Hi, I’m Bettina. What I'm working on : Forget to slouch. Relaxing is freedom. Choose life.

Articles in “Active Hands Yoga”

Urban Yoga Retreat in Kreuzberg, Berlin, Germany

Kreuzberg Yoga Retreat copy

Photos, clockwise from top left: flotation pool at Liquidrom, raw salad by B. Alive, view of the Cafe am Engelbecken at one end of the Luisenstadt Canal, fresh carrots to top the garden pizza at Prinzessinnengarten

Create the calm and serene atmosphere of a yoga retreat weekend in the middle of Berlin with the following Kreuzberg highlights and a yoga workshop or weekend at a local Berlin yoga studio:

♥ A place to indulge

with delicious vegan chocolate ice cream at Tanne B. on Lausitzer Platz

♥ A place to sit down and eat

with raw vegan chef Boris of B. Alive! at his dinner club, which is usually full of interesting people–highly recommended

♥ A place to swim and sweat

float in the dark salt-water pool to listen to music under water at Liquidrom–people say it’s like being in the womb again. I just like to tune out here and then sweat out toxins in the different saunas.

♥ A casual cafe in the middle of nature

I love journaling in the middle of the Prinzessinnengarten, a reclaimed urban mobile garden. In the back, after all the vegetable beds, there are some slim trees that make an oasis right by a huge intersection. It’s magical how they’ve made it so peaceful there.

♥ A walk in nature

along the Luisenstädtischer Kanal — which used to be a canal linking the Landwehr Canal to the River Spree but is now filled in and made into a park with sunken gardens. Start from the southern end by the river and end at Engelbecken, which is Angel’s Pool in English, which retained a sunken pool with a fountain.

If you live in Kreuzberg or Berlin, have you any other recommendations for me? What else would you need to make an urban setting a calm retreat? Tell me in the comments section!



3* tools for maintaining “yoga mind” while working

Watch my video below where I talk about the three* (ok, four!) tools I use to keep myself aware at work:

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Here are the direct links to download the three tools to remind you to take regular breaks:

Eyes Relax for your computer

Workrave for GNU/Linux & Windows

Pomodoro Widget for Android, following the Pomodoro Technique of working 25 minutes and resting 5 minutes

As for the fourth one, you don’t need a link for that 😉

ACTION STEP: Download and install one of the programs above–any one that appeals most to you and use it the next time you work.

If you’ve got any questions about yoga, meditation, healthy living, let me know and I’ll answer you in next Thursday’s Q and A video.



Urban Yoga Retreat: How to have a yoga retreat vacation at home

Traveling is wonderful. Abandoning daily routines, experimenting with new foods, speaking another language, turning strangers into friends–traveling makes the simplest thing different and exciting. But traveling can also be stressful: getting to and from the airport, the downtime during the physical travel itself,  visa paperwork and customs. The stress of being on time and the boredom of waiting in line are total opposites to what I’d want in a yoga weekend or yoga retreat. On top of that, the money spent…so why not just plan a retreat / vacation at home?

To replicate the yoga retreat experience at home, register for a special yoga workshop or a weekend workshop at your home yoga studio and then plan for the little luxuries that would make your apartment feel like a yoga retreat vacation.

My guiding words for resting and recharging at home would be calm & serene, self-love, and connection with nature, so those are my criteria for my yoga retreat at home.


♥ Make Time for Yourself

Clear your calendar for the day(s). I recommend 2 if not 3 days. You can meet up with friends if you’d like but don’t schedule anything that you wouldn’t schedule during a vacation. That is, yoga class and massages are ok; doing your taxes, not ok.

♥ Consider a Digital Sabbatical

Turn off your phone and check your email only once a day–or not at all. If you dare, don’t go online at all. Being offline is one of the best things about a vacation, so why not tell everyone that you will not be reachable via email or phone for 48 or 72 hours?

If you’re worried about getting bored, make sure you have a stack of books ready.

