Category Archives: yoga

Picture of revolved lunge yoga posture

Stability when circumstances change

For the month of September, I chose the Revolved Praying Hero posture. In the more fitness oriented postural yoga, this one is also known as Revolved Lunge. The technical or Sanskrit name of this posture is Parivritta Namaskara Virasana. I deliberately do not use sanskrit terminology during yoga classes, because that is like giving a Catholic mass in Latin. And that is no longer of this time.
Sanskrit is good for the technical classification of postures or if you are studying or retraining in the Indian tradition.

Why does this posture fit so well with the month of September?

This posture fits well in this transitional season between summer and autumn. It is a yoga posture with a strong “grounding” character. Still, it is also “fiery”. It is a posture in which the earth element comes to the fore and the fire energy of summer can still be felt. It invites you to stand firm and stay in balance. That is exactly what we have to do now.
In the transitional periods between the four seasons, we are invited to make adjustments to our daily habits in order to keep our health in balance through the change of seasons.
This posture can be a good part of a sun salutation sequence.

Yoga influences and supports our well-being on all possible levels: physical, energetic, emotional, mental, spiritual.
See here how this posture affects all these levels:

Physical benefits

.

  • Strengthening of the back, arms, ankles, legs, glutes
  • Stabilizing and strengthening of the hip joints
  • Opening and widening of the chest area
  • Building and maintaining strength in the abdominal area
  • Improving the mobility of the shoulders, shoulder blades and upper back

Energetic effects

  • Activating and warming
  • Stretching the kidney and liver meridians in the straightened rear leg, and of the gall bladder meridian in the side of the body
  • Grounding of the feet and legs
  • Stability and firmness in the lower chakras, space and release in the upper chakras

Emotional well-being

  • Intensity
  • Balance
  • Staying calm in your own centre, even if conditions are challenging
  • Stability
  • Opening of the heart from a firm and balanced foundation

Mental attitude

  • The ability to take several actions at once while staying focused
  • Concentrated, clear and alert thinking
  • Maintaining the balance between opposites

Spiritual growth

  • A firm connection with the earth as a basis for development and liberation

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Prana Yoga Flow

A full description of the basic postures of Prana Yoga Flow can be found in the book: “Prana Yoga Flow – Activate your life force, open your heart and live freely”, by Alberto Paganini. (Available in both dutch and english).
Alberto Paganini was one of my very first yoga teachers. You can find his website (in Dutch) here.

Picture of wheel posture in a sunny garden

Embrace life with wheel posture

Our favourite posture for the month of July is the wheel posture. The technical or Sanskrit name of this wheel posture is Chakrasana or Urdhva Dhanurasana (Bow upwards). I deliberately do not use sanskrit terminology during the yoga classes I guide, because that feels like giving a Catholic mass in Latin.
Like the fish posture, this is also an opening pose, a variation of the backband. It opens and extends the front side of the body intensely.
Wheel posture is pre-eminently a posture that is somewhat easier to perform in the summer season, and somewhat more difficult in the winter. This is no coincidence. It is a yoga posture with a very “fiery” character, which strongly activates the solar plexus chakra.
It is one of the most intense postures in the Prana Yoga Flow. In our classes you will learn how to work towards it step by step.

Yoga influences and supports our well-being on all possible levels: physical, energetic, emotional, mental, spiritual.
See here how this posture affects all these levels:

Physical benefits

  • Expanding the breathing capacity and strengthening the heart
  • More space around and release of tension around the heart
  • Strengthening of the back, arms, legs and buttocks
  • Opening and expanding of the abdomen and chest
  • Relaxation of the head and neck
  • Improving the flexibility of the shoulders, shoulder blades and upper back
  • Increased blood circulation in the whole body
  • Prevention of heart and artery diseases

Energetic effects

  • Activating and warming
  • Stretching of the Ren Mai, stomach, heart and spleen meridians
  • Grounding of the hands and feet
  • Intense opening of all 7 chakras in the body
  • Improved energy flow between the solar plexus and heart chakra

Emotional well-being

  • A stronger will
  • Opening up fully to life
  • More confidence and joy of life
  • Opening up the heart from a strong foundation
  • Transforming tension in the diaphragm and abdomen into a constructive force
  • Mental attitude

    • Improved sense of purpose
    • More openness
    • Concern for the positive and constructive

    Spiritual growth

    • Connection
    • Powerful action with an open heart
    • Joy of life
    • Entrepreneurial spirit
    • Healthy vigour
    • Strong foundation

    Would you like to book one of our classes?

    Have a look at our offer in yoga classes and book using the links here below:

    Book a yoga class

    Chack our yoga classes offer

    Prana Yoga Flow

    A full description of the basic postures of Prana Yoga Flow can be found in the book: “Prana Yoga Flow – Activate your life force, open your heart and live freely”, by Alberto Paganini. (Available in both dutch and english).
    Alberto Paganini was one of my very first yoga teachers. You can find his website (in Dutch) here.

    Image of the Fish posture

    Open your heart with Fish posture

    Our posture for the month of May is Fish Posture, or Matsyasana.
    Excellent to practice right after candle and/or plough posture, as it helps to rebalance the neck.

    See how this posture supports us on so many different levels:

    Physical

    • Deepening of the breath
    • More space and release of tension around the heart
    • Strengthening of the upper back
    • Stimulation of the thyroid and thymus glands
    • Deep stretch of the neck and jaw muscles as well as the throat

    Energetical

    • It improves the energy flow between solar plexus, heart- and throatchakra.
    • Stretching of the Ren Mai and Bladder meridian on the trunc
    • Stretching of the Stomach and Liver meridians in the legs (when performed with legs in tailor posture or lotus posture)

    Emotional

    • Cultivation of Joy and Hope.
    • Counteracts depression and fearful reticence

    Mental

    • Helps to bring on and keep a positive, optimistic and inspiring attitude to life

    Spiritual

    • To engage with life with an open and trustful attitude
    • Courage
    • Hope
    • Love of Freedom
    • Selfless Love
    • Compassion
    • Kindness
    • Purity
    • Helps to develop the Heart chakra awareness.
    Prana Yoga Flow and Prana Yoga on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
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    Two legged table pose

    Good care for your back

    Our back, and more specifically our spine, is the central structure of our body that literally supports and sustains our entire body. If at some point the well-being of our back gets lost, it immediately has a major impact on the structure and coherence of our entire life. So it definitely pays off to give your back permanent attention. And this can be done on various levels.

    Attention

    First of all there is the attention. Bring your attention to your back regularly. Whether you do mental work in a predominantly sedentary job or mainly physical work, you will benefit from allowing your attention to "commute", to go back and forth between the object of your activities and your body, and more specifically your back. How does your back feel? How is your pelvis? What position is your lower back in? Do you have a slight hollow there or do the points of your lumbar vertebrae stick out because your lower back has sagged? And also: where does your head stand in relation to your torso? Is it nicely on top and in balance? Or does your head protrude systematically?

    Breathing

    Our breathing supports our back more than we might suspect. How is your breathing? Deep or very shallow and restricted? Do you breathe mainly upwards (thoracic breathing) or downwards (belly or abdominal breathing)? It is good to use your whole breathing space, your whole breathing capacity, and to breathe sufficiently upwards, towards the upper chest, shoulders and collarbones. This causes your chest to expand, the expansion and contraction in the rhythm of the breath brings life and movement to the body’s tissues. And this makes it less likely that energy will be trapped and the muscles will have less chance to cramp up and create “knots”. The expansion of the chest opens the body and gives full support to the whole back.

    Sitting position

    Especially for the large number of people who spend most of their days sitting, it is good to consider your sitting position on a chair. Prolonged sitting on chairs or sofas keeps the muscles in the back of the thigh short, whereas we would benefit from long, supple hamstrings. Moreover, the flow of blood is also slowed down. Sitting on a chair is also fatal for our pelvis. We gradually lose freedom of movement in our hip joint. In fact, sitting and living on the floor is one of the healthiest decisions you can make for your back and hips! Not evident in our Western culture, which collectively rejects contact with the earth.

    Micro pauses

    Going back and forth with your attention between activity and body can be combined well with micro-movements. These are all kinds of short movements, such as raising and lowering the shoulders, rolling the shoulders, twisting the upper body to the left and right from the waist, stretching the arms and laterally stretching the torso, which break the long, static sitting posture. You should also get up for a few minutes every half hour and take a walk.

    Back strengthening

    Finally, it is important to keep your back in top condition by regularly doing appropriate stretching and strengthening exercises. Our yoga for the back class is perfect for this. In yoga for the back, we combine attention, breathing and appropriate exertion and relaxation to leave back problems behind us for good. Whatever your condition or body type, our yoga for the back class will provide you with the keys to a full, conscious experience of the wonderful structure that is our back and to restoring and maintaining the wellbeing of your back. Yoga for the back on Friday evening from 19.00 to 20.00 in a small group of maximum 7 persons, the ideal preparation after a busy week to go totally relaxed into the weekend.
    Tree posture outside

    Group class and daily practice

    You can attend as many group classes as you like. There are two facts you cannot ignore:.

