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SEVEN GOOD REASONS TO GO ON A YOGA HOLIDAY

A yoga holiday is more than just a regular vacation. It’s a get away, an adventure, and often life long memory:

TAKE A BREAK – a yoga trip gives you the chance to disconnect from everyday stress, duties and distractions. It’s easier to learn how to focus and be present on the yoga mat when you don’t have to rush to work or catch the bus. Then take your newfound focus home with you and apply it to your dayily life.

GET (RE) STARTED – on retreat it is easier to break old (bad) habits and replace them with new, more helpful routines (both with regards to yoga but also concerning diet and sleep). If you have difficulty to get a daily practice going, it will be easier to do this on a retreat with the support of the teacher. A retreat can be a fresh start.

DEEPEN YOUR PRACTICE – a smaller group of practitioners on retreat allows for more quality time with the teacher. With class twice daily there is more room to discuss problems/difficulties and to have conversations about yoga both on and off the yoga mat.

TIME FOR RECOVERY – relax, enjoy good food, get inspired and energized. Boost your vitamin D-levels to prepare for the darker and colder months in Sweden.

COMMUNITY – a yoga trip is also a social event with shared meals and accommodation where you have the opportunity to meet like-minded people from different parts of the world, exchange experiences and meet friends for life.

A CULTURAL EXPERIENCE – experience a new environment and/or another country, its language, historical sites, architecture and food culture. If the trip goes to India it’ll take you to the roots of yoga and give you the opportunity to experience all the rituals and myths that surround yoga historically.

SUPPORT TO THE LOCAL ECONOMY – by exploring the local environment, visiting local markets and other places you will benefit the tourism industry and the small businesses. If your trip goes abroad you might get an insight into what life looks like in a place with a very different situation compared to your home country.

Going on yoga holiday provides a chance for own-time and self-development; it’s a welcome break as well as “yoga-intensive”. Of course your daily practice at home with your teacher is most important, that which provides you with stability and leads to long-term development and change. But a yoga holiday can be a life-changing experience that recharges you with new energy, strength and renewed joy to practice before returning home.

P.S. Isabella teaches a two week retreat at Purple Valley Yoga Centre in Goa, India from 26 Oct – 8 Nov 2019. Check it out here (20% off the price if you book before 30 September)

Reflections on being a teacher

Over the past few years I’ve come to reflect more and more on what it means to be a teacher; what responsibilities the role brings and how to create a healthy and stable relationship to the people who come to class. The often daily contact creates a connection where I end up being far more than an asana instructor. I become a listener, a mentor, someone to share happy and sad news with and a shoulder to lean on. This closeness brings with it a vulnerability which is beautiful but which needs to be handled with care. It is important for the teacher to be sensitive and responsive to each student in order to create and hold a safe space for their practice. I therefore need to continuously ask myself how to assist the students for their individual benefit and not in order to satisfy my own ego. How can I help each individual grow without creating a situation of dependence? How can I help empower the students in their practice and personal development? How can I be a support to them whilst still keeping my integrity and energy levels intact?

Every student/person I meet is unique with their background, personality, body and thought patterns. I have to listen, observe free of judgement and then reflect on how to best meet each particular person depending on their specific needs. Some students will need more support than others, be it physical or psychological, and this will also vary over certain periods of time. My role as a teacher is to share my experience and help guide the student on his/her journey.  But I can only pass on what I’ve learnt so far. We are all students of yoga, I the teacher included. To continue to teach I therefore need to (and want to) keep learning and educating myself through my personal practice and with the help of other teachers.

As the teacher I’m there to facilitate the student’s practice and to help them understand their own body (and mind). I’m also there to motivate and inspire, but not to push or force (instead I sometimes have to hold back a student who is too motivated for his/her “own good”). My role isn’t to force the student into postures (or anything else for that matter) or to make strong adjustments.  Sometimes, I of course have to use some strength to help but most of the time oral ques or a light touch in the right direction is sufficient. It is the student’s own practice that is their best teacher. Through exploration we gain experience and learn to know ourselves better. My role is to help the student find that inner connection and to listen inwards.

It always saddens me to hear when people have suffered injury or abuse on either a physical or psychological level in yoga (or elsewhere). To me the practice has always been a form of healing that has allowed me to become stronger and healthier and it continues to help me in various ways. This is what I would like to convey and pass on to my students. To avoid creating a setting where there’s a perceived need to perform for acknowledgement – whether from the teacher or from the student’s own ego – I believe it is important to have an open dialogue climate in the shala. It should be a safe space; a trauma informed practice environment where there’s mutual trust and equal rights/responsibilities between student and teacher.

