How to Become a Yoga Teacher- What To Consider – PART ONE

Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@zoltantasi?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Zoltan Tasi</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>

In the past 13 years of teaching yoga, a few students have approached me to ask about how to become a yoga teacher and what things to consider. This is an important decision for those of us choosing to take this path. Before you embark on searching for the yoga teacher training course (TTC) of your dreams take a moment to consider the following questions.

Why do you want to become a yoga teacher?

Let us start with the basics: why do you want to become a yoga teacher? Although it sounds obvious, it is worth sitting with the question to get some clarity. Some people wish to become a yoga teacher simply as a means to deepen their knowledge on yoga. They do not necessarily wish to teach afterwards. This is a perfectly acceptable reason to join a TTC. To reach such an in-depth knowledge usually can only come from a TTC, living in an ashram and serious self-study.

Others, on the other hand, have their mind set on teaching. They want to get a good certificate that will allow them to work afterwards. If this is your reason for joining a course, then take a moment to visualize your future. What images come up for you when you visualize this? Do you see yourself giving hands on corrections to your students? Are you guiding a meditation? Or alternatively, do you see yourself explaining complex spiritual notions to a group of people? Or are you simply holding space for your students to go through their own process? Use the images that arise as a compass to guide you through the different TTCs that exist, so that you choose the right one for you.

What style and lineage of yoga should you choose?

It is important to know what kind of yoga style you like. Search for a TTC that aligns to this style. Other than just the style, you also have to look at the lineage of the yoga teacher training course. For example, a Hatha Yoga class from the Sivananda lineage can be quite different to one from the Desikachar lineage. Sometimes concepts as basic as the breath can be taught differently and even contradict each other! I do find it worthwhile to spend some time reflecting and researching on these points. A yoga TTC is a big investment, so go and try out different styles, find out what lineage they follow. Make notes, keep an open heart, and learn what you like.

Yoga Lineage is not simple and straightforward

Lineage can be complicated as we are following the teachings handed down over several centuries. Furthermore, in the past decades there has been increasing amount of proof that quite a few important yoga masters and gurus have sexually harassed and abused their students over the years. Although, the teacher you choose is not directly related to the yoga guru of their lineage, it can be quite devastating to find out half way through your training course that the yoga lineage you chose has such dark secrets. One way to go about this is to ask your teacher about their stance on their lineage. If your teacher is treating their guru with unshakable reverence and is not able to condemn an action of sexual, emotional and physical abuse, then you should probably find a different teacher. If on the other hand, they are able to demonstrate critical thinking, can clearly disagree with such actions and empower students and teachers to challenge dogma… then they might be a better fit.

What is important for YOU to have in a yoga course?

Not all courses are alike. Some give much more weight to anatomy and alignment. Others are much more focused on yogic philosophy, spirituality and meditation. A few others focus more on how to lead groups, to hold space, and methodologies of teaching. How do you know which kind of course you are about to embark on? Ask for a copy of their curriculum to check out what they offer. Although all good courses will have a mix of all these things, find out where your TTC puts most of its weight. Does that align with what your wishes are?

How to choose a yoga teacher training course.

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing the right TTC. These first questions and reflections are a good starting point. In part two of this blog I will discuss the difference in diplomas (200H, 500H, 600H); the importance of connecting with your teacher; some yoga teacher training courses in Berlin; and the teachers that have inspired me personally. Till then, get to know the difference in yoga styles, find out about their lineage, and check out some curricula.

Pinelopi has been a Hatha Yoga teacher since 2008. Her yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She offers Berlin business yogaprivate yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain, yoga courses, retreats and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.

54321 – A Grounding Practice

Most probably, we have all heard the term “grounded” at some time in our lives. To ‘be grounded’ is a term that describes an experience of presence with whatever it is that we are doing at the moment. As the word suggests, I like to think of it as ‘being aware of my feet on the ground.’ When I am not grounded, I feel myself lost in thought and distracted from the realms of my mind- forgetting the body. When I am grounded, I notice things such as my rib cage moving with my breath, the sensations in my feet and the dryness of my lips. In other words, I am embodied- aware of what is happening in my body.

Most of us tend to be lost in thought throughout our days. As we lose ourselves in thought we are usually reliving past moments of our lives; imagining future ones; or worrying about possible scenarios in an alternate reality. To sum it up: as we lose ourselves in thought we are no longer living in the present – in the here and now.

