Keeping calm in times of uncertainty

The whole world has been affected, we’re all in this together

Keep Calm in Times of UncertaintyThe COVID-19 pandemic has revealed some unexpected things about our society. In the past, when we’ve imagined through films or literature what the world would look like during a viral outbreak, the current situation is not one we’ve anticipated, one where (unless you’re a medical worker, caregiver, garbage collector, cleaner, bus driver, grocery store clerk, or work in food service or production) most of us are asked to stay home. Those of us with the privilege of comfortable, safe homes, clean running water and access to grocery stores can easily do that. But the crisis is also showing more clearly the inequalities around the world, that most of us live in cramped quarters, abusive home situations, unsanitary conditions, or don’t have access to clean water, a roof over our heads, or are incarcerated. It also clearly shows which demographics have access to proper healthcare. Nobody is as of yet immune to the virus, but we have different positions from which to fight it. In all of this it’s hard to keep calm in times of uncertainty.

Other epidemics in the past have been isolated to smaller parts of the world, but this is the first one that has spread worldwide. Our world has gotten smaller through international travel, dwindling habitats for wild animals, mass production of food and worldwide shipping. All of this has increased and sped-up human contact. One of my favourite guided relaxations includes a visualization of how we’re all connected through the earth, the animals, plants and each other: the butterfly effect. But thinking about all that inter-connection right now, when we’re supposed to be apart from each other feels counterintuitive. So I’ve been avoiding this visualization these days. But it’s also rewarding to see how neighbours are looking out for each other more, like buying groceries for those more vulnerable or wearing masks in public places to reduce the risk of asymptomatic infection. It shows that people are actually acknowledging our inter-connection.

Panic is about things we cannot control

Even for those with the privilege to work from a safe, comfortable home, and with loved ones nearby, there is still a lot of uncertainty about what the future will hold. Going out to the grocery store and wondering if you’ve touched your face while standing in line, or whether you’ve cleaned your vegetables properly can cause a panic attack. Our enemy is microscopic. We don’t know when it will hit, if it has hit, or if we or those we love will succumb to it. We also don’t know what it means for our society and how we will interact once this pandemic is over, how long it will last, or even if it will end. Who will we be once it is over? How will it change us? What new behaviours will we have to take on in the future? Will everyone go out with face masks and latex gloves? How will we go to events while maintaining distance? What about flights and cramped long-distance bus rides? What about our jobs?

Uncertain Times

Strange Times, Cartoon by Leunig

The future is never something that we could ever predict, but there are certain things we can usually count on that will most likely be there tomorrow or a week from now. With the corona times as they are, our normal everyday routine has been disrupted, and there is the feeling that our support system has been pulled out from under us. This is a panic-inducing scenario. Those who didn’t already have anxiety or panic attacks before this will now know what it’s like for those who have that as a regular experience. One thing we can do to manage it is to learn to observe the things we have control over, acknowledge what support we do have right here and now in the present, and act mindfully. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of some tips that can help with keeping calm in times of uncertainty, some of which may work for some, but not others, take care of what you can manage yourself right now:

  1. Meditation or guided relaxation
  2. Listening to Sound Healing music
  3. Breathing techniques, such as the Bee Breath during Pinelopi’s grounding sessions
  4. Practicing yoga, Qi Gong or other calming movement practices
  5. Practicing mindfulness as you walk, noticing your feet on the ground
  6. Chewing food slowly, being mindful and grateful for the food you have available
  7. Taking control of the things you can right now – plant a garden, dive into a new project
  8. Joining a new streaming platform and binge watching obscure movies
  9. Being there for others, helping a neighbour, supporting a friend
  10. Reading about how to overthrow capitalism and planning actions to help re-build a future world
  11. …. What are your strategies to remain calm in times of uncertainty? … post in the comments below …

 


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

Practicing yoga online during a pandemic

As panic rises, practicing yoga during a pandemic seems like the last thing one would think about. But yoga is what we do, so here are our thoughts and a new offer of yoga online!

Why yoga?

yoga online

Practicing yoga online

Panic is rising high and people are doing irrational things like fighting over toilet paper. Most people know that hoarding toilet paper isn’t going to help anyone, but it’s something people feel they have control over. A regular practice of yoga or meditation can calm anxiety and reduce panic, allowing us to stay clear-headed and follow the guidelines as outlined by the World Health Organization. The breathing techniques we practice in yoga also helps to keep the respiratory system strong and supports the immune system. Yoga also gives us something to do when everything else is shut down, it can be practiced anywhere. And even if you don’t have a mat, you can still find a way to practice in other ways – for example this chair yoga sequence or this standing sequence. You can keep up a practice on your own, or try out some yoga online. Some sources even have live streamed classes.

