Small business advice for women

Business advice for women creatives

Photograph by Karina Louise Photography

Shaleah Dawnyel is one half of a team that offers a series of online eCourses and eBooks aimed at and predominantly for women running their own creative small businesses. Shaleah hails from L.A, California, and has found her way over to Berlin a few times now. The creative city of Berlin has her coming back for more.

After her short return to California, she moved to San Francisco to start up Seeing Beauty with Karina Louise, offering small business advice for women through their online resources. I’ve had the opportunity to try out several of their eCourses and they’ve helped me to figure out whether running a small business is the right thing for me, and how to do it in a way that suits me. As a freelance yoga teacher and filmmaker, the idea of running my own business was daunting and I was downright resistant to the idea of marketing. Working with Shaleah, and doing the eCourses helped me to see how I could make it work and have it fit with my own values. Here I’ve interviewed her to gain some insight on how she came up with these ideas and what she likes about working with Creatives.

What’s so great about Berlin, what draws you here?

I absolutely adore the energy in Berlin! There is a creative spirit here that I have never encountered anywhere else in the world. The pace leaves lots of room for both personal and professional exploration and the diversity and reasonable standard of living also make it primed for creating new things.

How did you get the idea to start this business? What were your motivations?

A couple years back we had an idea for a photography course for camera shy Creatives. At that point Karina and I had already been working together for over 5 years before we started Seeing Beauty. She had experienced some really transformative things while building her brand and wanted to share this experience with others. But we both knew that most people can’t afford to hire a consultant so we wanted to make what she and I had been doing to build her business practically and affordably available to more people. One eCourse became two, and the next thing we knew, we were co-founding a company. I guess you can say this idea found us!

As someone who predominantly works alone on your own consultation business, what is like for you to work with a collaborator on Seeing Beauty?

I actually never work alone as I am always collaborating with clients! My small business consultancy let’s me work with artists, makers and wellness workers to find their unique talents, leverage their resources and develop creative work that actually fits them. So many people leave nightmare jobs to create nightmare businesses! Figuring out what you really want is really the hardest part. Once you know that, the rest is just details. I help with the figuring AND the details.

But my favorite part of SB is working to collaborate with other badass biz ladies. So far we have 4 eBooks for Creatives, all developed by us and authored by experts who we asked to work with us. So many awesome people are too busy or humble to get this stuff out there. We love taking things that were sitting on the shelf, or ideas that haven’t yet come to life and making them into stuff our creative community can use.

Can you tell us a little bit about the e-courses that you offer?

Most of our products are things we have needed ourselves while building our own businesses or resources that my clients have needed along the way. At the moment this includes a Marketing Course for Creatives, US Small Biz Tax Guide, a Designer guide for Small Biz, and a Content Basics eBook. We actually just launched our new photography eCourse, the initial reason we started the company last year, and so far the reviews are awesome!

Our eCourses are highly personal and exploratory- helping people to tap into their own inner wisdom about their creative work. The eBooks are all written at the basic level to make sure the reader has a good handle on the subject. With so much non-sense out there trying to tell us what to do as entrepreneurs, we wanted to create practical resources filled with soul. I think we have succeeded so far…hopefully you agree?

I find your questions throughout the eCourses quite creative and thoughtful, they’re not the obvious ones one normally gets in questionnaires to find out “what I should do with my life.” I’m curious how you came up with these questions.

The questions come from my consultancy work. After working for over 7 years with Creatives from all over the world I have found that often asking the right questions is better than giving answers. Our work is geared around learning to hear your own voice and trusting yourself to lead your best work.

What kind of feedback have you received from those who have taken your courses?

The feedback so far has been really amazing. Like teaching anything, its insanely rewarding to see people have those “ah ha” moments where they really get something that changes their perspective and empowers them in their creative work. It’s also great to be building an actual community of dynamic, talented people who are trying to make the world a better place.


 

Shaleah has been an active part of the English Yoga Berlin community, attending our Hatha yoga classes and offering us consultation. We offer yoga classes in all different styles: Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, Tantric yoga, Restorative yoga and community classes.

 

Monday Morning- half price trial out classes

photo by Fern

photo by Fern

The autumn has arrived. The sun has said its goodbyes. The leaves are carrying the memory of light. Acorns and chestnuts fall. People slow down their outdoor extroverted active lives. You are being called to move indoors, to self reflect, to gently yoga by the candle flame with a friend.

