Thursday, December 31, 2015

Awesome night to everybody

Another year is over. We can celebrate the last day of 2015.

A last time I'll step on the mat. Not much is planned. I'll do some favorite asanas. That's it. 2016 will give me enough time to exhaust myself.

A wonderful evening to everybody and a fresh optimistic beginning in 2016.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Because it feels good

Oh, how disciplined I am. Also today I stepped on the mat and practiced. My asana practice lasted about one hour. I didn't feel stiff, but I wasn't flexible either. These days I'm happy when a practice is balanced and when I can do forward bending asanas, back bending asanas, twists, balancing asanas and standing asanas. It must feel good. The better I feel during and after the practice the more I want to practice the next day.

The practice is a concentration exercise. The breath, the dristis are important, the perfection of the asanas is a second priority.

Not all asanas are possible due to my back pain. I'm very relaxed. One day I'll look back and then I'll say: I had a painful sacroiliac joint, only after months it got better, but it got better.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Modest, modest

After all these festive days it feels so good to get back to daily life. To practice feels so  good, too also when the outcome is modest. The more regular I practice the easier it is. Pain avoidance is priority #1. The practice shall be a joy, the asanas shall feel good.

The sun is shining. No snow in sight here in Germany. I like it, but I fear it is not only a good sign. Our world climate is changing.

Huh, lunch again...........

Friday, December 25, 2015

The practice is a guide in life

I practice despite my back pain. I want to repeat it: No matter how lousy or how good a practice feels, afterwards I'm floating above all clouds. There is never any regret that I practiced. For the time being, I must be more attentive. I omit asanas. Today I even omitted vinyasas. I felt too weak.

The practice is so motivating to follow a healthy life style. It gives me energy and strength to follow some basic rules that makes life so much better.
The practice is a pointer: don't overeat, sleep enough, sit correctly, move, breathe deeply, concentrate, be content.

Sometimes I'm disappointed that my practice is so much worse than 3 months ago. There are the daily ups and downs, but sometimes it goes deep down into the valley. It seems so. I hope I've reached the deepest part of the valley already. It seems so, but I don't expect a fast recovery anymore.
The words of a friend console me: You'll gain knowledge and insights.
This is so true. I think even that it's interesting to face difficulties. How to face them? What attitude is useful? It motivates to look at the asanas more closely to find mistakes that can be adjusted.

I counted how often I can still practice in 2015. It was 8 practices two days ago. Twice I practiced. Tomorrow I'll rest as it is Saturday. To practice alone strengthens the discipline muscle. I'm very optimistic that I'll start in the new year with a prepared body.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Another painful practice

Sunday the yoga week starts. I postponed to step on the mat, but finally I started my Ashtanga practice. I do what is possible. Isn't it always so? Yet these days not so much is possible.

Is it good to practice, I wondered today? But I practice around the pain and this cannot be bad. Why shall I not exercise the arms or legs, when they are OK. The body is craving to get stretched.

This back pain is a huge test.

The pain is not felt all the time, yet there are movements which are simply not possible. To get up from trikonasana i.e. is not possible.

Each practice lifts up the mood, however it was. After every practice I'm optimistic. Let's see what will be tomorrow? I observe.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

How Kino learns new asanas.

A few months ago the latest book by Kino MacGregor 'The power of Ashtanga yoga II' arrived. I sat down quickly, I was too curious. The book is about the second Ashtanga yoga series. I searched the page where she wrote about pincha mayurasana as this is the next pose after kapotasana that is difficult for me. I've spent years already learning this pose with no success.

Kino is a very talented teacher. One reason might be that she has to fight for the asanas. She is not one of those people who can do anything after a few repetitions. She really has to work on poses. This makes her understanding them.

Yet what I read about pincha mayurasana amazed me:
It took her 18 months to learn it. Every day she tried it up to 17 times in the middle of the room. She also exercised this pose close to a wall. She  held the pose for 25 breaths to get stronger.


This is how one learns new poses, I thought.
Just adding a new pose and then trying it once is not enough. Also if one gets every day an adjustment it will take an eternity to learn the challenging poses of Ashtanga yoga. I even doubt in the meantime if one can learn some asanas that way at all.

Kino is in her twenties, I'm in my fifties. A body at my age needs more time to learn new things.

After having read the pages about pincha mayurasana it became clear to me, that learning a new asana requires much more time and effort than I thought. Doing it for 5 breaths and then expecting miracles won't do much.

I distinguish between practices that are more or less performances and those practices where I want to learn something. My strategy to do extra asanas and to repeat them again and again is a good one. I think I could still do a bit more. It's frustrating to try new things for more than 5 years with no success.

The classic Ashtanga method is that one practices till the pose that is difficult. One gets an adjustment. This was it.
This is not enough.
If one wants to learn the difficult asanas one has to repeat them more often. It might be helpful to do preparing exercises. This all is a tabu in the community. But those who are finally able to perform the asanas go this extra mile.

