Is there such a thing as Accessible Yoga?

What is NOT accessible yoga?

accessible yoga

Do we all have to look the same?

You know the story. You’ve hurt your back and a friend says “you should do yoga!” And then you go with your friend to their favourite weekly yoga flow class. You put down 20€ and hope for the best. It’s fast, sweaty, the music’s hip, everyone’s dressed in the latest yoga fashion trend and almost everyone looks like a ‘yoga journal’ or ‘sein’ cover model. You find yourself struggling to keep up. You try your best, but somehow your body just won’t let you contort itself into those poses. The next day, your back hurts more than it did before, along with your wrists. And you swear you’re never trying yoga again.

Okay, it’s perhaps an exaggerated stereotype of what an accessible yoga class is NOT. But it does represent a rather broad view of what contemporary westernized capitalized yoga is all about. One of the problems is that most western people (both lovers and haters of yoga) believe that yoga is only that which is written above. I am not the first to say #notallyoga. But like all #notall hashtags, it tries to absolve the writer of responsibility that we should all be taking. Yoga is a 5000 year old practice stemming from South Asia. By believing that yoga is only that one thing that has been exploited by sporty opportunistic Californians erases its history and invisibilizes the decolonial work done by contemporary yogis such as nisha ahuja and Be Scofield. As yoga practitioners in a western world, we should all be working towards decolonizing our practice, promoting the diversity of yoga styles (eg; restorative) and practices (yoga nidra, pranayama, bhakti, etc.), and making yoga more accessible to everyone. Cultural appropriation does not make yoga classes at all comfortable or accessible to people who experience racism. Nor do expensive fees to lower-income folks, body-image and ‘healthy-living’ marketing campaigns to people who look different than what the mainstream expects healthy yogis to look like, nor to those with dis/abilities (physical or mental). Yes, I say “we,” but it means “I” and perhaps you too. What can I do as a non-South Asian yoga practitioner who teaches classes?

What IS accessible yoga?

I don’t have all the answers to this. But I have some ideas and would be happy to hear from you about what you feel that means. At English Yoga Berlin, we strive to offer accessible yoga classes. But we recognize that there are many things we cannot offer as well, and our studio is not accessible to just ‘everyone.’ Our Kreuzberg yoga studio is up one flight of stairs – this does not allow those who cannot take the stairs to even attend our classes. We also do not provide sign-language interpretation or any other language that we ourselves do not know (Greek, Spanish, German and English). We run our small back house yoga studio in a city with people from all over the world, with many different languages, and with a lower-income average than most bigger European cities. Our regular rates are significantly lower than bigger studios in Berlin, and we offer our classes in simple English, making it more economically and linguistically-accessible to newcomers. Pinelopi‘s injury conscious and gentle Hatha Yoga classes are especially suitable for participants who suffer from chronic pain. Juli‘s community yoga classes have at their focus the creation of an intentional space for people who feel marginalized or excluded in mainstream yoga classes, eg. queer and trans* folks, abundant bodied, bpoc. As well as an additional sliding-scale reduction for lower- / no-income folks who make Berlin their home (this reduction is not for tourists). Both of us include a 15-20 minute guided relaxation, based on yoga nidra techniques, at the end of all of our classes. Yoga Nidra is a proven method to help reduce stress, insomnia and anxiety. These are just some of the ways that I try to counter the dominant culture’s exploitation of yoga. But it’s a continual learning process and there are many more strategies that I continue to learn about and adopt through reading articles and discussing with others. There are other yoga practitioners who I’ve met in my Berlin community and in other places, who are also exploring various strategies. This movement is growing. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on it, and appreciate links to articles and other yoga spaces! Thank you.

 

Hatha Yoga with Pinelopi is back!

Pinelopi is now back from summer holiday, full of new energy and happy feelings, ready to teach yoga again!

 

Pinelopi’s classes are a mix of Hatha asanas (yoga poses), grounding techniques, pranayama (breathing exercises), pratyahara (practice of detachment), yoga nidra and meditation. She is an injury conscious yoga teacher and is a firm believer that yoga is for everybody and any body. She believes that no one should ever be in pain during class. All yoga poses can be adjusted so that one is still stretching, growing, strengthening, challenged, without experiencing pain or triggering old injuries.