 

 

Join Pinelopi’s special promotion for Monday morning Hatha Yoga:

Photo by Fern

Photo by Fern

What:    Hatha Yoga

Where:  Kiki, Gorlitzerstr. 39

When:   Monday mornings, 10.00-11.30

Special offer:  5 Euro try-out class

Offer ends:     30th of November, 2016

 

**************************************

 

 

Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She  also offers Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain. In January she will offer a ten week course on understanding Chakras through your yoga practice in Berlin.

Yoga is Not Dance

As a yoga teacher I often hear from students, “I like yoga, but I’m not good at it.” What I understand from this is that they feel they’re expected to do the poses ‘correctly’ in order to be ‘good at yoga.’ But yoga is not dance. As yoga practitioners, we’re not performing for an audience, but we do yoga in order to feel more ease in our bodies, more calm in the mind. We practice yoga for ourselves and nobody else. True, our practice can extend to others by helping us see how we can help our communities. But the practice of yoga is not a show.

“Yoga is not a competition”

The media tells us something different. Yoga competitions are springing up all over the world. The covers of Yoga Journal and Sein show us mostly white, mostly slim, mostly cis-female flexible yogis demonstrating their fanciest poses. Yoga teachers tell us; “there is no right or wrong way to do yoga,” and “yoga is not a competition,” and “everyone has a different body.” But I’ve also heard yoga teachers say that their students are not doing the poses ‘correctly.’ In a yoga class, the teacher will offer corrections with the primary goal of preventing the practitioner from injuring themselves in the pose. But sometimes, subconscious biases causes a teacher to ‘correct’ a student’s pose so that it looks like the textbook or covermodel version, pressing a student to go beyond their own limits, and throwing them out of awareness of their own body. This can not only lead to physical injury, but can also inadvertently cause a student to feel as if they’re ‘not good at yoga.’ As a teacher, I’m always looking to find that balance to gently encourage students to find their limits and go further if they feel like it that day, or retreat from it if they need to. Sometimes this means I do not do corrections at all, especially for those new to yoga. I like to let new practitioners find their own way of doing the poses. Though I myself really like the feeling of an experienced teacher’s gentle guiding hand encouraging my shoulder blades to release down my back, so I don’t want to do away with it altogether. Maybe we even need to move away from a terminology that refers to something as a ‘correction’ and instead call these gentle encouragements something else? What would work for you? Assistance? Encouragements? Guidance?

At English Yoga Berlin, we have consent cards at the fronts of each mat with YES on one side and NO on the other, that lets the teacher know if a participant would like to be touched or not. Participants are invited to turn it over at any point in the class.

Yoga is not Dance

A regular practice of yoga can be good for dancers to balance the stresses they put on their bodies. But it can also be good for those of us who put our bodies through stress in other ways – doing manual labour such as caring for small children, cleaning or construction work, or doing immobile work without a break such as sitting at a computer desk for 8 hours every day or driving a truck for 36 hours. Human bodies need to move, we need to strengthen and limber up our bodies to create more ease in our everyday lives, to recuperate from our daily stresses. This is how a regular practice of yoga benefits us. I can understand how yoga is popular amongst dancers. But when people who have never had dance training come to yoga, and they see a dancer at the front of the room, or amongst them in the practice space, it may cause feelings of inadequacy. How can we, as yoga teachers, and how can we, as experienced yoga practitioners, make room for those new to yoga to feel comfortable?

At English Yoga Berlin, we also have a sign with guidelines as to how we would appreciate everyone act in the space. As the yoga space is for everyone, we hope to provide a space where everyone can feel comfortable. For us, this means that we respect others’ practice by not showing off, flaunting our privilege, wearing strong perfume or chatting in the practice room. Is there anything else that would help you feel more comfortable?

Safer Space

English Yoga Berlin – Safer Space Guidelines


 

Juli offers Community Yoga classes at English Yoga Berlin, with an emphasis on creating a space for those who feel marginalized by mainstream yoga classes: sliding scale prices for no- / low-income earners. Juli teaches Vinyasa Flow Yoga and Restorative Yoga and is currently enrolled in the Svastha Yoga Therapy advanced teacher training program and has completed the first two modules, yoga for injuries and illnesses of the body.

I am here for you.

“I am here for you”, I say.

