Friday, February 27, 2015

We became such a sweet Ashtanga yoga community

Today was G's last day here. It was our last Mysore class with him. One can clearly say that he has left traces here in Munich. To experience an intensive learning situation without much talking was excellent. G created an intensive atmosphere. I got excellent adjustments, yet I got also advice how to improve my practice on my own. I think my practice leaped ahead in the last 2 months.

For me the workshop was very informative, too. I don't feel like traveling to India. Nevertheless I love to have a strong connection to this place of the world and to the teaching of Sharath. I want to be informed what's going on there. I know now some important alteration in the series. I wrote about it.

A big thank you to G for his generosity to share his experience with us.

On Sunday the show goes on - another excellent teacher will support us. M is very active in the background and cares that we can go on with our Mysore classes here in Munich.

Yoginis are flexible. Nothing can be held. Life goes on........with highest speed.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The bandhas

Vinyasas: This morning I focused on the bandhas when I did the vinyasas. What a glorious idea. The vinyasas were excellent.

Laghu vajrasana: I moved backwards till the head touched the floor and I was able to come up again. This time the knees didn't drift away from each other like yesterday.I so engaged the leg muscles.  I didn't pause when down. I'll repeat this movement for some time and then I'll add one breath at a time.

Kapotasana was lousy. I asked G how far away my fingers were from my toes. When I saw the distance I got frustrated.

Urdhva dhanurasana: It feels good. G is convinced that I'm able to come up. I think he deserves that I come up tomorrow. This pose improved during his stay here in Munich. Both G and M worked a lot with me on this pose. When I see my back bending in pictures I so admire them because they don't give up on me. My back bending looks modest in pictures. Their optimism is contagious. This gives a lot of energy and trust. I believe now that I'll stand up soon from this back bending asana. Yep.

Tomorrow is another Mysore class. On Friday is the last class with G. Then our time with G is over. Too fast, I think. It was an excellent time.

Picture: Doors open.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Laghu vajrasana

I know I have to work on getting stronger legs. The legs have to do a lot of work. They do the main work when moving out of every back bending asana.

I had not much success with laghu vajrasana lately. As soon as my head was on the floor, my body was like a sack of iron. No way to come up. I rather collapsed.
I changed my strategy. I moved backwards and up. Today I moved back till my head touched the floor and then I came up again. The knees drifted apart, but I came up. I consider this as a success.

Later when we sipped tea after yoga a yogini friend gave me a tip. It was to work more on the strength of my legs. So right she is. I didn't know that it was so obvious that this is my weak point.

I enjoy the highlight of today.

'Are you tired?' G asked me today. But I wasn't tired. I go to bed on time, that is 9pm straight. I want to be fit for the practice. Only a few days are left with G. I'm not tired but the back bending asanas are volatile. The performance is changing: sometimes good, sometimes not good. Hahahaha.....

Modern Ashtanga Yoga - a summary

Three things have changed:

1. Surya namaskara: the arms move upwards and downwards in front of the body and not on the sides. We take care of our fellow yoginis.

2. Urdhva mukha svanasana: dirsti is the nose.

3. When binding the arms the one hand is slightly closed and makes an easy fist.

There are also other points that easily fall into oblivion.
- For instande the elbows are outwards when doing paschimottanasana. They don't rest on the floor. :)
- The vinyasas are important - the feet shall not touch the floor when jumping forward and backward, yet there is no handstand between the asanas.
- Feet are pointed during the closing sequence.

The workshop with G really helped me to be up-to-date without traveling to India. :)

Modern Ashtanga Yoga - Dristi in urdhva mukha svanasana

Here is another important message from the workshop last Saturday with G, who is authorized and who practices regularly in India with Sharath.

Dirsti in upward facing dog was third eye.
What happened: The yoginis moved upwards, the eyes looked upwards, too, the front was in wrinkles. In the last years I tried to pull my eye-brows down so that my face relaxed. Nevertheless 99% of the yoginis including myself pulled their faces.

Dristi has changed: it is now the nose in urdhva mukha svananana. 
This is so much better, because one looks downwards slightly, the face remains relaxed.
Today I talked about this change with a yogini. She even thinks that breathing becomes easier when the eyes look at the nose. I agree.

Upward facing dog or urdhva mukha svanasana is a pose that we do rather often as it is a counter pose to all the forward bending asanas of primary. It requires concentration to change the dristi. As it feels so much better I'll integrate this in my practice. It will be a focus of concentration during my next practices, for sure.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Modern Ashtanga Yoga - Surya namaskara B

These days the arms raise in front of the body (and not on the sides). 

