How to Become a Yoga Teacher- What To Consider – PART ONE

Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@zoltantasi?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Zoltan Tasi</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>

In the past 13 years of teaching yoga, a few students have approached me to ask about how to become a yoga teacher and what things to consider. This is an important decision for those of us choosing to take this path. Before you embark on searching for the yoga teacher training course (TTC) of your dreams take a moment to consider the following questions.

Why do you want to become a yoga teacher?

Let us start with the basics: why do you want to become a yoga teacher? Although it sounds obvious, it is worth sitting with the question to get some clarity. Some people wish to become a yoga teacher simply as a means to deepen their knowledge on yoga. They do not necessarily wish to teach afterwards. This is a perfectly acceptable reason to join a TTC. To reach such an in-depth knowledge usually can only come from a TTC, living in an ashram and serious self-study.

Others, on the other hand, have their mind set on teaching. They want to get a good certificate that will allow them to work afterwards. If this is your reason for joining a course, then take a moment to visualize your future. What images come up for you when you visualize this? Do you see yourself giving hands on corrections to your students? Are you guiding a meditation? Or alternatively, do you see yourself explaining complex spiritual notions to a group of people? Or are you simply holding space for your students to go through their own process? Use the images that arise as a compass to guide you through the different TTCs that exist, so that you choose the right one for you.

What style and lineage of yoga should you choose?

It is important to know what kind of yoga style you like. Search for a TTC that aligns to this style. Other than just the style, you also have to look at the lineage of the yoga teacher training course. For example, a Hatha Yoga class from the Sivananda lineage can be quite different to one from the Desikachar lineage. Sometimes concepts as basic as the breath can be taught differently and even contradict each other! I do find it worthwhile to spend some time reflecting and researching on these points. A yoga TTC is a big investment, so go and try out different styles, find out what lineage they follow. Make notes, keep an open heart, and learn what you like.

Yoga Lineage is not simple and straightforward

Lineage can be complicated as we are following the teachings handed down over several centuries. Furthermore, in the past decades there has been increasing amount of proof that quite a few important yoga masters and gurus have sexually harassed and abused their students over the years. Although, the teacher you choose is not directly related to the yoga guru of their lineage, it can be quite devastating to find out half way through your training course that the yoga lineage you chose has such dark secrets. One way to go about this is to ask your teacher about their stance on their lineage. If your teacher is treating their guru with unshakable reverence and is not able to condemn an action of sexual, emotional and physical abuse, then you should probably find a different teacher. If on the other hand, they are able to demonstrate critical thinking, can clearly disagree with such actions and empower students and teachers to challenge dogma… then they might be a better fit.

What is important for YOU to have in a yoga course?

Not all courses are alike. Some give much more weight to anatomy and alignment. Others are much more focused on yogic philosophy, spirituality and meditation. A few others focus more on how to lead groups, to hold space, and methodologies of teaching. How do you know which kind of course you are about to embark on? Ask for a copy of their curriculum to check out what they offer. Although all good courses will have a mix of all these things, find out where your TTC puts most of its weight. Does that align with what your wishes are?

How to choose a yoga teacher training course.

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing the right TTC. These first questions and reflections are a good starting point. In part two of this blog I will discuss the difference in diplomas (200H, 500H, 600H); the importance of connecting with your teacher; some yoga teacher training courses in Berlin; and the teachers that have inspired me personally. Till then, get to know the difference in yoga styles, find out about their lineage, and check out some curricula.

Pinelopi has been a Hatha Yoga teacher since 2008. 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, retreats and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.

54321 – A Grounding Practice

Most probably, we have all heard the term “grounded” at some time in our lives. To ‘be grounded’ is a term that describes an experience of presence with whatever it is that we are doing at the moment. As the word suggests, I like to think of it as ‘being aware of my feet on the ground.’ When I am not grounded, I feel myself lost in thought and distracted from the realms of my mind- forgetting the body. When I am grounded, I notice things such as my rib cage moving with my breath, the sensations in my feet and the dryness of my lips. In other words, I am embodied- aware of what is happening in my body.

Most of us tend to be lost in thought throughout our days. As we lose ourselves in thought we are usually reliving past moments of our lives; imagining future ones; or worrying about possible scenarios in an alternate reality. To sum it up: as we lose ourselves in thought we are no longer living in the present – in the here and now.

