Private Yoga Classes: a teacher’s point of view (Juli)

Since I have started working with English Yoga Berlin, I have been in an enquiry about private yoga classes and what they have to offer, and how the teachers themselves experience them. Here is Juli’s experience:

pirvate yoga classes: Juli

I have never had a private lesson myself, although I have given them. I have received private sessions with osteopaths, naturopaths, physiotherapists and psychotherapists, and while I do not want to draw parallels with these professions (I am not a therapist), I do find that when I give private lessons it feels something like that: it’s private, it’s personal, focusing specifically on whatever people share, be it about how they are feeling or what is going on with their body. Over regular sessions, trust develops a more directed and personalised approach.

As a teacher I help a client learn how to pay attention to their own body, breath and mind, and how those sensations are connected through thought patterns, emotions, and daily activities. I really like to look at ADLs (activities of daily living), and how to unwrap repetitive patterns. When I give a first-time private lesson, I will communicate through email to prepare what a client might need for the first session, and then develop a program for home yoga practice until the next time we see each other. The program usually includes 15-20 minutes of yoga three times a week and some ADLs.

private yoga classes: Juli

the benefits of a private session with a teacher need to be nurtured in our home practice

Yes there is homework, because as my Svastha yoga teacher says; “once a week is nice, twice a week is maintenance, but three times a week is progress.” What he means by progress can be any goal, whether it be to recover from an injury or to feel more lightheartedness.

The mentor/student relationship is essential to the Yoga experience – where you are learning from someone who knows more than you (an expert? but who is an expert in Yoga, we are all learning).  In the ancient tradition, a guru would decide if a student is ready and a student would decide whether this guru was the right fit for them – and I really believe that you can’t learn yoga from just anybody, any teacher – it has to be someone you connect and resonate with. I imagine how the experience of a series of one to ones would magnify the opportunity of that connection and resonance. This is why it’s important to find the right fit.

At English Yoga Berlin we offer small classes for more personalised practice and private yoga lessons. Juli‘s yoga classes in English are a slow Vinyasa Flow yoga / Svastha yoga mix. Contact us here to learn more and book a private session, or check our classes schedule to participate in a group class at our Kreuzberg yoga studio.

 

Yoga is Not Dance

As a yoga teacher I often hear from students, “I like yoga, but I’m not good at it.” What I understand from this is that they feel they’re expected to do the poses ‘correctly’ in order to be ‘good at yoga.’ But yoga is not dance. As yoga practitioners, we’re not performing for an audience, but we do yoga in order to feel more ease in our bodies, more calm in the mind. We practice yoga for ourselves and nobody else. True, our practice can extend to others by helping us see how we can help our communities. But the practice of yoga is not a show.

“Yoga is not a competition”

The media tells us something different. Yoga competitions are springing up all over the world. The covers of Yoga Journal and Sein show us mostly white, mostly slim, mostly cis-female flexible yogis demonstrating their fanciest poses. Yoga teachers tell us; “there is no right or wrong way to do yoga,” and “yoga is not a competition,” and “everyone has a different body.” But I’ve also heard yoga teachers say that their students are not doing the poses ‘correctly.’ In a yoga class, the teacher will offer corrections with the primary goal of preventing the practitioner from injuring themselves in the pose. But sometimes, subconscious biases causes a teacher to ‘correct’ a student’s pose so that it looks like the textbook or covermodel version, pressing a student to go beyond their own limits, and throwing them out of awareness of their own body. This can not only lead to physical injury, but can also inadvertently cause a student to feel as if they’re ‘not good at yoga.’ As a teacher, I’m always looking to find that balance to gently encourage students to find their limits and go further if they feel like it that day, or retreat from it if they need to. Sometimes this means I do not do corrections at all, especially for those new to yoga. I like to let new practitioners find their own way of doing the poses. Though I myself really like the feeling of an experienced teacher’s gentle guiding hand encouraging my shoulder blades to release down my back, so I don’t want to do away with it altogether. Maybe we even need to move away from a terminology that refers to something as a ‘correction’ and instead call these gentle encouragements something else? What would work for you? Assistance? Encouragements? Guidance?

