Yoga Beyond Asana

One of our regulars shares a particular moment; when she realised the dimension of yoga beyond asana (movement and set poses).  We share her personal story because this is one of the hardest myths about yoga to dismantle in the West.

“There are 8 limbs to Yoga, you know” the Yoga teacher kindly reminded me at the end of the lesson.

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I had just waited for everyone to leave at the end of the class.  I approached her with my concern that the movement I can muster now can hardly be called yoga – in my mind.  The doctor diagnosed degenerative osteoarthritis at the left hip.  After a decade from that diagnosis, I can’t sit crossed legged, or hold a Warrior I pose, or Crescent Moon pose, the list goes on.

But the Yoga teacher was having none of it.  She went on to say that, contrary to Western trends, yoga has at its heart the intention of liberating us from pain and restriction.  Our practice is meant to deliver us to a place where we can meditate freely and deeply.

“There is pranayama, for example, becoming conscious of breath”.

She wasn’t suggesting even for a minute that I would not do asana practice any longer.  She was helping me into taking ownership of where I can guide my own practice towards.  I was clearer on what aspects I can focus on, where I can find challenges and limitations I can learn from.


you can do so much with your breath, remember?

Yoga goes beyond asana as we understand it.  Maybe that is closer to my experience now. Yoga for me is a field where I can find what works for me, right now in the modern world, with my unique needs and requirements.

I have been practising yoga at English Yoga Berlin in Kreuzberg since April 2018.  I now understand the importance of focusing on directing the breath and becoming conscious of spinal movement.  It’s clear to me that yoga is not about trying to reproduce the asana’s picture in your favourite yoga book. Yoga can be  so much more! And I look forward to diving deeper to learn more about what that is.

English Yoga Berlin offers classes in Kreuzberg in Hatha style and Vinyasa style, private yoga sessions, different packages of yoga for the workplacecontact us with your queries if you have any, happy unfolding whatever you do.

DIY & Community Yoga

What is DIY?

Photo by Fern

Photo by Fern

I call myself a DIY-practitioner, but the term “DIY” means different things to different people. The term is an acronym for “Do-It-Yourself” and can encompass many different tasks or fields in an approach of taking matters into one’s own hands. My dad is a DIY home repair kinda guy. This came from his rural immigrant background of a hard-working interconnected community without resources or proximity to hire professionals. If you needed your roof fixed, everyone in the community came together to help you do it and shared their skills. As an artist who grew up in a globalized metropolis, DIY means something different to me. I am influenced by self-published ‘zines, punk music and handmade films. More so than just because of economic necessity (but also that), this DIY approach is about autonomy – having my voice heard in a world that privileges the perspectives of white men and their so-called ‘universal truths.’ If I was to wait to produce films after gaining approval from the status quo, I’d be holding my breath until I die. I take matters into my own hands, and use what I have at hand, to create my own films on a significantly reduced budget, saying what I want and how I want. My films will not likely get screened at big festivals, as my production budgets are low, but getting my perspective out into the world can have an emancipatory effect on me and other people in similar situations. And like my father’s, my approach to DIY is also dependent on an interconnected community. I trade resources and skills within the various queer and film communities I am connected to, and organize screenings of others’ work as they do for mine, as well as often working collectively. I could not do what I do without a community. In this way, I think the term “DIY” is a misnomer, and others have felt this too, coming up with “DIO” (Do-It-Ourselves) and “DIT” (Do-It-Together). I stick with the term “DIY,” as it’s been with me for a long time.

Why Community Yoga in Berlin?

photo by Fern

photo by Fern

My approach to yoga feels similar to me. I began practicing yoga about 18 years ago now at bigger studios, but then eventually found that more ‘community-based’ yoga centres suited me better, like Open Door Yoga in Vancouver. I learned a lot there, and really thrived in the community feeling – cleaning and washing blankets in exchange for unlimited yoga classes. I joined the English Yoga Berlin collective in 2013. I enjoy the autonomy of running a collective consensus-based business with other like-minded yoga teachers. We offer small yoga classes (up to about 10 people) so that we can give more individualized attention, which reduces the likelihood of injuries from happening, and helps to support yoga students with chronic pain or other difficulties that might not get addressed in larger groups. We aim to create a community around our yoga classes, though each of us teachers are individuals and have different approaches to yoga – we come together with this concept. We also aim to keep our prices affordable, though even these might be out of range for some people, and during periods in my life I have definitely been in the same situation – and could be again. I would love to offer free yoga classes, and if I were independently wealthy I would. Teaching and sharing what we know about yoga to others takes our time, rent, administration costs, and expensive education, and though I have strong views about it and fight against it when I can, we live within a capitalist system where we are required to earn money to survive. My approach to counter capitalism and make yoga classes more accessible to people with low/no income is to offer sliding scale classes. Some of us earn less or have less/no savings, and this is a way to recognize that and support those who can’t afford to attend a regularly-priced yoga class. If you earn more or have savings, you can pay a bit more to help subsidize someone who pays less. These ‘community classes’ are offered with the same quality and attention as all of our classes, each ending with a guided relaxation using yoga nidra techniques. Because of my personal commitment to a DIY approach and creating interconnected communities, as of this month all of my English yoga classes in Kreuzberg will be offered as community classes. You are welcome to pay the regular prices if you choose – become a registered monthly student, use a 5er card, etc., but the sliding scale option is always open to anyone who attends.

