Body Positive Yoga

pic_bodyposi2This Sunday, Juli will be away and Kanchi brings Body Positive Yoga to our Vinyasa Flow Yoga community class.

When? : Sunday, October 25, 2015 (4-5:30pm)
What? : Body Positive Yoga
How Much? : 12€ drop-in / reduced rate (pay-what-you-can)
Where? : Our Kreuzberg Yoga Studio

Kanchi uses her 20 years of experience practicing yoga to provide Vinyasa Flow or Hatha / Hatha-Flow classes that are designed to provide a safe environment for people of all shapes, sizes, genders and ability levels to experience a yoga asana practice and build a deeper connection with their bodies. All of Kanchi’s classes are queer & trans*friendly.

Why Community Classes?

If you’ve been following our blogs or attending our classes, you know that we’ve been offering sliding-scale community classes at English Yoga Berlin since June 2013. The rising cost of yoga classes in Berlin can deter lower- / no-income people from seeking out a practice that could potentially help them deal with stress and burn-out, or symptoms of chronic illnesses that with less income are harder to treat. We’d like to be able to provide a place where people can learn about the benefits of yoga without worrying about the cost.

Why Body Positive Yoga?

In Juli’s blog “I’m No Barbie Girl”  she outlines the problems of the modern western yoga industry and how it paints a picture of the picture-perfect yogi. This can also be a deterrent to practicing yoga for those who don’t fit that type and who feel they must be flexible to practice yoga. If you’ve ever taken one of our Tantra Yoga classes, you’ll know that yoga is not just about the postures, there’s a whole other world! Literally anyone can practice yoga.

Why Yoga for Queer and Trans* folk?

Also part of body positive yoga is making the space safe for queer and trans* people. 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 teachers (Juli and Kanchi), we can take the first step in making the space more queer and trans* friendly.

We’re looking forward to Kanchi’s Body Positive Yoga on Sunday! It’s a great fit for us at English Yoga Berlin and especially for Juli’s Vinyasa Class.

This season at English Yoga Berlin

“Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby”. –Langston Hughes

No point mourning the end of Summer. There’s plenty to be happy for this Autumn.

Now that the hot days are winding down, we happily put away our swimming gear and bring-out our favourite scarfs. Whether you get ready for a new semester at school, new projects at work, or the city’s cultural season, we know you’re looking forward for the spectacle of colour and light that comes in the next months.

We at EYB are also looking forward to some exciting new classes and some popular continuing ones, to help you get more clarity, and energy for whatever you plan to do this Autumn.

Yoga Kreuzberg Studio

Yoga Kreuzberg Studio

NEW SCHEDULE
Our Autumn Schedule offers you more opportunities to learn and develop your practice of yoga.

Now you can start the week with Hatha yoga –check-out Pinelopi‘s Monday class at 9:45. Our most popular style is also available on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That’s four Hatha Yoga classes each week.

Classical Yoga Tuesdays. This 105-minute class includes lots of pranayama, meditation and many of the methods of tantric kundalini yoga. Each week has a different focus, so check our page for details. Tuesdays at 8pm.

Pregnancy Yoga comes to EYB! Pinelopi draws from her vast experience as a teacher, yogi and mother to teach this class for expecting parents. Read more about this class. Every Monday at 11:45am.

Juli’s beloved Sunday class continues to bring gentle Vinyasa Flow to the people. Our Juli is committed to making yoga available to everyone, so a tight pocket is no longer an excuse for not reaping the benefits of yoga. Read more about Juli’s classes. Pay what you will. Sundays at 4pm.

Welcome to The Lab! Sundays bring a new experimental window to EYB. Every week we’ll have a different teacher/concept, exploring yoga, meditation, psychology, self-expression, and everything in between. Check our website for week by week details. Pay what you will.  Sundays at 6pm.

 

OUR FAMOUS CLEANSING WORKSHOP IS BACK FOR THE ALLERGY SEASON

Yogic Detox

Yogic Detox

FOR OFFICE YOGIS
To welcome the many internationals arriving to Berlin this season, we are offering a 30% discount on all of our Office Yoga packages. Bring the magic of yoga to your workplace and enjoy less stress and more productivity.

Yoga Exchange

Seeking Barter Yogis

GIVE US A HAND? OR TWO?
We need people for flyering, assisting between classes, child care, and more. Do you want to help out in exchange for yoga lessons? Drop us a line! Only responsible people need apply.