Yoga, for her, requires becoming conscious of where you are at physically, emotionally, spiritually and what means you have available at this moment. Once the practitioner identifies this, yoga will work from there to release blocks and open up one’s spirit to new ways of seeing the world and receiving its’ gifts.

Join her at one of her regular Hatha Yoga weekly classes starting September 1st, 2016:

Monday

Tuesday

Thursday

9:45-11:15
Hatha Yoga

18:00-19:30
Hatha Yoga

18:00-19:30
Hatha Yoga

20:00-21:30
Hatha Yoga

Pinelopi specializes in Hatha Yoga. Her yoga classes are open for and welcoming to beginners. She  also offers Berlin business yoga, pregnancy yoga, and private yoga classes for people struggling with chronic pain.

Workshop Series: ”Exploring Your Sexual Self: Past, Present and Future”

exploring your sexual self

Past, Present and Future

We’re excited to announce that Kitty May and former EYB yoga teacher Meg Saxby will be offering a third round of their 3-part workshop series ”Exploring Your Sexual Self: Past, Present and Future” in July 2016 at the EYB studio. This engaging workshop series will give participants tools and space to explore their sexual selves and define their own vision of erotic empowerment.

Meg and Kitty–with their backgrounds in feminist sexual health education, peer counselling, bodywork/movement, creativity and group praxis–have designed this innovative workshop series to help participants uncover and develop their knowledge of their personal erotic self. Because sexuality is composed of so many different elements, the workshops are similarly designed to work at different levels: the body, mind, spirit and collective/community existence.

Using movement, bodywork, meditation/visualization, discussion and creative tools for reflection, participants will explore ideas about and experiences of desire, pleasure, fulfilment, the body and more. Over the course of 3 sessions, we will connect with our sexual selves as they are today; remember who they were in the past; imagine our brightest erotic futures – and consider the most luscious, fun and self-loving ways of getting there!

Each participant will choose an area of focus, creating a personal path within a collaborative learning process. There will be opportunities to share with one another, but no obligation to disclose more than is comfortable.

Some participant feedback from the 2014 round…

  • “the workshop series had a really well balanced structure and a great flow”
  • “I loved the mix of bodywork, writing, crafting, personal reflection and sharing.”
  • “there isn’t pressure to share too much and I felt ownership over my own journey”
  • “the facilitation was really seamless. Meg and Kitty are badass together, bringing different skills and strengths”
  • “a really refreshing space […] that is very physically grounding and that supports taking an appropriate pace that fits you”
  • “very thoughtful and a warm and open space”
  • “the workshop is really worth it!”
  • “a very freeing experience”

The series is open to FLTI* (female, lesbian, trans*, intersex) people only.

When: Sundays July 10, 17, and 24, 11:00-15:00

Where: at the English Yoga Berlin studio, Görlitzer Straße 39, 10997 Berlin

Cost: Because we want this series to be both accessible for participants and sustainable for us as workers, the price is based on participants’ take-home monthly income and an hourly rate for our work. The fee for the series is:

• 75€ if your monthly income is less than 700€
115€ if your monthly income is 700-1000€
165€ if your monthly income is 1000-1500€
10-15% of your monthly income if you earn over 1500€

How: If you’d like to register for participation (or if you have questions), please send an email to:
contactkittymay@gmail.com.

Registration is necessary.
In order to reserve your spot, we’ll ask for a non-refundable* deposit of 1/3rd of your fee.


English Yoga Berlin is a collective of teachers offering yoga in English from our yoga Berlin Kreuzberg studio. We offer hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga, restorative yoga, classical yoga and yoga nidra. We specialize in community yoga and offer yoga for beginners through advanced. We look forward to practicing with you!

What is Tantric Meditation?

Meditation is a means to train the mind. By repeating certain mental exercises —like fixing the attention on one point for awhile, or experiencing the whole body— the mind becomes more able to do those things. Just like when we train a muscle: Repeat the action and you get better at it. looking

From another perspective, meditation is a means to clear the mind of unconscious patterns and complexes. By entering the meditative state, we allow repressed memories and traumas to surface and dissipate, while we remain as the passive observers of this process.

