Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Rio, step by step

We strolled around and we saw beauty everywhere here in Rio. From our hotel we walked to the Ipemada beach. It's close to Copacabana. We walked around in the area behind the beach. Rio is international, it's a green city. Not everybody is a soccer player, we saw a lot of business people, too. Hahahaha.

So and now we are ready for some Thai food.

Don't forget to buy some books via my blog. Hahahahaha.
Later more.....I am hungry again........

Don't delay

I woke up early. This was no problem this morning, in Germany it's 5 hours later. I got a coffee from downstairs and soon I stepped on my mat.

It's good to have a time limit. The time limit shall allow having enough time for a relaxed practice, but to have a limit is good. 90 min is a good time for me. It's long enough but not too long. This morning I simply had to go on with my practice without taking breaks if I wanted to have finished second series within this time frame. Concentration is now what is improving. Not that I was very bendy this morning. After a day in the plane, where almost no movement is possible, the body is stiff. This is all not important. I practiced. I did the second series without any props. For pashasana I took the blanket under my heels and for pincha mayurasana I used the wall as a support. But this was it.

The weather is perfect here. It's a summer day, but it is not too hot.

Rio de Janeiro:

See yourself.....Rio de Janeiro, Brasil

To discover new countries often means to step out of the comfort zone. We heard horror stories before our trip. The worst was from the banker who has been in Brasil. She told me that a man was forced with a knife to put off his jeans and his shoes, because they were precious brands. He had to walk back to the hotel from Copacapana beach, dressed only with his underwear. I saw myself already walking home with my underwear from one of the beaches. When they (they?) see my underwear they want those, too, I thought. Horror stories! Crimes happen everywhere in the world. It is important not to be naiv, for sure. One has to see oneself!

My first impressions are simply great. Volleyball nets are on the beach. Young people play outside. It has not the exotic like India. It is all so familiar: traffic jam at rush hour like everywhere in the world. People speak very well English, which is very good as we do not speak Portugese. Yes, I regret this already. But so it is.
Restaurants are open, one can sit outside, laundry dries in the fresh air. People relax on benches.

Later at night we had dinner outside at the restaurant hotel with view to the sea. I had a vegetarian pizza with an orange-mango-banana drink. Yes the arrival here in this beautiful country was fantastic. Time to step on my mat.

Then we'll explore the world around us.

Rio, Brasil, arrived!

Arrived, it's love at first sight.

A bit of organisation makes the start in a new country perfect. We were picked up by a very friendly taxi driver who held up a sign with E's name. He even spoke a good English and pointed at the sightseeings of his city while he drove us to the hotel.

And here I am now, a bit hungry and tired. I am ready for a Brazilian adventure, but no more today. Tomorrow.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Last primary in my little yoga room for some time

Oh, it was an intensive primary this morning. I did full vinyasas. No breaks. No music was on either, only my deep breathing could be heard in my little warm yoga room.

Time flies. Next practice will happen in Portugal. I just got my suitcase from the storage room. It is still empty. So much is still to do. Between 8pm and 9pm I want to be in bed, as we have to get up at 3am. This is early for me, but doable. Of course. Oh, I am excited. It's very likely that this trip to Brasil remains unique.

Beside my yoga toys, I will take my PC with me. The back-up is just finished. Of course I want to return with my PC, but better to be prepared.

Time to start packing......

Who knows when I will write again, probably tomorrow, but who knows. In the meantime you are welcomed to join me on facebook (link is on the right side of the blog), or you can  reread your favourite post and share it on twitter. You can also buy one of the books I recommended.......hahahahaha.

c u soon U


For Denise: Vrksasana is not part of the Asthanga series as far as I've seen it. Vrksasana or tree pose was one of my first asana that I was introduced decades ago, it's a classic. Like in all balancing asanas, the standing leg is engaged.The foot is firm on the floor. The hips are erected. Tension is in the body that lasts from the little toe to the finger (but the body is not cramped). Bandhas help to balance as usual and an even breathing.
I think tree pose is a nice pose for children. (Caution: the foot of the bent leg does not press against the knee. It's either above the knee or below.)

A first variation that I learned was to move to the right with an exhaling, coming back to the middle with an inhaling, moving to the left with an exhaling and back. This can be done slowly or faster. The upper body remains parallel, this is the challenge. Then the pose becomes a side stretch.

Primary for me today: I want to do full vinyasa. I love the idea to start each asana from samasthithi, a neutral pose.

Feel free to join me on facebook. There is a link on the right side of the blog.

Matthew Sweeney:

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Primary on Friday

I practiced with the CD by Sharath on Friday. It is my led class so to say.

The CD gives me the focus of the day:
1. It's the correct vinyasa count. There is no time for extra breaths, also not between the asanas.

In addition:
2. The CD is so fast, that I build strength. Strength is necessary to be able to follow.
3. There is also no time for thinking like, OMG now urdhva dhanurasana. I simply do it.
4. Due to the speed my body develops heat. This makes my body soft and bendy.

Deep breathing and the correct vinyasa count are the most important points.

In the book about Guruji I read two quotes by guruji:
- "Free breathing."
- "Don't delay."

Exactly this happens when I practice with the CD.

A book recommendation:

Click and buy it, read it and become self-disciplined. Thank you.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Urdhva kukkutasana A

Urdhva kukkutasana - a view in the future:
The balancing poses become more and more demanding with each series. I had to try urdhva kukkutasana, a pose from the third series. Third series will happen in this life time, perhaps not each and every asana, but man of them. Not in the next year, but it can be that in the middle of 2012 the first asana of third series will fly to me. Hahahahaha.

