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!