This respects the space of the yogini on the next mat. It allows to focus on the own practice because one doesn't have to take care not to interrupt the practice of another yogini. 

Modern Ashtanga Yoga - surya namaskara

Last Saturday we had a workshop with G who is a certified Ashtanga yoga teacher. He informed us how Ashtanga yoga is taught these days in Mysore/Gokulam.

Some alterations make so much sense.

When I did the surya namaskaras I usually moved my arms above the head on the sides of my body. This is absolutely OK when the shala is not crowded. Sometimes when one mat was next to the other with a few inches distance only, I took care. So my attention was divided. Sometimes I raised my arms in front of me, sometimes on the sides. But why make it so difficult.
Sometimes one had to fear that the arms of the yoginis next to me met me and the other way round, too.

In India the shala is always crowded. There is almost no distance between the mats. The arms rise above the head in front of the body these days. That's what they teach. It feels absolutely perfect. In Ashtanga yoga we don't arch back. We stretch the body upwards. To rise the arms in front of the body doesn't make the movement more difficult.

When folding forward the arms remain stretched. There is no prayer position in between. I saw this not only once. Yet this is not what one shall do.

I think that this alteration is also an improvement. It respects the space of the yogini next to us.

Modern Ashtanga Yoga - about the details

On Saturday we had a workshop with G who is studying Ashtanga yoga with Sharath. Many times he was in India, Gokulam. He wanted to inform us how the rules/guidelines are these days.

Sometimes it's also about the details.

I think a decade ago the details were neglected. But with so many students these days and everybody wants to know exactly what to do, Sharath also gave guidelines re the details.

The fist: So, when binding and one hand holds the wrist of the other arm, the hand of this arm closes slightly to a fist. I used to stretch it. It feels comfortable to close the hand slightly.

This alteration feels good. I'll integrate it into my practice.

Oh, when doing the twists of primary (Marichyasana C and D) the hand reaches for the thigh or leg, no easy fist here.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Primary today - I flew through the series

Surprise, surprise.

This morning I flew through the series.

It's always a highlight when flow is experienced.

Four times I lifted the body up to exercise urdhva dhanurasana. I held the pose for 5 long breaths. On Fridays I don't drop back. I enjoy these days when I take it easy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Don't push too hard, when you are tired.

My practice lasted 20 min shorter today than usual. I was indeed tired. The mind always tries to find reasons why something is so. Perhaps 3 excellent practices in a row were enough and the body had to integrate the depth of these practices.

No adjustments for kapotasana today, which was very responsible and I was glad, almost relieved. I exercised this pose 3 times on my own, of course with energy (without energy I cannot do this pose) yet without pushing.
I took it easy today. Indeed.

Urdhva dhanurasana was great, I didn't aim for the limits either, but I always want to do this pose:
- I lifted myself up from lying on the floor - 4 times - each time I brought my hands closer to the feet.
- I dropped back 3 times alone
- I dropped back 3 times alone, yet I got help to come up. My understanding of how to stand up gets better every day.
- 3 times I moved backwards, arms crossed in front of the chest. We get hold to do this back bending asana.
- Then I moved backwards with arms crossed in front of the chest, yet in the last moment one stretches the arms. For this position one gets held, too. I walked closer to the feet with the hands. The adjustment is to pull against the hips. One holds against this. This strengthens the necessary muscles. And up....

Thirteen times I did back bending. This shall be enough. And this was a tired day today.

If you want to see some of my pictures click on:

Don't forget: Tomorrow is a moon day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Could reach the balls of my feet with my finger tips

I'd rather say: G could bring my fingers a tiny bit closer to the heels of my feet in kapotasana. My fingers touched the balls of my feet today.
Then my limit was reached. It started to feel not so good anymore on my right shoulder. This is OK. It's every day a play with the limits. Sometimes one can get closer, sometimes close is far away. And sometimes one has reached a limit that is no more comfortable. In sum the pose feels good, so much better than ever.

My practice explodes. Kapotasana gets better almost on a daily basis. I'm so close to stand up from urdhva dhanurasana. I think I need a bit more strength and a bit more fine-tuning and then I jump through (forward and backward) without touching the floor with my feet. It's harvest time. This must be enjoyed, Nothing lasts forever.

