Thursday, November 19, 2015

What is a balanced practice?

In yoga we have forward bending asanas, back bending asanas, twists, balancing asanas, inversions. We have asanas that focus on strength, others focus on flexibility. There are combinations of all this.

For me a balanced practice is if all these different sorts of asanas are practiced almost equally. Almost. I don't think it's necessary to exercise 5 forward bending asans and 5 back bending asanas and so on..... It's also fine to focus on one day on forward bending asanas, the other day on balancing asanas. Yet in sum it shall all be balanced.

Yoga exercises the entire body almost equally if done correctly. Even the toes and the perineum get attention (Janu sirsasana B and C). The hands become stronger and get stretched in many asanas. There is even an exercise for a strong neck (setu bandhasana).

The goal is to have an evenly exercised body. This can be achieved with a balanced practice. To practice primary over decades is not a balanced practice.


My home practices are balanced. I focus on second series so to say. I practice the first half of it. I do extra asanas to prepare the deep back bending asanas like kapotasana. In comparison to all these forward bending asanas back bending was neglected in the last decade. I try to compensate this now. My practice today was painful. I took breaks when needed. One and a half hour is more than enough for me these days. My back gives me still trouble.
All doctors even sports doctors recommend moving. I do this, yet I listen to my body. I focus on what is possible and not painful. Otherwise I wait and observe what happens. Will my back be OK one day again? I don't know. However. I won't give up yoga.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Padmasana: right leg first. Really?

My goal is it to have a balanced practice. That is I don't want to focus on the legs more than on the other body parts. So many sportive activities don't challenge the body evenly. Runners get strong legs. Tennis player get the tennis arm. Body builder usually focus more on the upper body. Yet yoga has the potential to have a really balanced practice.

There are are few exceptions, exceptions that don't challenge the body evenly.

Usually the body is not 100% symmetric. Most people are right-handed. That is the right body side is stronger, the left body side is therefore weaker, yet more flexible. I always realize this when I do the twists.

It is said that one shall always take the right leg first when practicing padmasana. The reasons are the nadis. Yet what are the nadis. When searching the net one finds very different opinions. Nobody has ever seen the nadis. In the last 2 years I followed the rule: right leg first. The consequence: It's more difficult now to sit in lotus pose with left leg first. The right side and the left side of my body are no more balanced.

I'll change this again. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday I go for 'right leg first. On the other days I take the left leg first.

Lotus pose is an asana that is part of the series rather often:
1. Garbha pindasana
2. Kukkutasana
Here I'll always take right leg first. I get confused when I change this.

But when I do supta vajrasana I'll alter which leg I'll take first. When I'm alone I only sit for 5 breaths in the above pose.

In the closing sequence we have six poses with padmasana:
1. Urdhva padmasana
2. Pindasana
3. Matsyasana
4. Baddha padmasana
5. Yoga mudra
6. Padmasana

I'll alter which leg comes first.

Rules often make sense. But one can also question rules. Sometimes it's better to find the own rules, because nobody knows me better but myself.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

The counter poses

Sunday. The yoga week starts with intermediate series.

I practiced at home. It's November, yet it was like a summer day. I could open the doors to the balcony and practiced under the sun.

Not all asanas are pain free. It's difficult to get out of trikonasana i.e. I give myself support with the hands.
Most asanas are pain free, I can practice and this is indeed the good news. That I'm a bit stiff is not a surprise. To hold the counter poses longer than only one breath feels good. Often they are performed sloppily. They can relax when done with awareness and slowly. I try to find the limits and then I move on to the next asana.

My practice is shorter again. 90 min is enough. What is challenging comes first. When I focus on intermediate series, back bending comes first. I have still enough energy. I repeat asanas that are difficult, I add exercises. My wheel helps me to relax when I bend backwards. I do less , but more intensive. I don't hurry, I take time, I relax between poses when I need it.

After yoga I felt excellent. Many exercises that shall relief back pain are like asanas that I know. There are also exercises that are special back relief exercises.

Tomorrow again intermediate series. My goal is to have a balanced practice. To practice primary on Fridays is enough.

This back pain is not something that pleases me. On the other hand it seems as if I'm already used to it.

I plan to start my yoga practice at 7am tomorrow morning.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Chronic pain

A few days ago I saw a documentary about people who have chronic pain. It's shocking how many people suffer on a daily basis often for years and decades. The doctors are not educated for chronic pain. They give a prescription: pain killer. Yet in the long run this ruins the stomach, the liver, it can even lead to poisoning the body. 

After 3 months of pain one speaks of chronic pain. That is the original cause might no more exist, yet the brain has learned to have pain. 

Chronic pain can be healed. What the brain could learn, it can also unlearn. 

All doctors agree: To move is good. 
My experience: it is. 

The patients learn relaxation methods.
They also learn to focus on something else but the pain, something that is so exciting for a person that the pain is simply forgotten. This helps to unlearn to have pain. 