The Nature of the Mind

It is normal for the mind to jump from one place to another making thousands of associations every minute. It is normal to associate the past with the possible future and alternative scenarios. There is nothing wrong with a mind that does that. On the contrary, it is even essential to our survival. It is the reason we have been able to make so many technological wonders and many more modern life marvels. However, if we find ourselves predominantly in the ‘lost in thought’ mode, life becomes tiring and seems to fly right past us. Taking a moment to pause, to slow down and experience the ‘Now’ is essential to living a life with quality.

How Can I Ground Myself?

There are many ways to ground oneself. These include practicing meditation and mindfulness, slowing down, becoming aware of our breath, and awareness of body sensations. The first step to grounding is to actually notice that we have lost ourselves in thoughts. This first step sounds much easier than it is, because we spend most of our time literally “lost“. Performing this first step is already a moment of awakening. Next, we could choose our favorite grounding technique to apply in order to become more embodied. I use several grounding techniques during our yoga classes in Kreuzberg. Here is one of my favorites:

54321

5 – Name five things that you see. Do not just think ‘this’ and ‘that’, but instead use their actual name such as green grass, white cloud, brown shoes.

4 – Name four things that you feel. Name sensations rather than emotions. Ie. the air in my nose, my heels on the floor, my shirt on my skin.

3 – Name three sounds that you hear.

2 – Name two odors that you smell. Some people find smelling challenging. If that is the case, you can also name two smells that you like instead.

1- Name one thing this experience is giving you. For example, ‘this experience is giving me a moment to slow down; presence; connecting with my body, etc.

How to practice 54321

You can practice this grounding exercise any time you feel the need to ground. This is also a very good exercise if you feel the onset of a panic attack or anxiety. I like to start my yoga practice with 54321 as I ground myself and am more present during the session. Another way to practice is while taking a walk. You can do 54321 on repeat and become more aware of your surroundings and your body sensations.

Haven’t we all had the experience of being in a beautiful place on holiday wishing to enjoy the moment, and instead have been worrying incessantly about some other aspect of our life? When this happens to me, I always return to 54321 and take in the sounds, smells, sensations, and sights!

About the author:

Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She offers Berlin business yogaprivate yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain, yoga courses, retreats and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.

Wishing You a Conscious 2021

Looking Back at 2020

2020 has come to an end, and it is fair to say that many were happy to turn the year. As midnight approached, I heard sighs of relief from many neighbors welcoming the year through their open windows. This year has been a hard year for all of us in more ways than one.

Interestingly enough, for some of the more fortunate ones living in countries with social systems and economic help, this has also been a good year in some respects. Some people told me how they so desperately had needed to slow down and how these lock downs allowed them to do so; others realized how over stimulated they have been with social interactions and how as they came out of the first lock down they were more careful to re-build their social life in a more sustainable way; many others spoke of physical rest from the never-ending commuting and realizing how much this has been taxing on their overall health.

Looking Forward to a Conscious 2021

With the arrivals of the vaccines, I have read that we can probably resume our “normal” lives in April 2021. The life after the pandemic can not and should not be the same as it was before. I am hoping for a rise in consciousness both in the personal way we live our lives, the economic systems that shape them, as in the global way we treat the planet and each other. I am wishing for a conscious 2021.

It is good to pause and reflect on the hardships of the past year, but also on if there has been any parts of this year that has been positive for us. How do we see ourselves integrating the parts that are positive in a post-lock down world? Have our bodies and minds been asking for more rest? Can telecommunications take over taxing commuting? Do we wish to be more selective of our social interactions in terms of quality versus quantity?

Pausing in the Present

Of course, due to the capitalistic society we live in, our lives are often being swept away by a wave of productivity, not allowing us time or the resources to pause and choose. However, pausing and choosing is absolutely essential. Viktor E. Frankl, a renown psychologist and holocaust survivor, refers to this pause as “a space that allows us to choose our response”. In yoga this pause is the act of meditation. In the Alexander Technique this pause is referred to as “inhibition”. Tara Brach refers to this as the Sacred Pause: the pause between stimulus and reaction, that frees us to the possibility of a different path.

So for 2021, my wish to the world is:

Wishing you a conscious 2021

May we all practice the Sacred Pause and be free to choose a different path.

