What is Drishti- Part 1

Drishti´ is a Sanskrit word that has several levels of meaning. Most simply, it can be translated into English as ´the gaze´. In Asana practice, your Drishti is the place where your eyes rest- looking forward over your middle finger in Warrior II, for example, or to the navel in Downward Dog. 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.

Often yoga teachers will remind you of your Drishti point during classes so that you can self-correct your pose. Sometimes teachers will also ask you to direct your gaze into your body, or bring your Drishti point inside. Traditionally, Drishtis are external, but the concept behind an internal focus point is just the same- it helps you to quiet the mind, increases concentration and relaxation, and allows your attention to flow into whatever you are focusing it on.

Each Asana has a Dristhi point. All in all, there are 9: both thumbs, the tip of the nose, the palms of the hands, to the sky, to the left and right side, the navel, the toes and the middle of the eyebrows. Practicing a variety of Drishtis helps to strengthen the muscles and nerves around the eyes, as well as providing a point of focus and concentration in each posture. Dristhi is associated with the fifth limb of yoga, Pratyahara, which concerns the use of the senses. Drishti can be practiced meditatively as a way of literally ´seeing what is right in front of you´ and focusing the senses on reality and away from illusions and neuroses.

One of our main goals in our 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.

The Beauty of Detachment

There are many views on the concept of “detachment”. Some people believe that learning
detachment is useless because life should be lived to its fullest. Others believe that practicing
the art of detachment is dangerous because if nothing affects us we cannot rid the world of its
many injustices. Others believe that detachment is a source of strength and inner peace.

Pratyahara, the yogic word for detachment, has often been badly misunderstood. Yes, we
should live life vividly and enjoy it. Yes, we should speak out against injustice and take
action. But there is also strength in learning how to practice proper detachment which can
help us all to live better lives.

Imagine you are looking at a painting about life. Imagine that you are standing so close to
the painting that your nose is practically touching the painting. All you can see are a couple
of colors and shapes. You are too close to be able to look at the whole picture, to even know
what the painting is about. You are too attached to what is happening right there in front of
your nose and are incapable to see further. Now say you decide that you want to back up
from all the vivid colors and non- understandable shapes and so you distance yourself to about
a kilometer away. You look at the painting again but you are so far away that you can only
see a fleck of something. Once again you cannot know what the painting is about. And this
is where appropriate detachment comes in. You need to find the appropriate distance, not too
close and not too far, to be able to truly appreciate what the painting is.

This same idea is valid for our lives. We need to cultivate the appropriate detachment to be
able to see what our life is about. We can’t be too involved or too distant. By finding just the
right distance, we can see what piece of the puzzle is missing and where to place it. This way
we can live life vividly but without being blind to the problems of it. This way we can rely on
our inner strength to change what needs changing.

Pratyahara is an important step of Raja Yoga. In our English yoga classes in Berlin, we learn
detachment through observing our bodies and respecting the limits our bodies set. We also
learn this through the practice of Tratak, or candle gazing. But mostly we learn it through
the practice of Yoga Nidra. Exercises such as counting your breaths backwards without
interfering with its rhythm are perfect ways to learn detachment.

Understanding Sun Salutations

If you have practiced any kind of yoga before, you are probably familiar with the Sun Salutation sequence. Many teachers begin their classes with a series of sun salutations, so it is one of the first things that most students learn.

But, what is a Sun Salutation?

Here is a bit of information about the history and practice of the Sun Salutation:

sun salutations in yoga kreuzberg

photo by Fern

The Sun Salutation (in Sanskrit, the Surya Namaskara–literally, the salute to the sun) is composed of 8 different asana, and 12 posture changes. Some asana are repeated in the sequence. The postures are performed with specific breath sequencing, which gives the sequence a rhythmic and meditative quality. In some traditions, students pause to chant a mantra in between Sun Salutations. The amount of Sun Salutations in a yoga class varies from teacher to teacher, but, for some, the ´daily limit´ is 108! In the Ashtanga tradition, solstices and equinoxes are celebrated with 108 Sun Salutations.

It is said that the sun salutations sequence was incorporated into yoga by yogis who were distressed by how their bodies atrophied during hours and hours of meditation. The Sun Salutation was discovered as an extremely efficient and meditative way of keeping the physical body healthy, which would allow the yogi to meditate with ease. This is because the sequence hits all of the major muscle groups in the body, stretching and strengthening the upper and lower body while simultaneously lengthening the spine.

