Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I overslept and balancing poses

It's not understandable, but I overslept. I went to bed after 8pm, this is so early. I had almost 9 hours of sleep. Yet this morning I switched off the alarm clock and kept sleeping. Just so. Perhaps the above picture should be created. I practiced this morning at home and I took some pictures. At least this.

The back bending adjustments are simply too good. I don't want to miss a single one. For today it's too late.

The standing asanas of Ashtanga yoga are underestimated. The above pose is a challenging balancing pose of the standing asanas.  It's utthita hasta padangusthasana.
- As soon as I start thinking, I start wobbling. Even the thought 'ah, today it's good' is not supporting. - Simply focusing on the breath is it that keeps me in that pose.
- I engage the bandhas.
- The toe is pointed, also this helps to stay in that pose.
- Sometimes I have the image of myself as a statue in mind.
- My eyes gaze at a point. This calms the pose.

To understand what helps to balance is helpful for asanas to come.

Balanced as I am now, I can begin the day.

Monday, October 27, 2014

I was not in the mood

I was so not in the mood to leave my home that morning. Feeling so heavy and paralyzed like this morning happens in a decade once. Sip your coffee and then decide if you go, I thought. Then I thought, still not in the mood to move: Shower and then decide. I'm glad that I didn't ask E. He would have said: stay. Even after the shower I was not a tiny bit motivated. I can practice at home, I thought. I knew I would have stopped rather soon. A few sun salutation counts as a practice, I'd convinced myself. I don't know how I managed it to leave the home, but I did it and consciously I locked the door as if this could prevent me to return to a cosy bed. In the elevator I looked into the mirror and realized that the mascara of the night before was still under my eyes. When I return I won't go anymore, I knew this. Who will look at my eyes at 6am in the morning. I closed my eyes. I was on my way....It was cold outside. I had put on my winter coat to have it warm. Soon I'll add a hat to my outfit. I had removed everything from my handbag which would make it heavy. I didn't like to make it more difficult as it was today.

In the shala I loved to see all the yoginis.

Easy-going today was my attitude re my practice. More was possible than I expected. I knew that I would feel good after this sweaty exercise. And I do feel good.

Insight: A mushroom bhaji with a red wine is a totally different meal than a salad with water.

The twist on the picture: I think my twists got better. I did this marichyasana C without any warm-up. I not only turn the spine, also the shoulder moves backwards. This is in my opinion a good preparation for back bending. When moving the shoulder backwards it's so much easier for the other hand to reach the wrist.

What next? I don't know. It's not the day of planning and overachieving. It's a 'I let it flow' day.

Ursula Preiss Photography

Sunday, October 26, 2014

I like selfies

Sometimes I read that people are very critical towards selfies. They suspect narcisissm. They find them boring, annoying or are not interested.

I love selfies, because I remember a time where only pictures of politicians and actors/actresses were published. The variety of pictures enlarged since we all can publish also our selfies.

This reminds me of  a poem of Bertold Brecht which was critical about all the history books who only spoke about the kings/leaders and so on. At the end of this poem came the question: And who was the chef? Today you can look up the chef. Perhaps he has even published some recipes.

My selfies helped me a lot to improve the asanas. The asanas feel different as they look. Sometimes it feels as if the feet are parallel, yet they are not. Or it feels as if the back is straight, yet it is rounded.
My selfies motivate me to keep going. I enjoy the beauty of the asanas.
It's motivating to see progress on the pictures over the years if one documents the journey.

Picture: Marichyasana B, one of my fav asanas.

Another picture of mine landed on Explore on Flickr. This is a huge compliment as only about 300 or chosen out of million pictures on a daily basis:

You can find me also on Facebook:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Goal: kapotasana

When I think my goal is to learn kapotasana it implies much more than this. 

It implies to stay patient and optimistic i.e.. I exercise this asana now since more than 4 years. It's easy to give up or to think that this pose won't be possibl. I learned to keep the fire burning and to believe in progress.
It implies a deeper understanding of the poses.

I also learn to detach myself from the goal and to fall in love with the process.

It keeps me modest.

I also trust in the teaching method. To focus on the breath is important, especially when the limits are reached. Trust deepens  when practicing  correctly day in day out, results will show, inevitably.

There is no hurry.

And today is Saturday. It's a day off from asana practice. I use the time to get organized. Next Tuesday we'll get another shelf and then hopefully all books will found a home.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Not everything can be explained

Not everything can be explained. Neither in science, nor in Ashtanga yoga.

Today is a moon day. When I put on my shoes yesterday after practice I had a quick conversation with a yogi. It was about the moon days.

