8 tips to reduce menstrual pain

Queer yoga in Berlin

Goddess Pose

A little while ago, I wrote a blog about my experiences with endometriosis. And as a result, some of the participants in my yoga classes have asked me how to reduce their own menstrual pain. Not all folks with menstrual cramps have endometriosis, but perhaps some of the things I’ve found that work for me to reduce menstrual pain could potentially work for you too!

1. Painkillers

I try to limit the amount of over-the-counter pharmaceutical painkillers that I use, because I’d prefer to not feed into the pharmaceutical industry. But sometimes I just don’t have time for anything else, and they can be a quick and easy fix. Medicinally-herbed cookies can do the trick just as well, but they’re not so ideal if I have to work that day! 😉

2. Menstrual Yoga

I like to do a slow flow with lots of deep breathing, skipping abdominal exercises, mula bandha and inversions, and focusing on hip openers. Poses like Goddess (above) and Lion help me to release tension that I’m holding because of the pain. I find that my jaw and shoulders also get tight during menstrual cramping, and these poses open up the jaws and the throat. I also find that growling and hissing loudly also helps to reduce anxiety, which I sometimes get when I’m PMSing or during heavy periods.

3. Stress Reduction Sitting Exercises

Menstrual cramps arrive at the least opportune moments – at work or in social situations. Stress aggravates menstrual cramps and can either bring them on or make them worse. I have created an exercise routine that I can do while sitting with other people that’s not so obvious. I take slow deep breaths and sit up tall with a neutral spine, as if meditating. I press my thighs down against the chair, so my lower abdomen lengthens away from the chair, creating more space for all the painful bits to relax and do their thing – shed menstrual blood and tissue. In addition to that, I also do short pushes down, as if ‘bearing down’ – what they tell folks to do when they’re pushing a baby out. I make sure I’m wearing enough protection to catch everything that comes out – and it does! And the cramps go away.

4. Riding a bike on cobblestone

Most cyclists in this city think it’s annoying to ride on those bumpy cobblestones, but I find it actually helps my cramps to loosen up! Instead of fighting the bumping, I just bump along with it and works like magic. 😉

5. Dancing / Hip shaking

Speaking of which, any movement of the hips can be great to help reduce menstrual pain. I used to attend an Osho Kundalini Meditation class at the Osho Centre here in Berlin. It was a wonderful practice to shake out those tense hips and pelvis, loosening the whole region. I don’t go out dancing very much anymore, it’s hard to find the music I like to dance to here! But, if it’s something you like to do, some hip-shaking dancing could definitely be what the doctor ordered.

6. Masturbation / Sex

Loosening of the pelvis and all the muscles around it, is a great way to let go of menstrual tension. In my experience, a good vibrator does the trick nicely. If you don’t want to get messy, or can’t stand the smell or the blood, then the shower is always a good place! And who knows? Your partner might even think it’s hot!

7. Hot water bottle

I don’t often resort to the tried-and-true hot water bottle, but when I do, it’s very soothing. In my experience, it doesn’t work as well to relax my pelvic muscles as some of the other items above.

8. Limiting coffee / alcohol

Whenever I drink coffee when I’m cramping, it always makes it worse. So I try to limit the coffee to when I’m not cramping as much. I also find that when I drink alcohol during menstruation, my tolerance is severely reduced. Not only do I get tipsier faster, but it also causes more menstrual cramping in the morning, and has sometimes lead to a hangover after only a couple of drinks. Drinking tea is often a good substitute for me.

So! I hope some of my experiences can help you to experiment and find your own solutions to reducing menstrual pain. And if you’re in Berlin sometime, drop by one of my classes! I teach Vinyasa Flow and Queer Yoga at English Yoga Berlin.

 

What is your definition of healing?

Photo by Gabriel Barletta

Photo by Gabriel Barletta

“Many of us define healed as the opposite of needy. Therefore to be healed means to be fully self contained, always positive, always happy, always sure of oneself, and never needing anyone. No wonder few ever consider themselves “healed”.”

