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.

Returning to the Definition of Drishti

A Return to a Drishti Definition

Almost 5 years ago, we wrote a 2-part blog about what Drishti is and its meditative benefits. From it’s Sanskrit meaning, coming to a Drishti definition in English is complicated. But as we wrote in our blogs, we can put it simply as “the gaze” or “where one’s eyes rest.” Once again, I’d like to return to the topic, but this time from a practical point of view, both in a yoga class and outside of it.

Drishti is about focus

Drishti Definition

Drishti Definition

In an asana yoga class, your teacher may ask to use your Drishti point to keep you balanced and focused. In balancing poses, we can use this point as a focus point, a point that does not move, to help steady our inner ear – where our sense of balance is located. For those of us who feel queasy in bumpy traffic or on boats, we know that staring at the horizon line can help us to overcome motion sickness. Using this focal point in an asana class encourages our bodies to find a posture in that helps us feel steady. In this sense, Drishti is a very tangible and useful anatomical tool. Where your gaze rests is a pretty good indicator of the line your neck and spine are following.

When we turn our focus towards our navels, in Cat/Cow or in Downward Dog, for instance, we are turning our focus inwards, towards ourselves. And when we look out over our finger tips in twists or Warrior poses, we keep our central line from ourselves outwards towards a blurry outside world. It helps you to quiet the mind, increases concentration and relaxation, and allows your attention to flow into whatever you are focusing it on, yourself and your connection / support to the world. It helps us to not look around and get distracted by the other people practicing in the room, which for some of us can turn to negative thoughts if we compare ourselves and how we do the postures, or worry if we are doing them “right.”

 

Another important subtlety in the concept of Drishti is in the different ways of gazing. This is a variation on the practice of detachment but specifically, a Drishti can be described as ´soft´, ´pointed´, ´wide´, ´gentle´, etc. Again, there are very practical reasons for this. Even though Patanjali never gazed at a computer screen, he could imagine what hours of single distance, harsh gazing can do to your eyes. Varied distances of Drishti, as well as varying degrees of hardness or staring in the postures, helps to exercise the optical nerves and reduce the strain that can produce tension headaches.

Early yogis and yoginis realized that the quality with which you observe something radiates through your body. Your body naturally becomes more tense and rigid, or soft and relaxed, depending on how you are looking at something. A soft Drishti promotes internal reflection, relaxation, meditation. A harder one pushes the focus externally. In our contemporary world, we often find our attention being pulled in multiple directions at once, our eyes have no time to rest on anything. A regular yoga practice can help train us to focus ourselves, but only when we take it outside of the yoga studio, do we feel the real benefits. A Drishti point can to calm our thoughts, reduce chatter and anxiety, allow our breath to flow freely, and give us something to dream about other than who posted what on Facebook.

So, the next time you find your eyes wandering, watch your mind and body, and see if you can notice how your Drishti affects you, notice how you feel when you let your eyes rest on something that you don’t normally allow them – give some attention to that plant on your windowsill, follow the path of a beetle in the sand, notice what the squirrels are doing in the tree in your yard. And next time you practice yoga, play with your gaze point and see how it affects your practice and your life.

One of our main goals in our Kreuzberg Berlin yoga classes is to educate people about the benefits of our practice. We believe that by making yourself more centered and focused you are better equipped to make an impact in the world around you. For more info about our Hatha Yoga in Berlin or Vinyasa Yoga, check out our yoga in English schedule.

Practicing Breath

practicing breath

Practicing Breath

The idea of “practicing breath” is one that’s often heard in yoga classes. But what does it really mean?

Aren’t we always breathing?

In the novel Jitterbug Perfume, Tom Robbins writes about two characters, Alobar and Kudra, who learn techniques of immortality, one of them a slow, controlled breathing practice. I often think about them as I breathe the way I’ve learned through years of yoga practice. And no, I’m not doing it because I want to be immortal!

I started practicing yoga about 20 years ago. I’d follow along with the breathing techniques in classes, and feel their immediate effects; more openness in my body, a greater sense of calm, more energy, and sometimes just pure bliss. But I started to understand why they were so important only more recently as the practice became more a part of my daily life.

Breathing as Pain Alleviation

I’d struggled for years with pain from of endometriosis. And a few years ago I began a weekly practice of Osho Kundalini Meditation. Through this, I learned techniques of relaxation of the pelvic muscles, which helped to reduce the pain. As I would go through the exercises, I started to realize that it was my breathing that brought me to the relaxation. The deep yoga breath made me more conscious of where I was holding physical tension in my body and in invited me to release that tension. I don’t practice the Osho technique anymore, but as soon as I start feeling the pain from endometriosis, I take deep breaths and focus on relaxing my pelvic muscles. The pain quickly dissipates. I’m not saying that this could work for everyone, as not all pain is because of tension. But it works for me.

Breathing to Reduce Anxiety

Another thing that deep conscious breathing helps me with is anxiety. As an introvert, I feel the pressure of social anxiety in crowds of people. It’s easy to take a drink or too in social settings to numb that, and though I’m a yoga teacher, I’m not against that, as it does help me relax! But there are other situations where anxiety creeps up on me too. In these cases, a minute or two of deep controlled and conscious breathing help to me feel a bit more at ease. It’s not perfect, but that little bit does help me to function better.

Breathing as a Healing Practice

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been learning about restorative yoga and its healing potential. Allowing our bodies to rest through deep relaxation and conscious breath can support us in recovering from illnesses faster, reducing stress and anxiety, boost our immune systems and make us stronger. Last year, I began an advanced yoga teacher training, the Svastha Yoga Therapie program. What I’ve learned in the first couple of modules was invaluable. I’m excited for the 3rd and 4th modules which I will attend this year, which are all about the breath. I look forward to continuing to learn more about how the breath can heal.

Practicing Breath

The idea of practicing breath is not something unique to yoga, but it’s one that we focus on in yoga classes. Once or twice a week, we get together, breathe and move together. We learn various breathing techniques in a class lead by a knowledge guide. But then what happens when we leave? Do we go back to our short breaths, hunching shoulders up to ears while waiting for the bus in the cold? Holding our breath when someone makes us angry? My idea of practicing breath is about being conscious and aware of how I’m breathing in the moment. I try, when I can, to take this practice out of the yoga studio and into my daily life. It may not change the world and all society’s problems. But it can help me to deal with it better, and get strong to fight back against it in a way that is productive.

————————

Juli teaches restorative yoga and vinyasa flow at English Yoga Berlin in our Kreuzberg yoga studio.

Wishing you a peaceful new year

Our heart’s wish for this year is a peaceful 2017 – both in the world out there and inside of us.

May we be able to contact our emotions, to feel the grief and powerlessness behind the anger, and to find the caring hiding behind the grief. May this contact enable us to act from a place of caring and love. May all feelings of unworthiness, of “not being enough” , of needing “to get somewhere” dissipate in feelings of love and presence. May we accept ourselves as we are in this very moment. May this acceptance give us strength to change. May this change inside help us act in a world that so desperately needs every conscious being out there.  May this change build bridges and break through walls. May this change break through the pain of racism, homophobia, sexism, fascism. May this change allow us to be free.

 

In a world of increasing violence and turmoil, we wish for peace, acceptance, change, kindness and love.

May all beings be free.

– with love, from English Yoga Berlin

 

English Yoga Berlin thanks you for all your commitment and support in these past years. We will continue to give Hatha Yoga and Vinyasa Flow Yoga classes regularly in 2017. Due to the Chakra course being full with several people on a waiting list, we will repeat this course in the spring of 2017.  We are happy to see that so many people are interested in learning about the chakras and their effect on our bodies and consciousness!

English Yoga Berlin Winter News

There’s a lot happening at English Yoga Berlin this Winter! Pinelopi is giving a brand new Chakra course, Juli brings Queer Yoga back, Pedro is going solo, and Pinelopi is teaching at Dynamic Mindfulness teacher trainers’ course. On top of that we are selling yoga gift cards again this Holiday season!

English Yoga Berlin“Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.”

― Yoko Ono

 

 

 

 


Christmas Gift Cards

We are selling beautiful Yoga gift cards for the Christmas holidays and all other celebratory occasions! You can buy yoga gift cards of one or five classes at our English Yoga Berlin studio or online. The gift of yoga is a precious gift!


Holiday Closures

Please be aware of our holiday closures! Check out our schedule page for up-to-date info.


tantric yogaPedro is going solo

We wish Pedro the best of luck as he goes solo with his new website. If you wish to follow his exciting posts on facebook, click here.


queer yoga berlinQueer Yoga is back!

Queer* Yoga Flow Berlin is back on January 18th, 2017. The class that prioritizes a space for queer and trans* people will be held every Wednesday at 10am. Allies and other misfits are welcome.


yoga teacher training in berlin200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training

Do you live in Berlin and would like to become a yoga teacher? Dynamic Mindfulness School offers an amazing teacher trainers’ course that starts in February. Pinelopi will be a guest teacher there. Check it out!


chakra course in berlinChakra Course

Pinelopi is offering a 10 week course on the Chakras. Starting date: January 12th, 2017. The first class will be a lecture and all other classes will focus on a yoga practice for each specific chakra, understanding both the emotions and the body area that chakras influence and get influenced by. Write to her here if you are interested.


Somuchmore and English Yoga Berlin partnership Update

To those Somuchmore customers who attended our classes, we regret to inform you that as of 2017 we will no longer be part of this service.


 

We continue to be thankful for your practice and your support of our work. We wish you a healthy, happy winter, full of inner peace and connection!


the gift of yoga this christmas

yoga christmas presents in Berlin

photo by Aaron Burden

The Christmas period is here and we, at English Yoga Berlin, wish you VERY HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

 

We wish you magical moments with friends and people that you love, lots of Glühwein, inner peace, connection, presence, and the ability to stay away from the frantic stress that these holidays often bring with them.

For those of you searching for a nice present to give your loved ones, we suggest you give the gift of yoga. We are selling Berlin yoga gift cards for one or more Hatha yoga, Vinyasa yoga, or Tantra yoga classes. You can buy them at our yoga studio, or online.

Happy holidays!

May your hearts be merry and bright!