The Nature of the Mind

It is normal for the mind to jump from one place to another making thousands of associations every minute. It is normal to associate the past with the possible future and alternative scenarios. There is nothing wrong with a mind that does that. On the contrary, it is even essential to our survival. It is the reason we have been able to make so many technological wonders and many more modern life marvels. However, if we find ourselves predominantly in the ‘lost in thought’ mode, life becomes tiring and seems to fly right past us. Taking a moment to pause, to slow down and experience the ‘Now’ is essential to living a life with quality.

How Can I Ground Myself?

There are many ways to ground oneself. These include practicing meditation and mindfulness, slowing down, becoming aware of our breath, and awareness of body sensations. The first step to grounding is to actually notice that we have lost ourselves in thoughts. This first step sounds much easier than it is, because we spend most of our time literally “lost“. Performing this first step is already a moment of awakening. Next, we could choose our favorite grounding technique to apply in order to become more embodied. I use several grounding techniques during our yoga classes in Kreuzberg. Here is one of my favorites:

54321

5 – Name five things that you see. Do not just think ‘this’ and ‘that’, but instead use their actual name such as green grass, white cloud, brown shoes.

4 – Name four things that you feel. Name sensations rather than emotions. Ie. the air in my nose, my heels on the floor, my shirt on my skin.

3 – Name three sounds that you hear.

2 – Name two odors that you smell. Some people find smelling challenging. If that is the case, you can also name two smells that you like instead.

1- Name one thing this experience is giving you. For example, ‘this experience is giving me a moment to slow down; presence; connecting with my body, etc.

How to practice 54321

You can practice this grounding exercise any time you feel the need to ground. This is also a very good exercise if you feel the onset of a panic attack or anxiety. I like to start my yoga practice with 54321 as I ground myself and am more present during the session. Another way to practice is while taking a walk. You can do 54321 on repeat and become more aware of your surroundings and your body sensations.

Haven’t we all had the experience of being in a beautiful place on holiday wishing to enjoy the moment, and instead have been worrying incessantly about some other aspect of our life? When this happens to me, I always return to 54321 and take in the sounds, smells, sensations, and sights!

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, retreats and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.

Wishing You a Conscious 2021

Looking Back at 2020

2020 has come to an end, and it is fair to say that many were happy to turn the year. As midnight approached, I heard sighs of relief from many neighbors welcoming the year through their open windows. This year has been a hard year for all of us in more ways than one.

Interestingly enough, for some of the more fortunate ones living in countries with social systems and economic help, this has also been a good year in some respects. Some people told me how they so desperately had needed to slow down and how these lock downs allowed them to do so; others realized how over stimulated they have been with social interactions and how as they came out of the first lock down they were more careful to re-build their social life in a more sustainable way; many others spoke of physical rest from the never-ending commuting and realizing how much this has been taxing on their overall health.

Looking Forward to a Conscious 2021

With the arrivals of the vaccines, I have read that we can probably resume our “normal” lives in April 2021. The life after the pandemic can not and should not be the same as it was before. I am hoping for a rise in consciousness both in the personal way we live our lives, the economic systems that shape them, as in the global way we treat the planet and each other. I am wishing for a conscious 2021.

It is good to pause and reflect on the hardships of the past year, but also on if there has been any parts of this year that has been positive for us. How do we see ourselves integrating the parts that are positive in a post-lock down world? Have our bodies and minds been asking for more rest? Can telecommunications take over taxing commuting? Do we wish to be more selective of our social interactions in terms of quality versus quantity?

Pausing in the Present

Of course, due to the capitalistic society we live in, our lives are often being swept away by a wave of productivity, not allowing us time or the resources to pause and choose. However, pausing and choosing is absolutely essential. Viktor E. Frankl, a renown psychologist and holocaust survivor, refers to this pause as “a space that allows us to choose our response”. In yoga this pause is the act of meditation. In the Alexander Technique this pause is referred to as “inhibition”. Tara Brach refers to this as the Sacred Pause: the pause between stimulus and reaction, that frees us to the possibility of a different path.

So for 2021, my wish to the world is:

Wishing you a conscious 2021

May we all practice the Sacred Pause and be free to choose a different path.

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, retreats and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.

