Yoga taught me the acceptance of ageing with grace

I have been practicing Yoga for 14 years since 2002 and what an unfolding journey of discovery it has been! Self -discovery through facing deep fears, uncovering the depths of my heart and Soul and the many layers of my relentless mind. Then, through the years of practicing and teaching Yoga, I discovered how forgiving and fragile the body truly is, most especially through the transition from my thirties to my forties.

Ego doesn’t want to let go, it is firmly attached to your youth, to being flexible and free to move without much mindfulness. The powerful nature of Yoga helps you to let go of that ego, sometimes it forces you to let go through injury. Not an ideal outcome of Yoga however nonetheless any injury becomes a blessing…it makes you more appreciative of your body and you develop a new found respect for the wonderful machine that you live in. Then there comes acceptance of not being as flexible and free to move because of the natural flow of human existence….ageing.

Salute to the Sun hands

I understand men feel the same as they evolve from one decade to another, yet as a woman, the process is made far more complex with ever changing hormones. As I write this, I am still fortunate in that I am yet to experience menopause or pre-menopause, time will let me know when it is my turn. Yet, since turning 40 almost four years ago, I have felt a significant change in how my body responds to a Yoga asana, (pose), practice. I find myself more challenged on the mat to hold some of the same poses I held countless time in the past, for the same length of time. I find I need to give more of my energy to the mat. The upside is good because at least I know I am fully present in the pose and I need to give it my utmost attention, more so than a decade ago. The downside… I can feel my body is ageing and it is both a traumatic and humbling experience.

Blog 2016 AgeingTraumatic because of the attachment to my youth and how poses were more effortless then. Traumatic because even 5 years ago, I suffered less sciatic pain, less lower back pain, less tension in my body. I can just picture so many people reading this thinking…” Wait a minute but you’re a Yoga teacher, why should you be experiencing so much pain?” The answer is… the art of ageing! Even though I practice and teach Yoga, the body evolves as it should and as much as I wish I possessed Yoga Super Powers, I do not have the power to stop the ageing process and the aches and pains that come with it. What I can do is, to try, to do the best I can, to age gracefully and mindfully. I owe immense gratitude to Yoga on my life journey for helping me to evolve from one decade of youthful bliss to another of mindful maturity.

I won’t lie to you and I won’t deny that this physical transition has come with many tears; frustration and longing for my body to stay young. It is an ongoing process on a day to day basis but I am so grateful that I have come to this realization and admittedly, heart breaking acceptance because if my Yoga journey had not given me this, I would be in a very dark place now and, moving forward into my late forties, with the promise of hormonal change, I would find myself in a world of complete denial.

I am deeply inspired by my fellow friends who have shared their path of transition stories with me and have such respect for your fortitude. There is an incredible gift to ageing…..wisdom and a discovery of inner strength that surpasses your youthful imagination of what it really means to be strong.

ageing blog 2016I wanted to write this because for those in my age group and older who know all too well what it feels like, and for those still in the bliss of body youth, there is no shame or fear to reveal what an emotionally charged and physically trying time it is to grow older. The key is to accept gracefully how the body changes by treating your body with the respect and love it needs to change. To accept that where you are in your Yoga practice from one year to the next, from one decade to the next, is where you are meant to be at that given time and that is your Yoga! So, please, enjoy it, each and every year of it!

Much love,

India ageing blog 2016






Ardha Matsyendrasana ~ Half Lord of the Fishes seated spinal twist

Juanita Ardha Matsyendrasana

  • Begin in Dandasana – Seated Staff pose – Seated with legs extended forward and together
  • Bend the right leg planting the right foot on the outside of the left knee
  • Bend the left leg bringing the side of the left foot to the right side of the right hip
  • Bring the right hand or fingertips of the right hand behind the body close to the buttocks
  • Extend the left arm upright and turning to the right, bend the left arm bringing the elbow to the outside of the right knee
  • Twist and turn to the right with the head facing the right or turning the head to look back
  • Hold for five breaths as a beginner and longer for a more advanced practitioner
  • On releasing, drop the chin to the collarbone, slowly roll the chin along the collarbone bringing the head forward and into neutral position – a safe option for protecting the neck in twisting poses
  • On inhalation release the twist
  • Return to Dandasana
  • Repeat on left hand side for same amount of time

