New Year Yoga Standing Sequence

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

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

tadasana

Mountain Pose:
What is my support / foundation?

chi yoga

Golden Rooster:
What can I peacefully confront?

warrior1

Warrior I :
What are my­­ obstacles?

revolved side angle

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

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

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

Berlin Yoga Gift Card

“For it is in giving that we receive.” — Francis of Assisi

Berlin Yoga Gift Card

Berlin Yoga Gift Card

 

This December is full of many things – an end of a decade, as well as the darkest days drawing upon us, both politically and celestially. Holidays of various religious and non-religious affiliation draw us together, but for those of us with complicated relationships to or without family, it can feel even more stressful or depressive. A consumer culture encourages us to buy more things to fill the void or fulfill gift-giving obligations, which seem to miss the point of honestly giving something to someone we love.

A nice dinner, a visit to the hammam, or a guided tour are a few gift ideas for those who’d like to give something that does not contribute to Co2 emissions through the shipping of packages, or add more waste to the world by purchasing more plastic gadgets that nobody actually needs. If you’re at a loss for an idea for a friend who likes yoga, why not a Berlin yoga gift card? At English Yoga Berlin we offer them all year round.

And if you feel you need a special place to go inwards for yourself during this dark holiday season, why not come and try out a class in our candle-lit cozy and warm Kreuzberg yoga studio.

Please take a look at our up-to-date schedule for our holiday closures.

English Yoga Berlin offers yoga gift cards for one or more Hatha yoga and Vinyasa yoga classes. You can buy them at our yoga studio in Kreuzberg, or online.

6 Simple things to fight the flu season

Those of us who live in the 52nd latitude are well aware that when winter comes the days grow shorter, and our lovely sun is not giving us as much vitamin D to feed our immune system. And as the weather gets colder and wetter, more people pack themselves into crowded transportation rather than ride their (t)rusty wire donkeys. Being the international city that it is, Berlin gives one’s immune system a workout, with germs coming from all over the world, rather than the ones we grew up with and learned to adapt to. A challenge I gratefully accept because I believe that learning about, and adapting to, all kinds of different cultures (including those as small as the ones that take up habitat inside my gut) is what keeps me strong, flexible and ready for other things that come my way. So I compiled a list of 6 simple things to fight the flu season that have worked for me to keep my immune system strong during these cold and dark months.

staying warm during winter

Wear layers to regulate body temperature

1. Layers

Moving in-between different temperatures is a good recipe to foster cold and flu bugs. Dressing warmly is necessary for being outside, but then with a heavy sweater or coat on inside, sweating can promote their growth. For me, what works is wearing layers. I can regulate my body temperature by removing one or more layers depending on how warm or cool a place is kept. For instance, grocery stores tend to be cooler than a city bus.

2. Deep Breaths

While standing to wait in the cold, we have a tendency to hunch the shoulders up to stay warm. But this actually has the opposite effect, and can result in tension in the neck and shoulders. Hunching up restricts the lungs and causes more shallow breaths. This cools the body down even more. Not only does breathing deeply and slowly warm up the body, but it also helps more oxygen and other nutrients to move through the whole cardiovascular system, hence strengthening the immune system. Exhaling slowly has also been shown to reduce anxiety and stress. Also very helpful in these busy, end of the year days. So, in addition to wearing layers, I make sure to wear a big scarf to keep my neck warm. Then I can let my shoulders relax down and lengthen up my torso to widen my chest and take deep breaths.

3. Drink fluids

Tea, tea, and more tea. That’s all I’m going to say. No, seriously. It warms me up, and flushes out any built-up toxins. Just plain water is good too, of course. Hot cocoa and coffee can also be very nice. But if I feel myself coming down with a cold, I’ll try to eliminate any sugars, because it can lower the immune system’s response.

4. Sleep, rest

My body’s circadian rhythm is somehow very attuned to how dark it is outside. It tells me I need more sleep and rest during these months of 16 hours of daily darkness. I wonder what it would be like if I lived in northern Sweden? I may not always listen to my body, but when I do I feel more rested.

5. Exercise

I’m riding my bike less and less, so I try to compensate for the lack of cardio by walking more and going to dance classes. I also prefer to walk the stairs instead of taking the escalator. It not only feels good on my cardiovascular system, but also for my mental health.

6. Public spaces

I don’t use hand sanitizer so often. After playing ball with the dog, or when there’s no hot water or soap in a public washroom, it’s quite useful. But I try to avoid it if possible, so as not to remove the helpful bacteria that my body needs. I feel quite blessed that I have a strong immune system (well, I have a few chronic conditions that I struggle with, but on the whole I’m rather healthy). I *can* move through public spaces and hold handrails, and somehow manage to not get sick. But I know people who would get sick instantly. Carrying around hand sanitizer would be a definite benefit. But I also find for myself, that avoiding touching my own face in public also helps. If I’ve been traveling around on public transit, when I finally get a chance to I’ll wash my hands.

