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.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Repetition is a secret to success

I really take my time for back bending asanas when I practice at home. The three main ingredients to all back banding asanas are:

1. strong legs
2. flexible hips
3. flexible shoulders

I always engage my legs when I do back bending.

Extra asanas are performed to stretch the muscle in front of the hips. To be precise, I do the splits.
Before performing kapotasana I also use my dharma wheel in order to stretch the upper front of my body. The picture shows clearly that I'm stuck here. Pain in the right shoulder prevented me from going further.

I repeat and repeat any exercise that I do.

What I see is that my elbows won't be on the floor when I reach my toes. My path is longer than thought. I must reach the heels. Haha.....

The pose looks much better than years ago.

Repetition, repetition, repetition is the secret to progress.......

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

When I get impatient with myself....

When I get impatient with myself I look at my old pictures. In 2011 I had to hold my foot that is behind the head. I had not yet found out how to keep it behind the head without holding it. The trick: The leg must be engaged. It's even easier if the toes are pointed and when the leg moves in this direction. 

All of my forward bending asanas improved because I get a perfect adjustment in paschimottanasana after urdhva dhanurasana from M every day when I practice in the shala. I want to add that I didn't exercise eka pada sirsasana for about 2 years. I started exercising it again since one month. Nevertheless it improved a lot. 

I wanted to write about something else: How to learn?
I think one must study the asanas. If one doesn't question the own practice it can be that one is stuck for decades. When a pose doesn't improve after let's say 3 years something goes wrong!

Examples: Practicing handstand against the wall leads to nothing but frustration. It's the wrong method to learn it. 
Another example: I used to take a strap around my legs when I practiced laghu vajrasana. My ability to come up from this pose faded away that way. My legs got weaker. Instead of keeping the legs parallel with my own strength, they drifted apart, but the strap prevented this. To come up didn't happen either. 

One can use props, but one must really know how to use it. Before using props one must have understood the pose. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Home practices

My back is not 100% OK. That is sometimes it is OK, sometimes it's so bad that I take a pain killer. to move is always good. Pain comes when I sit and sit and sit and don't move.

My alarm clock was set at 6am also this morning. At 5:30 I woke up and started my pre-yoga-morning-routine: coffee, shower are main ingredients.

In general my home practices improved: I don't want any distraction anymore. I don't need music anymore. The sound of my breath is enough. Breaks do not exist anymore either. Yet I practice super slowly. My usual program that lasts 2 hours, lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes today. I did some extra asanas, but not for 30 min.

I could do every asana in the given order today. No pain is felt now. The practice was very intensive. I'm happy.

The difficult asanas get extra attention at home:
1. Setu bandhasana: Before doing this pose I lie down on the back between my bent legs. In the next step, I put my feet on blocks. This helps to stretch the leg muscles.
2. Laghu vajrasana: I break this pose down into little steps. At home I use a block under my head and I breathe 3 times. I could come out of the pose. So tomorrow I'll stay for 5 breaths. If this is doable, too, I'll find a thing, perhaps a book that is a bit less thick than my blog. I'll progress from 1 breaths to 5 breaths, one breath at a time.
3. Kapotasana: I do splits before doing the pose to stretch the front of the thighs. Then I role on my dharma wheel to stretch the upper body. Then I practice this pose against a wall, trying to stay there for as many breaths as possible. When the pose becomes comfortable I'll go a bit deeper and so on.

Vinyasas improve, too. I think that I must still jump a bit higher. It would also be good to bring the heels closer to the body. The picture is from the archives. Challenging asanas strengthen the patience muscle.

The mental skills that we exercise are among others: discipline and concentration.
Practicing asanas is not only about fancy body postures. The mind is always part of the game.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Jumpback and Jumpthrough with Laruga Glaser

This is it. I cannot often enough listen to Laruga's explanations. 

A miracle happened

Modesty was the attitude I wanted to bring on the mat today. It's not possible for me when I practice in a Mysore class. Neither did I practice superficailly, nor did I omit an asana not even the leg behind head poses.
Urdhva dhanurasana was so intensive. Yet to move into paschimottanasana afterwards was almost impossible (due to the back). Our teacher M gives so professional adjustments. After urdhva dhanurasana one needs an intensive counter pose. It's art, experience, knowledge, awareness to adjust this asana. I got a very intensive adjustment after urdhva dhanursana. My back was neutralized again. It felt excellent.
After the practice today I felt like newborn. My backpain vapurated like the fog in the morning. It's almost unbelievable.

The little party at the Hofgarten was great afterwards. A yogini had baked a cake, we had ordered coffee to it and experienced a happy and relaxed hour together.

At home I went to bed and slept. When I woke up I thought I've been dead for 2 hours. I still feel exhausted and healed.

Picture (taken during my home practices): Even when I stand on 2 blocks the weight is still NOT on the hands. My body must move forward even more. My goal is to be on my hands with bent legs. This is a key position if one wants to jump forward. It's also an exit position for many backbending asanas.

What I learned today about laghu vajrasana is so important, that I will dedicate a post to it. Not today.

I feel surprisingly good...

I got up at 5am. My back feels surprisingly good. I don't trust the peace. Yet I'll go to the morning Mysore class. Yesterday I googled 'lumbago'. Everybody recommends to move. So I'll move. Fingers crossed that I'll feel as good as now after the practice.

Yoga is a life long practice. Sometimes the path is bumpy. Who cares?

Saturday, August 01, 2015

July challenge #backtobackbends

One of the reasons why I wanted to have a smartphone was Instagram. Every social media has a different focus. Instagram supports communities. In July I joined the July challenge #backtobackbends created By Kinoyoga, Aloyoga and Beachyogagirl. Many many yoginis around the globe posted their pictures daily marking them with #backtobackbends and the name of the poses and the hosts. One could see so many variations of the poses, but also amazing backgrounds and picture styles.

I got more enthusiastic every day about this community and my Smartphone, too.

Eight limbs....

The marathon cleaning yesterday was not the best idea I ever had. In the evening my back hurt so much. It's a nerve or two that make this trouble in paradise. It's sort of lumbago, this is my explanation. Pain is not permanent. Yet I feel restricted. When I went to bed yesterday night my E had to put away the cover. I was not able to do it, my back hurt that much. The night was OK. Now I feel better again, the pain is still there. Something is out of order and I wish all the cells of my body move back to their places.

Asana practice is important for yoginis.
It's just the start.
There is meditation, pranayama. There are also rest days like today. We have a Saturday. Rest days make sense. They give time for the body to recover from the week.
My pain in the body reminds me that there is more than just asanas.......

Backbending: When I practice at home I add the splits after the standing sequence of before kapotasana. When bending backwards, no matter what variation, there are 3 important points:
1. Strong legs
2. The front of the hips
3. The front of the shoulders

Each part can be exercised separately.

When I do the splits I try to bring the hip of the leg that points backwards down to the floor. Gravity supports this. I also use blocks. With my  hands on the blocks next to my hips I move the upper body backwards. This lengthens the front of the body, especially around the hips.

Let's face the facts: Usually we sit on a chair. Sometimes we stand. Very seldom this strong muscles in front of the hips are stretched. To stretch it 1 min every day and to expect miracles is not realistic. In order to see progress some extra work needs to be done. Not today....