Feet firmly on the ground at Yoga Yoga

Feet firmly on the ground at Yoga Yoga

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Natasha Gunn speaks to a couple whose particular style and method of teaching yoga has been engaging expats in Amsterdam for more than 10 years, on more than one level.

Sandra gives the group simple, clear instructions, repeated softly in both English and Dutch, on the making of particular movements carried out in thoughtful succession – at moments I feel like I am dancing.

And I mean moments. It's not easy to keep up a synchronous flow of movement, especially when limbs are going in opposing directions. An unrelated thought or thoughts moving into the mind can have an effect on the flow like a plastic bag unexpectedly getting caught up in a moving bicycle wheel.

"Co-ordination is the most difficult thing to grasp," Sandra explains to me after the class. "What I am teaching in the "basics" classes is the alphabet of movement.

The studio's founders, Sandra Kirchner and Leo Peppas, have developed their method based on traditional Hatha Yoga, combined with over 20 years of experience in bodywork and movement.

Working on levels

It's a simple, multi-level approach which gives people the space to get reacquainted with their bodies," says Sandra, who is of German origin.  "You could say that the yoga we teach is more about body awareness than relaxing."

Leo, also an expat of English-Greek, parentage, echoes this. "We help people to reawaken underlying movement patterns; body intelligence," he says.

Practicing yoga will improve you health and give you a base to cope with often hectic urban lifestyles, says Sandra, and the benefits for your body and spirit can last a lifetime. 

Rachel Birrell, who has been attending classes at the studio for four years, feels she has gained a lot. "My classes at Yogayoga have contributed enormously to my happiness and well-being in Amsterdam," she says. "I will take the lessons I’ve learned there back with me to the UK next year."

It was Leo's and Sandra's teaching methods that got Rachel hooked in the first place.

"I liked the clear instructions, the hands-on help with assuming the correct postures, the soothing tones of Leo's and Sandra's voices, and, I must confess, the lack of a 'New Age' stance in the class," Rachel says.

And it doesn't matter if you've never had any experience of doing anything similar to yoga before.

"I've seen men and women of all nationalities, ages, and body shapes taking part, learning how to listen to their bodies and challenge themselves," says Rachel.

 Why yoga attracts more women than men

I've always noticed that women are attracted to yoga more than men. For instance out of the dozen people in the basics class I attended, only one student was male.

I put this to Leo who takes his time before replying, "I suppose women are less intimidated about doing something which involves internal dialogue. The image of yoga is more as an esoteric or vague thing, something which is associated with relaxing more than action. It is not considered to be in the 'sports category'."

Leo illustrates this with an example of a Spanish guy, who came to his classes.

This man had a background in body-building, says Leo. While doing one of the yoga postures – the downward facing dog –  in one of my classes, he was amazed to see that, a woman in her sixties in the class performed the asana fully, and for a prolonged period, while he could only hold the pose for a short time due to excessive trembling in his arms.

Yoga is definitely "not just about relaxing", says Leo, "it's about maintaining action. Men coming to my classes often tell me that it is more active than they thought."

A linguistic spin-off

Because the classes are either taught in English or English and Dutch - the school attracts a mix of locals and foreigners.

For some the bilingual classes also offer unexpected benefits.

"My Dutch has improved enormously through listening to instructions and explanations in both Dutch and English; I’m not quite sure how to use 'fold deeply in the groins' into everyday life, but it’s been a definite benefit, nonetheless," says Rachel.


On 8 January 2007, Yogayoga launched a new schedule with 25 classes during the week and the weekend.

"Basics classes cater to beginners and prepare the student for, and explain the basic postures used in yoga. For those who are more experienced there are Classics and Yoga Flow, a dynamic form of yoga comparable to power yoga," says Sandra. In addition there are Open classes for all levels together.

New classes include pregnancy yoga, yoga for children and yoga for teens.

All classes are kept small to give each student individual attention. On Sunday Sandra and Leo provide a monthly workshop focusing on a specific theme.

"Anybody can drop in to attend one of the classes for 12 euros (1.5 hours), just call or email beforehand. Regular students can choose from different types of subscriptions," says Sandra.

For detailed information about schedule and the classes, which take place at Amaliastraat 5 in the Westerpark neighbourhood, close to the Jordaan, visit www.yogayoga.nl or telephone (020) 6883418.

Natasha Gunn / Expatica


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