Search Results for: chronic pain

Practicing Yoga When You Have Chronic Pain


Untitled-5People are often surprised that I have chronic pain, because I am a y
oga teacher and the two are somehow supposed to cancel each other out. If only it were so simple! In my life, it’s been a more nuanced relationship—I got into yoga because of chronic back 

pain (and a whole host of attendant emotional and psychosocial issues), and my practice has, over the years, both helped me and hindered me in coping with pain and injury. When it’s helped me, it’s been because it has helped me to relax, centre, clear away my mental chatter, calm my nerves, and teach me to tune in to my body’s needs and capacities on any given day. When it’s hindered me, it’s been because of a combination of my own unrealistic expectations of myself and a culture of yoga classes that emphasizes fast and hard yoga asana practice, rather than slowness, deliberation and boundaries. Overall, though there have definitely been bumps along the way, yoga (and all different types of yoga, including yoga asanas, yoga nidra, hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga, pranayama and meditation) has helped me enormously.

I picked up some tips along the way, and would like to share them with other people who have pain, limited mobility or (dis)ability issues. This is what I have learned about practicing yoga with chronic pain—I hope it’s helpful to you and good luck on creating a style of yoga that fits and nurtures you.

Select Your Teachers Carefully
Unfortunately, many yoga teachers aren’t actually trained in the kinds of modification and adjustment you might need. This isn’t their fault—it’s because the standard of training (the 200h training that most teachers have) doesn’t address injury and limited mobility adequately. Someone with a 500h training may have more knowledge, but may also not. The best thing is to find a teacher who, through their own practice and teaching, has had injuries themselves or has made it a priority to learn about injury. Look for a teacher with a lot of experience; it’s also great if they are trained as a physiotherapist, massage therapist or other bodyworker, or if they have connections to such practitioners that they can recommend to you. Such a person might also not be working in a yoga studio, but rather giving yoga classes in a different setting. (This is because studios are often run on a very specific profit-maximizing and class-stuffing business model, and people who’ve been teaching for many years are often not compatible with it!) Most important of all is to find a teacher who puts you firmly in the driver’s seat, who gives you the information and then allows you to decide how far to go with it.

Select Your Style Thoughtfully
There are many different types of yoga. I would encourage you to try a few different styles, and then select what you need on any given day or week. Yoga benefits you in many different ways. For example, if you are having a pain flare, you might find restorative yoga or some other gentle yoga to be most helpful. If you’re feeling anxious, you might want something with more movement, or more meditation. I would suggest starting with slower styles—like Hatha Yoga or Classical Yoga. Chair yoga is also a great option for people with limited mobility. When you feel that you know your own body’s preferences and limits, you can try a more dynamic style (like Vinyasa Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga). Be careful with hot yoga, or with very fast-paced yoga classes; they can be a lot of fun, but it’s often challenging to listen to your own boundaries in such environments. It’s easy to overdo it and aggravate pre-existing problems.

Do Your Research
Don’t rely on a teacher to know what your body needs or shouldn’t do; It’s great if s/he can inform you, but it’s ultimately your responsibility. You’ll feel more empowered if you actively search for information, and then can make better decisions. If, for example, you have hyper-mobile shoulder joints or a slipped disc, it’s a good idea to ask your other healthcare practitioners about particular movements that might be dangerous for you. Of course, ask your yoga teacher, too—but don’t rely solely on their opinion.

If You Need To, Do Your Own Thing In Class
So, let’s say you have some disc issues in your lower back. And let’s say your teacher is teaching a lot of forward bends on a particular day, because other students are interested in learning them. And let’s say that, due to your research, you know that forward bends are something with which you should be careful. You can start by modifying the postures (and asking the teacher for ideas about how to do so). But, you know what? If you modify and it still hurts or feels like too much, just don’t do it. Feel free to rest in Savasana until the sequence is over, or do some other asana or pranayama while the other students are bending forward. A good teacher will support you in this, and won’t take it personally. Remember, it’s your time and your practice—do what’s best for you.