At English Yoga Berlin, we have consent cards at the fronts of each mat with YES on one side and NO on the other, that lets the teacher know if a participant would like to be touched or not. Participants are invited to turn it over at any point in the class.

Yoga is not Dance

A regular practice of yoga can be good for dancers to balance the stresses they put on their bodies. But it can also be good for those of us who put our bodies through stress in other ways – doing manual labour such as caring for small children, cleaning or construction work, or doing immobile work without a break such as sitting at a computer desk for 8 hours every day or driving a truck for 36 hours. Human bodies need to move, we need to strengthen and limber up our bodies to create more ease in our everyday lives, to recuperate from our daily stresses. This is how a regular practice of yoga benefits us. I can understand how yoga is popular amongst dancers. But when people who have never had dance training come to yoga, and they see a dancer at the front of the room, or amongst them in the practice space, it may cause feelings of inadequacy. How can we, as yoga teachers, and how can we, as experienced yoga practitioners, make room for those new to yoga to feel comfortable?

At English Yoga Berlin, we also have a sign with guidelines as to how we would appreciate everyone act in the space. As the yoga space is for everyone, we hope to provide a space where everyone can feel comfortable. For us, this means that we respect others’ practice by not showing off, flaunting our privilege, wearing strong perfume or chatting in the practice room. Is there anything else that would help you feel more comfortable?

Safer Space

English Yoga Berlin – Safer Space Guidelines


 

Juli offers Community Yoga classes at English Yoga Berlin, with an emphasis on creating a space for those who feel marginalized by mainstream yoga classes: sliding scale prices for no- / low-income earners. Juli teaches Vinyasa Flow Yoga and Restorative Yoga and is currently enrolled in the Svastha Yoga Therapy advanced teacher training program and has completed the first two modules, yoga for injuries and illnesses of the body.

The Neutral Spine

We often hear these words “the neutral spine” as a cue in yoga classes.

But they don’t often come with a clear explanation of what that means or why it’s important. Sometimes a yoga teacher tells us to “tuck our tails under,” which for some people helps to lengthen the lower back, but for others just emphasizes an already rounded lumbar spine. All of our bodies are differently shaped, so a “neutral spine” is different for every person.

neutral spine

Spine Foto by Katie Cowden

So what is it exactly?

A neutral spine is like a spring that can absorb impact as we walk, stretch, strengthen, and generally move about. Like shock absorbers on a car. Anyone with classical dance training has been told to keep their backs straight as a rod, but this removes this spring in our step and our body’s ability to accommodate impact. I often see former dancers come to my yoga classes with chronic lower-back pain or slipped discs. A neutral spine has curves, and generally forms two S-shapes; one at the bottom at the lumbar spine and one at the top at the cervical spine. Long hours of sitting at a desk with a rounded lower back and chin jutting forward can affect longterm impact upon our body’s built-in shock absorber.

Why is it important?

When we take the double-S form of a neutral spine, it helps to keep not only our spines healthy, but other parts of our bodies too. It reduces impact and helps nutrients and oxygen flow where they need to. It also reduces the likelihood of pinching nerves that extend from in-between the vertebrae into the arms and legs. Pain or numbness in the arms or legs can occur when a disc bulges or slips backwards into the spinal canal and presses against nerves that extend outwards. These most often occur at the lower spine, but over the last 15 years with the popularity of the laptop, tablet and smartphone hunching posture, we are seeing many more people with pinched nerves in the neck and upper back. These can often be quite dangerous, because surgery is required to push the disc back or remove the inflammation. Physiotherapy and a regular yoga practice can help, but most people do not take enough time for that. Orthopedists recommend practicing yoga, pilates or physiotherapy 2 or 3 times a week over a minimum of a year in order to heal from a slipped or bulging disc.

How do I know if my spine is neutral?

