An interview with Alistair Sweeney – from our Yoga Teacher Training to our Yoga Festival!

HomeKawai Purapura, Yogic LifestyleAn interview with Alistair Sweeney – from our Yoga Teacher Training to our Yoga Festival!
2017-10-13T10:15:24+13:00October 13th, 2017|Kawai Purapura, Yogic Lifestyle|


Back in January 2016, Alistair completed his 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training at Kawai Purapura. Next year he’ll be returning as we’ve booked him for our 2018 Yoga Festival. Currently living between Madison in the USA and Auckland, we caught up with him to see how life has changed since graduating and taking the first steps on his yoga journey….

What course did you do?
I completed the Kawai Purapura 200 hour Intensive Yoga Teacher Training in January 2016.

Why did you choose this course over any others?
I appreciated the fact that I could undertake an intensive training, which suited me rather than attending weekend trainings. The dates in January worked out well for me and Kawai Purapura was not far from where I was living in Orewa, so I didn’t have to travel far in order to live off campus during the course, although, I would still highly recommend people stay on site even if they live nearby during their training if they can afford it.

What made you want to be a Yoga Teacher?
I began using Yoga Posture (Asana) classes to repair my damaged body that was suffering after years playing rugby, Physical Training in the Army and lifting weights. I really enjoyed the classes and kept coming back. As I continued to practice and was introduced to several different types of classes and teachers, I found that Yoga was not just relieving tension in my body, but also positively affecting my state of mental and emotional well-being. I found myself to be less often in a depressive state of mind, I was generally calmer and less fixated on past grievances or filled with worry about what might happen in the future. I wanted to further explore the practice of Yoga and learn more about what had created this change within myself. When I discovered also that people were using Yoga practices to help in the recovery of Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD), I was enthusiastic about learning more about how I could perhaps use Yoga as a way to help other Veterans.

What were the highlights of the course for you?
I would say learning more about the philosophy of Yoga. I enjoyed the mix of instructors from different backgrounds who were passionate about sharing with us their particular focus of Yoga. I had imagined before starting the course that almost all the time would be spent learning the ins and outs of Yoga Postures (Asanas). However, by the end of the course I was actually glad that this was not the case. We were provided with more of a cross section across several Yoga practices, which I greatly enjoyed and believed to be more beneficial, as otherwise, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn about some of what I consider to be perhaps more powerful practices of Yoga, such as Yoga Nidra and Mantras.

What have you done since becoming certified to teach Yoga?
My first step was to ensure that I maintained a practice for myself. I am a firm believer in that to serve others you must first serve yourself. Establishing a regular practice of my own took some time and determination, but it was important to me so that I could remain grounded whilst teaching. Next came practicing some Jnana Yoga (Yoga of knowledge) and learning more about the science of Yoga and finding out more about why these practices work. Although we covered a lot during the training, we were not able to go in depth into everything, filling the gaps on where I believed I needed a more in-depth understanding was also important.

Although having not soon finished my 200 hour training, I began investigating my next training opportunity. I connected with likeminded teachers who also had similar interests in working with veterans and managed to get on some weekend trainings associated with this aspect of teaching Yoga. Next I connected with my local Yoga studios and managed to get some regular teaching slots. For me, the best way to become confident in teaching Yoga to others was to try and stick to one routine and practice regularly teaching this to other friends and family. Due to my years training others within the Army, I was also able to draw from this experience as part of my Yoga instruction.

After feeling comfortable teaching others and even having had the opportunity to commence a regular class for Veterans and First Responders (Police, Firefighters and Emergency Medical personnel) within my local community, I was enthusiastic about continuing my development as a Yoga teacher. I managed to connect with Suzanne Manafort, who had been teaching Yoga to Veterans with PTSD for over a decade. As fate would have it, Suzanne lived within an hour of me and I was able to undertake her training in Mindful Yoga Therapy ( and be guided by her mentorship in my aspirations to teach Yoga to other Veterans. A fellow Veteran Yoga teacher and I got together to create Mindful Responder ( ( and I am also working on some writing about my experiences and journey with Yoga through my website Atua Yoga ( (

My future aspirations are to continue to enhance my teaching ability and knowledge of Yoga. I plan to undertake the 500 hour Yoga Teacher Training at Kawai Purapura in the near future. My aim is to continue to learn and absorb as much as I can so that I’m in a better position to serve the Veterans and First Responders that I have the privilege to teach. My future goals are to return to New Zealand and commence an annual healing and wellness retreat for Veterans and First Responders at Kawai Purapura using Yoga practices.

If you had any advice for someone considering the course, what would you tell them?
It is definitely worth the time, money and effort. As well as learning to teach, the course itself is personally transforming. You learn a lot more about yourself and create an awesome group of new friends as well as a support network through Kawai Purapura.

We are honoured to have Alistair joining us as a presenter for our 2018 Yoga Festival ( He’ll be delivering sessions on Yoga for PTSD, anxiety and depression related issues.