If you are new to yoga in Berlin, or anywhere else for that matter, the sun salutation is a great asana sequence to begin practising at home. If you start performing three or four of them each morning, first thing after you get out of bed, you will see your flexibility improve significantly. This is also a great way to start the day quietly and touch base with your body and emotions. You can make the practice more challenging for yourself by slowing down your breathing and your movement. As always in yoga, practising with concentration and intention is the most important piece–try to keep your senses ´in ´ your body and you will be amazed at what benefits you feel from this ancient practice.

Berlin Yoga: Terminology Tuesday

What is Karma?

Karma: it’s a word that brings up many different impressions. For some people it brings up ideas about past lives. For others it conjures up the idea that what goes around comes around. It is an ancient word with a rather complex definition- a vast spiritual law that many try to explain using only their intellect.

photo by Fern

photo by Fern

When people talk about karma they often refer to the law of Karma which states that every action will have a reaction. But it is incredibly important to look further into this philosophy to understand the true definition that seeks to heal people, bring them together and not to create a new method for judgment and division. Our yoga in Kreuzberg focuses on just that- unity, not division, and we caution people to discover this complex term for themselves.

Karma – the word Karma in itself literally only means “action, work, deed”. Today many people in the West use the word Karma loosely and irresponsibly to mean “you get exactly what you deserve”. These are oversimplification of the Vedantic philosophy that often do more harm than good.


Berlin Yoga: Terminology Tuesday

What is Bhramari?

Do you every feel like you are suffering from brain clutter? It doesn’t really matter what you do for a living. It makes no difference how you have set up your social structure. The mind is a masterful and intricate machine, assigned the all-important purpose of sorting through your influences and possibilities and helping you to make decisions. And frankly, sometimes, your mind can seem to have a “mind of its own”.

Part of what we do in our Berlin Yoga classes is attempt to give your mind a break. The premise being that with a little space, a little clearing, your mind will be able to work more harmoniously with your body and your soul. It’s hard to calm this busy machine down. But the practice of yoga is a wonderful way to regularly tune in to yourself in an effort to make peace with the world around you.

This week’s Terminology Tuesday is dedicated to a yoga breathing technique that helps to calm the minds sometimes obsessive thoughts. By explaining these yoga terms we hope to demystify this all important practice so that it may become a part of your everyday life.

Bhramari – is yet another form of Pranayama. The word Bhramari literally means “bee”. This breathing technique requires a humming sound while shutting your ears with your fingers. The sound effect created is very similar to the sound of a bee, making the name quite an accurate description. The after effect is a feeling of calm and wellbeing.

Berlin Yoga: Terminology Tuesday

Pratyahara: withdrawl of the senses

Pratyahara: withdrawl of the senses

In this hectic world of ours we often suffer from overstimulation. Too many headlines, deadlines, voices in our lives and in our heads. There are things all around us that of course, deserve our attention. And so we organize our time and our minds to accommodate the overload- to do the best that we can in a world that just keeps on bringing new things to us, to worry about, work through, discover.

One of the best uses of practicing yoga is to find appropriate detachment from the world around us. Not to a point where we no longer know what is going on but to a point where we can selectively withdrawal from the overload our senses have to offer when it becomes vital for our benefit or even survival.

That leads us to a fine question for this Tuesday, what is Pratyahara?

Pratyahara- means the withdrawal of senses. This is one of the eight steps of Raja Yoga and in our English Yoga in Berlin classes gets practiced through Yoga Nidra (yoga of conscious deep sleep), Pranayama (the breathing techniques), Tratak (candle flame gazing) and concentration on the eyebrow center. Pratyahara teaches us appropriate detachment which is necessary in order to attain inner peace through Raja Yoga. The word pratyahara comes from prati and ahara. Ahara means “food” or anything that we take into our body. Prati is a preposition that means “away”or “against”. Together it means turning away from external stimuli, and thus the withdrawal of senses.

Your Body is not the Enemy

berlin yoga classes

photo from Fern http://flickeflu.com/photos/36576881@N05

I had a student the other day sustain a painful injury by doing nothing. She had been having slight lower back pain for a few days and then one morning she woke up to find that she was unable to use her left leg without excruciating pain. A 33 year old woman in good overall health, there were no previous major injuries to justify this event and she hadn’t done anything recently to cause major strain other than the common psychological stresses of life. She expressed surprise, helplessness and frustration when several doctors could not find the cause. Finally a holistic chiropractic therapist figured out what was wrong and she started to improve.