The video:
I realized that it helps to balance when I press the hands in the floor. The fingers have enormous power to balance. It is also helpful to press the elbows towards each other. When the technique is correct, less strength is needed usually, but a bit of strength is needed in the arms for this pose. Bandhas are very helpful to balance and to get up again.

Back to this Friday:
I will do primary with the CD by Sharath, the entire thing. It builds strength. I need strength.

You want to see how the other asanas of the third series look like? Even the asanas of the 4th series you can seen in the book by Matthew Sweeney:

Thank you for buying your amazon products via my blog.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Ashley wished this pose: tree pose or vrksasana. With an exhaling one can go to the right, with the inhaling one can go to the middle again and with the next exhaling one can go to the left side. The upper body remains parallel. It's a side stretch, a balancing pose.

Thinking and balancing poses

Thinking and balancing poses: Sometimes when I practice utthita parsvasahita in a led class I really stand stable, I am like a statue of porcelaine. Then a thought comes up: Oh, today it is good. .........Then it WAS good, because a thougth, even a positive one usually makes me wobbling.
Best is to observe the breath and to engage the muscles including the bandhas. To observe the breath means not thinking I observe the breath. Simply listening to it, is it. The eyes are calm, they do not move or look around. An imagined point to look at helps to keep them calm. When applying these techniques  there is a chance that a pose can become stable.

Balancing poses and fear:
Sometimes fear is felt when doing balancing poses. Let's have a closer look at it, what can happen:
1. It is possible to wobble. Sometimes this drives me crazy. In the next second I must laugh about myself.
2. You can fall. I once fell out of sirsasana. Roll. Roll. Then it's likely that you are a bit shocked, but no injuries happen. I once had a bruise from falling out of a pose. I survived it. Be courageous. Again and again.

Fear is a thought that needn't accord with reality.
Applying the correct techniques helps to perform balancing asanas.

My current challenging balancing pose: pincha mayurasana. Next step will be to try it in the middle of the room and not against the wall (without blocks).

On my facebook page, I found two wonderful comments on balancing. I want to share it here:
Bettina wrote: my favourite balance pose ? life itself...
Quentin Hardage wrote: The samasthithi asana cultivates a balanced stance towards the world. From samasthithi, all other standing postures or asana are practiced. The Beginning and the Last. Alpha Omega.

Feel free to join the side on facebook, too. You can find a link on the right side of this blog.

Picture: It's a pose that is not part of the Asthanga series. At least I have not found it yet. In the book "Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha" by Swami Satyananda Saraswati I found the name of this asana: pada angushthasana. In the Ashtanga system this pose looks different. However. It's a nice balancing pose, especially in the beginning. If one falls one does not fall from high.

A yoga book (not Ashtanga):

Thank you for buying your amazon products via this blog.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ubbaya padangusthasana

I heard rather late about it. To come up from  halasana to ubbaya padangusthasana shall happen with straight legs. This makes this sitting asana to a balancing pose.
The usual suspicions help:
1. Correct breathing: Come up with inhaling
2. Engage the bandhas.
3. Dristhi: look upwards to the toes and stretch the body.
4. What helps me is that I stretch the feet upwards. I can balance out the pose with these little movements of my feet.

A trick: I have learned this by M, my yoga teacher here. When you don't manage it to come up with straight legs, put a very soft blanket on your mat and try it on this blanket. Then the rolling becomes slow motion. It's easier to learn the timing (matching the breath with the movement) when coming up slower.

To learn coming up with straight legs with a soft blanket on the mat is especially helpful for the next pose urdhva mukha paschimottanasana.

What else: Tim Miller, yes, THE Tim Miller, the one who has his studio on Encititas, the one who was interviewed in the book about Guruji about his experiences with P. Jois, India, and the practice, has started a blog. Here is the link.

If you like, join me on facebook. The link is on the right side of this blog. Thank you.


All yogis/yoginis need that book.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Full vinyasa

I read another chapter in the book about guruji. This time it was Brad Ramsey who told me his story. I can only touch some points.

Now it is official.  To practice full vinyasas was the original teaching. Full vinyasa means to start the asanas of the middle parts of the Asthanga series from samastithi, again and again. Samastithi is the starting point. This practice was given up because too many people came to Mysore, India. One had to find a solution to manage these masses of practitioners. The practice had to become shorter to allow more people to practice every day in the morning. To practice half vinyasas was a solution and this surely makes the practice shorter.

This is for me not a reason not to practice full vinyasa when I am alone and when I have plenty of time.
1. Doing full vinyasa feels better!!!!
2. It builds the necessary strength.

This is also why baddha konasana C is omitted (in the CD by Sharath i.e.) and why urdhva dhanursana was added (to make it more demanding to get to second series). One had to manage all these people and one wanted to allow as much people as possible to practice during a limited time. Hundreds of people every day must be organised! Rules are needed, I understand this.

I remember that I was confused in the beginning, when I studied the book "Yoga mala" by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. I already knew that it was considered important to follow exactly the rules of the system, but the yoga mala described the asanas/vinyasa differently than what I was doing. I practiced half vinyasas in classes, means coming to a sitting position again and again.
It feels so good to stretch the body upwards between all these forward bending asanas of the first series.
Try it. Try full vinyasas. Add it bit by bit.