RAIN Meditation on TV Addiction – Part 2

A personal story – The RAIN meditation on wanting

In Part 1 of this blog I introduced Tara Brach’s RAIN meditation and how it can be used on the deep rooted feeling of wanting and addiction. As I started to deepen my thoughts around the subject, I realized that I have never once simply sat with the feeling of wanting TV. I always either react quickly by giving in to the feeling (turning on Netflix) or by coming down very harshly on myself for wanting this (not allowing the feeling to be here and pushing it out with harsh words). Therefore, I took the decision to practice RAIN the next time the feeling arises!

Resistance to bringing the RAIN meditation on wanting

The first thing I noticed when the feeling next arose was that I definitely did not want to practice the RAIN meditation on wanting! The feeling itself was strong and pulling towards action and was refusing to be the object of quiet observation. I had to make a deal with myself in order to practice. Much like I talk to my daughter, my mother voice came in my thoughts and said to the feeling, “Hey, listen I am not saying no to watching TV. I am saying we will observe the feeling for a while, practice RAIN and then if we still want to, we will watch TV. We will just have done it consciously. That’s all.” Just like a small child, the feeling answered, “Do you promise?!! This is not some trick to take me away from the well deserved rest we need?”. The more conscious part of me was able to respond quietly, “Yes, I promise. I am happy to watch TV if we have made a conscious kind decision about it.” Reluctantly, the feeling agreed to being observed.

Recognize is the R in RAIN

I started by giving a name to this feeling. I called it “wanting”. The first step is to name it. As you name it, you also shape it. It becomes an entity that has a bit more well-defined boundaries. This helps take it out from a nebulous kind of feeling that oozes everywhere in my subconscious to something more concrete that I can open myself up to.

Allow is the A in RAIN

The second step was to allow it to be here exactly as it is. This was incredibly difficult. Realizing how much resistance I carry towards this feeling was mind blowing. It was eye opening to realize that I never even considered allowing to be an option before now. As I formulated the words in my mind “I allow the Wanting to be here” , things started to move in my body and I was able to see the true power this feeling holds over me.

Investigate is the I in RAIN

The third step of RAIN is Investigate. Where is this feeling in the body and how does it manifest? The trick here is to stay focused on the body, not on the mind and its millions of thoughts and analyses. As I came to this step, the first thing I realized is that this feeling is very alive in my body. It is mostly in my chest and it is very strong. It has a one-pointed quality to it that is intensely forward looking. I stayed for two minutes in this step simply naming the experience: chest clenched; pointy – pushing outward; rush; pinch in the back of my neck; eyebrow center scrunched; belly empty; chest clenched; strong flow of direction forward; pulling; skin prickly; chest clenched.

It has a one-pointed quality to it that is intensely forward looking…

Photo by Fabio Ballasina on Unsplash

Nurture is the N in RAIN

As I came to the N of RAIN, I was called to nurture the feeling. There was, by now, no doubt in my mind that this feeling was much stronger than I ever gave it credit for. I started by asking the feeling of wanting, what do you need? The answer was immediate, “I am tired! So so tired! I just want to relax and disconnect. I am running all day long juggling five different roles and I am truly tired. Let me disconnect”.

So I placed my hand on my heart and with compassion responded with what the feeling needed. “I see how tired you are”, I told myself with love. “I am here for you. In this moment here we are disconnecting from the running machine of life. In this moment now we are disconnecting and re-connecting. I see you and I am here for you. I see you and I am here for you.” I kept on telling myself these words on repeat. As I did this, my compassion for myself started to grow. As it grew, everything in me started to soften. Everything started to feel less immediate, less pointy, less intense.

After The RAIN meditation

Tara Brach often gives the example of the ocean and the wave as a practice one can do after the practice of RAIN. This image has become one of the strongest guides in my life in the past years. Think of this feeling you are now experiencing as one wave in an ocean. The wave belongs to the ocean just as this feeling belongs to you. But the whole ocean can not possibly enter in a single wave. You are the ocean, not the wave. When I can finally connect to my “Oceanness” is when I enter the sweetest meditation space I know. There is no denying that this wanting feeling is very strong. It is a big wave. Nonetheless, I have been reducing my whole Self to a wave whenever I experience it, thinking it defines me. I am much more than that, I am the whole Ocean itself. I stayed meditating on the sweetness of my “Oceanness” for a while and it was touching.

Funnily enough, when I came out of the meditation, I was inspired to jot down ideas for this blog, looked up articles on the addictive power of TV to reference, listened to music and……I sincerely forgot to watch TV! I simply forgot. Later my partner came in the living room and we had a sweet moment of connection that I would have missed out on had I not paused to do RAIN and had I been immersed in the TV world.