I highly recommend the book by Kino MacGregor.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The injuries of the masters

B.K.S. Iyengar:
In an interview Iyengar spoke of a serious injury. He was on stage. Krichnamacharya, his teacher and relative forced him to do hanumanasana even though he had never done this pose before. He injured himself. It took more than a year till he was healed.

In one of the books by his son I read that Krichnamacharya, already above 90 years, fell out of headstand and broke a bone. He refused to go to a doctor, but believed in the healing power of yoga.

Sharath Jois:
It's an open secret that Sharath suffers from back pain. In his book he recommends some asanas to relief this pain. It's shalabasana and cat pose with a round back. He never stopped practicing.

1. Injuries can happen. Anything can be a cause. It can be lack of attention during the practice. It can be too much ambition. The cause can be wrong teaching. Sometimes injuries happen not during the practice, but in daily life.

2. Yoga has healing power, but sometimes it's good advice to see a doctor.

3. Injuries might require a lot of time to heal. We always wish to find a quick fix, yet this is not always possible. Patience is necessary. The older we are the slower can be the healing process.

4. There is good pain and bad pain. It's important to distinguish between the both. It's good advice to work around bad pain. I read from another woman who had serious back pain. She had practiced already 4th series. She adjusted the practice and omitted the advanced back bending asanas. Sharath supported her.

5. I personally learned to trust myself more than ever. I know my own body better than anyone else.

6. Injuries teach to practice more precisely. An interest in anatomy might arise. This can deepen the understanding.

7. Injuries are pointers to adjust the practice. There are always ups and downs in life. It's possible to develop a relaxed attitude. Inhaling, exhaling....

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Weak, stiff and painful

We are at home again. During our trip to South Africa I practiced perhaps twice or three times. The hotel rooms were all large enough to roll out my mat, but I wanted my back to heal. With every day my back was better. I didn't like to risk this healing process during travelling.

Yet this morning I woke up and I could scarcely bow forward. I only thought: 'NO, this cannot be true.'

Despite this back pain, I know that the body needs to be moved, it needs to get exercise to function well. For me Ashtanga yoga is the best.

In the meantime I developed an attitude: What is possible I exercise. When pain arises I try a variation or omit this asana. I can challenge myself in so many ways, i.e. I can prolong the time in headstand.

Pain started with surya namaskara B, when I stepped forward with the left leg. I seriously consider to do a few more surya namaskara A instead of the B-variation.
It was almost impossible to get out of trikonasana. Again it's the left side that causes issues. I heard myself saying: aua.

However: I focus on the breath during the practice. I limit the asana practice to 90 min. It's not a strict rule. I'm against strict rules. Yet for the time being this is enough. I added pranayama and 10 min meditation.

I was more than happy that a practice was possible, despite the restrictions. I'm even looking forward to tomorrow.

The challenge is to find every day the limits and to push them a bit. It would make me unhappy if I compared my current practice with the practice 3 months ago.

Self-study is recommended, this is what I'm doing now. I observe.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

On the sacroiliac joint - why it can hurt.

Today I read another article  (in German language) on the sacroiliac joint and why it can cause pain. It strengthens what I thought already.

We have 2 sacroiliac joints that connect the spine with the hip shovels. They are rather stable, not much movement is allowed.

It is recommended to keep the hips evenly not to burden the one joint with the ligaments and muscles around it more than the other one.
It can happen that the hips relocate when there is more pressure on the one side and this can cause pain in that joint on the one side or the other side. Uneven movements can cause that the one side is stretched too much while the other side is compressed. This causes pain.

This is in my opinion what I did wrong in the last years. I practiced too long primary. A most advanced asana is supta kurmasana. Very few people in classes are able to do it. For some it's easy. They can cross the feet in front of the head. Yet in my case with relatively short limbs I have to put my feet/legs behind my head. This is a very intensive stretch. It's always left leg first and then the right leg. After years and daily practice this caused a relocation of my hips and as a consequence the pain in my back.

The author of this article even recommended not to cross legs when sitting on a chair. She recommended to stand on both feet when standing. Even such subtle movements can cause an imbalance and pain as a consequence.

Especially these intensive asanas must challenge both sides of the body evenly if practicing safely. In second series this is so. Eka pada sirsasana i.e. exercises first the right side, then the left side.
Dwi pada sirsasana is challenging the one body side more than the other. This is why I want to omit it for a while. Another option is to repeat the pose first with right leg first, then with left leg first. One can alter the legs also on every other day.

I'm glad that I get closer and closer to the cause of this pain. I want to remove the cause. Only taking pain killers is not a solution.

To bring it down to one sentence:
The asanas of Ashtanga yoga practice are so intensive, that it's best to practice them evenly. 

Especially if one practices daily it's important to practice correctly.

My back gets better and better (after months!!!!), I think the break was good. After months the danger was there that the pain became chronically. I sit here on this chair for more than an hour. I feel this joint now, but I can stand up without support with my arms. I don't need minutes till I stand straight. Yes, it has been so awful.

