Thursday, November 24, 2016

Any movement is motivating


Wow, yesterday I did 12.787 steps. That is about 4,7 km. The app says that I used 269,6 kcal. I doubt that these data are so precise. The app doesn't know the size of my steps i.e. I walked 1 hour minimum. This is the time that is need for so many steps. I still sit long enough.

However. To walk around gave me energy. One could think that it exhausted me, but no, I was so motivated to practice. It was the afternoon when I stepped on the mat I know it's better to practice in the morning, but it's better to practice in the afternoon than not to practice at all.

It felt so good. A metaphor came up. It was as if a home was neglected and when returning everywhere were clouds of dust. The performance of the asanas cleaned and cleared the home, my body. It refreshed my inner organs. I could feel the blood running and cleaning the tiniest corner in my body. I felt 10 years younger after the practice.

This morning (10 am) I was ready for another home practice (despite feeling my back). It was a short practice of one hour. I took rest when necessary, I held the poses much longer than 5 breaths. And again, I feel excellent now. I won't give up!!!!

It has advantages not to get up at 5am. Yesterday night I saw the movie 'Florence Foster Jenkins' with a wonderful Meryl Streep. I wouldn't have loved the movie if everybody would have laughed about this singer Florence, who existed in real life. Of course it was funny, but Meryl Streep created a person that was not only ridiculous, one had to love and admire this person. By now the most clicks of the stored concerts of Carnegie Hall receives Florence Foster Jenkins. Art is entertaining. It needn't to cause awe. Hang your pictures lower, I read once. I understand what was meant by it. Everybody can have fun to sing, to paint, to create. The process of creating is so rewarding. Not every end product need to be a master piece.
I was in a cinema that got renovated lately. The voucher was from friends. One could lie the legs on a comfortable stand in front of the armchair. A man explained the chairs before the show: "You can raise the armrest, if you like, so that you can snuggle with your partner." Of course, there was a tiny table on the right side of every armchair. It was possible to order food and drinks. I had olives with bread and wasabi nuts. I also had a fruit cocktail. Others had ordered a bottle of wine and huge snacks that decorated plates that had three floors. Blankets were offered to stay warm. What pleased me most was that it was a premiere before the premiere. So this morning when I went through my stream on Facebook, I saw a review of the movie by CNN. Ah, I thought and I've seen the movie already.

Yoga was great already. Will I manage to take these 10.000 steps today again? It's my plan.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

10 000 steps


By now  I made 8.729 steps. Probably it's a bit more as I don't carry around my smart phone with the step counter all the time. I wanted to move today, no matter what. The surprise is that even though I walked rather slowly, I feel slightly exhausted now. I did something is the feeling.

Why 10 000 steps we wondered lately, why is it recommended to walk exactly 10 000 steps? The American heart society has found out that moving less can be considered as inactive. This convinced me.

I think I'll accomplish the 10 000 steps today. And tomorrow?

Since I know that yoga is not really a work out, I consider to add some other activities, too. I'm still in the phase to create routines here, too. Strength training, walking, all this shall keep me fit till 100+.

I sleep well these days. And long. The first month that I paid for yoga classes is soon over. I went  3 times. This is not much. Tonight I'll watch Florence Foster Jenkins. It's very unlikely that I'll get up at 5 when I'll be in bed at about 11 pm. I could plan a home practice. Wow, isn't this something I could look forward to? Yes, it is.

Yesterday I friend told me that she showed my blog to a friend. The friend was surprised: 'She is not missionary.' No, I'm not. I don't want to convince anybody to do what I do. Likes and dislikes are so personal.
I rather write about my struggles. This back injury really pushed me into a deep deep valley called: inactivity. I want to move out of this valley and this is not easy. Quickly other activities but practicing yoga dominate the day. Suddenly there is no time anymore for this spiritual practice. This happens so fast. There was something, I think sometimes......but I won't give up. Inactivity never helps.
Tomorrow I have no appointment. Tomorrow is the day for a home practice. It can be a short one. Whatever happens is great and deserves to be considered as great. A fresh passionate start is needed. No discussions anymore. I love yoga.



Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The circle


The circle: I practice, back pain returns, I wait and stop practicing, back pain disappears, I practice again and so on.

What to do?
To stop practicing is not an alternative. But for a while I must stop practicing primary. Back bending feels good, too much forward bending weakens my back.

Nothing less but the books by Arnold Schwarzenegger motivate me to keep practicing. To take care of the body is a must. The body needs movement.

I plan already 2017:
The focus is second series. Nothing else. Focus is back bending and strength training.
Perhaps my body stabilizes when I do something differently.

This back bending issues are with me now for a long time. This doesn't amuse me. But the issues shall not become an excuse to stop. To exercise softer and smarter, with more respect for the current limits might be the right way to heal again.




Friday, October 28, 2016

Document it



Ok, I see, the page is not yet updated...... haha

I felt a bit reluctant when I learned that I have to book the yoga class in advance. Can I be so reliable, I wondered? What, if I sleep in? But I am a reliable person and I sleep in perhaps twice every year.
In the early morning I don't block a space with my reservation that someone else could have used, if I don't come. Not so many yoginis are on the mat at 6:30. There is still space.....

Being not such a technical freak I needed half an hour to understand the system. I'm loving it now, because it documents how often I practice. I don't have to create a list of my own.

To document the yoga journey is a very useful tool. It allows fine-tuning. Slowly my yogic life becomes a structure again. 

1. On Sundays I'll practice at home.
2. I want to have one day in the week for taking pictures and filming. This is so useful, I don't want to miss it.
3. Three times I want to go to a yoga class.
4. There is one day left. Either I practice at home, or I go to a yoga class.

What a luxury. These days we have choices.

I have an elevator pitch in the meantime: 
I practice Ashtanga yoga for 12 years, but I got injured one year ago. The sacroiliac joint is blocked. I have back pain from time to time. This is why I practice only second series these days, because it feels better. But I also have to alter my practice if necessary.. Sometimes I have to add asanas or I have to do preparation asanas. Is this OK?
(A bit long.....but it's shorter already. I love to talk.)

If I hear a yes, I know I'm at the right school.
Yes, I've found an atmosphere where I feel responsible for my own practice. The teaching is a service. it's help, it's feed-back. So it shall be.
(Teaching is not to boss yoginis around.)

I also like that I see in advance who is teaching. I don't want to go to a yoga class expecting that teacher x is there and then an assistant y is there. I was more tolerant years ago. My injury changed my willingness to accept teacher who have just learned to spell yoga. This phenomena has a name that I forgot. It can be observed everywhere:  the less a person knows about a topic the more he/she thinks she knows.

My practice this morning was not pain free. Yet the body felt softer. Strength is coming back, too. I used the wheel for the back bending asanas. I altered the  leg behind head asanas to doable forward bending asanas and supta kurmasana.
I am so happy that I found a yoga group again. Within a week I went from 'I have to go' to 'I want to go'.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

At home I would have stopped practicing


To get up at 5 am is the easy part. Also today I felt fresh and awake at that time. To get ready within an hour is possible. I drink a black cup of coffee, I shower and I write my journal within that time frame. At 6 am I leave the home, at 6:30 I can start with the first sun salutation.

It's still dark when I get up. I usually look out of the window to see who of my neighbours is up already. I saw a light in one of the windows in the opposite building. The early hours are great. Whatever one does, there is always another person on that globe who does almost the same. I know I'm not alone to get up that early. The difference might be that I'm loving it, many early-riser might prefer to sleep in.

I feel at home in the 'new' shala. We are a rather small group, under 10 people.
I experience support. My current situation is more important than the strict Ashtanga rules, which shall allow to teach as many yoginis as possible. I'm so glad that it's respected that I'm an individual with her own desires and needs.

I don't feel pushed to do anything that doesn't feel good to me.
I also omit asanas, like bakasana B. I fear dynamic movements. This all is possible. Today I added some relaxing asanas for my back. Such an atmosphere is exactly what I need to heal and to keep practicing. The difference between my home practice and the practice in the shala is tiny. But I have the energy of a group and a teacher. The adjustments I got today showed me that the teacher is experienced.

