Radical Yoga

I attended my first Yoga class in 2007. But while so many other Yoga teachers or Yoga doers say they were hooked from the first moment, I wasn’t. I was sceptic.
At the time I was 24 years old, I spent most of my free time doing Martial Arts and loved the action of that training.

So when I eventually tried a Yoga class it all seemed strange for me. People were doing weird postures that were exhausting and at the same time boring. There was no real action going on, like I was used to from the Martial Arts classes. They were mumbling words I didn’t understand and they were breathing like Darth Vader. WTF?

Even though I had finished my Coaching Training at that time, and personal development and Self-discovery had been a very big part of my life for the previous 4 years, I just didn’t know or understand that Yoga is about that. Or can be. Yoga is always what you make of it.

It took me a few more tries before I found a Yoga style that I fell in love with. It was a Hot Yoga Studio downtown Calgary, and I went regularly even though I had to walk through -25 degrees C to get there. Classes were packed and you had to be there early enough to get a spot. It had nothing to do with Bikram Yoga or Hot Yoga, it was just like Vinyasa Yoga in a heated room, with low light and beautiful music and a wonderful teacher.
In every class I fell more in love with my Self and with my life.

Eventually I started to understand more about Yoga and its Philosophy and it became clear to me that Life Coaching and Yoga, and even Martial Arts, are more or less the same.
It’s about contemplating on who we are, on our place in this world, and our relationships with our Selves and others and recognising ourselves in others.
It’s about health, strength, flexibility as much as for the body as for the mind as we need courage to face our inner demons and life’s challenges.

I made it my number one priority to teach in a way so it makes sense to my students. It’s my intention to teach in a way that they clearly see how their practice on the mat is directly linked to their everyday life and how Yoga can be a way to live it in a happier and healthier way.
I continuously study to gain more understanding so that I can pass on all the gifts that Yoga has given me.

Of course, Yoga is not about KNOWING or understanding (everything), actually, that can often get in our way of growth or of enjoying an experience. But I am that kind of person who doesn’t like to just blindly copy and paste without understanding it.

I also encourage people to not take any teaching as a given fact but rather let them think and decide for themselves. Just because things are true for me, doesn’t mean it’s true for others.
And yet what we actually look for in Yoga, or in coaching or Martial Arts, is connecting to the universal truth, that lies within us all and that can be found beyond our egos…

Shiatsu and Massage on Ibiza

Shiatsu treatments are different wherever you go. Some people only use their thumbs to work along the meridians, with very light pressure. But in my school we learned to use the whole hand, our elbows, knees and feet. That’s exactly what I love and need.
If I receive any kind of massage or treatment I need to feel something. I don’t need or want to feel pain throughout the whole session. That would just make me more tense than I was before; it would just lead to even more tension in my muscles from the pain. However, I need a firm but gentle touch.
To stay open, to get and to stay relaxed I need to feel safe and comfortable.
There are a few things a therapist can do to create a safe and comfortable environment so this is always what I prepare before my clients come into my practice:

• Warm and comfortable room temperature
• Scent – some essential oils in a candle to support either relaxing or vitalising effects of the Shiatsu treatment
• Quiet relaxing music in the background
• A space where my clients can switch off, feel safe and taken care of

The preparation time (of the room and myself as a therapist) is as important as the treatment itself. If I get there just a few minutes before the client, being stressed myself, it will never be as relaxing as it could be.
There is always enough time in between clients, so there is some time left in the end to rest a few more minutes before getting up, and also for any kind of questions or support if needed.

If that’s the kind of treatment you’re longing for I’m looking forward to meeting you.

Liver & Gallbladder

The wood element is the expression of our individuality. Suppressing who we are has an effect on the organs of the wood element – the liver and the gallbladder.

Often they are also called “the general” (liver) and “the chief officer” (gallbladder), sometimes they are considered as “the architect” (liver) and “the master builder” (gallbladder). The architect is the planner and the creative energy that wants to find expression, the builder is the executing energy that makes decisions:
Considering options, wondering whether to go left or right, therefore the meridians run along the sides of the body.
The liver on the inside (yin-meridian) is the energy that gives us the possibility to plan our life’s journey. It’s the view within to finding our potentials and our individuality. The gallbladder meridian (yang) runs along the outside of our body and is in charge of carrying out, it is the active expression of who we are.