Practice Alone—It Will Help You Learn Your Boundaries Honestly
We’re social animals and we all like to feel part of the group. Unfortunately, when the group is moving in a specific way and you can’t follow, it’s very common to try and push and see if maybe you can get there today. Everyone with chronic pain or disability issues knows these thoughts. If they come up for you in yoga classes (and they often will, even in very gentle yoga or yoga for beginners classes), the best way to counter them is to balance your yoga studio practice with home practice. Then, with time and space, you can figure out what works for you, and you can come to a class prepared to respect and love your body’s limits.

Share Your Feelings About It
When you feel isolated, frustrated, invisible, hurt—find a way to let it out. Part of the journey of dealing with pain is learning to share it, verbalise or otherwise express it. Pain is often a silencing and isolating experience, and making it a social experience lessens the burden drastically. You might want to let your teachers know. You might not. It’s entirely up to you, how and with whom you share your emotions, but that you do share in some way is a very important part of learning to cope with your body’s limitations, negotiate this in relationships and celebrate what you do have and how great it is.

If you are looking for injury-, pain- and disability-aware yoga in Berlin, please don’t hesitate to contact us or drop into a class. We offer yoga nidra, hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga and classical yoga, in small classes with experienced teachers. You can see our yoga Berlin Kreuzberg schedule here.

 

A Tantric Way of Dealing with Pain

Does it hurt?  Can you do something to get rid of the pain?  No?  No problem.

You can remain content and relaxed in the midst of any experience. Including pain, sorrow, fear, or anger. Hang on… nobody said it’s easy, but we categorically say that it is possible. And not only that, it is possible for everyone.

rocksOne way I know of dealing with pain is amazingly simple: To directly experience what is happening, in a steady and concentrated way. In other words, to meditate on the source of the experience.

I have been using the Tantric meditations to deal with chronic pain for years. And, although the pain hasn’t entirely gone away, a lot of the side effects (mental anguish, fear, or other physical tensions) have disappeared.  When my knee hurts I can accept it and remain relaxed, so it doesn’t cause me any real disturbance.

Of course, if you don’t know the cause of a pain, it’s best that you seek prompt medical advice. But, if the pain is already there, you might as well meditate on it on your way to the doctor.

You will find that many pains actually disappear when you experience them in this way. Or the quality or intensity of the pain may change. Or it may move, or get smaller.

How does one do it? Simply by going to the place of the disturbance. Locate it physically with your mind, and then experience it with curious detachment. Experience it, not like you want it to go away, but like you want to know about it. Where is the center of this sensation? How big is this area? Explore it like an objective investigator; or watch it like you watch a film.

We experiment with this method during the Tantric Tuesdays at KiKi, for example, feeling a tension during a yoga pose.  We also practice some of the meditations that (like Antar Mauna) cultivate this ability of detached experience, or (like Tratak) teach the mind to concentrate intensely on one point.

I recently visited a friend, who’s also been coming to my guided moments.  I found her in a desperate state due to an intense headache.  Although she has only practiced for a few months, she has been very consistent and regular, so I felt that the meditative approach would help.  Below I transcribe her impressions of what happened next, written the day after.

I woke up with pressure in the head. Something very usual for me since I´m eight years old. Lucky that since I´m a teenager I can take medicine against it. And I do, immediately, with the first signs of pain. So hard is it for me to resist the pressure, the burning and stinging at my forehead. So with 3 pills per day I get over it and stay 2-3 days without pain, and can continue my daily life …. Therefore, I always have medicine in my handbag. Always!

 

But this morning I received a lovely massage from caring hands and I felt I din’’t want to swallow the pill. The pain got worse and then my stomach rebelled, so it was too late to take a pill. Ohhh I wanted to hit my head against the wall, like I did as girl, when the pain was unbearable.

 

I actually do not remember how I got on the chair in my room. I just remember this voice guiding me into my body, the stillness inside…. Ohh the throbbing got so heavy.. But I trusted and followed the guidance into the movement of my breath. I felt how my body was relaxing little by little, and at the same time the pain in my head became more intense. And I was guided directly into this pain. I felt the pain coming in waves and my tired body, leaning forward devoting to these waves. There was only pain and heaviness, and it felt eternal. I was awake and at the same time like sleeping, sitting on the chair. Until… Hari Om Tat Sat.