THE GIFT OF YOGA
We have gorgeous new gift cards for those of you who want to turn a friend or relative towards yoga. There’s never been a better time to give clarity and energy to someone you love.

A Brief Introduction to Kundalini Yoga

What I don’t mean by Kundalini Yoga

When you hear the term Kundalini Yoga, you may think of the white turbans of Yogi Bhajan and his 3HO. As it happens with many yogic and Sanskrit words, Kundalini is a very old concept that is today almost exclusively associated with the movement that first (or most) popularized it. Yogi Bhajan’s is merely one interpretation of Kundalini Yoga, and a very recent one at that: Kundalini Yoga was first mentioned in the Upanishads around 500BC, Yogi Bhajan’s version dates from 1968.

Born to a Sikh father and a Hindu mother, Yogi Bhajan took the teachings of his yoga guru, Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari, and amalgamated them with the Sikh doctrines of his spiritual leader, Maharaj Virsa Singh. So one could say that Yogi Bhajan’s yoga is a marriage between the Hindu and Sikh traditions (hence the turbans). He wasn’t the first to introduce Kundalini to the West (John Woodroffe did that in the 1910s), but he was the first to remove the secrecy that had surrounded these practices since the dawn of time. He was also extremely successful at spreading his teachings through his controversial Healthy, Happy and Holy Organization (3HO).

Kundalini Yoga has been closely associated to many yoga traditions for centuries, and is a fundamental aspect of Tantra.

What I mean by Kundalini Yoga

According to the tradition in which I was educated; the Tantra of Swami Satyananda, Swami Sivananda, and their teachers all the way to Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th Century; Kundalini Yoga is the science of awakening powerful dormant energies in our body.

Yoga understands man as a group of five interconnected layers, each more subtle than the previous. They are the containers of our true self. These layers are:

1. The Physical Layer

2. The Energy Layer

3. The Mental Layer

4. The Wisdom Layer

5. The Bliss Layer

The physical layer is what we know as the body. The mental layer includes our automatic thoughts and feelings, as well as the experiencing of our senses and our instinctive impulses. The Wisdom Layer, also known as the higher mind, contains our intuition and intellect, our capacity for judgment and our awareness. The bliss layer is thus called because it is experienced as a permanent state of spiritual bliss; a consciousness of completeness.

And what about the energy layer? This is the realm of aNadis subtle life force that animates our whole body. Eastern models of man agree that the body is permeated by energy channels (called Nadis in Yoga, and meridians in Chinese medicine). The energy that flows through these subtle channels, the Qi of Qi-Gong, the Chi of Thai Chi, the Prana of Pranayama, is the stuff that Kundalini is made off.

In the yogic model, it is said that there are thousands of channels moving prana through the body. Of these, three are most important: Sushumna, which runs along the spine, from the perineum to the crown of the head; and Ida and Pingala, which run in a weave alongside Sushumna. Ida and Pingala cross Sushumna at several points, at each of which we find one of the major chakras (see image).

So what is Kundalini? It is a latent energy that resides at the root of Sushumna, in the location of Mooladhara chakra. This energy can be awakened and made to ascent along the main nadi, lighting up our chakras like a Christmas tree. This event, known as Kundalini awakening, activates currently silent parts of our brain and our energy body, endowing us with all sorts of fantastic powers and abilities. This is the goal of Kundalini yoga.

Before we awaken Kundalini though, we must first purify the nadis, then awaken the chakras, and finally prepare Sushumna for the passage of this energy. This is a process that takes years, even decades, but along the way one reaps the many benefits of this sort of practice.

With only a few months of practicing the Kundalini techniques, one starts becoming aware of the prana flowing through the body. This awareness increases our perception of self, allowing us to be more conscious of our posture, our mental fluctuations, and even our normally unconscious radiation. Working with the chakras quietly develops abilities that we never thought we could cultivate, like our intuition, our receptivity and our ability to communicate beyond the words we use.

Personally, I don’t care about raising my Kundalini this year, but I have found in the practice of Tantric Kundalini yoga a ready tool to live a more plentiful and satisfying life. Furthermore, the methods of this ancient science can be used for all sorts of therapeutic and practical reasons, or simply to get more energy (stamina) and mental strength.