We start our yoga practice with asana and pranayama – two of the 8 limbs in Ashtanga yoga – as they are the most accessible and easiest tools to work with. They also give tangible results relatively quickly. But asana practice alone will not bring enlightenment – although it may most likely teach us a lesson or two about ourselves. Physical postures and breathing can help us become healthier as we learn to be more aware of and listen to the body’s signals. When we become increasingly present – rather than being only “in the head” aiming at future goals (more asanas for example…) – we can practice more mindfully, which allows for sensing and reflecting upon how we act/react. We can start to question our behavior and why we tend to do things in specific ways. Why do we push ourselves or why we are afraid and hold back? Do we practice asanas to collect them rather than to improve our health? Can we learn to act without being attached to a certain result? Do we always need to achieve something? What happens if we don’t?

When we begin to free up old tensions and change old behavioural patterns we may encounter resistance and this can hurt; physically in terms of soreness or aching; mentally it may hurt to let go or to acknowledge difficult feelings/thoughts. Change is often met with resistance. It’s rarely a comfortable process. The support of a teacher who has “walked the walk” may be comforting and make the process somewhat easier. Though sometimes, even under the best of circumstances, we accidentally end up getting injured. An injury, although it may be instructive and one can learn a lot from it, it is not something that should be accepted as a general part of the practice. I don’t believe that you need to “break something” in order to rebuild it “better or stronger”. There’s no quick fix to create physical or mental stability – the practice needs to be done slowly and repeatedly over a long period of time to give space for change to happen gradually. This is not a process that can or should be rushed either by the practitioner or the teacher.

Depending on what phase of life we’re in or on the mood or energy of the day there also needs to be flexibility for how and what we practice. It is not my role as the teacher to judge something to be right or wrong – this to me would be counterproductive and make the practice too rigid. I can only share my experience and give advice on the most suitable method for each situation and then it is up to the student to choose whether to take it onboard or not. Practice is never the same from one day to the other. Asanas come and go and we sometimes need to do less postures depending on age, health, stress levels, the amount of sleep we’ve had and other commitments in life. To allow for modification, adaptation and to be flexible and responsive to daily fluctuations is essential. As a teacher I need and want to be responsive to this both in my own practice and to the students’. One of yoga’s most important principles is ahimsa – non harming – on both a physical and mental level. To hold the room for the students to feel safe to not perform or to push, to be themselves and to be vulnerable without fearing is my most important task.

Teaching is something I honour and respect deeply. Every day I’m grateful for each and every student that walks through the doors at the shala. The individuals who come to practice inspire me and help me develop on many levels and my hope is to help and inspire them just as much on their respective paths. My aim is for our relationship to be equal, based on mutual trust and respect. That we learn from each other, appreciate each other and don’t take each other for granted. Each student’s journey is unique, everyone needs to make their own experiences.  My role is to empower the student while walking next to them on their path for as long as they need me and can make use of my advice. To all the practitioners who choose to come and practice under my guidance I’d like to convey my sincere and humble thanks for the time we get to spend together on our respective journeys.

* Isabella Nitschke is the Director of Ashtanga Yoga Malmö and an authorised Ashtanga Yoga teacher

TEMPORARY SCHEDULE CHANGES AUG-NOV 2019

From August to November we unfortunately have to make changes to the schedule now and then. All temporary schedule changes are listed below (the page is updated regularly).

We also don’t teach at full/new moon – see here – only beginners courses take place these days unless otherwise announced.

AUGUST

Tuesday 6/8 16.15-18.45 Isabella covers for Miho

Tuesday 13/8 16.15-18.45 Sara covers for Miho

Tuesday 20/8 16.15-18.45 Sara covers for Miho

SEPTEMBER

Thursday 26/9 16.15-18.45  Mysore class exceptionally cancelled

OCTOBER & NOVEMBER

Tuesday 15/10 16.15-18.45 Sara covers for Miho

Tuesday 22/10 16.15-18.45 Sofia covers for Miho

Tuesday 19/10 16.15-18.45 Sara covers for Miho

Tuesday 5/11 16.15-18.45 Sofia covers for Miho

When Isabella is in Goa, India to teach a retreat at Purple Valley (read more here), and a special cover teacher schedule will be in place. Hanna Mjöberg (Authorized Level 2 Teacher) from Falkenberg will teach part of this time. More information about the schedule between 22 Oct to 22 Nov will be published in due time.

NEWS FLASH – AUTUMN SCHEDULE SNEAK PEAK

Happy summer holidays to everyone! Hope you’re all having a great summer! I write this news flash during a one-day break after three weeks of intensive work in Stockholm, Finland and Copenhagen. I, Isabella, have spent two of the weeks weeks practicing and helping out at the Sharath Jois European tour and have also taught a retreat in Finland in between. Although it’s been a working month it’s also been full of learning opportunities, time for self-reflection and chances for small breaks and recovery. Now a week’s real holiday (!) is waiting before I resume teaching in August in Malmö.