Ardha Matysendrasana bent arm

Pratikryasana / Counterpose:

  • Dandasana
  • Pashimottanasana – if no lower back issues are present
  • Kurmanasana – Tortoise –forward bend with bent and relaxed legs – ideal for lower back pain conditions


Paschimottanasana 2Kurmanasana


  • A deeper twist than Marichyasana III twist and works more in the lower part of the body than Marichyasana III which mainly focuses on the upper part of the body
  • The twist of the spine helps to relieve back ache , stiffness and tension in the back muscles
  • Tones, activates and massages the abdominal organs
  • Improves circulation to the abdominal organs
  • Helps to massage and remove toxins from the abdominal organs
  • Assists with and improves digestion
  • Improves flexibility of the spine, shoulders and the hips

Cautions & Modifications:

  • If the full pose is too challenging on the hips or knees, keep the left leg straight when twisting to the right and vice versa for the opposite side
  • One can place a small rolled towel under the one or both knees if there is slight discomfort in the knees
  • If there is too much strain on the knees rather omit practicing the pose
  • If the bent arm against the bent leg is uncomfortable on the shoulder, one can straighten the arm or one can hug the bent leg towards the chest
  • As an advanced pose or if flexibility allows, e.g. when twisting to the right, slip the left hand between both thighs and move the right hand behind the back to grip the right wrist or clasp the fingers of the hands together behind the back
  • The body may be lopsided when positioning in the full pose, to level the hips place a block under the one buttock e.g. if twisting to the right place the block under the left buttock only. Swap the block to the other side when twisting to the left
  • Keep the head and neck facing forward for any niggling neck issues

Ardha Matsyendrasna variation

Chakra Association:

Svadisthana ~ Sacral Centre and Manipura~ Navel Centre.

Wishing you health and healing.

Much Love and Blessings,







Virabhadrasana II – Warrior II pose


Like all Warrior / Virabhadrasana poses, Virabhadrasana II is a wonderful standing pose which focuses on and promotes strength, endurance and grounding. A pose to practice to feel brave and courageously encounter with grace, steadiness and ease, one’s own internal battles and to prevail triumphant in body, mind and spirit.

Virabhadrasana II

Begin in Tadasana
Step the feet approximately 4 to 5 feet apart ensuring the feet are in the same line
Begin on the right side of the body by turning the right foot out to a 90 degree angle
The heel of the right foot should be in line with the inner arch of the left foot
Turn the toes of the left foot inwards slightly to the right
Keep the chest facing forward in the pose
On the inhalation raise the arms up to shoulder level
On the exhalation bend the right leg to a right angle
The right knee should point in the same direction as the toes of the right foot
The right knee should be in line with the right ankle
Stretch the left leg as much as possible so that it is as straight as possible
Consciously push down into the outer edge of the left foot whilst pressing the right foot down into the mat and forward therefore
Stretch the mat apart between the feet
Drop the tailbone down
Keep the chest facing forward and upright i.e. no leaning or tilting to the right side
Turn the head to face the right and gaze at the fingertips
Imagine two people on either side of you gently pulling the hands away from you whilst the spine and chest maintain a straight posture
Hold the asana for 3 – 5 breaths as a beginner or 5 – 8 / 8 – 10 breaths as a more advanced practitioner
Release the pose on the inhalation by straightening the right leg
Drop the arms down on the exhalation
Turn the right foot forward
Repeat the pose for the same duration of time on the left side.

Virabhadrasana II

Counterpose / Pratikryasana:
Uttanasana or Ardha Uttanasana with the hands against a wall or the back of a chair
Prasarita Padottanasana


Uttanasana colourfulArdha Uttanasana

Tones, develops and strengthens the leg muscles
Opens and expands the chest facilitating and improving breathing
Reduces fat around the hip area
Tones the abdominal organs
Brings elasticity to the back muscles
Relieves lower backache

Cautions and Modifications:
If encountering or suffering from any shoulder issues, do not raise the arms up to shoulder level. Keep the hands on the hips
For any neck issues, do not turn the head and hold to the side, rather keep the head facing forward once alignment of the legs has been checked
For any ankle, knee, hip ligament, tendon or joint injuries, shorten the distance between the legs and only bend the leg partially if necessary.