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

Terminology Tuesday: are mindfulness and meditation the same thing?

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

So let’s look at these two terms.

Mindfulness

photo by Fern

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

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

Meditation

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

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

So what is the difference?

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

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

English Yoga Berlin News

 “We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet, each day we listen to inner voices that keep our lives small.”

                                                                      ― Tara Brach

 

Greetings Yogis!

We wish you a good beginning of autumn!

Here’s what’s happening over the next three months at English Yoga Berlin: Pinelopi is back in full swing giving her regular Hatha Yoga classes, organizing a retreat, and beginning to train as an Alexander Technique teacher. Juli has started a German-language class at an FLTI* Sportverein.

Pinelopi is back!

After a month of intense knee rehabilitation, Pinelopi is teaching Berlin Hatha Yoga again! She is very happy to be back doing what she loves most. Her Hatha Yoga classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you wish to join a class please check out the schedule.

 

Yoga retreat near Berlin: "Beyond the thinking mind"Yoga Retreat “Beyond the Thinking Mind”

Pinelopi will be leading a Hatha Yoga retreat in Brandenburg Oct 25th to Oct 27th. In this yoga retreat we will look at the thinking mind and its patterns; identify the beliefs that create certain types of thoughts; and explore ways to experience the world beyond our thinking minds. The retreat includes yoga classes, meditation instruction, mindfulness walks in nature and more. Check it out and book the last place available.

 

Juli continues with her yoga therapy courseDeutschsprachige FLTI* Yoga

Since 2012, Juli has been giving yoga classes in German at the women’s thai kick-boxing sport club LowKick eV. In August of this year, Juli made the switch to the FLTI* sport club Seitenwechsel eV.

Juli freut sich den FLTI* Berliner community Yoga anzubieten!

 

Alexander Technique Teacher Training

Pinelopi is beginning her Alexander Technique Teacher Training this September. The course will go on for three years. The focus of the Alexander Technique is to free the neck from tension, better the overall coordination of the body and to let go of old habits stored in the use of the body while cultivating new ones. If you are interested to become a volunteer for the training teachers please get in touch.

 

We continue to be thankful for your practice and your support of our work. We wish you a healthy, happy autumn, with lots of candlelight and quality moments!

Thinking about leaving a yoga class?

Leaving a yoga class

Contemporary western Post-Krishnamacharya yoga claims to be about self-care, so when something’s feeling not right in a yoga class, a participant may take the initiative to leave in the middle of it. In a large yoga class, at a fitness studio for example, where there are many participants crammed into a big space, it may hardly be noticeable. But when it’s in a small room with fewer participants, it could cause a disruption of the community atmosphere that the teacher is trying to create.

Yoga as community

When choosing to attend a yoga class, one is choosing to be led by an experienced teacher in a shared space with other participants. This creates a temporary community yoga experience, if not one over a longer time when practicing with the same people week after week. A yoga teacher attempts to create a shared experience for that group of participants that invites each of them to practice finding balance in mind and body in a room with other people. Feeling part of that community contributes to that balance. The yoga teacher’s job is to not only lead the yoga practice, but to also create a balanced and safe(r) community experience. If someone leaves the class, it can not only create a disruption, but may also signal that a disruption has already occurred.

Creating a safe(r) space

Most yoga teachers have experienced a participant leaving their class at least once in their teaching, and can understand that a person is just taking care and honouring their own needs in the moment. But if it happens regularly, it might be a good idea to check-in and evaluate teaching methods – perhaps asking for feedback from participants, especially from those who have left a class, or upgrading teaching skills.

What is it a teacher can improve upon in creating an environment where participants feel safe, seen and respected?

For every community, what that looks like could be different. At English Yoga Berlin, we’re committed to the practice of Ahimsa (non-harming) and injury-conscious yoga. At our space, we’ve put up a sign of guidelines for a safer space, and provide consent cards for permission to be touched during the class. What are other ways of doing this? We’d be happy to hear about your strategies in the comments below.

Self-care

When a participant leaves a yoga class, they’ve most likely gone through a thought process to decide whether it’s the best thing for them to do in the moment. They’ve made the time for themselves, and have likely already paid for the class, in order to practice self-reflection and self-care. And what they realize in those first moments of the class, is that whatever they’re doing is not helping them achieve that. It could be that the community is not right for them, or something happened or didn’t in order for them to feel safe, or they felt harmed in one way or another.