I feel so impatient. I want to get back to my daily spiritual Ashtanga yoga practice.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

The break feels good.

A break happened. I think it was 4 days ago when I practiced Ashtanga yoga the last time. This thirty minute on the mat felt good. I avoided all painful asanas. I'm a bit feverish now, so this prolongs the break.

I can't believe it, but today even after a few hours at the desk my back shows only very little pain. This is new. I think it's recovering. Perhaps it's only my hope, Time will reveal the truth.

My yoga practice will change. Yoga is about concentration. There is breathing, there are the dristis. Being a yogi is a life style. Of course there will be the asana practice, yet with much more attention and softness. Yoga has the power to heal, but it has also the power to injure.

When I want to learn a new asanas I'll apply the latest knowledge how to learn it.

Being disciplined is something one must learn alone. There will be home practices.
I want to add meditation and pranayama. It's overdue.

I had to write today. Anything. I'm again in a list of 50 best yoga blogs. This is motivating.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

What is a balanced practice?

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, November 09, 2015

Padmasana: right leg first. Really?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'll alter which leg comes first.

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

Sunday, November 08, 2015

The counter poses

Sunday. The yoga week starts with intermediate series.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Chronic pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The power of focus

So many thoughts cross my mind.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 23, 2015

Back pain - what to do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 22, 2015

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

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

Aiming for perfection is such a trap. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How to Release the Psoas Muscles

This exercise looks so simple, yet it is really helpful. It does miracles. Might it help you, too. 

Your Sacroiliac Joint does not need clicking back into place

Another view...... Interesting are the comments here. 

One wrong movement and I'm on my way......

One wrong movement and I'm on my way to become an expert at psoas muscle and sacroiliac joint.

When I described the back pain the doctor, he knew at once what it was. This facilitated a lot. I could search the web in more detail. 

The doctor gave me pain killer. The pills should  eliminate the soreness in the joint. Usually when the pain disappear people relax and with this relaxation the body repositions. In my case the pills helped me as long as I took them plus one day. 

Now the pain is back. The cause is still there. This sacrioliac joint is still not in the correct position. This is why the muscle (psoas muscles) is strained. My friend sent me videos especially to this topic. The sacrioliac joint must find back to it's original position. Exercises shall help to reposition it. It helps. 

This morning I practiced primary as I realized that forward bending asanas feel good. Between the poses I added the special exercises I found online.

I omitted sun salutation B - the hero pose is painful. The trikonasana asanas were difficult on the one side. Yet the forward bending asanas and even the vinyasas could be performed very well, that is without pain at all. I practice what feels good. 

I've found a sitting position that is comfortable right now.

In the evening the discomfort is worse than in the morning. Yesterday when I was in bed I put my legs behind my head. Feet not crossed. This relieved the pain. It felt so good. We laughed. It's impossible to stay in this position all day long. 

Mood is optimistic. I've something to work on. This cannot last for an eternity. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Pain free is something else

Pain free is something else. But I practice again since 2 days. It was hard to start again after a break of about 3 weeks, but I have other organs, too and not only my back and they scream for yoga.
I find it very relaxing to focus on the breath. I exercise concentration. A yoga practice has so much aspects. It's not only the performance of the asanas that is important.

My practice is modified. I practice the sun salutations, the standing asanas and then I start with second series till the leg behind head poses. I try yoga nidrasana, I leave out all the primary forward bending asanas, not only because of my back. I got feed-back that my practice is unbalanced and this is so true. My forward banding asanas are so much better than my back bending asanas. This is so because I practice much much more forward bending asanas.
When I finally come to the back bending asanas after 1 hour of practice I'm already sort of exhausted. What is difficult must come first and not last.

Today is my first day without pills. The pills should eliminate the soreness. Yet when this little sacroiliac joint is still blocked, soreness will come back. I hope that my attentive yoga practice will adjust my body again.

My short-term goals are again to do a daily practice. That's all. I'll add pranayama and meditation. When my back is OK again (hope dies last), I'll get back to an ambitious asana and vinyasa practice.

During the last 12 years of daily Ashtanga yoga practice I made few mistakes.
Here they are:
1. The asanas were more important than the vinyasas.
2. I started too late with second series. 'Too much primary', I heard from advanced yoginis. I didn't know what they mean. Now I know. My practice, that is my body is exercised unevenly. Forward bending is very good, back bending is lousy therefore.
3. I used props and straps the wrong way. A strap around the legs when exercising back bending is rather a danger for the back than a support. I lost strength in my legs that is so important.  Practicing pincha mayurasna against a wall all the time enlarges the fear to fall. One must learn to fall.