I say this a lot. To my daughter. To my partner. I say it to my friends. I say it to my yoga students. “I am here for you”.  But where is here?

Brene Brown has made a beautiful video clip partly describing depression as a deep dark hole that someone finds themselves in. Empathy, she says, is the ability of a friend to climb down that hole and sit with you for a while. The graphics are beautiful. The explanation between empathy and sympathy is eye opening. And I’ve been keeping that in mind every time I say “I’m here for you” to someone.   I visualize myself climbing down that ladder and sitting by the person’s side, holding their hand, feeling their sorrow with them… for a while. But the more I go down there, the harder I find it is to get out.

After a while, I realized, that Brene’s image of climbing down that dark hole, not only does not work for me, but it carries some dangers for a person with extreme sensitivity and empathy, as is that of my character. Brene says that empathy is about fueling connection. I 100% agree. I agree that empathy requires to be able to see the world as others see it, be nonjudgmental, understand another person’s feelings, and communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings. But could I possibly use another image that will help me not get overwhelmed and fuzz my emotional boundaries?

“I am here for you” means something different to me now. It means I see you. I see how hard and lonely you feel down there in that dark hole. I feel how difficult it is for you. I will come. I will sit at the edge of the hole, in the Light, by the ladder. And I will tell you “I am here for you”. Here – is at the edge of that hole. Here – is in the Light. Here – is close to the ladder. I won’t force you to climb up the ladder, I won’t try to convince you to come out of it. I will listen. I will tell you that I’m so glad you told me. I will feel your pain with you. But I will do that What do we mean when we say "I am here for you"?from a place of Light. I will wait for as long as you need, to find your way out. If you ask me, I will tell you where I think the ladder is. If you want me, I will stay silent while you cry and send you all my love. But, I am here -in the Light- for you. And hopefully, when you look up through your tear stained eyes and try to see me… hopefully, a part of you will be reminded that there is not only darkness out there. I will stay here for you. I will not leave your side., accompany you on your journey, won’t push you from your path and from your rhythm. I will stay in the Light by your side.

Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She  also offers Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain. In January she will offer a ten week course on understanding Chakras through your yoga practice in Berlin.

The Neutral Spine

We often hear these words “the neutral spine” as a cue in yoga classes.

But they don’t often come with a clear explanation of what that means or why it’s important. Sometimes a yoga teacher tells us to “tuck our tails under,” which for some people helps to lengthen the lower back, but for others just emphasizes an already rounded lumbar spine. All of our bodies are differently shaped, so a “neutral spine” is different for every person.

neutral spine

Spine Foto by Katie Cowden

So what is it exactly?

A neutral spine is like a spring that can absorb impact as we walk, stretch, strengthen, and generally move about. Like shock absorbers on a car. Anyone with classical dance training has been told to keep their backs straight as a rod, but this removes this spring in our step and our body’s ability to accommodate impact. I often see former dancers come to my yoga classes with chronic lower-back pain or slipped discs. A neutral spine has curves, and generally forms two S-shapes; one at the bottom at the lumbar spine and one at the top at the cervical spine. Long hours of sitting at a desk with a rounded lower back and chin jutting forward can affect longterm impact upon our body’s built-in shock absorber.

Why is it important?

When we take the double-S form of a neutral spine, it helps to keep not only our spines healthy, but other parts of our bodies too. It reduces impact and helps nutrients and oxygen flow where they need to. It also reduces the likelihood of pinching nerves that extend from in-between the vertebrae into the arms and legs. Pain or numbness in the arms or legs can occur when a disc bulges or slips backwards into the spinal canal and presses against nerves that extend outwards. These most often occur at the lower spine, but over the last 15 years with the popularity of the laptop, tablet and smartphone hunching posture, we are seeing many more people with pinched nerves in the neck and upper back. These can often be quite dangerous, because surgery is required to push the disc back or remove the inflammation. Physiotherapy and a regular yoga practice can help, but most people do not take enough time for that. Orthopedists recommend practicing yoga, pilates or physiotherapy 2 or 3 times a week over a minimum of a year in order to heal from a slipped or bulging disc.

How do I know if my spine is neutral?