I hope you also get a chance to recharge your batteries. The weather is about to become really warm  (according to the forecast) and we continue to have a self-practice schedule in place for a couple of week. A heartfelt thanks to Caroline, Sara and Kerstin who open and close during this time and also thanks to Karolina Z who covered classes in the first half of July! On 4 August the regular schedule resumes as Isabella is back to teach (NB. Don’t forget that our classes are as from July taught only in Malmö). Scroll down for a sneak peak at the autumn schedule or download your own copy here Autumn schedule 2019. In August we have a number of fun and important events coming up too!

FRIDAY-FUN: our special after work class is back on 23 August with asana-based exploration classes once a month. In the first session we focus on getting a better understanding of the hip-region and how to keep our hips and knees healthy in practice. Read more and register here

OPEN-HOUSE: on Sunday 25 August – we open the doors to family, friends and the public to come and enjoy free classes, lectures and to mingle with us to ask questions, have tea and socialize. There will be special offers for new members on the day. Existing members who recruit new members receive a discount on their next class pass (so make sure your friend mentions you name when he/she registers). Doors open at 11.30. Read more here

GUIDED PRIMARY: before the Open House on 25 August we have our monthly guided primary series class at 9am followed by tea and talk. Our existing members are invited to bring a friend who already practices and is familiar with Ashtanga Yoga (not necessary to have completed the whole primary series ) for FREE. The tea and talk will focus on this summer’s events in the Ashtanga Community and those of us who took part on the Sharath European Tour will share our experience.

NEW BEGINNER’S COURSES: start in Malmö in September. We have a regular beginner’s course on Mondays starting on 2/9 (read more here) and a special course for men on Wednesdays starting on 11/9 (read more here).

SPECIAL EVENTS: there are many more events coming up throughout the autumn such as a very special retreat with Isabella at Purple Valley Yoga Centre 26 October-8 November. Focus will be on how yoga can be used to self regulate and hep gain mental balance. This is a unique opportunity not to miss. Read more and book in advance here

For all other events check our events page  – there are already several events for 2020 up on the site. Information about temporary schedule changes can be found here on our news page or on our social media accounts on Instagram  or Facebook

See you soon in the shala again!

AUTUMN SCHEDULE 4/8 to 31/12 – 2019

NEWSLETTER SUMMER 2019

Photo: Sophie Håkansson Photography

Dear Yogis,

We’re in the month of June with graduations, school holidays and vacations on the door step. There’s still hope that the summer will be as wonderful as last year, but even if it doesn’t turn out that way, we’ll still enjoy the extra light and continue our yoga practice as usual. The spring schedule runs until 30th June after which a summer schedule will be in place for a month (1 July-3 August). The first two weeks in July we have the pleasure of welcoming Karolina Zakrzewska from Goa/Helsingborg as a cover teacher. The second half of July doors are open for self-practice without assistance. The shala is then open (free of charge) to all our existing students who wish to use the studio to practice. Read more about Karolina here and download your own copy of the SUMMER SCHEDULE 2019.

Summer also brings with it a number of changes for our yoga school. After having gone back and forth between Lund and Malmö for 6 years with classes spread out over several different locations, I (Isabella) have decided that it is time to gather everything in one place. As of 1st July, all classes move to the shala at Värnhem in Malmö. We will then officially be known as “Ashtanga Yoga Malmö” with classes running 6 days a week there. On the summer schedule, the evening classes are cancelled but they will return again in August.

I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all students who have come to both the Lund and Malmö shalas throughout the years – without you none of what we’ve built would have been possible. It is because of you that the shala has grown and continues to flourish. When I returned to Sweden 7 years ago it was with the dream of esablishing a shala in Malmö. Although we’ve been stationed here since 2013 it is not until now that the dream of one place becomes real. I’m deeply grateful to you all and humbled that you choose to come and practice in our space. I of course hope that students from Lund will make the short journey to Malmö and not give up their practice for a 15 minute commute. Please know that you are all always very welcome. With the shala being in one single place I hope to create an even more welcoming and grounding atmosphere, with less confusion about our whereabouts and less stress from being scattered all over the place.

The move to Malmö also involves some practical changes. We don’t just change our name, but the website will also move to a new domain during the summer; our accounts/pages on FB and IG change their name, our logo is slightly altered AND we get a new email address. We aim to make the transition as smooth as possible but ask for your understanding and patience in case there are some technical glitches on the way. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Aside from our relocation there’s a lot of other exciting stuff happening this summer (don’t forget to check the news-page for temporary schedule changes):

GUIDED INTERMEDIATE – on 16th June, Isabella teaches a special guided class where we explore the traditional vinyasa count of the second series in Ashtanga yoga. Read more about the class here and what is required to participate.

SUMMER-RETREAT – from 7-12 July, we return to Kadermo Conscious Living in Finland where Isabella also taught a retreat last summer. The island of Kadermo is an idyllic place where one can really relax and disconnect from civilization. We practice yoga morning and evening, enjoying the sauna, swimming, nature and good vegetarian food. Don’t hesitate to book, you won’t regret it!

