5 signs that you need yoga at your workplace

 

short attention span1# Do you find that your concentration lags after 45 minutes, even if you did: 

  • have a healthy breakfast?
  • walked into work with plenty of fresh air?
  • slept fairly good last night?

There are countless articles on business organisations attempting to combat distraction in the office.  The issues are the technology employed in communicating internally (too many emails); the hyper-connectivity available to us all the time demanding our attention (mobile phones, social media); the multitasking nature required by our job roles.

Concentration and focus is rapidly becoming a real issue in the modern workplace.  Interruptions can be beneficial in refreshing our resolve and perspective when we look back at a task.  Still, productivity can take a toll as workers go back to the job in hand working faster and faster, causing stress.

Yoga at your workplace is one of the most efficient and effective ways of counteracting these concentration lags and grounding the multitasking nature of today’s world.

A regular yoga practice helps employees develop skills in how to clear and focus the mind and become more aware of their sensations, learning how to release them. This gets taught through techniques of movement, breath, visualization and relaxation.

 2# Do you make far too many cups of tea, and make them for the whole department?

  1. a) your true vocation is to open a tea and fancies shop or
  1. b) your brain is just crying out for more oxygen – through movement rather than through tea.
yoga at the workplace

Your body needs a breath of fresh air, like a stretch

In our experience of delivering yoga in office environments, the latter is the most common. Regardless of our best intentions, it is a challenge for our bodies to sustain its energy in a closed environment, sitting on a chair for long periods of time.

Of course, in response to this, YouTube videos of desk yoga are popping up all over the place. This, however, ends up being another entry in our endless to do lists, another random distraction and can at times be dubious of actually delivering results.

A weekly group yoga session in your workplace can instead provide an interactive and supervised experience.  It brings the benefits of controlled, injury conscious movement, tips on posture, breathing techniques.  It nurtures ways to cultivate a mind-set that also helps with anxiety, depression, sugar and nicotine cravings – so the workplace becomes invested in health promotion.

yoga at your workplace

Posture related back pain is common in an office environment

 

3# Do you take a painkiller everyday because your back hurts? Or maybe it is your neck that is stiff, and your shoulders and upper back are crying out for relief? Or your eyes are burning and your head feels full of fog by the end of the day?

You might work in an office that can afford to invest in one of those adjustable desks for every employee to be able to work standing for part of the time. However, the issues connected to repetitive movement, of holding your arms forward to type, of staring at a lit surface like a screen all day remain.

Yoga at your workplace offers most of all the opportunity to become aware of what we do and how we do it;

how we sit

how much interrupted time we spend at the screen

how we breathe unconsciously

how we slump and more.

 

We do all of the above differently as individuals according to our health and psychological history.  Meeting an experienced Yoga teacher every week can help workers address their specific individual issues.

4# Do you wish you could connect to your colleagues in better conditions than during your quick trip to the water cooler or while washing your hands in the bathroom? Are you wishing they didn’t just see you rushing from the desk to the kitchen?

business yoga

Yoga as a group at the office (photo by enfad)

Practising yoga as a group helps to build empathy, solidarity and communication amongst participants. It allows each person to relax individually, to look at their colleagues in a different light, to learn something new and to nourish themselves amidst their busy work day. Participants report going back to their desks feeling refreshed, energized and positive.

5# Are you hooked on books about anxiety and success? And you really would love to learn to embrace your workload as a challenge to look forward to, rather then the familiar old anxiety ridden pattern of achieving through pressure?

The workplace nowadays requires you to thrive, and that is exciting. It speaks to us about opportunity and development, which are all human needs.  Unfortunately the price tag for many of us is anxiety, fear of failure, hyper-alertness and burnout.

When a person burns out, it takes a huge toll on the individual and on the people around them: their family, friends, community and co-workers. Managers need to stay alert to these risks, and put structures in place to help their staff cope. It’s estimated that burn out and mental health stress costs the European economy billions of euros per year. Any business that wants to remain effective, cohesive and innovative needs to invest in the physical and psychological wellness of its staff: happy, balanced employees make for a creative, capable team and an effective, flexible organisation.

Yoga at your workplace addresses all that with a mix of physical movement, breathing techniques and an understanding of how body and mind are connected. It raises an awareness and provides concrete steps to address imbalances and a self-responsible attitude.

Are you interested in providing a business yoga class to your employees? Pinelopi offers high quality business yoga that addresses all the issues named in this article.

Click here to book a class, or contact Pinelopi directly: pinelopi (at) englishyogaberlin (dot) com.

