Saturday, August 30, 2014

Back home


The day was spent at airports, in airplanes and taxis.  Saturday is my day off, so it was OK. We are glad to be back home. One day is lost due to the travelling. It's always worth it.

It has been a wonderful time in Portland. Especially the last evening was fantastic. We got some information about Porto (the drink, not the city) and after this tour in that Porto cellar we could listen to a life performance: Fado. A late dinner outside in the old city finished the evening.

Here I am again. Hotel practices belong to the past. Tomorrow a home practice is planned: second series only. I don't make predictions how it will be. I'm simply curious.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday


On Fridays 'only' primary is on the schedule. The wish to practice is more intensive today than the discontentment with the place, which is really not that bad. I think it can be seen that there is room. The carpet is too soft in that hotel room in Porto for feeling stable when doing balancing poses. It doesn't matter. I don't know why, there is a huge window, but the room is somehow dark. I think this is because the furniture are dark and the carpet, too. This gulps a lot of light.

Today my focus shall be stretching. Before moving into a pose one has to stretch. Then there is room to get into the pose.

There is no time to lose. It's our last day. 3 things I want to do: practicing yoga, shopping and tonight we'll go to a restaurant with Fado music.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Yoga in a hotel room in Porto


It's possible to practice here in that hotel room. And I'm more than glad that I practiced. I omitted almost all the vinyasas. When I look at my mat I know why. The mat creates waves when I sit or stand on it as the carped is too soft. Then it is no joy to jump forward or backwards.

I could look under the bed. Oh my, the mattress hangs almost till the floor. I sleep well in that bed. I wish I hadn't looked under the bed.

It feels so good to move the body in forms called asanas. So finally the place might not be perfect, yet to practice is always good.


A little story from here: 
I was out for lunch/dinner after yoga. That is lunch was over and  and dinner has not yet come. The kitchen was closed in the restaurant round the corner. The waiter himself prepared a simple salad for me. Lettuce with tomatoes. Exactly how I love it. Afterwards I ordered a dessert, a fruit cake.
When it came I said: Oh, it looks delicious.
He (proudly): I made it myself.
Me: Wow.
He laughing: I'm kidding.
Then we both laughed. A lot.


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Time flies


On that chair I sat yesterday. My destination yesterday was a veg restaurant, a recommendation from my friend P.. I was too early there. The Portuguese people eat late, very late, no matter if it's lunch or dinner. I had to wait as the doors were still closed. A few houses further I found this little bakery, where I had a coffee and a nata for 1,35 Euro. 

The dessert below was the one from Essencia, a vegan apply sin. One must know where to go, then Porto is a paradise.






The fog has already disappeared. Another sunny day can begin. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Yoga in hotel rooms.......more excuses than motivtion...


In the meantime my suitcase arrived. It was about midnight the same day we arrived. So I've yoga clothes and my mat here, that is all the essential ingredients are here.

The hotel room is large enough to roll out my mat. The carpet looks clean. Yet my motivation is low. Saturday was a day off. We were still in Munich and I prepared our home for our return. I wanted to have it clean.
On Sunday we were up at 4:30 to catcht the flight and in the afternoon we arrived, hungry like hell. We found a restaurant, yet with a full stomach one cannot practice and it was late, too.

Yesterday was Monday and a moonday, I wanted to see Porto. It's an amazing city.
Today is Tuesday, it's raining. It's grey outside and I'm not at all in the mood to practice. Even though the weather invites to practice. My excuses: it's so dark here. It can be that I'll have a break of 4 days. From tomorrow on I'll be on my own. Then it's very likely that I practice and that I take pictures of my hero deed to practice in a hotel room.

Porto is a most wonderful city. I already love Lisbon. Every city has a differnt flair. Here it's more a big big city flair. The lake, the sea, the old town, the many churches, the little restaurants, it's a city to fall in love with.



For more pictures go to my Facebook page or flickr.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

In Porto without suitcase


The above picture is still taken in rainy Munich. Now I'm here in sunny Porto without suitcase. Between Madrid and Porto it must get lost. The airport in Madrid is huge with different buildings far away from each other. The time between the 2 flights was short.
I'm relaxed. To travel is so. It's often inconvenient. One must know this. When it was sure that the last luggage was on the flat conveyer and it was not mine, we went to 'lost and found' to tell an unfriendly person our issue. We had to stand in a line for a while. Many suitcases got lost. I was not the only one.  In my opinion this is a matter of organisation. There are states that are organised well, companies can be organised well and single persons, too. The opposite is true, too. Chaos can be seen where ever I look.

So I'm still in hope that my suitcase will arrive tomorrow. For today it's probably too late.




