Sivananda yoga classes in Brussels & online

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The importance of Pranayama

AmbikaYoga_23Pranayama is a key part of my yoga classes. And after a couple of classes most of the students get it, or at least go with the flow. Sometimes there are students in a class (new to yoga, or new to the way I teach my classes) that don’t get it. They sit there, play with their toes, look around them, jawn, looking bored, … Often I think how great it would be to be able to teach each new student a private class to explain the importance of Pranayama and to teach them the exercises that I was taught in my different TTC’s.

In short,  Pranayama (Sanskrit: प्राणायाम ) is one of the 5 points of yoga: proper breathing. It teaches us to control our breathing, to control our minds and meditate easier. ‘Prana’ means : subtle energy, life force or vital energy. ‘Ayama’ means: to extend or draw out.

“Pranayama uses breathing techniques to influence the flow of prana in the nadis or energy channels of the energy body (Pranayama kosha).” -> From the book: Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati.

In today’s world, people often don’t breathe properly, meaning, they breathe in the top parts of their lungs only. You may notice this when you are stressed out or when sitting with hunched shoulders in front of your PC. As soon as you lie on your back and try to breathe deeply in through the nose into the abdomen, you will realize the force of proper breathing: you will quickly feel more energized, more calm. Personally I found Pranayama to be life-changing. One day without my morning Pranayama exercises shows me directly the need for it. I am more calm, focused & in the present moment when I practice breathing exercises in the morning.

What does Pranayama teach us? It teaches us to breathe properly, to use the full capacity of the lungs, to draw more freshly oxygen in & more stale air out of our body. This gives more oxygen to the cells, including the brain.

In a regular 90′ yoga class, I teach two main pranayama exercises: Kapalabathi & Anuloma Viloma.

If you are new to yoga, try to just follow the explanations and the counting of the breathing exercises, try not to judge (yourself, other students, the teacher) as hopefully you’ll soon become aware of the subtle changes in your breathing and your life thanks to the benefits of these exercises.

Om Shanti

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Workshop: Breathing is at the heart of yoga with Gayatri (Canada)

Sampoorna_Yoga_Studio_ReceptionBreathing is at the heart of yoga.

As we cultivate the breath, we open to the transformative potential of our yoga practice. The breath allows us to cultivate energy in ways that can profoundly enhance our asana and meditation practices in addition to improving our lives off the mat.

This workshop integrates both the East and the West exploring anatomy and physiology of respiration as well as the subtle energy body. Topics will include the autonomic nervous system, koshas, prana vayus and nadis.

Practices will include thoraco-abdominal breathing, ujay, anuloma viloma, kapalabhati and brahmaree pranayam. We will learn how to guide ourselves and (if you’re a teacher) students in cultivating awareness of the principal bandhas.

GayatriGayatri is a visiting teacher from Ontario, Canada. Following an illness and back injury, she turned to yoga as a means to return balance to her life.

A lifelong learner with a fascination for the human body, Gayatri is a highly sought out instructor, teaching anatomy to yoga instructors throughout North America,Europe, and India.

In her work as a nurse and a yoga therapist, Gayatri works with people struggling with injuries, chronic physical, emotional or life-threatening illnesses and addictions, working toward holistic wellness.

Gayatri focuses her warm and nurturing energy on her clients, identifying goals together and developing concrete plans for achieving them.

PLACE: Sampoorna Yoga Studio, Rue du Houblon/ Hopstraat 40, 1000 Brussels

DATE/ TIME: Saturday 7 February 2015, 3-6 PM

PRICE: 45€ (35€ students/ unemployed)



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 🙂

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Yoga session during moon cycle

My moon cycle (or monsoon as I like to call it) is very painful and long. I tend to avoid doing inverted asanas, such as headstand and shoulderstand. But there are other asanas to do in order to decrease the discomfort & cramps.

In my experience, it’s helpful to prepare for the arrival of your monsoon by doing daily Pranayama and Asana practice.
During your moon cycle (especially the first days), practice Kapalabathi breathing exercises, followed by a series of slower Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutations) (at least 2 on each side) and adding a sequence of the following asanas:

  1. Paschimotanasana (sitting forward bend): during this painful time of the month, you might want to add a bolster on your legs to allow your body to rest on the bolster so you can surrender more easily to the asana. Do try to keep your back as straight as possible and your chest open (don’t allow it to collapse).
  2. AmbikaYoga_66Bhujangasana (cobra): come into the pose, but don’t force coming up too high, find your edge of the day and then allow your belly to remain on the mat, focus on your back muscles.
  3. Salabhasana (locust).
  4. Dhanurasana (bow): come up in the pose and stay for a couple of breaths before you perform the ‘rocking boat’: moving back and forth on your belly whilst keeping your back muscles engaged, hence massaging the front side of your  upper body and your abdominal organs.
  5. Ardha Matsyendrasana (half spinal twist): by bringing your leg closer to your body you’ll give a nice massage to your abdominal organs.