Brad Ramsey also talked about the importance of food, page 57:
" You grow into your diet like you grow into your practice."
It is so true, this practice has the potential to guide the practitioners also in other parts of life.

Other keywords were devotion, but read yourself:

Thank you for buying your amazon products via my blog.

PS: This week I write about balancing.
Feel free to join me on facebook and publish one of your favourite balancing asana. Thank you.
You find the link on the right side of this blog.

Standing asanas are balancing asanas

The standing asanas are balancing asanas. 

The most challenging ones for me are utthita hasta padangusthasana (pic 1), utthita parsvasahita (pic 2) and utthita eka padasana (both hands an the hips, one leg is stretched forward).

Let's get grounded, let's press the feet in the floor, let's engage our muscles (leg muscles, bandhas).

Balancing poses are easier when I have strength. They are easier when I apply the correct technique, then I need less strength.

Picture 1: It is possible to bring up the leg stretched. I bend it first, grap the outer side (it's classic to hold the toe) and then I stretch it. When I bend it first I can bring the leg a bit higher. In India they consisted that the nose touched the leg. That's why I always do it that way.
I hold the outer side of the foot at home because
- this gives me more stability
- it is as if it's easier for me to keep the hips parallel
- before the last post I can grap the feet with both hands and can pull it to my body. Important! I do not have to change how I hold my foot.
(In classses I grap the toe.)

Picture 2: With an even inhaling the upper body comes up and with the next exhaling the leg goes to the one side, the head turns to the other side. Especially in this pose dristi (the side) helps to balance. Don't move the eyes. Look at one point. Ignore everything else, especially the other yogis and yoginis who are wobbling and falling out of this pose. Be a lonesome wolf, only you and your asana counts, nothing else. The breath is deep. I imagine that the breath goes up to the sky when I inhale and it goes down to the floor, through my body that is like a pipeline made of metal. The breath holds me. The bandhas give me stability, the usual suspicious.

Picture3: After 5 breaths I bring the leg back to the middle, each movement brings the danger to wobble. Move slow, breath remains evenly Then I grasp my feet with both hands and I pull it to my upper body (standing split) with a long inhaling.

Utthita eka padasana: Last but not least both hands go to the hips, one leg is stretched forward. This is now a challenge to hold the leg. Don't give up, become stubborn, dedicate it , curse, what ever you might think, but hold, hold it, hold this asana. To engage the muscles is it and they start burning. This shapes the body. This is for the beauty I think, and hold the pose for another deep breath.

Next side, left leg.

These 3 asanas are the reasons why I like to practice with the CD by Sharath when I practice the standing asanas. I hold the asanas longer than when I practice on my own.

More than in other asanas, the dristi helps to balance and visualisation. Imagine your body as a statue. I imagine myself as a pipeline for the breath.
In small rooms it is easier for me to be stable. It is as if the walls hold me. I see how important thoughts and psychological factors are.

I am curious: What makes your asanas stable?

Stay tuned: Tomorrow comes a video about a sitting balancing asana? What? Sitting and balancing?
See you tomorrow! :)


Thank you for buying your amazon products via my blog.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bakasana and jump back

A yogini friend asked me:
Hi Ursula,

can you jump back from Bakasana to Chaturanga? If yes, you could do me a really great favor if you post a video. I've been practising this since I don't know when and it simply does not happen. In videos it always looks so easy but everytime I try my legs just won't lift. Any video showing this I watch one hundred times hoping to discover the secret. Since it hasn't happened yet, it would be great to have another one!

My video and some explanations, I hope it helps.
I tried to exaggerate a bit.
1. First I go in the pose with an inhaling. I try to come up with both feet at the same time.
2. Then I stay in the pose for some breath.
3. I prepare the jumping: I exhale and bow my arms a bit more. With the next inhaling (very strong and fast) I stretch my arms again and give my legs the kick to fly back. The legs of course support it and I stretch them as fast as possible. I inhale fast and intensively and throw my legs upwards like a rocket. In fact they fly back, but I imagine and I try to bring them up. Important is that the arms help, the breathing helps and the legs themselves really fly upwards/backwards with all your power.
4. Exhaling you go down to chaturanga dandasana.
5. Upward facing dog......and so on, and so on.

I am not very good at it, but yeah perhaps it's a starting point for you, too. Please let me know if it helped.
Good luck.


This week I want to write about balancing.
Bakasana was my first pose that I experienced as a balancing pose. The challenges grow with the practice:
1. First it is nice to be in that pose with almost stretched arms.
2. The next step is to jump back into chaturanga dandasana.
3. In the second series bakasana B is learned. That means that one jumps into that pose from downward facing dog. I am working on this.
4. And finally it is possible (I have seen this) to go from bakasana to handstand.

For points are crucial. When I consider those  four points, my balancing asana becomes stable.
1. It's the breath, the deep even breath.
2. Engaging the bandhas and muscles is important. In the above pose I lift the lower legs to the thighs in addition.
3. The body parts that touch the floor really press against the floor. The fingers can develop enormous strength. Also the feet give stability to the pose when I press them against the floor below me. It is a bit as if I want to move the earth below me.
 4. Visualization helps. Especially when I do standing balancing asanas I imagine my body as a statue, this helps a lot to be stable.

Trick for the above pose: Turn your hands a bit inside...:)

I played around a bit today. It was good. Even some videos are ready for publishing. It's all coming in this week. So stay tuned.

If you like you can "like" this blog on facebook. There is a link on the right side.

It's time to read another chapter in the book Guruji:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lino Miele and my Ashtanga practice this afternoon

Before practicing I read in The book about Guruji (see below). This time I opened the chapter by Lino Miele, the Italian yogi.

Lino Miele reminded me that the breath is the most important ingredient of this practice, then the movement and to match the breathing with the movements. Focusing on the breath calms the mind.

Interesting was also what Lino Miele wrote about dristhis, page 370: "It has to do with directing the energy, moving the energy. I always felt that his (gurujis) teaching was subtle and he was always working on that focus of moving energy and directing your attention and focus to certain things.

My practice had focus this early afternoon. I tried to practice according to the correct vinyasa counting. When doing marichyasana C I hooked the fingers first, then when I inhaled the second time I grasped the wrist. This is a good approach.
For marichyasana D I need some more breaths.
As I didn't take any breaks my body had developed a lot of heat. That's why I was really bendy today.

I didn't hesitate for a long time and pushed myself into urdhva dhanurasana, 3 times. Wow, that was it.
I set the timer for 2 min when I did sirsasana, but I couldn't hold the pose so long. Why ever. It seemed so incredible long these two minutes. Next time it will be possible.

Picture: urdhva mukha paschimottanasana

The book about Guruji:

This book will accompany me for a while, this is for sure. It's full of wisdom of yogis and yoginis who practice often 30 years. A lot of background information can be found in that book.
Thank you for buying it via my blog.

Sunday, my yoga week begins

It's Sunday and my yoga week begins with primary. I intend to do full vinyasa. 20 asanas are in the middle part of the first series.

There are a few factors that influence the practice:
1. One is if I had enough sleep and if I feel well-rested. I do.
2. Another one is the attitude: to think the practice is exhausting also makes it exhausting. To think it is all doable will allow much more.
3. Visualisation can improve the practice.
4. Last but not least food has an immense impact and not only because it has an influence on the weight. Last week, E was on a business trip, I ate the cheese that I found in the fridge. I must save money, I thought, I can eat what I have here. I felt so heavy afterwards. It was as if I had stones in my stomach. Once the body is used to light food the difference between heavy food and light food is even felt more. It would have been better if I went grocery shopping to have some salad. This Saturday I prepared a salad and it was so good. Today I will prepare something for ourselves again. It's so worth it. I am a bit bored about the food topic, I admit it, but it is so part of the practice. It's a crucial factor: vegan food is the solution.

Here is the recipe for the salad.

Feel free to join me on facebook. You'll find a link on the right side of this blog.

Breaking the food seduction (this book is good!):

Thank you for buying your amazon products via my blog.


This was much for a yogini who focuses almost the entire day on her even deep breath.
The movie started with an almost naked woman (Angelina Jolie), soaked in blood, tortured by Asian people (the enemies). Do the Americans still have so clear enemy pictures, I wondered. If this is the beginning, was my next thought, what else will still come.......

With swollen red eyes she was soon ushered out of this prison. Sigh. We saw a very self-controlled woman, walking down a street, surrounded by men in uniforms. Her husband awaited her at the end of the street.

It was not a movie that surprised me. The hero was not a white man this time, but a white woman. Yes, I liked it. I could identify, me too I like to save the world.
Beside this usually it bores me when I know in the beginning of the film how it will end. The hero will win, I knew it from the first second on and so it was. He, I mean she was set free. And this was pure justice. No, no illusions, this is not how it is in reality. Only the movie industry wants to make believe that finally justice wins. And perhaps the spectators want to see this. So in the end I was calmed down despite the numerous killed people. Good is good and bad is bad. The goods will win and the bad ones will be punished. Yes!

All this running away and shooting and fights made my heart beat faster, but I found it not realistic. No way.

The attempt to make  a machine out of human beings fails. Not even secret services accomplishes this with their brutal  training. This was the part I liked. How Angelina Jolie played when she saw that her husband whom she loved was killed in front of her eyes. He was shot. No, she didn't jump on him, kissed him a very last time, hugged him, no nothing of this kind. It could be scarcely felt but it was there. And it could be felt by everybody: Now she is sad, this is forever, she was absolutely controlled, but she expressed feelings. In her face it could be seen. No movement, nothing, but it was present this mourning. That was great, how Angelina Jolie played this.

First the Russian president should be killed, then the American, the end of the world was close, nuclear war. But don't ask me why all this. I didn't get it.

The name "Salt",  was a perfect name for the movie, for this woman.
Angelina Jolie is a strong woman. OMG.

At the end I turned my head to E and I asked him: "Did you like it?"
He: "Yes."
Me: "Why did you like it?"
He: "Action!"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Are we Ashtangis yoga wimps nowadays?

1. I just read in the book about Guruji (see below) in the chapter of Mark and Joanne Darby that it was custom to do first and second series in a row those days. Practices could last up to 3 hours.

2. Headstand was done for 1 hour. To be fifteen minutes in headstand would be enough for me. With the help of my timer I will try this. It seems possible. Not always, but sometimes I stand so balanced that this pose is relaxing .

3. Poses were held for 8 breaths. It's 5 today.

4. To practice twice a day was not something special, 7 days a week of course. (Source? I must have read this in another chapter.)

To build strength is important to be able to perform this yoga. This is for sure.

Yep, I am an Ashtanga yoga wimp, I enjoy my day off.