Juli teaches Vinyasa Yoga and Hatha Flow Yoga in Kreuzberg, Berlin.

Top 10 Tips for Freelancers in Berlin (Part Two)

Last week we presented you with the first part of this blog.  Here is the eagerly-awaited conclusion with the rest of the top tips for low-income freelancers in Berlin.

3) If you are a broke-ass freelancer and you’re registered with a German Health Insurance (a gesetzliche Krankenkasse) company, you may be eligible for a reduced rate.  As a freelancer, they’ll usually assume that you make lots of money, so they’ll give you some heart-attack-inducing monthly rate (usually around 300euro). Don’t cave and pay it! Rather, tell them that you’re broke and they’ll send you a form about your income (Einkommensermittelung), from which they will calculate a monthly rate (a legally-defined percentage of your income). They have to charge you a minimum of (for 2014) 158e per month; it starts to rise when your take-home income goes above 927euro per month. Sometimes health insurance companies only offer these reductions for freelancing that is part-time (which they define as less than 19,5 hours per week, on average, and is considered nebenberuflich).

4) You’re not obliged to pay into the German pension scheme, unless you’re a teacher, midwife, crafts person, journalist, care worker or artist. The pension scheme is 19% of your monthly income, before tax. There was a proposed law last year to force all freelancers to pay in; it got struck down.  If you have the money to pay in, it’s a great idea; it also is very important if you are trying to qualify for residency or citizenship here. You can see a more detailed list of which people are obliged to here.

5) You have to have more than one client. A lot of German businesses tell their employees to become freelance, so that they can employ them without paying benefits for them. It is a really dirty tactic and very widely practiced. Unfortunately, it is the freelancing employee who is penalized for this so-called Scheinselbständigkeit (apparent freelancing). If, during a calendar year, you make more than 83% from one client, you are considered to be scheinselbständig–and therefore are required to pay into the public pension scheme, which is gonna cost you a whack of cash. (They can make it retroactive for up to four years, too!)

6) If you’re here on a visa, make sure your paperwork shows you doing work that your visa allows. Not all freelance jobs are created equal–if your visa is for freelance teaching, you can’t just toss carpentry into the mix (well, not with a receipt, anyhow). Here is a blog on the issue , and another one.

7) You don’t pay tax on the first 8,130e you make (if you’re unmarried). If you’re married, your income is taken together and your partnership gets a tax-free amount of 16,260e. As a single person, it works out to about 670e per month of profit, before you have to start paying income tax. Your insurance is tax-deductible, and so are your pension payments. You can learn more here.

8) As a freelancer, it makes sense to learn about what you can claim as business expenses. For example, if you have office space at home, you can claim a part of your rent as a business expense–but make sure you get your landlord’s permission first, because it could be grounds for eviction otherwise!  You can also make deductions for travel costs, further education, meals with clients–hell, even your bike. Learn about the tax regulations –it pays off!

9) Accountants are really expensive. The cheaper alternative is to join a Lohnsteuerhilfeverein–an association for helping people with their taxes. They’re non-profit associations, and the membership fee is usually pretty low.

10) When everything seems too much and you feel at the end of your rope, take a break, come to one of our classes for a yoga session where you can regroup, relax and take stock before going back into the thick of it.

Top 10 Tips for Freelancers in Berlin (Part One)

What do English teachers, massage therapists, graphic designers, yoga instructors, translators and in-home care workers have in common? In Germany, these professions (and dozens more) are increasingly done by selbständig (freelance) workers. This is a relatively new phenomenon, and there are a lot of complicated aspects of doing freelance work.

We teach English and Spanish yoga classes in Kreuzberg, and many of our students are expats in Berlin; many of them are freelancers, and everyone in our collective has extensive experience freelancing; so, we put two and two together and decided to develop this blog as a free resource, in English, to help people navigate the (often confusing) terrain of Selbständigkeit in Deutschland!  Many freelancers in Berlin are precarious workers, so this blog is dedicated to their needs.

Recent studies have shown that there are over 1.1 million freelance workers in Germany who make less than the state’s proposed minimum wage (i.e., less than 8.50e per hour). This situation dates back to Gerhard Schröder’s Agenda 2010 economic reform.  Since Agenda 2010, economic inequality has risen in Germany and working conditions have plummeted. It’s a criminal situation–but it’s totally legal! So we would like to share with you about what we have learned, to help make it a bit easier…

Disclaimer: we’re yoga teachers, not accountants or lawyers; if you need more detailed information, please visit free legal counseling services or join a union like the FAU or Ver.di and get their help!

Tips for low-earning freelancers…

1) If you’re an EU citizen, you’re entitled to income support from the Jobcentre. The Jobcentres have recently been sending letters to non-German Europeans and telling them that they have no right to Hartz IV benefits (which comprise of money, health insurance and your rent every month). This is illegal–as both the European Court in Brussels and the German Bundessozialgericht have recently confirmed. Hartz IV is a lot of bureaucracy, work and stress, but, if you’re up against the wall, it can help you a lot. We recommend a visit to the following independent and free sources of information:

2) Whether you’re an EU citizen or not, if you are legally living in Berlin, you’re entitled to the Housing Benefit (Wohngeld). As a freelancer, it’s tricky because you need to give them a prognosis of your earnings in order for them to calculate your need. You also need to be officially registered where you live, and have a rent contract. The following counseling services can help you with the forms:


These links and resources should get you started.  Don’t miss the second part of this informative blog, coming out next week with the rest of these great tips.