Computer Work and Posture Part II – The semi Supine

Computer Work and Posture Part II

In part I of Computer Work and Posture, I discussed the importance of learning how to take care of ourselves while working in front of computers. Since computers are our new way of life, learning skills of body care and presence while using computers is vital. In order for us to have an upright posture, we need to first know how we define upright and what we mean by it. I suggested that we start thinking of upright less as a fixed straight position, and more as a balanced relationship between your neck, head and back.

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. The height of the books you will need underneath your head varies depending on both the shape and the present use of your body. It is best to let a trained Alexander Technique teacher help you determine the height of the books needed, but if you are not yet in contact with one you could use this video as a starting point.

The following instructions and mindful exercise are also available on audio here:

Instructions for the Semi Supine

Lay down on your back with your head placed on top of some books for support (5 to 8cm as a starting point). Put the soles of your feet on the floor with your knees facing upwards towards the ceiling. Place your hands on the belly with the elbows pointing outwards

Mindful exercise while you are in the semi supine.

First let yourself notice how your body feels in this position. For the moment, let your intention be to notice without wanting to change anything. Simply to become familiar with what is.

Some questions to help you in your process:

  • Is my back in contact with the floor? If not, which parts of my back are not touching the floor?

  • Are the parts not touching the floor similar on both the right and left side? Or is one side more lifted than the other?

  • Is it easy for me to have my knees pointing upwards? Or would my preference be to let them drop inwards towards each other or outwards?

  • Are the soles of my feet carrying equal weight? Or is the weight traveling more towards the inside or the outside of my soles of my feet?

  • Do my shoulder blades feel comfortable on the floor? Or are there places where they feel crammed.

At the end of this reflection mentally tell yourself, “this is the relationship that my neck, head and back have throughout the day”.

Now allow for some subtle changes to happen in your posture. Let your intention be to explore an easier relationship between your neck, head and back rather than to “fix” your relationship. As the word “fix” implies, the mentality associated to that is too static and creates a one fit all mentality. We wish for a subtle fluid relationship rather than a “fix” solution.

Some subtle changes you could invite:

  • You could gently lift your pelvis, place your hands on your upper back and caress the back downwards in the direction of the pelvis, while coming back down to the floor. Did that increase your back’s contact to the floor?Creating more back contact to the floor through the semi supine

 

  • You could gently lift your shoulder blades to allow for more space in the upper back, and then place them on the floor again. What change did this movement bring with regards to how much of your back is in contact with the floor?

 

  • If you feel that you wanted to bring the knees inwards, you could try placing your feet closer to each other.  If you feel that you wanted to let your knees go outwards, you could place the feet a bit further apart from each other. Do these changes to your feet make it easier for your knees to be pointing upwards without tension? Did this also bring a subtle change to the pathway of weight distribution in the soles of your feet?

 

  • If your shoulder blades feel cramped, you could gently lift your elbows and place them again on the floor. Did that bring a subtle change or do the shoulder blades still feel the same way?

Once you found the most comfortable place in this position, then do nothing. Allow for 10-15 minutes to pass where you simply enjoy doing nothing. Let gravity do the work for you.

Before you come out of the semi supine position, mentally tell yourself, “This now is the relationship that I invite my neck, head and back to have during my computer work”.

When to do this practice

It is good to do this practice before you begin with your computer work, once in the middle of your computer work and/or at the end of the work. It will help to find  your center during computer work. Do remember, however, that this is a starting point, a step one, if you will, for how to take care of yourself while using a computer.

Tune in for the next blog where we will investigate positions of mechanical advantage while working on the computer.

About the author

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.

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.”

Just Breathe


what do we need in times of stress?

There is this one thing that people say when you are in a great amount of stress. They look at you and say “Hey! Just breathe, just breathe!!!”

People’s advice

People give this wonderful advice, “just breathe.”  There might be great value in that. Sometimes it can be helpful.  Yet often you can feel a lot of frustration bouncing back at you (or them!).  Sometimes this advice brings out feelings of incompetence for the one receiving it, such as “Am I stupid? Why can’t I even breathe properly now!”

‘Just breathe’ is not necessarily a helpful phrase for someone who is stressed.

The issue with generalisations

When following a recognized prescribed method – the one that states “if you just breathe you will get through it” – you might find out that it actually brings you more pain, because you are breathing in a specific stressed pattern.  Deciding to just change the way you breathe in order to change what you feel might also become repressive.  It becomes a feeling that you are trying to manipulate, rather than a feeling to experience and go through – a potentially problematic approach.