♥ Refresh your Environment

Either stay in a hotel or get your apt professionally cleaned to get the hotel experience. Change your bed linens and buy some flowers in a vase to give your home that hotel feeling. Light a new scented candle and buy a special bath product for your bath.

♥ Tune In Internally

Get in touch with yourself through writing. Buy yourself a notebook if you don’t already have one. Try to write three pages as soon as you wake up to get everything out of your head. If you don’t know where to start, try listing 100 reasons you’re grateful every day.

If you want to connect deeply with yourself, try observing silence for one day. Observing silence is exactly what it sounds like: not talking to anyone! Some people will allow themselves to speak when necessary or to write things down to communicate when necessary. You can wear a little sign to let people know that you are observing silence for the day. Decide on your boundary and stick to it! This will deepen your awareness internally when you are not focused on interacting with other people.

♥ Nourish your soul

Hide the foods in your kitchen that you want to avoid during your urban yoga retreat. Put chips, cookies, beer, perhaps even coffee in a cabinet. Lock it if you want to make it harder for yourself to access the forbidden goodies. To take it one step further, get rid of them entirely by donating them.

If you like to cook, stock your kitchen with fresh fruits and vegetables in season.

Otherwise, get some new herbal teas, some fruits, and some lemons for your water, and order delivery or eat out at organic vegan restaurants. Even if you’re not usually vegan, it will do your body good to cut out dairy and meat for two to three days.

♥ Move your body

Take a yoga workshop to delve into a subject you’ve always been curious about. Walk in nature. Swim in a lake.


I would love to hear your tips for recreating a yoga retreat experience at home, so please share your ideas in the comments below.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting my ideas for recreating a yoga retreat experience in different neighborhoods in Berlin, so stay tuned!



3 teachings from John Friend, founder of Anusara Yoga

Last weekend I had the honor of practicing yoga with John Friend in Zurich, Switzerland.

Because Zurich was such a great experience, I want to share what I learned with you instead of answering a question for Q&A Thursday–next week, I’ll be back with some A’s to your Q’s.

Watch my video below to hear what I learned:

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Which of the three teachings from John Friend resonated with you the most? Let me know in the comments below.

ACTION STEP: Dedicate your next yoga practice to someone who just doesn’t stop getting on your nerves or someone who invokes your worst self. Let them inspire your practice and see where that takes you.

If you’ve got any questions about yoga, meditation, healthy living, let me know and I’ll answer you in next Thursday’s Q and A video.



Are you concentrating or are you paying attention?

To expand on last week’s video about “yoga mind” a bit further, do you know the difference between concentration and attention?

Watch my video below to find out how I’ve experienced the difference between concentration and attention in my own practice and as I’ve learned from J. Krishnamurti.

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J. Krishnamurti writes in ‘Life Ahead’ in the book Total Freedom:

Concentration is a process of forcing the mind to narrow down to a point, whereas attention is without frontiers. In that process the mind is always limited by a frontier or boundary, but when our concern is to understand the totality of the mind, mere concentration becomes a hindrance. Attention is limitless, without the frontiers of knowledge. Knowledge comes through concentration, and any extension of knowledge is still within its own frontiers. In the state of attention the mind can and does use knowledge, which of necessity is the result of concentration; but the part is never the whole, and adding together the many parts does not make for the perception of the whole. Knowledge, which is the additive process of concentration, does not bring about the understanding of the immeasurable. The total is never within the brackets of a concentrated mind.

ACTION STEP: And you? When do you concentrate and when do you pay attention? In the comments, tell me how you experience the difference between concentration and attention.

If you’ve got any questions about yoga, meditation, healthy living, let me know and I’ll answer you in next Thursday’s Q and A video.



Urban Yoga Retreat in Zurich, Switzerland

On Friday I’ll be in Zurich for a long weekend to study with John Friend, founder of Anusara yoga. Since the last urban yoga workshop I attended left me a bit frazzled, rushing to see old friends and waking up at 5:30am every day, I researched where in Zurich I could replicate a yoga retreat feeling : calm, serene, connected to nature, and delicious and indulgent vegetarian / vegan food.