Led class on Friday

I practiced 2 times in a row with the CD by Sharath. Friday is the classic led class day, but I had switched on the CD also on Thursday. I know and I realize it already, it becomes easier the more often I practice with it. (Led class in this post means I practice at home alone with a CD)

Why I love this CD:
1. I do the correct vinyasas with it.
2. It is so fast that it gives no room for much thinking. Usually when I practice alone and urdhva dhanurasana comes next, I lie on the floor and think: "OMG, now this asana, it will be difficult after all the forward bending asanas." With the CD there is no room for this. I push myself up. And done. Three times, for 5 breaths each time.
3. Some asanas I hold longer with the CD, this gives strength. This is utthita hasta padangusthasana, utthita parsvasahita, utthita eka padasana, but also sirsasana i.e.
4. I go and have to go faster into an asana. For marichyasana C I have found a trick to be faster. I hook the fingers first. Then I am in this asana with the first breath. With the second breath I can grap the wrist.
5. Nothing redundant is spoken. That's sooooooo good because this is calming, no additional distraction.
6. Sharaths voice is conseqent and soft at the same time, it's a pleasure to listen to it.
7. The speed is good, it's a variation to my more slower practice and it gives strength.
8. As this CD is so challenging I sweat a lot and this makes my body really bendy. The body doesn't cool down in these little breaks that I do, when I practice alone.

Ah, this CD will help me to develop the necessary strength that I need for the second series.
It can also help you to develop a home practice.

Yesterday I read again in the book about Gurujk. I learned that David Williams i.e. practiced 2 times a day with no breaks during the week.
I have my day off today. And on Sunday  will start with primary. I need that additional time for chores and tasks at my desk.

Guruji - the book: Each time when I'm reading a new chapter, I am very touched, also what I read between the lines. There is so much thankfulness expressed. Thankfulness because the yogis/yoginis could learn this Ashtanga yoga system and that they met Sri K.Pattabhi Jois. It is life changing. Tim Miller  brought it to the point. Even when the practice is only done for fitness reasons it will change the life for the better. But the pratice has the potential for much more.

Yep, it is already a classic this book: Buy it (best via my blog, thank you) and read it. You will love it:

Friday, August 20, 2010


I am learning by looking at my pictures and watching my videos. I realize that I have sometimes another drishti than it is supposed to be. Some times ago I was searching in my books for the dirshtis and I found out that not always the authors have the same opinion where the drishti is, where to look at and so I made my own philosophy: mainly the eyes don't move much and look in one direction, I thought.
But what I see is that the direction of the drishti can help to perform the asana correctly. Yesterday I took a picture of marichyasana C and I looked at my nose. First I thought: Yes I have only 20 sec to get into that asana, but let's face it, the eyes don't need much time to look in the correct direction. The correct direction for marichyasana C is the side. I think this is also a good reminder for the performance of this asana: It is always stretching upwards looking straight ahead (not down), then twisting.

To keep the eyes calm has an influence on the mind. When we are thinking the eyes are moving (rapid eye movements). It can also be observed when people talk. When we are dreaming the eyes move, too. To keep the eyes calm also keeps the mind calm. That's why the dristhis have an importance. It helps to be focused.

Some yogis/yoginis close the eyes when they practice. That's not how it is supposed to be. Only in the above asana, balasana, the eyes are closed. It is done after sirsasana.
Also when sitting in padmasana (lotus pose) at the end of the series the eyes are not closed. Dristi is nasagrai, the nose.

As an exercise we once closed the eyes in a class while doing the sun salutation. Balancing becomes a challenge then. Give it a try when you want to play around a bit. This is not classic Ashtanga of course.

Every evening I read a chapter in the book by Guruji. I am a bit sad that I missed the first years. I could have known it, I could have known it, I think, but I haven't heard about Ashtanga at all 10 or even 20 years ago.

My reference book for dristhis is the book by P. Jois and Lino Miele "Astanga:

The eight dristis (gazing direction):
1. Nose - nasagrai dristi
2. upwards - urdhva dristi
3. third eye - ajna chakra dristi
4. hand - hasagrai dristi
5. thumbs - angustha madyai dristi
6. right or left side - parsva dristi
7. navel - nabi dristi
8. foot - padayoragrai dristi

I quote Matthew Sweeney "Asthanga yoga, as it is": page 12:" By keeping the gaze to the traditional dristi, pratyahare or withdrawal of the mind from external judgement  is cultivated.........Stay in contact with the here and now of bodily awareness, rather than constantly looking (and judging) on the outside."

I admit when I am in classes, I do not look around much nevertheless I realize how fellow yogis/yoginis practice. I am learning from the practices of others for my own practice.

Yep I will learn the sanskrit names of the dristis, it's an exercise for the mind, too.

Matthew Sweeney "Ashanga yoga as it is":

Thursday, August 19, 2010


This morning I watched a video that a friend had uploaded on her blog. It showed Sri K. Patthabi Jois giving a led class to four men. It was part of third series. The speed astonished me again. Speed is programme.

Speed, yes, why so fast? Because it does not allow thinking. Focusing on the breath is all what is possible.  Focusing on what is here and now is the intention and not where to have lunch later or how to make money online.
I also read in the book about Guruji that yogis/yoginis  often have fears practicing certain asanas. Not to give time for thinking makes yoginis often practicing asanas they wouldn't be able to do if they were thinking before doing it. To go from handstand into urdhva dhanurasana is i.e. such a pose. When I did it the first time my teacher M didn't tell me what we were doing. Suddenly I was in urdhva dhanurasana. Wow, was I shocked afterwards, but the looping was done already.