What is so special about the Tantric meditation? Tantra doesn’t try to control the tendencies of the mind or to lead the mind in one direction or another. It allows anything that comes-up in the mind to fully express itself. We devote ourselves to whatever we experience, and use it as a tool in our meditation. We learn to be with whatever is happening without struggling, reacting or getting overwhelmed by it.

For a very clear example, see my post A Tantric Way to Dealing with Pain

Tantra documents a myriad of different meditations, for every temperament or life situation. Some of the most potent ones are Antar Mauna, Trataka and Yoga Nidra; which have themselves countless variations.  In these meditations you remain still, while devoting yourself to different experiences (a fixed point, the sense impressions, certain visualizations, etc.).  Their effects can not easily be summarized, but include: greater awareness and intuition, more calm and contentment, higher ability to concentrate, etc.

From Tantra we also receive the Kundalini meditation, which don’t so much work with the mind, but with the inner energy (prana) that animates body and mind. These meditations make us aware of pranic energy and of the chakras, where this energy is concentrated.  Two of the main energy meditations are Source of Energy and Ajapa Japa, in which you combine breath, concentration and visualization to connect with, and influence, our subtle energy flows.

Pedro teaches Tantra Yoga and Meditation at English Yoga Berlin.  He will be teaching the 10-Week Meditation Course: Clarity and Energy, where one has the opportunity to learn the meditations mentioned in this post, and to be guided step by step into creating their own meditation practice.

Tips for starting your personal meditation practice

meditatorOne way to describe meditation is that it is to experience what is happening, like we’re watching a film, rather than like we’re the protagonists. To witness with detachment. And then, behind the stream of impressions, you discover the one that is witnessing. It’s like coming home.

There’s very many meditation techniques, from all parts of the world and times of history. One of the most popular is to just sit quietly following the free-flow of breath. Although some meditations use movement, many of the best meditation practices for beginners rely on sitting completely still.

Today, with phone apps like Headspace, endless amount of guided meditations in YouTube, audio files, books, etc., it is not too difficult go get into meditation. These learning and practicing aids are good and useful, but there’s no substitute for the direct guidance of a teacher, and the inspiring energy of a group of meditators sitting around you.

Once you choose a method, and maybe a class or a group of friends to meet regularly with, you may want to set a few minutes of each day to “come to yourself”. Having a daily (or semi-daily) meditation practice, as short as five minutes, will simply change your life. You’ll be wondering how you lived so long without it.

Here’s some things to consider if you want to try it out at home. Think of it as an adventure, an exploration of the inner landscape. Each day, you sit for a few minutes to go into another dimension for a little tour.

  • Find a suitable space, away from disturbance or too much activity. Make yourself a little corner for you and your meditation.
  • Find a suitable time. The best time can only be determined by you. Maybe link your meditation practice with another activity that you must perform each day (do it either before or after that activity).
  • Set a timer, so you don’t have to think about it, but also so that you meditate just the amount of time you decide.
  • Do it on a fairly empty stomach.
  • Do it without caffeine or sugar highs.
  • Consider your pose. If you sit on a chair, don’t lean against the backrest and have your feet flat on the floor. However you sit, have a straight back and, most importantly, be comfortable. When your body distracts you often from the meditation, then you know is time to review your pose.
  • Remain still. The stillness of the mind is easier achieved and maintained when we don’t move the body. The simple act of being still (not acting) activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
  • Set an intention to be there. Just a decision that you will be engaged in the meditation; for example, that you will be present (if you tend to daydream) or alert (if you tend to doze-off). Make it positive.
  • Come to the meditation without expectations. But if you do have expectations, then be aware of them and how they influence you.
  • Keep a journal. It is a great tool to chart your journey and keep your meditation in perspective. Don’t use it to analyze, evaluate or judge your meditation, simply note your experiences and insights.
  • If you ever combine your meditation with other yoga practices, do them in this order: yoga poses, breathing exercises, relaxation, meditation.
  • Breathing exercises, specially Nadi Shodana, are an excellent complement to meditation and will give you a deeper experience if you practice them before.
  • When you end the meditation, move slowly and mindfully.  But don’t try to hold on to the meditative state.  Just be natural and engage life fully. 