In his Classical Yoga lessons at English Yoga Berlin, Pedro teaches many of the Tantric Kundalini methods, such as Shambhavi Mudra, Agnisara Kriya, and various powerful pranayama techniques .

What is Karma Yoga and How Can I Practice it?

Karma is one of the most famous and, at the same time, misunderstood Sanskrit words. But its meaning is quite simple and unambiguous: Karma = To Do. All action is Karma. Of course, there is also the so-called Law of Karma, which is one of the most beautiful and universal laws, recognized both by science and metaphysics: Everything happens in pairs –cause and effect, action and reaction. And this is what people usually refer to when they use silly expressions like “Bad Karma”. Yet, in its widest sense, the word Karma means the sum aggregate of who we are; the result of all our actions, thoughts, and feelings. Swami Vivekananda compares each individual action (thoughts and feelings too) to a single blow of the sculptor on stone. Karma, in this sense, is the resulting sculpture: the sum of all the blows. Who we are.

“We are responsible for what we are; and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves. If what we are now has been the result of our own past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in future can be produced by our present actions; so we have to know how to act.”
(Swami Vivekananda)

marx engels

For the purposes of this post the word Karma takes is most basic meaning: Action. And so Karma Yoga is the yoga of action. Or the pursuit of self-knowledge by doing. And what is it that we should do? Anything that needs doing! Karma Yoga allows us to become more conscious by carrying-out our daily duties and tasks. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But it’s not that simple. Work or action doesn’t in itself lead to self-knowledge. Only work that is performed with awareness and detachment, qualifies as Karma Yoga. The work itself is not even that important; how we do it is what counts.

When we act in the attitude of Karma Yoga, we become conscious of our reactions, of the mental expressions of our work. Do we become frustrated with failure? Are we over-eager for the results? Do we manifest impatience, insecurity, carelessness? Through Karma Yoga we can access this knowledge about ourselves, while remaining centered. We don’t get swayed by what we discover, we simply experience. Through this practice we let go of expectations, mental or physical blockages and anything else that makes us dependent or repels us.

Do you want to try it? Next time you set down to do your work, remain present and aware, keep returning again and again to be fully in what you’re doing. Be conscious of all the tendencies of your mind (boredom, restlessness, etc.) and let them be — just do your work and be the witness of everything that happens around that.

Becoming a Karma Yogi doesn’t happen overnight. But if you’re sincere, and you stick to it, you will start noticing some very strong effects with only a few weeks of regular practice. Whether you do house-chores or sit at an office; whether you’re a volunteer, and intern or a high-flying executive; whether you’re happy with your work or not; Karma Yoga is a ready and useful tool to become more you than you are now.

Yoga and Self-Acceptance

iamtheseer

Some people think that yoga is about self-improvement. Although this is not an entirely crazy concept, it is essentially misguided, and also a rather dangerous attitude. The problem with self-improvement is that it follows the assumption that somehow, we are not good enough, or that constantly struggling to make ourselves better is a precondition to living a fulfilling life. This is like putting the cart before the horse.

Self-improvement, like positive thinking, anger management and so many other devices of the prosperous self-help industry, are superficial and ineffective ways to deal with our neuroses. They may work for some people, some of the time, but they often suppress other problems that will eventually manifest themselves in one way or another – for example, as an explosion of the repressed feeling, or as psychosomatic disorders. In the best of cases, they treat the symptom, while doing little to eradicate the disease.

It’s true that yoga leads to self-improvement, but this is more of a side effect. And, like so many things in life, it is blocked if we obsess about it (hasn’t it happened to you, that only when you give up desperately wishing for something, does it finally happen?).  In any case, real self-improvement doesn’t come about without self-acceptance. And self-acceptance is impossible without self-knowledge. Self-Knowledge… now that sounds closer to the point of yoga –IF there was a point to yoga.

But let’s stay with self-acceptance.

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself”, goes the old wisdom. But how about loving ourselves like we love our neighbor? I dare say that we’re all excellent friends. We take friendship as seriously as any other job: We comfort our friends when they need a shoulder to cry on; we encourage them when they need a little confidence boost; we celebrate with them when they achieve some success. We love them and cherish them unconditionally. How many of us can say that about our relationship with ourselves?