5 reasons why the best time for business yoga is at lunch

business yoga in Berlin

Lunchtime: everyone is doing yoga

After years of experience of offering business yoga, we have developed an understanding of when yoga in a working day is both a beneficial and sustainable commitment for a business and its employees, and….. it is not a time slot that necessarily makes sense to the human resources department!

 

When a business approaches us, it typically asks for after-work business yoga or early morning sessions. These time frames tend to be very popular at the beginning of a business yoga season and then lose momentum within the next six months. The businesses that, however, choose a lunchtime yoga session are the ones that end up having a business yoga class running for years! Here are five reasons why:

1. It does not feel like longer work days.

When choosing after work in-office yoga, employees feel that their workday is getting lengthened.  It’s like an optical illusion: of course it is not work, but we know and can relate to the fact that employees remain in the office longer -even though they are not working- and that somehow translates in their psyche as “longer work days”….

2. It keeps it realistic.

Getting out of the house even earlier to go to work for your in-office early morning yoga class? In winter?? In Berlin??? A wonderful idea in principle… but in reality….. (tick the one that applies to you):

– the kids need breakfast

– the bed is warm

– you got a long commute

– last night you had a great party

– last night you could not sleep

– you need to meditate at least 30 minutes (with or without coffee)

– it’s the only time you can really catch up with your partner or yourself

– all of the above and more

 

…so, getting out earlier in winter is unrealistic. Most people are trying to stay healthy, fight off colds, and need their sleep and to move at their own pace. Lunchtime yoga does not ask any more time of employees in the workplace.

3.  Sweating in the workplace can become an obstacle.

Employees are self conscious about sweating in their office. It sounds obvious, but this took us some time to discover… and no one ever really admits it. When you strive for an early morning class with a strong work-out in an office where showers are not available…. one of the reasons that fails is …. sweat.  Hatha Yoga and gentle Vinyasa Yoga can be taught without working up a sweat, addressing back and shoulder pain, fuzziness and sluggishness, while bringing more oxygen to the brain.  No sweating or further injury with contorted poses or fast sequences in an early morning class; more about presence, mindfulness, a sharpened kind of awareness.

4. It gives you a new lease of life for afternoon to come.

 You got the urgent stuff out of the way first, now it’s time to deal with the important juicy tasks:  enjoy a new wave of energy with a gentle, balancing and energising lunch yoga practice.  Employees get to compare their state of mind before and after yoga in the office, and they also get to look at their colleagues in a different light, which can go a long way in strengthening working relationships

5. It is inclusive to people who are caretakers .

We are talking about people with children, or carers for parents or others, for whom home is mainly more work. It is a grateful, loving kind of work, but work nonetheless. It is often very hard for these people to be able to attend a pre- or after- work yoga class as they are often juggling more schedules than just their own. A weekly yoga class could tip the scales for them in helping them to not get sick and to build a relationship to the workplace as a source of support and care.

Think of these reasons when choosing the time in which to offer business yoga as a contribution to your workforce.  A weekly in-company yoga class is something that employees can look forward to every week. It’s an opportunity for each individual to relax and rejuvenate their body and mind, and for the group to build trust, relationship and communication with each other. Office yoga classes offer a healthy injection of positivity and wellness into your workplace culture.

We at English Yoga Berlin offer business yoga and special events to businesses in Berlin.  Contact us if you are interested!

Yoga Alexander Technique workshop-3 hrs-July 2018

As our six-day Yoga Alexander Technique workshop is booked up, we are now offering a smaller version of the workshop for those of you who didn’t get to take part.

Berlin Yoga and the Alexander TechniqueWHEN:            Wednesday 18th July 6pm – 9pm

WHERE:          English Yoga Berlin, Görlitzer Str 39, Kreuzberg

FOR WHO:      For any one with an interest in yoga or the Alexander technique.

TAUGHT BY:  Rossella Buono and David Moore from the School of F.M. Alexander Studies

PRICE:              €30

The Yoga Alexander Technique workshop consists of one afternoon in which we will develop an individualized practice and an understanding of the uniqueness of the use of yourself in movement and at rest.

The workshop will offer an active and practical investigation of:

· Coordination and posture from an Alexander Technique perspective
· Modifying yoga poses
· Kinaesthesia
· Doing and non-doing
· Directing energy through the body
· Identifying and overcoming habits

– All abilities and levels of experience.

– Absolute beginners are welcome!

– Please wear comfortable clothes.

Booking is strongly recommended to insure a place. To book your place click here or contact:

Rossella: rossella (at) rossellabuono  (dot) com

David: info (at) alexanderschool (dot) edu (dot) au

Pinelopi: pinelopi (at) englishyogaberlin (dot) com

David Moore will also be offering private lessons in Berlin on Wednesday 24th July, if you are interested contact us.