Changing the way of breathing

‘Breathe through it’ might be a more helpful way of framing it.  But what exactly does it mean to breathe ‘through things’? Could it be that it means to change the way you are breathing?  Every emotion has a specific breathing pattern,  so if you change the way you are breathing to long deep breaths, then could it be that you are also changing your emotion? That is a big possibility. That is partly why we are instructed to take long deep breaths in a yoga class.

Observing the way you are breathing

Another way of working with breath through difficult or intense emotions is offered in Tara Brach’s RAIN meditation.  In this case, we wouldn’t necessarily change the way we are breathing.  Rather, we would become aware of the way we are breathing.  We could raise our awareness by observing the breath: is it a short inhalation?… or a forceful exhalation?… is there a pause after the inhalation?.. and a different pause after the exhalation?… which pause is longer? This way, we learn to dettach ourselves from the breathing as it is and we raise our awareness. By raising our awareness, the breathing will eventually calm down without forcing anything.

You can put your hand on your chest to make contact with your heart and your breath

 

Those are two possibilities of how breathing would be able to help in times of hardship. One is in the laboratory conditions of a yoga class, where the teacher asks you to get into a “stressful” position, like upside down and tells you ‘now breathe’. That is an example of practicing breathing under stressful conditions.  The other is to observe your breathing without changing it, while accepting without judgement what is happening to you.

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 Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes, including for people struggling with chronic pain.”

Yoga Beyond Asana

One of our regulars shares a particular moment; when she realised the dimension of yoga beyond asana (movement and set poses).  We share her personal story because this is one of the hardest myths about yoga to dismantle in the West.

“There are 8 limbs to Yoga, you know” the Yoga teacher kindly reminded me at the end of the lesson.

open window

 

I had just waited for everyone to leave at the end of the class.  I approached her with my concern that the movement I can muster now can hardly be called yoga – in my mind.  The doctor diagnosed degenerative osteoarthritis at the left hip.  After a decade from that diagnosis, I can’t sit crossed legged, or hold a Warrior I pose, or Crescent Moon pose, the list goes on.

But the Yoga teacher was having none of it.  She went on to say that, contrary to Western trends, yoga has at its heart the intention of liberating us from pain and restriction.  Our practice is meant to deliver us to a place where we can meditate freely and deeply.

“There is pranayama, for example, becoming conscious of breath”.

She wasn’t suggesting even for a minute that I would not do asana practice any longer.  She was helping me into taking ownership of where I can guide my own practice towards.  I was clearer on what aspects I can focus on, where I can find challenges and limitations I can learn from.

pranayama

you can do so much with your breath, remember?

Yoga goes beyond asana as we understand it.  Maybe that is closer to my experience now. Yoga for me is a field where I can find what works for me, right now in the modern world, with my unique needs and requirements.

I have been practising yoga at English Yoga Berlin in Kreuzberg since April 2018.  I now understand the importance of focusing on directing the breath and becoming conscious of spinal movement.  It’s clear to me that yoga is not about trying to reproduce the asana’s picture in your favourite yoga book. Yoga can be  so much more! And I look forward to diving deeper to learn more about what that is.

English Yoga Berlin offers classes in Kreuzberg in Hatha style and Vinyasa style, private yoga sessions, different packages of yoga for the workplacecontact us with your queries if you have any, happy unfolding whatever you do.

The Puzzle Picture

Avidal's painting on flyer

We believe Yoga to be a powerful tool that helps us assemble the pieces of our Life’s puzzle and allows us to see the big picture.

Ever wondered what the “Puzzle Picture” on our flyers means? Clelia, our Erasmus intern, reports from behind the scenes.

 

The image representing English Yoga Berlin left a deep impression on me from the first time I saw it.  It is the painting of an almost complete puzzle.  The puzzle image is of a person completing their own puzzle.  It’s an image within an image.  A puzzle of a puzzle.  I was curious, and I asked Pinelopi, my teacher of yoga in Kreuzberg.  The story she told me really resonated with me.  I want to share it with you, so here what she said.

“One day I met with my friend and artist Avital Yomdin, and told her I needed to design a flyer for my classes.  We sat and talked about what yoga means to me.  I spoke about what yoga had done for me in my life.  I realised something important as we were speaking: when I began yoga, I knew very little about my physical chronic pain.  Crucially, I also knew very little about myself, for example the space I take, the person I transform into every day.

Through the yoga classes, meditation and mindfulness techniques, I started to understand and accept myself more and more.  I am not anywhere close to knowing myself completely, as that might be, who knows, ultimate enlightenment.  Yet I feel that the process of doing yoga was like finding the pieces of the puzzle of myself, so I could put them together.  Slowly, I could form a picture of  who I am.”

 

 

We 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 Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes, including for people struggling with chronic pain.

Terminology Tuesday: Tratak

A candle flame is often the choice for tratak

Tratak is the practice of steadily gazing on one point. In our yoga classes in Kreuzberg, we practice Tratak on a candle flame, but virtually anything can be used as the object of concentration.

The term tratak from Sanskrit means means “to look” or “to gaze”.

 

It is one of six Hatha Yoga methods to remove toxins and sluggishness from the body’s organs.  This practice is said to relieve eye ailments, making the eyes clear and bright. It also said to improve a whole range of physiological and mental functions. Used in the treatment of insomnia, depression and anxiety, Tratak can improve the memory and concentration.

Through this practice, you learn that concentration involves no strain or effort, but that it is a relaxed state in which your attention remains easily fixed on an inner or outer object of your choice.

 

Here is a quick guide from this Yogapedia article:

  1. Light a candle and sit at least one meter away from it with the flame at eye level.
  2. Focus the gaze on the flame and keep it there without blinking for as long as possible.
  3. As thoughts arise, acknowledge them then return to focus on the flame.
  4. When the eyes start to water and tears flow, close the eyes and focus on the after-glow of the flame, bringing awareness to the third eye point.
  5. Meditate here until ready to come out of the practice.

 

We 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 Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes, including for people struggling with chronic pain.

Accepting positive feelings

I love the idea of meditating on positive feelings too – have you ever thought about it? It’s about honouring those precious moments and learn from them.

RAIN meditation

Tara Brach’s RAIN

I have learned about “the RAIN of Self-Compassion” from an English Yoga Berlin class in Kreuzberg.  It’s a particular mindfulness practice that helps us to work through difficult emotions.  It is a Buddhist meditation that was later on tweaked by Tara Brach.  Read more about it here, where you can explore a wealth of resources made available by Tara’s website.

Being present to our feelings

I wanted to share how differently it landed for me one particular evening.  I connected that kind of meditation to difficult feelings only.  But that day in particular, I was feeling so blessed and grateful (for everything in my life) and I was trying to skip those feelings, not allowing them to be, felt awkward – with a thought like life needs to be hard to be meaningful and to make a difference, something like that.  Then I got anxious.

When the meditation found me in the evening, laying in Savasana, I was able to apply acceptance, understanding and nurturing to positive feelings too.  I was able to welcome them and be present to what they were telling me.

When I reflected upon it later, I realised that maybe positive feelings is not necessarily the right word.  We are talking about feelings that are challenging in other ways.  The excitement of anticipation can be tiring or distracting.  The feeling you want to explode from love or tenderness can be overwhelming.  They are all feelings that have that sensation that the cup of emotion being very full and is about to overflow… in a positive way.. but overflow.

Finding out that RAIN works for them too was very comforting. It’s as if the feeling is not out of control and overflowing, but I can sit with it in a steady glowing way. I think it reminds me of a fire. It can be consumed real quick and glamorously fast, or it can burn steady and for a while giving heat for a longer time.

 

We 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 Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes, including for people struggling with chronic pain.

Anahata Chakra – a personal experience

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Anahata is the emotional powerhouse of your self.  In this chakra we process emotion and feel love, forgiveness and compassion.

 

Here, we learn that the most powerful energy we have inside of us is love.  Alas, this chakra gets strongly affected by trapped anger and the experience of grief and loss.
Anahatha in every day life
I have been struggling with anger, grief and loss for a long time.  I observed that when the teacher asked us to focus on the heart centre, I could not really feel the heart centre like the other centres, by will, by sending focus there.  And yet, spontaneously, especially after a good yoga session, I would feel a clear sensation in the middle of my chest.  It is a similar sensation like when the stomach is empty.  It feels like a call: “hey, I am hungry!”

What do you feel in the area of the heart? Have you ever observed how emotions feel physically in this area?
Anahatha in meditation
In meditation, I visualised the heart: I was following the instructions to bring forth the details of what I could visualize, what I could imagine.  I saw a beautiful yet hard armour around my heart. Then the teacher suggested “what are you not allowing yourself to feel?”.  I knew this was an important question.  I was struggling to keep focused, mind wandering.  The parent voice inside me said She just said ‘what are you not allowing yourself to feel’.  Some kind of energy was rising up, and with it resistance.  I got a glimpse at the energy contained in this powerful chakra centre.
What is your relationship to powerful emotions like rage or wild joy? Where do you feel them in your body?
To explore this part of my body through physical observation has helped me greatly. By grounding in the body sensations, I accepted my difficult feelings and allowed them to be.  It’s as if cracks started to appear in the wall that I felt was insurmountable for so long.  I felt hope for healing, as if I were a plant that is finally getting watered!

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack, a crack in everything 
That’s how the light gets in.

– Leonard Cohen

 

Clelia is an Erasmus entrepreneur working as an intern in learning how to set up a small yoga business such as English Yoga Berlin. We 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 Berlin business yoga, private classes for pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain.

Terminology Tuesday: Rotation of Consciousness

rotation of consciousness

photo by Fern

Today we are focusing on a term that we use in every class, during Yoga Nidra: rotation of consciousness.

The rotation of consciousness involves taking the practitioner’s awareness to different parts of the body. Wherever we focus our attention becomes the place where we also centre our energy. Bringing one’s awareness to each part of the body increases the energy in that part and allows the participant to identify and relax tensions there.

By using this practice we invite ourselves to experience total relaxation while being awake.  Nidra, here, means literally sleepYoga Nidra, therefore means the yoga of sleep.  It is about being aware while the body sleeps; the rotation of consciousness is one of the techniques that makes this possible.  It brings heightened awareness to the whole body, piece by piece. It grounds us with connecting to the sensations present there.

Important Tip

If you, like me, end up falling asleep during Yoga Nidra, first of all know that it is natural and common.  But, like me, you might regret having missed the visualization that follows, and really would like to stay awake.  Try and repeat the teacher’s words as they reach you, while feeling or visualizing the body part – it worked for me!

Clelia is an Erasmus entrepreneur working as an intern.  Her placement involved learning how to set up a small yoga business such as English Yoga Berlin. We 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 Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain.

My Healing Journey at English Yoga Berlin

Healing at English yoga Berlin

It was such a pleasure to meet you all!

My Erasmus placement/internship at English Yoga Berlin is coming to an end, (read here if you missed my blog back in May) and I wanted to take a minute to share what a healing journey it has been for me, it’s only the beginning, but many say the beginning is half the battle’!

 

When I got to Berlin on April the 15th, I was really excited to be starting a placement with a small organisation that shared the values I aspire to.  It meant so much to me that both Erasmus and English Yoga Berlin thought that their time and money would be worth my ideas, life experience and skills.

Parallel to that, I was experiencing a rapid deterioration of my degenerative arthritis to the left hip, and growing symptoms for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).   I was hoping that this journey was going to be the opening I needed to understand and transform.  I was also apprehensive that PTSD could interfere with me giving and making the most of this opportunity.

Relaxing as more space to just be

From the first Yoga Nidra session at Pinelopi’s class, I experienced a loosening of the layers that were wrapped up tight to ‘hold me’ together.  By layers I mean thought patterns, defensive and self-critical in many places, focusing on a sense of powerlessness about how things are.  Pinelopi helped me to recognize them as repetitive, random and cyclical.  This went hand in hand with my physical pain, as the muscle layers stiffened up – are you familiar with this?  Observing mind activity this way creates space, to see more clearly.  I felt an overwhelming set of emotions, including of course relief and joy. Yes, my joy was trapped underneath all that.  This is one aspect that English Yoga Berlin taught me about yoga.  Relaxing is about getting more space to be and to become – and for me it was really powerful.

Becoming aware and conscious

Pinelopi would ask questions like “Where is your pain?  Where does it begin?  Where does it end?”  I realized that with my physical pain I had learned to have a ‘generalized’ experience about it.  One loses the perspective and dimensions of it.  “In general, I have pain”.  It became like white noise, after you hear it for a while you learn to screen it out.  Have you ever realized how noisy your fridge is only when it stops buzzing?  Like that.

Although I can see how ‘generalizing pain’ in my body was a way of coping, in the long run it creates a disconnection with the body.  The body is the source of a lot of important information.  A big part of my healing journey with English Yoga Berlin happened by attending all the classes, and nourishing through repetition and practice.  It’s like learning to play an instrument or to speak a language.  Setting an intention at the beginning of a class, like with Juli every Sunday at her Vinyasa Flow sessions, is a powerful action that connects a physical practice with a mindset, with the mind.

Limitations are our teachers

The  gentle questioning, either through actual questions offered by the teacher, or, specifically in Hatha Yoga, through the enquiry of how different poses, asanas, feel, led me through reflection:

 

where are our limits?

can we accept them, respect them?

can working within a limit be the real challenge?

 

Healing needs a safer space

I would have so much more to share about this yoga class in Kreuzberg: from breathing techniques to the feeling of belonging in a group committed to respect for our and each other’s bodies.

This has allowed me to nurture a priceless experience of the every day, every thought, every step of healing, the healing that never concludes – because healing is ultimately our powerful input in life.

English Yoga Berlin is a safer space

English Yoga Berlin is a safer space