If the moon has an influence on our practice or not cannot be proved. I used to practice on moon days almost always during the last 10 years and was never injured on such a day. This is often an explanation why we shouldn't practice on moon days. The moon was an excuse if I was not in the mood to practice. Ah,the moon, I thought. Since 1 year I respect this rule. I have very intensive practices every day in a shala. On moon days no Mysore classes are offered, I appreciate to have a day off.

I think it's Western culture to question everything. This might be good in many areas. Yet it can also be a barricade. Instead of doing something, the mind is questioning and questioning and that way weakening the action. Focus is lost. Why shall I do this? Why shall I do that? What's the reason for this, for that? Why to put the foot here, why to turn the head, why to make a sound when breathing and so on.........Questions can never stop. One question provokes the next one.

Question and answer will never give the security we might be searching for. Life cannot be controlled. Life will remain a surprise. It cannot even be explained.

Trust comes into play. Sometimes a good alternative as attitude to questioning everything is to trust.

The moon, what ever influence it might have on me, it makes me smile. I'm enjoying a day off.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

And? How was the practice today?

From the beginning on I felt stiff. Usually the stretching discomfort has a sweetness. I can stand and enjoy a lot of such boundary feelings. Today I had no tolerance for discomfort. It felt awful to stretch. I cannot find out a reason. It's not important to explain everything. Every day is different.

And despite this sensitivity today my back bending was good. Perhaps because I don't feel the shoulders anymore when I move my weight to my hands when in urdhva dhanurasana. My back opened. My shoulders are more stretched.

My tips for others are also good for myself. I did it. Just doing it, is it sometimes. The quality of the performance varies, the joy to practice, too. When I was through I was glad. And tomorrow is a moon day. Yepeeeee.

After the practice it rained. It's cold now here. I'll crawl back under the duvet.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

60 years young and 3 students

I learned from a YouTube video with David Swenson, that P. Jois was 60 years old when he had 3 students. And he kept teaching and teaching not gazing at any result. A world movement developed.

For me this is encouraging. Too often we use age as an excuse not to do anything. It's too late, we think. There is a limit to everything and this is the death. Till then let us keep doing what we love to do.

Monday, October 20, 2014

The body is the boss

During the weekend I slept longer. I didn't set the alarm clock. It was about 7am or 8am when I got up.
So good that I practiced Ashtanga yoga on Sunday. It was about 12:30 pm when I started. I focused on second series. I had to check if I was still able to do all the leg behind head poses, yet they are all possible, even improved, even though I don't practice them. The reason: all the asanas of primary improve because I get always one most intensive adjustment after urdhva dhanurasana, when I am in paschimottanasana. The distance between body and leg is gone. My body lies on my legs. So I'm relaxed, I don't want to unlearn so much. I know that primary is the basis, it prepares for second series if one practices correctly.

Kapotasana or what I exercise to get there felt absolutely new today. I have the feeling as if I give up resistance. It feels better and better to bend backwards.

Relaxation after my practice was long and not at all superficial as usual. At home I went straight to bed and slept 2 hours. When this happens, I think I need it. Then the body needs to adjust what is learned.

I'm so happy that I can do this daily Ashtanga yoga practice. When it's over I'm looking forward to the next day.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The quality of the effort

Whatever I want to write is true and also not true. It all depends.......There are exceptions.......

I start with cautious statements and perhaps I can also only describe my own experience. I practice only few asanas more than 6 years ago. Yet what has improved is the quality of my practice.
1. That is the time span of concentration got longer.
2. I learned how to tolerate and react to the discomfort when reaching a limit. I keep breathing....
3. It's possible to get closer to the limits and to get a bit further.
4. The letting go of the tension of the body is much easier. Resistance got weaker what also helps to get deeper into a pose.

My focus these days is back bending, back bending and again back bending. I do it, give my best (which varies) and think: this was it for today. BKS Iyengar encourages me. He was much older than me when he showed breath-taking back bending. I still progress, slower, but I progress.

Most people love to do poses they can do easily. The difficult ones they like to avoid. In jobs this might be good. Yet in Ashtanga yoga we also work on our 'weakness'. The result: we have a balanced practice.

I got up early. My plan is to do second series only. It's a good preparation for the coming week when I can go to Mysore classes again.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Surprisingly good

It was a piece of cake to get out of bed this morning at 5am. I was so in anticipation to go to a Mysore class again that I got up as soon as the alarm clock woke me up.