RAIN meditation on wanting was definitely an exploration worth doing!

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, retreats and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.

RAIN Meditation on TV addiction – Part 1

A personal story on wanting – meditation on addiction

Four years ago I discovered Tara Brach’s RAIN meditation. It is not an exaggeration to say that it changed my life. Since then, I have read all of her books; have listened to hundreds of her podcasts; practiced daily; taught the meditation to my yoga students in Berlin and applied it to better understanding my daughter’s emotional world.

RAIN is a meditation that guides you through an emotion rather than around an emotion. RAIN is an acronym and each letter stands for a step to follow as you meditate:

  • R is for Recognize what you are feeling.
  • A is for Allow the feeling to be here as it is.
  • I is for Investigate where the feeling is in your body (this is not a mental investigation as to why this feeling is here).
  • N is for Nurture the hurting place.

If you want to get to know this meditation I highly recommend that you check out Tara Brach’s RAIN resource page.

What are my addictions?

When I was reading Tara’s Radical Acceptance I stumbled upon a chapter called “RAIN on Wanting”. This chapter was dedicated to how to use RAIN meditation on addiction and addictive behaviors. It got me thinking about if I have any addictive behaviors myself. The only thing I came up with that may be problematic was that I go through periods of time where I get totally wrapped in watching a series on Netflix. This is not constant and I still go to work and parent lovingly so I have never considered it to be an addiction. On the other hand, when I go through this it sometimes feel like I can not break the spell.

Can series watching be an addiction? How to bring meditation on addiction.

… when I go through this it sometimes feels like I can not break the spell.

Can series watching be an addiction?

Is this really a problem? Could it be an addiction? I sway between two poles when I think of this. On the one hand, I believe in the power of stories. It can be an art form of both entertainment but also (when watching something of quality) self discovery and empathy. Being put into another person’s shoes, living through the lens of their eyes, and opening yourself to other point of views carries beautiful transformative power. On the other hand, series watching also has an addictive sort of power to it. I feel that there are so many other things I could do in the evenings. Things that I equally love, such as listening to or playing music, drawing, singing or talking to a friend on the phone. Unfortunately, I often feel too tired to do any of these at the end of the day and turn to TV as a passive form of entertainment ending up to be my default choice.

Have you ever meditated on the feeling of wanting?

One thing that I realized as I pondered on these thoughts, was that I never ever have simply sat with the feeling of “wanting tv”. When this feeling of wanting arises there are two possible extremes that I react with. I either give in to it (turn on Netflix) or I come down very strongly on myself for having it (no! You have to work in the morning! And one episode will lead to another! And no, this is just not an option right now so stop feeling it!). Both the meditation world, as much as the psychological world, say that sitting with a feeling is important. This is something that I definitely practice a lot with other feelings in my life through RAIN and other techniques. So it was a big surprise for me to realize that there is one feeling – the feeling of wanting TV- that I have not sat with. I always react swiftly to it and never allow it to be. I either immediately act on it or push it away. What would bringing the RAIN meditation on addiction be like?

So I thought that next time the feeling arises I will pause and practice RAIN on wanting. I was curious to see if this would be helpful or give me new insights on the way I approach the subject. On Part 2 of this blog I will outline what happened during the meditation session. But till then, maybe some readers want to try out RAIN on Wanting on their own?

I am very interested to hear your experience.

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, retreats and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.

Letting go is not

by Pinelopi Sioni and Haritini Mataragka

We often hear the words “let go” both in yoga classes and in the meditation world in general. These are powerful words, but alas, their meaning is not often clear. We created this little poem to help clarify our interpretation of the meaning behind the words “to let go”. Understanding the subtle meaning that these words carry can make a big difference in the way we practice the action of letting go. And yes, it does take practice. Letting go does not mean that one immerses themselves in a laissez faire way of life. It takes practice, as well as intention and effort. Despite the effort, making letting go part of your daily practice is very worthwhile as it lightens your heart and frees you in many ways.

A leaf lets go easily when the time is right.  May we mirror the ease with which it does that.

Letting go is the hardest Asana.

Letting go is not letting go of a feeling, but freeing oneself from the power the feeling holds over them.

Letting go is not forced forgiveness, it is freeing one’s heart from somebody else’s power.