The patients often are advised to go to a psychologist. Stress can be a cause for pain. One can learn to handle stress. 

All the exercises that I see in books or online are often sort of asanas. So today I practiced. I was relaxed. Afterwards I had the feeling that  the pain returns. I went out and walked around. This helped me not to repeat the pain routine. I feel on my way to recovery. To practice, yet to take it easy is my advice. 90 min of yoga are enough. It needn't to be 2 hours each and every day. I avoid pain and focus on those asanas that need special attention. 

I'm looking forward to primary tomorrow. It will be a lunch practice. I AM flexible. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The power of focus

So many thoughts cross my mind.

First my life is not yet pain free. Another sports doctor agreed that it's good to move. He even recommended to work on strength. I think I do this with Ashtanga yoga. I want to go swimming and to the sauna. Yoga and swimming complement each other.

Today I practiced again. Whenever I feel pain, I avoid it. For instance utthita parsvasahita comes with pain. So I do the form while lying on the floor.

My practice is unbalanced. I focus now on back bending. Another 2 years passed away. Back bending improved, but I'm convinced it could be better. But how should it improve? 80% of my time I practice primary, that is forward bending asanas. 20% of my time is dedicated to back bending.
Back bending comes after more than one hour of practice. By then I'm usually tired and exhausted. On one very good day I checked if I could repeat laghu vajrasana. I couldn't. I was exhausted and had no will power anymore to do a tiny extra exercise.
It must be the other way round: 
The challenging asanas must come first.
80% of my time should be spent on the asanas that I want to learn and not on those I do since 12 years.

I started slowly today with focus on the breath. I was weak and stiff. I couldn't be more relaxed about this fact. Sometimes the practice must feel good, just this. The joy that I'm back on my mat overweights the discomfort from the back.

The series are not written in stone. They serve as a guide. I hope that I'll be back to the practice as usual soon. Till then, I'm creative.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Back pain - what to do?

Yesterday I read a book, that helped me a lot to understand the spine and what can cause back pain. Alone because of the simple yet profound description of the anatomy the book is valuable. Yet it has also other great tips.

Here I summarize everything that I learned from all different sources:
1. Observe yourself in daily life. How do you stand, sit? How do you pick up heavy or not so heavy things from the floor. How do you get out of bed?
- I found out that I need a desk chair. I remember when we moved I used to say: I cannot sit here. My chair has no little wheels and it has not the right height for me. To buy a new chair has now priority.
- It's a bit difficult for me to get out of bed without turning and twisting the body as we sleep under the roof. I have to find a way to get up that is not that awkward as it is now.

2. Weight: I don't only talk about the body weight here. Some times ago I bought a little shopping wagon. Since then I don't carry heavy bags anymore when I do grocery shopping. Very consequently I'll use this wagon from now on. It could also be a good idea to hang my camera over my left shoulder every other day.

3. Sean recommended to write a journal to find out what are the triggers for the pain. In my case it's when I sit too long. Perhaps I can find out more when I write a journal. That is I have to stand up and move after 30 min. And as already mentioned I need an appropriate chair.

4. The clerk of the drug store recommended Magnesium (400mg).

5. I also bought and use French brandy for my back.

6. Hot baths can relieve the pain. Next week I'll go swimming and I'll go to the sauna. Wet heat is better than dry heat.

7. I learned a lot of exercises to relief the pain. Good is to know a few of them and to apply them several times of the day as a routine for life.

8. Many recommended exercises resemble asanas. So I see no reason to stop with my yoga practice. Sean warned to do cobra pose. Perhaps I should omit the back bending asanas when in pain. But I'll surely get back to practice back bending.

9. There are different sorts of pain. The stretching discomfort how I prefer to call it is good pain. Also the burning of the muscles when working on gaining strength, yet the back pain is a bad pain that I try to avoid. That is I omit asanas that come with this pain.

10. Staying optimistic supports healing. Many people have a much more unhealthy life style than me and they got rid of the back pain, why not me? It's important to make the life style changes that I described and it's important to stick to them. Correct movement in daily life is so important.

11. To have strong abdomen is useful. I'll engage my bandhas. From now on I'll never forget this during my practice.

Please note: all the above tips are life style changes. It's OK to take pain killers to avoid that the pain becomes chronic. Yet pain killers are not a solution for long as they have side effects. One must eliminate the causes for the pain, not only the pain.

Time to step on my mat. Primary today. I'll omit sun salutations B.

Picture: My mother-in-law, 91 years old, practicing hasta padangusthasana. She rocks.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

(3) Advanced A Ashtanga Yoga practice, Kealakekua, HI with Sri K. Pattab...

Interesting video. 
It motivates me NOT to give up my goal to learn all the Ashtanga series, despite my current back pain.

Aiming for perfection is such a trap.