And the irony is that self-acceptance would make us even better friends. Our attitude towards ourselves influences our attitudes towards others. Self-acceptance translates into a more tolerant attitude to everybody around us; it frees us from comparison and competition and allows us to have a more harmonious relationship to our environment. Make this experiment: Next time you find yourself criticizing somebody else, stop for a second and ask “What is it about myself that I’m unhappy with?” If you’re honest with yourself, you may discover that there is some self-dissatisfaction triggering the criticism.

Self-acceptance is not the same as self-esteem. It goes rather deeper. While self-esteem represents one’s judgment of one’s worth; self-acceptance doesn’t consider worth as being the question. Self esteem is an appraisal of our value, while self-acceptance is an unconditional admission of adequacy. Self-esteem considers our virtues and achievements, while self-acceptance embraces all facets of ourselves. Self-esteem still allows for narcissism, arrogance and immature perceptions of self, while self-acceptance dismantles all these traps of the ego.

But, I don’t want to accept my flaws, I want to change them!

Despite all the yoga asanas we do, the yoga classes we attend, the meditation we undertake, despite all the therapy and all the self-improvement, true self-acceptance still eludes us. In my opinion, the reason for this is precisely our obsession with making ourselves better. The focus is all on how yoga benefits you, or how therapy makes you better. Why can we not relax for a moment and stop trying to improve everything about us? Why can we not accept that we will never be perfect?  –OK fine, even if we can’t stop pushing ourselves to be better and better, we need to realize that the best way to move forward this is to accept where we are right now.

Please understand that this acceptance doesn’t mean agreement. One doesn’t have to resign to a character “flaw” in order to accept it. One merely acknowledges that this is where one finds oneself, today. This is the starting point. Self-acceptance is letting go of struggle, so we can start the process of moving-on.

Although, as previously expressed, the avid pursuit of self-improvement is not an effective solution to our problems, the desire for improvement, the motivation to be better parents, friends or humans is healthy and inspiring. So, will accepting myself make me complacent and stifle my growth? On the contrary: True change is unlikely without self-acceptance.

To accept ourselves we must be aware of our different aspects, and this awareness is essential for change. Simply by experiencing something without being swayed by it we’re able to let it go. It works with everything. You can try it: Next time you’re doing a yoga pose become aware of any tension you have in the pose. Just experience the area where you feel tension, without wanting the tension to go away, without resisting it. Be there – feeling it, accepting it. And notice what happens: the tension gradually, but surely dissolves, or becomes more bearable. Go ahead, try it!

Sounds strange, but it actually makes a lot of sense. By becoming frustrated with something, by analyzing it and judging it as good or bad, we’re actually clinging to it. We’re not letting go. By witnessing something and accepting it, we can achieve the level of detachment that allows us to drop it and move forward. Just think of the addict. Any expert will tell you that an important step in conquering addiction is to accept it. The alternative would be to deny the reality of our situation, and in this denial, neurosis lurks.

A telling fact is that acceptance is the last stage of the grief process as defined by Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Without acceptance we simply cannot move on.

How can yoga help?

My teacher, Swami Janakananda asks: “Can you experience and respect the current conditions of your life?”, then he goes on to explain that this is the first step towards transformation. His teacher, Swami Satyananda said: “An important step in yoga is to accept your nature as much as you’re able.”  Satyananda spoke a lot about self-acceptance, and the reason is that acceptance of self is crucial to yoga and tantra. Tantra has even been called the way of acceptance. If you look at many of the tantric methods, they teach us to allow and accept any emotions and thoughts as a first step to letting them go.

So yoga can certainly help with self-acceptance. The mere act of practicing the asanas, of bending your body as far as it wants to go, requires a degree of acceptance that this is as flexible as we are right now. It helps us discover that this flexibility can change from day to day, or from morning to evening. But more importantly, it helps us realize that it doesn’t really matter whether we can reach our toes or not. The posture works anyway.

Acceptance depends on awareness. It is impossible to accept something that we haven’t experienced. And, as any experienced yogi knows, developing the ability to experience is one of the benefits of yoga. For example, when we practice breath awareness – just being aware of the breath, without changing it – we are required to accept the current way our body is breathing, whether is shallow, or fast, or irregular. We soon discover that by simply experiencing our breath, letting it be however it is, it gradually becomes slower, fuller, more rhythmic.