    • Yoga postures were originally intended as a preparation for (daily) meditation.
    • Yoga was originally conceived as an individual, daily discipline.

    Group classes or no group classes

    Even though I like to teach group classes a lot, the finality of a group class is that they cancels themselves out at a certain point. That happens when you manage to create and maintain the discipline of a yoga moment at home on your own every day and make it to a daily ritual.

    Only then does it make sense to take group classes.

    But I myself also started my discovery of yoga through group classes in my former work environment. In a group class you acquire a good basis. From each yoga teacher you carry pieces of valuable knowledge with you. Group practice also has a unique, special energy and atmosphere that many people love. Especially people who need to be close to other people.

    Group classes are also a simplification. Because every body, every soul, every mind, every individual human being is different. A group class cannot possibly fulfil all the individual needs of the moment. Even if the yoga instructors do their best, a group class will remain a “middle of the road” approach.

    Those who practice yoga alone at home can make it a highly individual event, followed by a daily meditation practice that is also tailor-made.

    Morning yoga

    I myself practice yoga for 20-30 minutes maximum in the morning, before meditating for 20-30 minutes. This morning yoga completely changes the energy of my day. It also helps to get rid of the morning stiffness. Afterwards, I can meditate quietly whilst experiencing my body in a pleasant way. Or rather, I hardly feel my body at all. So I can meditate all the better on a mental level.

    Some exercises, such as balancing on one leg, are much easier to me in the morning than in the evening. I have atypically shaped feet which give little support, making these postures an extra challenge. In the evening, when I have already been through the wringer of a very active day, I am much more wobbly than in the morning. This wobbling also happens during the group lessons in the evening. Then I am no longer “the yoga teacher who demonstrates the posture to perfection”. And I am fine with that.

    Level one

    You practice yoga for yourself, with yourself. With the body you have. And that body is different every day, it changes in time, because nothing is permanent. Yoga is therefore an exercise in changeability. And in accepting imperfection. The atypical foot. The occasional wobbling. One shoulder lower than the other. The somewhat crooked spine. It’s not about the perfect alignment, the flawlessly held pose or the aesthetic result.

    Physical yoga practice is level one meditation. It means going through a physical and energetic experience that makes you aware. It is about becoming aware of your physical body and your vital energy.

    Picture of a peaceful yogi in a crowd.

    The Art of Centering

    It is an image that will stay with me. During a large demonstration for freedom and democracy, thousands of people gathered at the start of the procession. There were loud speeches from a podium. There was music, drum rolls and the murmur of thousands of people. A soundscape so intense to my ears that I feared I would have to come to my senses for an hour and a half at home.

    And there the man was. With long greying hair, clothes that indicated that he probably came from the yoga tradition. He sat cross-legged on the floor, hands in a mudra, eyes closed, meditating.

    Balance

    Undisturbed by what was happening around him. No matter how noisy and chaotic it was. When you walked past him, you just felt energetically that there was a field of soothing energy around him.

    It was reminiscent of the Yin/Yang symbol. For in the middle of the large, white, curved drop-shaped plane of the turbulent, heated, agile and noisy Yang energy is a small black dot, which represents the opposite of Yang: the Yin. Yin stands for stillness, coldness, immobility. It indicates that there is no Yang without Yin, and that there is no Yin without Yang either. They keep each other in balance.

    A symbolic ritual

    That is why the ancient Chinese often built high, dead straight pagodas in landscapes that were otherwise completely horizontal and flat. The Chinese emperors had a summer palace in the North of the country and a winter palace in the South of their empire. At the height of the summer (Yang), the emperor and his court moved to the summer palace in the North (Yin). And in the winter (Yin) the court moved to the winter palace in the south (Yang). This symbolic ritual was there not only to avoid being subject to climatic extremes, but also to symbolically keep the balance between the two poles.

    Centering

    The meditating yogi at the manifestation was an illustration of what is called “centering”. It is the turning of one’s attention inwards, after completely detaching it from the external world around you.

    Sometimes, during a relaxation moment at the end of a yoga session, yoga students become first irritated and then obsessed with disturbing elements from outside, which disturb or absorb their attention. It sometimes leads to complaints like “I could not relax because … ” there was that shouting in the street, that klaxon of that car, or the light snoring of the other yoga student next to them, who had gone from relaxation straight to deep sleep. Or it is about itching or itchiness which suddenly manifests itself.