How will it be, was surely a thought that came up. My practice was surprisingly good, even the back bending asanas. My explanation. My muscles got weaker in the last week and this made me more flexible. However. It was great to be back, it was great to practice.

Vinyasas and back bending - these are the asanas that I give special attention. 

Today I dropped back against the wall. I held the pose rather long till gravity pulled me down. Repetition is the secret to success. Yet also the believe that something is possible helps and gives enormous power.

Early to bed, early up. My nights have a frame again.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Seeing progress

Seeing progress: This is surely also something that I experience when I practice Ashtanga yoga: I also appreciate progress and might it be tiny. I appreciate having given attention to my practice. Every practice is a highlight. Having goals is great, it gives direction, motivation, yet it's just a part of the game.

I feel better, much better. I'd say I'm 98% recovered. What an intrusive cold. I blamed other people, who don't isolate themselves when having a cold. Yet this is nonsense. I  remember that I was surrounded with people with a cold and I stayed healthy. It's a thinking pattern that many people have: Bad things come from others, for the good things that happen in our lives we are responsible on our own.
It makes not much sense to judge the happenings. I live. Every situation invites us to take action in a different way. I stayed at home, drank tea (with rum), tried to keep my feet warm and finally I accepted. A cold is nothing.

Ashtanga yoga has few rules, but one is not to omit an asana and exercise them till they are mastered. Then comes the next asana. There are easy asanas, asanas we like, others we don't. There are asanas we have to practice 10 years perhaps, till  they are performed. If we omit those asanas  that we don't like, if we omit those asanas we are not able to do we miss an opportunity to learn. Not every progress comes as a spectacular event. Sometimes it's internal. We can learn i.e. not to give up. We learn to believe in ourselves.

The asanas are like events in life. They are a metaphor.

I've mixed feelings when thinking of Monday. It will be difficult to get up at 5am. Yet this is doable. I'm looking forward to the practice, yet I also fear to be stiff and weak like hell. That's how it is. Nothing can be held.

Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Good habits make life joyful and easy

In the last 2 weeks I had a cold, no fever (perhaps on one day) but I was coughing. Nevertheless I did basic chores without much convincing myself, without much effort. The reason: they are a habits. After dinner I clean the dishes. I always make the bed when I get up. Every day my washing machine runs and I iron the dry clothes from the last day. This happens automatically. I don't do extra chores when I don't feel 100% on top, I take it easy when ill, yet these tiny habits make my life more joyful even when ill.

There are other areas in life where I still work on strong habits.

The main mistake: 
The main mistake when we don't succeed is that we often want too much at once. I know this too well. When I'm in a good mood, I'm often also not too lazy to take a pen and I write down 10 or more things that I want to do (also as a habit) to improve skills, my life in general. There are special days like New Year, birthday that even invite to do so.
My experience is it is so much better to really work on one activity at a time. Forming one good habit can be difficult enough.
I read that the will power is like a muscle. It gets tired. One good habit even a tiny one can make a difference.

My favorite trick is to attach a new activity to a strong habit. Once a habit is formed it requires less and less energy to do it. I even don't feel good anymore when I go to bed and dirty dishes are in the dishwasher. I have to clean them. The next morning I'm so happy that I did it.

I also 'need' my yoga practice.

Less is more.
Appreciating tiny steps can make a difference.

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My photography on Facebook

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Moon day

So no practice today either. This has been a serious cold that has pushed me off the waggon. Life is unpredictable. It remains to jump back on the waggon. This requires energy.

Sometimes people admire me because I practice daily. Yet it is so much easier to practice daily than to practice here and then. A daily practice soon becomes a habit, a routine. Then it's easy to start and easy to practice. There are ups and downs, but no doubts and discussions if one shall practice or not. The body is used to the practice and I rarely become sore or overstretched. A daily practice is safe.

I feel much better already. I even slept well so I'm very optimistic that I can get back to my yoga routine tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Come back of the cold

I'm knocked out and at the same time I appreciate that I can live this. I don't have to take pills that make me feel good so that I can join the work force. I can be ill. I can have a cold also when it lasts a week or longer.

I practiced this morning at home. I sweated, took a shower and slowly I felt worse and worse. Here I sit now. I don't want to be in bed all day long, because I want to sleep at night.

Up and down, up and down, that's how it is. Time to sip my ginger tea.......

Sunday, October 05, 2014

I practiced.

Sunday: 100 min on the mat before breakfast. This was my preparation for tomorrow. I focused on second series. Tomorrow I can practice primary again. I wanted to practice the back bending asanas rather at the beginning of the practice because I have more energy in the beginning.

