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.

 

 

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.”