    An inner state of peace

    These external disturbances are only disturbing insofar as you give them that power. However, they can also be the ideal elements and tools to learn to stay calmly at your own centre, no matter what is happening around you. Because accessing a quiet, calm, peaceful and neutral inner state is something that the current reality of our noisy planet rarely provides the ideal conditions for. That peaceful inner state, that point of rest and balance, is accessible to anyone at any time of the day, under any circumstances. We just need to learn not to cling to those elements of the outside world that we have labelled as distractions.

    An image of bright child's eyes

    The most intelligent question

    2020 has caused a leap of consciousness in a growing number of people. The world will never be the same as before. That is fine, because the old model was in urgent need of change.
    More and more people are questioning themselves and their way of life.
    Wonderful! It was about time.

    The most intelligent question in the world

    In fact, the most important conversation you should have on a daily basis is the conversation with yourself. To challenge our mind and our heart on a daily basis. In this way we avoid living “on automatic pilot” and not consciously holding the wheel of our lives in both hands.
    What question should you ask yourself in this context? What is the smartest question in the world to start with?

    Well, anyone who has been a child or has children knows this inevitable question, which a 4 to 5 year old constantly asks the parents during a certain period of her or his life, until those parents become a little bit nervous or feel a slight annoyance rising.
    And that question is: Why?
    Yes, the most useful and intelligent question in the world comes from the mouths of small children. In order to know whether you have given up the steering wheel of your life without realising it, it helps, in your daily conversation with yourself, to ask the simple question: “Why?” regarding each of your choices and actions, and then answer it as honestly and sincerely as possible.

    Continue digging

    And after that first answer, ask yourself again the question: “Why?”. Just like that little child of barely 5 did.
    Because one answer can sometimes hide a deeper answer. So you continue to dig down to the bare bone until you have identified the real motivation or driver behind your choice or behaviour.
    Then, hold it up to the light today, and see if that choice still makes sense in 2021, knowing that life is short and fragile.
    Bet that in 2021 a lot of old patterns of behaviour will be replaced by fresh, new choices!
    Isn’t that just marvellous?

    Picture of a winding forest road

    Sitting still

    You may be wondering what that picture of a somewhat neglected, winding road, half gravel, half earth, through a forest, has to do with sitting still.
    Well, life sometimes makes strange twists and turns.
    I ended up in the middle of Norway in 2009 after a peculiar coincidence. At the invitation of an organic farmer who had emigrated from Belgium, I stayed and worked there for a week. In the afternoons I left for long walks in the rather wild forest landscape.

    Beyond the border

    This was also the case on that day in October. The season was on the border of autumn and winter, with the occasional wet snow shower. The road in the picture finally took me past the border of civilisation, somewhere on a high plateau.
    There, sitting on a boulder amongst the vegetation tending to all possible shades and hues of colour, suddenly a silence fell.
    But a silence like I had never experienced before. I was eating a sandwich I had brought with me and was awakened … by the sound of my grinding jaws. I had never heard that before. I was perplexed and stopped eating.
    Then it dawned on me that there was nothing, absolutely nothing to be heard there.
    It was the first time in that moment that I caught a glimpse of absolute silence.

    Perhaps life would have led me there, in the run-up to the discovery, more than 10 years later, that I am actually hyper-sensitive to sound from an early age. My brain can only select between the many separate sound signals in a “soundscape” with the greatest difficulty and at the cost of a lot of energy.

    Meditation

    Yoga is a complete system conceived to prepare oneself for meditation.
    Meditation has to do with crossing borders as well as confronting silence.
    There are countless meditation traditions. All of them offer methods to “silence the mind”. To bring consciousness beyond the noise.
    Because apart from the fact that our contemporary world with all its traffic, machines and other incessant human activity, must seem like a deafening hell for our ancestors until about two centuries ago, there is another sound that never seems to stop.
    And that is the incessant “chat” of the thoughts that pass through our brain.

    The current that controls us

    Those thoughts make up for an automatic, endless flow. A mess, in which interesting ideas, ingenious insights or whisper-smooth intuitions drown in an excess of automatic, coarser chatter. The latter consists largely of fantasies about the past or the present. Most of these we are not even aware of.
    But that flow does control us. And is responsible for our emotions and our state of mind, day in, day out.

    In Indian philosophy the world was created by sound. That is a beautiful metaphor for what modern science has understood in the meantime. Because first there is vibration, or energy, and the matter of what we call the real world is no more or no less than coarse, “condensed” energy.
    So you create your own world from the energetic vibration your thoughts constantly create.
    All that exists in your world is the materialisation of your own thoughts. If there is chaos around you, then that is a projection of the chaos that probably exists within you and that you fuel by means of your thought stream.