SHARATH JOIS EUROPEAN TOUR – In July, our teacher Sharathji visits Europe again and comes to Stockholm and Copenhagen to teach one week in each city. To practice with him on tour is usually a great opportunity to get an insight into the Ashtanga yoga tradition and to meet yogis from all over the world. Read more about how to book in each city here.

OPEN HOUSE – on the 25th of August we open the shala doors to the public, family and friends. Everyone is invited to come to visit, try free classes, learn more about yoga, ask questions and mingle with us at the yoga school. There will be snacks and special offers for both new and existing members. The event is already published on our website, check it out there! More info will also come with the next newsletter.

A SNEAK PEAK AT AUTUMN – our autumn schedule starts on the 4th of August, new beginner’s courses are planned for September, “Friday-fun” classes (asana-based) will return, chanting on Sundays is back etc. and Isabella teaches a yoga retreat at Purple Valley in Goa, India. The autumn schedule will be online sometime in July so keep your eyes open. Come September, Isabella will also teach a special immersion of the Ashtanga Yoga Primary series; a course where participants learn how to adjust yoga asana, to deepen their understanding of the function of the individual postures as well as the purpose of the sequence. Read more about the course and requirements for registration here.

The next newsletter will be published in July. It’ll contain more info about the autumn and everything that happens then. In the meantime, we hope that stay up to date by visiting our news site/blog and that you follow us on social media

Have a great summer!

See you on the yoga mat!

Isabella and the team of teachers at Ashtanga Yoga Malmö (Lund)

Photo: Sophie Håkansson Photography

SUMMER SCHEDULE & GUEST TEACHER Karolina Z – July 2019

From1-14 July, we are pleased to welcome Karolina Zakrzewska as a guest teacher. On two previous occasions, Karolina has covered classes at our shala and we look forward to seeing and learning from her this summer as well.

You can read more about Karolina and see nice pictures on her website

Throughout July 2019, we run a special summer schedule that you can  download here SUMMER SCHEDULE 2019  or you may also consult our schedule page. There will be daily morning Mysore class from  Sunday-Friday. In July, all evening classes are cancelled and we make use of the extra light and the early mornings instead.

After 14/7 we have two weeks of self-practice three days a week. From the 17th to 22nd July Sharath R. Jois visits Copenhagen for a week-long workshop. We encourage all our students to come and experience a bit of Mysore on home ground. Read more and register here .

Our autumn schedule resumes on 4/8 with full teaching (morning and evening).

TEMPORARY SCHEDULE CHANGES MAY/JUNE 2019

In May and June several public holidays affect the teaching schedule. Please consult the listed time changes below:

Tuesday April 30 Valpurgis – morning Mysore Lund 06.15-8.45, evening Mysore in Malmö cancelled

Wednesday May 1 – morning Mysore Malmö 08.45-11.15

Thursday May 30 Ascension – morning Mysore Malmö 08.45-11.15. Evening Mysore in Malmö cancelled

Friday 31 May Morning Mysore in Lund 08.45-11.15

Sunday 2 June – Guided Primary series class in Malmö at 08.45am (instead of Mysore class) followed by Tea&Talk

Saturday 1 June and Sunday 2 June we have visiting teacher’s Gabriel and Nadia from Australia teaching two afternoon Master classes from 3-5pm. Read more here

Monday 3 June New moon – Mysore and beginner’s class cancelled

Thursday June 6 National Day – Morning Mysore Malmö 08.45-11.15.  Evening Mysore in Malmö cancelled

Friday 7 June Morning Mysore in Lund 06.15-08.45 (normal hours)

Monday 17 June, Full moon – Mysore and beginner’s class cancelled

Friday June 21 Midsummer’s Eve – all Mysore cancelled

Yoga changes your life. Are you ready?

Photo: Sophie Håkansson photography

”Yoga ruins your life” is a catch phrase often used as a joke or an attempt to, as I see it, draw attention to the practice. But it doesn’t really ruin your life – does it? A regular practice will bring change, that’s for sure. And since we in general are scared of or reluctant to change, it may feel as if yoga then ruins things when the results of our practice don’t live up to our expectations that yoga is supposed to make us feel better, happier and more balanced in life.  The image that yoga will suddenly make us see life through rose tinted glasses is just as much a cliché as the phrase that yoga ruins your life.

We all come to yoga for different reasons; none is more valid than the other. It is easy though to start blaming yoga when things don’t turn out as we expect or when we start doubting the practice for various reasons. Yoga philosophy therefore talks about the importance of taking action without expectation or attachment to the fruits of ones actions. Also, yoga doesn’t do anything to you, nor does it expect or demand anything from you. The only one doing, demanding or expecting anything in or of your practice is you. Again, according to yoga philosophy any action you take will lead to a reaction (consequence) that will come back to you at some point (in this life or another) – that is the law of karma.

The practice of yoga gives us the tools to begin to see our behavioural and thought patterns that keep us in this karmic wheel of action and reaction. Yoga will sooner or later force us to face the uncomfortable truths we’ve shovelled under the carpet, that can no longer be avoided in order for us to develop and move on. That’s why oftentimes, before something can get better we need to learn to deal with the difficult parts first. Change can therefore be painful to start with and thus we avoid it. Instead we remain caught in the pursuit of finding and reliving what we qualify as pleasurable experiences and avoid those that we experience as painful.

A regular yoga practice has the potential to change things, some immediately for the better and some maybe not as discussed above. When we start practicing, we begin with the third and fourth limbs of Ashtanga yoga: asana (postures) and pranayama (breathing). When we start to move and breathe more consciously it will initiate physical changes. Richard Freeman who made a little video a few years back with the theme “Yoga ruins your life” jokes about how ones feet grow wider and bigger so that all the fancy shoes in ones closet need to be replaced (no more high heels or pointed toes there… what a disaster!!!).  Jokes aside, not only will our feet change over time, but with a regular, mindful practice we’re likely to grow stronger, more flexible, have a better posture and be healthier overall.

After a certain amount of time we might also notice how we gradually become more present, aware and focused. Beginning with the body and the breath we come to the now instead of always being in our head day dreaming of the past or future. Through the physical practice we connect with our inner world and learn to observe the twists and turns of our mind. This heightened presence makes more aware of our thought patterns, behaviours and our choices in life. We might start to behave differently towards ourselves and others, hopefully more in a more kind and thoughtful manner as we start to reflect upon and observe the yamas and niyamas (first and second limbs of Ashtanga yoga).

The changes that come with practice may be welcome but sometimes also frightening. Doing physical asana may be scary when we start opening our bodies or go upside down and see the world from a different perspective.  As we go deeper into the practice and begin to peel off layers of old conditioning, habits and behavioural/thought patterns,  our bodies and minds can react in unexpected ways with pain, tiredness, anger, joy and all kind of emotions. When we let go of things we’ve held on to (consciously or unconsciously) energy is freed within us and we come closer to our true nature beyond all the stories and roles we’ve created and identify us with. But letting go of the identity we’ve created through our storytelling is hard and our nature is to hold on to the known rather than surrendering to the unknown.

Changes may be difficult to handle and letting go is a challenge even if we might be prepared as we have chosen to be on this yoga path. But for people around us – family members, spouses, partners, friends, colleagues etc who have not chosen our path or our change, it may be a surprise that’s not always met with open arms. Suddenly we’re no longer that person they’ve always known us as. Although our lifestyle, behaviour and choices may have taken a turn for the better it may be hard for them to accept. They might think you’re behaving strangely when your priorities change and you start getting up early to do practice (and also going to bed early), maybe changing your diet to include less animal products, drinking less alcohol and thus becoming more focused (all behaviours that may go against the socially accepted ones in society) etc. Because others have not experienced the transformation of the practice themselves they might find it difficult to accept the new you. This can create conflict within in our relationships and within us. We’ll start to question ourselves – Am I doing the right thing? Who am I really? Maybe they are right – the practice isn’t good for me. Maybe I should quit doing these weird shapes on the yoga mat –and so on.

A personal anecdote on this is a story from my second or third trip to Mysore many years ago. There was a group of six or seven girls getting together for a chat ant chai on a roof top one afternoon. We talked about life, yoga of course as one often does in Mysore and relationships. It turned out all of us were single at the time, and more interestingly that we’d all experienced a break up from a long term relationship at about the time we were taught Kapotasana, an intense back bend in the Intermediate series of Ashtanga yoga. Now does that mean that Kapotasana is the “break-up” posture? Of course not – it could all just have been a coincidence. Maybe each of our relationships would have ended anyway as people oftentimes grow apart or develop in different directions. That said, the practice does, as discussed above, further physical and emotional changes within us that may contribute to changes in our overall lives. Kapotasana is a particularly challenging posture that potentially brings up a lot of stored emotions, as does the Intermediate series per se when it stimulates our central nervous system. Furthermore, according to my teacher Sharath Jois, doing too much asana practice (twice a day or too many asanas too quickly) may also cause aggression in an individual (probably because it brings too much yang – that’s my interpretation at least).

Every yoga journey is different and we all face different challenges depending on our background and current circumstances. Some of us are fully supported by our social networks others not. Important is to be aware of potential obstacles on the path, either generated by the games played by our own minds or by external actors. How do we deal with these factors? How do we stay true to ourselves and our path and how can we avoid losing ourselves in the stories created by our mind (and egos) in reaction to others’ opinions or external situations? How can we maintain an inner and outer balance?