It's warm here. And this is great. Mood is excellent. The hotel room is large enough for yoga practices. I'm looking forward to the next week.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Relax



It's the third time that I deleted a blog post. I don't want to write another long post, few sentences will do today. If stuck in a pose, relax. Being relaxed can help to move on. Namaste.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

B.K.S. Iyengar - a role model


What I admire when I think of  B.K.S. Iyengar is: he walked the talk.

He practiced yoga till the end of his life, till the age of 96. He is the prove that yoga can be done a life time. It's not necessary to stop with advanced asanas when you are above 50 i.e. This gives us 'older' yogis/yoginis huge support. Why limiting oneself? Mr Iyengar shows what is possible at almost 100.

Practicing yoga gives so much. One of the greatest gifts in my opinion is that life needn't to aggravate when we get older. But we have to do something for it: yoga. B.K.S. Iyengar is an example for this. Only 3 weeks before his death this morning, he had serious health issues and finally he agreed to go to hospital where he passed away (as far as I know). Death was surely not a tabu for him at the age of 96. That he could live so long, so healthy, so active was his life style as a yogi.

What he gave the world is immeassurable.

3 ingredients that help to accomplish every asana



1. There are always muscles to strengthen. This is important. Often the leg muscles need to be engaged.
2. It's stretching. No matter if you twist or if you bend forward or backward, stretching comes first.
3. The last step is to move in the wished direction. It's important to imagine to bend at every possible joint and cell.

I work very intensely on back bending these days. I apply the above steps: Strong legs, stretching upwards and then I bend backwards. I must come up soon. I feel it. Each time I get help. To be pushed is so supporting. There is the tendency to pamper oneself. Yet when I work with an excellent teacher I'm able to reach my limits which are always further than I imagine. To get optimum help a very experienced teacher is needed. It's an art to adjust urdhva dhanurasana!!!!!

"Grab your ankles," MSch sometimes says to me when I move backwards and down into urdhva dhanurasana.
First I thought: What? Which ankles? Till I realized he meant my feet ankles. Haha. To reach  the ankles might not be possible. Yet the wish and the striving to reach them has surely the power to bring my hands closer to my feet than ever.
The situation is too serious, otherwise I'd had laughed about the thought to reach my ankles.
I'm more than happy for the time being. Mysore classes are my highlights of the day. During the day I often sleep. Hahaha.....I think sometimes that my body needs to digest the intensive bending.

How I intensify my back bending exercise?
'Stay longer,' MSch told me. This is it what I do. I bend backwards, my hands in prayer position at the front and then I bend and bend and wait. Body gives up more and more resistance. I take my time. And I stay. And finally I stretch my arms and my hands are closer to the floor than ever. To use the momentum to come up again is something I attempt.

Might these tips help.

Picture is a variation of shalabasana.

Samadhi - BKS Iyengar




Thank you.

Rest in peace.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Headstand


It could be a bit more straight. It looks as if I fall in the next second.

There are 3 variations of headstand to practice in Ashtanga yoga during the closing sequence:
1. See picture
2. The legs are parallel to the floor
3. The head doesn't touch the floor anymore. This is the most challenging variation, yet probably the best one as there is no weight on the head at all.

By now I've not yet added the last variation to the closing sequence.

It's so good to take pictures from time to time. The poses feel so differently than they look like.


"I'm stiff today." "Me, too."


Oh my, the weekends........

My practice almost killed me today. I'm amazed that I was able to do all the asanas, not as deep as on good days, but all asanas were possible. I even dropped back into urdhva dhanurasana. Yet my practice felt 'difficult'. In the morning already an inner discussion started: Shall I go? Shall I not go? I know that these discussions lead to nothing and I took a shower and a long cold shower at the end, too. This woke me up. Go, I told myself. I knew I'd regret later if I skipped a Monday morning Mysore class.

Not to be pushed too much I warned MSch before he adjusted my back bending asanas: "I'm stiff today." Such sentences are usually redundant as he realizes this without a word from myself. This is the huge advantage if one practices with the same teacher on a daily basis. Yet today I felt to add a comment not to get challenged at all.

I survived the practice. I feel good now. No restaurant meals this week and at the end of the week I'll be in top form again. Hahaha......

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dhanurasana


I could unpack another box and I found a gem, one of my first yoga books by André van Lysbeth 'Yoga'.

Dhanurasana is one of the 9 asanas that I practiced about 30 years ago. It's part of the Rishikesh series.

I reread:

1. The toes shall always touch. It has a reason. If they don't touch the legs are usually at different high as most spines are not 100% symmetric. In Ashtanga classes I'm told that also the heels have to touch. Now I know why.