 

I just observed how my body laid down on the bed beside the chair. When I woke up, my head was completely free! I could not believe it, and noticed how I started to search for the pain. But quickly I dropped this idea and enjoyed my day.

 

Kathi hasn’t had any more headaches in the two weeks since this happened.  But she claims to be eagerly awaiting for another episode, so she can try this method again.  She also says that this experience has completely changed the way she approaches any pain or unpleasant feelings:  Now she meets them as their curious explorer, rather than as their victim.

On another post, we will write about the mechanisms that make this shift in the experience of pain possible.  For now, just take our word that it works.  Or come and practice it yourself to find-out.

Pedro teaches Tantra yoga and meditation at English Yoga Berlin.

Four Yoga Poses for Back Pain

Many people discover Yoga during the process of trying to treat back pain. Back pain is a very common problem in our society and can be caused by diverse sources. It can stem from simple muscle tightness, chronic postural problems, bad working conditions, structural misalignment in the skeleton, emotional stress or any number of other imbalances in the body.

 A regular, personalized Yoga practice can go a long way in helping to relieve back pain. We are careful to keep our Berlin Yoga classes small enough so that every student can freely ask questions about their own body. It’s important that your practice is tailored to suit your needs–every back is different! Make sure that you let your teacher know about your specific issues. For example, Yoga for a slipped disc is very different from Yoga for tight hamstrings. 

 Here are some tips for using Yoga to treat the most common back ailments.

Downward Dog is a wonderful posture for strengthening all of the paraspinal muscles. It also helps to stretch the hamstrings and calves, which, when tense, can contribute to lordosis in the lumbar spine. It’s very important to have a straight back as you practice Downward Dog–so start with bent knees and, as your legs warm up, you can experiment with straightening them. Sliding the shoulder blades down the back and rotating the upper arms outwards will keep your shoulders broad and strong in the pose.

 Cat/Cow is a gentle vinyasa that helps the spine warm up and releases tension in the back. Make sure you move slowly, deliberately and with your breath. If you have neck problems, keep your neck steady and your gaze on the floor. Otherwise, you can let it move with the rest of your spine. As your back warms up, notice where the bend is easiest to accomplish in your spine and then gently bring the movement into the stiffer parts of your back. This will help achieve more mobility in tighter parts of the spine.

Child’s Pose is a great release for the lower back. Bringing your knees together under your belly will bring your spine into neutral. Letting them rest wide apart is a deeper hip opener but involves more flexibility in the lower spine. Choose whichever variation works best for you, rest your forehead on a block or on the floor and then breathe and relax.

 Abdominal Work is best performed while lying on the back. This way, the floor can support the pelvis and the lower back. This makes it easier to work the abdominal muscles without straining the spine and strong, long core muscles are a key part of back health. Start gently, lifting the legs one by one (with the knees bent if need be), and then build gradually towards longer holds.

 As always, listen to your body. If you feel any pain, stop, rest and ask for a variation from your teacher.

Live Online yoga Classes Continue

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt with the heart.”

— Helen Keller

 

Greetings Yogis,

            Here we are a few months into the Corona virus pandemic, with some time spent in lockdown and getting used to a new way of life. Whether we like it or not, we are going through changes that affect us each individually as well as societally. What this means for our future, we cannot yet say. However,  if distancing truly makes our hearts grow fonder, let’s hope for a kinder, gentler and more just world when we finally come out of this. In the meantime, online yoga is here for a little while longer. Both Juli and Pinelopi continue their regular schedule online through June. With Pinelopi dropping to one class a week through July for summer holidays. Near the end of July we hope to know more about the regulations and peak statuses of Berlin to make a decision whether we return to the studio in August.

 

Hatha Yoga Classes Live Online

Pinelopi’s regular Hatha Yoga classes continue online through June, and will reduce to once a week in July for summer holidays. Here is how to join.

 

yoga online

yoga online

Sunday Yoga Live Online

Juli‘s regular Sunday Yoga classes from 4-5:30pm continue live online through June and July. Here’s how to join.

