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.

“Welcoming Autumn – Forest Yoga Retreat”

We warmly invite you to intentionally spend five hours together in presence and mindfulness at a forest yoga retreat with Pinelopi!

The leaves have started to turn, the soil has that particular Autumn smell, rays of the sun flood the forest at a low angle and the first mushrooms are popping out. The beginning of Autumn is here. So let us welcome it by spending a day together in nature; practicing yoga under the open sky; laying down on the grass; taking deep breaths in the forest; and harmonizing with each other.

The Beautiful details:

Photo by Fern

When: 

Sunday 13th of September, 9.30-14.30

Where:

Grunewald forest on the outskirts of Berlin.

We will meet outside the Grunewald S-bahn station at 9.30 am. At 14.30 pm we will end our day at Teufelsee (40 minutes walk away from the S-bahn station).

What is included:

  • Hatha Yoga session
  • Sound Meditation
  • Nature Walk
  • Pranayama (breathing excercises)
  • Mantra chanting and harmonizing

Who:

  • Up to 15 yoga students (beginners are welcomed!)

What to bring:

  • yoga mat
  • packed lunch
  • water
  • thin towel or blanket
  • hand sanitizer

What about the corona virus?

We kindly ask that everyone respects the Health Ministry regulations:

  • Yoga mats will be spread 1.5 meters apart from each other
  • Although it saddens us, we will not be able to share food with each other this time round.
  • Keep some distance to each other when walking in a group.
  • Since we will be exclusively in open spaces, the use of a mask is optional.
  • If you suffer from allergies and sneeze a lot, please wear your mask when you do that.
  • If you have a sore throat or are sick, please stay at home.

Price:

25 Euro for the forest yoga retreat day

Early registration discount:  5 € discount if you register for the forest retreat before September 8th, 2020. To reserve your space, please send an email and transfer 20 Euro by bank transfer or paypal. A refund is possible if cancellation occurs before September 10th.

Space is limited so register early before the spots fill up!

For more details, please write to:

pinelopi (at) englishyogaberlin (dot) com

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.

Five hour retreat in the forest

Pinelopi is organizing a yoga meditation retreat in the Grunewald forest of Berlin on:

“Gaining Strength from the Elements”

We warmly invite you to intentionally spend five hours together in presence and mindfulness!

After months of lockdown and isolation, let us refill our emotional tanks by spending a day together in nature; practicing yoga under the open sky; laying down on the grass; taking deep breaths in the forest; dipping our bare feet into water; and harmonizing with each other.

The Beautiful details:

When: 

Sunday 23rd of August, 9.30-14.30

Where:

Grünewald forest on the outskirts of Berlin.

We will meet outside the Grünewald S-bahn station at 9.30 am. At 14.30 pm we will end our day at the Grünewald lake (30 minutes walk away from the S-bahn station).

What is included:

  • Hatha Yoga session
  • Sound Meditation
  • Nature Walk
  • Pranayama (breathing excercises)
  • Mantra chanting and harmonizing

Who:

  • Up to 15 yoga students (beginners are welcomed!)

What to bring:

  • yoga mat
  • packed lunch
  • water
  • thin towel or blanket
  • bathing suit (optional)
  • hand sanitizer

What about the corona virus?

We kindly ask that everyone respects the Health Ministry regulations:

  • Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@adamsky1973?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Adam Nieścioruk</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/corona?utm_source=unsplash&amp;Yoga mats will be spread 1.5 meters apart from each other
  • Although it saddens us, we will not be able to share food with each other this time round.
  • Keep some distance to each other when walking in a group.
  • Since we will be exclusively in open spaces, the use of a mask is optional. If you suffer from allergies and sneeze a lot, please wear your mask when you do that.
  • If you have a sore throat or are sick, please stay at home.

Price:

25 Euro

Early registration discount:  5 € discount if you register for the forest retreat before August 18th, 2020. To reserve your space, please send an email and transfer 20 Euro by bank transfer or paypal. A refund is possible if cancellation occurs before August 18th.

Space is limited so register early before the spots fill up!

For more details, please write to:

pinelopi (at) englishyogaberlin (dot) com

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.

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

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.

Live Online yoga Classes Continue

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt with the heart.”

— Helen Keller

 

Greetings Yogis,

            Here we are a few months into the Corona virus pandemic, with some time spent in lockdown and getting used to a new way of life. Whether we like it or not, we are going through changes that affect us each individually as well as societally. What this means for our future, we cannot yet say. However,  if distancing truly makes our hearts grow fonder, let’s hope for a kinder, gentler and more just world when we finally come out of this. In the meantime, online yoga is here for a little while longer. Both Juli and Pinelopi continue their regular schedule online through June. With Pinelopi dropping to one class a week through July for summer holidays. Near the end of July we hope to know more about the regulations and peak statuses of Berlin to make a decision whether we return to the studio in August.

 

Hatha Yoga Classes Live Online

Pinelopi’s regular Hatha Yoga classes continue online through June, and will reduce to once a week in July for summer holidays. Here is how to join.

 

yoga online

yoga online

Sunday Yoga Live Online

Juli‘s regular Sunday Yoga classes from 4-5:30pm continue live online through June and July. Here’s how to join.

We continue to be thankful for your practice and your support of our work. Stay healthy, stay safe, protect those at risk by keeping a distance.

 

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. We are currently offering all of our yoga classes live online. See our schedule for more info.

Computer Work and Posture – Part I

The virtual world is here. It has been here for some decades now. It has waltzed into our lives with dizzying speed….with all its charms, promises and dangers. Some promises of connection and closeness were kept. Others were delivered in unexpected ways. Many ended up creating the icy feeling of loneliness in an over-connected world. One thing is clear. The speed in which this digital world has entered our lives has not given us enough biological time to adapt.

We spend incredible amounts of time working in front of computers, absorbed in our social media feeds, or receiving various forms of entertainment. Few times do we stop and become aware of our bodies. We forget about the living body. We increasingly get lost in a cloud of thoughts. Until eventually, the body starts to complain, desperately trying to catch our attention, asking for us to return to the biological vessel that makes our existence possible.

Since computers are here to stay and our use of them is not bound to diminish, is there a way that we could coexist in peace all together: computers, bodies, and presence? We must find one for the sake of our bodies, our mental health, and the quality of presence that we wish to live with.

In the next series of blogs I will suggest a combination of different aspects to become more aware of our bodies and our ability to stay mindful while working on computers. This will include looking at positions of mechanical advantage; bringing variation to the working positions we chose; ways to remember body awareness; eye care and mindfulness practices while doing computer work.

But for today, let‘s start with the preparatory work.

Good posture in front of the computer

We often are told to “sit up straight”, but do we actually know what that means? Many people use excessive amounts of energy to keep their version of “straight” in front of their computers. It is not possible to use such amounts of physical energy for a long time without cramping or becoming very uncomfortable. As a result, they then have to swing to the other extreme of slouching or collapsing while on their computer work. Many continue to swing between excessive tension and collapsing for the rest of their computer time. Both yoga and the Alexander technique are ways that people can use to help them find a middle place where sitting up straight becomes possible without using excessive muscle tension.

What does sitting up straight or upright actually mean?

I believe that the direction of “sitting up straight” or “upright” is confusing to begin with.  Does being straight mean to not have curves in your spine? To flatten out the curves? No. This would be setting us up to failure and to more problems. Rather, I suggest that we look at sitting upright as a balanced relationship between the head, neck and back.

Alternatively, some people may find it easier to think of “upright” as balancing out the three curves in their back. This would mean that not one curve is extreme and out of proportion from the other two. The challenge, though, is to balance out the curves without using excessive muscle tension.

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. In  Part II of this blog I will explain the semi-supine pose, a mindful exercise that you can practice to help increase your familiarity with this pose, and the relationship between head, neck and back.