This morning I switched on the CD by Sharath. I didn't switch it off after the standing sequence. Crazy me. I had so to say a sweaty led class. Speedy it was, sweaty it was, super it was. Not much thinking happened, not even blog titles came up. I moved, I practiced, I breathed deeply, that was it.

There are a few real challenges when I do primary. I need too much time to get into marichysana C and D. The same is the case for supta kurmasana.

I know some readers have an interest in this topic too: my weight. 2 kilos too much for the time being. 2 kilos less would make this practice, even primary so much easier. Perhaps then I would be able to go into the above asana (marichysana A) within one exhaling. Because of my weight I wear dark yoga clothes. This makes me look slimmer. (Just a joke!!!!) I feel fantastic, but Ashtanga yoga requires a certain commitment to the life style: Early to bed, early up, healthy food.

Afterwards I took a hot bath. I am so into bathing lately. It relaxed all my muscles.


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Primary today

...and I am glad. Three times a week I exercise the asanas of the second series and they are so demanding. I go from construction to construction. That's how I feel. Primary is much more familiar to my body.

I just counted the number of asanas of the first series:
1. Primary series has 20 asanas in the middle part.
2. Second series has 27 asanas in the middle part.

The mental aspects of the practices come into my mind. To focus on the breath and the correct vinyasa is the one focus as usual. But it is also a mental exercise to practice from the beginning to the end without being distracted, without making these little breaks off the mat.

I will start my practice again with the CD by Sharath. Then I want to do full vinyasas. This is good for the muscles. And I need muscles and strength for second series. The closing sequence I will do with the CD again. Then I hold the asanas longer. Usually I hurry a bit through the last asanas (not good, hahahahaha).

Back bending gets worse without adjustments. Visualization shall help me, the last anchor, just to imagine it.

Time to begin: 99% practice, 1% theory.

Picture: Marichyasana A

(Only 12 days and then we'll fly to Brasil. E thinks it is not necessary that I buy a James Bond bikini for myself for our trip. Hahahaha.)

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Currently reading: Guruji

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Saturdays off??????

Interesting, interesting. I appreciate nowadays that I take a day off from yoga each week. It is the Saturday. My practices are very intensive during the week.
This was not always the case and then I felt the urge to practice on Saturdays as I had a lot of time during the weekend (no job).
During this day off, I have the feeling as if
1. my body adopts what it was learning during the week. It recovers from the effort.
2. Also motivation remains on a high level.
3. I have a bit more time for all the other things that have to be done, too. This reduces the stress level, too.
I have not the feeling that my body becomes too stiff due to one day off, even though the day off can be felt during the next practice. I usually start with primary again, it is "modester" than second series.

Not to practice on Saturdays is somehow a holy ritual in the community. When I informed yoginis that I practiced on Saturday during my stay in Gokulam and that I couldn't make an appointment during the morning hours, some didn't get it. But Saraswati had offered her led classes on Saturdays. Why not. The believe had developped in the community that Saturday is a day off and this is holy and every yogi/yogini has to respect this. What shall not be, also cannot be.

Yesterday I read the story behind this rule. Hahahaha. Yes, the book "Guruji" (see below) is great. I read the chapter with Nancy Gilgoff who was one of the first, or even the first woman who went to Mysore 30 years ago to learn Ashtanga yoga from P. Jois. That years P. Jois taught every day!!!! almost the entire day with a break of 2 hours in the afternoon. His family wanted to see him, too and so he stopped teaching on Saturdays. Yes. This is the reason why yogis/yoginis do not practice on Saturdays and not because it is tradition, written down on leaves, necessary for the body, and and and.........

Now I also know why the CD by Sharath is so fast........

This book gives me more information that I thought I could get. I learn how Ashtanga yoga was taught 30 years ago, how it was in India that time and much much more.

Picture: It shows how I approach gomukhasana. It is not how it is supposed to be. Finally one has to sit and balance the body on the calves and I sit between my legs so far. But this is my starting point.


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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Karandavasana, an approach

Karandavasana is a balancing pose:
Without the adjustments of a teacher it is difficult to practice the correct form of this asana.
As I am not able to fold my legs into padmasana when I do pincha mayurasana I had to find an approach. My yoga teacher M taught me an alternative.
Till now I even do pincha mayurasana close to a wall. So this is the first step in order to be able to do karandavasana: Pincha mayurasna must be stable in the middle of the room.

The video above shows one exercise that I do to approach karandavasana.

Next steps:
1. I will try to come up with straight legs.
2. I want to remain for five breaths when my legs are on my arms. This makes it more difficult to come up again.

Another exercises, that I do:
1. I go into sirsasana and then try to lift up my head and my body  into pincha mayurasana.

Second series is on the schedule today. I'm looking forward to it. Only through practice we learn to master an asana.

Matthew Sweeney:

Monday, August 16, 2010

From garbha pindasana to kukkutasana

Garbha pindasana is one of the four core poses (beside marichyasana D, kurmasana and baddha konasana), perhaps because so many yogis and yoginis struggle with this pose. I remember that I did a variation in the beginning I wrapped my arms around my legs. That I had to role I didn't know. Instead of kukkutasana, I lifted my body up into utpluthih.

This asana needs a bit of preparation. when I know that I practice primary:
- Either I put lotion  on my skin after the shower before my practice,
- or I put yoga trousers on that last till my ankles, so that my arms can slide easily.