My local yoga studio is open, what precautions should I take?

If your local yoga studio is still open, great for you! Hopefully they are not a studio that packs people into a tight space. In order to keep the spread of the virus down and flatten the curve, follow the guidelines as outlined by the WHO:

  • Stay home even if you’re feeling a little bit unwell – headache, achey, sore throat, tiredness, etc.
  • Bring your own mat and other props if you have them, especially blankets.
  • Or bring your own clean towel to lay down on the mat.
  • Spray down your mat with disinfectant before and after use, and throw away the paper towel you’ve wiped it with.
  • Don’t touch your face
  • Wash your hands and throw away the paper towel you’ve used to dry them with.
  • Drink lots of water or tea in your own container that you wash before and after every outing.

My local studio is closed or I’m unwell.

Here’s your chance to try out the myriad of yoga classes available online! There are a number of free youtube videos and other paid sources for yoga videos online. But if you’d like a live-streamed yoga class there are also options. As of tomorrow, English Yoga Berlin will be live with yoga online. Take a look at our Facebook-event for the regular Sunday yoga class.


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

New Year Yoga Standing Sequence

Happy New Year! And welcome to the start of a new decade!

As a thank you for your participation and your readership, we offer you this new year’s yoga standing sequence – asanas you can do anywhere, while you’re on the go, while you’re waiting in line for the Silvester party, or simply for a night in of self-reflection and evaluation. Each pose is accompanied by a question to help guide your process of letting go of what you want to leave behind and make room for what the new decade brings. Enjoy!

tadasana

Mountain Pose:
What is my support / foundation?

chi yoga

Golden Rooster:
What can I peacefully confront?

warrior1

Warrior I :
What are my­­ obstacles?

revolved side angle

Twisted / Revolved Side Angle:
What can I let go of?

warrior2Warrior II:
How can I prepare for surprises?
inverted warriorInverted Warrior:
What are the oppositional forces I encounter?
extended side angleExtended Side Angle:
Where can I find leverage?
forward foldWide-legged Forward Fold:
How do things look from another perspective?
warrior3Warrior III:
How to balance in the face of resistance?
dancer2Dancer:
Can I reach higher?
balanceBalance:
In what ways can I leave my comfort zone?
surrenderSurrender:
In what ways can I give in or let go?

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

Berlin Yoga Gift Card

“For it is in giving that we receive.” — Francis of Assisi

Berlin Yoga Gift Card

Berlin Yoga Gift Card

 

This December is full of many things – an end of a decade, as well as the darkest days drawing upon us, both politically and celestially. Holidays of various religious and non-religious affiliation draw us together, but for those of us with complicated relationships to or without family, it can feel even more stressful or depressive. A consumer culture encourages us to buy more things to fill the void or fulfill gift-giving obligations, which seem to miss the point of honestly giving something to someone we love.

A nice dinner, a visit to the hammam, or a guided tour are a few gift ideas for those who’d like to give something that does not contribute to Co2 emissions through the shipping of packages, or add more waste to the world by purchasing more plastic gadgets that nobody actually needs. If you’re at a loss for an idea for a friend who likes yoga, why not a Berlin yoga gift card? At English Yoga Berlin we offer them all year round.

And if you feel you need a special place to go inwards for yourself during this dark holiday season, why not come and try out a class in our candle-lit cozy and warm Kreuzberg yoga studio.

Please take a look at our up-to-date schedule for our holiday closures.

English Yoga Berlin offers yoga gift cards for one or more Hatha yoga and Vinyasa yoga classes. You can buy them at our yoga studio in Kreuzberg, or online.

Just Breathe


what do we need in times of stress?

There is this one thing that people say when you are in a great amount of stress. They look at you and say “Hey! Just breathe, just breathe!!!”

People’s advice

People give this wonderful advice, “just breathe.”  There might be great value in that. Sometimes it can be helpful.  Yet often you can feel a lot of frustration bouncing back at you (or them!).  Sometimes this advice brings out feelings of incompetence for the one receiving it, such as “Am I stupid? Why can’t I even breathe properly now!”

‘Just breathe’ is not necessarily a helpful phrase for someone who is stressed.

The issue with generalisations

When following a recognized prescribed method – the one that states “if you just breathe you will get through it” – you might find out that it actually brings you more pain, because you are breathing in a specific stressed pattern.  Deciding to just change the way you breathe in order to change what you feel might also become repressive.  It becomes a feeling that you are trying to manipulate, rather than a feeling to experience and go through – a potentially problematic approach.

Changing the way of breathing

‘Breathe through it’ might be a more helpful way of framing it.  But what exactly does it mean to breathe ‘through things’? Could it be that it means to change the way you are breathing?  Every emotion has a specific breathing pattern,  so if you change the way you are breathing to long deep breaths, then could it be that you are also changing your emotion? That is a big possibility. That is partly why we are instructed to take long deep breaths in a yoga class.

Observing the way you are breathing

Another way of working with breath through difficult or intense emotions is offered in Tara Brach’s RAIN meditation.  In this case, we wouldn’t necessarily change the way we are breathing.  Rather, we would become aware of the way we are breathing.  We could raise our awareness by observing the breath: is it a short inhalation?… or a forceful exhalation?… is there a pause after the inhalation?.. and a different pause after the exhalation?… which pause is longer? This way, we learn to dettach ourselves from the breathing as it is and we raise our awareness. By raising our awareness, the breathing will eventually calm down without forcing anything.

You can put your hand on your chest to make contact with your heart and your breath

 

Those are two possibilities of how breathing would be able to help in times of hardship. One is in the laboratory conditions of a yoga class, where the teacher asks you to get into a “stressful” position, like upside down and tells you ‘now breathe’. That is an example of practicing breathing under stressful conditions.  The other is to observe your breathing without changing it, while accepting without judgement what is happening to you.

We at English Yoga Berlin offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli.  Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. We also offer Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes, including for people struggling with chronic pain.”

Terminology Tuesday: Paschimottanasana

paschimottasana

one could think of Paschimottasana as a ‘salute to the sunset’

Paschimottanasana = from Sanskrit, paschima meaning West or back of the body, uttana meaning intense stretch, and asana meaning posture

We are talking here about the seated forward bend.  Traditionally we would be facing the East in the morning doing our Sun Salutations, which is why the back of our body is talked about as the West. 

Paschimottasana in practice

At Pinelopi’s Hatha yoga classes in Kreuzberg, we have explored this pose deeply.  We try through Paschimottanasana to stretch equally the entirety of the back of our body.  Here we have a network of muscles and connective tissue that starts from our eye brows, over the head, down the back and legs, all the way to the soles of our feet.  It goes by the name of backline of the body, or the superficial backline.

Introducing us to an insight she shared with us from the work of Leslie Kaminoff, Pinelopi guides us to become aware to where we feel the stretch most intensely.  For many people it is the hamstrings, and for others the lower back or the upper back.  For some, it is the back of the knees.  We then work with the specific needs of our body, adjusting with props, to get an even stretch all over the superficial backline.  This allows us to experience the grounding, release and surrender that is the core of this asana.

Paschimottasana as an experience, not an ideal shape

A specific example of that is my situation: due to my specific restriction of movement, I cannot get my abdomen in contact with the top of my legs.  Does it mean I cannot stretch the “west side” of my body, my back?  No, it does not mean that. How I stretch the back of my body will look completely different to how you do.  Yet we will both be stepping into an experience of arising and transforming sensations, witnessing life unfolding through us.

 

We offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli.  Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. We also offer Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes, including for people struggling with chronic pain.”

The Puzzle Picture

Avidal's painting on flyer

We believe Yoga to be a powerful tool that helps us assemble the pieces of our Life’s puzzle and allows us to see the big picture.

Ever wondered what the “Puzzle Picture” on our flyers means? Clelia, our Erasmus intern, reports from behind the scenes.

 

The image representing English Yoga Berlin left a deep impression on me from the first time I saw it.  It is the painting of an almost complete puzzle.  The puzzle image is of a person completing their own puzzle.  It’s an image within an image.  A puzzle of a puzzle.  I was curious, and I asked Pinelopi, my teacher of yoga in Kreuzberg.  The story she told me really resonated with me.  I want to share it with you, so here what she said.

“One day I met with my friend and artist Avital Yomdin, and told her I needed to design a flyer for my classes.  We sat and talked about what yoga means to me.  I spoke about what yoga had done for me in my life.  I realised something important as we were speaking: when I began yoga, I knew very little about my physical chronic pain.  Crucially, I also knew very little about myself, for example the space I take, the person I transform into every day.

Through the yoga classes, meditation and mindfulness techniques, I started to understand and accept myself more and more.  I am not anywhere close to knowing myself completely, as that might be, who knows, ultimate enlightenment.  Yet I feel that the process of doing yoga was like finding the pieces of the puzzle of myself, so I could put them together.  Slowly, I could form a picture of  who I am.”

 

 

We offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli.  Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. We also offer Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes, including for people struggling with chronic pain.

Terminology Tuesday: Tratak

A candle flame is often the choice for tratak

Tratak is the practice of steadily gazing on one point. In our yoga classes in Kreuzberg, we practice Tratak on a candle flame, but virtually anything can be used as the object of concentration.

The term tratak from Sanskrit means means “to look” or “to gaze”.