One direct and powerful way to train self-acceptance is through tantric meditations such as Antar Mouna. In Antar Mouna we experience the sense perceptions or the spontaneous thought process, and we learn to keep our mental hands off whatever happens. If suddenly the shrill scream of a baby breaks the peace, that doesn’t disturb the meditation, it simply becomes part of it. If the baby’s scream does disturb or causes some other mental reaction, then that mental reaction too is accepted as part of the meditation. We experience and accept whatever we become aware of during the practice (inside or out), letting it come and go without resisting or clinging to it. If we abruptly feel anger, or self-loathing, or any destructive emotion, then we become fully conscious of it, and allow it, again without pushing it away or holding on to it. We also don’t analyze it or try to explain or justify it (that would also be clinging); we simply witness it come and go.

Whatever we experience in such a way looses its hold on us – by feeling it fully, we exhaust it. It is only those things that we don’t allow ourselves to feel that keep on influencing us.

But here we’re talking about something that one should experience in order to truly understand it. Yoga and tantra are not theoretical or philosophical endeavors, but rather a living tradition that offers us methods for daily life. So, do some yoga and discover how it can help you to stop fussing and start living.

English Yoga Berlin offers yoga in English out of our Kreuzberg studio. We teach hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga, yoga nidra, restorative yoga and classical yoga, and our classes include yoga asanas (yoga poses), pranayama (breathing) and meditation. Our emphasis is on community yoga and we strive to make our yoga classes as high quality, accessible and inclusive as possible, so that all members of our community can share the ways in which yoga benefits modern life. You can learn more about us here.

Beat the Winter Blues with Restorative Yoga

Rejuvenate

Relaxing by candlelight

Whether you celebrate Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, or Dōngzhì, or no religious-cultural festival at all, the months of November and December in the Northern Hemisphere can be a stressful time of year. Winter is starting to hit hard, the hours of light dwindling down to their shortest, and the temperature is dropping. Additional stresses can wear us down; such as family or work social obligations, exams, deadlines, trip-planning, and attempts at tying up our own loose ends or goals for the year. Our hibernation impulse kicks in, and we want to stay inside where it’s warm and snack on comfort food.

At English Yoga Berlin we are offering a special 6-week Restorative Yoga course to help you alleviate winter stresses and regenerate your self-care, ending with a special class on December 21st, the winter solstice. Just in time for the daylight hours to start increasing again.

When:   Sundays 6-7:30pm, Nov. 16 through Dec. 21, 2014.
Where: Our Kreuzberg Yoga Studio
Price:    100€ for the whole course / 20€ per drop-in class
               registered monthlies 90€ / 2 stamps on a 5er card


Please contact us for more info – (to register, bring half the fee in cash to the first class)


Why Restorative Yoga?

In our everyday lives, we are often encouraged to push further, achieve more, do more, be more social, be more productive, fill our days with activities and take on more work. It is easy to lose sight of our own capacities, our own limits, and we can push ourselves beyond them without nurturing the support structure that we need to maintain a healthy balance, inviting stress, anxiety, injuries or illness. A restorative yoga practice (as well as yoga nidra and other practices that focus on relaxation) can help to rejuvenate the body and mind after pushing too far, thereby fostering balance. Once we know our limits and have nurtured them we can then gently (and with support) test the waters and play at the edges.

Expanding our limits (and moving beyond our comfort zone) can cause great rewards such as opening our minds to new concepts, becoming more flexible or physically strong, and strengthening our empathy towards other people. But it’s not possible to find balance if all we feel is stress, low energy and burn out. Restorative yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for nurturing our bodies and restoring them to health. When we are in a rushed and high-energy state, our bodies activate the ‘sympathetic nervous system,’ which is responsible for releasing certain chemicals to keep us going, so that we can react quickly and do more within a shorter period of time – a state of fight-or-flight. These chemicals can linger in the body until the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to counter them. And we can remain in this state long after the specific things that have caused us anxiety or stress have ended. This is why we sometimes feel that ‘relaxing’ (meeting friends, watching TV, reading a book) cannot rejuvenate us. We may have trouble sleeping or have anxious dreams, which only perpetuate the feeling of urgency, stress, and low energy.

What is Restorative Yoga?

The only way to counter these effects in our body is with complete and total concentrated relaxation. Activities that remove distractions, such as meditation, sitting by a fire, or going for a solitary walk can help. Yoga Nidra and Restorative Yoga are specifically designed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, so that the body and mind can restore to balance. Restorative Yoga is based on the Iyengar tradition of using props to support the body during poses.

Some of these poses were adapted by Judith Lasater for a restorative practice, so that deep relaxation could occur by holding positions longer (up to 15 minutes) with the support of bolsters, blocks, chairs, pillows and blankets. The body is positioned in such a way that it is totally supported, without the need to either stretch the muscles or use their power. A restorative pose should be very very comfortable and relaxing so that the muscles of the body can decompress, and the mind can completely unwind, fostering the release of chemicals from the parasympathetic nervous system. The restorative yoga classes we provide at English Yoga Berlin incorporate a gentle flow, along with some chair-supported Hatha poses (beneficial for those needing to strengthen their bones and joints because of Osteoporosis or Arthritis), followed by long-held poses in a warm candlelit room, and accompanied by gentle pressure point massage.

What is Tantra – Part 1

 

This is the first installment of a series of blogs discussing the ancient science of tantra.

The word tantra today almost invariably conveys notions of sexual practices, it has become synonymous with sacred sexuality or ritual intercourse. A huge industry has developed around this idea: books, videos, massage parlors, and countless lifestyle items that use the word Tantra simply as a marketing ploy.

tantraIt’s easy to take a cynical view of this idea of tantra as purely a sexual practice, but that wouldn’t be very tantric. At the heart of tantra there is an absolute tolerance and acceptance of other people’s beliefs. It’s not uncommon to find seemingly opposing viewpoints and methods existing side by side in tantra, for the tantric knows that all differences are only superficial.

But tantra is so much more than glorified sex! It is an all-encompassing science that aims at expanding our experience of everyday life. And as such it covers every aspect of life: from morning to evening; from birth to death. It informs our understanding and experience of the physical universe, the laws of society, the construction of buildings, the different levels of awareness, medicine, religion, rites of passage, yogic methods, etc., etc. In the words of Swami Satyananda, tantra “is a system that teaches us how to fully know and use the world we live in”. So naturally sex is included, just like everything else.

Tantra is a living heritage that has existed all over the world, in different guise, since prehistoric times. Did you think that tantra was exclusive to India? There is archaeological evidence of tantra in pre-columbian America, Egypt, pre-christian Europe as well as many Asian cultures. It was not invented or formulated as such, it did not originate from any organized system, but rather evolved and grew from man’s experience of the world. It sprang with each individual as the natural response to the primal urge of self-knowledge.

But what is it, actually? Because of its universality and its refusal of dogma, because of its immense scope and its willingness to be permeated by any system that works, tantra is not easy to define. At its core, is the understanding that spiritual awakening can be achieved by anyone, under any circumstances, at any level of existence. It aims to work within each person’s uniqueness using whatever methods are necessary to attain a higher awareness and a fuller day-to-day experience. It starts from the acceptance of one’s nature and it works with that nature without demands of any special conditions or disciplines. One doesn’t need to stop drinking or having an active sex life, one doesn’t need to become vegetarian or adopt any belief or moral code – spiritual evolution is possible regardless of one’s tendencies or way of life. Man should not oppose or resist nature; he should be spontaneous and flow with it.

Although the tantric sages have developed a sound and sophisticated philosophy through the ages, tantra is fundamentally a practical system. It is referred to as sadhana shastra – which means practice-oriented scripture. It is made up of a huge number of different practices to suit every type of person. Insight and development can only occur thought practical observation. Belief and intellectual understanding are useless if they are not validated by the proof of personal experience.

In the next part of this series, we will learn the meaning of the word tantra, based on its Sanskrit roots, and discover the two concepts that are common to all the different tantric traditions: Energy and Consciousness.

Honouring your limits and restoring balance: A new restorative yoga class, and a guest teacher!

This Thursday, Natalie Kakon joins us as a guest teacher in our community class: “Unwind and release; allow your stress to slip away by yoking to a feeling of infinite space within the body. Learn how to expand your chest and lengthen your spine with the support of blocks, blankets and chairs. Bring your body back to its individual balance while connecting to a deep sense of relaxation. Join us for a restorative, yin practice.”

 

What?:  Restorative Yoga with Natalie Kakon

Where?:    At the English Yoga Berlin studio

When?:    Thursday, November 7, from 15h45 till 17h15

How much?:   Donation based/pay what you can

 

Our weekly Restorative Yoga class with Juli happens every Sunday evening at 18h in our Kreuzberg yoga studio.

 

 

 

Why Restorative Yoga?

