WHAT TYPE OF YOGA DO WE PRACTICE HERE AT THE ART OF BALANCE?!

Often this question does not come from you directly, rather you are asked by friends or family.  “What type of yoga do you practice with Bettina?”  And then, what to say, how to explain what makes you feel so good within yourself and what has changed your life in so many ways you had not anticipated when you first started yoga.

When I am asked that question eye to eye, I am listening between the lines, I am taking the whole context in which this question has come up into consideration.  I seek to understand the intention behind the question.

So there is no one-sentence or one-word answer.  The answers are as diverse as there are students coming to our yoga classes.  They are as unique as you are.

And still, there is a style, an idea, an intention behind what we practice.  Let me explain.

The most general answer there is would be to say we practice “Hatha” Yoga.  This simply refers to the fact that we practice physical yoga, yoga postures, or yoga asana.

We also incorporate into each and every class a form of mindfulness.  The idea of being in the present moment, experiencing everything the way it is without judgement or the wish for it to be different or to go away.

There is also an element of meditation in each yoga class.  A way to relax the body and calm the mind.  Often, and eventually, our whole yoga practice becomes a moving meditation.

Pranayama, or breathing techniques are an essential part of each yoga class too, as well as a sense of gratitude towards ourselves for making the effort to practice self care in form of yoga.

A big emphasis is placed on the breath.  Breath connects several different movements or asanas together, often referred to as vinyasa.  Here is a most basic form of vinyasa practice, a sun salutation.

This is one of several variations of the traditional Surya Namaskara A, or Sun Salutation.  An ancient sequence of physical movements, connected together with the use of the breath, traditionally practiced to greet and honour the sun.

In a physical sense our sun salutations warm the body, preparing for continuing yoga asana practice.  Energetically, they will bring us into a more meditative state with the combination of breath and movement.  Spiritually, we salut and honour the life-giving energy of the sun that sustains us and all life around us, it also expresses our gratitude for being able to see in another day (as sun salutations are traditionally practiced at the rise of the sun).

Another important aspect is that this is often the first time a yoga student is introduced to a vinyasa style yoga practice.  Vinyasa in its most liberally translated form simply means to connect breath with movement.  This synchronisation of breath and movement is beautifully demonstrated in sun salutations.  In a wider sense it means to enter and exit yoga asana (yoga poses) in a particular way, with the use of the breath to create a flow type experience, stringing several yoga poses together.

I practiced this flow on a sunny Sunday outside the yoga studio of The Art of Balance – Yoga & Massage.

Vinyasa in its traditional form simply means connecting and synchronising breath with movement.  It also refers to the fact that we enter a pose a certain way, stay in the pose for a while, and then leave it behind, emphasising the spiritual idea of life being transient.  Nothing ever stays the same.  There is an ebb and flow to life, as there is to yoga practice.  And with that yoga philosophy is incorporated into each yoga class.  Yoga practice allows us a safe playground to explore our physical, mental and energetic potential.  It allows us to get to know our tendencies, our holding patterns, and our automatic reactions.  And with that awareness, we are able to choose to keep them or change them.

I encourage playfulness and curiosity in yoga practice.  I invite you to become curious about all feelings, emotions, physical sensations and thoughts that you experience during your yoga practice.  Then allow you to be with them all, to acknowledge, validate and accept, as well as stay present with the use of the breath.  I will guide you to widen your consciousness and your ability to be with all there is.  May this be strong sensations or simply breath and shape of pose; may this be an emotion that is pleasant to you or not.  You will gain a greater connection to and understanding of your own physical body and of your own inner landscape and workings of your mind.

Our classes are aimed at you, the yoga student, who comes to class with motivations, ailments, limitations and strengths.  I will never place emphasis on a style or a sequence, I will always teach you, the student in front of me.  That way yoga therapy finds its way into group yoga classes.  If you present with a sore neck, or a tender lower back, I will get an idea of your biomechanics at the start of class and bring in asana and pranayama I feel will be helpful.  Please remember that I am a qualified and practicing Remedial Massage Therapist, and my knowledge and experience of anatomy, physiology, as well as biomechanics comes into play when I teach you yoga.

As my aim is to allow you to experience a well balanced yoga practice, I let the sum of all my learning, my own personal experiences and my own yoga practice in addition to all the yoga styles I have been trained in and experienced (such as Iyengar, Ashtanga, Yin, and Power Yoga) to come through in each class.  We do not follow one particular style or lineage.  As I do not believe in one size fits all.

Our practice can be dynamic and cardiovascular as well as slow and alignment focussed, the emphasis is on strength as well as flexibility both in body and in mind.  You come with what you have and are allowed to be who you are.  The practice of yoga and I pick you up where you are at.  No questions asked. No pretence.  I will always hold space for you.

Our yoga is permissive and joyful.  Our yoga community is down to earth, welcoming and displays a great sense of humour.  We do take our practice seriously though with enough light-heartedness, to keep an inner and an outer smile, to keep our breath soft and smooth, to affect steadiness in the body and calmness in the mind.

The sense of sharing movement and breath together reminds us that all is one.  We do not live in isolation, our thoughts, words and actions affect the people around us.  And yet yoga is an individual practice, just as we all have our own individual life path.

It is my aim for you to take your yoga off the mat.  To take the life skills you learn in the safety of the studio out into your life.  I will guide you outside your comfort zone.  I allow you to face your fears, your limitations, your strengths and your weaknesses.  It is the challenges, the demons you have to face in order to “get” to a pose that I am interested in.  It is about how yoga changes you and your life that is important.  It is the j o u r n e y that transforms you.

Having you as my student is a privilege for which I am grateful.  Thank you.

See you on the mat.

Bettina Pfannkuch