Liver
The word “liver” contains the word “live” as it has this strong force to maintain and express life. It is the “mother of emotions”, so any disharmony in the wood energy is most likely caused by emotional issues.
We are able to realise our plans and intentions when the liver is in a state of harmony:
We have the energy to work hard on reaching our goals and to create and express ourselves. If there is a disbalance it’s possible that the plans exist but don’t get executed.

According to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) the liver stores the blood and regulates the free flow of Qi. In case of poor distribution we can experience phases of high motivation, followed by exhaustion.
Other imbalances of the liver energy can be: physical and mental inflexibility, PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome), mood swings, intense or unreasonable outbursts of emotions, aggression (seeing others as obstacles on our path) or shyness (the lack of courage to walk our path).

If we don’t get the chance to make our own decisions from early on, and if we cannot unfold our individuality we become incapable of living our potential. When our true self doesn’t find expression, we often develop conditional excessive behaviours, such as drinking, or over-eating, anorexia or drug abuse. The pain might get numbed temporarily but it stresses the functions of the liver.

Gallbladder
The gallbladder is the officer in the field who makes decisions. That requires determination and the courage to take risks. The expression “to have the gall” is therefore used in the sense of “boldness”. In order to make decisions we need to have a clear vision and we need to free ourselves from biases.

The meridian runs along the sides of the head, laterally along the body down to the feet. Migraine and related vision disorders are a common symptom of a disharmony, so are complaints with shoulders, hips or sciatic pain and anything in the lateral body area. Stiffness in our muscles or hyper flexibility are influenced by the gallbladder, as well.

Sometimes we feel like we are split in two – one side of the body shows a different level of tension than the other. This can be caused by being in conflict of two facades of the personality:
For instance the gap between how we want our life to be, what we value in life and what’s important to us versus what we do, how we act, and how we live our life instead. We cannot suppress our nature, no matter how hard we try.

You can find release of complaints through movement, relaxation (yoga is ideal as you gain strength and flexibility, you find relaxation and you step into awareness as the goal of yoga is self-realisation) and also through involvement in your patterns, beliefs (coaching, therapy). But any kind of sports that you love and enjoy doing will balance your liver and gallbladder energy, as long as you find the time to relax as well.
When the liver and the gallbladder work together in harmony we have a healthy judgement and make the required decisions to follow our life’s plan.

The Wood Type

In spring nature awakens and grows almost explosively in all directions, it’s shining in all colours and shapes. In no other time of the year we experience such a dynamic expansion. This also lies in the nature of the wood type. However, so much concentrated energy can, and most likely will create chaos, as it is not his strength to organise and structure.

His strengths are creating and doing. Creativity, activity, adventure, determination and initiative, freedom and a huge compulsion to move are characteristic for the wood type.
He is full of energy, restless, ambitious and driven. It’s not just the planning, but also the execution of the plans that lies within the power of the wood type.
Change is a necessity, and so is the protection of his personal space – space to grow and to expand. Not just on a physical level, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

One of the qualities of the wood element is aggression. Aggression is commonly linked with destructivity, however, in psychotherapy to a certain degree it is seen as a necessity to move on, to get things done, and to overcome obstacles. It is a natural impulse of expansion, and if it meets resistance in most cases it will lead to anger.

Anger is the related emotion of the wood element which easily arises when it meets stagnation, pressure or a lack of freedom. Anger is an important force to get or to stay in movement.
However, if you find yourself exploding over little things you can start taking a look where in life you might feel restricted or limited.

Challenges
A challenge for the wood type can be finding the balance between activity and relaxation. To avoid exhaustion or burn out, it is vital to find the time to slow down, and to relax. Being very competitive and an achiever makes this even harder.

If the wood energy doesn’t find its way out it can result in quick temper, frustration, depression, and if aggression doesn’t find a valve it usually turns against oneself, becoming a ticking time-bomb.
On a physical level it can lead to migraines, irritable eyes, high blood pressure, to a stiffness in hip and shoulder joints, to rheumatic diseases and much more.

Body type
Wood types are athletic, wiry, muscular, they are flexible and have strong hands, big feet, and are usually tanned from outdoor activity. They have a high muscle tone and are very energetic.

Balancing the wood element

  • The strong energy of the wood element needs to find expression, the best and most effective valve is movement. Wood needs to burn to release energy. A burning fire brings joy – the emotion associated with the fire element.
  • Find challenges, set clear (and just a few) goals and follow through. Instead of spreading the energy on many different things it is important to focus the energy on the most essential ones. Because many plans that aren’t put into action can also lead to frustration. Find out what your heart is burning for and take action.
  • Nutrition-wise it’s more important for the wood type to take the time to eat, to chew, to digest rather than focusing on what to eat. Sour is the taste related to wood, and anything that cooles down the heated body of the wood type is good for his often overloaded system.

Read here the next post about the related organs and meridians: Liver and gallbladder.

Finding balance within

We all unite the five elements within us, in our personalities, as well as physically. Some elements, however, are more distinct than others. Categorising bears the “danger” of stereotyping, at the same time it can give us a better understanding of who we, or who others are, and maybe even why we are the way we are. So we can let go of judgement and replace it by acceptance more easily.

By having a greater understanding about our tendencies (and that’s all they are; they are not common facts that are true 100% of the time) we learn more about ourselves and we can more easily find our inner balance and become more happy and healthy.

The personality, our condition, is strongly shaped by upbringing, by our parents (mostly through what or how they live rather than through what they preach), family, friends, school, etc. But then there is also our individual nature, our essence.
Sometimes we – or others, might expect us to be or act in a certain way which doesn’t feel true to who we really are. And instead of trying to fit in, or trying to please others, or forcing ourselves to be someone we are not, we can also just understand and accept that we are the way we are. Because this understanding of ourselves is the first important step to be able to change, if we even want to.

The constitution, our physique, is greatly shaped by genetics, but also by what we eat, how much we move and how much we rest. Our energy level reveals the balance (or imbalance) between Yin & Yang within the body.
It’s very common that our condition differs from our constitution. Knowing about them, however, can help us, to improve our happiness and health and to increase our energy level by finding inner balance, as well as focussing on nutrition, exercise, relaxation and breathing.

Are you, generally speaking, an active person who is more comfortable moving than sitting still?
Do you recharge your energy when being around other people and do you enjoy to be in the spotlight?
Do you love to invite your friends over to cook dinner for them and to play board games?
Is making plans and to-do-lists an urgent necessity and cleanliness and structure important for you?
Are you more introverted and do you love peace and quiet, as in meditation or thinking about life and its meaning?

Stay tuned to find out more in my next blog post…

Yin & Yang and The Five Elements

IMG_6381Once upon a time some people in old China sat around all day and night and did nothing else than observing the continual coming and going of days, seasons and life, within and without.
Ok, maybe they didn’t sit around all the time, maybe sometimes they did something else. But they sat long enough to discover the unity of humanity, nature and the universe.

As a day has its beginning and its end, there is not one moment where you have “the total day” or “the total night”, even in the darkest moment, there is either still a glimpse of the fading day, or already a glimpse of the arising one. The same is true for seasons: Summer solstice marks the end of summer and already carries the beginning of transformation within. The highest peak of the summer contains already a touch of autumn.
Nothing is absolute.
Everything that is alive is ever changing.
Those are the principles of Yin & Yang. Yin and Yang are a quite rough outline of the whole concept so the old Chinese men – or women, who knows? – broke it down a bit more to The Five Elements.
Rather than static elements of nature they are more phases of a cycle.

The Wood Element, also called the young Yang, symbolises activity, new beginnings and growth. The related season is spring, when everything blossoms and expands. This element carries the incredible power that lies within birth and growing up. The emotion associated with the wood element is anger which can find expression if the process of growth gets blocked, or stagnated by pressure.

The Fire Element, the big, or old Yang is about joy, playfulness and laughter, and the relationship to oneself and to others. It’s the spark that makes us feel passionate, inspired and connected and expresses through the ability to love and feel loved. In summer the energy goes outwards and spreads in all directions, it is wild and untameable, and it’s represented in adulthood.

The Earth Element is the nurturing energy, also seen as the period of abundance, where things start to slow down again. It’s about gathering together, and about taking care of oneself and another, feeling compassion, sympathy and empathy. It’s related to late summer, the time of harvest. It’s also the time of midlife crysis – or midlife without crisis, menopause and the more mature age.

The Metal Element is the young Yin, and the time when the energy starts moving inwards. It’s the beginning of consolidation, and the end of expansion. The falling leaves in autumn are nurturing the earth for next year’s harvest. It is about letting go and exchange. Grief is the related emotion that cleanses us as long as we don’t hold on to it. It’s the time of life of late maturity and the shift to old age.

The Water Element is the big Yin, also old Yin. It emphasizes on the essence of life. It’s the seed and the root of life, and embodied in primordial trust. The water element lies within the essential self-identity. As in winter the energy centers, and it is the time for internal work like meditation, stillness and focus. Wisdom, old age and death are related to the water element, as well as fear. In appropriate amounts it is needed, an imbalance, however, reveals as anxiety and lack of trust.

Over the following weeks months I will be sharing more of my knowledge with you about the five elements, the meridians and their connection to our life. I hope it will support you in some way or another by offering you a new way of understanding yourself and/or others. Maybe it will even connect some dots and encourage you to apply some of the knowledge in your life to maintain and improve your (or maybe also your client’s) health and wellbeing. With love, Annika

Comfortable Illusions

The past few weeks I have been lazy with writing, not because nothing exciting happened in my life, neither because I had no experiences to share that helped me grow. Actually, life has been quite crazy, too crazy to write about in a simple blog post. It would fit more into a book or a screen play.
I also believe, that I haven’t quite understood the whole meaning of the recent events.
And as if that wasn’t enough already, life continues to blow my socks off and leave me startled, speechless and deprived of my illusions.

Which is a good thing on one hand. What’s the use of a created image in my head that I admire and get attached to, and that makes me want to frantically avoid reality?
I do feel safe in my little bubble that tells me that all people are good, honest and trustworthy, except the few ones that already forced me to strip down my illusions.
But losing them (the illusions, that is) is scary and painful, because I don’t know what’s beyond them, or if I’m ready to face reality.

Without even noticing it I created – and we all do, more often that we might think – a perfect little world for myself, with perfect little people who all want the best for everyone, while bad things only happen in movies, in other countries, or to bad people. But no, life screws us all over, no matter what.
And yet, I feel more free, a bit more relaxed than before, when I was busy keeping up the walls of my little doll house.
Because that’s what it mostly was: Little. It kept me small, it made me fearful and often enough incapable of going for the things I wanted.

The walls of illusions are usually attached to the walls of the comfort zone. And, as we all know, life starts beyond them.
I guess life keeps kicking me in my butt because it’s time to really start living.
It wants me to listen to my inner voice, to my intuition, that knows whom to trust.
We do know. Always. We just don’t pay attention.
Time to listen up, my friends…

The Family-Concept

During the past months I kept wondering what purpose the concept “family” has.
Why do people raise kids and try everything to stay together, with more or less success?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, they are wonderful people, but I asked myself what sense does it make, if everyone goes their own way eventually anyway, and if you get along best if you only see each other every once in a while?

I just had my family visiting me for 2 and a half weeks. I tried to enjoy it but I truly failed.
Most of the time I was grumpy, unbalanced, impatient and annoyed, and I had no idea why.
It had nothing to do with them, because they did their thing and they didn’t need me around. They had their own car and often went off to explore the island without me, but then I’d feel guilty and responsible, so that didn’t really work out for me either.

General Atmosphere - 2014 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive FestivalToday I reflected about why I couldn’t stand myself the past two weeks.
I kept wondering why they still wanted to spend time with me and how they still showed me their love even though I was this angry little brat with the face of grumpy cat all the time.

I really had a hard time loving myself during those days and the more love I got from my family the more I pushed them away.

What I finally understood is, what family is about, at least, what my family is about and I am truly and deeply grateful for it!

They let me be.
They didn’t try to change me, they didn’t try to cheer me up.
They didn’t take it personally, although they had their own issues and their own problems to deal with, they stayed centered and never held my moodiness against me.
They never blamed me for anything, instead they kept telling me how grateful they were to be here and how lucky they were for this chance. That just made me feel more guilty at the time, but I also knew that they truly meant it.
They still appreciated their time here – even the one they spend with me.

I really don’t know how they did it. But I think that’s what family is for:

They stay even during our bad days, when our dark side is coming out, when everyone else would walk away.

They stay and love us, even if we don’t know how they do it, or why.

They love us because THEY want to love us and there is nothing we can do about it, no matter how hard we try.

They love and they forgive us because they know who we really are and they are patient enough, even if we are not.