In our everyday lives, we are often encouraged to push further, achieve more, do more, be more social, be more productive, fill our days with activities and take on more work. It is easy to lose sight of our own capacities, our own limits, and we can push ourselves beyond them without nurturing the support structure that we need to maintain a healthy balance, inviting stress, anxiety, injuries or illness. A restorative yoga practice (as well as yoga nidra and other practices that focus on relaxation) can help to rejuvenate the body and mind after pushing too far, thereby fostering balance. Once we know our limits and have nurtured them we can then gently (and with support) test the waters and play at the edges.

Expanding our limits (and moving beyond our comfort zone) can cause great rewards such as opening our minds to new concepts, becoming more flexible or physically strong, and strengthening our empathy towards other people. But it’s not possible to find balance if all we feel is stress, low energy and burn out. Restorative yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for nurturing our bodies and restoring them to health. When we are in a rushed and high-energy state, our bodies activate the ‘sympathetic nervous system,’ which is responsible for releasing certain chemicals to keep us going, so that we can react quickly and do more within a shorter period of time – a state of fight-or-flight. These chemicals can linger in the body until the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to counter them. And we can remain in this state long after the specific things that have caused us anxiety or stress have ended. This is why we sometimes feel that ‘relaxing’ (meeting friends, watching TV, reading a book) cannot rejuvenate us. We may have trouble sleeping or have anxious dreams, which only perpetuate the feeling of urgency, stress, and low energy.

What is Restorative Yoga?

The only way to counter these effects in our body is with complete and total concentrated relaxation. Activities that remove distractions, such as meditation, sitting by a fire, or going for a solitary walk can help. Yoga Nidra and Restorative Yoga are specifically designed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, so that the body and mind can restore to balance. Restorative Yoga is based on the Iyengar tradition of using props to support the body during poses.

Some of these poses were adapted by Judith Lasater for a restorative practice, so that deep relaxation could occur by holding positions longer (up to 15 minutes) with the support of bolsters, blocks, chairs, pillows and blankets. The body is positioned in such a way that it is totally supported, without the need to either stretch the muscles or use their power. A restorative pose should be very very comfortable and relaxing so that the muscles of the body can decompress, and the mind can completely unwind, fostering the release of chemicals from the parasympathetic nervous system. A restorative yoga class may contain some gentle flow or Hatha poses before moving into the longer-held restorative poses.

The classes we do at English Yoga Berlin incorporate a gentle flow, along with some chair-supported Hatha poses (beneficial for those needing to strengthen their bones and joints because of Osteoporosis or Arthritis). Our community class guest teacher, Natalie Kakon, will incorporate some Yin poses in her class. Yin poses use gravity to help open up the body to deeper stretches, encouraging more flexibility. Yin yoga is about finding the edge of your limit and breathing through it to open up a little more space. This particular combination of restorative and yin poses can be very juicy, as it can support the return to balance as well as gently push the edges all in one class!

Is Yoga Good for Business?: An Interview with Shaleah Dawnyel

Small Business Coach, Shaleah Dawnyel

The classes we offer in Kreuzberg are as varied as the people who attend them. We have artists, activists, doctors, parents and business people. We offer Classical yoga, Hatha, Vinyasa Flow and Restorative yoga to make sure that there is something for everybody. And because we offer affordable classes in English and Spanish, we often attract people from around the world who are starting a new life here in Berlin.

Recently, we did an interview with one of our longest attending students. Shaleah Dawnyel is a small business coach in Berlin who focuses her work on helping freelancers and entrepreneurs to move their businesses forward. She is also one of the biggest supporters of our yoga school as she is constantly sending overworked and overstressed people our way. So, we took some time to ask her why.

 

What made you start coming to English Yoga Berlin?

The stress of my international move is what originally prompted me to come to the studio. I was looking for some way to handle my anxiety about being an expat-freelancer who was starting over from scratch here in Berlin. But when I moved from LA, I had the wrong idea about yoga. I thought mediation was a bunch of crap and therefore I thought yoga was too. It’s a big industry where I come from where people are often trying to prove how holy, bendy and yoga trendy fashion conscious they are. When I discovered English Yoga Berlin, it totally changed my perspective.

What’s so different about our yoga classes?