  • Caroline Myss

 

In today’s western world where trauma and wounds have taken a significant place in our society, we hear a lot of the word “healing”. This is a common word used in a very wide spectrum from yoga classes to psychology to random talks between friends. Healing has taken an important place in our lives, both as a concept and as a reality we strive to achieve.

So what is emotional healing?

I think this is an important question to ask. Is healing about no longer being affected by an event of the past? Is it about the event no longer holding power over you? Is healing about being well and not ever needing anything again? When can someone consider themselves healed? Or is it an ever going process that we can never attain?

I believe that for all of us using this word, it is important to take some time and give our own personal definition to it. And once we have defined it, to look at it again and decide if this is an attainable goal or a never ending process that we are setting too high standards for.

I personally define healing as letting go of the power that a wound holds over me. I don’t need to always be happy, I can be needy, I still have the scars of the wound… but the wound no longer defines me or directs my actions in my life.

 Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Berlin Kreuzberg classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She is a sivananda yoga teacher that also offers Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain. All her yoga classes end in deep relaxation using yoga Nidra techniques.  In her Berlin Chakra course, she uses the chakras as a base line to self-explore concepts such as forgiveness, group thought, letting go, and becoming self-aware of limiting beliefs.

Happy Spring from English Yoga Berlin!

Dear Yogis and Friends!

Every year I get very excited when the sun crosses the celestial equator and day and night become of equal length.

Photo by Melissa Askew

Photo by Melissa Askew

The spring equinox marks the beginning of a new season, and living in Berlin, that symbolically marks the end of a long winter and the beginning of light shining through again!  It might still take some time but it is happening!

It’s time for that  (internal and external) spring cleaning  and I, for one, could not be more excited about it!

I find that every winter, a symbolic hibernation takes place in us that wisely slows us down, makes us go inwards, meditate, ponder, self-explore. It asks of us to explore our inner strength when the light is dim and the air is heavy. And in doing so we start planting new seeds into our subconscious, new wishes for our lives, new directions to follow.

And now? Now it’s time to open the windows, to clean up the cobwebs, and get rid of all the extra things that have accumulated and are not needed. It’s time to let fresh air into our hearts and minds. It’s time to enjoy the butterflies, the singing of the birds, smile at strangers, and let the sun touch our skin.  It’s time to bloom!

HAPPY SPRING EVERYBODY!!!

 

 Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Berlin Kreuzberg classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She is a sivananda yoga teacher that also offers Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain. All her yoga classes end in deep relaxation using yoga Nidra techniques.  In her Berlin Chakra course, she uses the chakras as a base line to self-explore concepts such as forgiveness, group thought, letting go, and becoming self-aware of limiting beliefs.

Returning to the Definition of Drishti

A Return to a Drishti Definition

Almost 5 years ago, we wrote a 2-part blog about what Drishti is and its meditative benefits. From it’s Sanskrit meaning, coming to a Drishti definition in English is complicated. But as we wrote in our blogs, we can put it simply as “the gaze” or “where one’s eyes rest.” Once again, I’d like to return to the topic, but this time from a practical point of view, both in a yoga class and outside of it.

Drishti is about focus

Drishti Definition

Drishti Definition

In an asana yoga class, your teacher may ask to use your Drishti point to keep you balanced and focused. In balancing poses, we can use this point as a focus point, a point that does not move, to help steady our inner ear – where our sense of balance is located. For those of us who feel queasy in bumpy traffic or on boats, we know that staring at the horizon line can help us to overcome motion sickness. Using this focal point in an asana class encourages our bodies to find a posture in that helps us feel steady. In this sense, Drishti is a very tangible and useful anatomical tool. Where your gaze rests is a pretty good indicator of the line your neck and spine are following.