Letting go is not consenting to a harmful situation, but to stop reliving the situation in one’s mind on repeat.

Letting go is not forgetting the past, but to let go of the deep held belief that the past should have been different.

Letting go is not easy, it takes introspection and courage.

Letting go is not inaction, it requires effort and intention.

When letting go feels impossible, let the intention to let go be enough.

About the authors:

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, retreats and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.

Haritini is a long term student of English Yoga Berlin. In 2019 she finished her 700 hour Hatha Yoga teacher’s training and has now become a substitute yoga teacher at our Yoga studio in Kreuzberg.

Can words really describe an experience?

During my Alexander Technique teacher trainers’ course last week we were asked to think of how we could translate the experience of the Alexander Technique in words; if it is possible to do so accurately; and if it is desirable to do so. How can words be used as a tool to truly describe an experience?

How is choosing your words as a tool in meditation important?

This exercise got us thinking about the power of words, as well as the place of words. When do words fall short? When do they become dangerously full of themselves? As my fellow students were speaking I started to make many parallels to meditation and how hard it is to explain the experience one lives when they are deep in the stillness of the Self.

Words as a mere tool

I see both the Alexander Technique lessons that I receive and the practice of deep meditation first and foremost as a deep experience of the Self. As such, it is impossible to truly explain accurately this experience by using mere words. It is important to give words their “right place” when using them descriptively. They can be a helpful tool that bring people closer to the experience but they must by all means remain just that: a tool.

When words become more than a tool

When a teacher gives much more weight to the words used rather than the experience had, they run the danger of clinging onto their words and teaching in a dogmatic way. Whats more is that if a student is not experiencing exactly what the teacher described, the student can start to believe that their own experience is “wrong” and may decide to give up on their path. When words are used as a tool, though, and not as “the truth” they can allow the student room to have their own experience and brave the path ahead.

When words become empty

On the other hand, words can also go to the other extreme and become empty. If the teacher always uses the habitual ones to guide you in the practice, they are no longer choosing them. They use them out of habit and thus they start to lose their meaning. For instance, the meditation teacher who says “empty your mind” on repeat while their mind is running through their long to do list. When a teacher uses their words out of habit without putting weight behind them, they run the danger of teaching on automatic pilot missing out on true presence.

But what is one to do then? Can one truly explain the deep experience of meditation with words or is it a mistake to even try to do so? A Zen Master put this beautifully:

When I talk, you do not understand me.

When I do not talk, you understand even less.

Zen master

As teachers, we must try to find the right words to explain the path of how to experience the Self. But we must always remember that words are not and will never be enough. Words do have power and thus it is important to not get over attached to the ones we choose, or else we run the danger of excluding multi-faceted experiences. Nonetheless, words with no weight behind them become empty words that have lost their meaning and do not help the student advance. So may we learn to use them simply as a tool, to be playful with them, to choose them with care and to not be afraid to let them go.

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, retreats and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.

Yoga online or why I don’t do outdoor yoga classes

Yoga online during Corona

Over the past six months, due to the Corona pandemic, I’ve been holding my yoga classes live online. At the beginning of the full lockdown this was necessary to continue providing yoga benefits to this community centered around a queer and trans prioritized space.

Problems with online formats

The first issue is access to a good and stable internet connection. I am able to offer a good connection from my own space, but not all of my participants have that access.

The other main issue is that it is more difficult to read participants’ needs. I see a screen filled with boxes of others’ screens. They are cropped or in shadow because of limited lighting and distorted because of internet bandwidth issues. Unable to make eye-contact, small body language cues are lost in digital translation. While practicing yoga we often move from standing to sitting or lying on the ground. Most webcams have a narrow field of view, so I’m not able to see everything a participant is doing. This makes it more difficult to offer suggestions or feedback to assist participants in achieving more out of a pose or breathing exercise, or to help prevent injury.

To counter some of these issues and to help people manage through the pandemic, I’ve changed my lessons a little bit. They are now less physically intensive and focused more on breathing exercises, meditation and movement that helps to reduce anxiety. The heat wave in Berlin over the past few weeks has also encouraged it!

