HOW HAMSTRINGS AFFECT YOUR YOGA PRACTICE AND THE HEALTH OF YOUR BODY.

Supta Padangusthasana is the number one asana to increase hamstring flexibility and to relieve lower back strain.

Any of you who have participated in my yoga classes knows that I love to make you stretch those hamstrings. But do you know WHY? I’m sure I have mentioned some of the benefits but I also know that sometimes what we hear goes in from one ear and immediately out from the other ear without leaving a memory mark in that important space between your ears: the brain. So let’s dive a little deeper into the hamstring muscle and recap some of those benefits.

One of my missions is to help people make yoga part of their daily life by teaching simple poses and short sequences that actually create change if you just practice them consistently. You don’t need to bend yourself into a pretzel in order to have a healthy body.

But let’s get back to the hamstrings. 

Hamstrings job is to extend the hip and flex the knee but if the hamstrings are too tight they can’t do that job properly. Due to the big amount of connective tissue that hamstrings have, it takes a lot of time to make them flexible. We need to hold poses for a minimum of one and a half minute to two minutes in order to release and stretch connective tissue. I say it again: consistent practice is the key. A lot of patience and regular practice is needed to make your hamstring flexible. It’s not enough to lift your legs up into Supta Padangusthasana once a week in a yoga class but you should do that once (or even twice) a day. Might sound a lot but the good news is that actually, it takes only about five minutes of your time a day. We all have five minutes, right? 

In a yoga class, we do different types of asanas that can be roughly put into four categories: standing poses, inversions, twists, backbends, and forward bends. Different asanas require strength and openness in different parts of the body. Hamstring strength is essential in backbends and hamstring flexibility is necessary in forward bends. This means that in order to do those poses effectively and safely you need to have strong and open hamstrings (among strength and flexibility in other parts of the body as well). Important to note here is that we need both: flexibility and strength. Flexible but weak hamstrings can lead to hamstring origin strains or tears which results in pain while sitting, stretching, and using the muscle. Now we don’t want that.

Open hamstrings allow the spine to fully lengthen in Adho Mukha Shvanasana (the downward facing dog).

Imbalanced hamstrings can lead to a limited range of motion and even serious injuries. For example, tight hamstrings pull down on the sitting bones which can lead to nagging low back pain. I find this to be one very important reason why we should keep those hamstrings open by stretching them daily. 

One of the key messages of yoga is:

“Future pain can be avoided.”

You just need to know how.

So how do you actually notice the state of your hamstrings in your yoga practice? Trikonasana and Adho Mukha Shvanasana are two very good poses where you can actually feel the effects of tight hamstrings in your body. In Trikonasana tight hamstrings can lead to compression on side of the back and overstretch the other side. In Adho Mukha Shvanasana on the other hand tight hamstrings pull on the sitting bones causing the back to round. If you do a forward bend like Janu Shirshansana and your hamstrings are tight, the sacrum tips backward creating a lot of strain to that area which in a long run can lead to injury. 

Trikonasana (the triangle pose) gives a nice stretch to the hamstrings.

Important to note here is also how gender affects the flexibility of the hamstrings. Women have an advantage toward flexibility because of the hormone relaxin which is produced especially in childbearing and birth to allow the pelvis to open. Relaxing helps to loosen the ligaments of the pelvis. Also during menstruation, this hormone is being released to make the connective tissues more flexible. This makes those menstruation days a perfect time to practice hip openers! This doesn’t only increase flexibility but hip openers also help to relieve cramps. Men on the other hand have testosterone which increases bulk and leads to tighter hamstrings.

So as you can see, we don’t (or shouldn’t) practice yoga just for the sake of a perfect pose but for the sake of a healthier and more enjoyable life! Keeping your hamstrings flexible and strong allows you to enjoy your daily activities with ease. That’s the only thing that truly matters. Being able to do fancy yoga poses is something extra where you can also physically challenge yourself but it shouldn’t be the driving force of your practice of yoga.

If you would like to learn ways to keep your hamstrings (and your whole body) healthy I welcome you to join my yoga classes in Gattikon/Thalwil or book a private yoga class where we can together create a practice that serves your specific needs. Private yoga classes can take place online or offline.

