Teaching Katonah Yoga Metaphors in German – that doesn’t happen very often. We recorded our latest YouTube videos with Steffi Grube from the This is Holy Yoga Studio in Cologne Germany. Today we are happy to learn more about Steffi and to talk about Katonah Yoga Metaphors. We are fascinated by Steffi’s relaxed and authentic manner. We have linked all her YouTube videos at the end. But now to her story…
The preceding article explains what exactly Katonah Yoga is and its connection to Taoism.
Who is Steffi Grube?
Hej, I’m Steffi Grube and I’m a yoga teacher, coach and author. I am co-founder of the yoga studio This Is Holy – we have a beautiful studio in Cologne where all classes are also taught online. In addition to teaching yoga, I also offer coaching courses and write radio features for public broadcasting. I also write short stories and texts for my website.
I love exercise – even if I sometimes have to talk myself into it. But I know that exercise is a huge key to health and feeling good. As I did competitive sport for a long time in my youth (Taekwon Do), I was looking for something that wasn’t a performance or a competition when I finished school and moved to Cologne! Competitions stressed me out enormously. And yoga was very obvious to me.
Somehow I knew from the beginning that I also wanted to teach yoga – and not just practise it myself. That was perhaps a little strange for many people, and I couldn’t really explain it – but I started doing yoga in my early 20s and trained as a yoga teacher at the same time. And then during my studies, I taught a lot and also gave workshops and taught training courses. So I also started teaching very early on. In addition to journalistic jobs and waitressing, I also financed myself with yoga. This is an important aspect of my job because it taught me early on what it means to make a living from teaching yoga and what different ideas there might be.
The skill of combining offline and online offers
I didn’t want to have my own studio for a long time – after all, I’m also an author and enjoy travelling a lot for research, etc. And it took a bit of courage to combine the two: having a studio with fixed course times and being on the road. But at some point there was simply no way around having my own studio: I wanted to realise my own ideas and be free to design my lessons, but also simply offer a complete package – which is simply difficult without my own studio.
I’ve always wanted to teach online. That way I can be away from home and still teach my lessons. During the Corona period – we had just opened This Is Holy as a real studio in Cologne – we then went completely online and I put all my energy and research into good, high-quality online teaching. I still love it today. I learn a lot myself and often online with my teacher Abbie Galvin – and I want to enable others to do the same.
How I came to Katonah Yoga
Katonah Yoga is my 2nd great yoga love – before that, I taught Jivamukti Yoga for a long time. And I still love it today. I was really interested in the political aspect of Jivamukti Yoga – that yoga can also be a call to activism. A call to get involved. I can’t do much with phrases like “Love & Light”. I like it or feel it is my job to draw attention to things that are not okay for me. In Katonah Yoga, I was immediately struck by the fact that we work with metaphors that can be transferred to everyday life. They also get me more active, thinking and questioning.
The first time I practised Katonah Yoga myself was in New York in 2016. That was my very first lesson with Abbie Galvin. And she said to me: “You muscle through” – which translated applied to my practice both physically and mentally: for me, many of the positions had to do with effort, with a lot of muscle work. Working your way through life can also mean “muscle through”. And I definitely felt caught out. I was already convinced that life itself is exhausting and that you have to fight your way through it somehow. And then, 10 years after quitting competitive sport, I was back in competition.
What yoga teaches me
I am now 41 and have been practising Katonah Yoga for about 8 years. Today, it’s all about maintaining my lightness and energy. To be present for everything in life. Yesterday, for example, my Mini, which I had just bought second-hand, broke down on the motorway with engine damage and had to be towed away. I was on my way to my niece’s birthday, who turned 3. Not taking the engine failure so tragically, staying present, even at 7 pm (after being towed away and waiting in the garage) and then happily giving my non-birthday present and celebrating with her for another 2 hours and putting her to bed – I wouldn’t have been able to do that 10 years ago. So I could have done it EXTERNALLY. But then everything in me would have been centred around the car and I wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on anything else. But what is really important? Not losing this focus on the mat and in everyday life is a huge benefit for me.