There are many cues that yoga teachers give to help participants find their own neutral spine position. “Extend the tailbone down.” “Zip up the belly button.” “Lift the heart.” “Pull the shoulder blades together.” “Lengthen the neck.” etc. But only you know when you’ve reached it. You will breathe more freely because your chest is at its most open. Lower back pain may dissipate because the pressure gets lifted as the lumbar spine lengthens. Your balance could improve is one-legged poses, you might feel stronger in warrior poses. One way to test and get to know where your neutral spine is, is to do the rod test. You can get a friend to help you.

  • First, you can try it in tabletop pose.
  • Ask your friend to place the rod against and in line with your spine.
  • Touch the tip of your tailbone and the flat part of the back of your head to the rod.
  • Engage your abdominal muscles so that your belly is not drooping.
  • You should feel long on both the front and back sides of your torso.
  • There should be a gap between your lumbar spine (lower back) and the rod.
  • Now that you’ve got the hang of it in tabletop pose, try it standing!

Juli offers Community Yoga classes at English Yoga Berlin, with an emphasis on creating a space for those who feel marginalized by mainstream yoga classes: sliding scale prices for no- / low-income earners. Juli is currently enrolled in the Svastha Yoga Therapy advanced teacher training program and has completed the first two modules, yoga for injuries and illnesses of the body.

Myths about Weight-loss and Yoga

It was quite unexpected one day when I tried to open an article about body positive yoga and was then slapped with a popup for a weight loss ad. Like a slap in the face, I presumed I was going into friendly territory, and then was shamed for it.

“You would look so much better if…”

I proceeded to communicate with the manager of the web-platform (not the same person who wrote the article), to explain to them how these ads are detrimental. He refused to acknowledge my point of view, explaining to me why my feelings were invalid, and his were correct (a clear case of mansplaining). I think I know when I feel shamed. And when a weight-loss ad pops up while I’m trying to read an article about powerful abundantly-bodied yogis, this is exactly what “fat-shaming” is about. And sometimes it’s not so obvious to those doing it: “The shaming may be performed under the guise of helping the person who is overweight/obese realize they need to lose weight or they will die, become ill, and/or never succeed in life or relationships.” I should not have to be reminded of the so-called beauty standards outlined by mainstream media when I’m trying to find solidarity in connecting to my body with positivity. The term “weight-loss” is grammatically “negative” in and of itself. But I don’t want to dwell on semantics. Body Positivity is about connecting to one’s own body the way it is right now, loving it, owning it; whether that body fits mainstream standards of ability, size, skin colour, gender, or not. Body Positivity is about disregarding the propaganda that capitalism wants to sell us through whatever new trend of the day is, and just being present and accepting our bodies for what they are. In my opinion, the hottest people are the ones who are able to do that, they shine from the inside – they glow with bliss and love of their own bodies. It’s powerful and inspiring.

unhealthy weight-loss

Unhealthy weight-loss

“Body positivity and the wish to lose weight go hand-in-hand…”

Obviously this guy knows nothing about body positivity, nor has any experience about the wish to lose weight. As a female-socialized person who never fit into any beauty norms, I can attest to the experience that I never felt less at home in my body than when I wished to lose weight, nor did I feel any more positive about my body than when I did actually lose weight. Now, at the heaviest I am in my life, I feel the most at home, the most happy. I look in the mirror, and I say “look at that hottie!” About 8 years ago I was on a strict diet that was supposed to alleviate the painful symptoms I had from endometriosis. I lost a lot of weight very quickly, I was 20 kilos less than I am now – in the so-called BMI ‘normal’ weight range, even though my ribs were sticking out. But my immune system got depleted and I kept getting sick. And the symptoms continued to perpetuate. According to the BMI, today I would be classified as ‘obese.’ But I have no desire to lose ‘weight.’ The mass my body has is mostly composed of thick muscle and strong bones. Yeah, I have some fat around my middle, I enjoy a few beers now and then. But according to my doctor, I am very healthy for my age. And I don’t lose connection to my breath while I’m both demonstrating as well as talking through the approximately 30 chaturungas in my yoga classes, as well as practice handstand, and forearm stand regularly. I hardly ever get sick these days. I’m flexible, strong, commute by bicycle and move easily in my own body. If I lost weight, I’d lose muscle and strength.  The BMI is a load of bollocks.

forearm stand to scorpion

Moving up to Scorpion pose

Look at these athletes, how strong they are… I’m sure some of them would be classified as obese. If you slapped them with a weight-loss ad, they’d scoff in your face! I don’t think that losing weight should be a goal for anyone. Especially when it means that some people can take this concept to the extreme and develop eating disorders. I can get behind the idea of being healthy, but at cost to whom? And what’s in it for someone who runs some random web platform to tell others what they should or should not do with their own bodies?