Sometimes in yoga group classes and in private sessions we hang in Adho Mukha Shvanasana to traction the spine. This is an amazing release for the whole spine, and hanging in general, is crucial for the health of the back.

SURYA NAMASKAR, AND WHY IT SHOULD BE A PART OF YOUR LIFE!

Surya Namaskar, a sequence that has been moving human bodies all over the world for over 5000 years! It is perhaps the most ancient series of poses practiced by human beings, which must mean, that there is something pretty powerful in the classical version of the Surya Namaskar.

In my opinion, this sequence is a lifesaver for all people living in our modern society that is based on long hours seated in front of a computer screen. 5000 years ago, or even only 100 years ago, life was naturally moving human bodies in their everyday lives. Nowadays, different kinds of vehicles are moving us from one place to another which drastically reduces the steps taken by our very own feet a day. The less we move our bodies the more tension, aches, and slugginess we experience in our physical form. Regular high and medium intensity level movement helps us to stay healthy and keeps our metabolism active throughout the day. 

Flowing through the Surya Namaskar is like the easily accessible antidote to the disease of inactive life. Practicing this sequence is doable almost anywhere you are and to all fitness levels! All you need is a yoga mat and enough space to lay that mat on the floor. No props, only the symphony of your body, mind, breath, and soul.

I teach the classical version of Surya Namaskar in almost every class because it’s such a powerful sequence that brings great benefits to your whole being. Let’s go through some of the benefits of this ancient sequence.

  1. Strengthens the whole body.
  2. Releases lower back tension. The extension and flexion of the spine stretches and strengthens the lower back.
  3. Opens the hip joints. Sitting on chairs all day tightens and damages the hips. Practicing Surya Namaskar does the opposite: it opens the hip joints in extension and flexion bringing back tier natural movement.
  4. Makes the whole body feel vibrant. The constant strengthening and opening movement of the body, guided by your breath, makes the whole body feel alive!
  5. Brings clarity and focus to the mind. By freeing your body from the tension you free the mind from tension. By strengthening the body you strengthen the mind. By uniting the mind, body, and breath your brain gets stimulated in ways that bring harmony in your whole being.
  6. Frees the breath. The whole sequence moves in one plane; from a backbend to a forward bend. Each backbend opens the chest and the diaphragm making more space for your breath to flow freely. Each forward bend opens the back of your body creating more awareness and space in the back of your lungs.
  7. Helps you to set intentions. Look deep within and find your intention for the day. Then, get on your mat and with each inhalation breath your intention into your whole being, and with each exhalation let go of what is no longer serving you. The more often we repeat a thought the more it becomes a part of who we are, and the more likely it will manifest in our life.
  8. Gives you a good amount of health promoting exercise in a short time. In only five minutes you can flow through a few rounds of Surya Namaskar and start to feel its energizing effects.

Pretty impressive benefits, right? And those are only a few of the key benefits of this unique sequence. I absolutely LOVE Surya Namaskar and couldn’t imagine my life without it. I’m on a mission to introduce this amazing sequence to as many people as I can and to help them make it part of their daily life! This mission has already started a few years ago when I started teaching yoga but on the 31st of January my mission takes one step forward: I will teach a Surya Namaskar online workshop where YOU will learn this sequence step by step and challenge yourself by aiming to practice 27 rounds of the classical version of the Surya Namaskar. Are you in?

MORE INFO ABOUT THE WORKSHOP

SIX BENEFITS OF PRACTICING YOGA ONLINE

Online yoga stormed into our lives with the speed an intensity of a massive wave last year and it looks like it will continue its success story in the year 2021 as well. Practicing yoga online isn’t a new concept, I was taking online yoga classes already 10 years ago, but after Covid-19 put our lives upside down and sort of forced us all to find new ways of working out, online yoga became part of daily life for many of us.