When we turn our focus towards our navels, in Cat/Cow or in Downward Dog, for instance, we are turning our focus inwards, towards ourselves. And when we look out over our finger tips in twists or Warrior poses, we keep our central line from ourselves outwards towards a blurry outside world. It helps you to quiet the mind, increases concentration and relaxation, and allows your attention to flow into whatever you are focusing it on, yourself and your connection / support to the world. It helps us to not look around and get distracted by the other people practicing in the room, which for some of us can turn to negative thoughts if we compare ourselves and how we do the postures, or worry if we are doing them “right.”

 

Another important subtlety in the concept of Drishti is in the different ways of gazing. This is a variation on the practice of detachment but specifically, a Drishti can be described as ´soft´, ´pointed´, ´wide´, ´gentle´, etc. Again, there are very practical reasons for this. Even though Patanjali never gazed at a computer screen, he could imagine what hours of single distance, harsh gazing can do to your eyes. Varied distances of Drishti, as well as varying degrees of hardness or staring in the postures, helps to exercise the optical nerves and reduce the strain that can produce tension headaches.

Early yogis and yoginis realized that the quality with which you observe something radiates through your body. Your body naturally becomes more tense and rigid, or soft and relaxed, depending on how you are looking at something. A soft Drishti promotes internal reflection, relaxation, meditation. A harder one pushes the focus externally. In our contemporary world, we often find our attention being pulled in multiple directions at once, our eyes have no time to rest on anything. A regular yoga practice can help train us to focus ourselves, but only when we take it outside of the yoga studio, do we feel the real benefits. A Drishti point can to calm our thoughts, reduce chatter and anxiety, allow our breath to flow freely, and give us something to dream about other than who posted what on Facebook.

So, the next time you find your eyes wandering, watch your mind and body, and see if you can notice how your Drishti affects you, notice how you feel when you let your eyes rest on something that you don’t normally allow them – give some attention to that plant on your windowsill, follow the path of a beetle in the sand, notice what the squirrels are doing in the tree in your yard. And next time you practice yoga, play with your gaze point and see how it affects your practice and your life.

One of our main goals in our Kreuzberg Berlin yoga classes is to educate people about the benefits of our practice. We believe that by making yourself more centered and focused you are better equipped to make an impact in the world around you. For more info about our Hatha Yoga in Berlin or Vinyasa Yoga, check out our yoga in English schedule.

Decodifying Forgiveness

Photo by David Schap

Photo by David Schap

What is forgiveness? One can apologize, say sorry, ask forgiveness. But what do these words actually mean? Are they all the same? And does this distinction even matter?

When I get lost with the meanings of words, I often go back to their etymology. I like to see what the original meaning of the word was, when the need for that word to be created arose. I also find it very telling to see how far we’ve strayed from that meaning.

When I looked up the word to forgive on the online etymological dictionary I was particularly impressed at the word meaning “to give up”. To give up what exactly? In old English it meant “to give up desire or power to punish”. Sorry, on the other hand, comes from the word sorrow. So when I say, I’m sorry to someone what I am actually saying is “I can feel your sorrow.” Apology comes from Greek, meaning “to use speech in defense”.

Interestingly, in Greek there are two more words used interchangeably for the word forgive. One is signomi (sin+ gnomi), which means I am now of the same opinion as you”. The other one is me-sighoreis which could be translated as “Can you make space for me to also be?”

I find the meaning of these words to be quite different to one another, and yet we use them all interchangeably and indiscriminately. No wonder we are all confused about what it means to forgive! Is it to give up the will to punish, to feel one’s sorrow without changing our actions, to hear someone defend themselves through speech, to tell the other person they were right all along, or to give the other person permission to also be as he/she is?

Before we even consider forgiving anything, we must at least know what we mean by it. Which is the forgiving that so many people say will liberate the heart and let it find peace?

Tara Brach tells this beautiful story in order to explain the process of forgiveness that resonates deeply with me:

“Imagine you are in the woods and you see a dog under a tree. You smile and go to pet this dog and it lurches at you, fangs bared and growling. You become angry at the dog and then you see its leg is caught in a trap. You shift again and go from being angry at the dog to having compassion for it.”

