Yoga in times of COVID-19

Since making the difficult decision to temporarily close studio classes, I have been truly touched by your lovely emails, well wishes and encouragement to offer you an option for a home yoga practice. I would like to sincerely thank all of you for your kindness and positivity. 

Adaptation is the skill to compromise, the will to change, and the opportunity to evolve.

 Theordore W. Higgingsworth

The above quote pretty well summarizes how many of us feel at the moment. I am also adapting to new options and ways to support you in your yoga practice. 

I am currently taking a crash course on how to use online media to conduct effective yoga classes. I plan to offer some (free) trial sessions in the near future to see whether we can make this work.

If you would like to be part of the free Yoga Class Streaming experience (or should I say experiment?), please register here.

If it works, I plan to charge a small fee for those virtual classes in the future. 

What do you need? 

Your yoga props, a computer, laptop, phone or IPad to participate in the webconference. 
You can order props by clicking here (Iyogaprops) or here (EMP Industries) and bolsters by clicking here (Stretch Now).

Why do I practice Yoga?

Have you ever asked yourself “Why do I practice yoga?”

Of course, the goal is not to tie a knot with you limbs, even though some people think that this is what yoga is all about!

I am so grateful for my ‘discipline’ to be practicing every day. Disciplined practice is said to be a path to freedom. But discipline without the permission to play can lead to discipline devoid of delight. The practice can lose its vitality, its joy, its juice. The practice can become mechanical and we can lose the ability to wonder, and the ability to try things differently. Discipline combined with delight or a ‘way of play’ is truly liberating because we are free to explore, to learn, to grow, to evolve. We are free to listen and respond to what is emerging from within- even if it does not conform to what we have been trained to expect. We make space for insight, and even delight – genuine delight.
Why am I grateful for practicing yoga? It is as fundamental for me now as those other daily practices. In fact, I ‘thirst’ for yoga when I am busy and it gets reduced. I do not practice yoga because I am disciplined. I practice yoga because I have to. Without it I would be distracted by pain from my scoliosis. I would not be able to enjoy my life and what I love. 

Why do you practice yoga? What helps you to find meaning in this world? To sustain a practice over a long period of time we need to ask ourselves these questions. 
Just practicing to be ‘good’ is not enough to carry you through a lifetime of yoga practice.

Take a moment at the end of your next practice, perhaps at the beginning of your Savasana, and ask yourself “Why do I practice?”

Yoga Reading for Men

Here are some great articles for men that provide better insight how yoga works therapeutically:

Geeta Iyengar (the daughter of Mr Iyengar) has embraced the effects of yoga postures in her article Restorative Asanas for Men.

Simon is a very experienced Iyengar Yoga Teacher at Marrickville Yoga Centre in Sydney. He created this restorative sequence specifically for men. 

This article provides a sequence after prostate surgery. The article was written by Frank Jesse – a very experienced Iyengar Yoga Teacher. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer diagnosed in men in Australia according to

All yoga poses need to be applied under the guidance of a professional Iyengar Yoga Teacher.

Yoga for Men’s Health

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the health outcomes for males are often poorer than those of females. 

With this article, I would like to contribute and raise the awareness for men’s health issues. Here is my message to men:

Eat healthy, make sure you have enough sleep and exercise well. If you recognize any changes, see a doctor or talk to a mate.

Ignorance can be deadly

My dad used to say: Issues come and issues go. Then, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 50. After a saga of surgeries and chemotherapy he only made it to 55. Our son was just 3 ½ months old when my dad passed away. He was overwhelmed to witness his daughter having a baby but very sad that he could not be with his grandson as he grew up.

Yoga for Men?

My female students occasionally tell me that they wish their husbands would practice yoga, too. However, the men usually think that yoga is tailored for women.

It is obvious that my mature female students are better off in terms of health than their husbands. I often hear that ever since their husbands stopped working, they cannot muster the energy to be interested in anything including exercise.

For staying healthy you don’t need to lift heavy weights or run a marathon. Yoga is suitable for everyone. This is true!

Historically Yoga was only for Men

Looking at yoga history, scholars assume that yoga was practiced, taught and written about by men. It was mainly Indian men who traveled to the West to teach yoga. With the increase of women’s rights, yoga became more secularized and thus accessible for women. Today, more women are practicing yoga in the West than men.

Change happens

As we approach the 40’s, the body changes more noticeably. This results in increased muscle tension, short hamstrings and tightness around the joints. The weight usually increases because the metabolism slows down due to changes in the hormones. Even mental and emotional fluctuations can be explained by hormonal changes. An inflexible and weak body can induce back and shoulder pain as well as hip and knee problems. Incidentally, this is true for both sexes.

What kind of changes could you feel? Maybe there is a general immobility of the body, unsteadiness of the mind. There might be the notion that you are not happy and feel lethargic. Many men might believe these symptoms are a normal part of aging. But, it does not have to be this way.  

Know what to do … and breathe

Yoga is an option to counter these problems. Actually, it is a great possibility for change because the yoga movements holistically address the total body. So, not just the extremities, shoulders and spine but also the respiration. Bringing attention to breathing will have a positive influence on your nervous system and mind. After being active, breath becomes smoother and not forceful. As a result, the body and mind will experience a benevolent feeling. This will happen after each class!

Positive Effects of Yoga

Yoga increases the range of motion. This alone has many positive effects. Over the years blood circulation increases and digestive processes improve. More effective muscle performance leads to increased security due to better balance. Yoga is also effective in reducing stress by employing a number of relaxation techniques.

A Companion for Life

Yoga is a reliable companion and a beautiful way of life for every sex and age.