“You should eat healthy…”

The manager of the website went on to explain to me that many of their “readers have a long history of health related issues where many of them are related to unhealthy diets and eating habits.” Firstly, I don’t know how he could know this, he’s judging his readers based on analytics and statistics from what they click on. Just because someone falls prey to the latest weight-loss trend does not mean they have ‘unhealthy diets’ or are even ‘overweight.’ Both of these concepts are based on culturally-constructed marketing concepts sold to us by multi-million dollar companies. Secondly, even using the term ‘healthy’ for food is ridiculous. How can something that is dead be ‘healthy’? Okay, sometimes people eat food that is not dead, but most of us will eat dead and / or processed plants or animals. ‘Healthy‘ refers to an organic material, plant or animal, that is alive and thriving. When we eat, our bodies take nutrients from what we consume, not ‘health.’ One could say that “Kale is nutritious” because it contains a lot of nutrients that human bodies need to remain healthy. But so does a bag of chips and a glass of beer! I just found out about this trend in Berlin called BierYoga, I’m all for it! Why not bring together two things you’re passionate about? I’ve heard some German yogis say that they will never drink beer because it gives them a thick belly. As the old school yogis proudly display their beer bellies, these westerners fall prey to capitalist vanity. I myself don’t see the point of such restrictions, and want to enjoy my life with a few beers now and then. And I will rock my belly in a bikini, despite your jealous sneers. Yes, I do think that fat-shaming comes from a place of jealousy over the fact that this ample-bodied person allows themselves to indulge in the enjoyment of eating and drinking, and the one watching their waistline places themselves in a prison of calorie-counting and latest diet fads. Who’s the one with the ‘unhealthy’ eating habits here? It’s not so easy to say, is it?

“Emotional over-eating is the cause of obesity …”

Some people, no matter how careful they are with what they eat are still unhealthy, and those who just eat whatever they want whenever they want are very healthy, like myself. Emotional over-eating is not the problem. And I would even venture to say that emotional over-eating may stem from the very thing you keep pushing at people. Mainstream beauty ideals tend to alienate more people than they include. Weight-loss ads just create more eating disorders than they help people get healthier. Contemporary western society is so food-obsessed that we’ve lost track of what food can do for us as social human beings and how we can connect to each other. People are constantly counting calories, worrying about whether what’s in their food is GMO or contains this preservative or that salt, or whether something is deemed as organic or fits in with the latest hipster trend and makes them look cool. I fear that people don’t enjoy their food anymore, that it’s become a status symbol, something to post on Facebook. I’ve heard people say “at our age, we have to leave more on our plates” when ordering at restaurants. So… what happens to the food on your plate? It gets tossed in the garbage. This just emphasizes your status as a wealthy person who can afford to order a lot of food, and then not eat it, because you’re ‘trying to keep slim.’ This makes me so angry when I see food go to waste. Food should *not* be a status symbol. In most places of the world, people eat what they can get their hands on. They cherish the food that they have available to them, because there IS nothing else. I grew up with food as a social tradition. We would gather around a feast. Food was important to keeping our culture thriving, and over-eating was a sign of respect. And we would never, ever leave food on our plates. If we couldn’t eat it all, we would put it away as leftovers for the next day, because there was a time when my family remembered having very little or nothing to eat and they didn’t want to go through that again. In South Korea, over-eating is one of the most popular things to marvel at – it has become a kind of sporty entertainment! And here in the west, we’re ‘counting calories.’ Except for the lower-income people who don’t have access to fresh produce. Could these so-called ‘food deserts‘ be the cause of obesity in the United States? These are also often in places where city folk don’t venture to go, there are no yoga studios in a lot of these lower-income regions, no soccer fields, no cooking classes. People are struggling for survival in a society that deems them under class, they don’t have time to count calories or the money to buy better food.