My practice was better than expected. I'm so glad and optimistic. I trust that a reasonable practice will be possible tomorrow during Mysore class.

I try to reconstruct the last 11 years.....

I reflect on my Ashtanga yoga path during the last 11 years.....

How did all beginn? It's not so easy to reconstruct everything.

1. 31. March 2003:
I lost a most awful job. It was a beautiful spring day, I stood in front of the door to walk around. I stopped, I had no destination. Go new ways, I thought. I walked down another street and found a yoga studio. I saw a picture of a woman in the window. She had a leg behind her head. I loved it. It was Madonna, how I learned later. It was the Jivamukti yoga studio that I found. I checked the schedule and I saw that they offered classes very day also in the morning.

From that day on I went to a class every day. Soon I decided to go to the Ashtanga yoga classes. First I missed the neck massages that we got in other classes, yet I liked the challenge of the asanas.

What was offered in these Ashtanga yoga classes: It usually was a led class of half primary. I have never heard about Mysore classes. A friend told me about it a few years later. She used to be a yoga teacher, too that time back.

Via Internet I found out more about Ashtanga yoga. I also found other bloggers. I bought the book by David Swenson and tought myself the rest of the first series. I remember that I traveled to the US with E and that I participated in Ashtanga yoga classes. I didn't know that one had to role in garba pindasana. One teacher once said to me: But Ursula, these are the basics. I thought: You have no clue about the situation in Munich.

A friend told me that my first teacher also offered Mysore classes. This must have been in 2005. From the first time on I practiced full primary in those classes. The first part I learned during led classes, the second part was self-tought.

I don't know exactly when it was, but it must have been in 2006 when I joind the Mysore class. Soon I had a job again. In the morning I practiced ob my own. On Thursday evening I had a Mysore class. This was so for years.
A few months before going to India  I was shown  the first asanas of second series.
My last asana before I left the first party was: laghu vajrasana.

2. August/September 2008 I was in India/Gokulam to practice in the shala with Saraswathi.
This trip changed my practice. Even though I couldn't drop back in urdhva dhanurasana Saraswathi showed me pashasana.

Back home I found again a job that ended in Sept 2009.

3. A new Ashtanga yoga teacher moved to Munich in Nov 2009. He offered Mysore classes in the morning at 9am 3 times a week. It was not possible to have a job and to go to the yoga classes. I gave yoga priority. It was the first time that I had more Mysore classes than home practices. My learning curve went upwards. My goal was to learn second series. I practiced Advanced A till durvasana at the end of the year 2013. I was not able to do kapotasana, who cares? I was not able to do pincha mayurasana, who cares? We worked with straps and blocks. More and more it was a mixture of different yoga styles. I learned all the leg behind head poses. My practice became fluent. I leaped ahead.
If I wouldn't have learned second series I weren't able to do supta kurmasana of the first series.
Yet the back bending asanas suffered. To work with a strap around my legs was not the best idea.
Last asana in 2013: durvasana (of third series).
I also tried asanas of series to come and integrated them. I moved to a free style Ashtanga practice.
The time from 2009 till 2013 changed my whole life as I stopped working in companies. I didn't like to miss these excellent morning Mysore classes. Yet after all these years I yearned again for a more traditional teaching. With all the blocks and straps that the yoginis used, there was a lot of disquit during class. For me a yoga practice is a concentration exercise. I often returned to a home practice.

4. A new Ashtanga yoga teacher moved to Munich in 2013. From the first class on I realized that I can learn a lot from him. Almost all poses were taken away from me. I work on kapotasana now, very seriously. I also work on the other back bending asanas. I get closer and closer to stand up from urdhva dhanurasana. There is no single practice where I don't get an adjustment here. We are tought the series in the traditional way. I so love it.

From laghu vajrasna (2009) to durvasana (2013), back to bakasana A (2014)......Oh my

I know  I have to work on the asanas that I'm not able to do. I don't want to betray myself. Most people like to do what they are able to do. Who likes to work on his/her weaknesses? Not many people. Yet if one does it one day the practice is balanced.

Sometimes I'm frustrated. So many years of practicing yoga and I'm still not able to have a perfect vinyasa. I learn to look at the weak points and to be a bit more realistic. Ashtanga yoga makes modest. During all the last years I learned not to give up so fast. So I keep going.......

It's Sunday and I'll step on the mat. My yoga week begins. To practice is everything, I try to convince myself. I'm curious what my body will be able to do in this life time.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Why to get up?

