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Five years ago a friend of mine recommended a good yoga studio to me. At the time I was in a stressful job and hadn’t been sleeping properly for about seven months, so I badly needed some kind of help. I started taking basic hatha yoga classes and have never looked back.

Other types of yoga such as power yoga, bikram yoga, ashtanga and kundalini yoga all originated from hatha yoga. It is a system of yoga which was introduced by Yogi Swatmarama, a Hindu sage in the 15th century and is based on the practice of “asanas” yoga postures and “pranayama” breathing techniques. I did think of trying bikram yoga but this ninety minute practice is done in a room heated to forty degrees centigrade and there is no way I’d be able to handle that heat for that long. I would melt into a puddle on the floor!Fun yoga at Photo courtesy of yogayoga facebook page

So I began lessons with yogayoga. The yoga studio is situated on the Amaliastraat, a quiet street in the Jordaan area, in Amsterdam. It was set up in 2002 by Sandra Kirchner and Leo Peppas. Their aim has been to “create a yoga studio that provides the best yoga has to offer” and they’ve certainly done that. They offer a variety of classes from Monday to Saturday, with a monthly workshop on a Sunday morning. There are basics classes for beginners, classics for students with a minimum of one year’s experience, and open and slow flow classes for all levels. Pregnancy and postnatal lessons are also provided along with somatic yoga training. There is an emphasis on the breath and our relationship to ground and space but the somatic training goes deeper and is “based on principles that are a way to understand the body-mind and the nature of anatomy”. Private classes are also available and lessons are taught in both Dutch and English.

I am so glad that I followed my friend’s advice and started classes with yogayoga. They have been so beneficial to me.  I am in classics classes at the moment and Leo is instructing us. He is an excellent teacher and I’ve learned a lot from him. His very useful but different slant on yoga teaching provides support in everyday life. He teaches us to use a lot of the yoga postures and principles, in normal day-to-day things in life, like walking, posture, breathing, our relationship to ground and space and understanding of body awareness. This whole aspect of it has been the most rewarding for me.

I’ve seen a big improvement in myself over the past five years. Looking back, I notice now that I used to be so focused on things. For example, I’d be cycling around Amsterdam in my own little world, thinking about this or that, not noticing how my body was bent over the bike. Now my perception is better and I’m more aware of my posture and things going on around me. I’ve learned to take a more peripheral view on things and am more grounded when dealing with stressful situations and my sleeping has improved a lot.

The breathing techniques have also been very helpful. I play the concertina and I find sometimes that I hold my breath while playing difficult tunes and after an hour of playing my right arm would get painful. I’ve learned from yoga that core support is very important and can be applied to all sorts of situations, including this one. Core support is a combination of having a strong point of reference with the ground, (meaning that your feet should be solid on the ground), having peripheral vision (connection with the space around you) and your body should feel both directions of ground and space. Having good core support will help both my posture and my breathing when playing the concertina but I know I have to work on that. Ampelmann does yoga! Photo courtesy of yogayoga facebook page.

With regards to the asanas, there is one that I really have to mention. The headstand is one of the most challenging postures for me to get into. I’ve always associated it with P.E. (Physical Education) in school and never liked it because I could never do it. We’ve been building up to inverted postures in classics classes this year and I’ve been trying to practice the headstand at home in my regular yoga practice. Normally it takes me four or five attempts to get into the posture and sometimes I would just give up totally because I couldn’t do it. But last week I tried it again and was able to get into the posture after the second attempt and I was absolutely delighted. It’s only a headstand, I know, but it’s such a major achievement for me to be able to do it. These yoga classes have equipped me with tools that I’ve been able to use in daily situations and I’m sure I’ll be able to put those into practice for the rest of my life.

So if you’re looking for a really good yoga studio in Amsterdam, go to yogayoga on the Amaliastraat. I’ve also taken classes with Sandra, Vik, Ludmilla and Kamini and they’re all great teachers. They have a ten-class card for 120 Euros, which is valid for twelve weeks. A flexible ten-class card for the summer was on offer until August 31st 2013. Classes are small and during the normal schedule, it is advisable to reserve your space beforehand. For more information about the yoga studio, classes, prices, etc, please visit their website: