Yoga in Berlin is like so many other German things: deliberate, patient, spacious, and precise. I’m not only comparing the local practice to the west coast but also what I’ve practiced in Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Goa, Chicago, Boulder, and so on. The practices here lead to the deepest awareness of the body I’ve found. Teachers I’ve attended bring extra attention to vipassana style body-scanning and deeper holds in chaturanga, utkatasana, malasana, and even in child’s pose. However, I’ve found Vinyasa and Hatha in Berlin to have the least organic feeling flow and connection to nature.
Before coming to Berlin I spent December in hot, colorful, spicy, pollution-filled India. I washed it all away in Goa with the one and only Janet Stone (above). In San Francisco, I regularly spent two hours of my Saturday mornings with her and a room full of other hippie-techies. It was nice to get one last slice of home before landing into winter.
Upon arrival, I spent months trying to learn enough German to do everything possible localized, including yoga. I thought knowing the asanas in Sanskirt would diffuse the language problem. I was wrong. Not understanding the instructor, cadence, and details really kept me focused on the logistics rather than a connecting to myself.
Foreign language is not always a yogic barrier. I feel close to fluent in Spanish after a few weeks of immersion. In Argentina, I took classes in Spanish with Agustina Villar. It was inspiring and recharging and a bit silly every time we went for perro abajo. In that context, foreign language yoga was fun and inspiring. It lit up different parts of my brain which brought me a closer connection to my mind, body, and emotions.
During this time the weather got warmer and I got a bike which made it possible to attend English classes in Kreuzberg. Berlin has so much physical space that it’s even possible to do yoga in huge art galleries (see instagram photo at top). I only felt the stark contrast between Berlin and West Coast style yoga when I started doing at-home videos from LA-based Shiva Rea.
I sometimes wonder if the relaxed work-life balance, quiet Sundays, and all the physical space is what makes the yoga practice in Berlin so deliberate, spaciuous and patient. It’s sometimes a bit mechanical or overly precise (e.g “now we’re going to have an 8 minute shavasana. Just relax.”), but always thoughtful, intentional, and rightfully slowing.
The legendary Ana Forrest is coming to Berlin in a few weeks for a weekend of workshops. I’m excited to see how her modern approach to yoga goes in city so experienced at relaxing.
Oh and if you are looking for a deep english-speaking practice Yellow Yoga has locations in Kreuzberg and Neukölln with fair prices, good ethos, quality teachers and a range of levels. Enjoy!