My strategy: 
1. The vinyasas get much more attention.
2. What is difficult must come first. This is back bending in my case. Repetition is a secret for success. I'll work on these asanas and not just trying it once. If I use props again (I use i.e. my magic wheel), I really examine if this is supportive or not. The goal is to practice without props.
3. Till my back is healed, the back is the boss. The practice must be adjusted from one minute to the next in case of pain.

I feel much much better. Most of the time I'm pain free. Yet I still can locate this little joint because discomfort tells me: hello here I am, take care. I will.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

On back pain - a summary

Back pain is not back pain. There are different causes why back pain occurs and in my opinion there are also different healing methods.

1. Lumbago: Lumbago can happen from one second to the other. One wrong movement and a nerve might not be at the usual place and the pain can begin. Lumbago is painful. There is no way to practice yoga or to do anything. I went to the hospital. There they gave me something to drink. It was a drug that shall relax the muscles. I slept on the aisle in a hotel bed soon after having taken this fluid. After a few hours I was OK again. It was all like a nightmare. I spoke with people who have this lumbago very often. 

2. Sacroiliac joint: The hips and the spine is connected via this joint that is rather a gristle. A wrong movement ,i.e. one lifts up a heavy suitcase or one turns around in an awkward manner and something can be blocked there. I got it when I practiced supta kurmasana. I remember when it happened. I thought: Damned, I pulled something. In difference to lumbago the pain can be located almost precisely. It's either on the left or right side of the lower spine. 
The recommendation here is to go to the doctor as soon as possible. I postponed this too long. Practicing yoga was not a good idea. But the pain was volatile. During the practice I felt good, but afterwards it was difficult to sit down or to stand up. I could scarcely turn around in bed at night. 
The joint got sore. The pills that I got are in general against rheumatic problems. It helped almost at once. After one day I felt so incredible much better. 
Today I was in the subway: I could stand up and sit down without pain. A miracle.
Tomorrow I feel ready for my first practice after a break of almost 3 weeks. 

3. Back pain in general: I can write only theoretically about it. I think people get back pain if they sit too long in the same position. People who have sedetary jobs might be prone to get back pain, when they don't exercise to balance this life style. Yoga might be very good here, also because it works prophylactic. All sorts of asanas are useful: Standing asanas, forward bending, back bending, twists, inversions .....

For the time being there is a gap between what I want and what is possible. I think it's good advice to start slowly and to focus on the breath. 

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Mr Iyengar and back pain

People went to yoga gurus because they faced challenges in their lives: Students had difficulties to concentrate during their studies. Others had illnesses. Practicing yoga was considered as a helpful method for many diseases. It helped to change the life style to a healthier one.

What recommends B.K.S Iyengar when having back pain?
I took his bible and analyzed the Asanas:
He recommends:

1. All standing positions. This would be the beginning of the Ashtanga series without the sun salutations.

2. Sirsasana plus variations. Sirsasana is an inversion asana. I practiced this yesterday and it felt good.
3. Sarvangasana plus variations. Also this is an inversion asana.

4. Jatara-Parivartanasana: This is a twist. One lies on the floor, the legs are in a 90% angle to the body and move to the left and the right side. I'll take a picture. This is not an asana that is part of the Ashtanga series.
5. Supta padangusthasana and supta parsvasahita:  It's easier to do this position than the same forms standing. I testes this yesterday.

6. Mahamudra: This is a position I have not seen so far. I must try it. It looks great.

7. Janu sirsasana: This position felt good, too. It's a forward bending asana. It relaxed my back.
8. Parivrta sirsasana: It's a variation, that is new to me. A soft twist is added.

9. Paschimottanasana: It feels good, this forward bending asana.
10.  Urdhva mukha paschimottanasana I and II: This is paschimottanasana sitting and lying.
11. parivritta paschimottanasana: This is twisting the upper body to one side and then the other side.

12. Marichyasana 1 and Marichyasana 2: Forward bending asana and twist.
13. Ardha matsyendrasana 1 and 2: Twist and forward bending asana

14. Pashasana: Twist. I wondered that Mr Iyengar even recommends such an intensive twist.

15. Malasana: A forward bending asana.
16. Adho Mukha-Svanasana:  Downdog always feels relaxing.

17. Ustrasana: What? Back bending asanas are also recommended? Yes, it is so.
18. Shalabhasana.
19. Dhanurasana.
20. Parsva dhanurasana.
21. Urdhva dhanurasana.

22. Viparita chakrasana: This is such an advanced asana. I don't even try it.
23. Dwi pada viparita dandasana. This is a back banding asana of the third Ashtanga series.

24. Mandalasana: Something for my next life.

Mr Iyengar recommends standing asanas, inversions, forward bending asanas, back bending asanas, twists.
In other words practice yoga.

There are no sun salutions and no jumping (how B.K.S Iyengar calls the vinyasas of the Ashtanga yoga series) in his list.
The order of the asanas is different than in Ashtanga yoga. This might not be of such an importance.