To be honest, at the beginning I was very reluctant to start teaching online mainly because it was new territory and because the style of yoga that I teach is very alignment based so seeing and adjusting my students is an important part of my classes. Through the computer screen, I can’t do hands-on assisting and until I managed to connect my laptop to a big screen I barely was able to even see my students to give more precise verbal corrections. Doing the practice while teaching also offered its own challenge. When I teach at a studio I never do my own practice because I am there for my students. My 100% attention goes to my students so that they can have the best possible experience and evolve in their own practice.

But, as we all know, challenges are there for our growth. If I could choose, I would teach most of my classes offline in a studio but I must say that after turning the challenges into victories I actually like teaching online as well. It’s different but it can be an amazing experience and online yoga classes will be part of my weekly schedule even after I can get back to teaching in a studio. Here are my top six benefits for practicing yoga online:

  1. ONLINE YOGA SAVES YOU TIME

Since all you need to join a yoga class online is your laptop/smart phone/tablet, you can basically start practicing exactly where you are! No need to travel to the studio and spend time in traffic. You can use that extra time on things that you normally don’t have time to do. Maybe you call a friend with who you haven’t spoken for a long time, spend some quality time with your kids, catch up on work, go for a walk in nature, or whatever you feel like doing. Maybe have a short power nap to boost your energy levels before taking a class.

2. YOU CAN PRACTICE IN THE COMFORT OF YOUR HOME

I’m sure you’ve had that moment right at the end of Shavasana where the teacher asks you, with a soft voice, to start slowly “waking up” but you don’t want to get up just yet. Well, if you’re at home you can just continue resting in Shavasana as long as you like. Besides that amazing benefit, you also don’t have to be carrying your yoga stuff from one place to another. Just get changed in your own home, enjoy the practice, and take a long warm shower afterward. No hurry, no stress, longer-lasting yoga bliss.

3. YOU GET A RECORDING OF THE CLASS FOR FREE

This is one of my favorite benefits! I mean how amazing it is that you get to retake the class you attended basically for free!? You pay for one class but actually, you get a few more. The recording will be available to you for three days and during that time you can watch the recording as many times as you want!

4. YOU GET TO DEEPEN YOUR PRACTICE

If you used to practice yoga once a week now you have the possibility, with the price of one class, to practice yoga at least four times a week! Taking the same class a few times gives you an invaluable opportunity to deepen your yoga practice and better learn the nuances of each asana. Mastering an asana or your practice doesn’t happen overnight or in one class. Practice makes perfect 🙂 As one of my favorite quotes says:

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. -Bruce Lee

5. HELPS YOU TO MAKE YOGA PART OF YOUR DAILY LIFE

Practicing yoga at home by attending an online yoga class helps you to associate your home as a great place to practice yoga. It will be easier for you in the future to start practicing on your own as well and make yoga a part of your daily life. This is a great opportunity to create your own sacred yoga space that is dedicated to your wellbeing. When the space is ready with all the props you need it will be easier for you to get on the mat and start practicing.

6. YOU NEVER HAVE TO MISS A CLASS AGAIN

Did something unexpected happen and you couldn’t make it to the class? No worries, you will receive the recording of the class and you can watch it & practice with it when it suits the best for you.

Even if you are an advocate for practicing yoga in a studio (just like me) I would say those are pretty valid points to consider especially in times like these when online yoga is our only choice. It’s either that or nothing. I encourage you to give it a try. I will still be there guiding you, holding the virtual space for you, giving as many verbal instructions, and offering corrections as well as I possibly can, and there is always time for questions and answers and connecting with the other students after the class.

If you got interested and would like to give the online thing a chance then please do check out my schedule and sign up for a class. You will not regret it!

SIX THINGS TO EXPECT IN YOUR FIRST YOGA CLASS

Are you looking for yoga in your life? Whether you are a complete beginner or a more advanced yogi going to a yoga class where you’ve never been before is always a sort of a surprise. This is why I wanted to share with you six main things you can expect in your first yoga class with me. There are many different styles of yoga out there and every teacher is unique in her/his own amazing way. This is why I love the saying I learned in my 200-hour Purna Yoga teacher training: “We’re not looking for everyone, we’re looking for the ones who are looking for us.” So, if you’re looking for yoga in your life and ended up here on my website read on to see if what I teach is something that could benefit You.