There are many cues that yoga teachers give to help participants find their own neutral spine position. “Extend the tailbone down.” “Zip up the belly button.” “Lift the heart.” “Pull the shoulder blades together.” “Lengthen the neck.” etc. But only you know when you’ve reached it. You will breathe more freely because your chest is at its most open. Lower back pain may dissipate because the pressure gets lifted as the lumbar spine lengthens. Your balance could improve is one-legged poses, you might feel stronger in warrior poses. One way to test and get to know where your neutral spine is, is to do the rod test. You can get a friend to help you.

  • First, you can try it in tabletop pose.
  • Ask your friend to place the rod against and in line with your spine.
  • Touch the tip of your tailbone and the flat part of the back of your head to the rod.
  • Engage your abdominal muscles so that your belly is not drooping.
  • You should feel long on both the front and back sides of your torso.
  • There should be a gap between your lumbar spine (lower back) and the rod.
  • Now that you’ve got the hang of it in tabletop pose, try it standing!

Juli offers Community Yoga classes at English Yoga Berlin, with an emphasis on creating a space for those who feel marginalized by mainstream yoga classes: sliding scale prices for no- / low-income earners. Juli is currently enrolled in the Svastha Yoga Therapy advanced teacher training program and has completed the first two modules, yoga for injuries and illnesses of the body.

Hatha Yoga with Pinelopi is back!

Pinelopi is now back from summer holiday, full of new energy and happy feelings, ready to teach yoga again!

 

Pinelopi’s classes are a mix of Hatha 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 September 1st, 2016:

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
Hatha Yoga

Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She  also offers Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain.

Queer Yoga takes a break

This Wednesday August 17th is the last Queer Yoga Flow class of the summer season. It has been nice to see the community grow, but now it is time for a break.

queer yoga

community yoga in berlin

Queer Yoga prioritizes a space for queer and trans* folk. Allies and other misfits are welcome.

Read more about Queer* Yoga.

Juli‘s Sunday 4pm classes continue without a break, but with substitutions by 3 different teachers in 3 different styles. Here’s your chance to check out some of the other yoga teachers in our Berlin yoga community!

* August 28: Kanchi – Body Positive Yoga
* Sept. 4: Pedro – Tantric Yoga
* Sept. 11: Pinelopi – injury-conscious Hatha Yoga

All of Juli’s classes (including the classes by the substitute teachers) are available to low- / no-income people at a sliding-scale reduced rate. Read more about our community classes and payment options for low-income students.

Juli’s approach to vinyasa flow is slow and injury-conscious, including postures and techniques learned from the Svastha Yoga Therapy teacher training program that support the body in healing injuries, chronic pain and illnesses. Last winter, Juli offered a 6-week series of workshops based specifically on these trainings. And will begin a new course in winter 2016-17. Stay tuned for more info!

Juli’s aim is to make a class comfortable for those who feel marginalized in other classes but still want to discover the yoga benefits. You are invited to join Juli in creating an atmosphere of alliedness by recognizing our privileges and creating space for others (queers, transfolks, sex-workers, b&pocs, differently abled, abundant bodied, low/no-income).

Healing is boring

The unseen process of healing is often boring. Yoga tries to give methods to cope with this.

photo by Jeremy Bishop

I was contemplating on the nature of healing today and came to an important realization. Healing is boring. Whether it is healing from an illness, from a broken heart, from a deep set negative pattern, from past trauma… they all share, on some level, the same thing: the process is often boring. You would think that with something as majestic and beautiful as healing, the process would be thrilling. But no, the every day work of healing is tedious, requires mountains of patience and as a result becomes boring.

So how does it work? A wound occurs. A physical, emotional, or mental wound. And then the body, soul, mind needs to heal from it. It requires sitting with the pain, day in and day out. While the pain is there, one starts to think of the patterns that brought it about, the reasons for its’ origin. Depending on how big the wound is, people start to try out lots of random things so that they can leave the place they are in… often not having the slightest clue if this path will lead them anywhere. And then finally the realization occurs that this will be a long process, one that potentially requires daily physiotherapy, daily self care, or daily faith in your own self and strength. And daily patience.

And that’s the key word there: daily. If only it could be instant, I’ve done the work, I switched my mind to a new consciousness, and bam! I’m healed! But no, in most cases it’s about implementing on a daily basis whatever it is that you’re learning. And that daily work, is what we often find ourselves lacking the energy to do.

Realizing this, gives a more accurate picture of the work to be done. It helps one understand what lies ahead. And, most importantly, to prepare for the boredom.

So how can we deal with the boring side of healing? Here are a few suggestions:

Settle into the boredom of healing.