Returning to indoor spaces

As September nears and schools, fitness centres and yoga studios open back up, the question of whether to return arises. I’ve sent out a survey to participants of my queer yoga class to get their feedback on that question. Even though cases in Berlin are low compared to other cities, some people don’t feel safe enough to practice indoors. As a recent blog of ours outlines, there are local guidelines for practicing yoga indoors to help reduce the risk. But with so many unknowns about the Coronavirus, I also feel uncertain about going back to our lovely backyard Kreuzberg yoga garden space just yet.

Why not outdoor yoga?

A number of people have suggested that I offer outdoor yoga. That would address some of the concerns about practicing indoors without the complications of online platforms. I’ve done some outdoor yoga practice in the past and will likely do some more one-off events in the future. But I don’t want to offer a regular yoga class outside. Here’s why:

  1. I endeavour to create a safer space for queer and trans* people to practice yoga. In a public park, there is a high likelihood of being disrupted by onlookers with a patriarchal heteronormative body-shaming gaze. I have experienced this first hand on many occasions and it’s not calming. I would not want my participants to have to deal with that while also trying to practice yoga. I’m not sure I can keep them safe.
  2. A space that’s secluded enough to avoid disruptions may be far away from our Kreuzberg yoga studio.
  3. The weather is not predictable enough to ensure a regular practice at the same time and at the same place. Regularity helps to maintain a sustainable yoga practice. It also reduces the amount of communication and confusion about where and when the class may be taking place. And as the autumn rolls in, the weather is getting colder!
  4. Being around trees and plants is lovely, I get that! But green grass causes a lot of problems – allergies being one of them. And the roots and stones of the ground make it uneven. I myself have experienced injuries practicing on uneven ground and wouldn’t wish that upon my participants.

Benefits of yoga live online

Another amazing thing that’s happened over the past 6 months is that a number of people have joined my classes who are not local to Berlin. If I offered my classes offline only, they would not be able to attend anymore! This new development is something I’d like to continue to be able to offer the international English-speaking queer yoga community. When I eventually do return to offline classes, I will definitely continue online yoga classes. If you are reading this blog maybe you’d like to check them out? Please fill in my survey with the date and time that would work for you!


At English Yoga Berlin we offer small classes for more personalised practice and private yoga sessions. Juli‘s yoga classes in English are a slow Vinyasa yoga / Svastha yoga mix. Contact us here to learn more or check our class schedule.

All about the heart centre: where is yours?

In the two and a half decades that I’ve been practicing yoga, I’ve heard the term “heart centre” many times. I would place my hand above my left breast, eyes closed, assuming I’ve followed the instructions of the yoga teacher. But, even the most experienced teachers can learn something new by going back to the basics. Last month, I attended an online Pranayama workshop with the founders of Svastha Yoga Therapy, A.G. and Indra Mohan. They went over in detail the history and practice of two basic yoga breathing exercises – Lahari and Nadi Shodhana. With both of them, Indra asked us to focus on our heart centre. Noticing the way it expands with the inhale, and noticing how it relaxes and softens on the exhale.

Where do you think your heart centre is?

After the workshop, I did a little exercise in my own yoga classes to see if others had the same sense of where their heart centre is. I asked the participants to close their eyes and place a hand on their heart centre. They all put their hands on a different part of their torso – some higher up near the collarbones and others lower down near the belly. Everyone had a unique idea of where it was!

Lahari Pranayama

Lahari means ‘wave’ in Sanskrit. To practice this breath, there is no special physical technique. Just breathe naturally and smoothly, you don’t need to force the breath to deepen. If you practice this breath for awhile, you may notice that your breathing will naturally deepen and slow down as you relax and feel more calm. It is called the ‘wave’ breath is because on the surface of the water there are fluctuations as the waves roll back and forth to the shore, but underneath the surface layer it is calm. The focus on the heart centre allows you to smooth out those fluctuations and find calmness.

Nadi Shodhana

This Pranayama allows you to clear out the Ida and Pingala nadis (two of the main energy lines running up and down the central core of the body). Each nostril is connected to one of these lines. With the right hand, fold the index and middle fingers to the palm of the hand, so that there is comfortable space for the nose. Tilt the head down to make it comfortable for your shoulder and elbow. Pranayama should be easy, not forced. The right thumb first closes the right nostril, and the 4th finger half closes the left nostril to guide the breath in smoothly. A slight retention of breath helps the mind to find ease and calm. And then the thumb half opens the right nostril to guide the exhale out. Repeat on the 2nd side and continue as long as feels right for you, focusing on the heart centre.

heart centre

Where is the heart centre?