They love us even when we push them away, because they know that’s when we need it the most.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you…

Namasté.

Welcome Training

The meaning of the word “welcome” is “gladly received”, “acceptable” and even “appreciated”.
The German word “Willkommen” comes from: “Came, according to (my) will/wish”

IMG_4413Sometimes we get into uncomfortable situations from which we just want to get out of as quickly as possible, that don’t seem to have happened according to our wish at all.
Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t. We’ll never know. Fact is, sh*t happens.
And experience showed me, that resistance won’t help, in any kind of situation.
I think we have all heard the quote “what we resist persists”.

The Welcome-Training allows us, to simply accept and acknowledge what is.
We don’t have to like it, nor do we have to be grateful for it, but in order to be able to do something about it, we first must accept the fact, that we are in that situation.
The Welcome-Training helps us, to not drown in the “problem”, but to be and stay centered, focused and able to act, instead of re-act.

Reacting is the easy way. We get an impulse, and in some way or the other our emotions are stimulated, and instantly we react to it. It comes uncontrolled and afterwards we often feel sorry about it.
Acting, however, includes this short moment of reflection, it is the awareness of conscious choice. It offers a second possibility, it is the second path that arises within us, that we can choose to take, the moment an impulse is about to have an impact on our emotions and actions. It is the awareness, it means being present.

The Welcome Training applied in a conflict or challenging situation, in the moment of an arising storm of emotions within us, is:

  • The little pause and stillness that brings clarity and insight.
  • The deep breath we are able to take, when our throat seems to get tight.
    (may it be anger, frustration, impatience, desperation…).
  • The ability to choose the harder path of taking conscious action, instead of the easier one of re-action.

And yet we can still choose to react.
The difference lies in the CHOICE.
If this is the case, then we can welcome the fact, that we reacted and get in peace with it, instead of beating ourselves up, that we let our emotions take control of our behaviour.

The Welcome Training is not about becoming like a robot, an emotionless machine, that says “Yes” and “Amen” to everything and everyone. Not at all.
It is the realization that whatever someone does or says “to us”, is not personal. Nothing is personal. Ever. I will get more into this in another blog post.

The Welcome-Training needs practice and time, like a muscle, that needs both, training and relaxation to grow.
We can do this little practice everyday, either in the morning before we get out of bed, or at night, before we fall asleep.

You can also apply it before that important phone call you’ve been avoiding for a while, or before any challenging situation that we can’t procrastinate any longer. You can do it before you enter any situation that makes you uncomfortable or insecure.
Welcome the fact that it IS uncomfortable and yet, needs to be done.

photo (10)The training is simple and works like this:
Put your right hand on your forehead, the left hand at the base of the back of your head and repeat and feel the following affirmations 3 times:

“I welcome myself.
I welcome the people that are crossing my path today.
I welcome all of today’s challenges.”

Sounds simple, and yes, the training is simple. The “arena” is the “real world” out there, that’s when it counts. The important thing is to be patient with yourself, if you are not, who will be?

Namasté.

What Shiatsu (or any holistic therapy or massage) REALLY does…

As a Shiatsu therapist I move the energy in my client’s (fully clothed) body with my hands, knees, elbows or fingers, along the meridians (energy channels) that run through the whole body.
Pressure, rotational movements and stretching increase the blood flow, as well as the energy flow within the client’s body. I let myself sink in, using gravity and my bodyweight to blablabla…

Enough of the technical information.
You want to know what really happens?

You get touched.
Deeply touched.
Not superficially, not just on the surface, but the touch goes deep into the system.

You get touched with my full attention, with my full presence, mindful to your energy and your needs.
You find support in that touch, trust and guidance.
You get touched with warm, sensitive and accepting hands.
This touch is loving, gentle but firm, and it encourages your body to do its job: healing and regenerating itself.

You get to feel comfortable even in discomfort.
You get to deeply connect with your self, with your body, mind and soul.
You connect with your breath, so you, too, can become fully present in the now.
You become mindful to the signals your body is sending out to you, so you can support yourself in the best possible way.

You get to experience a feeling of being nourished and nurtured, moved and touched.
You get the chance to fully relax, and just be you.
Nothing to do, nothing to fix, nothing to pretend, no show, no mask needed, you get to be the beautiful, real you.
You get to feel the ease and lightness of being alive…

photo (9)

Namasté.