It’s important to accept that the nature of this process is tedious. Not everything in life has to be exciting. When you start seeing it this way, you are already psychologically preparing yourself for the work that is ahead, and you don’t give up when the process lacks glamour.

Keep your eyes on the prize!

Don’t let the boredom take you out of your healing path! I, for one, am a person who always needs change in my life and find it really hard to stick to long routines and to take part in things that bore me. What helps in my case is to keep reminding myself that this IS bringing change. This is bringing healing, which IS the biggest change I wish for in my life. I need to stick with it although at the moment it might feel so un-moving.

Spice it up!

Play your favourite tunes loudly while doing those same physio exercises for the zillionth time- Sing along too! Treat yourself to sushi, or your favorite meal, after each doctors’ appointment. Discover the value of talking nonsense. Call up a friend to specifically talk nonsense and hear yourself laugh, feel yourself lighten up. Do it every day if you have to! It’s about creating space to have some fun while you do the work. I’m not going to the doctor’s again- I’m having sushi again…. get it?

Time travel!

Yoga instructs to keep yourself present in the here and now. This is a very valuable practice. I can see how that would work in an ashram under the presence of an experienced guru helping you through your healing process. However, when you find yourself in extreme pain, entering deep into the feeling of here and now can make the pain too intense to take.

  • So my suggestion is time travel! Your mind subconsciously does that anyway, but I suggest you do it consciously.
  • First you need to be committed to a healing process and the work it requires, then let yourself experience the pain in doses and not all at once. If you are healing from emotional trauma, your mental energy is often stuck in the past. Try to take yourself out of the past and into the present, and when you are there, engage in something that really interests you, as part of your healing process.
  • If you are in extreme chronic pain, the present can often be a very painful place. Give yourself permission to not always be present in everything. Let yourself enter someone else’s life ie. by watching a movie. Remind yourself how it’s not always so, and how the future will be better when all the work is done.

A friend commented once, that everyone keeps on telling her how much they learned about their depression, and how good it ended up being for them. A sentiment she did not share. It’s easy to talk in retrospect from a healed place about how interesting the process was. But we must also acknowledge that most of the times we didn’t know where we were going, how long it would take to get there, if we will ever get there, and what coping mechanisms to use. Often we were bored and lost.

Making this acknowledgement has a transformative power of its’ own.

Pinelopi is a sivananda Yoga teacher based in Berlin. She specializes in Hatha Yoga, Pregnancy Yoga, yoga for beginners and business yoga. She works from our yoga Kreuzberg studio

Yoga and Wellbeing: thinking outside the box

It’s difficult to think about yoga and wellbeing these days when there is so much pain and suffering in the world.

Photo by Bär Baer

Photo by Bär Baer

So much of western yoga is focused on the individual and how one can get healthier, be more relaxed, stronger, eat right, get enlightened, feel better, etc. It’s internally focused and urges us to forget about the problems of the outside world. It offers a retreat from everyday life and horrific news stories.

For some people, those who experience oppression, harassment, chronic pain and other stresses on a daily basis, self-care is a necessary antidote. And a regular practice of yoga in a space that feels safer than the outside world can be a valuable tool in being able to tackle daily life. More and more of us are feeling the pressure building up and yoga is a way to alleviate it and be more at ease when we are confronted in our everyday lives. Office places know that yoga helps to increase productivity of their workers, keep them happier and more compliant. But if we all keep retreating into ourselves, and learning how to go with the flow, who’s left to fight when injustice rears its ugly head?

Yoga selfies won’t change the fact that black people are being killed by police in massive numbers in the United States, right-wing anti-immigration movements like Pegida are popping up all over Europe, while thousands of people drown at sea trying to flee war and tyranny, Rom*nja people are being deported daily into the hands of people that would rather see them dead, people who practice the Muslim religion are shunned and treated poorly everywhere, an automatic weapon is sold to a homophobic citizen who slaughters 49 queer Latinx in one night, and nearly 300 people are bombed to death in Baghdad by a terrorist group and nobody in the western world blinks.

I met someone at a yoga teacher training a few weeks ago who reacted with a strong shock of awe when I told her that I live in a shared flat and prefer it to living with my partner or alone. She responded “what a completely different life!” I didn’t even go into the other things about my life that would make me seem even more foreign than she could imagine, like my queerness for instance. She couldn’t even imagine that someone would want to share their living situation. This makes me very sad for the state of the world. Instead of coming together we are distilling down into individual units, battling against all other external forces. I feel a growing fear closing in on itself. People are building bigger walls, gating communities, separating from one another, creating divisions, more national boundaries.