Once you are able to practise yoga you become your own teacher. You will be able to scan your body to assess yourself as you practice. This will help to reduce the incidence of injury also when playing other sports.

You can only feel it when you are attempting it!

In the following post I will mention some great articles for men that provide better insight how yoga works therapeutically. Read more.

Sequence for Practicing at Home

If you would like to develop a home practice of yoga in addition to your class practice here are four sequences I found on the Internet which might be a good starting point.

Yoga Home Practice Sequence (credit Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York)

This document contains four sequences which you can do at your own pace wherever you are (credits go to the American Iyengar Yoga Association and the Iyengar Yoga Institute of New York). They require minimal use of props or you can substitute the props for something you have at home for instance a normal chair. There is also a Level 2 for more advanced students (please be advised not to do inversions when you are menstruating).

If you have any questions regarding the sequence or a specific pose, please do not hesitate to contact me.

New Yoga Class for Age 59+

UPDATE (October 2018): This class is no longer offered. However, if you are interested, please contact me and we might reinstate it!

From 14 February 2018, we will be offering a slow yoga class especially for those of mature age (59+). You might have read that “Yoga is for everyone and every age”. That includes higher age!

I am passionate about yoga and thus I would like to present you with an opportunity to benefit from yoga even if you feel that things are not as easy as they used to be when it comes to movement.

In this class we still focus on different areas of the body to develop a sensitivity to bring about change in body posture BUT at a slower pace. As we age, we tend to neglect some muscle groups and to adopt some postures which over time give us grief. I have seen time and again that yoga can reverse those negative changes and bring back vitality and rigor.

Yoga is for every age

Also, if you have health problems like osteoarthritis, scoliosis, shoulder, back, knee problems or would simply like to be able to get down to the floor and back up again (!) … that would be the right class for you. As you probably know, alignment of the muscle-skeleton body can influence habits: how we stand, walk and sit. An aligned body can alleviate pain. Basically, we work on the body and breathing to bring it slowly back into an equilibrium. The goal is that you wrestle less with daily activities and life becomes more harmonic and joyful.

I have a yoga student that told me that at age 79 she is able to do things that she thought she could never do again when she was 69 years old. What will be your story?

What is the difference between Pilates and Yoga and which should I chose?

Pilates focuses on physical body strength and a strong core whereas in Yoga we seek inner and outer balance, flexibility in the hip joints, spine, ankles, shoulders, expanded muscles and ligaments around the joints which give the joints space to move. My own experience with pain in the lumbar area taught me that both are important – a strong core and strong back muscles for a supportive healthy spine.  Therefore, I have been attending Pilates classes just to train the postural muscles, i.e. my core. My back muscles were already strong from regular Yoga practice. What I do now is, I include specific postures for abdominal strength in my daily Yoga practice and share it with my students in the Yoga class as well.

In Pilates you learn the precise breathing technique while you are doing abdominal work. I assume you know many exercises to work on your abdomen but you may not know the correct breathing technique. However, this is not the only secret to getting strong abdominal muscles. In postures where you have to lift the trunk you should be aware of and have to work on your trunk as well. The chest must be open, groins long, shoulder blades down the back and back ribs pulled in. To improve this motion, Yoga would give you better awareness in that part of your body.

In summary, if you are ‘just’ looking for a strong core you might choose Pilates. Yoga involves abdominal postures as well but is more focused on building strength and balancing it with flexibility. The practice of Yoga aims at overcoming the limitations of the body. Only in Yoga can you keep both the body and the mind relaxed, even as you stretch, extend, rotate, and flex your body. This includes attention to detail in every part of your body and alignment to the skeletal body. This accuracy and attention to detail is not merely a physical effect but involves also physiological and even psychological processes. Everyone has their own needs to keep the body fit and healthy and these will lead you to your decision.

The Benefits of Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)

You will notice that during every class we do headstand or the preparation for headstand if you are not ready for the full pose yet. Why is that?

Picture of headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)
Franziska demonstrating headstand

Mr. Iyengar (and in fact ‘the ancient books’) call sirsana the ‘King’ of asanas. Sirsa means the head. Asana is the pose. Salamba refers to the fact that this is the supported version of the pose, i.e. we are not free balancing on our heads but use the support of the arms. Salamba sirsasana is a balancing pose as you will all have experienced only too well. However, its benefits go way beyond giving us balance and poise. By regular practising this pose the entire body is reconditioned and nourished. This happens by stimulating the endocrine system – especially the pituitary and pineal glands in the head. The pituitary gland controls the function of several other endocrine glands and is thus sometimes called the master gland. It influences growth, blood pressure, some function of sex organs, the thyroid gland and metabolism. The main function of the pineal gland is to control the circadian rhythm by releasing melatonin.

Being inverse forces the blood to the head which promotes mental clarity. Iyengar says: “The asana is a tonic for people whose brains tire quickly.” (B.K.S. Iyengar: Light on Yoga, page151). The lungs benefit, too. They become more resistant against changes in temperature which helps to prevent colds, coughs and ailments of the chest such as bronchitis and asthma. Headstand keeps the body warm.

When we stand on our feet, no effort is required as it is a natural pose. When inverted in headstand however, we need to concentrate on executing the pose correctly. Faulty execution of headstand can lead to pain in the neck, head and back. It is thus not only important to balance but to constantly adjust minutely during sirsasana.

You should not practice salamba sirsasana if you suffer from high blood pressure, when you are menstruating, when you have existing head and neck injuries. Do not attempt this pose alone if you have never done it under supervision of an experienced yoga instructor.

(Source: B.K.S. Iyengar: Light on Yoga, The Aquarian Press, 1991, London)