“Obesity IS the cause of many illnesses our society is suffering…”

The capitalist machine has invented a fear of ‘fatness’ to sell us overly-priced food and weight-loss regimes. The capitalist machine has also invented fast food, deep fryers and over-sweetened our cereal, so that they can feed the machine, shower us with images of what we should look like and sell us back weight-loss regimes. It’s a well-thought out campaign to keep profits high and consumers feeling shitty about how they look. This is the reason why weight-loss ads earn money for web platforms like this one I went to. The manager claimed that he would like to represent diversity, but he wants to keep the website going. Yup, weight-loss ads sell, and diversity makes you no income, because it is revolutionary and counters capitalistic devices. I’m not going to disagree that a lot of excess fat in the body contributes to heart disease and limited mobility. But people get heart disease who are slimmer as well, and limited mobility can be caused be a lot of different reasons. When I was attending the first module of the yoga therapy teacher training program, the teacher, who’s also a practicing orthopedist, asked us if anyone knew what the main reason for bad knees was. A fellow student piped up, believing that obesity was the cause. He shook his head, ‘no,’ and said that’s one of the most common misconceptions. Yes, people who carry around extra weight, like myself, stress their knees more than smaller people. But that can actually create more strength in the knees, because of the pressure on the bones. Time and again, with every illness in the body, he kept referring to “too much sitting” as the most common cause of illness in our society.

Advertisers feign interest in people’s health in order to make more money for themselves. They don’t actually care about the health of other people. If they did, they’d stop shoving images of plastic unattainable bodies at us, fast food and weight-loss campaigns. If you really want to help people get more healthy, you’d actually go into lower-income communities and open up community kitchens with affordable nutritious food, cooking classes, economically-accessible exercise programs and community events that get people interacting with each other and moving around. Reduce the workweek, so people spend less time sitting at desks. Provide everyday office activities that everyone would enjoy – going for a walk or lunchtime yoga. Weight-loss ads only benefit those who are selling the ads, nobody else. Body Positivity is about enjoying yourself, your body, how it is now. My interpretation of mindful eating is rather than a selfish and vain approach of ‘watching what you eat’, to enjoy and be thankful for what I have to eat, and to recognize the connection between all of us on the planet through food.

Juli teaches Community Yoga classes in Berlin, with a focus of creating space for those who feel marginalized by mainstream yoga, offering classes both in German and English. Juli offers two weekly Vinyasa Flow yoga classes at our English yoga Kreuzberg studio

Body Positive Yoga

pic_bodyposi2This Sunday, Juli will be away and Kanchi brings Body Positive Yoga to our Vinyasa Flow Yoga community class.

When? : Sunday, October 25, 2015 (4-5:30pm)
What? : Body Positive Yoga
How Much? : 12€ drop-in / reduced rate (pay-what-you-can)
Where? : Our Kreuzberg Yoga Studio

Kanchi uses her 20 years of experience practicing yoga to provide Vinyasa Flow or Hatha / Hatha-Flow classes that are designed to provide a safe environment for people of all shapes, sizes, genders and ability levels to experience a yoga asana practice and build a deeper connection with their bodies. All of Kanchi’s classes are queer & trans*friendly.

Why Community Classes?

If you’ve been following our blogs or attending our classes, you know that we’ve been offering sliding-scale community classes at English Yoga Berlin since June 2013. The rising cost of yoga classes in Berlin can deter lower- / no-income people from seeking out a practice that could potentially help them deal with stress and burn-out, or symptoms of chronic illnesses that with less income are harder to treat. We’d like to be able to provide a place where people can learn about the benefits of yoga without worrying about the cost.

Why Body Positive Yoga?