Zurich Urban Yoga Retreat

Photo credits, clockwise from top left: deliciousness at Hiltl, Lake Zurich by zoonabar, Luxemburgerlis by andres_colmen, Zurich at night by aforeo


♥ A place to journal

Cafe Sprüngli
over some coffee and macaron-like Luxemburgerlis

♥ A place to sit down and eat

the world’s first vegetarian restaurant Hiltl

♥ A casual cafe

tibits (yes, the lower-case is on purpose)

♥ Unique snacks to buy

Camille Bloch Ragusa Noir, a chocolate filled with whole hazelnuts

Appenzeller Bärli-Biber, a gingerbread cookie filled with sweet hazelnut or almond paste

Tete de Moine cheese (literally translated from the French: monk’s head cheese!), which must be shaved like a pencil with its own specific machine–and you eat the shaving like it’s a flower

♥ for when I take a walk in nature

around the Zurich Lake on its Panoramaweg


If you’ve been to Zurich, have you any other recommendations for me? Or what else would you need to make an urban setting a retreat? Tell me in the comments section!



How to bring your “yoga mind” to your desktop & workplace

This past week my friend A. asked me about how to prevent repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinoisis from working at the computer. Even if you don’t work with computers or your hands, what I have to say will help you bring your “yoga mind” to any kind of work you do.

What do I mean by “yoga mind”? Check out my video below to find out.

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ACTION STEP: In a spirit of compassion rather than judgment for yourself, ask yourself : How have you either ignored or didn’t pay attention to your body’s signals at work? And how can you start paying attention?

In the comments, tell me what you are going to change to bring your “yoga mind” off the mat.

If you’ve got any questions about yoga, meditation, healthy living, let me know and I’ll answer you in next Thursday’s Q and A video.



What does meditation have to do with yoga?

It’s been busy for me; I just returned from Paris after taking an in-depth yoga workshop and I am preparing to go to Zurich in early July for another one. Amidst all this high-level yoga, I got a question that brought me back to the foundations of yoga : What does meditation have to do with yoga? Or, better, what does yoga have to do with meditation?

Watch my video below to find out! (Sorry about the leave; my balcony is overflowing with growing plants right now.)

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ACTION STEP: Decide if you’d like your yoga practice to be more than just good health, good muscles, and good bones. It is totally ok if that is all you want from yoga. But if you want your practice to include the mental benefits I described in the video, consider including meditation in your practice.

For extra credit, check out this cute illustrated guide to why meditation is good for you (link no longer works as of June 9, 2012) –the first one about being chilled out and happier works for me!

In the comments, share what you want from yoga.

If you’ve got any questions about yoga, meditation, healthy living, let me know and I’ll answer you in next Thursday’s Q and A video.



How to turn fear into gold

Last week I was a little afraid, and this week I got some good words of advice about fear from another yoga teacher Bernadette Birney via her talk on the Yoga Teacher Telesummit. They say that when the student is ready, the teacher shows up. And she made me think about fear in a different way.

See my video below to learn how to make fear into your ally, your tool to know in which direction to go, into GOLD.

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ACTION STEP: What are you afraid of? Either on the mat or off the mat? Breathe into it and see if you can turn it into an exciting opportunity.

In the comments, tell me what you’re afraid of and if this helps.

If you’ve got any questions about yoga, meditation, healthy living, let me know and I’ll answer you in next Thursday’s Q and A video.



Something I’m a little afraid of…

Something different for today…

Something that I’m a little afraid of that another yoga teacher kinda challenged me to do.

Watch the video below to find out what:

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ACTION STEP: Give me your feedback right now either via email or comment straight below. And think about the feedback you get in your life and in yoga class. How are you going to apply that to change your life for the better?

You can listen to Elena Brower speak about finding love in yoga teaching. From the homepage, scroll down and click on “Daily Call Schedule,” and then scroll down to click on “Past Calls Here.” On this page you’ll find a link to the recording–at last! On the same page are many great interviews with yoga teachers all over the world. But they won’t stay up forever, so listen to them now.

Until next Thursday’s video!