The shift from anger to compassion is when the forgiveness happens. I guess in a way you are doing all of the above: you give up the will to punish the dog (forgive) because you feel his sorrow (sorry). You can explain through speech what just occurred (apology), you are now of the same opinion – you would be angry too if you were trapped – (signomi) and you make space for the dog to also exist in his pain (me sighoreis).

Forgiveness occurs when anger turns to compassion.

Does this mean that because you forgave the dog, you should now go pet him and get bit? No way! It means that if you choose to help the dog, you need to approach him in a way that has clear boundaries that won’t damage you. And if that is not possible because the dog is so deep in his own pain and too dangerous for you to deal with, then you need to leave – and let someone with more experience help the dog out of his trap.

 Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Kreuzberg classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She  also offers Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain. All her yoga classes end in deep relaxation using yoga Nidra techniques.  In her Berlin Chakra course, she uses the chakras as a base line to self-explore concepts such as forgiveness, group thought, letting go, and becoming self-aware of limiting beliefs.

Practicing Breath

practicing breath

Practicing Breath

The idea of “practicing breath” is one that’s often heard in yoga classes. But what does it really mean?

Aren’t we always breathing?

In the novel Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins writes about two characters, Alobar and Kudra, who learn techniques of immortality, one of them a slow, controlled breathing practice. I often think about them as I breathe the way I’ve learned through years of yoga practice. And no, I’m not doing it because I want to be immortal!

I started practicing yoga about 20 years ago. I’d follow along with the breathing techniques in classes, and feel their immediate effects; more openness in my body, a greater sense of calm, more energy, and sometimes just pure bliss. But I started to understand why they were so important only more recently as the practice became more a part of my daily life.

Breathing as Pain Alleviation

I’d struggled for years with pain from of endometriosis. And a few years ago I began a weekly practice of Osho Kundalini Meditation. Through this, I learned techniques of relaxation of the pelvic muscles, which helped to reduce the pain. As I would go through the exercises, I started to realize that it was my breathing that brought me to the relaxation. The deep yoga breath made me more conscious of where I was holding physical tension in my body and in invited me to release that tension. I don’t practice the Osho technique anymore, but as soon as I start feeling the pain from endometriosis, I take deep breaths and focus on relaxing my pelvic muscles. The pain quickly dissipates. I’m not saying that this could work for everyone, as not all pain is because of tension. But it works for me.

Breathing to Reduce Anxiety

Another thing that deep conscious breathing helps me with is anxiety. As an introvert, I feel the pressure of social anxiety in crowds of people. It’s easy to take a drink or too in social settings to numb that, and though I’m a yoga teacher, I’m not against that, as it does help me relax! But there are other situations where anxiety creeps up on me too. In these cases, a minute or two of deep controlled and conscious breathing help to me feel a bit more at ease. It’s not perfect, but that little bit does help me to function better.

Breathing as a Healing Practice

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been learning about restorative yoga and its healing potential. Allowing our bodies to rest through deep relaxation and conscious breath can support us in recovering from illnesses faster, reducing stress and anxiety, boost our immune systems and make us stronger. Last year, I began an advanced yoga teacher training, the Svastha Yoga Therapie program. What I’ve learned in the first couple of modules was invaluable. I’m excited for the 3rd and 4th modules which I will attend this year, which are all about the breath. I look forward to continuing to learn more about how the breath can heal.

Practicing Breath

The idea of practicing breath is not something unique to yoga, but it’s one that we focus on in yoga classes. Once or twice a week, we get together, breathe and move together. We learn various breathing techniques in a class lead by a knowledge guide. But then what happens when we leave? Do we go back to our short breaths, hunching shoulders up to ears while waiting for the bus in the cold? Holding our breath when someone makes us angry? My idea of practicing breath is about being conscious and aware of how I’m breathing in the moment. I try, when I can, to take this practice out of the yoga studio and into my daily life. It may not change the world and all society’s problems. But it can help me to deal with it better, and get strong to fight back against it in a way that is productive.