Of course, this pose is not possible if you are not able to sit in lotus pose.

As this asana was so difficult for me even though lotus pose was easy, I studied it closer and I found out that when I put the first leg in the lotus position, I have still a lot of room for my arm to stretch it through. Please check it. Only when I put the second (glad that we have only 2 legs) leg in position this space is covered and closed. This is why I lift up the second leg when I put my first arm through the legs. If you circle the arm it becomes easier to stretch it through the little space. It is easier if you do not put it through straight but in the left direction.
I am conscious that it is more elegant not to help the left arm with the right hand to get through and to get to the face, but I don't care. I am glad when both arms hands reach the face.
The middle fingers are supposed to close the ears.

I don't want to use water to allow my arms to slide through the legs. It would be another prop. To use water  interrupts the flow.

When doing the CD by Sharath I know that I must be a bit faster than I am. But I catch up when I roll.

The CD tells me that I have to roll 5 times. I role much more often I think 7 times or so. This has changed also. In earlier times one rolled a few more times. I have a certain ambition to role only 5 times. More important is that you come up to a sitting position, that you balance the body between inhaling and exhaling. There is this little pause between the 2 breaths and there is exactly where I balance. I can do this. In the video I was a bit confused because I was too close to the window.

To come up into kukkutasana usually is supposed to be done with an inhaling. This helps when you breathe correctly. And use the bandhas. I also think of moving the body upwards and not forwards. The bandhas help to balance. As usual!

The next step can be to to jump backward when the pose is done and to open the legs while flying back. I don't work on this. I have other constructions.

It's not my favourite asana, but I don't omit it anymore. Have fun. This IS a fun asana with all the rolling.

Matthew Sweeney:

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Ashtanga yoga: changes in the long run

What can be the changes  in the long run when we practice Ashtanga yoga?
Does Ashtanga yoga make us peacefully?
1. We can injure ourselves when we are aggressive towards ourselves. To be overzealous (and Ashtanga yogis/yoginis are often ambitious people (my experience)) often does not bring the wished effect, sometimes the opposite happens and we injure ourselves when we want too much, too fast. This can lead to a more attentive practice. The insight make arise that it makes more sense to practice daily  than to overdo here and then.
2. Another effect in the long run (after 15 years or so) can be that we experience on a daily basis that it goes always up or down. This is so in life too. To experience this can cause that a relaxed attitude towards the practice and life arises. Not to fight against nature of life, not to want it different as it is because this is not possible can the a consequence in the long run.

Hahahaha, I am not at all sure if this is true what I wrote down. Sure is I got more flexible and stronger.

Picture: tiriang eka mukha pada paschimottanasana (right and left side).

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Matthew Sweeney: In the long run you need this book by Matthew........thanks for buying it via my blog.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Ashtanga yoga and props

1. Traditional Ashtanga:
In classic or traditional Ashtanga no props are used, except a sticky mat and a blanket. In India I saw that yogis/yoginis put a blanket on their sticky mats when practicing the middle part of a series. It is because of the sweat, I learned. OK, I don't do it. I don't sweat so much and I am not sliding on my mats.
But that's it. No further props are used.

2. Ashtanga yoga with a twist:
- In Mysore classes there is a teacher walking around, giving adjustments, especially when a yogi/yogini is practicing one of the challenging asanas like karandavasana. But some classes are too croweded. It can be very helpful to use props even in classes, when adjustments cannot be given each time.
- Especially when practicing alone at home it is very helpful in order to learn an asana.

Props are: blankets, straps, blocks, a wall, even weights.

* When I do primary I often use a strap when doing urdhva dhanurasana. I put it around my thighs to keep them parallel. It shall help me to opne the front.
* When I do second series I need more support as I am learning many asanas.
I use a blanket under my heels when I do pashasana (see picture)
I use the wall when I practice kapotasana.
I use a strap when I practice tittibhasana B, because my fingers cannot always hook behind my back.
I use a block and a strap when I practice pincha mayurasana. The block is behind my hands, the strap around my upper arms to keep the arms parallel.
I use the wall when I do exercises for karandavasana (there is no pic available yet).

The goal is to do the series without additional help, except a sticky mat. Till then I appreciate to have an approach to asanas, that helps.

I want to buy weights. I will use them when I arch back. It shall help me to open my upper body. The back bending asanas like kapotasana need special attention.

Matthew Sweeney:

I did not know that this book is available on amazon. It is. This is the book that is always on my sofa. It is one of the best, if not the best.
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Friday, August 13, 2010

Led class with the CD by Sharath

At about 4 pm I stepped on my mat and practiced. (I had been very busy this morning with chores). I had switched on the CD by Sharath. Oh, oh, oh, it's so good to be led through primary, and it is challenging.

My recommendations for beginners especially, but it is also good for every yogi/yogini:
1. Buy this CD as soon as possible and practice at least once a week at home with this CD. First do only the surya namaskaras A. Add soon the surya namaskara Bs and then slowly one asana after the next. That way it is possible to build strength without feeling overwhelmed.
2. The CD also helps to establish a home practice.
3. It is a perfect led class when it is not possible to go to a class.

I sweated. I gave me a little break at navasana. I did it only once. But I did urdhva dhanurasana as long as counted. The same is true for sirsasana. Wow, I feel super good now.

