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.