Chakra Association:
Muladhara – For grounding.

Muladhara Chakra SymbolMuladhara Mantra

Remember to always be mindful of your breathing, breathe to relax the body in order execute the pose correctly and to surrender to the pose, relax the body to breathe in order for the asana to work for you.

Om Shanti

Woman relaxing in a yoga position

“Same, same but different” ~ My India Pilgrimage 2014.

September 2014, and I went on my second pilgrimage to Rishikesh, India. I made a promise to myself upon my return from that same magical place last September 2013 that I would return. In June of this year, I truly believed that promise would not be fulfilled, for certain reasons…but it all came together because I was meant to go, I needed to go because it was part of my journey.

I came across the saying and saw it on colourful T-shirts in various shops in Laxman Jhulla, “Same, same but different.”



Should I, do I, can I compare this second trip to my first one in Rishikesh? I can but it is truly difficult to put it onto words so “Same, same but different” is most appropriate yet not nearly descriptive in capturing the magic, the once in a life time experiences, the feeling of complete and utter peace, love and joy! The first trip offered profound experiences that my second did not, likewise, my second trip presented me with sacred moments my first did not. So I know that each trip gave me what I needed at the time and for what I needed to serve me moving forward. Both hold lessons for me to always remember, to strive to implement, to hold onto with every intention and action I make.

My first visit to Rishikesh, considered the birthplace of Yoga, was part of an advanced teacher training module and retreat at an Ashram very dear to my heart, Phool Chatti, and the towns of Ram Jhulla and Laxman Jhulla. The second trip was more following my own agenda and schedule with three friends, one of whom I met during my first India Pilgrimage, the other two soul sisters all inter connected and divinely entwined on my path to visit the special place that is Rishikesh and Phool Chatti.


I had many sacredly personal, auspicious and blessed experiences of peace, love, joy and clarity. Aspects I so desperately seeked months leading up to my departure. Some experiences were so intense, so total that I feel I need to keep to myself because on the one hand, one may think it all crazy or just too “out there”, and on the other hand I feel I want to keep it close to my heart to savour every minute of the memory for fear of letting that feeling go.

Ask anyone who has been to Rishikesh, ask each person who has stayed at Phool Chatti, their face will light up, their hearts will pound, their words will be many yet not nearly enough to capture the feeling. That place does something to you….it fills you with awe, with tears, with wonder, with peace, with unapologetic emotion…


Siting by Ma Ganga, gratitude for those of the past who contributed to moulding me into the person I am today, deepest appreciation to those of my present who made it possible for me to be in India once again, love for those who have been in my life for so many years in good times and bad and for those who have recently come into my life. The mere mention of names brought a flood of emotions from smiles to tears….and it all became clear.


Truthfully, the hard part is being back home to everyday life. Mentally the re-adjustment is difficult. By no means, am I disregarding the blessings of my life, in fact, India makes you realize just how privileged you really are. I know that despite many days of wishing for and asking for “more”, I do have enough. The “more” is realizing that I am significant beyond my own self- imposed doubts and fears. I will manifest my dreams and I will control my thoughts, they will not control me….a continuous battle but one I am gaining the upper hand of more so than before. My time at the Ashram proved this to me because I had to face some of my darkest fears…and I did. So I can have “more” if I choose to and if I choose wisely.

Re-adjusting to my everyday life is hard because I feel the spiritual, loving and peaceful energy I absorbed in that special place slips away with each passing day. Yet, the test, the real test….is to connect to that very same energy here to the best of my ability whether it be through asana, meditation or just day to day life practice….that is the key, that is the real Yoga.

20140910_171045Upon my return, one of my students asked me, “Did you learn a lot?”

I explained that this trip was not a continued teacher training or retreat, and then I replied…

“Yes, I did…I learnt more about myself.”

Blessed and grateful.

With Prem and Om.


Woman relaxing in a yoga position

Virabhadrasana I – Warrior I Pose.

Virabhadrasana I is a wonderful standing pose which focuses on and promotes, strength, endurance and grounding. A pose to practice to feel brave and courageously encounter with grace, steadiness and ease, one’s own internal battles and to prevail triumphant in body, mind and spirit.