At English Yoga Berlin we host Tantric meditation courses.  Stay tuned for the next one, or send us an email to find-out more.  All of our Hatha Yoga, Vinyasa Flow and Tantra Yoga classes include the meditative deep relaxation Yoga Nidra, or a similar guided relaxation.  See our schedule for details.

A Tired Mama’s Yoga – Part II

In the previous blog,  A tired mama’s yoga – Part I , I talked about the difficulties of practicing yoga while being the mother of a small child. In today’s blog, I d like to give an example of one of the multitasking practices of yoga and mommyhood. It’s this specific practice, I think, that has kept me the most in tune with yoga.

Photo by Fern

Photo by Fern

After not managing to practice yoga in the traditional way, I found I have to use whatever time I have to practice. Half a year ago I realized that sometimes I would spend over an hour putting the baby to bed at night. First I’d sing her lullabies, and then I would just stay there by her side making a wo wo wo sound for her to fall asleep. One day I thought, why not change this sound to my beloved Om and use this time to meditate? At the beginning of the meditation, I felt too tired to even sit up straight. Slowly the Om got more powerful, and my back started to straighten on the chair. At the end I was very surprised to feel so incredibly energized again – something had been able to break through to the new parent tiredness.

I started practicing every night again. I started liking the bed time ritual even more. Is it an uninterrupted practice? By no means. Sometimes I have to help the baby lie down again, or hold her because she is having a hard time… sometimes I have to sway her back and forth and continue with the Om standing up. Sometimes I finish the meditation and I realize that she is still awake, has been holding on to her sheet, and has been listening to her mama s om in absolute serenity for the past 20 minutes. Whichever way the meditation goes… I always feel I’ve benefited at the end of it.

I realize now, that we’ve created a mutual dependency. The baby needs the Om to fall asleep and I need the obligatory sit down time to meditate. If my internal mama duties didn’t oblige me to be by her side at bedtime, I would probably just lay down on the couch feeling too tired to do anything else that day. Fortunately she still needs me to fall asleep, and I benefit massively from this fact. Have I created a sleeping crutch for my child? Maybe. Lots of people say it s much better for children to learn to fall asleep alone. But, then again, what kind of a sleeping crutch is it? I’ve thought a lot about this. Is it such a bad thing to get her used to the Om before falling asleep? There are hundreds of documented benefits of meditation and the vibe that meditations creates for the people surrounding the medidators. I believe she is benefiting from this. Maybe through this practice I m even teaching her how to meditate before she falls asleep. That s a falling asleep habit that I am very happy to give her for her life. A habit that will strengthen her throughout.

 

A Tired Mama’s Yoga – Part I

Yoga Mom

Yoga Mom

Since I became a mom last year, the ability to do yoga in a concentrated grounded way dissipated. You could say it’s the lack of space. The baby’s play area is where I previously would practice and now is covered with cute toys that make noise during my sun salutations. Or maybe it’s the absolute lack of time. Yes, I imagined how little time I’d have. But somehow, I always thought I would find that one hour for yoga. I was mistaken. Or maybe space and time are not nearly as important as fighting through the tiredness of those sleepless nights and lack of alone time. As soon as I would start on the relaxation, I’d fall asleep. Yes, there are many obstacles to yoga as a mom.

So how can yoga and mommyhood coexist?

Well yoga, for me, has had to transform. It’s traditional disciplined form that requires alone time and quietness is totally incompatible with my present life. It has had to become a playful, in-between tasks, light type of yoga. My new yoga practice includes things like observing myself wash plates in a non-judgmental way, meditating while putting the baby to sleep, teaching the body parts to my toddler while doing a sun salutation, learning the animal kingdom through asanas, and calming the mind down by pretending to be a bee.

Does this yoga give the same benefits to that of the grounded focused yoga? Probably not. The only way of getting that focused space now, is to physically remove myself from my home and attend a class. My yoga teacher used to say “an ounce of practice is worth more than tons of theory”. This light transformed yoga is the one that’s available to me now. This is my ounce of practice. If we all were to wait for the circumstances to be absolutely right in order to practice yoga, then we’d probably never get started!