2. The legs do the work and pull upwards. The upper body is relaxed. The arms are straight.

3. Finally the knees shall be higher than the skin.

4. A dynamic phase exists in the Rishikesh series. Up to 14 times one shall swing forward and backward. This gives indeed a good massage for the inner organs. There is also a static phase where the pose is held for half a minute, that equals in my case 7 breaths (inhaling and exhaling).

Next time I'll take care that my legs do the work and that my upper body is passive.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Yoga 30 years ago




Me on my yoga mat about 30 years ago. Sticky mats didn't exist, neither fancy yoga clothes.  That time back I practiced the series of Rishikesh. I'll write about this series, that exists of 12 asanas  in one of the next blog posts.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Led class - I'll change thinking patterns


Usually the poses are held for 5 breaths. In former times it was 8 breaths, now it's 5 breaths. The asanas of the closing sequence are held even longer. How long 5 breaths really is varies from student to student and from pose to pose.

In a led class the 5 breaths are counted and this can be much longer than what is normally 5 breaths. Sometimes the teacher counts very slowly, sometimes he gives little support to newcomers. When this happens I think: 'Oh my this will be much longer than 5 breaths.' And then I give up, determination fades away and I hold my legs in navasana i.e.. It's better to change the goal, it's better to think that one wants to hold the pose as long as counted no matter how many breaths this is. 5 is just a number.

Ashtanga yoga also has a method how the series are taught. Usually every single asana is shown in a Mysore class. Once an asanas is mastered the next asana is shown. It's too much to do primary for a beginner. So the teacher usually says when half of the first series is over that those students who are not familiar with the asanas or those who couldn't bind marichyasana D can watch now. Usually people don't care and fight with the coming asanas till the end. I also realized once that people left the class. Today I saw someone who stopped. My admiration for this yogi. He sat there calmly and waited till the closing sequence was announced. He will progress at his own rhythm, his practice will be safe, without injuries. The risk is at least minimized. He won't feel overwhelmed.

It's not at all less worth just to observe. It's good to pause. Neither it's easier, nor laziness. It's just reasonable.

I'm through an intensive yoga week. I'm looking forward to a day off and breakfast. NOW.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

How to integrate back bending in daily life?


To write it in the beginning, I think it's difficult to integrate back bending in daily life for several reasons:

1. My body must be warmed up before I can really go deep into a back bending position.
2. I cannot imagine any activity in my daily life that requires back bending.

Nevertheless, what is possible: 
1. One can visualize the asanas.
2. Strong legs are absolutely necessary for back bending asanas. One can develop body feeling and engage the legs whenever back bending comes into mind.
3. What I do first whenever I am in front of a mirror: I engage my legs, I inhale, I stretch the arms upwards, grasp my wrist with one hand and then I stretch upwards and then backwards. I repeat it, now the other hand holds the wrist. This shall open my shoulders. I feel that my body is stiff here. Might it help.

Many other asanas can be integrated in daily life. Right now I sit in padmasana. (Oh, the last padmasana-picture is from 2010 :))When I bath I usually do paschimottanasana in the bath tub. You only take showers? Then bow forward, grasp your toes and enjoy hasta padangusthasana. You commute? Never forget to twist and look backwards when you want to pass. All the forward bending asanas can be done in front of a TV in case you have still time to watch.

The consequence: 
One really has to give everything at back bending when in a yoga class. To hold the poses longer is good. To repeat them is good. Sharath even recommends to do urdhva dhanurasana up to 5 times. I managed 3 today, yet during the week I was able to lift myself up 4 times for three long breaths. And each time I moved my hands closer to the feet.

The path and the goal are both important in equal measure. I'm enjoying the path. I know, one goal is reached, the next goal comes up.

Last but not least: 
Thank you very much for 500 'likes' on Facebook. Facebook itself called this a milestone. :) I love to entertain you, I love to inspire and motivate you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Ashtanga practice takes 4 hours


I get up at 5am. I prepare a cup of coffee for myself and sip it in front of the PC. My body needs about 30 min till it's present. That is, it's a habit, a tabu, yet to defecate is important. This makes a difference in the practice. It's a sign that one is healthy if one has no issues here.

So at 5:30 I'm under the shower. It's a quick shower, my hair gets washed later during the day. I brush my teeth, I dress, there is time for a little kiss for my E and about 10 to 6am I leave the cosy home. At 6:02 am I sit in the subway. The shala is 4 stations away. Between 6:30 and 6:45 I'm on the mat. I don't hurry, I need time to change clothes.

I practice till kapotasana. During class I don't dawdle. Usually my practice is focused. I need more time for all the back bending asanas.