Virabhadrasana II is an energising, whole body strengthener that allows you to connect with your inner warrior while toning and opening your body.

1. TO SEE YOUR BODY, MIND, AND SOUL AS ONE

The classical version of Surya Namaskar is done in almost every class because it’s such a powerful sequence that brings great benefits to your whole being. When you know the sequence by heart it becomes meditation in motion.

True, complete yoga is a holistic approach to a healthy and balanced life where asana (poses), pranayama (breathing exercises), meditation, yogic philosophy, nutrition, and yogic lifestyle walk hand in hand creating an invaluable set of tools for transformation and healing in the physical and subtle body. The Sanskrit word ‘Yoga’ means union between the mind, body, and spirit, and for us to thrive, all these aspects need to be addressed. In all of my yoga classes, you have an opportunity to nurture your whole being and leave the class feeling fully alive.

2. PRACTICE ALIGNMENT BASED ASANA

Trikonasana is one of the key standing poses in yoga. It strengthens the legs, knees, and ankles.

Safety and alignment are the most important parts of the physical practice of yoga. Correct physical alignment doesn’t only keep the practitioner safe but it creates a free flow of energy in the nervous system. When the body is properly aligned you get to safely and effectively create space where you feel tension and strengthen the body where there is a lack of it. When the energies are flowing freely we can be creative, heal, change, and progress.

3. TO FALL IN LOVE WITH YOGA PROPS

Supta Padangusthasana is done in almost every class I teach because it’s such a crucial pose for the health of our hips and lower back.

I use a lot of yoga props in my classes so that everyone, despite their current abilities, can experience freedom in their bodies. Props are used to give the body a feeling of what it should be cultivating itself. Props help make the asanas safer, more approachable, and more effective. Props also give the body different kind of stimulation and with their help you can experience deep openings, stability, and profound relaxation.

4. TO BECOME AWARE OF THE POWER OF YOUR BREATH

“When you own your breath, nobody can steal your peace.” -Unknown.

The breath is the link between the mind and the body and works as an effective tool for quieting the mind, balancing the nervous system, and keeping you in the present moment. Already in your first yoga class, you will learn the importance of breath awareness and get to feel in your own body the energizing and calming effects of the breath in your nervous system. You will learn to lengthen and deepen your breath while breathing in life and exhaling out tension and stress. You will leave the class with a greater understanding of the power of your breath.

5. SIMPLE YOGA PRACTICES THAT CAN BE EASILY INTEGRATED INTO YOUR DAILY LIFE

Garudasana opens the upper back and removes stiffness in the shoulders.

Making yoga a part of your daily life is the biggest gift you can give yourself. I’m a mother of two young children which makes finding the time for a long yoga practice challenging. There simply aren’t enough uninterrupted hours a day to do a one and a half-hour yoga practice every single day. I’ve got to learn to be effective and use the little time I have wisely. But, challenges are there for our personal growth, and this particular challenge, has offered me a lot of practical experience on creating short, simple, and effective yoga sequences and knowing what particular asana can give instant relief & results. Your first yoga class will introduce you to simple asanas and sequences that you can immediately start practicing at home. These asanas are safe and effective and they take only a few minutes of your time. Simple practices will become powerful habits.

6. BE INTRODUCED TO EASY AND SHORT MEDITATION TECHNIQUES

I teach Mental Centering technique from Heartfull Meditation at the beginning of every class. The intention is to bring the past and future, as well as your senses into the now.

Did you think that mediation means sitting still with your eyes closed and trying not to think anything? Well, that’s not how I teach it. In your first yoga class, you will be introduced to simple mediation techniques where you will learn to use the gifts of the mind of concentration and imagination to go inward. You will learn how to connect with your intuition and make the mind a humble servant of your soul. You will be introduced to dynamic meditation techniques that have the power to transform your being. This type of meditation is progressive and allows you to effectively work with the things you wish to change.