For today I know why I got up. The men who'll put a new board on the balcony will come at 8am. The last time when they came (without appointment) I was still in bed. I ran to the door to the intercom and asked who was there. When I knew that they wanted to enter our flat, I said: Give me 5 min. He: In 10 min we ring the bell again. Sigh, yeah 10 min was much better.

When I don't have to get up at 5am to be on time for a Mysore class, I also don't go to bed early. Then I don't get up early. It's a circle.

Today I'm ready. The men can come now, I'm fully dressed, a bit of lipstick gives me a fresh look.

Yesterday I read about a very famous singer, that he has no reason to get up. He is depressed. He quitted alcohol, nevertheless he doesn't see a reason to get up in the morning. This is a burden to carry around.

Many get up because they have a job and if they don't appear they will lose it. They don't want to lose the job even though they don't like it. I've been there.

Usually I get up to do yoga. I need it, I think, This is  an artificial reason. We need food and air to survive. Yoga is luxury. Yoga betters my life, That's it. Not only the body gets trained, also the mind.
I also get up because I'm looking forward to the first cup of coffee. Tiny joys count, too.

I get up to take pictures. The fascination of this world is still alive in me. I love to create something.
This is why I get up. Happenings.

Why do you get up in the morning?

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Do we all have a eating disorder?

Last week I watched a TV-programme, not one of these numerous cooking shows, but a discussion round about eating.
They quoted a poll that 80% of the Germans feel bad when eating. Only 20% enjoy their meals fully.

Half of the population here is overweight. It starts with the children.
The wish to be slimmer and also healthier can be understood.

Sometimes I wonder: Are we all confused? I guess yes.

I became a vegetarian when I discovered yoga at the age of 20. Mainly for 2 reasons. First a yogi doesn't eat animals for ethical reasons. Secondly when practicing yoga it's better to have a light body. Veg food helps to accomplish this.

In the meantime more than 30 years later I'm almost vegan, mainly for ethical reasons.

Yet sometimes I get crazy, even furious. I have in mind that scientist have not yet found out how to rebuild an apple. 1000 ingredients are even unknown. One cannot substitute an apple with a vitamin pill. Yet every day a new rule is out, a new shocking information shall change my eating habits.

I learn:
Wheat flour is bad for the body.
Avoid gluten. To be honest, I didn't know what this was. I know now.
Sugar is the devil for your pancreas.
Never drink when you eat, but drink 3 l of water every day (also when you're not thirsty)
Salt makes your veins porous.
Lettuce must be eaten at lunch time, never at night as it requires a lot of time to digest.
Noodles shall be eaten at night, that is if you eat noodles...
Eat local, eat seasonal, yes yes yes!
Don't eat fat.
Don't eat carbohydrates.
Fruit shall be eaten alone only.

There are endless rules. This can paralyse. It's no more possible to eat a meal without violating one of the rules.

It's indeed very good to reflect on what we eat. The food industry became stronger and stronger. They want us hungry all the time. They sell most if we are addicted to food. And we are.
What shall we do?

I recommend to learn cooking. I recommend to eat veg.
And we must learn again to enjoy our meals. To eat with regret, to eat and to have bad feelings cannot be healthy.

On the salad on the picture: 
The salad is grown local. Oh no, the citron???? From where is it? Is it bio? And the olive oil? I put a pear in the salad to avoid empty sugar, yet I wanted to sweaten the salad. it tasted excellent. Spring onions and cocktail tomatoes were further ingredients.

Never ever we had access to so many really good vegetables and fruit. When I was a child  canned pineapples with too much sugar was something special. Despite the luxury of all this available and affordable food so many have the fear, real fear not getting enough. I have the feeling as if we are all hungry all the time.

Everything circles around eating and food, cooking shows, dieting and so on.

Let us have simple meals and let us enjoy them.
And let's have other interests, too. There is more out there than eating....and food.

(And don't forget to drink your water. Lol.)

A cold lasts a week

Ahimsa: Enough that E has a cold now, too. To go to a Mysore class with a cold is not nice. I hope I'm a role model here.
I enjoy the luxury to do nothing when ill. I don't schlepp myself with coughing to a yoga class or to a job, because of ambition, pressure or whatever.
So the week is over I feel good again and I rolled out my mat today. It was hard to practice, but doable. Of course I cursed how quickly I become weak. Yet all asanas were possible. I sweated. Back bending was so lousy. Yet this is how it is.

Tomorrow I wanted to go to a Mysore class again, yet I just learned that at 8:15am craftsmen will come to repair the balcony. So I'll have to be here. It can be that I'll join the party on Friday.

It all happens as it has to happen.