About the author:

Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She offers Berlin business yogaprivate yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain, yoga courses, retreats and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.

Holiday Yoga Gift Cards

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“When there’s snow on the ground, I like to pretend I’m walking on clouds.”

-Takayuki Ikkaku, Arisa Hosaka and Toshihiro Kawabata (Animal Crossing: Wild World, 2005)

As the days grow colder and shorter, and the pandemic lockdowns continue, yoga is a great way to keep yourself active and take care of your mental health. At English Yoga Berlin, we are continuing our classes online through the cold winter months and the hard lockdown that has just now been implemented in Berlin. The benefit of having live yoga classes online is that they are available for anyone around the world! Check out our schedule for a suitable time. Please note that we will be closed for one week during the Christmas holidays.

Give the Gift of Yoga

At a loss for a festive gift? Do you know someone close to you who would like to try yoga? Our gift cards can also be used for our online yoga classes. You can order a yoga gift card here. Each card is individually printed and sent by post if you wish, or can be sent by email.

New Year, New World?

As the year comes to a close, we can probably all agree that 2020 was a challenging one for all of us around the globe. In some ways it brought us closer together, with this shared experience of a common enemy, the coronavirus. But it also divided us – revealing the glaring rift between rich and poor, those with access to health care, and those without. With a clear emphasis that climate change was the main cause, let’s hope this will wake up our world leaders to bring us the change we need to see for our future generations! Let’s work for a better world together in 2021!

Happy holidays and happy new year to all!


At English Yoga Berlin, we offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli. Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcome to beginners, as well as people struggling with chronic pain. We also offer Berlin business yoga, and private yoga classes, as well as queer and trans prioritized community classes.

RAIN Meditation on TV Addiction – Part 2

A personal story – The RAIN meditation on wanting

In Part 1 of this blog I introduced Tara Brach’s RAIN meditation and how it can be used on the deep rooted feeling of wanting and addiction. As I started to deepen my thoughts around the subject, I realized that I have never once simply sat with the feeling of wanting TV. I always either react quickly by giving in to the feeling (turning on Netflix) or by coming down very harshly on myself for wanting this (not allowing the feeling to be here and pushing it out with harsh words). Therefore, I took the decision to practice RAIN the next time the feeling arises!

Resistance to bringing the RAIN meditation on wanting

The first thing I noticed when the feeling next arose was that I definitely did not want to practice the RAIN meditation on wanting! The feeling itself was strong and pulling towards action and was refusing to be the object of quiet observation. I had to make a deal with myself in order to practice. Much like I talk to my daughter, my mother voice came in my thoughts and said to the feeling, “Hey, listen I am not saying no to watching TV. I am saying we will observe the feeling for a while, practice RAIN and then if we still want to, we will watch TV. We will just have done it consciously. That’s all.” Just like a small child, the feeling answered, “Do you promise?!! This is not some trick to take me away from the well deserved rest we need?”. The more conscious part of me was able to respond quietly, “Yes, I promise. I am happy to watch TV if we have made a conscious kind decision about it.” Reluctantly, the feeling agreed to being observed.

Recognize is the R in RAIN

I started by giving a name to this feeling. I called it “wanting”. The first step is to name it. As you name it, you also shape it. It becomes an entity that has a bit more well-defined boundaries. This helps take it out from a nebulous kind of feeling that oozes everywhere in my subconscious to something more concrete that I can open myself up to.

Allow is the A in RAIN

The second step was to allow it to be here exactly as it is. This was incredibly difficult. Realizing how much resistance I carry towards this feeling was mind blowing. It was eye opening to realize that I never even considered allowing to be an option before now. As I formulated the words in my mind “I allow the Wanting to be here” , things started to move in my body and I was able to see the true power this feeling holds over me.

Investigate is the I in RAIN

The third step of RAIN is Investigate. Where is this feeling in the body and how does it manifest? The trick here is to stay focused on the body, not on the mind and its millions of thoughts and analyses. As I came to this step, the first thing I realized is that this feeling is very alive in my body. It is mostly in my chest and it is very strong. It has a one-pointed quality to it that is intensely forward looking. I stayed for two minutes in this step simply naming the experience: chest clenched; pointy – pushing outward; rush; pinch in the back of my neck; eyebrow center scrunched; belly empty; chest clenched; strong flow of direction forward; pulling; skin prickly; chest clenched.