We continue to be thankful for your practice and your support of our work. Stay healthy, stay safe, protect those at risk by keeping a distance.

 

At English Yoga Berlin, we offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli. Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcome to beginners, as well as people struggling with chronic pain. We also offer Berlin business yoga, and private yoga classes, as well as queer and trans prioritized community classes. We are currently offering all of our yoga classes live online. See our schedule for more info.

Computer Work and Posture – Part I

The virtual world is here. It has been here for some decades now. It has waltzed into our lives with dizzying speed….with all its charms, promises and dangers. Some promises of connection and closeness were kept. Others were delivered in unexpected ways. Many ended up creating the icy feeling of loneliness in an over-connected world. One thing is clear. The speed in which this digital world has entered our lives has not given us enough biological time to adapt.

We spend incredible amounts of time working in front of computers, absorbed in our social media feeds, or receiving various forms of entertainment. Few times do we stop and become aware of our bodies. We forget about the living body. We increasingly get lost in a cloud of thoughts. Until eventually, the body starts to complain, desperately trying to catch our attention, asking for us to return to the biological vessel that makes our existence possible.

Since computers are here to stay and our use of them is not bound to diminish, is there a way that we could coexist in peace all together: computers, bodies, and presence? We must find one for the sake of our bodies, our mental health, and the quality of presence that we wish to live with.

In the next series of blogs I will suggest a combination of different aspects to become more aware of our bodies and our ability to stay mindful while working on computers. This will include looking at positions of mechanical advantage; bringing variation to the working positions we chose; ways to remember body awareness; eye care and mindfulness practices while doing computer work.

But for today, let‘s start with the preparatory work.

Good posture in front of the computer

We often are told to “sit up straight”, but do we actually know what that means? Many people use excessive amounts of energy to keep their version of “straight” in front of their computers. It is not possible to use such amounts of physical energy for a long time without cramping or becoming very uncomfortable. As a result, they then have to swing to the other extreme of slouching or collapsing while on their computer work. Many continue to swing between excessive tension and collapsing for the rest of their computer time. Both yoga and the Alexander technique are ways that people can use to help them find a middle place where sitting up straight becomes possible without using excessive muscle tension.

What does sitting up straight or upright actually mean?

I believe that the direction of “sitting up straight” or “upright” is confusing to begin with.  Does being straight mean to not have curves in your spine? To flatten out the curves? No. This would be setting us up to failure and to more problems. Rather, I suggest that we look at sitting upright as a balanced relationship between the head, neck and back.

Alternatively, some people may find it easier to think of “upright” as balancing out the three curves in their back. This would mean that not one curve is extreme and out of proportion from the other two. The challenge, though, is to balance out the curves without using excessive muscle tension.

A good way of becoming familiar with the relationship between your head, neck and back is to lay down in the semi supine pose with some books underneath your head for ten to fifteen minutes daily. In  Part II of this blog I will explain the semi-supine pose, a mindful exercise that you can practice to help increase your familiarity with this pose, and the relationship between head, neck and back.

Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She offers Berlin business yogaprivate yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain, yoga courses and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.  Due to the corona virus, we are currently giving all yoga classes live online.

Keeping calm in times of uncertainty

The whole world has been affected, we’re all in this together

Keep Calm in Times of UncertaintyThe COVID-19 pandemic has revealed some unexpected things about our society. In the past, when we’ve imagined through films or literature what the world would look like during a viral outbreak, the current situation is not one we’ve anticipated, one where (unless you’re a medical worker, caregiver, garbage collector, cleaner, bus driver, grocery store clerk, or work in food service or production) most of us are asked to stay home. Those of us with the privilege of comfortable, safe homes, clean running water and access to grocery stores can easily do that. But the crisis is also showing more clearly the inequalities around the world, that most of us live in cramped quarters, abusive home situations, unsanitary conditions, or don’t have access to clean water, a roof over our heads, or are incarcerated. It also clearly shows which demographics have access to proper healthcare. Nobody is as of yet immune to the virus, but we have different positions from which to fight it. In all of this it’s hard to keep calm in times of uncertainty.

