and giggles too!)
Some Yoga Feedback & Testimony…
“Never change what you do. Your classes are awesome.” Renee
“It’s incredible; your cues are amazing! When I listen, it makes so much sense…! I think, wow, when I do that it feels so much easier…! Why have I not being doing that?” Stef M
“Sometimes, in all honesty I’m not really sure I understand everything, but I totally trust you because when I listen and I do something in the way you are explaining, it always feels right. It makes sense then because it works and my body feels so much better..” Mary
“I just wanted to thank you for my year of yoga. We arrived here not knowing anyone. Finding you was a true blessing for me. In the course of the year I learned; to stick my stomach out (the first person to tell me that in my 41 years); to focus on the present, as I do not remember the past as well as I think, nor can I predict the future as accurately as I imagine and, best of all, that even if I cannot totally empty my mind of thoughts, I can still meditate. Thank you for all of this as well as your humour and warmth“. Madeline.
“I really did enjoy your yoga class…it was probably the best class I have ever attended..” Krystal.
“Nikki, I would like to thank you! I am absolutely loving having yoga as part of my life now. I have noticed such a difference in my stress levels, my way of thinking and my sleeping. I really enjoy the classes and would like to thank you for being such a great inspiration…I was diagnosed with post natal depression and really did not want to take medication. It wasn’t the answer for me. When I found out about your yoga it felt like it was meant to be, a divine intervention! So thank you for helping me and teaching me to relax, breathe differently and even change my attitude towards exercise and well-being..” K
“All in all I want to say thanks for all the yoga classes. I’m so glad that mum convinced me to start just over a year ago now. I have built up so much strength physically and mental. I always look forward to class. Thanks for everything. You are an amazing instructor” CR
“I needed to change my training mindset. I played competitive basketball, and even now, when I go to the gym, it’s all about competing and beating the guy next to you! Nikki introduced me to the idea of balance – something between “ effort and surrender”. I like that analogy, it resonates with me. The yoga class is peaceful, neutral and encouraging“. BR
“Yoga has helped me manage and prevent lower back injury. It also keeps me flexible, fit and, importantly – for me – keeps me surfing. It is also a great de-stressor. Nikki has a great sense of humour which makes it fun to participate” Ian
More important than any of the physical “stuff” – is the ability to feel comfortable and happy and to truly know who we are. This is what will change our lives for the better. I do my utmost in my classes to create a warm environment and fun dynamic whereby we are all able to feel at home very quickly within the group. Humour – laughing at ourselves – and community – “sanga” – is greatly encouraged because life is too short to take too seriously. We work hard and we also try to laugh lots. So, if you are too cool for (yoga) school, my classes may not be for you.
Blessings & Namastes to My Teachers
Simon Borg-Olivier (who also suffers from a spinal condition – not that you would know!) was my “class” teacher for seven years and his energy, knowledge and dedication to yoga continues to be my main inspiration. I have also been lucky enough to benefit from the teachings of many advanced yoga practitioners including Bianca Machliss (Yoga Synergy), Master Zhen Hua Yang (Calligraphy Health & Yoga), Lance Schuler (Insypa Yoga), Astanga master Matthew Sweeney, Louise Sears from Yoga Arts in Byron Bay and renowned yoga teachers and authors, Donna Farhi and Eve Grzybowski.