(The CD is available here. I get no commission there, nevertheless it is the best, and I have everthing. Hahahaha)

Sharath Rangaswamy:

Led class on Friday

Friday: Friday is led class on the schedule. Sharath will led me through my practice. His CD is wonderful.

It's already 10:00 am, I am still busy with all the chores here that have to be done. It will be an early afternoon practice after a day off. One day off is OK.

Primary is easier for me since I practice second series. I'm looking forward to my practice.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Le concert

Le concert, what a great French movie. You miss something when you don't watch it.


How can a human being (me) be so tired!!!!

Have I done anything today, I just wondered? But I have. I cleaned under the sink, I did the laundry, went grocery shopping, updated this blog. I had also fun during lunch time as I met my friend C at an Indian restaurant. But this does not count as "work". This was it. Energy level is low today. I slept in the afternoon, so deeply. I was in half-sleep when I realized that my head was too long on my arm and it started hurting. I was too lazy to alter the position till the body finally moved from alone on the back. So lazy I was.
I also do not want to improve my blog today, I don't want to think about a yoga related topic and I don't want to make an exciting story out of it. I only want to write what the fingers produce when they do their finger ballet on the keyboard.

Yes, I will dress something nice when I'll go to the theatres with E that night. We want to see "The concert". Nice means I'll put on my sexy blue jeans a tiny pitsy black top and a black jacket, jewellery of course, pearls, arm watch, emerald ring from my grandma.

It was a lazy day, not a prolific one, and it is almost Friday and nothing is done. Time runs through my fingers as if it is a wild river that carries me away. No time to stop from time to time. There is not the slightest possibility to hold on the time, not even for a short while. Damned and life is limited. So much is still to do, so much is still to enjoy. Why am I not in a hurry. How can I be so lazy, so tired facing these facts. No matter if I am active or inactive, time runs.

Time to dress..........

The father of today's yoga: Krishnamacharya

I returned from the kitchen with my second cup of coffee, when this little window opened at the facebook page. It was Ram, an Indian man, student of yoga and blogger.

Ram: Hi
Me: Hi

We conversed about yoga and about Krishnamacharya. Perhaps it interests you as well, I copied and pasted parts of the dialogue:

Ram: had his guru (Krishnamacharya's guru) not accepted the guru dakshina we wouldn't have learned yoga

Me: interesting
Ram:do u understand guru dakshina?
Me: no
Ram: well... there was a traditon in India that no fee used to be charge for teaching a student, after completing the course student used to offer anything the guru has asked to it's an offering by a student to a teacher for the knowledge he shared
Me: ok
Ram: guru ram mohan bramhachari, the guru of krishnamacharya, do you what he asked as guru dakshina?
Me: no, curious now
Ram: he asked krishnamacharya to go home and settle with marriage and teach yoga to common people
Me: oh
Ram: obeying his orders he came back home and started teaching to the commons earlier yoga was taught only to sadhus and sages
Me: very succesful he was this is a great story would you not like to share this as a guest blogger on my blog
Ram: that is the reason why i titled my blog as the father of modern yoga
Ram: I rate krishnamacharya as the root of a trunk where as his students bks iyengar, pattabhi jois, indira devi, desikachar etc who are responsible for popularity of yoga in the west as branches of the deep rooted trunk

Please see also comments.

(Remarks: I am not sure now who had the idea of teaching yoga to ordinary people like me and you: Krishnamacharya or the guru of Krishnamacharya. Perhaps they have had a discussion over a glass of chai? However, the results are amazing. Who does not yoga nowadays??? What a gift for us all!!!!!!!!!)

Picture: Krishnamacharya practicing yoga, scanned from the following book:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ha ha, I don't believe it.

We shooed yogini B out of bed when we (yogini E and myself) arrived. How funny. She mumbled something about "long night" and "wine tasting". There is a life off the mat. Hahahaha.

We put the table aside and a chair and then we had plenty of space for our three mats. We chanted together and started practicing.
It was the day of second series for myself. In the middle of my committed practice suddenly I felt a sharp pain at my index finger. It was as if a mosquito had bitten me. This couldn't be possible. I had to look, it confused me, my focus wandered from the breath and my bandhas to this index finger. I saw a blue spot. No wound could be seen, but this blue that looked like a bruise. Attentive as my yoginis are they cared for me at once. What happened, they asked me. To hold the finger under cold water was the tip. I did it, it cooled my finger and I could go on with my practice. I know the body heals itself. Movement is good, I thought. The rest of the practice was intensive again.
It is amazing what influence a group of yoginis has: my practice was awesome, sweaty, simply fantastic.

Tomorrow primary again at home.

Gregor Maehle:

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Ashtanga yoga with yoginis

Yogini B has invited us yoginis to practice with her at her house. That's something. Not everybody has time. Yogini E will come and me. With yogini E, yogini B and myself I can be sure that I will have a most intensive practice this morning. It's also good that I have to leave my cosy home and that we meet already in the morning. Then my practice will be finished before 12 o'clock which I appreciate. I have so many plans, but when I am at home I tend to dawdle. This meeting disciplines me, it's a bit as if I have work in a most positive interpretation.

Picture: It's the restaurant round the corner. E and myself had a drink there after our evening walk yesterday.

I will take my block with me. I need it for pincha mayurasana. Ah, Ashtanga yoga and props, is another topic. It will come soon.........


Click and buy. Thank you.
This is a book btw that I appreciate a lot. A lot of good tips are in it how to make myself move to action. That's it, to go from thinking to action: now.