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Juli teaches restorative yoga and vinyasa flow at English Yoga Berlin in our Kreuzberg yoga studio.

Wishing you a peaceful new year

Our heart’s wish for this year is a peaceful 2017 – both in the world out there and inside of us.

May we be able to contact our emotions, to feel the grief and powerlessness behind the anger, and to find the caring hiding behind the grief. May this contact enable us to act from a place of caring and love. May all feelings of unworthiness, of “not being enough” , of needing “to get somewhere” dissipate in feelings of love and presence. May we accept ourselves as we are in this very moment. May this acceptance give us strength to change. May this change inside help us act in a world that so desperately needs every conscious being out there.  May this change build bridges and break through walls. May this change break through the pain of racism, homophobia, sexism, fascism. May this change allow us to be free.

 

In a world of increasing violence and turmoil, we wish for peace, acceptance, change, kindness and love.

May all beings be free.

– with love, from English Yoga Berlin

 

English Yoga Berlin thanks you for all your commitment and support in these past years. We will continue to give Hatha Yoga and Vinyasa Flow Yoga classes regularly in 2017. Due to the Chakra course being full with several people on a waiting list, we will repeat this course in the spring of 2017.  We are happy to see that so many people are interested in learning about the chakras and their effect on our bodies and consciousness!

English Yoga Berlin Winter News

There’s a lot happening at English Yoga Berlin this Winter! Pinelopi is giving a brand new Chakra course, Juli brings Queer Yoga back, Pedro is going solo, and Pinelopi is teaching at Dynamic Mindfulness teacher trainers’ course. On top of that we are selling yoga gift cards again this Holiday season!

English Yoga Berlin“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”

― Yoko Ono

 

 

 

 


Christmas Gift Cards

We are selling beautiful Yoga gift cards for the Christmas holidays and all other celebratory occasions! You can buy yoga gift cards of one or five classes at our English Yoga Berlin studio or online. The gift of yoga is a precious gift!


Holiday Closures

Please be aware of our holiday closures! Check out our schedule page for up-to-date info.


tantric yogaPedro is going solo

We wish Pedro the best of luck as he goes solo with his new website. If you wish to follow his exciting posts on facebook, click here.


queer yoga berlinQueer Yoga is back!

Queer* Yoga Flow Berlin is back on January 18th, 2017. The class that prioritizes a space for queer and trans* people will be held every Wednesday at 10am. Allies and other misfits are welcome.


yoga teacher training in berlin200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training

Do you live in Berlin and would like to become a yoga teacher? Dynamic Mindfulness School offers an amazing teacher trainers’ course that starts in February. Pinelopi will be a guest teacher there. Check it out!


chakra course in berlinChakra Course

Pinelopi is offering a 10 week course on the Chakras. Starting date: January 12th, 2017. The first class will be a lecture and all other classes will focus on a yoga practice for each specific chakra, understanding both the emotions and the body area that chakras influence and get influenced by. Write to her here if you are interested.


Somuchmore and English Yoga Berlin partnership Update

To those Somuchmore customers who attended our classes, we regret to inform you that as of 2017 we will no longer be part of this service.


 

We continue to be thankful for your practice and your support of our work. We wish you a healthy, happy winter, full of inner peace and connection!


the gift of yoga this christmas

yoga christmas presents in Berlin

photo by Aaron Burden

The Christmas period is here and we, at English Yoga Berlin, wish you VERY HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

 

We wish you magical moments with friends and people that you love, lots of Glühwein, inner peace, connection, presence, and the ability to stay away from the frantic stress that these holidays often bring with them.

For those of you searching for a nice present to give your loved ones, we suggest you give the gift of yoga. We are selling Berlin yoga gift cards for one or more Hatha yoga, Vinyasa yoga, or Tantra yoga classes. You can buy them at our yoga studio, or online.

Happy holidays!

May your hearts be merry and bright!