Over a period of time one  learns to perform asanas, but one also learns to get closer to the limits. The mental strength improves. I'm able to motivate myself to perform urdvha dhanurasana  4 times before I drop back and I hold the pose for 5 breaths. I want to do this exercise 5 times.

The above picture is taken this morning at 5:45am. That's the time when I leave my cosy home. The very early mornings have atmosphere. I don't feel how cold it is when I see so much beauty around me.

Monday, February 16, 2015

It happened again

After this excellent practice yesterday I didn't expect much for today. Yet also today I reached my toes with my hands. Not alone. G helped me to get closer with my hands. The adjustment is not easy. I'm so happy that I may experience the feeling of being in such a crazy pose. My optimism get nourished.

Here are some tips that I got by now:
- Always repeat it.
- Take your time.
- Move first the one hand closer, then the other one.
- Start with the side that is more flexible.
- Have the chin on the chest when crawling the hands to the feet. It's amazing, but this is really a trick.
- Stretch your arms between the attempts to get closer to the feet and breath 5 times. This requires so much will power. Yet this is it.

There is a lot more to say: The legs shall be strong, bandhas shall be engaged, deep breathing helps.

The secret is to practice daily correctly. Then a lot can be moved. This is easy said. Yet it works.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

My personal closing prayer

I could reach my toes again in kapotasana with the help of G. Not the first time when I tried to get into the pose, but the second time. The recommendation: Repeat it twice. Always.
This is what I will do.
To reach my toes is such a highlight. And it feels good to be in that deep back bending. It's no more the feeling that I want to get out of the pose as fast as possible. It's rather: Wow, if I had known how nice it is to be that deep this would have me motivated a bit more.

Also laghu vajrasana comes back. In the ballet with Sergei Ponunin is a sequence where he is doing a similar movement. It looks so easy and perfect. I watched this ballet so often, I don't know how often. It was sort of visualization for me. It helped.

May I continue with the good news? Vinyasas become better and also urdhva dhanurasana.

I learned to push me more and more and again a tiny bit more. That's it what makes the asanas come true in the long run. Yet to get closer to the limit, to stand it and to push through it is something one must learn, too.

My closing prayer (I have still not learned the official one) is simple. It's:  Thank you.

I'm so thankful that I can do this crazy practice. My beloved E supports me.

And the yoga teacher G and M help me, too. They believe in my ability to do also the advanced asanas. This encourages me a lot. And they have the ability to give the necessary adjustments.

So often in my life, especially in my job life I experienced jealousy and animosity. It seems as if obstacles were thrown in my way. I scarcly felt supported. So much energy was wasted with company politics.

I so appreciate the current support that flows to me from all sides from so many different people.

Thank you.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Highlights happen - reached my toes in kapotasana

Yes, I reached my toes in kapotasana. A highlight. This happened the first time about 5 years ago. G helped me. I learned so much in these 2 months from him. He is such a generous teacher. He shares his knowledge and helps with perfect adjustments. That I could do this today makes me optimistic again, that I can do this pose alone, too, one day, not in the next life, but one day. Soon.

Even better this pose felt good. I wanted to stay. It was not that I wanted to get out of the pose as fast as possible. I enjoyed this back bending.

I work intensively on the asanas, also on urdhva dhanurasana. I get into the pose 4 times now when I start from the floor. I hold it for 5 long breaths. Each time when I lift up I try to walk my hands as close as possible. When I lift up the 4th time I go on the balls of my feet first. This allows me to get even closer. When I lower the heels, my thighs are burning. I breathe and hold it. My goal is to lift up 5 times.

Also when I drop back, I take my time, a lot of time. I move backwards, then I stay, I move deeper into the pose, then I stay again and so forth.

I can do this because I built stamina in the last year.

Yesterday I watched perhaps 20 times the dance with Sergei Polunin. This morning before practice I watched it again. I thought everybody must love this expressive ballet. Yet there are always critical voices. No matter what one does there is someone who doesn't like it. I love this interpretation of the song. I'm even in awe. What grace, what dynamic, what perfection, what lightness..... I could go on.
This video motivated me today.

I'm a fan of the human body. And I became a fan of Sergei.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

6 more months and I shall be there...... this is finally a number

Kapotasana: Might he (G) be right with his predictions. :) I get closer and closer to my feet with my hands when I do kapotasana. It also feels so much better than it used to be. I also have to say that I really do what is still possible at the end of my practice and it lasts 2 hours now. Three times I repeat this exercise I fight. I don't want to be with kapotasana another 5 years. It develops. Back bending develops. It's great. I'm again optimistic.