 

It is one of six Hatha Yoga methods to remove toxins and sluggishness from the body’s organs.  This practice is said to relieve eye ailments, making the eyes clear and bright. It also said to improve a whole range of physiological and mental functions. Used in the treatment of insomnia, depression and anxiety, Tratak can improve the memory and concentration.

Through this practice, you learn that concentration involves no strain or effort, but that it is a relaxed state in which your attention remains easily fixed on an inner or outer object of your choice.

 

Here is a quick guide from this Yogapedia article:

  1. Light a candle and sit at least one meter away from it with the flame at eye level.
  2. Focus the gaze on the flame and keep it there without blinking for as long as possible.
  3. As thoughts arise, acknowledge them then return to focus on the flame.
  4. When the eyes start to water and tears flow, close the eyes and focus on the after-glow of the flame, bringing awareness to the third eye point.
  5. Meditate here until ready to come out of the practice.

 

We offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli.  Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. We also offer Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes, including for people struggling with chronic pain.

Accepting positive feelings

I love the idea of meditating on positive feelings too – have you ever thought about it? It’s about honouring those precious moments and learn from them.

RAIN meditation

Tara Brach’s RAIN

I have learned about “the RAIN of Self-Compassion” from an English Yoga Berlin class in Kreuzberg.  It’s a particular mindfulness practice that helps us to work through difficult emotions.  It is a Buddhist meditation that was later on tweaked by Tara Brach.  Read more about it here, where you can explore a wealth of resources made available by Tara’s website.

Being present to our feelings

I wanted to share how differently it landed for me one particular evening.  I connected that kind of meditation to difficult feelings only.  But that day in particular, I was feeling so blessed and grateful (for everything in my life) and I was trying to skip those feelings, not allowing them to be, felt awkward – with a thought like life needs to be hard to be meaningful and to make a difference, something like that.  Then I got anxious.

When the meditation found me in the evening, laying in Savasana, I was able to apply acceptance, understanding and nurturing to positive feelings too.  I was able to welcome them and be present to what they were telling me.

When I reflected upon it later, I realised that maybe positive feelings is not necessarily the right word.  We are talking about feelings that are challenging in other ways.  The excitement of anticipation can be tiring or distracting.  The feeling you want to explode from love or tenderness can be overwhelming.  They are all feelings that have that sensation that the cup of emotion being very full and is about to overflow… in a positive way.. but overflow.

Finding out that RAIN works for them too was very comforting. It’s as if the feeling is not out of control and overflowing, but I can sit with it in a steady glowing way. I think it reminds me of a fire. It can be consumed real quick and glamorously fast, or it can burn steady and for a while giving heat for a longer time.

 

We offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli.  Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. We also offer Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes, including for people struggling with chronic pain.

Anahata Chakra – a personal experience

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Anahata is the emotional powerhouse of your self.  In this chakra we process emotion and feel love, forgiveness and compassion.

 

Here, we learn that the most powerful energy we have inside of us is love.  Alas, this chakra gets strongly affected by trapped anger and the experience of grief and loss.
Anahatha in every day life
I have been struggling with anger, grief and loss for a long time.  I observed that when the teacher asked us to focus on the heart centre, I could not really feel the heart centre like the other centres, by will, by sending focus there.  And yet, spontaneously, especially after a good yoga session, I would feel a clear sensation in the middle of my chest.  It is a similar sensation like when the stomach is empty.  It feels like a call: “hey, I am hungry!”

What do you feel in the area of the heart? Have you ever observed how emotions feel physically in this area?
Anahatha in meditation
In meditation, I visualised the heart: I was following the instructions to bring forth the details of what I could visualize, what I could imagine.  I saw a beautiful yet hard armour around my heart. Then the teacher suggested “what are you not allowing yourself to feel?”.  I knew this was an important question.  I was struggling to keep focused, mind wandering.  The parent voice inside me said She just said ‘what are you not allowing yourself to feel’.  Some kind of energy was rising up, and with it resistance.  I got a glimpse at the energy contained in this powerful chakra centre.
What is your relationship to powerful emotions like rage or wild joy? Where do you feel them in your body?
To explore this part of my body through physical observation has helped me greatly. By grounding in the body sensations, I accepted my difficult feelings and allowed them to be.  It’s as if cracks started to appear in the wall that I felt was insurmountable for so long.  I felt hope for healing, as if I were a plant that is finally getting watered!

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack, a crack in everything 
That’s how the light gets in.

– Leonard Cohen

 

Clelia is an Erasmus entrepreneur working as an intern in learning how to set up a small yoga business such as English Yoga Berlin. We offer Hatha Yoga classes with Pinelopi and Vinyasa yoga with Juli.  Our yoga Kreuzberg Berlin classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. We also offer Berlin business yoga, private classes for pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain.