Saturday, February 18, 2012

What influences our Ashtanga yoga practice.

1. Anatomy: We work with our bodies when we practice Ashtanga yoga. It has an influence on our practice if we've long arms and legs or short arms or legs. Some poses are easier to perform for some bodies. To have it easy needn't be an advantage. One can be bored too fast, i.e.
2. Age: I always did yoga (classic hatha yoga, 12 poses) and  Aikido for 5 years. I used to practice on a daily basis. I know the difference. I'll turn 53 this year. I still experience that my practice progresses. I still get stronger and more flexible. The difference: it's a much slower process, much slower. I compensate this via a daily practice and a lot of passion for this exercise. Nevertheless age is a given factor. Not every person at the same age has the same conditions, some are biologically older, some younger.
3. Attitude: We all have learned how to approach new things. We all have formed an opinion about ourselves (consciously or unconsciously). If I think something is possible or not has an influence. It seems to me that an attitude is easier to change than the anatomy. lol. In some cases this might not be true.
4. Past: It plays a role if I have experience in sports or not. Some people have developed body feeling others not.

The daily ups and downs might be influenced by what we eat, our stress level, our moods, our other activities (sitting in an office all day long, doing marathons).
Other more stable factors like age, attitude, anatomy, past are always an influence, too. 

Why this list?
It's helpful to face these factors when we're on the mat. Not as a limiting factor, but as a factor to consider:
- When the arms are not so long it can lead to the understanding that patience is necessary.
- At an advanced age it's recommended to be especially attentive to the limits in order not to injure oneself. Repetition, visualization can compensate the slower progression.
- A positive attitude is more supporting whatever one does. Observing our thoughts, writing them down is a first step to find out how and what we think. Yoga gives the opportunity to get to know oneself. Don't miss it. An intensive yoga practice over the years can change the body for the better, but also our thoughts.
- The past is over. The future cannot be seen through a rear mirror. On the mat we exercise to be in the present and to make the best out of it. Let go of old concepts.

Being attentive helps to find the limits on a give day. 

The genes, the conditioning, the environment are abstract formulated given. They shall not serve as an excuse to think some poses are not possible i.e., but they can help to understand what happens on the mat. It's not necessary to ask "why" all the time.
Why was I flexible today? Why was I stiff today? An answer might give us hints what to change. Questioning everything and thinking all the time is not an Ashtanga method, but practicing.
Focusing on the breath (one method of Ashtanga yoga) teaches us to be attentive, now. It teaches to respect and to accept the given moment. Sometimes it's good, sometimes not. So what.

I just remember the new yogi in our Mysore class. After the practice he was asked if everything was OK, as he has scoliosis. Everything was OK. He added that he can omit asanas. I interfered (smiling): "We Asthangis don't like to omit anything." Not my best sentence ever, I admit. I might have sounded like a know-it-all. I realized  how the atmosphere turned frozen, blocked.
He probably didn't feel respected with his scoliosis."  Of course my sentence cannot be understood by someone who has just made his first sun salutation. He lacks the experience that more is possible than one might think first. On the other hand my sentence could have made him curious, too.
It would have been better not to have said anything, but a "Hello, pleased to meet you.". Too late, this one sentence was spoken. In the evening in an Indian restaurant I told the story to my bf.  He must have seen that I'm not a bloody beginner during the class as he practiced in the opposite row. Why did he felt perhaps even attacked by me?
My view in the future: I won't see him often.

I'm always amazed how quickly we have opinions. I'm ready to change mine quickly, too.

There are many excuses not to practice. There are even more reasons to practice.

Picture: It's vasisthasana, another variation.

One of my next posts will be: Beauty sells, also Ashtanga yoga.

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