Grow older elegantly and with ease
Another important yoga topic for me is to grow older elegantly and with ease. As a woman in a western society, yoga is also about me experiencing my ageing as normal. Which means that we are all getting older. And to be a role model for others, not to work against your own age. The idea behind this is not to define myself by my own appearance and not always to celebrate when people think I’m younger. I realised early on, in my early 20s, that I didn’t have many older teachers in yoga – women over 50, I would roughly say – who were role models for me. Yoga was also often about a superficial definition of beauty; and youth remained the increasingly unattainable goal. My teacher Abbie Galvin is a great role model for me. She is over 65.
The Magic Square – Katonah Yoga Metaphor
When I say that Katonah Yoga is very practical, I mean that it is really transferable to everyday life and solution-orientated. For example, there is an image that we work with a lot in Katonah Yoga: The Magic Square. This is a number combination, 3 rows of 3 digits each. It is actually a number of mysticism from Chinese medicine called Lou Shu. The Magic Square can be used as a guide. The individual digits have certain properties – and we can understand each of these digits as a separate space. We can also lie down on a (large) Magic Square and anchor the individual numbers in our bodies.
For example, the 1 is at the bottom and in the centre of the square. In our body, the number is located in our pelvis and lower back. The number 1 always means a beginning, a start. Something starts here. In Katonah Yoga, we say that the bottom row of numbers and therefore also the 1 stands for “basic needs”. For everything we need to survive: Food Money Sex Water. Here, on the lower floor (the lower row of numbers), there is no brooding or thinking, nor is there any action or doing. Here we simply are.
The 2, our 2nd number, is somewhere else entirely: it is in the top row of numbers. If we look at it from the front, far left. If we lie on our back on the square, we can locate the 2 in our head, it is the right eye. Here, on the top floor, the atmosphere is completely different to that on the bottom floor. Everything here revolves around thoughts. It is more airy, but also more subtle and therefore less tangible. The 2 stands for a reaction. The 1 is the beginning, something is happening. And the 2 is the reaction to this. We could say it is the space behind the right eye, our brain. All our experiences are signalled when we have a reaction to something. We consciously or unconsciously compare whether this has happened before, whether we have information about it, what it reminds us of.
The 3 sits in the middle row (the one we are still missing), on the far right when we look at the square from the front. And when we lie down on it, that is the space of our heart and left arm and left hand. Here, in this room, we put our hands on our hearts and become aware of what we feel. How are we doing with what has happened? 1 is: something happens, something comes into being. 2: We have a reaction to this. 3: How do I feel about this? In this middle row, in Katonah Yoga, we speak of floors, stands for doing, for making and for speaking. The three also stand for being able to express our feelings. To wear your heart on your sleeve, so to speak.
These are the first three numbers – there are (logically) 9 numbers in total. Here, too, it is super helpful for me to pack the Magic Square into my body. To “embody” him, so to speak. In this way, it offers me practical orientation in my life.
Rooms and floors
In the Katonah Yoga classes we often play with the rooms and/or floors. The more often I hear something, the faster I can make connections to my own body. But the individual rooms also help me as a teacher to observe my pupils and understand their bodies. I don’t have to think anatomically – which sometimes isn’t helpful if I want to understand the whole body. I think holistically.
Folding and unfolding
The Katonah Yoga metaphor of folding and unfolding is also not to be understood anatomically, but rather: You can fold yourself from the hips like a sheet of paper. This is a possibility that we have in our body. But due to a lot of incorrect loading, sitting a lot and rounding the spine, we no longer fold so much from the hips in everyday life and also in yoga – but from the lower back.
Folding and unfolding should bring us back to effortlessness. That we don’t have to do so much muscular work. And when we then experience this, when we feel (often through years of practice) the difference between an effort – and then how easy it can be when we bring our body effortlessly into positions, then we also realise what effortlessness can be in our normal life and everyday life.
Dear Steffi, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your great explanations of Katonah Yoga and how you explain the metaphors. Have you got the urge to practise with Steffi? We have recorded new videos for you on our hejhej Youtube channel with Steffi at her studio This is Holy in Cologne. Have fun practising!