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.”
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.
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 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.
photo by Fern
Today we are focusing on a term that we use in every class, during Yoga Nidra: rotation of consciousness.
The rotation of consciousness involves taking the practitioner’s awareness to different parts of the body. Wherever we focus our attention becomes the place where we also centre our energy. Bringing one’s awareness to each part of the body increases the energy in that part and allows the participant to identify and relax tensions there.
By using this practice we invite ourselves to experience total relaxation while being awake. Nidra, here, means literally sleep. Yoga Nidra, therefore means the yoga of sleep. It is about being aware while the body sleeps; the rotation of consciousness is one of the techniques that makes this possible. It brings heightened awareness to the whole body, piece by piece. It grounds us with connecting to the sensations present there.
If you, like me, end up falling asleep during Yoga Nidra, first of all know that it is natural and common. But, like me, you might regret having missed the visualization that follows, and really would like to stay awake. Try and repeat the teacher’s words as they reach you, while feeling or visualizing the body part – it worked for me!
Clelia is an Erasmus entrepreneur working as an intern. Her placement involved 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, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain.