Ambika Yoga

Sivananda yoga classes in Brussels


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Practicing yoga while on holidays

In case you missed the signs, it’s the Holiday season. You might travel to foreign and exotic, or less far-away places. Especially during this period of splurging on food, drinks and candy, it’s important to keep practicing yoga, whether it’s at home, in your hotel, at your host’s house or at a local yoga studio. Your body and mind need regular practice in order to stay flexible and healthy. As you may know, practicing yoga helps your digestive system to function optimally which is extra handy during the festive period of heavy and not necessarily healthy (over) eating.

With this post I’d like to share my experiences of practicing yoga in different places around the world as I’ve been lucky enough to try out different yoga studios in several countries. The studios and ashrams I’ve been to are mostly teaching Sivananda style yoga. This way, even if you don’t speak the local language, as long as you’ve been to several hatha yoga classes, Sivananda style, you will be able to participate in class. Personally I found it a challenge to stay focused on my practice whilst not speaking the language, I went deeper into each asana as I didn’t really listen to the teacher’s voice 🙂

If you prefer to do your yoga practice at home, please read my post on starting a Home Practice.

Paris

  • Sivananda Yoga Center: the Center is located near the Gare de l’Est and you can practice yoga every day of the week, with special classes for seniors as well as for pregnant ladies. Join one of the many workshops for beginners or more advanced students, featuring teachers from around the globe. You can also catch a satsang (chanting & meditation) if you are lucky. On Saturday there’s a trial class for beginners.

London

  • Sivananda Yoga Center: located near Putney bridge in a lovely residential area. As in the Paris’ center, you can join a regular class or a workshop (registration only), as well as join a retreat in the countryside or take a certification course or even your Teacher’s Training course. The center has a kitchen and offers regular opportunities to eat lunch or dinner (reserve when you book your class), the food is very good, vegetarian (sattvic) and there are always vegan options (inquire). On Saturday there’s a trial class for beginners.

Rome

  • Sivananda Yoga Center: in the Rome center which is located a bit outside of the city center (accessible by bus 61), it’s in an apartment building so easy to miss 🙂 I took a class in Italian (w/o speaking the language) and it was lovely. There’s an English spoken class on Saturdays and a special class for back care on Thursdays.

Amsterdam

  • Yoga Community (Sivananda): In Amsterdam there is an affiliated Sivananda yoga center, with regular classes and workshops and even satsangs. It’s located in the city center and easily accessible by public transport.There are several classes per week, check their blog for more information.

Montreal

  • Sivananda Yoga Center: This was the first center in Canada founded by Swami Vishnu-Devananda. It’s a lovely place on Boulevard Saint Laurent. There are daily classes in French/ English. Workshops and satsangs are organized and it’s the meeting point to take the shuttle to the Ashram in Val Morin, about 1 hour drive, on Fridays. You might be lucky and enjoy a meal there too, inquire. On Sunday there’s a free trial class for beginners.

Toronto

  • Sivananda Yoga Center: This center is very small, but nice nonetheless. It’s located on Harbord street near Spadina avenue, easily accessible by public transport. There are daily classes, regular satsangs and even puja ceremonies. On Sunday there’s a free trial class for beginners.
  • Octopus Garden Holistic Center: This yoga studio in Toronto on College street offers a free trial week to try out many different classes. There are different types of classes, teachers and several yoga shalas (rooms), it features a vegan café and small shop for yoga articles. What I loved about the place was there is a no-scent policy, so people are kindly requested not to spray deodorant or perfume in the changing rooms. The class I joined was Vinyasa flow, and quite intense, the teacher walked around a bit helping students out, making jokes. The relaxation at the end was too short, but it was a nice discovery. The yoga room is bright and spacious. The vegan café was amazing. I had a delicious salad and smoothie and muffin. Excellent combination of yoga and food for the soul.

San Francisco

  • A couple of years ago, I went to a small studio in the Castro district, probably on 17th street, near Diamond Street (but I don’t remember exactly…). The yoga style was hatha or Iyengar and the lovely, male, teacher made us use props. The vibe in the studio was great, very zen like, there was free herbal tea after the class and it was a very small group. I went to the 8 AM class, a great way to start your day, with early morning yoga, even when on holidays. Afterwards I had brunch at Samovar tea lounge on 18th & Sanchez street, a delightful place with lots of amazing teas and vegan choices of food. The quinoa waffles were delicious!

Ashrams

I’ve been to 2 of the Sivananda ashrams and they are both magical places to recharge your batteries and disconnect completely from the stress and noise from the city.

  • TTC 2012 Canada (23)Orléans, France: located in the middle of nowhere, as it should be, about 30 minutes by car from Les Aubrais-Orléans SNCF station, it’snot easily accessible by public transport however and taxis are expensive. It’s best to try and arrange a pick up by the ashram when booking or drive there (carpooling with blablacar). The place itself has a chateau, the main building where there is the dining hall and a smaller yoga room, as well as the offices, several private, double and shared rooms and the shop. There is the meditation hall, which has some rooms on the ground floor, the kitchen building, a camp site, a temple and several cottages (shared rooms). It’s very silent and pretty, with well maintained gardens and great lectures, classes, silent walks and food.
  • Val Morin, Québec, CanadaTTC 2012 Canada (21): this is the ashram that Swami Vishnu-Devananda started after swami Sivananda had sent him to the West to teach Westerners yoga. The ashram is located in Val Morin, about an hour drive from Montreal in the Laurentians, it’s a beautiful and huge place with several buildings: a main building, a temple, several dormitories, a main meditation and yoga hall, the Peace Plane museum, camping areas, a swimming pool, swamiji’s house, a kid’s camp, … There’s also the Aayapa temple higher up on the hill. The place is so peaceful, green and silent that you’ll have a hard time leaving. There are two daily classes, meals and satsangs, yearly Teacher’s Training Courses, certification workshops, and much more. As with all centers and ashrams, it’s being managed and led by volunteers (swamis, staff and karma yogis). Try to go at least for a long weekend, but if you can, stay as long as possible to soak up the peaceful vibrations and life lessons of living in an ashram. Make sure to come once for the Kavaadi festival in July, it’s a true spiritual experience when thousands of Indians flock to the ashram’s temple for the celebrations of lord Subramanya.

Read more about all the other Sivananda ashrams and centers worldwide.

If you want to try out yoga someplace else, there’s a great source for finding a yoga teacher, studio or event nearby, which is YogaTrail, or finding classes nearby, on YogaFinder.

Hopefully this post inspires you to go to a local yoga center whenever you are on holidays or a business trip. I’m looking forward to reading your tips and favorite places to practice yoga.

Happy Holidays.
May peace, love & light be on your path.
Om Shanti, shanti, shanti, ….

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Starting a home yoga practice

Sampoorna_Yoga_Studio_ReceptionIt’s one thing coming to a yoga class on a regular basis, but it’s quite another practicing on a daily basis. When you start with yoga, it’s important to find a studio and teacher(s) that can teach you the basics in the right way: proper relaxation, pranayama, sun salutations, asanas and if you are lucky, yoga philosophy and meditation. Then you’ll come once a week, or more often, to class. However, yoga doesn’t stop there, yoga can be a way of life. It can transform you quite literally.

Finding yoga has been beneficial to me in so many ways. For instance, helping to relax by learning to breathe properly. This knowledge makes every day situations much lighter and easier to deal with, whether it’s giving a presentation in front of a crowd, telling bad news to somebody or dealing with aggression. Going back to your breathing grounds you, makes you powerful, in control and self-assured.

Learning to relax properly has helped me to connect to my physical body and made me recognize tensions in parts of my body that I wasn’t aware of before and enables me to do something about them, to unwind.

HomeObviously you first need to know how to do sun salutations and asanas in order to get the benefits and not get injured while practicing. If you’ve been coming to class regularly for some time and know the sequence of a basic Sivananda hatha yoga class, you can start your own (daily) home practice in addition to coming to a group class.

Yoga can give you tremendous energy, vitality, wisdom and peace of mind. When you practice on a daily basis, it becomes part of you and helps you in each and every aspect of your life as you become more grounded and in control of your thoughts, your mind and body.

In the morning you are especially stiff, most of us are, so make sure to do at least 8 sets of sun salutations before doing any asana in order to warm up your body properly.

AmbikaYoga-profile smallA 20 minutes home practice:

  • Initial relaxation in savasana = 2 minutes
  • Chant OM 3 times
  • Pranayama:
    • Practice either 3 rounds of kapalabathi (with retention) or
    • 8 rounds of anuloma viloma (inhale left, 4 counts, retain 16, exhale right 4, inhale right 8, retain 16, exhale left 8 = 1 round) = 8 minutes
  • Sun salutations: 8 to 10 sets (4 or 5 rounds on each leg) = 8 minutes
  • 1 asana of your choice =1-2 minutes
  • Short relaxation in savasana = 2 minutes
  • Chant OM 3 times

A 30 minutes home practice :

  • Initial relaxation in savasana = 2 minutes
  • Chant OM 3 times
  • Pranayama:
    • Practice either 3 rounds of kapalabathi (with retention) or
    • 8 rounds of anuloma viloma (inhale left, 4 counts, retain 16, exhale right 4, inhale right 8, retain 16, exhale left 8 = 1 round) = 8 minutes
  • Sun salutations: 8 to 10 sets (4 or 5 rounds on each leg) = 8 minutes
  • Shoulder stand = 2 minutes
  • Plough =1 minute
  • Savasana = 5 breaths
  • Fish = 1 minute
  • Savasana = 5 breaths
  • Sitting forward bend = 2 minutes
  • Inclined plane = 4 breaths
  • Forward savasana = 5 breaths
  • Cobra = 5-8 breaths
  • Forward savasana = 5 breaths
  • Triangle or tree pose = 5-8 breaths on each leg
  • Final relaxation in savasana = 4 minutes
  • Chant 3 times Om

You can add a silent meditation to your practice: sit in meditation focusing on your breath: inhale on 4 counts, exhale on 4 counts) = 5-12 minutes > set a timer.


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BeSssst – yoga in Brussels

BessstCitizenne invited me as a yoga teacher for their BeSsst event on Saturday morning on December 13th in Brussels.

I’ll be teaching a group of beginning yogins the basics about relaxation, breathing, sun salutations and yoga asanas and will fit in some yoga philosophy as well.

Afterwards we’ll find a busy spot in the centre of town to do yoga whilst trying to remain peaceful and calm despite the noise around us.

We’ll end with a veggie lunch.

PS: I think the class if full, but you can always try to register 🙂