EYB classes are always so nurturing, supportive and challenging. They aren’t filled with esoteric babble but rather a lot of practical wisdom. And the yoga teachers are not only knowledgeable but down to earth. They teach me to explore my personal limits and then to support myself once I have found them. This is a hard thing in life and business: knowing when to push and when to accept things as they are. The difference between go time and wait time is illustrated so clearly every day on the mat and it has helped me enormously to be able to identify what time it is in this big life transition.

How has your yoga practice helped you in your work?

I have learned to breathe through discomfort. This has helped me during difficult meetings. I have learned that every day I have a different capacity for things. This has helped me with effective time management. Yoga Nidra shows you how to visualize things in a relaxed state. This has taught me to achieve my goals with less striving effort. By learning to respect my own limits, I have actually become a better business person. I don’t ignore my instincts like I used to, but instead respect them as I know they are giving me valuable information about the current situation as it is unfolding. I don’t take situations with clients personally anymore because I have the benefit of the kind of perspective that regular yoga practice creates. When you become an audience to your life and work, you become exponentially more effective in everything you do.

What advice would you give freelancers and entrepreneurs who are thinking about starting yoga?

Do it. Seriously. If I was to give you just a short list of all the potential benefits of regular yoga practice it would include: more restful sleep, more energy, better focus, less stress and relief of back pain etc. In addition to this, I have noticed that with my small business clients and myself, the emotional and psychological benefits are exponential! Many freelancers and entrepreneurs over-work themselves because they simply don’t know when to stop. They continually struggle with understanding what is “enough”. Over time, this causes burn out. Any time we access and accept what is really going on inside us and use it- things have the potential to drastically improve. Regular yoga practice has helped me to manage anxiety, cultivate more creative thoughts and put them into action, increasing my self-confidence. By learning when to stop, I have become more effective in my “go time”.

 

But one word of caution- don’t just go anywhere for yoga. Go somewhere you feel good. Shop around if you have to because it’s an individual experience that should bring you what you personally need. English Yoga Berlin has small classes that make me feel like I am being simultaneously cared for and challenged. I look forward to being in the studio every week and I am truly grateful for their contribution to my life and work!

Why Should We Care About Self- Care?

Self-care is a contemporary psychological concept that has become more and more popularized over the past decade. It is a loose, individually-defined term that encompasses any activity that you undertake in order to increase or maintain your own emotional and physical wellbeing. It also includes strategies to self-soothe, and to celebrate yourself.

Photo by Fern

So, in more concrete terms: self-care is whatever you do to ”fill up your tank”. Eating well, taking a nap, playing with your pet, spending some time in nature, doing some artwork… Self-care is essential but it shouldn’t feel like a chore. It should be something that makes you feel good afterwards, that leaves you feeling rested and, well, cared for.

What Self-care is Not

 But it is easy to misunderstand the difference between what gives a temporary fix and what is truly classified as self-care. It is different for everyone but there are a few basic truths. Self-care is not compulsive. It’s not eating till you can’t feel anything anymore, or drinking till you black out. These things might help you numb uncomfortable feelings, but they won’t leave you feeling good afterwards. Self-care is also not indulgent. It’s not about going on a spending spree and then dreading getting your bank statement in the mail. Again, this might give you a temporary feeling of freedom, but you’re going to feel angry at yourself afterwards.

Self-care and Yoga

So what does yoga have to do with all of this? Well, first and most basically, gentle, relaxing physical activity releases endorphins that calm the mind and the body and leave you feeling great. Breathing deeply does the same thing. Visualizations stimulate your imagination and allow you to release unconsciously held fears. So, as a regular practice, yoga will absolutely help you to feel better, and will do it quickly, too.

 But perhaps more interesting are the subtler and longer term effects that Yoga has on people and their capacity for self-care. As you start to relax long-held tensions and re-arrive in your body, you begin to realize lots of things about yourself. You begin to see that you have boundaries, that you are sensitive to the world around you, that you deserve healthy relationships and healthy surroundings, and that, in fact, you can make choices about your life. You get better at realizing what you need, articulating it and making it happen. You realize that you can trust your gut and that you can leave bad situations whenever you need to. In short, you become better at self-care. This is why Yoga heals people so dramatically.

 So, contrary to what advertising and marketing companies will tell you, self-care is not something that is going to cost you a fortune in expensive mysterious techniques in exotic locations. It’s something that only you can discover and practice for yourself. And if becoming a more centered, conscious and honest human being is selfish, perhaps it’s all time we started.

What does self-care mean to you?