Yoga is a life companion. As our lives change it’s practical application will also change with us. But yoga’s essence will remain stable, present, and loving – guiding us through the changes of our lives like a loving parent.

Pinelopi teaches Hatha yoga classes in English at our collective studio in Berlin, Kreuzberg. Our teachers are injury conscious and will be happy to assist you before and throughout the class with tailored variations for your yoga poses. We believe that the increased awareness that we cultivate in our yoga classes together with the suggested variations for your unique body, make a difference both to practicing yoga in daily life and to the yoga benefits you take with you after class.

Workshop Series: ”Exploring Your Sexual Self: Past, Present and Future”

photo by FernWe’re excited to announce that Kitty Stokes and EYB yoga teacher Meg Saxby will be offering a second round of their 3-part workshop series ”Exploring Your Sexual Self: Past, Present and Future” in January and February 2015 at the EYB studio. This engaging workshop series will give participants tools and space to explore their sexual selves and define their own vision of erotic empowerment.

Meg and Kitty–with their backgrounds in feminist sexual health education, peer counselling, bodywork/movement, creativity and group praxis–have designed this innovative workshop series to help participants uncover and develop their knowledge of their personal erotic self. Because sexuality is composed of so many different elements, the workshops are similarly designed to work at different levels: the body, mind, spirit and collective/community existence.

Using movement, bodywork, meditation/visualization, discussion and creative tools for reflection, participants will explore ideas about and experiences of desire, pleasure, fulfilment, the body and more. Over the course of 3 sessions, we will connect with our sexual selves as they are today; remember who they were in the past; imagine our brightest erotic futures – and consider the most luscious, fun and self-loving ways of getting there!

Each participant will choose an area of focus, creating a personal path within a collaborative learning process. There will be opportunities to share with one another, but no obligation to disclose more than is comfortable.

Some participant feedback from the 2014 round…

  • “the workshop series had a really well balanced structure and a great flow”
  • “I loved the mix of bodywork, writing, crafting, personal reflection and sharing.”
  • “there isn’t pressure to share too much and I felt ownership over my own journey”
  • “the facilitation was really seamless. Meg and Kitty are badass together, bringing different skills and strengths”
  • “a really refreshing space […] that is very physically grounding and that supports taking an appropriate pace that fits you”
  • “very thoughtful and a warm and open space”
  • “the workshop is really worth it!”
  • “a very freeing experience”

The series is open to FLTI* (female, lesbian, trans*, intersex) people only.

When: Sundays January 25th, February 1st and February 8th, 11:00-15:00

Where: at the English Yoga Berlin studio, Gorlitzer Straße 39, 10997 Berlin

Cost: Because we want this series to be both accessible for participants and sustainable for us as workers, the price is based on participants’ take-home monthly income and an hourly rate for our work. The fee for the series is:

60€ if your monthly income is less than 700€
100€ if your monthly income is 700-1000€
150€ if your monthly income is 1000-1500€
10-15% of your monthly income if you earn over 1500€
 

The deadline for registration and deposit payment is Monday, January 19th.

For More Information, please contact Kitty at

contactkittymay@gmail.com

English Yoga Berlin is a collective of teachers offering yoga in English from our yoga Berlin Kreuzberg studio. We offer hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga, restorative yoga, classical yoga and yoga nidra. We specialize in community yoga and offer yoga for beginners through advanced. We look forward to practicing with you!

Thursday Night Community Meditation

blue!

drop in meditation at english yoga berlin

We’re excited to announce our newest community yoga initiative for the Berlin yoga community: a donation-based, rotating meditation class, every Thursday night at 20h15.

What?: Community Meditation

Where?:  Our Kreuzberg yoga studio, directions here.

When?: Every Thursday, 20h15 till 21h

How Much?:  Donation-based (between 5e and 10e recommended, no one turned away for lack of funds)

Each of the EYB teachers offers a specific style and knowledge–our collective specializes in hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga, classical yoga and restorative yoga, and, in addition, some of us offer acupressure, self-massage, thai yoga massage, tratak and other yogic techniques in our yoga classes. An integral part of our yoga classes in Kreuzberg, however, is the practice of yoga nidra and other forms of meditation. Western yoga is often dominated by yoga asanas (yoga poses), and we feel, as teachers, it is important to offer students a wider variety of yogic traditions. While movement is an amazing tool for calming and focusing the spirit, breathing techniques and meditation can offer unique yoga benefits for the body and mind. Meditation is one very important and simple way to integrate yoga in daily life.