    Tips for a first step

    Without attending a particular meditation school, you can already take a first step in meditation at home.
    What do you need?

    • A place where you will likely not be disturbed
    • Use a chair or meditation cushion to sit on that allows you to relax with your back upright
    • A clock or meditation timer with an alarm function

    How do you go about it?

    • Book 5 to 10 minutes at a fixed time in your day. Early in the morning or in the evening before bed are good moments
    • Set your clock or meditation timer
    • Sit with your back straight and eyes closed
    • Breathe in and out slowly and regularly
    • Stay quiet

    And become aware of your own thoughts.
    Observe them one by one. Every time a thought comes up, take note of it, and then let go of it. Bring your awareness back to your breathing.

    Do you want more control over your daily life? Then start by listening to the sound of your inner thoughts and get to know them.
    Start with five to ten minutes a day. And let it gradually become longer.

    What we experience on a global scale this year 2020 can be nothing more or nothing less than a clear and compelling invitation from a higher consciousness to stop our insanely exaggerated outer activities. And to stay at home – at least for a good while – and learn to sit still with ourselves.

    What does it mean to sit with a straight back?

    Our backs are not straight by nature. The spine is clearly S-shaped.
    Sitting with a straight back means: keep your spine in its natural, upright shape.
    It means that you do not allow yourself to “sag”.

    How do you bring your back into its natural curvature?

    • Go sit on a chair or on a meditation cushion on the floor
    • Tilt your pelvis forward, as if you were pushing your navel to the front
    • Mark how your lower back becomes slightly hollow at the back
    • Open your chest by bringing your sternum a little forward and relax your shoulders
    • Finally, place your head and neck straight and balanced rignt above your shoulder girdle.

    How do I know if I hold my lower back in the right position ?

    • Put your hand behind your back and touch the middle of your lower back
    • If you feel a cleft, like a little valley between your lumbar muscles, that’s when you know you’re good
    • On the other hand, if you feel the protrusions of your lumbar vertebrae sticking out, you are sagging. Adjust your posture by tilting your pelvis forward until you no longer feel the protrusions.
    Print of a monkey on a jungle background

    The monkey in our heads

    Contemporary yoga practice is largely and excessively focused on physical postures. However, it is worth recalling that in any case it was never the intention to place such an emphasis on the asanas. This inflation of the asanas is a contemporary phenomenon, because today’s people lead a mainly sedentary existence. And they yearn for compensation in physical activity.

    The real work

    In ancient yoga texts such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, another standard work, hardly any postures are described. And then, mainly a few sitting postures to allow the practice of meditation.
    Yes, that’s right: the physical exercises were meant as a preparation for the real work: meditation.
    In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras the purpose of yoga is described in the following verse:

    “Chitta vritti nirodnah – Stopping the movements of the mind”

    After all, in our heads there lives a cheerful monkey. A monkey that swings constantly rom one branch to another in a tree. That’s the way our mind works when it’s on autopilot. We go from one thought to the next impression, you can’t think of anything more crazy. Thousands of thoughts thus pass through our minds. In this way the mind does everything to bring our attention everywhere except here, in the present moment. Consider how many of the thoughts you have during a whole day are about the past or the future. These are all fantasies that take place at a different time than here and now. If you let that monkey guide you all the way, then you risk your life just passing you by.

    The tyranny of screens

    So by nature we are hardly able to concentrate at all. In our time, this is exacerbated by the ubiquitous media and what is known as “social engineering”. They constantly kidnap our attention by means of our own senses, mainly through screens. As a result, we live in an (electronic) fantasy world more than ever before. And so authentic yoga practice must have a strong mental component. Not your body, but in the first place your mind needs to be put to work. By concentrating and by bringing your attention constantly back to what you feel in your body every time it is hijacked by yet another fleeting thought.

    And above all: beware that you are much more than what you think. The monkey and the voices in your head, they are just phenomena that take place in your brain. That awareness is the beginning of freedom:

    • It gives you the ability to become an observer of what’s going on in your head.
    • By that concentration exercise you start to evolve.

    From a distracted and impressionable individual, you develop into someone who knows what he or she stands for, what he or she wants and why. Imagine!
    Finally, a nice quote I found somewhere in an old book about the mythical Findhorn garden in Northern Scotland. One of the pioneers of the garden wrote he had had a conversation with a kind of “nature spirit”, who entrusted her with the following:

    “People generally don’t seem to know where they are going or why. If they knew that, if they were on the right track to what needs to be done, what an incredible power station they would be!”