It has a one-pointed quality to it that is intensely forward looking…

Photo by Fabio Ballasina on Unsplash

Nurture is the N in RAIN

As I came to the N of RAIN, I was called to nurture the feeling. There was, by now, no doubt in my mind that this feeling was much stronger than I ever gave it credit for. I started by asking the feeling of wanting, what do you need? The answer was immediate, “I am tired! So so tired! I just want to relax and disconnect. I am running all day long juggling five different roles and I am truly tired. Let me disconnect”.

So I placed my hand on my heart and with compassion responded with what the feeling needed. “I see how tired you are”, I told myself with love. “I am here for you. In this moment here we are disconnecting from the running machine of life. In this moment now we are disconnecting and re-connecting. I see you and I am here for you. I see you and I am here for you.” I kept on telling myself these words on repeat. As I did this, my compassion for myself started to grow. As it grew, everything in me started to soften. Everything started to feel less immediate, less pointy, less intense.

After The RAIN meditation

Tara Brach often gives the example of the ocean and the wave as a practice one can do after the practice of RAIN. This image has become one of the strongest guides in my life in the past years. Think of this feeling you are now experiencing as one wave in an ocean. The wave belongs to the ocean just as this feeling belongs to you. But the whole ocean can not possibly enter in a single wave. You are the ocean, not the wave. When I can finally connect to my “Oceanness” is when I enter the sweetest meditation space I know. There is no denying that this wanting feeling is very strong. It is a big wave. Nonetheless, I have been reducing my whole Self to a wave whenever I experience it, thinking it defines me. I am much more than that, I am the whole Ocean itself. I stayed meditating on the sweetness of my “Oceanness” for a while and it was touching.

Funnily enough, when I came out of the meditation, I was inspired to jot down ideas for this blog, looked up articles on the addictive power of TV to reference, listened to music and……I sincerely forgot to watch TV! I simply forgot. Later my partner came in the living room and we had a sweet moment of connection that I would have missed out on had I not paused to do RAIN and had I been immersed in the TV world.

RAIN meditation on wanting was definitely an exploration worth doing!

About the author:

Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She offers Berlin business yogaprivate yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain, yoga courses, retreats and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.

RAIN Meditation on TV addiction – Part 1

A personal story on wanting – meditation on addiction

Four years ago I discovered Tara Brach’s RAIN meditation. It is not an exaggeration to say that it changed my life. Since then, I have read all of her books; have listened to hundreds of her podcasts; practiced daily; presented the meditation to my yoga students in Berlin and applied it to better understanding my daughter’s emotional world.

RAIN is a meditation that guides you through an emotion rather than around an emotion. RAIN is an acronym and each letter stands for a step to follow as you meditate:

  • R is for Recognize what you are feeling.
  • A is for Allow the feeling to be here as it is.
  • I is for Investigate where the feeling is in your body (this is not a mental investigation as to why this feeling is here).
  • N is for Nurture the hurting place.

If you want to get to know this meditation I highly recommend that you check out Tara Brach’s RAIN resource page.

What are my addictions?

When I was reading Tara’s Radical Acceptance I stumbled upon a chapter called “RAIN on Wanting”. This chapter was dedicated to how to use RAIN meditation on addiction and addictive behaviors. It got me thinking about if I have any addictive behaviors myself. The only thing I came up with that may be problematic was that I go through periods of time where I get totally wrapped in watching a series on Netflix. This is not constant and I still go to work and parent lovingly so I have never considered it to be an addiction. On the other hand, when I go through this it sometimes feel like I can not break the spell.

Can series watching be an addiction? How to bring meditation on addiction.

… when I go through this it sometimes feels like I can not break the spell.

Can series watching be an addiction?

Is this really a problem? Could it be an addiction? I sway between two poles when I think of this. On the one hand, I believe in the power of stories. It can be an art form of both entertainment but also (when watching something of quality) self discovery and empathy. Being put into another person’s shoes, living through the lens of their eyes, and opening yourself to other point of views carries beautiful transformative power. On the other hand, series watching also has an addictive sort of power to it. I feel that there are so many other things I could do in the evenings. Things that I equally love, such as listening to or playing music, drawing, singing or talking to a friend on the phone. Unfortunately, I often feel too tired to do any of these at the end of the day and turn to TV as a passive form of entertainment ending up to be my default choice.