• Begin in Tadasana • Step the right foot far forward so that when you bend the right front leg it will be at a right angle • Then straighten both legs • The back foot should not be directly behind the front foot, the inner aspect of the left heel should be in line with the inner part of the front foot as this enables the hips to be aligned and facing forward • Arms are relaxed down the sides of the body • On the inhalation, raise the arms up alongside the head and only, if possible, in line with the ears • On the exhalation, bend the front right leg to 90 degrees • The right knee should be directly above the right ankle and in line with the toes, the toes pointing forward • The back left leg should be as straight as is possible and comfortable • Consciously drop the tailbone down to the mat • If flexibility allows, the back foot should be as flat as possible on the floor • The head and the chest should face the same direction as the right knee • Feel that you can stretch the mat apart between the feet i.e. pushing front foot down & forward and back foot down and backward • Breathe naturally and hold for 5 breaths as a beginner and 8 to 10 breaths or more for a more advanced practitioner • Release on the inhalation by releasing the arms down and straightening the front right leg • On the exhalation step the feet together back to Tadasana • Repeat the asana on the left side of the body for the same duration of time. Virabhadrasana I AnatomicalVirabhadrasana I Counterpose / Pratikryasana: • Tadasana, (feet together) or • Samasthiti, (feet hip distance apart) or • Uttanasana • Ardha Uttanasana, (back in  “Table top” position) Tadasanauttanasana with bent kneesArdha Uttanasana Benefits: • Tones and strengthens the leg muscles • Opens and expands the chest facilitating breathing • Releases stiffness and tensions between the shoulders, in the neck and in the back • Corrects round and drooping shoulders • Tones the abdominal area by reducing fat around the hips. Cautions & Modifications: • If one is prone to tight shoulders, take the raised arms further away from the head i.e. a wide “V”, or turn the armpits to face further forwards • Do not raise the arms upright if suffering from High Blood Pressure or any Heart Ailments rather rest the hands on the hips or bring the palms in Anjali Mudra, (prayer position), and do not hold the pose for too long, 3 to 5 cycles of breaths should suffice. • With any sacral or lumbar area conditions in particular, proceed into the asana cautiously and do not over extend in the lower back, instead consciously drop the tailbone down releasing any arch in the lower back • If one experiences very tight quadriceps or thigh muscles and finds keeping the back foot as flat as possible too challenging on the muscles, curl the back toes under and raise the heel off the floor turning the foot to face forward – this will facilitate the hips facing forward more and release the feeling of discomfort on the tight quadriceps. Bearing in mind that being on the back toes requires more concentration as balance plays more of a role in this variation. Only hold the pose for as long as is comfortable and breathing as naturally as possible and allowing the abdomen to breathe freely. Remember to be mindful of: Sthira Sukham Asanam – Steadiness and Comfort in the Pose so remember to follow the breath and listen to the body. Where you are in your practice, is exactly where you are meant to be – that is your Yoga. Enjoy! Love and Light, Juanita. Woman relaxing in a yoga position

Garudasana – The Eagle Pose.

Garudasana arms

  • Begin in Tadasana – Feet together
  • Bend both legs slightly
  • Bring the toes of the right foot to gently rest on the mat
  • Bend the standing left leg further and cross the right leg over the left thigh
  • If possible, curl the toes of the right foot or the whole right foot around the back of the left calf
  • If this is not possible then draw the right foot in towards the side of the left leg as much as is possible and comfortable
  • Drop the tailbone downward towards the heel of the standing foot
  • Take the arms out sideways and draw them forward in front of the chest
  • Cross the left arm over the right arm
  • Bend the arms at the elbows so the forearms come up vertically
  • Either rest the back of the right hand against the back of the left wrist and hand or
  • If flexibility allows, wrap the right hand across the left wrist so that the fingers of the right hand rest on the palm of the left hand or, if possible, both palms touching
  • The arms and hands become entwined
  • Draw the crossed arms upwards so that the elbows are at shoulder level and
  • Gently take the entwined arms away from the face
  • Hold for 3 to 5 breaths as a beginner or 8 – 10 breaths as a more advanced practitioner
  • To release – uncross the legs slowly and mindfully taking the feet back into Tadasana
  • Bring the arms downwards, uncross the arms gently, take the arms out sideways and release the arms down alongside the body
  • Repeat again for the same duration of time swapping the cross of the legs and the cross of the arms

Garudasana frontal

Note: The cross of the arms IS opposite to the cross of the legs

Garudasana Arms Female

Counterpose / Pratikryasana:

  • Tadasana, (feet together) or
  • Samasthiti, (feet hip distance apart)
  • Roll the shoulders up and forwards 3 – 5 times and then
  • Roll the shoulders up and backwards 3-5 times or
  • Shrug the shoulder upwards then gently release back down 3 – 5 times.