 

Small business advice for women

Business advice for women creatives

Photograph by Karina Louise Photography

Shaleah Dawnyel is one half of a team that offers a series of online eCourses and eBooks aimed at and predominantly for women running their own creative small businesses. Shaleah hails from L.A, California, and has found her way over to Berlin a few times now. The creative city of Berlin has her coming back for more.

After her short return to California, she moved to San Francisco to start up Seeing Beauty with Karina Louise, offering small business advice for women through their online resources. I’ve had the opportunity to try out several of their eCourses and they’ve helped me to figure out whether running a small business is the right thing for me, and how to do it in a way that suits me. As a freelance yoga teacher and filmmaker, the idea of running my own business was daunting and I was downright resistant to the idea of marketing. Working with Shaleah, and doing the eCourses helped me to see how I could make it work and have it fit with my own values. Here I’ve interviewed her to gain some insight on how she came up with these ideas and what she likes about working with Creatives.

What’s so great about Berlin, what draws you here?

I absolutely adore the energy in Berlin! There is a creative spirit here that I have never encountered anywhere else in the world. The pace leaves lots of room for both personal and professional exploration and the diversity and reasonable standard of living also make it primed for creating new things.

How did you get the idea to start this business? What were your motivations?

A couple years back we had an idea for a photography course for camera shy Creatives. At that point Karina and I had already been working together for over 5 years before we started Seeing Beauty. She had experienced some really transformative things while building her brand and wanted to share this experience with others. But we both knew that most people can’t afford to hire a consultant so we wanted to make what she and I had been doing to build her business practically and affordably available to more people. One eCourse became two, and the next thing we knew, we were co-founding a company. I guess you can say this idea found us!

As someone who predominantly works alone on your own consultation business, what is like for you to work with a collaborator on Seeing Beauty?

I actually never work alone as I am always collaborating with clients! My small business consultancy let’s me work with artists, makers and wellness workers to find their unique talents, leverage their resources and develop creative work that actually fits them. So many people leave nightmare jobs to create nightmare businesses! Figuring out what you really want is really the hardest part. Once you know that, the rest is just details. I help with the figuring AND the details.

But my favorite part of SB is working to collaborate with other badass biz ladies. So far we have 4 eBooks for Creatives, all developed by us and authored by experts who we asked to work with us. So many awesome people are too busy or humble to get this stuff out there. We love taking things that were sitting on the shelf, or ideas that haven’t yet come to life and making them into stuff our creative community can use.

Can you tell us a little bit about the e-courses that you offer?

Most of our products are things we have needed ourselves while building our own businesses or resources that my clients have needed along the way. At the moment this includes a Marketing Course for Creatives, US Small Biz Tax Guide, a Designer guide for Small Biz, and a Content Basics eBook. We actually just launched our new photography eCourse, the initial reason we started the company last year, and so far the reviews are awesome!

Our eCourses are highly personal and exploratory- helping people to tap into their own inner wisdom about their creative work. The eBooks are all written at the basic level to make sure the reader has a good handle on the subject. With so much non-sense out there trying to tell us what to do as entrepreneurs, we wanted to create practical resources filled with soul. I think we have succeeded so far…hopefully you agree?

I find your questions throughout the eCourses quite creative and thoughtful, they’re not the obvious ones one normally gets in questionnaires to find out “what I should do with my life.” I’m curious how you came up with these questions.

The questions come from my consultancy work. After working for over 7 years with Creatives from all over the world I have found that often asking the right questions is better than giving answers. Our work is geared around learning to hear your own voice and trusting yourself to lead your best work.

What kind of feedback have you received from those who have taken your courses?

The feedback so far has been really amazing. Like teaching anything, its insanely rewarding to see people have those “ah ha” moments where they really get something that changes their perspective and empowers them in their creative work. It’s also great to be building an actual community of dynamic, talented people who are trying to make the world a better place.


 

Shaleah has been an active part of the English Yoga Berlin community, attending our Hatha yoga classes and offering us consultation. We offer yoga classes in all different styles: Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, Tantric yoga, Restorative yoga and community classes.