Yoga philosophy gives us the tools of yama and niyama, in particular “ahimsa” – the absence of harm and “satya” – truthfulness which apply both to our behaviour towards ourselves and others. Trying to observe these principles is a process of trial and error that we have to go through in order to learn and grow.  Practice is built on Kriya yoga – yoga of action; Tapas (discipline and patience of a regular practice), Svadhyaya (study and inquiry) and Isvara Pranidhana (surrender, trust in the unknown and the process). On the path of our practice (our sadhana) we may experience pain (physical, emotional, psychological), resistance, doubt, desire aversion and other feelings. By meeting these sensations but with open eyes, curiosity, humility and patience and ideally under the guidance of an experienced teacher we can learn to see beyond them. Without the support of a teacher who has also walked the walk, it might be confusing and difficult to handle the sensations that may arise along your yoga path. Yoga won’t ruin your life; instead it has the potential to enrich, make you stronger, more present, and balanced and free you from being a slave to your impulses, desires, aversions and delusions. Yoga is a journey of continuous learning where “change is the only constant”. Every day is a new beginning, every practice on the mat is a new start every breath is a new birth.

NEWSLETTER MAY/JUNE 2019

We hope you’ve had a good Easter weekend with a chance to enjoy the sunshine. Finally we’ve defrosted and now the physical side of yoga may be a bit easier. Our regular schedule continues until 30 June and in July there’ll be a special summer schedule. In May and June we have many exciting events and special classes with guest teachers to offer all our practitioners, newer and more experienced. May and June also include some public holidays and we’d like to remind you of some temporary schedule changes then (click here).

Early July, we welcome Karolina Zakrzewska as a summer teacher and the second half of the month Sharath Jois visits Copenhagen (info here) for a week’s workshop. Keep reading and you’ll be on top of all that happens at the  school before summer.

A NEW BEGINNERS’ COURSE starts in Malmö on Monday 29/4 (read more here). It is a 6-week course and we’re always happy when you recommend us to your friends. Right now we’d be extra happy if you could motivate some stiff men to join the course and thus help us even out gender gap in our shala.

FRIDAY FUN our alternative after work – continues on 26/4 and 17/5 in Malmö. The theme this semester is basic yoga philosophy and chanting. No previous experience is required. The upcoming two sessions treat ch2 of Yoga Sutras and we continue to learn simple breathing techniques. Register via the event

GUIDED CLASS of both the first and second series in Ashtanga yoga take place in May/June. The next guided primary series is on Sunday 12/5 at 8.45 (followed by tea & talk). Isabella also teaches led Intermediate series on Sunday 19/5 and 16/6 after the regular Mysore class. Please read the requirements for participation here and talk to Isabella before you sign up.

GUEST TEACHERS on June 1-2, we welcome Swedish Gabriel and his Australian wife Nadia. They’ll teach two Master classes in Ashtanga yoga on the theme “Create effortless fluidity and control in your yoga practice”. Learn how to find flow in your practice through bandhas and breath. Find the strength and flexibility in both transitions and asana. Gabriel and Nadia give you  an insight into techniques that make your practice easier. Classes are open for all. Don’t miss this unique opportunity. Read more here

SUMMER RETREAT in FINLAND 7-12 July we return to the idyll Kadermo Conscious Living in Finland, an island completely unaffected by the stress of modern society. Join Isabella on a week-long Ashtanga yoga retreat with both morning and afternoon classes. Take the opportunity to unwind, relax, and enjoy yoga, beautiful scenery and fantastic vegetarian food by the best Indian chef Anu flown in straight from Mysore. Last year was very much appreciated and fully booked so don’t wait too long to reserve. More info here.

SUMMER TEACHER Karolina Zakrzewska covers classes from 1-14 July while Isabella is away. Karolina is from Helsingborg but lives in Goa, India where she runs the retreat centre Purple Valley. Karolina has taught at our shala at twice previously and we are delighted to welcome her back. More about Karolina and the summer schedule here

Finally, speaking of Purple Valley, we want to flag that Isabella teaches a retreat there later this autumn from 26/10-8/11. More on our eventspage where you also find a link to Purple Valley. Bookings open on their homepage in May. You don’t want to miss this trip!

The next newsletter will be distributed mid-June. It’ll contain more info about some important changes coming up at the school this summer/autumn. In the meantime please stay updated by visiting this news page/blog and follow us on social media (links below). You’re also invited to join the closed group Ashtanga Yoga Malmö / Lund practitioners we started.

See you on the yoga mat!
 P.S Did you know that you can use your healthcare allowance when you buy practice cards with us?

Yoga and Osteoporosis/Osteopenia – the hidden disease

Photo: Barbara Süss

What would you do if you at the age of 34 were diagnosed with a condition that normally women twice your age would get? How would you react if doctors told you that with having this disease at such a young age there was a risk that you could be wheel chair bound in your sixties? It’s not only a difficult message to receive or take on board, but even harder when you can’t see or feel the disease in your daily life. Osteopenia/Osteoporosis – weakened bone density – is invisible to the eye and is mostly only diagnosed once a fracture has actually occurred.

Eight years ago I was diagnosed with severe osteopenia, a pre-stage to osteoporosis, following six months of repeated spontaneous rib fractures. My bone density results were very bad, really on the border to Osteoporosis. At the time I had to make quite a few changes not only to my life but also to my yoga practice.I had to become more sensitive and take certain precautions. But my yoga practice has also been an invaluable factor in the process of healing and improving my bone density. Since my diagnosis in 2010, my bi-yearly bone density scans have gradually shown improved results and at the latest scan one week ago I was given the happy news that I am now no longer osteopenic and have normal bone density for my age.

Five years ago I wrote a blog post about practicing yoga with osteopenia/osteoporosis to share my experience with other women who might be in a similar situation. Because the old website has since been deactivated I’ve decided to re-post the article here . I don’t go into detail of what lies behind my weak bones, I might share some of that in a later post. However, it has come to light that this condition is more common than previously thought with younger women who have been very physically active in young years (athletes for example) and whom have not had a good enough intake of good nutrition or whom have lost their periods for certain amounts of time. It may also follow in the steps of eating disorders and other mental health conditions (depression, anxiety, stress etc), problems of mal-absortion and inflammation in the gut and deficiencies in vitamin-D etc.

March 2014

Three and a half years ago following a series of inexplicable/spontaneous rib fractures suffered in yoga practice I was diagnosed with a severe stage of Osteopenia – a pre-stage to Osteoporosis (bone loss). I was 34 years old and had a condition that women my mother’s age would be more likely to suffer from. The reason I ended up with Osteopenia I will not go into. There were most likely many factors at play and I’ll most likely never know what caused what – like the “chicken and the egg story”.

Osteoporosis happens when there is a loss of calcium and mineral in the bones that weakens them and causes them to break more easily. Although Osteopenia is not as bad as osteoporosis the risk of fracture is the same in both cases. The primary risk areas for fractures are the vertebrae in the spine, the hips and the wrists. Some bone loss is natural with aging. Peak bone density occurs during our 20’s but after the age of 35 bone density starts to decline.

When I got my diagnosis in 2010 the doctors seemed quite surprised to have such a young patient with an “old woman’s condition”, yet they didn’t really seem to take it seriously. Maybe they didn’t know what to do. The advice received from my GP (in a letter…) was that I should quit smoking, do more weight bearing exercise and eat more green vegetables. At the time I had been a vegetarian for 18 years, I was very fit (having been a spinning teacher for 11 years, a long distance runner and had a regular strong yoga practice) and I most certainly didn’t smoke (and I never had)…

Eventually, I was put on medication, alendronic acid a substance that is given to old ladies in their 70’s and 80’s. At the time I didn’t question it since I had many other things going on in my life and not the energy to argue. My GP supported that I continue to practice yoga but cautioned me to be careful. And that was that. The lack of engagement from the medical community led me to also not really take the situation seriously. I did a little bit of research and figured I should probably stop long distance running (the bouncing impact not being very good for the spine) and I took care in yoga practice not to fall (I had already dislocated a disc when falling in headstand a year earlier, broken my little toe twice when jumping through and then there were those fracture ribs that had prompted my seeking help in the first place). Otherwise, I figured yoga must be good since it’s definitely a weight bearing exercise.

Over the past few years my yoga practice has deepened and intensified (on both a physical and other levels). My body has become much stronger and stable as well as more flexible. I have gained quite some weight due to increased muscle build but some of it is also an increase in bone mass. When I had my last bone density scan the results had improved – but I still had Osteopenia. Whether the increased bone density was because of the medication or the yoga practice or a combination I don’t know.

I’m sure that yoga is mostly positive, but there are also things in yoga practice that sometimes cause me concern and with time and experience I’ve come to reflect more and more on the effects of the practice. In the – meager – research I did following the diagnosis I learnt that forward bending might be hazardous for people with Osteopenia or Osteoporosis. The increased pressure on the front of the vertebrae in forward bends could lead to fractures on the spine. I also read that back bending would be more beneficial as such movements would strengthen the muscles around the spine. My body welcomed these “facts” as it really doesn’t like to bend forward and doing back bends is more pleasurable.

Recently I decided to look a bit more into the research done on yoga and Osteopenia/Osteoporosis (and I really should have done this much earlier to take responsibility for my own situation, but I guess I was still in some kind of denial). Some of what I found out was quite shocking! Basically all that I am doing in my practice is highly dangerous. According to the research available I play on the edge of disaster every morning and it’s a miracle that I haven’t yet fractured a vertebra or hip.

People with Osteopenia/Osteoporosis may experience spontaneous spinal fractures without warning as the body moves out of the posture back to its original position. Forward bending (spine flexion) is – as mentioned previously – particularly dangerous, but also twisting, arm balancing (risk of falling), shoulder and head stand and deep back bending are not recommended. The only safe postures would be standing postures (which are weight bearing on the large bones of the legs and hips); back bends like cobra pose or shalabasana (locust pose) and seated postures that do not include bending forward. Moving in and out of postures should be done with caution so umping is definitely a “no-go” and Ashtanga yoga is completely out of the question according to the articles I found.