In Juli’s blog “I’m No Barbie Girl”  she outlines the problems of the modern western yoga industry and how it paints a picture of the picture-perfect yogi. This can also be a deterrent to practicing yoga for those who don’t fit that type and who feel they must be flexible to practice yoga. If you’ve ever taken one of our Tantra Yoga classes, you’ll know that yoga is not just about the postures, there’s a whole other world! Literally anyone can practice yoga.

Why Yoga for Queer and Trans* folk?

Also part of body positive yoga is making the space safe for queer and trans* people. When the room is filled with stereotypical “yoga-bodies” and unawareness of heterosexual and cis-sexual privilege, it can make some queer and trans* people feel uncomfortable and unable to focus on their own practice. And often the language used in mainstream yoga classes can be very hetero- and cis-sexist. As queer teachers (Juli and Kanchi), we can take the first step in making the space more queer and trans* friendly.

We’re looking forward to Kanchi’s Body Positive Yoga on Sunday! It’s a great fit for us at English Yoga Berlin and especially for Juli’s Vinyasa Class.

Happy Holidays from English Yoga Berlin!!

English Yoga in Berlin

English Yoga Berlin

Everyone needs a break once in awhile, even yogis.

As the turn of the year in the Gregorian calendar comes near (and in a couple weeks the Julian), some of us celebrate traditional holidays with family or close friends. This time of year can often be filled with happy gatherings, but also stressful times as conflicts arise or old conflicts are reignited, sad memories of lost loved ones re-emerge or the sadness of being alone at this time.

There are no easy answers, only the advice to remember that this time will pass and a new year with a new beginning will come. And when times get too stressful take a moment to take care of yourself. Take a walk, take some deep breaths, close your eyes and remember your resolve.

English Yoga Berlin will be back after the break and before the New Year on Tuesday December 30th, with a Hatha yoga class at 6pm (18h) and a Vinyasa flow community yoga (sliding scale donation-based) class at 8pm (20h).

We’re closed on New Year’s Day, but back again in the new year with our full schedule!

Happy Holidays! And have a good slide into the New Year!!!

Soundwalk and Flow Meditation Workshop

feeling the cobblestones
feeling the cobblestones

When: Wed. 30. July, 2014 / 18h to 21h
Where: HeileHaus eV / Waldemarstr. 36, HH, 2.OG
Cost: € 15 (reduced rate €7 or more)
…or one stamp on a 5er card or one recuperation

When going from place to place, we often go through the world disconnected from our environment and with closed off senses – looking at mobile devices, listening to music on headphones, or simply with thoughts on other things than the present moment. We rush about, eager to get to the next place, rather than strolling along and observing – not only to what is happening around us, but also ‘within’ us – our physical sensations as well as emotional reactions to what we see, hear, feel, taste.

When we learn to become aware of our own sensations, we are more readily available to react to unforeseen circumstances and make better choices in the moment. This practice is often called ‘mindfulness,’ and it’s something that we learn to do during exercises of being present, ie; meditation, yoga and tai chi.

This workshop takes us out of a Berlin yoga studio and into the city (around Kottbusser Tor) for an outdoor walking excursion, practicing awareness of our surroundings, and ourselves within them. It blends together several traditions – Vipassana Walking Meditation, Vinyasa Yoga Flow, Chi Yoga and Soundwalking.

What is a Soundwalk?

A form of interactive audio-art where the audience member participates on a walk of a predetermined path set-out by the artist, either listening to a recording on a mobile device or listening to the environment. This workshop will draw from the variation developed by Hildegard Westercamp, which very much resembles Vipassana walking meditation, with a focus on silent observation of the present moment. Despite being called a “soundwalk,” people who are deaf, non-hearing or with limited hearing are encouraged to participate using other senses.

What is walking meditation?

Vipassana walking meditation and Buddhist walking meditation are two forms of walking meditation where the participant strolls along, silently observing their own way of walking, the details of their surroundings (like the sensation of cobblestones beneath their feet), as well as their own feelings in relation to them.

What is Chi Yoga?

Craig Perkins, a yoga teacher trainer and tai chi practitioner of the Yandara Yoga Institute developed a standing warrior sequence, specifically for practising yoga asana on the sand, that combines some tai chi movements with vinyasa flow yoga. His ideology towards yoga is as an anusara-inspired peaceful warrior – meditation, movement and balance in readiness for whatever comes.

The workshop facilitator:
Juli has been teaching vinyasa yoga since 2009 in Berlin, a practitioner of different traditions of yoga since 1998. She is also a filmmaker and sound designer, and has instructed media arts classes that often include soundwalks.

If you are interested in attending the workshop, please contact us to reserve your spot, and get more details on the workshop page

English Yoga Berlin is a collective of yoga teachers dedicated to providing community yoga in Berlin. We offer yoga classes in English, and we teach hatha yoga, classical yoga, restorative yoga, vinyasa yoga and yoga nidra. You can see our schedule here.

Shiatsu for Yoga and Self-Massage

Shiatsu (which means, literally, ‘finger pressure’) is a Japanese preventative manual therapy technique. In Shiatsu massage, vertical pressure (usually from the fingertips or palms) is applied to various points on the body—found using both anatomical knowledge and meridian knowledge—to produce wellness and ‘flow’ within the body’s energy systems. Pressure is usually applied, in order to guide energy through the body and clear blocked channels.

Many of us use these points unconsciously: when people feel pain in their bodies, they often naturally squeeze, massage and apply pressure to the area. This stimulates blood circulation, increases awareness (and thereby ability to respond to pain) and supports the metabolism of healing in the affected area. Shiatsu is especially successful in treating things like neck pain, but can also be used to deal with allergiesheadaches,  chronic pain, exhaustion and all sorts of other problems you might have. Plus, it just feels really nice.

image taken from shiatsu-brighton.com

Learning a few Shiatsu points on your own body is a wonderful way to add a special level of care and support to your yoga practice. You can practice Shiatsu points regularly, and then use them in stressful situations as part of emotional first aid! In our English yoga classes at English Yoga Berlin, we integrate this teaching, step by step, so that students can slowly begin to learn their own bodies areas of strength and weakness, and thereby develop a highly personalized practice that meets their own health needs. Here is a blog discussing how Shiatsu and Yoga can complement each other, from a student’s perspective.

Two very useful points that relieve anxiety, exhaustion, sore eyes, neck tension, jaw ache and shoulder pain are Heavenly Pillar and Heavenly Rejuvenation. Heavenly Pillar is located on both sides of the neck, about one finger-width below the base of the skull and about one finger width on either side of the neck. Heavenly Rejuvenation is located on the shoulders, midway between the base of the neck and the outside of the shoulders, about 2cm below the top of the shoulders. Here is a graphic that shows both points.

The most important part of self massage is listening to your own body, so breathe deeply while you try finding these points and, when you find a point that feels good, stay there and apply gentle pressure. You might feel the point radiating outwards, into the muscles surrounding it. That’s a good sign. You don’t want to hurt yourself, so only press as firmly as you need to in order to feel a nice sensation. It’s recommended to press for about 1 minute—but feel free to stay longer if it feels good!

2 ways to get free yoga classes this Springtime…

photo by fernTo celebrate the longer days and the budding green leaves, we are offering a special Springtime gift to all people looking for English yoga classes in Berlin!

1) When you purchase a 5er / 10er card or a monthly membership, you will get a free class. You can use your free class anytime before April 31, 2014, to attend any of our Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa Flow Yoga, Classical Yoga or Restorative Yoga classes in our Berlin Kreuzberg studio. You are also welcome to donate your free class to a friend–just let us know!

Check out our schedule, and a map of how to find us.

2) Additionally, we are searching for some friendly and enthusiastic people to help us with leafleting, photography and cleaning in exchange for classes. If you are interested, send us an email explaining why you would be a good work exchange yogi and your dates and times of availability, and we’ll get in touch!