The therapist suggested that my student stop doing yoga for a while, saying that it may be too strenuous for her pending recovery. But the student told me she explained that this version of yoga, Hatha Yoga, was actually very gentle and that the class was a very supportive environment for healing of all kinds. As she explained this to me she told me that she had tried many types of Yoga in her hometown of Los Angeles and that for the most part it was a flexibility contest- the winner of which inevitably wore the most trendy yoga fashion and excelled at head stands. She said that as a result of yoga in Berlin she understood that this practice wasn’t about abusing the body into meaningless contortions but more about making peace with the body and appreciating what it can do.

In some cultures “no pain, no gain” is a widespread fitness philosophy. But in many cases it gets us into the wrong frame of mind when it comes to our relationship with our bodies. The idea that if it doesn’t hurt a little you aren’t doing anything good for yourself is not only untrue but can really injure both your body and mind in the long run. It can spill into all parts of life, relationships, work etc., creating obvious dysfunction as we associate pain with something positive.

Now don’t get me wrong, growth does hurt and often we have to push past our comfort zones in order to make real progress in our development as humans. But perhaps the key is knowing yourself first- making peace with your body, mind and soul and then becoming more discerning about what kind of pain is good.  The body is an amazing thing that facilitates so much for our minds and our souls and its function should never be taken for granted. What have you done lately to celebrate it?

Early Bird Fall Yoga Special

Yoga in English, BerlinThe end of the summer will bring big changes and we are starting to get excited! Starting on Sept 18th English Yoga Berlin will be moving to a new location and class schedule.
When: Tuesday and Thursday
Where: Görlitzerstr 39 (just a few blocks away from our current location.)
In an effort to get as much of the administration out of the way before our summer pause, we´ve decided to offer an early registration discount for everyone!
Autumn Yoga Discount Package
What:                 Sept 18-end of Oct (7 weeks of classes)
How Much:    €50 (1x/week) or €90 (2x/week)
Deadline:         Aug 10th
If you pay for your autumn yoga classes by August 10th, we´re offering a 10 % discount for September and October. After August 10th, prices will go back to normal.
To take advantage of this special:
1)     Go to Doodle to reserve your class spot(s) for the fall. http://doodle.com/wxe8a87p6qsyz7vk
2)     Once you have selected your classes, please contact us to arrange payment.
Happy August!
Meg and Pinelopi

English Yoga in Schöneberg

English Yoga Berlin is very excited to be offering this new English yoga class on the beautiful hill of Berlin “Schöneberg”. Starting on September 17th, we will be teaching at the  center of Yogah-Berlin  located at Motzstrasse 64, 10777 Berlin-Schöneberg.

English Yoga in Schöneberg – Every Monday:

19.45-21.00  Hatha Yoga in English with Pinelopi

We will be offering a free yoga class on September 17th so that anyone who wishes can try out! Send us an email to sign up for the free class.

Berlin Yoga: Terminology Tuesday

Enlish Yoga in Berlin

As yoga becomes part of our daily lives, so do the most commonly used yoga words begin to enter our every day vocabulary.   I find it beautiful when different languages merge, overlap, get reclaimed and used by people of all cultures. In these globalized times, English is no longer a language just for the English speaking nations, but it is the language that most peoples of the world use to communicate with one another, the language that makes it possible for people of totally different cultures and realities to meet, to communicate, and to fascinate each other.

In my Hatha Yoga classes in Berlin I choose to teach yoga in English. I love to see people from different corners of the world come to our Berlin yoga studio to practice yoga together. I use a lot of Sanskrit yoga words accompanied by an English translation while I teach.  Sometimes though, because of Sanskrit having such a different pronounciation to English, yoga students don’t always learn the words correctly or their meaning. That is why I started Berlin Yoga: Terminology Tuesday, a blog where I explain the basic words used during the yoga class.

This week’s words are Anuloma Viloma.

Anuloma Viloma – is also a form of Pranayama or breathing technique.  Anuloma literally means “in a natural order or direction” and viloma means “produced in reverse order”.  The Anuloma Viloma breath requires one to breathe in through the left nostril and breathe out through the right, and then to reverse that process, breathe in through the right and exhale through the left.  The natural way to breathe for a healthy person who practices Pranayama changes every 1 hour and 50 minutes.  There is always one nostril that is predominant and can breathe easier then the other, and after that time-frame the predominant nostril changes. By practicing Anuloma Viloma we are balancing out that effect.