Other epidemics in the past have been isolated to smaller parts of the world, but this is the first one that has spread worldwide. Our world has gotten smaller through international travel, dwindling habitats for wild animals, mass production of food and worldwide shipping. All of this has increased and sped-up human contact. One of my favourite guided relaxations includes a visualization of how we’re all connected through the earth, the animals, plants and each other: the butterfly effect. But thinking about all that inter-connection right now, when we’re supposed to be apart from each other feels counterintuitive. So I’ve been avoiding this visualization these days. But it’s also rewarding to see how neighbours are looking out for each other more, like buying groceries for those more vulnerable or wearing masks in public places to reduce the risk of asymptomatic infection. It shows that people are actually acknowledging our inter-connection.

Panic is about things we cannot control

Even for those with the privilege to work from a safe, comfortable home, and with loved ones nearby, there is still a lot of uncertainty about what the future will hold. Going out to the grocery store and wondering if you’ve touched your face while standing in line, or whether you’ve cleaned your vegetables properly can cause a panic attack. Our enemy is microscopic. We don’t know when it will hit, if it has hit, or if we or those we love will succumb to it. We also don’t know what it means for our society and how we will interact once this pandemic is over, how long it will last, or even if it will end. Who will we be once it is over? How will it change us? What new behaviours will we have to take on in the future? Will everyone go out with face masks and latex gloves? How will we go to events while maintaining distance? What about flights and cramped long-distance bus rides? What about our jobs?

Uncertain Times

Strange Times, Cartoon by Leunig

The future is never something that we could ever predict, but there are certain things we can usually count on that will most likely be there tomorrow or a week from now. With the corona times as they are, our normal everyday routine has been disrupted, and there is the feeling that our support system has been pulled out from under us. This is a panic-inducing scenario. Those who didn’t already have anxiety or panic attacks before this will now know what it’s like for those who have that as a regular experience. One thing we can do to manage it is to learn to observe the things we have control over, acknowledge what support we do have right here and now in the present, and act mindfully. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of some tips that can help with keeping calm in times of uncertainty, some of which may work for some, but not others, take care of what you can manage yourself right now:

  1. Meditation or guided relaxation
  2. Listening to Sound Healing music
  3. Breathing techniques, such as the Bee Breath during Pinelopi’s grounding sessions
  4. Practicing yoga, Qi Gong or other calming movement practices
  5. Practicing mindfulness as you walk, noticing your feet on the ground
  6. Chewing food slowly, being mindful and grateful for the food you have available
  7. Taking control of the things you can right now – plant a garden, dive into a new project
  8. Joining a new streaming platform and binge watching obscure movies
  9. Being there for others, helping a neighbour, supporting a friend
  10. Reading about how to overthrow capitalism and planning actions to help re-build a future world
  11. …. What are your strategies to remain calm in times of uncertainty? … post in the comments below …

 


At English Yoga Berlin, we offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli. Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcome to beginners, as well as people struggling with chronic pain. We also offer Berlin business yoga, and private yoga classes, as well as queer and trans prioritized community classes. We are currently offering all of our yoga classes live online. See our schedule for more info.

Practicing yoga online during a pandemic

As panic rises, practicing yoga during a pandemic seems like the last thing one would think about. But yoga is what we do, so here are our thoughts and a new offer of yoga online!

Why yoga?

yoga online

Practicing yoga online

Panic is rising high and people are doing irrational things like fighting over toilet paper. Most people know that hoarding toilet paper isn’t going to help anyone, but it’s something people feel they have control over. A regular practice of yoga or meditation can calm anxiety and reduce panic, allowing us to stay clear-headed and follow the guidelines as outlined by the World Health Organization. The breathing techniques we practice in yoga also helps to keep the respiratory system strong and supports the immune system. Yoga also gives us something to do when everything else is shut down, it can be practiced anywhere. And even if you don’t have a mat, you can still find a way to practice in other ways – for example this chair yoga sequence or this standing sequence. You can keep up a practice on your own, or try out some yoga online. Some sources even have live streamed classes.

My local yoga studio is open, what precautions should I take?