  • Strengthens the legs and the ankles
  • Relieves cramps in the calf muscles
  • With the arms in the classic Garudasana position, tension in the shoulders and upper back is released
  • The pose opens the upper neck muscles, relieving tightness and tension
  • Improves and increases the power of concentration
  • Assists to bring the mind to one-pointedness

Garudasana Mala Side Profile

Cautions and Modifications:

  • If having the arms in the Eagle position proves to be too strenuous on the shoulders and or the neck, place the hands in Anjali Mudra or Namaskar, (Prayer position)
  • Alternatively, the hands can rest on the thigh of the upper leg

 Chakra Association:

Muladhara Chakra ~ Root Centre.

Wishing you love in abundance!

 Yours in Yoga, 


Discovering the Himalayan Yoga Tradition – A five thousand year old Lineage of Himalayan Masters.”

I had the privilege and blessed gift to visit the ashram of the Himalayan Yoga Tradition founded by Swami Rama and currently presided by Swami Veda, who is the spiritual guide of the Tradition in Rishikesh, India in September 2013.

Unbeknown to me and my fellow teachers travelling on this journey from the West to meet the ancient traditions of Yoga in the East, an angel of a teacher, Aditi M. Gaur arranged for 17 of us to sit in an hour meditation with Swami Veda, who has taken a 5 year vow of silence that began in March 2013. A truly intense and profound experience beyond words!

Himalayan Yoga Ashram Rishikesh Blog

This brings up the question:

What is the Himalayan Yoga Tradition and who is Swami Veda?

The Himalayan Yoga Tradition is one of the few known remaining traditional lineages that exist today. These traditional lineages can trace a clear line of Masters over thousands of years who have handed teachings down via a Guru-disciple relationship. A lineage is also one who is connected with the masters from the tradition through an unbroken link over time. Other authentic lineages include:

  • Sivananda
  • Paramahansa Yogananda
  • Bihar School of Yoga

And others that continue their work away from the public eye in cave monasteries and ashrams in the Himalayas.

My Rishikesh, India trip with my “Yoganga” family was indeed the most incredible experience of my life. It would never have been so without Jim Harrington and Aditi M. Gaur. Aditi taught a module on Jim’s advanced teacher training program and retreat where she shared with us ancient approaches to Asana, Pranayama and Meditation. We were profoundly affected by our time in India and what we learnt from Aditi and Jim.


Aditi’s initial training was done through the Sivananda lineage after which she pursued her path to become an initiate of the Himalayan Yoga Tradition, recognizing Swami Rama as her Guru. South African Yogis were blessed to experience her shining light, incredible wisdom and wealth of knowledge during her visit to Cape Town and Johannesburg in March 2014. She shares with us further insight on the Himalayan Yoga Lineage and Swami Veda Bharati, who is much revered in India as a true master.

What is the essence of the Himalayan Yoga Tradition?

As a small sadhaka with limited understanding, I would say that the lineage I belong to teaches us to see the reality within. The uniqueness of the Himalayan Yoga Tradition is the fact that it can trace a line of Masters over thousands of years and the link between them remains unbroken in this way the lineage is still ‘alive’. If you travel within the Himalayas the mere mention of the names of Swami Rama and Swami Veda Bharati brings tremendous respect and reverence. I have been in the presence of several spiritual teachers and each time I share with them that I have been initiated into Swami Rama’s lineage they bow in reverence and speak of him with the respect that only a Master commands in India.

Who is Swami Veda and why is he so revered?

Swami Veda Bharati is a direct disciple of Swami Rama and a Mahamandaleshwar which is considered to be “Master of a Great Circle” in India. It is a much revered honorific title. Besides the four Shankaracharyas, the Mahamandaleshwars constitute the religious leadership of the Hindu faith. Swami Veda has been reciting the Yoga Sutras since he was nine years old and was proclaimed a “child prodigy” by the Hindi Press in 1946. What is interesting here is the fact that he has never gone to school, yet speaks 17 languages fluently.

My interactions with Swami Veda have revealed to me a kind, loving and humble soul who has walked the path that his Master guided him to with complete sincerity and devotion. Despite his frail health, (having five ruptured discs in the back and six arteries completely blocked), he continues to guide his students and disciples, displaying selfless love for all of them. I feel blessed and honoured to have been in his presence and have learnt so much from my interactions with him. He sets an extraordinary example for us young sadhakas to follow.


Please share with us the difference between being a student and an initiate of a Lineage?

From my limited understanding I would like to say that a student comes, takes a couple of teachings and goes but an initiate makes a commitment. A commitment to grow and serve according to the principles and teachings of the Lineage. By taking initiation you commit to a Parampara, (Tradition) and not just one person from the Lineage. You adopt the Tradition and it adopts you. It guides you and nurtures you in your journey to realize yourself and acts as a fencing, so to speak, to protect a shrub that has just sprouted from the ground so that it does not get trampled on or destroyed, allowing it to grow into its potential. As the shrub grows into a mighty tree, it becomes a source of shade for others. Most importantly this tree has fulfilled its purpose by reaching its potential. In my personal experience I have witnessed how my initiation gave new direction to my life, bringing depth and focus and allowing me to seek guidance when I needed it most from those who have faced the same challenges that I face today as a small sadhaka, (student). There is a gentle reassurance and certain security in that.

Swami Rama Photo Board

How does one become an initiate? What is the process and what does it mean to be an initiate?

The initiation process is a simple but powerful one and I don’t want to go into any details here but would like to say that it’s a commitment that must be made after much thought and introspection. It is good to ask yourself if you are ready to grow within the teachings of the tradition and accept them as your guides on your spiritual journey. Then, one must look for a lineage that is known to be authentic. Contacting, them, spending some time with them and then deciding to get initiated is a better way to make this commitment. The spiritual path is not an easy one to walk on so having a support system that can understand and guide becomes vital to one’s growth. Additionally, having access to teachings and practices that have withstood the test of time also make becoming part of a lineage worthwhile. If you are serious about walking the spiritual path and are determined to grow it would make sense to find people who can systematically guide you, on the other hand if you feel you aren’t ready to make the commitment, its best to take your time and explore. I must say that initiation should not be confused with renunciation. I get asked this often. You don’t have to give up your family, your career and your life to become an initiate. You receive a personal mantra during the initiation and you return to your life. The mantra becomes your best friend and through its chanting your evolution happens. Receiving a mantra and returning home is not enough, one must use it in one’s daily sadhana, (spiritual practice). All growth comes from that.

I often see people who have collected ‘mantras’ from several traditions, going through several initiations and don’t practice anything. To me it seems to be a waste of blessings conferred. If a seed has been planted within you, it would be a shame to not allow it to reach its potential.

Does the Himalayan Yoga Tradition offer programs for those seeking short term study?

Yes indeed. Their website offers details on the programs that they offer which include Teacher Training Programs, long and short study courses and retreats. It is always nice to go and spend a few days at the ashram in Rishikesh ( and explore the options available as well.

Himalayan Ashram Cottage

What other services does this institute provide for interested visiting learners?

The ashram is a wonderful place to go and learn and one should make the trip at least once a year. Here you get to learn ways to live in a happy and fulfilling manner. Being a lineage of dhyana yogis one can learn a systematic approach to meditation bringing it into your daily life. The lineage also teaches asanas as a preparatory step to Meditation (Dhyana). One can also undertake a silence retreat under the guidance of a mentor or teacher and I can tell you that this can be a deeply moving and powerful practice to take on.  

Words cannot truly capture or measure the beauty and honour I had of visiting the Himalayan Yoga Ashram and the privilege to sit in meditation with Swami Veda. That particular event marked one of the most sacred moments of my Rishikesh experience.

I extend immense gratitude to the Powers that Be, to Jim Harrington and to Aditi M. Gaur for what was indeed an opportunity of a lifetime!

At Himalayan Yoga Institute, Rishikesh 2013 Blog