After 9 am I'm at home again. Then I prepare healthy breakfast for myself. I like to blog. And sometimes I rest. MSch challenges me re back bending. He pushes me beyond my limits. I wouldn't be able to do all the repetitions alone.

What I can do to support my goals to improve in all the back bending asanas, that is to visualize how I do them successfully. Arnold Schwarzenegger was very successful with this method. He gained muscle mass, he lost it, he gained it again. To visualize himself helped him. I recommend his autobiography.

It is possible to have a 9 to 5 job, yet then this is it. I had years where I practiced in the morning before getting to work. It were lousy practices, where I was alone on the mat and simply tried to keep the status quo. Often I stared holes in the air while being in one of the positions.

4 hours - and every minute is worth it. 

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday


My yoga week has started. 
The vinyasas were surprisingly good today. I don't feel that my jumping forward is under control, yet I manage it to get from downdog to a sitting position without touching the floor with my feet. 
Jumping backwards improved, too. Yet there is still a part missing. 

Urdhva dhanurasana: MSch thinks I'm close to stand up. I still feel 1 mile away from it, yet I can imagine that I can come up. I know now the movements. I guess my legs are still not strong enough. Also today I was really determined. Yet I needed help to come up. Gravity is a very strong forth. 

At home I prepared a cup of coffee for my E who was still at home when I returned and then I went to bed. I was so tired, exhausted. I slept till lunch time. Unbelievable. I was not able to do anything. I only wanted to sleep. Now I'm up. So glad. 



Sunday, August 10, 2014

It's Sunday and I practiced


It's so much easier to practice in a group. Nevertheless I managed it to practice.

I plan less these days. Then it's more likely that I practice. I focus on back bending these days. I practiced second series 'only' till kapotasana. I added some back bending variations. I think I feel prepared now for tomorrow. This is what I wanted.




Friday, August 08, 2014

There might be a reason why I had so many good practices last week.

I really tried to live healthy last week. This meant that I had to prepare my own meals. I didn't go out to restaurants to have a quick lunch. Yes, I picked me up and bought ingredients for salads to have lunch according my imaginations. Weather was hot and something fresh was appropriate. A spicy soup doesn't fit to hot days. My salads were delicious and healthy. I had water during the day as beverage and was happy. What we eat makes a difference. It has influence on our feelings, our motivation, our cravings, our energy level. 

Everybody who does sports know this. It became a science for professionals. Currently I'm reading the autobiography of Arnold Schwarzenegger 'Total Recall'. Even in the 50s a connection between food and success in sportive performance was sure and one lived accordingly. 
Yoginis don't want to win prizes. Nevertheless light meals make the yoga practice easier. 



Being a yogini is a life style. It doesn't stop after the asana practice. 


Twists and dristi


Today the door to the shala was still closed when few of us had arrived already to have a led class. A yogini gave me feed-back. Last time when we were waiting, too, I mentioned that some yoginis don't take care of the dristi when doing the twists, yet this would help so much to improve the pose. Many yoginis look down to the floor, the correct dristi is the side.

Looking straight to the side stretches the body upwards and suddenly one understands that the shoulder moves backwards.

There are different parts of the body that twist. The movements starts at the hips, the middle part of the body is soft and allows to twist too. And finally the shoulder moves backwards.

The dristis help to fine-tune all the poses, also marichaysana C and D. Dristis point in the direction towards we move.

In Ashtanga yoga we also don't close the eyes. Even though in the meantime many asanas became so easy for me that I could sleep in some poses. Of course I don't do this.

When I'm stuck in a pose, I check first the breath, then  I check if I engage the bandhas, then I check the dristi. This deepens the  understanding of the poses that I practice.

Once Sharath said in a conference: dristi alone has changed his life. I can refer to it. Never look in a direction you don't want to go. Dristi helps me to focus and to fade out what is not important. This can be learned and is very useful in daily life. Otherwise distraction wins and to accomplish anything becomes difficult

I hope this helps.

A rest day is important, too. Tomorrow I'll rest. I feel that this day is deserved after such an intensive week.

Happy weekend.


Thursday, August 07, 2014

I want to forget the fear


There are several reasons why I'm glad that I was stopped at bakasana A.

Yet let me explain from the beginning:

1. Headstand: I learned headstand in one session at the Sivananda studio round the corner more than a decade ago. I was wobbling in the beginning and insecure, but I was able to do headstand in the middle of the room.
Main mistake is that the elbows are too far away. Yet we were explained to keep them together. Men fight and they can hold this pose, women often fall out of the pose as a lack of strength when the arm position is not correct. Yet when done correctly, when the arms are almost parallel one has stability. Then it becomes easier to get into the pose and to stay there.
Then one walks the feet to the body, closer and closer, till the back is vertical. With a little kick one can bring the upper legs to the body. From there one can slowly stretch the legs upwards. That's how we learned it.
The teacher showed us how to do it. This is supportive for the visual people. Yet then we were up.