Yoga, the pills, Magnesium and a hot Epson bath shall finally bring me back to normal.
I'll try some asanas of this list that are new to me.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

I went to the doctor

The day yesterday was perfect. I was busy, moved around. No pain at all. The more I move the better I feel, but also I have to sit from time to time. I'm learning Photoshop these days, At night I finally sat on my desk. Time passed away quickly and after a few hours I could scarcly stand up. My back hurt like hell. It's always the right side. The spot where it hurts most can be located. I don't know how I made it to the bed. There I did half yoga nidrasana, which was relaxing. I had enough.

This morning I went to the doctor. When I showed him where it hurts he said at once: Iliosakralgelenk (ISG). There is a cartilage between spine and hip that holds the both together. A wrong movement and this sublte organisation can get out of balance and this is painful. I swear it is.

I got pills. Warmth shall help. It will pass. This is good news.

On my way home I bought some vegetables. My fruit and vegetable dealer knew at once as well what I had when I described the pain. He suggested that it helps if someone pulls my legs, slowly. This can cause that the blockade goes away. Twists shall help, too. I felt at once that this could be another key to recovery.

At home I checked the Internet.
I read that often sportive people have this, too. After recovery one shall return slowly to the sportive activity.

Mr Iyengar listed a lot of asanas that shall be helpful when the back hurts. I'll exercise them. Slowly, attentively. I'm relieved to know now what it is. Quick recovery shouldn't be expected, yet with the pills I guess I'll be fully recovered in a week.
I consider a hot bath on a daily basis.

Just wonder if I gossip too much......but my experience is that one can get useful tips when sharing whatever.....

Might this post be helpful.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

October challenge

Kino has created a new challenge for October and I'm in again.

It's a good start for me. I took a break to see if my back pain gets better. It doesn't. The pattern that I could make out is that the pain gets worse when I don't move. For instance after a few hours at the desk in front of my computer the pain is awful. It's absent when I move. I cannot move all the time. But I think I can do yoga.

I'm at a turning point with my practice again. I'll do much more home practices again. Life is a huge experiment, so is my yoga.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Prasarita padottanasana C

I have preferences. I prefer the version when the palms face each other.

When I turn the hands I have the feeling as if I cannot take the arms closer to the floor. I feel stuck.

It is said that the above position opens the shoulders more. I don't feel that. Yet one can really exercise both versions.

Utthita parsva konasana

Also utthita parsva konasana got adjusted during my stay in Vienna.

The teacher saw that I had too much weight on my hand. Yet it's the feet/legs that stabilize the pose. When the feet press into the floor the upper body is more flexible. At once the asanas feels better.

I never liked to take pictures of this asana because the face looked always a bit strange due to the head position.

My head got adjusted, too.

The head doesn't move backwards, it turns around. That is, the chin doesn't move upwards, it turns around.
It might be even easier to look first backwards, and then going down into the position.

When the head position is correct, the back of the neck and the back are in line. Then the head is parallel to the camera and this pose looks nicely also on pictures.

Dristis are important. From L I learned it's not gazing at a point, yet gazing towards a point. His example was downward facing dog. When the bandhas are engaged one will never be able to see the navel. Yet one can look towards it.
It's always looking TOWARDS a point.

To have the weight on the legs is doable at once.
To correct the head position will take time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Surya namaskara B - Jumping forward

The hint, that I'll describe in this post, has changed my surya namaskara A, but also how I jump forward. It bettered enormously. I found another piece of the mosaic. 

My practice was observed in great detail in Vienna. I thought I would move my leg straight between my hands, but this was not the case. The poses feel so differently than they look. I did this movement in slow motion and I realized that I have to move the knee closer to the body in order to keep it in line. 

Usually I didn't care much about this short moment when the foot was between the hands. I moved the hands upwards. I took care that my bent leg remained parallel to the floor. Most students move upwards here. 
I tried to have a 90% angle between leg and body. This was it. 

Yet this moment when the foot is between the hands is worth being studied. Why: It can help how one jumps forward. 

I put a blanket on the floor so that my foot is about 1cm off the floor. Usually my body was on the knee. One can be creative and find time to relax even when not expected. Yet it's so much more useful to have space between body and leg. If there is enough space between body and leg and foot and floor, jumping through without touching the floor is possible. 

I hold this pose (pic 2) for several breaths. The body shall remember this position. Secondly it's good to build strength exactly in this position. Best is being able to have the foot off the floor without blanket.

Last Friday when I was in a Mysore class I was so astonished how often I was able to jump forward without sliding on the floor with my feet. The understanding of this position helped me. Sometimes it's just getting a hint and the pose or vinyasa improves. Sometimes one has to work towards a goal. 

When jumping forward it's even a bit easier, because the legs are crossed and therefore it's easier to have the feet of the ground because there is more room. 
I also remembered the height where the feet pass by the arms. 

To experience that it is possible to create space between the floor and the feet and the leg and the body helps also psychologically. It's an 'aha-moment'. To see this space is the prove that the jumps are possible.