If your local yoga studio is still open, great for you! Hopefully they are not a studio that packs people into a tight space. In order to keep the spread of the virus down and flatten the curve, follow the guidelines as outlined by the WHO:

  • Stay home even if you’re feeling a little bit unwell – headache, achey, sore throat, tiredness, etc.
  • Bring your own mat and other props if you have them, especially blankets.
  • Or bring your own clean towel to lay down on the mat.
  • Spray down your mat with disinfectant before and after use, and throw away the paper towel you’ve wiped it with.
  • Don’t touch your face
  • Wash your hands and throw away the paper towel you’ve used to dry them with.
  • Drink lots of water or tea in your own container that you wash before and after every outing.

My local studio is closed or I’m unwell.

Here’s your chance to try out the myriad of yoga classes available online! There are a number of free youtube videos and other paid sources for yoga videos online. But if you’d like a live-streamed yoga class there are also options. As of tomorrow, English Yoga Berlin will be live with yoga online. Take a look at our Facebook-event for the regular Sunday yoga class.


At English Yoga Berlin, we offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli. Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcome to beginners, as well as people struggling with chronic pain. We also offer Berlin business yoga, and private yoga classes, as well as queer and trans prioritized community classes.

New Year Yoga Standing Sequence

Happy New Year! And welcome to the start of a new decade!

As a thank you for your participation and your readership, we offer you this new year’s yoga standing sequence – asanas you can do anywhere, while you’re on the go, while you’re waiting in line for the Silvester party, or simply for a night in of self-reflection and evaluation. Each pose is accompanied by a question to help guide your process of letting go of what you want to leave behind and make room for what the new decade brings. Enjoy!

tadasana

Mountain Pose:
What is my support / foundation?

chi yoga

Golden Rooster:
What can I peacefully confront?

warrior1

Warrior I :
What are my­­ obstacles?

revolved side angle

Twisted / Revolved Side Angle:
What can I let go of?

warrior2Warrior II:
How can I prepare for surprises?
inverted warriorInverted Warrior:
What are the oppositional forces I encounter?
extended side angleExtended Side Angle:
Where can I find leverage?
forward foldWide-legged Forward Fold:
How do things look from another perspective?
warrior3Warrior III:
How to balance in the face of resistance?
dancer2Dancer:
Can I reach higher?
balanceBalance:
In what ways can I leave my comfort zone?
surrenderSurrender:
In what ways can I give in or let go?

At English Yoga Berlin, we offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli. Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcome to beginners, people struggling with chronic pain. We also offer Berlin business yoga, and private yoga classes, as well as queer and trans prioritized community classes.

Terminology Tuesday: are mindfulness and meditation the same thing?

I often hear people use the terms mindfulness and meditation interchangeably. Are they, though, the same thing?

So let’s look at these two terms.

Mindfulness

photo by Fern

I define mindfulness as the practice of having one’s mind fully present in any activity or inactivity that they are performing. The English term was originally created by the Buddhist scholar T.W. Rhys Davids at the beginning of the 20th century. Later on, this term was used by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his popular Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. He defines mindfulness as ‘the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.’

Many mindfulness practices increase the ability to attain this state of mind. One example is the practice of mindfulness walks whilst using a modified version of  the 54321 technique.  This is one of my favorite mindfulness practices that I always include in our English Yoga Berlin retreats.

Meditation

Meditation, on the other hand, is the practice of letting the mind quiet down from thoughts and worries. It is experiencing ones’ own presence beyond the mind. It requires sitting (or if necessary laying down) and purposefully creating a space to practice. In the Vedantic tradition, there are two types of yogic meditations: saguna and nirguna.

In the saguna meditation, the meditator focuses on one thing only (be it a mandala, the breath, a candle flame). The meditator keeps the mind anchored on this focal point. Think of the mind as a bird that flies from one thought to the next.  Eventually the bird gets tired and needs to rest on a branch. The one focal point of saguna meditation is the branch for the bird-mind to rest on. In nirguna meditation, the meditator focuses on abstract concepts that are indescribable, such as Existence, Cosmic Love, Consciousness and fuses themselves into the object of meditation.  In both ways of meditating the focus is to sharpen the mind into being able to focus on and experience only one thing,  be it something concrete or something abstract.