ABOUT THE TEACHERS:

Rossella Buono relocated to Canterbury, UK in January 2013 from Melbourne where she had an established Alexander Technique practice. Working with a great range of people, Rossella has applied the Technique to improving the lives of people with issues such as back, neck or shoulder pain, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, sciatica, asthma, stuttering, anxiety and stress. She has also enjoyed attaining tangible posture and movement improvements for musicians, sportspeople, office workers, and the elderly. In her capacity as a care worker, she has developed strategies to improve the quality of life for people with physical and mental disabilities. She is the co-author of “For the Love of Games”, that offers a collection of more than 100 Alexander Technique games and activities to use when working with groups and individuals.

Rossella was first introduced to the Technique as a means of her own rehabilitation, after breaking her leg in an accident – and found herself benefitting greatly from the approach. After eliminating residual pain and regaining sustainable, coordinated mechanical function, Rossella decided to train as an Alexander Technique teacher. Since then she has worked to offer others the same opportunity for the elimination of pain and improvement of overall quality of life.

 

David Moore teaching Yoga and the Alexander Technique in Berlin

Photo credit: Rossella Buono

David Moore, Director at the School for F.M. Alexander Studies graduated from Australia’s first Alexander technique training course in Sydney in 1985. After graduating he spent some weeks each year for several years studying with senior American teacher, the late Marjorie Barstow.  Since then he has established private practices in New Zealand and Melbourne, run many  residential courses in Australia, Italy and New Zealand, and taught classes and intensive workshops in the UK, Germany, Japan Italy, Taiwan, and the USA. In 1999 he set up an Alexander Technique Teacher Training course which is approved by the Australian Society of Teachers of the Alexander Technique. This 1600 hour training course runs over three years.

Prior to studying the Alexander technique David did many years of yoga practice. He spent over seven years in India and Thailand, including over two years in Thai meditation monasteries, and two years in Madras studying with TKV Desikachar at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandaram. In Sydney he studied Iyengar yoga for four years with Martin Jackson from 1991 – 1994, including undertaking a teacher training course with Martin in 1994. He now teaches classes applying the Alexander technique to yoga and is the author of “Smart Yoga: Apply the Alexander Technique to Enhance Your Practice, Prevent Injury, and Increase Body Awareness”. He also has a strong interest in voice and performance, and has run numerous classes and workshops for singers, storytellers and public speakers.

English Yoga Berlin is the host of this event.  We offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli.  Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. We also offer Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain.

What is your definition of healing?

Photo by Gabriel Barletta

Photo by Gabriel Barletta

“Many of us define healed as the opposite of needy. Therefore to be healed means to be fully self contained, always positive, always happy, always sure of oneself, and never needing anyone. No wonder few ever consider themselves “healed”.”

  • Caroline Myss

 

In today’s western world where trauma and wounds have taken a significant place in our society, we hear a lot of the word “healing”. This is a common word used in a very wide spectrum from yoga classes to psychology to random talks between friends. Healing has taken an important place in our lives, both as a concept and as a reality we strive to achieve.

So what is emotional healing?

I think this is an important question to ask. Is healing about no longer being affected by an event of the past? Is it about the event no longer holding power over you? Is healing about being well and not ever needing anything again? When can someone consider themselves healed? Or is it an ever going process that we can never attain?

I believe that for all of us using this word, it is important to take some time and give our own personal definition to it. And once we have defined it, to look at it again and decide if this is an attainable goal or a never ending process that we are setting too high standards for.

I personally define healing as letting go of the power that a wound holds over me. I don’t need to always be happy, I can be needy, I still have the scars of the wound… but the wound no longer defines me or directs my actions in my life.

 Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Berlin Kreuzberg classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She is a sivananda yoga teacher that also offers Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain. All her yoga classes end in deep relaxation using yoga Nidra techniques.  In her Berlin Chakra course, she uses the chakras as a base line to self-explore concepts such as forgiveness, group thought, letting go, and becoming self-aware of limiting beliefs.

Happy Spring from English Yoga Berlin!

Dear Yogis and Friends!

Every year I get very excited when the sun crosses the celestial equator and day and night become of equal length.

Photo by Melissa Askew

Photo by Melissa Askew

The spring equinox marks the beginning of a new season, and living in Berlin, that symbolically marks the end of a long winter and the beginning of light shining through again!  It might still take some time but it is happening!

It’s time for that  (internal and external) spring cleaning  and I, for one, could not be more excited about it!

