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.

the gift of yoga this christmas

yoga christmas presents in Berlin

photo by Aaron Burden

The Christmas period is here and we, at English Yoga Berlin, wish you VERY HAPPY HOLIDAYS!


We wish you magical moments with friends and people that you love, lots of Glühwein, inner peace, connection, presence, and the ability to stay away from the frantic stress that these holidays often bring with them.

For those of you searching for a nice present to give your loved ones, we suggest you give the gift of yoga. We are selling Berlin yoga gift cards for one or more Hatha yoga, Vinyasa yoga, or Tantra yoga classes. You can buy them at our yoga studio, or online.

Happy holidays!

May your hearts be merry and bright!


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.

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 .

Childbirth Has Its Own Plan

Berlin Prenatal Yoga Classes in English

photo by Fern

Historically, we humans tend to be creatures that like to plan. We like to know what will happen and how. We want to be prepared for everything. But when it comes to birth, especially when it’s our first time birthing, it is natural to be full of doubts and worry. One of the ways to deal with this worry is a tendency to over-plan. We make elaborate intricate detailed birth plans, we communicate them to our doctors or midwives, and we attach ourselves dearly to them.

Is that wrong? Not necessarily. But it is limiting. The more attached we are to a specific plan, the less flexibility we will have in the moment. If even one thing goes out of plan, we might have a panic, a massive disappointment and even go as far as disassociating ourselves from the rest of the birth – meaning that we would not be present at the birth of our child.

Should I not have a birth plan at all? The problem does not lie in having a birth plan or not having one. It’s about the over attachment we give to our plan. Sure, you can choose a way you would like things to go. And, probably, you should choose a way you would like things to go, so that when you are given a choice you know which choice to choose. You can have an idea of what it is that would suit you best. But you need to keep in mind, that birth has its own plan. And the challenge as a birthing parent is to be able to be flexible and remain present during the process.

Fortunately, in Berlin, you get many birthing choices. You can birth at home, in a Geburtshaus, in an anthroposophic hospital or a conventional hospital. All these choices offer their own philosophy to birthing. But regardless of which you choose, there tend to still be fears bubbling away in the subconscious. Will it be a canal birth or a caeserean birth? Will an epidural be needed or will you manage through the pain? Will it be an orgasmic birth (and no, this is no joke, they actually do happen for a few lucky ones!)? But the truth is you do not know what will happen during childbirth. As you do not know what will happen during life. Birth has its own plan… regardless of how much we try to pre-plan it.

So what if we took all that focus from trying to predict what kind of birth we will have, and put it into learning how to have flexible minds and how to be present at our child’s birth regardless of what will or will not happen? In our Berlin prenatal yoga classes we will explore techniques of how to keep an open mind during birth. We will use mindfulness techniques to learn how to be present during childbirth and parenthood. We will learn relaxation techniques, that when practiced often enough, will come natural to us in times of need. And although we will use lots of visualization techniques and positive thinking to keep us calm and grounded, we will try to not get over attached to only one way of birthing.

Our new English prenatal yoga class in Berlin starts in September 2015. Pinelopi has taught Hatha Yoga in English for 8 years now and pregnancy yoga to private students at home. After having being pregnant in 2013, she is now ready to offer pregnancy yoga to a small group at our Kreuzberg yoga studio.

Pregnancy- A Time of Transition

photo by Shaleah Dawnyel

photo by Shaleah Dawnyel

There is no doubt. Most people think that pregnancy is a magical moment. It’s the moment that a new human being is preparing their entry into the world. It’s a moment a new parent is getting born. It’s the moment that things get shifted in the psyche to make space for the new. Magical? That’s most probably an adequate word to describe this time. But don’t confuse “magical” as a synonym for smooth, easy, happy, light. It’s wonderful when these attributes can also describe your experience, but mostly pregnancy is a time of massive transition. And transition is usually difficult, exciting, full of challenges and uncertainty.

It’s important to acknowledge this other aspect of pregnancy too. It is not just your body that gets stretched to make room for this new human being. It is also your psyche and spirit. Space, both physical and energetic, becomes an issue in your life. Transition is often accompanied with uncertainty and worry. This is normal. This is how transition works. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed by it.

This is where prenatal yoga can help. Pregnancy yoga promotes mental and physical well being and balance which is vital during times of transition or uncertainty. Learning how to breathe during pregnancy will not only help during pregnancy but in the many moments of parenthood to come. Creating a sankalpa and returning to it again and again will help you focus in the positive change you wish for your life. Learning how to listen to your body will help you accept your body and its’ changes, and will be of great value during childbirth. Prenatal yoga visualization techniques will help bring serenity into your present life and serve as an anchor of focus during childbirth.

We will be offering a new English prenatal yoga class in Berlin starting September 2015. Pinelopi has taught Hatha Yoga in English for 8 years now and pregnancy yoga to private students at home. After having being pregnant in 2013, she is now ready to offer pregnancy yoga to a small group at our yoga studio in Kreuzberg.

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.

Two New Hatha classes, a Writing Workshop and more Autumn yoga news!!

autumn flower by FernAutumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
~Albert Camus

Greetings Yogis!

We’re happy to be back in action after a summer break. We bring you a new fall schedule of classes by Pinelopi, a writing workshop, and other news!

Hatha in English

Pinelopi Returns

Pinelopi’s Return!

Our beloved Pinelopi returns after maternity leave with two new Hatha classes on Friday evenings
starting October 10th.

5:30-7pm & 7:30-9pm. See our schedule page.


Heal Yourself through Writing

Nicole Olmsted

Heal Yourself Through Writing –
a workshop with Nicole Olmsted

When: Nov. 9, 2014 11h-15h
Where: Görlitzer str. 39
How much: 30€ / 20€ erm

Dive into visual writing exercises that will help shift perspectives of the past and empower yourself to create new ways of seeing your world.

English Yoga Berlin in Crete

English Yoga Berlin in Crete

English Yoga Berlin in Crete

Pedro taught a weeklong yoga retreat in Crete last week to mostly beginners.



Seeking Carpenter Yogi

Photo by Krabatmühle-Schwarzkollm eV

Seeking Carpenter Yogi

English Yoga Berlin is looking to do a barter with someone who has carpentry skills to build us a large box on wheels in exchange for yoga classes. If that’s you, then send us an email!



We continue to be thankful for your support ….. We wish you a beautiful and hearty autumn in Berlin, back to work or back to school, and back to your yoga practice!


Pinelopi’s back with two new Hatha Yoga classes!

Pinelopi has completed her maternity leave and will be back to teach yoga at our studio!!!

When?  FrSONY DSCidays at 17.30-19.00 and 19:30 -21:00

What? Hatha Yoga in English for all levels

Where? Gorlitzerstr. 39, Kreuzberg

The first class will be on October 10th. You can now sign up for the classes by sending us an email at englishyogaberlin(at)

Please share the info!  …looking forward to seeing you on the mat!

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.