We are hoping to share this diversity of yoga knowledge with the wider community through our new Community Meditation Class. Every week, this 45-minute session will be taught be an EYB teacher or a visiting teacher. The class will be offered on a donation-basis (between 5 and 10e recommended) and consists of a different style of meditation each week, depending on the teacher and their specialization. It may include some gentle yoga postures, depending on the teacher, but will be a primarily non-physical class.

English Yoga Berlin is a collective of teachers that specialize in offering community yoga in Berlin. We offer yoga for beginners through advanced. If you are searching for yoga in English in Berlin Kreuzberg, check out our schedule.

 

Yoga and Self-Acceptance

iamtheseer

Some people think that yoga is about self-improvement. Although this is not an entirely crazy concept, it is essentially misguided, and also a rather dangerous attitude. The problem with self-improvement is that it follows the assumption that somehow, we are not good enough, or that constantly struggling to make ourselves better is a precondition to living a fulfilling life. This is like putting the cart before the horse.

Self-improvement, like positive thinking, anger management and so many other devices of the prosperous self-help industry, are superficial and ineffective ways to deal with our neuroses. They may work for some people, some of the time, but they often suppress other problems that will eventually manifest themselves in one way or another – for example, as an explosion of the repressed feeling, or as psychosomatic disorders. In the best of cases, they treat the symptom, while doing little to eradicate the disease.

It’s true that yoga leads to self-improvement, but this is more of a side effect. And, like so many things in life, it is blocked if we obsess about it (hasn’t it happened to you, that only when you give up desperately wishing for something, does it finally happen?).  In any case, real self-improvement doesn’t come about without self-acceptance. And self-acceptance is impossible without self-knowledge. Self-Knowledge… now that sounds closer to the point of yoga –IF there was a point to yoga.

But let’s stay with self-acceptance.

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself”, goes the old wisdom. But how about loving ourselves like we love our neighbor? I dare say that we’re all excellent friends. We take friendship as seriously as any other job: We comfort our friends when they need a shoulder to cry on; we encourage them when they need a little confidence boost; we celebrate with them when they achieve some success. We love them and cherish them unconditionally. How many of us can say that about our relationship with ourselves?

And the irony is that self-acceptance would make us even better friends. Our attitude towards ourselves influences our attitudes towards others. Self-acceptance translates into a more tolerant attitude to everybody around us; it frees us from comparison and competition and allows us to have a more harmonious relationship to our environment. Make this experiment: Next time you find yourself criticizing somebody else, stop for a second and ask “What is it about myself that I’m unhappy with?” If you’re honest with yourself, you may discover that there is some self-dissatisfaction triggering the criticism.

Self-acceptance is not the same as self-esteem. It goes rather deeper. While self-esteem represents one’s judgment of one’s worth; self-acceptance doesn’t consider worth as being the question. Self esteem is an appraisal of our value, while self-acceptance is an unconditional admission of adequacy. Self-esteem considers our virtues and achievements, while self-acceptance embraces all facets of ourselves. Self-esteem still allows for narcissism, arrogance and immature perceptions of self, while self-acceptance dismantles all these traps of the ego.

But, I don’t want to accept my flaws, I want to change them!

Despite all the yoga asanas we do, the yoga classes we attend, the meditation we undertake, despite all the therapy and all the self-improvement, true self-acceptance still eludes us. In my opinion, the reason for this is precisely our obsession with making ourselves better. The focus is all on how yoga benefits you, or how therapy makes you better. Why can we not relax for a moment and stop trying to improve everything about us? Why can we not accept that we will never be perfect?  –OK fine, even if we can’t stop pushing ourselves to be better and better, we need to realize that the best way to move forward this is to accept where we are right now.

Please understand that this acceptance doesn’t mean agreement. One doesn’t have to resign to a character “flaw” in order to accept it. One merely acknowledges that this is where one finds oneself, today. This is the starting point. Self-acceptance is letting go of struggle, so we can start the process of moving-on.