We come to yoga to shed those bad habits that hold us back, the Samskaras. But what if we were to think of our yoga practice in connection to the world? What if we worked on yoga not for our individual self and wellbeing, but for the wellbeing of the world? What if, we as individual practitioners were to see ourselves as part of the world, moving and breathing with it, all of us together? What can yoga teach us about healing our communities and freeing the world from the Samskaras?

Laurie Penny has recently written an article about the relationship between self-care and its relationship to our ailing world. Michelle C. Johnson offers some ideas about how yoga and activism can come together through social justice. And Kinisha Correia writes about 4 yogis who practice Karma yoga, the yoga of service, to raise collective consciousness. Offering yoga to marginalized communities is one way to help heal those communities. But those of us with more privilege than others can take yoga out of the practice space and into our everyday life too.

We talk about mindfulness as a way to be more aware of how we are treating ourselves. For example, not sitting so long at a computer desk in a bad posture because it causes longterm pain. But what if we were to use mindfulness to be aware of how we treat other people? How can we be mindful of our own actions and privilege and make room for others and treat them with kindness and respect? We often talk about yoga as a way to heal the self in order to help others, but I feel that we are all so focused on the first part, that we never get to the second. How about we take yoga outside the box and use what we learn in a practical way? Make more space for BlPOC to speak, move and breathe, recognize the invisible work that others do, put our bodies in a protest, use our voices to show resistance to oppressive measures.

Juli offers Community Yoga classes at English Yoga Berlin, with an emphasis on creating a space for those who feel marginalized by mainstream yoga classes: sliding scale prices for no- / low-income earners, and a weekly queer yoga class.

Bring the air to your left little toe

Bring the air to your left little toe. How?

Yoga teaching language on breathing

photo by Jordan Whitt

Since I started Leslie Kaminoff‘s Yoga Anatomy course I’ve been exploring some of the teaching language we use in yoga. I remember being in some really beautiful yoga classes and hearing the teacher say “bring the air into” the part of the body we are stretching at that moment. I found it to be a very helpful remark, although I had no idea how one can literally do that. I always took it as a metaphoric remark which meant to bring my consciousness to a specific part of my body. Sometimes I would imagine a little mouth on ie. my left toe and visualize it taking in air while expanding and taking out air while contracting. And funnily enough, it would always bring energy to that part of the body, which I noticed as a feeling of heat or a tinkling feeling.

The truth be told is that you can’t actually consciously bring the air into your left toe. You can bring it only into your lungs. Your circulation system will do the rest for you. But you can’t consciously do that. You can bring your attention, awareness, consciousness to your left toe…but not the oxygen exchange by simply thinking of it.

So what do those yoga teachers mean when they use such language?

According to Leslie Kaminoff, it is important to make a distinction between bringing air into your body and experiencing the breath. The air comes only into your lungs where all gas exchange happens. Breath, on the other hand, can be defined as the shape change of the body when this gas exchange in the lungs occur. When you breathe, your body changes shape: ie. your rib cage expands or contracts, your belly moves, your pelvic diaphragm follows. When you are focused enough you can notice this change in your body shape also in the less obvious places such as your neck, throat, forehead, pelvic floor, legs. This is what the breath is. A change in shape in your body.

When breath is seen in this way, then comments such as “Bring your breath to your pelvic floor” make sense again. They mean become aware of the shape change that is occurring in your pelvic floor as a result of your breathing. Or they could even mean to consciously create shape change in your pelvic floor while you breathe.

Is this just a bunch of semantics? Maybe. But I also believe that when the breath is seen in this way, then you can also notice what kind of breathing patterns you have. Does your body always change shape in the exact same way, potentially indicating being stuck in a breathing pattern? Do you have the freedom to breathe in many different ways depending on what situation you find yourself? Our breath is supposed to be a free changing movement that reflects both our biologies and biographies. It is a movement that is created both as a result of our lives, and can also be consciously controlled, released, or changed.

Pinelopi is a sivananda Yoga teacher based in Berlin. She specializes in Hatha Yoga, Pregnancy Yoga, yoga for beginners and business yoga.