I find that every winter, a symbolic hibernation takes place in us that wisely slows us down, makes us go inwards, meditate, ponder, self-explore. It asks of us to explore our inner strength when the light is dim and the air is heavy. And in doing so we start planting new seeds into our subconscious, new wishes for our lives, new directions to follow.

And now? Now it’s time to open the windows, to clean up the cobwebs, and get rid of all the extra things that have accumulated and are not needed. It’s time to let fresh air into our hearts and minds. It’s time to enjoy the butterflies, the singing of the birds, smile at strangers, and let the sun touch our skin.  It’s time to bloom!

HAPPY SPRING EVERYBODY!!!

 

 Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Berlin Kreuzberg classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She is a sivananda yoga teacher that also offers Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain. All her yoga classes end in deep relaxation using yoga Nidra techniques.  In her Berlin Chakra course, she uses the chakras as a base line to self-explore concepts such as forgiveness, group thought, letting go, and becoming self-aware of limiting beliefs.

Decodifying Forgiveness

Photo by David Schap

Photo by David Schap

What is forgiveness? One can apologize, say sorry, ask forgiveness. But what do these words actually mean? Are they all the same? And does this distinction even matter?

When I get lost with the meanings of words, I often go back to their etymology. I like to see what the original meaning of the word was, when the need for that word to be created arose. I also find it very telling to see how far we’ve strayed from that meaning.

When I looked up the word to forgive on the online etymological dictionary I was particularly impressed at the word meaning “to give up”. To give up what exactly? In old English it meant “to give up desire or power to punish”. Sorry, on the other hand, comes from the word sorrow. So when I say, I’m sorry to someone what I am actually saying is “I can feel your sorrow.” Apology comes from Greek, meaning “to use speech in defense”.

Interestingly, in Greek there are two more words used interchangeably for the word forgive. One is signomi (sin+ gnomi), which means I am now of the same opinion as you”. The other one is me-sighoreis which could be translated as “Can you make space for me to also be?”

I find the meaning of these words to be quite different to one another, and yet we use them all interchangeably and indiscriminately. No wonder we are all confused about what it means to forgive! Is it to give up the will to punish, to feel one’s sorrow without changing our actions, to hear someone defend themselves through speech, to tell the other person they were right all along, or to give the other person permission to also be as he/she is?

Before we even consider forgiving anything, we must at least know what we mean by it. Which is the forgiving that so many people say will liberate the heart and let it find peace?

Tara Brach tells this beautiful story in order to explain the process of forgiveness that resonates deeply with me:

“Imagine you are in the woods and you see a dog under a tree. You smile and go to pet this dog and it lurches at you, fangs bared and growling. You become angry at the dog and then you see its leg is caught in a trap. You shift again and go from being angry at the dog to having compassion for it.”

The shift from anger to compassion is when the forgiveness happens. I guess in a way you are doing all of the above: you give up the will to punish the dog (forgive) because you feel his sorrow (sorry). You can explain through speech what just occurred (apology), you are now of the same opinion – you would be angry too if you were trapped – (signomi) and you make space for the dog to also exist in his pain (me sighoreis).

Forgiveness occurs when anger turns to compassion.

Does this mean that because you forgave the dog, you should now go pet him and get bit? No way! It means that if you choose to help the dog, you need to approach him in a way that has clear boundaries that won’t damage you. And if that is not possible because the dog is so deep in his own pain and too dangerous for you to deal with, then you need to leave – and let someone with more experience help the dog out of his trap.

 Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Kreuzberg classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She  also offers Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain. All her yoga classes end in deep relaxation using yoga Nidra techniques.  In her Berlin Chakra course, she uses the chakras as a base line to self-explore concepts such as forgiveness, group thought, letting go, and becoming self-aware of limiting beliefs.

Monday Morning- half price trial out classes

photo by Fern

photo by Fern

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

 

 

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

Photo by Fern

Photo by Fern

What:    Hatha Yoga

Where:  Kiki, Gorlitzerstr. 39

When:   Monday mornings, 10.00-11.30

Special offer:  5 Euro try-out class

Offer ends:     30th of November, 2016

 

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

 

 

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

I am here for you.

“I am here for you”, I say.

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

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

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

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

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

Healing is boring

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

photo by Jeremy Bishop

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

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

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

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

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

Settle into the boredom of healing.

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

Keep your eyes on the prize!

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

Spice it up!

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

Time travel!

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

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

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

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

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

Bring the air to your left little toe

Bring the air to your left little toe. How?

Yoga teaching language on breathing

photo by Jordan Whitt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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