Have you ever meditated on the feeling of wanting?

One thing that I realized as I pondered on these thoughts, was that I never ever have simply sat with the feeling of “wanting tv”. When this feeling of wanting arises there are two possible extremes that I react with. I either give in to it (turn on Netflix) or I come down very strongly on myself for having it (no! You have to work in the morning! And one episode will lead to another! And no, this is just not an option right now so stop feeling it!). Both the meditation world, as much as the psychological world, say that sitting with a feeling is important. This is something that I definitely practice a lot with other feelings in my life through RAIN and other techniques. So it was a big surprise for me to realize that there is one feeling – the feeling of wanting TV- that I have not sat with. I always react swiftly to it and never allow it to be. I either immediately act on it or push it away. What would bringing the RAIN meditation on addiction be like?

So I thought that next time the feeling arises I will pause and practice RAIN on wanting. I was curious to see if this would be helpful or give me new insights on the way I approach the subject. On Part 2 of this blog I will outline what happened during the meditation session. But till then, maybe some readers want to try out RAIN on Wanting on their own?

I am very interested to hear your experience.

About the author:

Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She offers Berlin business yogaprivate yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain, yoga courses, retreats and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.

Computer Work and Posture Part II – The semi Supine

Computer Work and Posture Part II

In part I of Computer Work and Posture, I discussed the importance of learning how to take care of ourselves while working in front of computers. Since computers are our new way of life, learning skills of body care and presence while using computers is vital. In order for us to have an upright posture, we need to first know how we define upright and what we mean by it. I suggested that we start thinking of upright less as a fixed straight position, and more as a balanced relationship between your neck, head and back.

A good way of becoming familiar with the relationship between your head, neck and back is to lay down in the semi supine pose with some books underneath your head for ten to fifteen minutes daily. The height of the books you will need underneath your head varies depending on both the shape and the present use of your body. It is best to let a trained Alexander Technique teacher help you determine the height of the books needed, but if you are not yet in contact with one you could use this video as a starting point.

The following instructions and mindful exercise are also available on audio here:

Instructions for the Semi Supine

Lay down on your back with your head placed on top of some books for support (5 to 8cm as a starting point). Put the soles of your feet on the floor with your knees facing upwards towards the ceiling. Place your hands on the belly with the elbows pointing outwards

Mindful exercise while you are in the semi supine.

First let yourself notice how your body feels in this position. For the moment, let your intention be to notice without wanting to change anything. Simply to become familiar with what is.

Some questions to help you in your process:

  • Is my back in contact with the floor? If not, which parts of my back are not touching the floor?

  • Are the parts not touching the floor similar on both the right and left side? Or is one side more lifted than the other?

  • Is it easy for me to have my knees pointing upwards? Or would my preference be to let them drop inwards towards each other or outwards?

  • Are the soles of my feet carrying equal weight? Or is the weight traveling more towards the inside or the outside of my soles of my feet?

  • Do my shoulder blades feel comfortable on the floor? Or are there places where they feel crammed.

At the end of this reflection mentally tell yourself, “this is the relationship that my neck, head and back have throughout the day”.

Now allow for some subtle changes to happen in your posture. Let your intention be to explore an easier relationship between your neck, head and back rather than to “fix” your relationship. As the word “fix” implies, the mentality associated to that is too static and creates a one fit all mentality. We wish for a subtle fluid relationship rather than a “fix” solution.

Some subtle changes you could invite:

  • You could gently lift your pelvis, place your hands on your upper back and caress the back downwards in the direction of the pelvis, while coming back down to the floor. Did that increase your back’s contact to the floor?Creating more back contact to the floor through the semi supine

 

  • You could gently lift your shoulder blades to allow for more space in the upper back, and then place them on the floor again. What change did this movement bring with regards to how much of your back is in contact with the floor?

 

  • If you feel that you wanted to bring the knees inwards, you could try placing your feet closer to each other.  If you feel that you wanted to let your knees go outwards, you could place the feet a bit further apart from each other. Do these changes to your feet make it easier for your knees to be pointing upwards without tension? Did this also bring a subtle change to the pathway of weight distribution in the soles of your feet?