So what is the difference?

The main difference between mindfulness and meditation is that mindfulness can be applied to any activity and although the mind is fully present in what it is doing, there is still motion in the action of doing. Whilst in meditation one creates a space  where one sits and practices bringing the mind to an inactivity so that it remains settled only on one thing. Of course, a meditation practice will increase your mindfulness awareness in your everyday activities, and a mindfulness practice, on the other hand, will  also help you settle in quickly into meditation. These two go hand in hand strengthening each other, which I believe, is why people often confuse them.

Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She offers Berlin business yogaprivate yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain, yoga courses and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.

Let’s all join the global climate strike on september 20th – yogis included

Why care about the climate crisis?

There are many reasons to care about the climate crisis and show your support through joining the global climate strike on September 20th. Among them, of course, are caring for our planet, leaving a livable world for the future generations and understanding the pain that the world is already in and will continue to increase astronomically in the next 80 years.

These reasons are enough in and of themselves.

A yogic point of view to joining the climate strike.

Photo by Jacob Owens on Unsplash

Although the reasons mentioned above should be enough, nonetheless, I will add a yogic point of view. Our current Western lifestyles violate nearly all of the yamas and niyamas (yogic ethics) which are the two first pillars of yoga.  There is a reason why the Yamas and Niyamas come before the asanas (yoga poses), and pranayama (breathing techniques). One can do as many sun salutations as one wants but that is not enough to change the world.  Ethical living both at the private level and at the systemic level will.

AHIMSA (non violence) is the first Yama that requires of every yogi to “first do no harm”. Our current ways of life harm our planet in multiple ways.

SATYA (truthfulness) requires of us to be truthful to what is really here. The climate. crisis. is. here. and our window to do something about it is closing.

ASTEYA (non stealing, non hoarding) requires of us to stifle greed. It requires of the yogi to ask themselves again and again: “do I really need this?” We simply can not afford to live this consumerist way of life anymore.

In a capitalist world, where we are led to believe that “the grass is always greener on the other side”,  APARIGRAHA (non comapring) and SANTOSHA (contentment) would be the end of capitalism.  The idea of  “I am enough” and I do not need to acquire more or  become more like my neighbor, is both incredibly old and radical all at once.

SAUCHA (cleanliness inside and out) requires of our bodies and mind to be clean.  But how is that possible when our water is polluted, our meat consumption is one of the main causes of the climate crisis itself and our forests are burning?  We need to use TAPAS (willpower, discipline) to focus our energies to bringing change.

SVADHYAYA is about active self-reflection, traditionally in understanding the holy scriptures of yoga. These scriptures guide us to the understanding that “All is One”.  We can not possibly understand this at a deep level while poisoning the Earth simultaneously.

I am already doing all I can, so why join with others in a strike?

It is easy, however, to make all of this into a private individual problem when the truth is that changes in individual consumption practices and attitudes are simply not enough to tackle the problem. We need to change the system at a much deeper level.  And that is why we invite every single one of you to join us at the global climate strike on September 20th. We all need to be there. Together.

Will striking really help anything?

And yes, there will be some of us who will say, “All this action comes too late, this can not be stopped, so why act?”. Here I will quote Tara Brach , in what I consider to be a version of the last niyama ISHVARA PRANIDAHNA (surrender):

“We want to feel that it is possible to save our Earth in order to make a step. Otherwise it is very easy to feel like resigning.  But the truth is, we do not know (if saving the Earth is possible). We just do not know. I like the way Wendell Berry puts it. He says: “We don’t have a right to ask if we are going to succeed or not. The only question we have a right to ask is what is the right thing to do? What does this Earth require of us if we want to continue to live on it?” Thomas Merton puts it this way: “Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the facts that your work may be apparently worthless and even achieve no results at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the VALUE, the RIGHTNESS, the TRUTH of the work itself.


Did you know that your website can also join the climate strike? Click  here to find out how.


“We, at English Yoga Berlin, offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli.  Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. We also offer pregnancy yoga and private yoga classes, including for people struggling with chronic pain. We will of course be at the climate strike and wish to see you there too.”