Although, as previously expressed, the avid pursuit of self-improvement is not an effective solution to our problems, the desire for improvement, the motivation to be better parents, friends or humans is healthy and inspiring. So, will accepting myself make me complacent and stifle my growth? On the contrary: True change is unlikely without self-acceptance.

To accept ourselves we must be aware of our different aspects, and this awareness is essential for change. Simply by experiencing something without being swayed by it we’re able to let it go. It works with everything. You can try it: Next time you’re doing a yoga pose become aware of any tension you have in the pose. Just experience the area where you feel tension, without wanting the tension to go away, without resisting it. Be there – feeling it, accepting it. And notice what happens: the tension gradually, but surely dissolves, or becomes more bearable. Go ahead, try it!

Sounds strange, but it actually makes a lot of sense. By becoming frustrated with something, by analyzing it and judging it as good or bad, we’re actually clinging to it. We’re not letting go. By witnessing something and accepting it, we can achieve the level of detachment that allows us to drop it and move forward. Just think of the addict. Any expert will tell you that an important step in conquering addiction is to accept it. The alternative would be to deny the reality of our situation, and in this denial, neurosis lurks.

A telling fact is that acceptance is the last stage of the grief process as defined by Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Without acceptance we simply cannot move on.

How can yoga help?

My teacher, Swami Janakananda asks: “Can you experience and respect the current conditions of your life?”, then he goes on to explain that this is the first step towards transformation. His teacher, Swami Satyananda said: “An important step in yoga is to accept your nature as much as you’re able.”  Satyananda spoke a lot about self-acceptance, and the reason is that acceptance of self is crucial to yoga and tantra. Tantra has even been called the way of acceptance. If you look at many of the tantric methods, they teach us to allow and accept any emotions and thoughts as a first step to letting them go.

So yoga can certainly help with self-acceptance. The mere act of practicing the asanas, of bending your body as far as it wants to go, requires a degree of acceptance that this is as flexible as we are right now. It helps us discover that this flexibility can change from day to day, or from morning to evening. But more importantly, it helps us realize that it doesn’t really matter whether we can reach our toes or not. The posture works anyway.

Acceptance depends on awareness. It is impossible to accept something that we haven’t experienced. And, as any experienced yogi knows, developing the ability to experience is one of the benefits of yoga. For example, when we practice breath awareness – just being aware of the breath, without changing it – we are required to accept the current way our body is breathing, whether is shallow, or fast, or irregular. We soon discover that by simply experiencing our breath, letting it be however it is, it gradually becomes slower, fuller, more rhythmic.

One direct and powerful way to train self-acceptance is through tantric meditations such as Antar Mouna. In Antar Mouna we experience the sense perceptions or the spontaneous thought process, and we learn to keep our mental hands off whatever happens. If suddenly the shrill scream of a baby breaks the peace, that doesn’t disturb the meditation, it simply becomes part of it. If the baby’s scream does disturb or causes some other mental reaction, then that mental reaction too is accepted as part of the meditation. We experience and accept whatever we become aware of during the practice (inside or out), letting it come and go without resisting or clinging to it. If we abruptly feel anger, or self-loathing, or any destructive emotion, then we become fully conscious of it, and allow it, again without pushing it away or holding on to it. We also don’t analyze it or try to explain or justify it (that would also be clinging); we simply witness it come and go.

Whatever we experience in such a way looses its hold on us – by feeling it fully, we exhaust it. It is only those things that we don’t allow ourselves to feel that keep on influencing us.

But here we’re talking about something that one should experience in order to truly understand it. Yoga and tantra are not theoretical or philosophical endeavors, but rather a living tradition that offers us methods for daily life. So, do some yoga and discover how it can help you to stop fussing and start living.

English Yoga Berlin offers yoga in English out of our Kreuzberg studio. We teach hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga, yoga nidra, restorative yoga and classical yoga, and our classes include yoga asanas (yoga poses), pranayama (breathing) and meditation. Our emphasis is on community yoga and we strive to make our yoga classes as high quality, accessible and inclusive as possible, so that all members of our community can share the ways in which yoga benefits modern life. You can learn more about us here.