Meet the practitioner: Yoga teacher Nicki Walters (Kalamunda, WA)

Style: Gentle and Kundalini Yoga
Location: Kalamunda (Perth hills)

How did you come to teach yoga to people with pain?
I used to be a dance and movement teacher, specialising in work with people with special needs. Pain in my back eventually forced me to stop dancing but I wanted to continue to teach movement. I’d been practicing yoga since my 20s so it made sense to find a teacher training course and start  teaching.

How have you seen yoga help with pain?

Regular yoga practice has eased my own pain. (I have fibromyalgia). Importantly, in cases of chronic pain with no obvious physical cause, or where someone also experiences the mental pain of depression and anxiety, yoga is a journey of self-discovery that helps us each to develop in mind, body and spirit.

What style of yoga do you practice?
I practice and teach Kundalini Yoga, which makes meditation an integral part of each class. There is also a focus on Sadhana, a daily spiritual practice.

Is there a particular yoga teacher who has influenced you?
A number of Kundalini teachers, including Jivan Joti Kaur who suffered from Fibromyalgia. She has written an excellent book on coming to terms with ageing and chronic illness through the practice of Kundalini Yoga.

What can we expect in your classes?
I teach mindfulness and body awareness through gentle asana, pranayama and meditations. There are modifications for physical difficulties, and I also suggest exercises and meditations for students to practice at home.

I like to help people to realise that even if they find exercise difficult and painful, there are other elements to practice, such as breathing and meditation, which can help them to befriend their body.

I also love that I can teach meditation to lots of people who tell me that they can’t meditate because their mind is “too busy” or “won’t shut up”.

I feel that my job as a teacher is to be a map maker and guide on the life journey that yoga offers.

What did you learn in Yoga for Pain Practitioner Training that has changed your approach to working with people with pain?

I learned it’s OK to start very slow, to not feel I have to cover lots of techniques or asanas in a class. Instead to work on helping each student befriend their body and calm their mind. I also learned ways to assess and monitor the effectiveness of classes I teach.

Who usually comes to your classes?
In my general classes, many of my students are into middle age with various aches and pains, or troublesome knees, hips or shoulders. In the Gentle Yoga classes, my students have a range of chronic conditions including Osteo-and Rheumatoid Arthritis, MS and Fibromyalgia.

Where can we find you?
I teach Gentle Yoga classes for people with chronic pain in Kalamunda. Classes are in 6 week blocks and I also offer one-to-one consultations, especially to help people develop a daily practice.

As someone who has had pain, what do you think would really make a difference for others with persistent pain?
I would like to see medical practitioners rely less on medication and spend more time assessing other techniques that may help individuals manage their own pain.

One piece of advice you would offer people with pain who want to start yoga?

Let go of any preconceived ideas about what Yoga is, and any worry you don’t have the right body to do it “properly”.

Nicki is accredited with KYTANZ, the national Kundalini body. You can contact her on 0400 373 100.

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