Endometriosis and a Personal Approach to Healing

It wasn’t until my 30s that I started realizing there was something off about my menstrual cycle. I’d always had pain during the first few days accompanied by heavy bleeding, and often experienced what is called ‘breakthrough bleeding.’ But it gradually started to get worse, until there were months when I was bleeding every day of my cycle. With the advice of a friend, I went to see a naturopath, who prescribed homeopathic medicine (specifically, venom from the snake, Lachesis). I was open to trying it, but after about half a year, I felt no change for the better, and out several hundred dollars. In the meantime, I moved 5000km to another city for graduate school.

At this point I’d had a yoga practice on & off for about 8 years. After I moved, I made an effort to continue my yoga practice and
discovered many more different teachers and styles of yoga than I had before. I felt that my practice had been good for me ‘physically.’ I became more aware of the pain I was experiencing and was able to ease it a little during my menstrual cycle. But I didn’t recognize the healing benefits until much later on. I continued to struggle with menstrual cycle problems, and had now built up a lack of trust towards naturopathy. So I tried allopathicremedies – the birth control pill was advised for hormone balancing, even though I didn’t need it for contraception, and I had several invasive surgeries. After the second surgery to remove ovarian growths, a biopsy showed that it was endometrial tissue. That was when I got the diagnosis of endometriosis. But the hormone therapy didn’t seem to work: the tissue kept growing, albeit perhaps slower.Endometriosis is a rather common illness, affecting approximately 10% of people with female reproductive organs, and perhaps more who show no symptoms. The allopathic methods of treatment vary from mild hormone treatment to organ removal surgery. Sadly, I know several people who have had full hysterectomies, and yet still experience the return of growths. Growths root down onto other organs or muscles, making them difficult to remove completely and can cause lung collapse, kidney failure and/or extreme pain. Endometrial tissue can often even grow on the scar tissue from previous surgeries! Hormone therapy such as IUDs or contraceptive pills can slow the growths and relieve some pain, but not always. Sometimes androgen hormones are recommended to induce menopause. One person I know had tried this method twice and still experienced the return of the growths and painful menstruation.Often, pregnancy and subsequent breast-feeding can act to “re-set” the adrenal system so that endometriosis may not return. Menopause may see an end to more growths, but the ones that have already rooted down may continue to grow. There has been some evidence to show that even people without ovaries and a uterus may develop endometriosis on the prostate. It is seen by the medical system as a woman’s disease, making it difficult for male-identified people to receive proper treatment.

Having no success with allopathic or naturopathic methods, I began to investigate the alternatives. My personal approach to healing began when I decided to become a yoga teacher and delve deeper into my practice. I read this book that recommended a strict endometriosis diet and followed it dogmatically for one year. And I tried out many other modalities – body talk, the sadhana practice of kundalini, myofascial massage, acupuncture, mindfulness meditation and medicinal roots. I sought advice from elders and spiritual practitioners. A couple years ago, I had yet a third surgery – recommended because of something that looked cancerous but turned out not to be. All of the methods I had tried became too much for me to keep up a regular practice with, it became a stress to try to keep up the discipline of the diet. And I wanted to do other things than focus on my body all the time! But I learned an awful lot through experimenting with different things and I eventually found what worked for me.

Endometriosis is an immunodeficiency illness, attacking the body when it’s low on other resources, so I focused on trying to keep healthy. I also became convinced that stress causes endometriosis by the physical tightening of muscles around the pelvis. The practice of mula bahnda (the root lock) brought more awareness for me about what was going on in my pelvic area. During menstruation I now try to focus on letting go of any tightness, sometimes even doing exercises to push out any stuck endometrial tissue. And I am also careful not to do inversions during heavy days. I continue to make smoothies out of spirulina (for immune boosting properties), maca root (for adrenal health), and trying to not let stress overtake my life, while keeping a balance of having some fun, expanding my limits and moving beyond my comfort zone once in awhile. I occasionally get some pain and breakthrough bleeding, and then I know it’s my body telling me to slow down. So far, the growths have not returned, and I’m still years away from menopause! It may not take becoming a yoga teacher for you, but I know there’s a way that you can heal yourself too.

Juli teaches Vinyasa Flow Yoga and Restorative Yoga in our Berlin Kreuzberg studio. She continues to explore self healing with yoga and encourages her students to do so, too.