One practice is over and I'm looking forward to the next one.

I go to bed at a decent hour, I eat well. My lifestyle supports my yoga practice. At least it is so this week. Hahaha..........

Oh, I discovered a high-end vegan Swiss chef: Philip Hochuli
My lunch on the picture was to die for.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Learning new tricks - backbending

Urdhva dhanurasana: I always think that I have it easier to come up from this pose, when my hands are closer to the feet. Yet this was the difficulty. The trick: When on the balls of my feet and when I even shift the body weight forwards, it's easier to bring the hands closer. When the hand are firmly on the floor one can lower the feet. This intensifies back bending a lot.

Kapotasana: G taught me another trick here. I have the same issue here. The hands must get closer to the feet. The trick: When I lift my head and when I bring the chin to the chest it's easier to walk the hands closer to the feet. This might astonish, but it is so. I was close like never before today. It felt even good. I had not the feeling that I want to get out of the pose as fast as possible.

I'm optimistic these days. Yet I'm patient, too. To come up from urdhva dhanurasana seems so possible.

Picture: The Feldherrenhalle. When I step out of the subway tunnels in the morning to get to the Mysore class, this is what I see.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Urdhva dhanurasana - what I do these days

Today is a moon day and I don't practice.
When I practice Ashtanga yoga I do it in a Mysore class. I know that the difficult asanas need more attention than those one can perform easily. It's not enough just doing or trying it once. As I don't do extra session, everything I do must be done during classes.

When I lie on the floor before the first urdhva dhanurasana, I pull myself together. I don't want to exercise this pose half-heartedly. When this pose comes, I practice already 90 min. Yet one can mobilize so much energy if one wants to.

Here is what I do when I practice urdhva dhanurasana:

1. I start from lying on the floor and lift myself up into the pose. I hold the pose for 5 long breaths. I don't want to cheat here. When I put my head on the top of the floor between the asanas I walk the hands closer to the feet. I want to repeat this 5 times. By now I lift up 4 times.

2. I start from standing position and I drop back. I do this 3 times. I go back sloooooowwwwwly. The body needs time to bend. First my hands are in front of my chest, then in front of my front. Then I stretch my arms. Finally I drop back. Then I move my hands closer.

3. I get help from G. I drop back again on my own and he helps me to come up. 3 times. Sometimes I need some motivation here. I get it. G doesn't omit this part.

G and  M who is in Mysore are excellent teachers because they help but they don't pull me up. They let me work on that pose on my own. This is the only way to learn it. One must try by oneself. To be pulled up is not helpful. This requires expertise and sensitivity.

4. I have my arms crossed in front of my chest and I move backwards. The teacher holds me. This is done 3 times. The third time I stretch the arms again and go into the pose and I try to stand up again.

5. This is the last exercise now: I drop back again. I stay in that pose. The teacher presses against the hips. That way one learns which muscles shall be engaged. After 5 long breaths I almost fly up. No, not alone.

That's it.

I practice this pose 13 times. Indeed 13 times, almost every day.

M and G, both think that it's within my possibilities to come up from urdhva dhanurasana. I feel that it is improving. A lot. To believe that it's possibly is indeed the very first step.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Practice and all is coming - a broader interpretation

This morning on my way to a Mysore class I was thinking of something that made me furious. Yes, this happens. Good that I go to practice, I thought. I see more and more that Ashtanga yoga also exercises the mind. It tames the mind. The senses are focused. I listen to my breath, I stare at a gazing point (dristi), I feel the asanas, the limits an that day. That's it. This calms the mind. Not so much thinking happens.

On my way home I thought of what I thought this morning and suddenly new aspects came up, much more positive ones. I was no more furious, yet relaxed.
This is it what is meant with: practice and all is coming.

We (me too) tend to think: practice handstand it it is coming.
Yet the above sentence goes further.

Re the asanas I'd modify this sentence or rather quote another sentence of P. Jois:
“You take practice, practice, practice, practice, CORRECT practice.” Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. 

I'm convinced that one has to practice correctly if one wants to see progress. 

I'm back from Berlin and back on the mat. What a lovely practice this morning. I cannot do less than usual. I hope my body can integrate this practice of today after a lazy week in exciting Berlin. 

Pictures of Berlin on flickr.
My photography on Facebook.

For those who are interested in this 1% theory, I do recommend th book by Thomas Still '1 Percent Theory: An attempt to reconstruct the forgotten lessons of Ashtanga yoga as tought by Shri K. Pattabhi Jous