All these six things have one thing in common: the joy of movement! It’s a joy to move the body, to follow the movement of the breath, to feel the energies in your body moving, and to notice the movement of the energy of your mind. In my classes I want to help you to cultivate the feeling of joy in everything you’re doing and notice the amazing effects it has in your whole being.

If what you read resonated with you and you’re curious to join one of my classes go and check out my schedule. My weekly yoga classes are held at the Lotte Berk Barre studio in Gattikon (Thalwil). You can join the prenatal yoga class and Early Bird yoga class online via Zoom as well! More online classes (group and private) are coming soon! If you have any questions just send me a message and I’ll get back to you asap.

THE MAGIC OF PURNA YOGA ASANA PRACTICE

A few weeks ago I was working on Pincha Mayurasana during my personal practice and today, it was taken into a whole new level in my teacher’s, Aadil Palkhivala, advanced asana class. We did some very powerful shoulder and chest strengthening actions in Pincha Mayurasana and I was, once again, blown away by how many aspects one asana can have. When I thought of knowing this pose already inside out, my teacher brought a whole new meaning to it. 


These classes I get to take with my teacher prove, class after class, how important it is to study and practice with an experienced teacher. My own, personal practice is of course the most important thing but I would never grow this much as a student and a teacher of yoga if I didn’t regularly practice with someone who has that sacred & profound knowledge and understanding of yoga in all of its aspects.

 
This whole online yoga thing has been such a blessing to me. All my Purna Yoga teacher colleagues live in a different country which is why I haven’t had regular access to my teachers. I was really feeling the negative effects of that in my practice and teaching but now I feel so incredibly inspired! And that is an amazing feeling!


Learning new things on a daily basis and diving deeper into asana, meditation, and pranayama is truly magical. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned and how much there’s still to learn. 


What I really love and appreciate in the asana part of Purna Yoga is that it’s all about bringing your mind, your intelligence into the body through subtle movements. It’s never about performing a perfect pose or doing a sweaty workout. There is sweat, of course, and that’s all great, but it’s far from the main purpose. The asana is done with great respect towards the body and the gentle soul that lives in it. Doing the asana practice by being fully present and feeling every single action is a way of showing gratitude to all the amazing things that the body is able to do. Without our bodies, we would not be here on this planet and without taking good care of it it’s not able to serve us. To me, moving my body is an expression of joy and a way of feeling fully alive!


Everything that is done in a Purna Yoga class has a reason and there’s a reason why some things are left out of the practice. 
Safety, integrity, growth, inner & outer power are some of the keywords of the asana practice of Purna Yoga.


When the asana is done by being fully present, by finding the dualities and nuances in each pose you create new neuro-pathways. The grey matter in your brain is actually increasing in size and weight and that means sharper, more focused, and younger You. Now, who wouldn’t want to feel and be young!


This is so amazing that it gives me goosebumps!  In a Purna Yoga class, the mind and the body are connected in such a deep way that you can truly feel that amazing connection between your intelligence and the body.

It’s like the actor and martial arts instructor master Bruce Lee so perfectly said: 

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.

Yoga is not about learning thousands of different postures but the beauty lies in practicing one posture so many times and so profoundly that the pose itself becomes you! Through this kind of practice, you get to own your body and not the other way round. 

Supta Padangusthasana. An asana that we practice almost in every class. It safely and effectively opens the hamstrings and frees the lower back from tension. A pose that each one of us should be practicing daily to help keep our hips and lower back happy and healthy.


Understanding the cause and effect relationship in asana makes the practice so much more powerful, safe, and interesting. Every action you do in an asana has an effect on your whole being and if that action is correct you evolve and if it is incorrect you devolve and might even end up injuring yourself.


I’m so grateful for being able to share all that with my students and beyond excited to pass these insights to all of you who come to my classes. 


If you never been to a Purna Yoga class but are curious to know what is this magical mind-body connection I’m talking about then check out my studio yoga class schedule and online yoga class schedule and come for a trial class. It might just be that what you’ve been looking for all along. To better understand if what I offer can be beneficial to you, check the testimonials to see what some of my students say about me and the classes I teach.

Namaste!