While taking the warnings and risks seriously I think that there a few other things one needs to consider. Most of the research available seems to have been done on people of the age 65+. What about younger people who may have a better overall health, a fitter body in general and are already physically active? I don’t have any medical expertise but from my own experience I would definitely also look at the following aspects:

  • Is the person a beginner or already a seasoned yoga practitioner?
  • Is the person fit or unfit (physically active, overall health etc)?
  • What age is the person?
  • What body awareness does the person have?
  • What is the overall lifestyle of the person?

Each body and each individual are different, but yoga practice has definitely been very beneficial to my overall health (and my bone density has improved). There is also research available that supports the fact that a daily yoga practice may be able to slow and even reverse the condition of Osteopenia. Such a yoga practice obviously has to be adapted according to the individual, but it seems like a combination of weight bearing exercise such as yoga, movement and a good diet may help maintain and even improve bone strength. Yoga, unlike some other weight-bearing activities won’t damage cartilage or stress the joints. Instead, it lengthens muscles and holds them there, creating tension on the bone. It also increases softness and agility to the joints and creates stability in the body as a whole.

A healthy diet – and in particular a plant based diet seems to create a good foundation for healthy bones. Some research shows that too much animal based protein (including dairy products) may actually weaken the bone. Protein creates acid in the blood and when the body gets too acidic it pulls calcium, which is alkaline, from bone to neutralize it. I used to eat a lot of dairy products as part of my vegetarian diet since I was always told that one needed milk (or dairy) to build strong bones. Now I have osteopenia – but I’ll never know if my huge dairy consumption contributed to my current condition. Today I’m vegan and I’ve replaced the dairy products with green leafy veg such as kale and spinach, sesame and almonds which are rich in calcium.

Osteopenia/Osteoporosis is an invisible “disease”. This makes it even more dangerous. No one would be able to see the condition I suffer from, and even I forget it from time to time. I take my condition seriously but I refuse to let it limit my life. Today I approach things with greater care and awareness. The prospect of breaking a hip or sitting in a wheel chair at the age of 60 is not on my agenda.  I continue my daily Ashtanga practice although I have become more careful. I deliberately move more consciously and slowly and try to maintain a stable and deep breath which helps me listen to my body’s signals. The tools of breath, bandha and dristhi which help stabilise the body and mind and turn the awareness inwards, become even more important. 

Although my teacher Sharathji has said that people with Osteoporosis should limit their practice to sitting in padmasana and do breathing exercises, he has not he asked me to change anything in my practice. He’s only directed me to some “safer” practice space in the shala in Mysore to protect me from injury should I fall when practising arm balances. It has been very important to me that he’s provided me with a safe space. I trust his guidance and the guidance I’ve received from other experienced Ashtanga Yoga teachers to whom I’ve turned for advice.

Whether one is a beginner or seasoned practitioner I believe it is important to practice yoga safely and correctly under the guidance of an experienced teacher. With the increased risk of fracture that comes with Osteopenia and Osteoporosis attention to correct alignment in yoga postures is in my opinion crucial. It is important to make sure that the spine remains lengthened and that the space between vertebrae is in no way comprised during the practice. Depending on the individuals fitness and body awareness one may have to work at different pace.  A beginner should stick with beginner’s options and be sure to inform the teacher about his/her condition before class. It is also important to cultivate mindfulness and a presence during practice so that one becomes sensitive to the signals of the body.

If you’d like to know more about the research done on Yoga and Osteoporosis, I’ve added a few links here. Please also feel free to share your experience and questions below.

Some resources on Yoga and Osteoporosis/Osteopenia

Yoga for Osteoporosis – An Interview with Loren Fishman, M.D. and Ellen Saltonstall

http://yogauonline.com/yogatherapy/news/ellen-salstonstall/420121510-yoga-for-osteoporosis-interview-loren-fishman-md-and-e

Yoga for Osteoporosis: A Pilot Study

http://journals.lww.com/topicsingeriatricrehabilitation/Fulltext/2009/07000/Yoga_for_Osteoporosis__A_Pilot_Study.9.aspx

Yoga Osteopenia Osteoporosis

http://www.osteopenia3.com/Yoga-Osteopenia-Osteoporosis.html

Good to the Bone

http://www.yogajournal.com/health/2616

Yoga for the Prevention, Treatment, and Reversal of Osteoporosis and Osteopenia

http://www.happyhealthylonglife.com/happy_healthy_long_life/2010/06/yoga-osteoporosis.html

Yoga Poses to Avoid With Osteoporosis

http://healthyliving.azcentral.com/yoga-poses-avoid-osteoporosis-7232.html

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