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.

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; taught 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.

Beyond the Thinking Mind Workshop

We are warmly inviting you to participate in a 3 hour workshop on

“Experiencing Ourselves Beyond the Thinking Mind”.

 

When a sage was asked to describe today’s modern world, he responded “lost in thought”. We spend so much time lost in our own thoughts that days pass on by without getting a moment to connect with our own presence and the things that matter to us the most. In this workshop “Beyond the Thinking Mind” we will investigate what the patterns of our minds are, and what gets in the way of experiencing ourselves differently.

 

Yoga retreat near Berlin: "Beyond the thinking mind"When:

Saturday 22nd of February, 2020   13.00 – 16.00

What:

A talk, a meditation and a yoga session.

  • The talk will predominately look at the mind and its patterns.  At the end we will explore ways to experience the world beyond our thinking minds.
  • We will learn a  meditation technique to quiet down the chatterbox mind, while learning to detach without repressing.
  • We will end the workshop with a yoga session to move our bodies, tune in with our breaths, and observe our minds.

Who is this workshop for:

This workshop is  of interest to people who wish to understand the way the mind works according to a yogic and Buddhist point of view.  No previous yoga experience is necessary.

Maximum number of participants: 16

Where:

Our English Yoga Berlin Kreuzberg studio.

About the teacher:

Beginning her yoga journey in 1999, Pinelopi completed a 600 hour Hatha Yoga Teacher and Vedantic Philosophy Training course over a period of two years in Valencia, Spain.  For the last decade, she has worked as a full-time yoga teacher in Spain and in 2010 she founded English Yoga Berlin. Currently she is deepening her knowledge through Leslie Kaminoff’s Yoga Anatomy Course,  David Moore’s “Injury-free yoga” applying the Alexander Technique postural alignment to all yoga poses and is studying with Jorg Asshof to become an Alexander Technique teacher.  Her workshops and retreats are inspired by Tara Brach‘s teachings.

 

Price:  30 Euro

 

Early registration discount: 5 € discount if you register before February 8th, 2020. The workshop is refundable unless cancellation occurs later than February , 15th  2020 after which 50% refund.  Please register early before the spots fill up!

To book a place please contact:

pinelopi (at) englishyogaberlin (dot) com

 

 

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.

yoga retreat: “beyond the thinking mind”

Pinelopi is organizing a weekend long Hatha Yoga retreat dedicated to:

“Experiencing yourself Beyond the Thinking Mind”

We warmly invite you to experience a weekend full of yoga, mindfulness and presence.

 

When a sage was asked to describe today’s modern world, he responded “lost in thought”. We spend so much time lost in our own thoughts that days pass on by without getting a moment to connect with our own presence and the things that matter to us the most.  In this yoga retreat we will look at the thinking mind and its patterns; we will try to identify the beliefs that create certain types of thoughts; and explore ways to experience the world beyond our thinking minds. 

 

When: Friday October 25th, 2019; 14.00  to Sunday October 27th, 2019; 17.00

Where:  Rosenwaldhof  – This is a beautiful place in Brandenburg, 1.5 hours South-east of Berlin, on the river Havel, surrounded by nature.

What is included:

  • Four yoga sessions
  • Meditation instruction
  • Mindfulness walks to explore the river and nature
  • Bio vegetarian food: breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • Accommodation based on your preference

Prices: Prices include all the above plus one of the following accommodation options:

  • Double room 245€
  • Single room 255€

** All bathroom facilities are shared. If you have a need for a private bathroom please inquire.

Who:

  • Up to 15 yoga students

Early registration discount: 15 € discount if you register for the yoga retreat before June 15th, 2019. To reserve your space, please send an email and deposit 50 Euro by bank transfer or paypal.

*The deposit is fully refundable if a cancellation occurs before August 30th, 2019, and 50% refundable if cancellation occurs before October 4th, 2019. 

Space is limited so register early before the spots fill up!

For more details, please write to:

pinelopi (at) englishyogaberlin (dot) com

 

Beat the Winter Blues with Restorative Yoga

Rejuvenate

Relaxing by candlelight

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

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

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


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


Why Restorative Yoga?

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

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

What is Restorative Yoga?

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

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

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

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

 

What?:  Restorative Yoga with Natalie Kakon

Where?:    At the English Yoga Berlin studio

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

How much?:   Donation based/pay what you can

 

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

 

 

 

Why Restorative Yoga?

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

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

What is Restorative Yoga?

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

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

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

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

Small Business Coach, Shaleah Dawnyel

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

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

 

What made you start coming to English Yoga Berlin?

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

What’s so different about our yoga classes?

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

How has your yoga practice helped you in your work?

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

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

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

 

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