Namaste! I am Vera Kleinken, a yoga instructor in the lovely city of Norwich, UK. I trained in Vinyasa and Hatha at Yoga Alliance certified Earth Yoga Village in Goa, India at the start of 2019 (200 hours). In October 2020 I qualified to teach Pre- and Postnatal yoga (65 hours with Yogamama London) and in December 2020 to teach children (28 hours with Rainbow Yoga).
My Yoga Journey
I started practising yoga during my uni years. Up to the age of 18 I’d always danced ballet and during uni I was looking for something different. I can’t remember why I chose to try yoga and I can’t even remember the first time I did yoga. Yoga kind of sneaked into my life rather than arrive with a big bang. I just know that I kept going back. Not particularly regularly but every now and then. And then more often. I discovered home yoga practice and all those fantastic videos on YouTube. I found it very accessible to be able to practise spontaneously and for as little or much time as I wanted.
Over the years my practice developed and it became much more frequent, to the point that I found myself on the mat almost every day. And then one day it hit me – I wanted to share this wonderful ancient practice and do a yoga teacher training to really learn the ins and outs of everything yoga entails.
One of the first things we were asked in our philosophy class at the teacher training was “Why do you practise yoga”? I only had to think for a few seconds – I practise because it makes me feel calm. I feel at peace. I feel grounded. Everyone in my class answered in a similar way. And this, in essence, is why we practise yoga. Because it calms our minds. It gives us an opportunity to breathe, to get away from everyday life, to return to what is important – ourselves, our souls – and to go inward. Of course, we also practise yoga asanas to stretch our bodies and become stronger, but this is, in the end, also a tool to calm down.
This is why I have called my online yoga existence ‘Pratyahara’.
Pratyahara is one of the eight limbs of yoga and means “withdrawal of the senses”. The eight limbs, called ‘Ashtanga’, are a way to live life in a mindful and fulfilling way. In harmony with our environment, all beings and our true self. The eight limbs of yoga have been laid out by the yoga master Patanjali (no one really knows when he lived, or if Patanjali wasn’t actually several people), author of the Yoga Sutras (written at least 1700 years ago), and they are:
- Yama – universal social principles, like Ahimsa (non-violence) and Satya (Truthfulness)
- Niyama – self-discipline and practice, like Santosha (contentment), Svadhaya (self-study) and Ishwar Pradidhana (surrender)
- Pranayama – Breathing techniques
- Asana – Physical postures
- Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the sense
- Dharana – Concentration
- Dhyana – Meditation
- Samadhi – Enlightenment
In Yoga, we implement all of these steps to be able to sit still in meditation, to maybe one day experience ‘Samadhi’. But even though this might never happen, yoga gives us all these tools to live our best lives. When we are centred and grounded, stress won’t have such a big effect on us. We can deal with problems and adapt to situations easier and generally feel at peace with ourselves and the world we live in.
So in Pratyahara, an essential part to prepare ourselves for meditation, we aim to go inward and let our thoughts go. We turn our senses from the outside to the inside in order to calm the mind.
My classes are suitable for all levels and I encourage my students to go inward – to feel their surroundings but not to get distracted by them. To let go of thoughts and be present. This meditative part of yoga will take up a small part of my class, from which point we will be able to easily move into different asanas. I aim to give several options, so all my students feel safe and taken care of. I adapt the class, so it’s suitable to my student’s level of practice, with all body parts feeling stretched out afterwards. I always end the class with Savasana (corpse pose) to give the body time to relax and process the practice. You will feel grounded and refreshed after and hopefully have had the opportunity to calm the mind!
I hope to see you on the mat soon and share a lovely Hatha or Vinyasa class together. Namaste.