I, myself, have left a meditation class once because a fellow participant was behaving in a sexist manner towards me and the teacher did nothing to stop it. I felt directly harmed by the environment created in the room and would not be able to stay through the whole class without continuing to be harmed. This was a weekly class that I had been attending for a long time, and it was offering me relief from my struggle with endometriosis. I felt that my healing process was disrupted by this guy’s behaviour and the fact that the teacher just brushed it off. I couldn’t go back. If I’d thought there was something I could learn from this experience, I might’ve stayed. After having just finished the Svastha Yoga Therapy advanced teacher training program, I’ve learned a lot about sitting through discomfort and examining my own participation in it. In this case, what I could’ve learned was to gather more strength and resilience against sexism. But I also wanted to show to people (him and the teacher) that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it. No need to be a doormat!

Fight or Flight?

Yoga teaches us about balance, and how we react to behaviour in ourselves and in others around us. Sometimes the best way to learn about ourselves is to feel discomfort, to dive into those feelings of unknown territory. If we are resilient enough in the moment to do so, we can come out of that experience transformed. But if we flee too soon without examining what it is about a certain experience that bothers us, it might show us that we are afraid to address this part of ourselves that has taken us here. The amygdala, which governs our fight-or-flight response through the vagus nerve, is designed to be over-active, urging us to flee or be on guard at the slightest hint of danger. It’s a great instinct that was designed into the human structure when we needed to be on the constant look-out for predators. Yes, there are dangers in our current world – and for some of us those are real and life-threatening. But when we haven’t fully addressed those dangers, when we repress them, or don’t have the means to recover from them, then everything that reminds us of them will trigger the vagus nerve, even when those dangers are no longer there. If we continue to flee when that response comes up, we will never recover. The only way to do so, is to meet with it, understand it, and move through it. Self-care isn’t about taking care of immediate gratifying desires, but about knowing when to guide oneself through uncomfortable moments in order to expand one’s understanding of themselves and their interactions with the world.

We at English Yoga Berlin offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa flow yoga with Juli.  Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcome to beginners. We also offer Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes, including for people struggling with chronic pain.”

Terminology Tuesday: Paschimottanasana

paschimottasana

one could think of Paschimottasana as a ‘salute to the sunset’

Paschimottanasana = from Sanskrit, paschima meaning West or back of the body, uttana meaning intense stretch, and asana meaning posture

We are talking here about the seated forward bend.  Traditionally we would be facing the East in the morning doing our Sun Salutations, which is why the back of our body is talked about as the West. 

Paschimottasana in practice

At Pinelopi’s Hatha yoga classes in Kreuzberg, we have explored this pose deeply.  We try through Paschimottanasana to stretch equally the entirety of the back of our body.  Here we have a network of muscles and connective tissue that starts from our eye brows, over the head, down the back and legs, all the way to the soles of our feet.  It goes by the name of backline of the body, or the superficial backline.

Introducing us to an insight she shared with us from the work of Leslie Kaminoff, Pinelopi guides us to become aware to where we feel the stretch most intensely.  For many people it is the hamstrings, and for others the lower back or the upper back.  For some, it is the back of the knees.  We then work with the specific needs of our body, adjusting with props, to get an even stretch all over the superficial backline.  This allows us to experience the grounding, release and surrender that is the core of this asana.

Paschimottasana as an experience, not an ideal shape

A specific example of that is my situation: due to my specific restriction of movement, I cannot get my abdomen in contact with the top of my legs.  Does it mean I cannot stretch the “west side” of my body, my back?  No, it does not mean that. How I stretch the back of my body will look completely different to how you do.  Yet we will both be stepping into an experience of arising and transforming sensations, witnessing life unfolding through us.

 

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: Yamas

looks like morse

Yamas are guidelines

Now that the western New Year has settled in, many of us are resolving to change some of our habits. The yamas is an aspect of yoga that guides us to change certain deeply ingrained habits. Let’s begin here.

 

Yamas and Niyamas are the first two steps of yoga that Patanjali discusses in the Yoga Sutra. They are ethical, behavioral and spiritual guidelines for living.

The Yamas are ethical principles about attitudes and behaviors that cause suffering (greed, dishonesty, violence, etc).  They are about stopping the behaviors that cause you to suffer.

Ahimsa is the first Yama, and it is most commonly translated as ´non-violence´. Non violent consciousness is defined by some as connecting with what is alive in ourselves and others. It´s also what we use in yoga, when we decide not to push beyond our limits.

Satya is the second Yama, and it means ´truth´. Satya urges us to be honest with  ourselves, and with others. In asana, we practice Satya when we listen to our body and, again, respect its limits.

