My Healing Journey at English Yoga Berlin

Healing at English yoga Berlin

It was such a pleasure to meet you all!

My Erasmus placement/internship at English Yoga Berlin is coming to an end, (read here if you missed my blog back in May) and I wanted to take a minute to share what a healing journey it has been for me, it’s only the beginning, but many say the beginning is half the battle’!

 

When I got to Berlin on April the 15th, I was really excited to be starting a placement with a small organisation that shared the values I aspire to.  It meant so much to me that both Erasmus and English Yoga Berlin thought that their time and money would be worth my ideas, life experience and skills.

Parallel to that, I was experiencing a rapid deterioration of my degenerative arthritis to the left hip, and growing symptoms for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).   I was hoping that this journey was going to be the opening I needed to understand and transform.  I was also apprehensive that PTSD could interfere with me giving and making the most of this opportunity.

Relaxing as more space to just be

From the first Yoga Nidra session at Pinelopi’s class, I experienced a loosening of the layers that were wrapped up tight to ‘hold me’ together.  By layers I mean thought patterns, defensive and self-critical in many places, focusing on a sense of powerlessness about how things are.  Pinelopi helped me to recognize them as repetitive, random and cyclical.  This went hand in hand with my physical pain, as the muscle layers stiffened up – are you familiar with this?  Observing mind activity this way creates space, to see more clearly.  I felt an overwhelming set of emotions, including of course relief and joy. Yes, my joy was trapped underneath all that.  This is one aspect that English Yoga Berlin taught me about yoga.  Relaxing is about getting more space to be and to become – and for me it was really powerful.

Becoming aware and conscious

Pinelopi would ask questions like “Where is your pain?  Where does it begin?  Where does it end?”  I realized that with my physical pain I had learned to have a ‘generalized’ experience about it.  One loses the perspective and dimensions of it.  “In general, I have pain”.  It became like white noise, after you hear it for a while you learn to screen it out.  Have you ever realized how noisy your fridge is only when it stops buzzing?  Like that.

Although I can see how ‘generalizing pain’ in my body was a way of coping, in the long run it creates a disconnection with the body.  The body is the source of a lot of important information.  A big part of my healing journey with English Yoga Berlin happened by attending all the classes, and nourishing through repetition and practice.  It’s like learning to play an instrument or to speak a language.  Setting an intention at the beginning of a class, like with Juli every Sunday at her Vinyasa Flow sessions, is a powerful action that connects a physical practice with a mindset, with the mind.

Limitations are our teachers

The  gentle questioning, either through actual questions offered by the teacher, or, specifically in Hatha Yoga, through the enquiry of how different poses, asanas, feel, led me through reflection:

 

where are our limits?

can we accept them, respect them?

can working within a limit be the real challenge?

 

Healing needs a safer space

I would have so much more to share about this yoga class in Kreuzberg: from breathing techniques to the feeling of belonging in a group committed to respect for our and each other’s bodies.

This has allowed me to nurture a priceless experience of the every day, every thought, every step of healing, the healing that never concludes – because healing is ultimately our powerful input in life.

English Yoga Berlin is a safer space

English Yoga Berlin is a safer space

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.