Why is the heart centre important?

The heart centre is called Hridaya in Sanskrit. It is at the centre of our being, the core of connection to ourselves. It is where the physical body connects to the breath, and through where the Prana (energy lines) converge and flow. Often, it is mistakenly assumed that the heart chakra (Anahata) is where the heart centre is. But Hridaya is not located at any chakra. To find it place a thumb of one hand between your collar bones and the little finger of the other hand in your navel, spread both fingers wide, and where the other thumb and little finger meet is your heart centre.


At English Yoga Berlin we offer small classes for more personalised practice and private yoga sessions. Juli‘s yoga classes in English are a slow Vinyasa yoga / Svastha yoga mix. Contact us here to learn more or check our class schedule to participate in a group class at our Kreuzberg yoga studio or participate in one of our yoga classes live online.

Berlin guidelines for teaching yoga during Corona

Please note that this post was written in July when we were coming out from the first lock down. As of this week, November 2020 we have re-entered lock down and are not allowed to teach in the studio until the guidelines change again. Below, we refer to a Health Ministry phone number you can call that specializes in sports, if you have further questions.

Since the beginning of the Coronavirus lockdown in Berlin, we at English Yoga Berlin have been offering our yoga classes exclusively online. Slowly things are starting to open up, as the number of infected people go down. The question of whether it is safe to practice yoga in the studio again is one that yoga practitioners can only answer for themselves and their close contacts. Until there is a vaccine or easily accessible effective treatment a risk of infection remains. Here we put together a list of questions and answers for yoga teachers who have questions about teaching yoga during Corona times.

Safer Space

Safer Space for Yoga Guidelines

The question of what is safe regarding any risk also depends on the individual people involved. We all feel different levels of safety in different environments depending on our lived experiences, as well as both our physical and mental capacities. Those of you who have attended our in-person yoga classes know our safer space guidelines, we say “safer” because we cannot claim to create a space that is safe for everyone, but our aim is to do the best we can.

 

So, is it safe to practice yoga in the studio again?

The main page of the city of Berlin’s website about the measures in order for prevention of the spread of the virus don’t give specific info for teaching yoga during Corona, so on July 17th Pinelopi called up the Berlin Senatsverwaltung für Sport (phone number: 030 902230) to get answers about the guidelines they both suggest and enforce. These guidelines can be your starting point as someone who offers yoga classes in Berlin to help make your decision as to whether it feels safe for you to start practicing yoga in the studio again. But remember that they can change again.

How many participants can I have in the room?

Each person in the room needs to have a space of at least 1.5 meters in every direction around them. Since every room is shaped differently, it is not calculated by square meters.

Do we need to wear masks while practicing yoga?

Masks must be worn when you enter and move around the space, and go to the bathroom or change room. You can take your mask off at your mat, as long as you are keeping 1.5 meters distance from each other.

As a yoga teacher am I allowed to touch the participants to assist in poses?

If both the yoga teacher and participant are wearing masks, you are legally allowed to touch the participant, but it is strongly discouraged.

Can bathrooms and change rooms be used?

Yes, but only one person at a time in the bathroom or change room. Try to reduce bottlenecks and lines. It is the responsibility of the yoga teacher to disinfect the bathroom and any surfaces that have been touched after the class is over and everyone else has left.

Can we accept cash payment?

Yes, exchange of cash can be made, but after handling disinfect with hand-gel or wash your hands.

Do the windows need to be open?

Yes, you should ventilate the space as much as possible. If you can keep the doors and windows open the entire time, it is best. Try to create a through-flow from one side of the room to the other.

Do participants need to bring their own mats and other supplies?

Yes, this is highly recommended. If someone forgets to bring a mat and there are some available at your studio, you can lend one. But the yoga teacher is responsible for ensuring that the participant thoroughly disinfects the mat BEFORE and AFTER use.

Are we required to keep a list of contacts?

Yes, in case someone was infected in the class, the yoga teacher is required to keep a list of participants for 4 weeks, so that all participants can be contacted. The list should contain every person’s full name, address, and phone number.

We hope this answers some of your questions about teaching yoga during Corona times. If you have any other suggestions, please comment below!

For the month of August, Pinelopi’s Hatha Yoga will be back at our space on Görlitzer Str.

As always: wash your hands regularly and try not to touch your face. And if you are feeling some symptoms and you don’t know what they are, please stay home.


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.