Safe in the Forest: Fuyuko Sawamura-Toyota on Managing Depression with iRest and Leading Global Healing

Safe in the Forest: Fuyuko Sawamura-Toyota on Managing Depression with iRest and Leading Global Healing

For two decades, Senior iRest Trainer and Director of Australasia Programs Fuyuko Sawamura-Toyota has been on the path of yoga and non-dual wisdom. Yet it hasn’t always been smooth journey. Fuyuko, a native of Japan who now lives in Australia, struggled mightily with depression as she found her way.

In 2007, a mutual friend introduced her to iRest founder Richard Miller, now her spiritual mentor, who brought to Fuyuko a deeper awakening. “iRest has since helped me realize my wholeness so deeply that I cannot deny it, “ writes Fuyuko. “Slowly but surely, like ice thawing, my alive-ness has returned.”

In this interview, Fuyuko shares how she used iRest to help conquer depression. She then went on to teach and host iRest trainings and retreats in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Asian countries.  

How did you first discover the practice of iRest?

I discovered iRest back in 2005 or 2006, before it was actually called iRest. My yoga mentor Donna Farhi, who is also a friend of Richard, recommended that I read his first book, Yoga Nidra: A Meditative Practice for Deep Relaxation and Healing.

Donna knew I was going through a very difficult time. I was suffering from long, chronic depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. I was already a yoga teacher and practicing yoga, which certainly helped to keep me from going over the edge. Yet I could not shake the deep wounds that I felt in me. I felt unhappy and dissatisfied with my life. I felt like I was half alive.


How has iRest shaped your life?

iRest brought a deep and profound healing to my life through the recognition and rediscovery who I truly am. Today, I am no longer defined by my past trauma. It no longer has power over me. I am utterly free from the past and can embrace all the joy or sorrow that life brings.


You've mentioned in previous interviews that your iRest practice has helped you manage depression. Can you talk more about that? What might iRest offer a person who is navigating depression?

I now see that depression affected how I saw and interacted with the world around me. I believed that who I am equals what I feel and what I think. I believed that I was a badly damaged, broken, and unworthy human being. I was forever searching for how to fix and mend myself.

Yoga and meditation had already helped me to survive and manage depression as I continued to function in my daily work and life. Yet the notion that something was wrong with me persisted.  

Then I tried Richard’s CD and book, Yoga Nidra. In the first week, noticed a shift in me and my mood. As I continued to practice regularly, I realized: I have to meet Richard Miller. I have to learn more.

iRest has since helped me realize my wholeness so deeply that I cannot deny it. Slowly but surely, like ice thawing, my alive-ness has returned. Nowadays, I feel I am not only surviving but thriving.

For me, iRest’s tool of Inner Resource has been key as it gave me a sense of being okay to feel, knowing that I have a refuge and sanctuary within. I often use an analogy from my childhood. My family used to go camping, and if I had to heed nature’s call during the night, I woke up my big brother and asked him to come outside with me and stand nearby. I felt okay and safe, even while I was afraid in a dark forest!

I respect that every person deals with depression differently. In any case, iRest can help to fulfill the need of deep rest and rejuvenation with a simple guided practice.


Any advice to others who struggle with depression for navigating its challenges?

It is important to ask for help from others, whether friends or professional therapists. It is difficult, but you are not alone. There are so many people who want to help and support you. It took me a long time to realize that. In the past, asking for help made me feel embarrassed, like a failure, vulnerable. I soon came to understand that feeling vulnerable is not a bad thing. Courage comes with feeling vulnerable. It’s normal to feel vulnerable as one gathers courage to reach out.  

In iRest, we have a co-meditation called Dyad or Sacred Mirror meditation. I find it very powerful and transformative. In this co-meditation, unconditional listening and welcoming happens naturally. It’s an amazing deep meditation and healing all rolled in one, and can be a powerful remedy for depression and more.

Rachel Naomi Remen writes, “Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing. It is often through the quality of our listening and not the wisdom of our words that we are able to effect the most profound changes in the people around us." So, if you feel a need for healing, try to find a good listener. Contact the iRest Institute if you wish to find a person to practice the Dyad co-meditation with you, or look up the list of iRest teachers near you.

Finally, those who are already familiar with iRest might also revisit the tool of Inner Resource, which invites us to feel okay no matter what challenging thoughts or emotions arise. A little and often, feel it, feel it, and feel it.


 Who have been your most influential teachers? How so?

Hands down, I appreciate Richard Miller for his generous sharing of his understanding and wisdom with all. He is very accessible, warm, and genuine.  It is his humanitarian heart that I resonate with and am drawn to. I believe and live the “love all and serve all” principle.


You recently have crowdfunded an exciting new project that will translate iRest teachings into Japanese. Tell us more. Why is this important, and what are your goals for this endeavor?

When I was going through the certification to become a certified iRest teacher, I developed a strong wish to bring this teaching to Australia, where I call home now; and to my fellow Japanese people. That became a part of my heartfelt desire, or sankalpa

Japan is a stressed and overworked nation. There is actually a word in Japanese, karoshi that means “death by overwork”! As well, since 2011 when the terrible tsunami hit northeast Japan and so many people lost lives and houses, suffering has continued. The constant threat of having earthquakes has created mental and emotional havoc, including depression and PTSD.

The crowdfund was set up by a publisher in Japan whom I have supported and helped. It has achieved great results and enabled the translation of Richard’s book, Yoga Nidra. I have been delighted to be able to donate my time and skills to complete the translation, to record  iRest practices in Japanese to go with the book, and to introduce the book that truly saved my life. I know this book will help my dear fellow Japanese people who might be suffering like I used to. I’d like to thank  Richard, Kyoko, Ai and my friends who are all helping this project.


You have taught iRest around the world. Do you find audiences receive teachings differently in different regions? What seems to stay the same?

I’ve found that cultural background might influence the initial apprehension to iRest. This apprehension lifts when one welcomes emotions and beliefs. 

In the Japanese culture I grew up with, people honor and respect those who do not show emotions and feelings. I think it comes from the Samurai or Bushido spirit. Yet once we learn to welcome what arises in us and accept our feelings as a strength, we recognize how to move beyond the spell of emotions and beliefs and rediscover the powerful Beings we are.

I noticed that regardless of where I teach--New Zealand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan,  Australia--all human beings long to be seen, heard, and connected. When I teach and share iRest, this very thing occurs for all people at one level or another. This is gold!  


Want to learn more about Fuyuko’s work worldwide? See her upcoming iRest events here and check out her other offerings here


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