These asanas all have a way of massaging and toning the abdominal organs helping to relief cramps.End with a nice long Savasana (relaxation) where you put your hands on your lower belly and breathe deeply and slowly, abdominal breathing through the nose. Allow your whole body to relax, to sink into the mat, you might want to put a bolster under your knees if your cramps are particularly painful (in your upper legs, lower back and belly).

>>> TIP: Make your Surya Namaskara during the actual moon cycle a lot slower than usual, you’ll feel probably more heavy so it’s good to be  a bit easier on yourself but you can still perform then and get the benefits for your body and mind.

Yin yoga poses also offer tremendous benefits, I’ll write more on that in a later post 🙂

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Join the Pranayama workshop on 1 June 2014

Deepen your yoga practice by connecting with your breath

The Sampoorna Asana Challenge workshops, on the first Sunday of each month, are long hatha yoga classes focusing on a specific theme. In the Asana Challenge classes you can grow in your practice by fine-tuning your poses by through precise instruction and correction and learning poses step-by-step.

On 1 June the theme is PRANAYAMA (proper breathing):

In the yogiAmbikaYoga_23c tradition, the breath is seen as the outward manifestation of prana, or vital energy. Gaining control of the breath by practicing breathing exercises – pranayama – increases the flow of prana through the body, which literally recharges body and mind. Your aim should be to pranayama for up to 30 minutes every day, preferably in the morning to kickstart your digestion and start your day refreshed.

In this Asana Challenge we take the time to practice the key breathing exercises (abdominal breathing, full yogic breath, Kapala Bhati, Anuloma Viloma) step-by-step in a correct way, learning how the breath can influence our mood, health and asana practice.

Tip: eat lightly and at least 2 hours before your practice

Who? This workshop is open for all levels, including beginners.

When? Sunday 1 June from 13:00-15:00

Price? 20€, or one “tick” in your Sampoorna Yoga pass plus 5€


Benefits of early morning yoga

The benefits of early morning yoga are numerous, I’ll list my personal favorites here:

1. You are awake, full of energy and feel great.

A typical yoga asana class is a combination of relaxation, pranayama exercises, warming up exercises, yoga postures, final relaxation. The initial relaxation helps you to be more focused and relaxed when starting your practice. Pranayama exercises (breathing exercises) will oxygenate all the cells, renew the cells and feed your body with the much needed pure oxygen, the fresh prana will recharge your body. The warming up exercises warm up all your muscles, tendons, ligaments and stretch your entire body to prepare for the yoga postures. The yoga postures stimulate the different energy centers (chakras) in your body to release blocked energy and hence re-energize your body and mind. Final relaxation makes sure you get all the benefits of your class by allowing the nervous system to relax and to calm your mind to prepare for your day.

2. You don’t need any stimulants such as coffee to wake up.

The yoga class wakes up your physical body but also the mind. It feeds you with energy that you get through the practice. It’s a wonderful thing actually, you can recharge your body yourself without needing any external tools or things.

3. You feel proud of yourself.

Getting up early, doing yoga, being full of vibrant energy gives you a radiant complexion, a smile on your face and calmness in your mind. People will notice the difference in you and will be asking what you’ve been up to 🙂 You can and will feel proud and happy that you take good care of your body, mind & soul by practicing yoga, and especially early morning yoga as to give you the benefits the entire day.

4. You will feel more zen.

Pranayama and relaxation exercises, that will become more meditative with time, will bring you an inner calmness and peace of mind. You will feel less easily personally assaulted by aggressive or negative people and will be able to protect yourself from stress. Keep practicing your daily routine as to bring about this wonderful zen state.

Ideally, you add a 10, 20 or 30 minute silent meditation before your yoga practice to get even more benefits.

  • If the above interests you, then please Join the early morning yoga class that I’ll be teaching at the Sampoorna Yoga Studio every Tuesday from 7AM to 8AM (doors open at 6:45AM).

Om Shanti

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