Even Iyengar, who integrated blocks and straps in his teaching, teaches the headstand in the middle of the room. If you haven't seen yet the movie 'Der atmende Gott', then do it. Here Iyengar teaches a man headstand. The man has not done yoga at all. He also didn't look sportive. He was able to learn headstand in one session even though a lot of people, Iyengar's students were watching. This makes it more difficult in my view.
If shown correctly no wall is necessary to do headstand..

A wall is like a drug. It's difficult to get rid of it. 

I learned headstand in one session, too as mentioned.
Yet I used the wall when learning pincha mayurasana. I think this pose should be doable for me. Why not?
I was able to come up without touching the wall, I was able to hold the pose without touching the wall. As soon as I was in the middle of the room I had fear and I couldn't do the pose at all. Fear, fear, fear dominated my approach. It would have been much better to learn to fall out of the pose. After 5 years of daily exercising it nothing has moved. Fear dominated when I wanted to come up in the middle of the room because I always also practiced the pose against the wall. No progress could be seen.

I practice since 10 years now and also in classes I observe it for years. Those who learn headstand in the middle of the room are able to do the pose soon. Those who start with the wall, need the wall after 5 years and perhaps forever.

This is why I want to forget the fear that I have developed over the last years when practicing pincha mayurasna. And this is why it's good that I was stopped at an earlier asana in the second series. I will forget my fear to fall and go get hurt because I don't practice pincha mayurasana anymore. Sometimes not doing something can be better than doing something.  I'm sure when the next attempt comes to learn this pose, I'll learn it faster. Because I'll learn it in the middle of the room.

How one learns an asana makes a difference!

Asthanga yoga is practiced without props. I learned the entire first series without any prop. It interrupts the flow and the breath. It gives a feeling of safety, yet props make dependant. Props belong to another yoga style. For me it makes no sense to blend yoga styles.
When I eat I don't want to have a Thai soup as a starter, an Italian main course and a Japanese dessert.
To  blend languages makes communication not easier, but more difficult.
Blending yoga styles is more than confusing.

That I focus on back bending now is in my opinion the only way to learn it. It's so challenging, that working on other poses that I'm not able to do, would be too much. Today was my last Mysore class for this week. I had an excellent practice.

We have to learn to be patient, especially if we like to practice Ashtanga yoga. This is difficult.

Picture: Purvottanasana: It's rather a counter pose after paschimottanasana than a back bending asana.



Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Discipline


These days I only need the discipline to get out of the bed when the alarm clock wakes me up at 5am. Then the morning movie starts. It's a routine. I can do it blindly without thinking.

To step alone on the mat is so much more difficult.
Only on Saturday or Sunday I can take pictures. Saturday is a day off and I need it. On Sundays I practice on my own. So today I searched in my archives for a visual.

Discipline is needed during the practice. To give energy to the vinyasas each time when I do it, needs discipline. It's so easy to practice sloppily, yet this leads nowhere. There is time for dawdling in my life. Yet when I practice I don't want to waste my time. So I cross my legs up, I try to make myself as small as possible to swing the crossed legs through my arms without touching the floor. A tiny puzzle is still missing. How to move forward, so that I have time to stretch my legs backwards. Again and again I try and again and again my feet touch the floor before I could send them backwards. To do this requires will power.

In the last week I read the book 'Die Macht der Disziplin' by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney. This book is in America and in Germany a bestseller. I linked to Amazon.com. It's easy to read and one gets helpful insights:

1. Willpower has limited energy. This explains why I couldn't resist the 'Rosinenschnecke' when I passed by the bakery at Sendlinger Tor after yoga even though I didn't like to eat cakes in the morning. I was exhausted, I couldn't bring up the energy to say 'no' to this smell and this food drug. These days we drink juice at the Viktualienmarkt and it's a much more healthy alternative. Avoid situations that require smart decisions when you are exhausted. Relax, eat well and then decide.

2. Everything is proved by tests in the book. I absolutely agree: To check oneself regularly makes sense. To write down the goals and to check the single actions daily gives motivation and also will power to keep going. This blog serves this purpose.

3. Focus on one or two goals, not too many is another tip. In my case it's back bending, back bending, back bending. I only think back bending, back bending.........re yoga.

Two more practices this week. I jubilate.