 

  • If your shoulder blades feel cramped, you could gently lift your elbows and place them again on the floor. Did that bring a subtle change or do the shoulder blades still feel the same way?

Once you found the most comfortable place in this position, then do nothing. Allow for 10-15 minutes to pass where you simply enjoy doing nothing. Let gravity do the work for you.

Before you come out of the semi supine position, mentally tell yourself, “This now is the relationship that I invite my neck, head and back to have during my computer work”.

When to do this practice

It is good to do this practice before you begin with your computer work, once in the middle of your computer work and/or at the end of the work. It will help to find  your center during computer work. Do remember, however, that this is a starting point, a step one, if you will, for how to take care of yourself while using a computer.

Tune in for the next blog where we will investigate positions of mechanical advantage while working on the computer.

About the author

Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She offers Berlin business yogaprivate yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain, yoga courses and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.  Due to the corona virus, we are currently giving all yoga classes live online.

Live Online yoga Classes Continue

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

— Helen Keller

 

Greetings Yogis,

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

 

Hatha Yoga Classes Live Online

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

 

yoga online

yoga online

Sunday Yoga Live Online

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

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

 

At English Yoga Berlin, we offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli. Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcome to beginners, as well as people struggling with chronic pain. We also offer Berlin business yoga, and private yoga classes, as well as queer and trans prioritized community classes. We are currently offering all of our yoga classes live online. See our schedule for more info.

Computer Work and Posture – Part I

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

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

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

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

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

Good posture in front of the computer

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

What does sitting up straight or upright actually mean?

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

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

A good way of becoming familiar with the relationship between your head, neck and back is to lay down in the semi supine pose with some books underneath your head for ten to fifteen minutes daily. In  Part II of this blog I will explain the semi-supine pose, a mindful exercise that you can practice to help increase your familiarity with this pose, and the relationship between head, neck and back.

Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She offers Berlin business yogaprivate yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain, yoga courses and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.  Due to the corona virus, we are currently giving all yoga classes live online.

Terminology Tuesday: are mindfulness and meditation the same thing?

I often hear people use the terms mindfulness and meditation interchangeably. Are they, though, the same thing?

So let’s look at these two terms.

Mindfulness

photo by Fern

I define mindfulness as the practice of having one’s mind fully present in any activity or inactivity that they are performing. The English term was originally created by the Buddhist scholar T.W. Rhys Davids at the beginning of the 20th century. Later on, this term was used by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his popular Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program. He defines mindfulness as ‘the awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment by moment.’

Many mindfulness practices increase the ability to attain this state of mind. One example is the practice of mindfulness walks whilst using a modified version of  the 54321 technique.  This is one of my favorite mindfulness practices that I always include in our English Yoga Berlin retreats.

Meditation

Meditation, on the other hand, is the practice of letting the mind quiet down from thoughts and worries. It is experiencing ones’ own presence beyond the mind. It requires sitting (or if necessary laying down) and purposefully creating a space to practice. In the Vedantic tradition, there are two types of yogic meditations: saguna and nirguna.

In the saguna meditation, the meditator focuses on one thing only (be it a mandala, the breath, a candle flame). The meditator keeps the mind anchored on this focal point. Think of the mind as a bird that flies from one thought to the next.  Eventually the bird gets tired and needs to rest on a branch. The one focal point of saguna meditation is the branch for the bird-mind to rest on. In nirguna meditation, the meditator focuses on abstract concepts that are indescribable, such as Existence, Cosmic Love, Consciousness and fuses themselves into the object of meditation.  In both ways of meditating the focus is to sharpen the mind into being able to focus on and experience only one thing,  be it something concrete or something abstract.

So what is the difference?

The main difference between mindfulness and meditation is that mindfulness can be applied to any activity and although the mind is fully present in what it is doing, there is still motion in the action of doing. Whilst in meditation one creates a space  where one sits and practices bringing the mind to an inactivity so that it remains settled only on one thing. Of course, a meditation practice will increase your mindfulness awareness in your everyday activities, and a mindfulness practice, on the other hand, will  also help you settle in quickly into meditation. These two go hand in hand strengthening each other, which I believe, is why people often confuse them.

Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She offers Berlin business yogaprivate yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain, yoga courses and workshops.  She is currently deepening her knowledge through Leslie  Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy course and training to become an Alexander Technique teacher.