I move the leg in slow motion between the arms. I take a break when my foot is between my arms to build strength. I try to lift up the foot. My body doesn't rest anymore an the leg.

Suddenly the sun salutations become interesting again. Not only this. They exhaust me again. 

Try it! This hint has the potential to better your vinyasas. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Chaturanga Dandasana

During my last stay in Vienna I went to an Ashtanga yoga school. This was surely one highlight of this trip. We were only few people in class and I got more or less a private lesson. The feed-back that I got will change my practice.

Let's start with the sun salutation: 
The sun salutation serve as a warm up. Yet when performed correctly they can prepare to perform asanas and vinyasas.

Practicing chaturanga dandasana correctly helps to build  strength that is needed when jumping backwards i.e..
Currently I feel stuck at the 'jumping backwards' because I don't know how to shift the weight of my body forward towards my hands when I've lifted the body, so that my legs have room enough to move/fly backwards.

I have found a key to this challenging movement. It starts really at the very beginning.
The asanas and vinyasas feel differently than they actually look like.

I always tried to feel the weight of my body on my hands before I actually jumped backwards, Obviously it was not enough and soon the weight was more on the feet than on the arms.

The advise was to make smaller jumps and to move the shoulders forward.
I try this now and it's so much more challenging. It feels even a bit awkward. I might hang a bit  through. The bandhas could be engaged more. Yet I've found another tiny piece of the mosaic.
The lower arms shall be parallel to the wall.
(To change a habit can be difficult.)

Practicing chaturanga dandasana correctly will help me to build strength in the arms that is needed for the 'jumping backwards vinyasa'. I'm glad for every tiny step.
Try it.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

This morning I gave up!

This morning after a lousy almost sleepless night I gave up. First I didn't get up as planned. I felt exhausted, even ill. When I finally got up the blood pressure seemed to be low. I felt dizzy. In the kitchen I hesitated for some time. But I felt so bad that I finally ate the blackberries that I still had from the first day, the fruit day. After that I dashed at the banana, but I couldn't eat it the whole banana. The body and mind were too weak to put it on a plate afterwards. To eat tofu and vegetables again like yesterday already for breakfast seemed to be a horror. I schlepped myself to the bed again. Feet and hands were ice cold. The rest of the body felt even feverish. Overall feeling: very bad. Relaxation overpowered me and slowly I got better.

During the last days I planned already the first meal after these 7 days of fasting. Now it was the breakfast on the 5th day. It required some energy to prepare it. In pyjama I ate it and I knew that to give up this 'fasting' only 2 days before the official end was the best I could do. The energy was exhausted after the act of preparing a tiny meal. To put back my ingredients was too much already. Horizontal in the bed again I waited till the food would kick in. This was soon the case. Energy returned and it allowed me to shower. 

I'm happy with my decision and that I don't have to play the role of a hero. Enough is enough.
My goals are reached. 

1. I slipped into this treasure trap lately, how I call it now after having read the book 'The treasure Trap'. The craving for sweets, chocolate, cakes, panna cotta had no limit. This found an end. Today I'll meet a friend to see the Warhol exhibition. At the opposite side of the museum is my favorite ice cream seller. Alone the thought of eating ice cream makes me feel sick. And it is my favorite coconut vegan ice cream. I used to go miles for it at any time. 

2. My wished weight is reached also. I can imagine that this is the most interesting point for many in a society where half of it is overweight. The yogis are in general slimmer. I won't make a secret out of it,  here is a graph. One of my first apps was 'Check your weight'. Every day one can enter the weight. Hahahaha......... 

One can clearly see, that weight goes up and down. This is normal and no yoyo. During my vacation I couldn't enter anything but as so often at the end it's a bit on the upper rim. It's almost impossible to eat healthy in restaurants. And then I started the 'fasting'. It was not really satisfying to see that every day only a few gram less were on the scales. In sum it was great. I lost 2 kg and 200 gr within 5 days. The effort for this was huge. 

Life is an experiment. I loved to experience the effect on the body if one eats food of a certain kind only. It felt unbalanced. One shouldn't feel hunger during these 7 days. This promise couldn't be kept 100%, which is not a tragedy. 

I have made plans for the day after. This is a post to come. 

NEVER AGAIN, I'll try a fasting.

Monday, September 07, 2015

The fifth day of 'fasting'

The worst of the day is behind me already: The Mysore class. This is a joke. It was awesome. My practice had an intensity that I cannot create at home even though I have a focused practice these days. The wall cannot substitute the adjustments of my teacher M when I exercise kapotasana. 
I sweated, I felt thirsty after the practice. At home I fell in the bed and slept. 

Today is the fifth day of 'fasting': 

I thought: OMG, this day will become difficult. 
The first step was to change this self-talk. I managed 4 days, why shall I not manage day 5? 

Here is the menu of day 5: 
1. Drink your glass of water. Done.
2. Today 2 portions of Tofu and 6 tomatoes in sum are on the menu. It's best to eat the tomatoes raw. 
3. One shall drink 1 l of water minimum in addition.
4. It's allowed to eat the 'miracle soup'. The recipe can be found on yesterday's post. When I reread this, I became optimistic again. 

I celebrate my meals. I taste consciously what I put into my mouth. Chewing happens automatically. I realize how the consistency of the food changes the longer it is in the mouth. Also the taste changes. 

The meals are light. I'm not full, but it is enough what I eat. Less is more. 

There is a lot to do today. This redirects the focus to something else but this 'fasting'. I'll sleep as much as I want. I don't feel hungry, but when I ask myself 100 times, I might change my opinion without real reason. So, it's good that I'm busy. 

Yes, also this day will be doable. 
I feel good. 

Sunday, September 06, 2015

The fourth day of 'fasting'

The fourth day of 'fasting':
1. It's known already: Drink a glass of water in the morning, room-temperature
2. Today up to 8 bananas and 3 glasses of almond milk were allowed.
3. In addition the 'miracle soup' stood on the menu.

Here is the recipe for the soup as you see it on the picture: 
The ingredients:
- half an onion
- 2 stems of celery
- 1 red pepper
- 1 peeled tomato
Herbs of the Provence and a bit of salt. All herbs were allowed.

I simmered the onions in olive oil, added slowly the rest of the vegetables. I let the soup simmer about 20 minutes.

I can clearly say, I had no hunger today. Nevertheless the meals are light. Cravings disappear. It becomes clear why this week is called 'fasting'. It refreshes the senses. I'm surprised how good I feel.

Half of this fasting week is over. I started already planning the time after.

A story: Yesterday I had prepared this salad with carrots. The dressing should be of olive oil and apple vinegar. Quick, quick I took the closest vinegar. The apple vinegar was behind other bottles. Of course I have up to 7 different vinegars. So I used this speciality that stood in the fridge door. To be honest it spoiled the salad. After having eaten fresh fruit and vegetables as they grow in nature during the last days, this sugar- spicy,-vinegar was so artificial. It was too much ugly taste. It was insofar good that I used it, as I realized how quickly my senses recovered.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

The third day of 'fasting'

The third day:

1. Recommendation: Drink a glas of water after getting up, every day, so also today. I am into that habit.
2. Today fruit and vegetables were allowed except bananas and potatoes.

Pictures show breakfast, lunch and dinner.....

This morning I woke up and didn't feel so good. I went to the kitchen and had my first portion of fruit. After a while I felt good. It's still interesting to see what influence the single ingredients have on the body. I feel light, I'm not starving, but I miss bread. The taste sensitizes.

To stroll around feels good. It distracts. This is not a hunger diet. It's not necessary to scrutinize the feelings and the body every minute.

The Ratatouille was a bit boring, but it was filling. It's evening. This was my last meal for today.

The mental food for this week is a book that I can highly recommend: It's called 'The treasure trap'.

Friday, September 04, 2015

The second day of 'fasting'

The second day:
1. Drink a glass of water in the morning
2. Have a cooked or baked potato as breakfast with coconut oil or vegan butter (margarine).

3. Eat only vegetables during the day (no beans).

I'm still enthusiastic about this 'fasting'experience. To eat a potato for breakfast made me laugh. After a day of only fruit, one potato was so filling. It tasted GOOD. I took many bites with margarine and salt on it. A dream. :)

After my first vegetable 'soup' as a late lunch, I was still a bit empty in my stomach, but soon this feeling disappeared. I had a second plate tonight. It was not necessary. It was rather social eating, dinner that I prepared for my better half.

I feel full of energy.
The ravenousness disappeared.

Ah, what to drink: In the morning I have a cup of coffee or two (black, no sugar). During the day I drink water and I had two cups of Matcha tea.

It is so interesting so realize what an influence the single ingredients have on the body.

This fasting idea is from the book 'SOS - Schlank ohne Sport' by Katharina Bachman who had it from her Indian doctor. The book is in German.

I'm looking forward to day 3.

A week of 'fasting'.

The first day:
1. It's recommended to drink a glass of water (room temperature) in the morning.
2. The first day is the fruit day. All fruits are allowed, but no bananas.
3. In order not to have hunger it's allowed to eat Chia-samen, that is soaked in water.

The fruit day is already over and it was an interesting experience. We even had a Papaya. Nevertheless fruit doesn't fill up. One doesn't love to eat another orange and another kiwi if one has eaten already 2 pieces from each. This is why fruit is no drug. It doesn't make addicted like sugar. After an apple it is enough apple.

The main goal why I do this 'fasting' is to reset the body to stop the craving for sugar and fat.
I'm glad that I was consequent the first day. I had a lot of energy.
This morning I woke up early and practiced the first Ashtanga series. I had no hunger. I felt refreshed.