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.

Keeping calm in times of uncertainty

The whole world has been affected, we’re all in this together

Keep Calm in Times of UncertaintyThe COVID-19 pandemic has revealed some unexpected things about our society. In the past, when we’ve imagined through films or literature what the world would look like during a viral outbreak, the current situation is not one we’ve anticipated, one where (unless you’re a medical worker, caregiver, garbage collector, cleaner, bus driver, grocery store clerk, or work in food service or production) most of us are asked to stay home. Those of us with the privilege of comfortable, safe homes, clean running water and access to grocery stores can easily do that. But the crisis is also showing more clearly the inequalities around the world, that most of us live in cramped quarters, abusive home situations, unsanitary conditions, or don’t have access to clean water, a roof over our heads, or are incarcerated. It also clearly shows which demographics have access to proper healthcare. Nobody is as of yet immune to the virus, but we have different positions from which to fight it. In all of this it’s hard to keep calm in times of uncertainty.

Other epidemics in the past have been isolated to smaller parts of the world, but this is the first one that has spread worldwide. Our world has gotten smaller through international travel, dwindling habitats for wild animals, mass production of food and worldwide shipping. All of this has increased and sped-up human contact. One of my favourite guided relaxations includes a visualization of how we’re all connected through the earth, the animals, plants and each other: the butterfly effect. But thinking about all that inter-connection right now, when we’re supposed to be apart from each other feels counterintuitive. So I’ve been avoiding this visualization these days. But it’s also rewarding to see how neighbours are looking out for each other more, like buying groceries for those more vulnerable or wearing masks in public places to reduce the risk of asymptomatic infection. It shows that people are actually acknowledging our inter-connection.

Panic is about things we cannot control

Even for those with the privilege to work from a safe, comfortable home, and with loved ones nearby, there is still a lot of uncertainty about what the future will hold. Going out to the grocery store and wondering if you’ve touched your face while standing in line, or whether you’ve cleaned your vegetables properly can cause a panic attack. Our enemy is microscopic. We don’t know when it will hit, if it has hit, or if we or those we love will succumb to it. We also don’t know what it means for our society and how we will interact once this pandemic is over, how long it will last, or even if it will end. Who will we be once it is over? How will it change us? What new behaviours will we have to take on in the future? Will everyone go out with face masks and latex gloves? How will we go to events while maintaining distance? What about flights and cramped long-distance bus rides? What about our jobs?

Uncertain Times

Strange Times, Cartoon by Leunig

The future is never something that we could ever predict, but there are certain things we can usually count on that will most likely be there tomorrow or a week from now. With the corona times as they are, our normal everyday routine has been disrupted, and there is the feeling that our support system has been pulled out from under us. This is a panic-inducing scenario. Those who didn’t already have anxiety or panic attacks before this will now know what it’s like for those who have that as a regular experience. One thing we can do to manage it is to learn to observe the things we have control over, acknowledge what support we do have right here and now in the present, and act mindfully. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of some tips that can help with keeping calm in times of uncertainty, some of which may work for some, but not others, take care of what you can manage yourself right now:

  1. Meditation or guided relaxation
  2. Listening to Sound Healing music
  3. Breathing techniques, such as the Bee Breath during Pinelopi’s grounding sessions
  4. Practicing yoga, Qi Gong or other calming movement practices
  5. Practicing mindfulness as you walk, noticing your feet on the ground
  6. Chewing food slowly, being mindful and grateful for the food you have available
  7. Taking control of the things you can right now – plant a garden, dive into a new project
  8. Joining a new streaming platform and binge watching obscure movies
  9. Being there for others, helping a neighbour, supporting a friend
  10. Reading about how to overthrow capitalism and planning actions to help re-build a future world
  11. …. What are your strategies to remain calm in times of uncertainty? … post in the comments below …

 


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. We are currently offering all of our yoga classes live online. See our schedule for more info.