Asteya is the third Yama, and it means ´not stealing´. This is a more complex concept than the translation conveys.   We believe Asteya is not about stifling need, it is about restraining greed. Asteya guides students to ask themselves: do I really need this?

Brahmacharya is the fourth Yama. It  is translated into English as ´celibacy´, but can also be looked at as a ´conscious use of energy, especially sexual´.

Aparigraha is the last Yama, and it means ´non-comparing´. This Yama is about jealousy, and acceptance. Patanjali recognized that the human mind has a tendency to compare, in order to understand. In our Kreuzberg yoga classes we often tell students to observe without analyzing.

For a more in-depth exploration of the Yamas, read here and here.  If you wish to learn more about how these values influence your own life, then we invite you to our 2.5 workshop on Patanjali’s Yamas and Niyamas coming up at the end of the month. In this workshop we will use 10 guided mini self explorations to make the yamas an niyamas something applicable to our own personal 21st century lives.

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.

Sliding-scale Queer Yoga

Introducing a new payment guide for the ongoing community class on
Sundays at 4pm at our English Yoga Berlin studio!

Queer Yoga Berlin

Sliding-Scale Berlin Yoga guide

What is Sliding-scale Queer Yoga?

If you’d like to be part of our Berlin queers and friends yoga community on Sunday afternoons, and;
* the regular prices would make it difficult for you to cover your basic needs, use this reduced rate guide.
* you’ve got some extra, you are welcome to pay it forward to others.
* if even paying the lowest price is not possible, please talk to us about other options.

If you’ve been following us over the past few years, you may remember that in 2013 we started a community class. We offered this at a sliding-scale price where participants could pay what they could afford, in order to make a yoga class accessible to those with less financial resources. All of us yoga teachers of the collective would take turns leading the class. When the class ended because of low attendance, Juli wanted to keep the class going, so the Sunday 4pm yoga class was converted to a community class with sliding-scale payment.

sign on the door

English Yoga Berlin is a safe space

As the years went on, Juli also wanted to try to provide a yoga class for the queer community to practice yoga in a safe and non-judgmental atmosphere. So a collaboration between two queer yoga teachers began on Wednesday mornings. Since these classes also came to their end, and the Sunday yoga is already a space for solidarity with marginalized folks, it will now, in the spirit of alliedness, be a space for Queer Yoga and friends. This doesn’t mean that if you’re not queer, you are not welcome! It just means, that it’s asked of you that once you enter this space, to take into consideration your position in the world, recognize what your privileges are, make space for people more marginalized than you, and avoid assumptions and judgment.

 


Why “Queer” Yoga?

In western contemporary society, yoga classes can often feel excluding to those of us who are not middle-class, white, thin, flexible and cis-gendered. A common misconception is that if you don’t look like the person on the cover of a Yoga Journal, then you are probably doing yoga so that you can work towards that ‘ideal.’ For those of us who don’t, it can be discouraging to even attend a yoga class, knowing that we might be seen that way by others in the room.

When the room is filled with stereotypical “yoga-bodies” and unawareness of heterosexual and cis-sexual privilege, it can make some queer and trans* people feel uncomfortable and unable to focus on their own practice. And often the language used in mainstream yoga classes can be very hetero- and cis-sexist. As queer yoga teachers, we can take the first step in making the space (and the practice) more queer and trans* friendly.


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

Hatha Yoga classes are Back after summer break

After a wonderful summer holiday, Pinelopi has returned full of new energy and happy feelings! The Hatha Yoga in English Classes are starting again on September 5th!  This year there is also a mindfulness and yoga weekend retreat dedicated on presence, scheduled from the 15th of September to the 17th of September.

 

Pinelopi’s classes are a mix of Hatha yoga asanas (yoga poses), grounding techniques, pranayama (breathing exercises), pratyahara (practice of detachment), yoga nidra and meditation. She is an injury conscious yoga teacher and is a firm believer that yoga is for everybody and any body. She believes that no one should ever be in pain during class. All yoga poses can be adjusted so that one is still stretching, growing, strengthening, challenged, without experiencing pain or triggering old injuries.

Yoga, for her, requires becoming conscious of where you are at physically, emotionally, spiritually and what means you have available at this moment. Once the practitioner identifies this, yoga will work from there to release blocks and open up one’s spirit to new ways of seeing the world and receiving its’ gifts.

Join her at one of her regular Hatha Yoga weekly classes starting on Tuesday September 5th, 2017:

Monday

Tuesday

Thursday

9:45-11:15
Hatha Yoga

18:00-19:30
Hatha Yoga

18:00-19:30
Hatha Yoga

20:00-21:30
Advanced Hatha Yoga

Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She offers Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain. In mid-September she will be offering her first English speaking yoga and mindfulness retreat dedicated to presence.