Tomorrow I'll write about day 2.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

The break

During our holidays in Austria and Slovenia I practiced only once in a studio in Vienna. This was one of my highlights.

Most hotel rooms had a carpet and this is not inviting. Space was so limited. No, I didn't like to crawl there on the ground.

The break has had good aspects, too. I don't feel the pain in my back anymore. Almost. It's so incredible much better. I'm so relieved.

Back to the highlight, the practice in Vienna. I got feed-back from a teacher with a lot of experience. And I know he is right. I could sign everything that he said to me. I had almost a private session there. The feed-back about single asanas was useful, too. Yet the general feed-back will change what I'll do from now on.
A lot went wrong in the past, the last 12 years. I don't care. I pick myself up where I am.

There is a huge difference between my forward bending asanas, twists and back bending. This developed over the years. In India I once heard a yogini saying: Too much primary. Now I know what it means. I practiced too long primary.
This gap between my ability to bend forward and to bend backward won't change by it's own. To close the gap in order to have a balanced practice again I plan the following:
On Sundays I'll practice at home. I'll do second series. I'll repeat the back bending poses. I'll do extra back bending poses. As they come first now, I'll have the energy.
For me it's no more enough to hold kapotasana for 5 breaths and then doing the next pose. That way I can try this pose till I'll be 100 years old.
Also in Mysore classes I'll hold the backbending poses longer, I hope I'll have the energy for this. In Mysore classes I practice half of primary first. This gives me the opportunity to work on the vinyasas.
Monday, Wednesday and Friday I'll join our group. On Friday is primary. This is a fixed ritual.
Yet on Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday I'll try to close the gap, so that one day backbending and forwardbending are equally developed.

Yoga is about balance. My practice is not balanced. I could realize this so clearly. I'm ready to change this.

Time to is just a new start, a soft beginning, after a break.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Does it make sense to apply the Pareto principle to Ashtanga yoga?

In short: The Pareto principle says that with 20% activity 80% success is accomplished. It is more or less to find out what these 20% activities are. Applying this principle saves time and energy.

I just wondered if it makes sense to apply this principle to yoga and I came to the conclusion that at least when time is short it can make sense to focus on a few exercises that need special attention.

In my case it's trying to stand on my hands, legs bent. It's not necessary to do a warm up, because this is the warm up. Not so much space is required either.

It's Sunday the yoga week begins........

Saturday, August 22, 2015


To hang in a pose is not enough for me. I don't know how often I've heard: Open your chest. Surely, me too I get deeper a bit, when I hang backwards. Gravity helps. Yet when I want to learn such an advanced pose like kapotasana more is necessary.

I use a wall when I want to deepen my back bending. Psychologically it's easier to repeat this exercise with the legs a bit closer to the wall each time when I repeat it. Yet when I took this picture below, this was the limit. My first attempts ended with my hands much higher.

This might surprise, but my first goal is that doing these back bending asanas must feel good. Of course stretching discomfort must be felt, too, if one wants to progress. Yet when breathing properly it should disappear.
This pose feels good. When I get out of it it feels even better. It is as if my spine got an intensive massage.

I'm a fan of slow and steady progress.

Friday, August 21, 2015


The goal is to have the feet on the floor next to the body. Then one can work on opening the chest because there is stability. Trying to bent backward in this pose feels a bit awkward. It's good to lift the knees higher. It stretches the muscles of the legs. 

This is the exercises that I do before bhekasana when I practice at home. I sit between 2 blocks, then I put my feet on it and lie down. I recommend to do this exercise with a lot of care. As soon as the knees hurt one must stop doing it. Yet one can also feel a sensation on the muscles of the legs and this is wished. This exercise helps me to get deeper into the pose called bhekasana. 

Primary series today

At 6:30 am I was on my mat. It's exactly the time when the Mysore class starts. I was not sure if I should go or not. Yet when I was up, I could feel my back. The decision was clear then. It's all so much better. This part of the body that is in trouble is recovering for sure. If there is any pain in my body, I don't speak about discomfort, then this part dictates my day.

I practiced with care and slowly. My practice lasted 2 hours, even though I did only primary and no extra exercises.

Urdhva dhanurasana: I used to lift up and stayed in urdhva dhanurasana for 5 breaths. Then I went down on my head  and walked my hands closer to the feet, then I lifted myself up again.
I have change this a bit. I go down on my head and lift up, then I walk my hands closer. That way I get the feeling how it is when at least one hand doesn't touch the floor. There is no support from the head either. Only the feet and one hand are on the floor for a moment. I want to get used to shift the weight to the feet. The goal is to come up.

Friday is primary (only) on the schedule (worldwide) and it's OK to end the week modest. This makes the practice safe. After an exhausting week the body is exhausted. I didn't drop back today.

I'm glad that I practiced the familiar poses of primary again. As I don't practice the second part of the middle part during the week, I was curious how it would be. It was all OK.

And tomorrow I'll enjoy a day off.

Practicing Ashtanga yoga is a life style.