Today back pain was back. Now it's gone again. But during the practice it was awful. Next time I'll take my little ball to the class to roll out the muscle. It's called fascia massage. This helps.

The valley is deep and long. But I won't stay there. To stop the practice is not the solution. One has to move. Strength and flexibility are important especially if one gets older. Being inactive aggravates every life.

I'm sad and frustrated and furious, too. I knew it better. But I didn't listen to myself.

I have also energy. I won't give up. There is a lot to do:

1. Strength training
2. Nutrition (more protein)
3. Pranayama and meditation (can be done without pain)

This blog will support my activities. To document the progress or setbacks is supportive.

These days I practice till pincha mayurasana. After this asana I'm mentally done. I cannot convince myself to do another asana.

I marked my calender. I want to see where I'll be next year, the 30. December 2017. Shall my goals give me the necessary motivation for the daily work to get there.
One goal is to practice full 2nd series again. Focus is back bending. To be a bit more precise. I want to come up from urdhva dhanurasana and I want to come up from laghu vajrasana, too. Kapotasana is on the list, too.

Might it happen.

Also tomorrow I want to go to the shala.


Picture is taken 7 years ago. After work I went to the steps in front of a huge official building to enjoy the late afternoon sun. I had to ask people if they took a picture of myself.....I had no tripod and only a tiny camera.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Very content


My strategy to get up every day a bit earlier didn't work.

So yesterday was the day of decision. I enrolled for a yoga class that requires to book it in advance. Now I had to get up. Unbelievable, but today at 5 am I was less tired than yesterday at 8 am.

I had a phone call with the owner of the yoga studio yesterday. It was important to me to make sure that I don't have to start with primary again. It might be necessary to practice variations, I warned and asked if this was possible. It was.

Flexibility has many faces.

To listen to my body and it's possibilities and limits are more important than to follow Ashtanga yoga rules religiously. I found such a yoga group this morning, where this is possible.

The teacher observed me today, without adjusting. He wanted to observe my practice first, I learned later. Afterward I could also inform him about my practice and my injured sacroiliac joint and also what were my goals. This is in my opinion a very professional approach that shows me that the teacher has experience. A bit of conversation to get to know the students is important in my opinion.

It's easier to practice in a group. And if the individual situation is respected it's perfect.
Nevertheless I want to cultivate a home practice, perhaps twice a week.

I don't keep searching now for a group for myself. I found it. This makes me more than happy.

Picture: It's taken 3 years ago. The ups are fun in life, the downs probably are best opportunities to learn.

At 8 am my practice was over, after 90 min. It's perfect timing.
At home I can do pranayama and meditation.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Primary on Friday


Last Friday I practiced primary series again, that is  I did what was possible. From time to time I added a vinyasa. Kurmasana was intensive, but enough. I had to omit supta kurmasana. Several times I had to roll out my psoas muscle on the right side of my back. For the time being primary doesn't feel good. I don't want to lose all the asanas of primary and also not the vinyasas, but I see that it makes no sense to practice this first series of Ashtanga yoga. Pain is a good guide. The pain disappears faster than ever. Nevertheless it returns when I do all these forward bending asanas.

On Saturday I rested. Today second series is planned. I feel good again.

I should forget about primary for some time. I cannot find out what causes the pain exactly these days. Nevertheless it's there after primary. My focus must be second series and back bending, when I don't want to lose interest in that yoga activity I have to listen to my body.

Things happen, this back pain will hopefully make me smarter. Anything can always be learned.
The last years on the mat were great, I started appreciating the very early mornings. To get up at 5 am, before sunrise is fantastic. I want to get back to this habit. I thought I wouldn't be able to do it, but I started loving it. It's just a habit that becomes easier every day.

Yesterday I found a quote my Henry Miller in the book 'Henry Miller on writing', page 20: Every man is working out his destiny in his own way and nobody can be of help except by being kind, generous and patient.

My yoga journey goes on with a different gear. A lot is to explore again. Being attentive is more important than achieving goals.


Friday, October 14, 2016

How to teach Ashtanga yoga for the masses



Prem Carlisi, one of the very first students of Patthabi Jois was interviewed. It clears up a lot of things that are happening these days in the Ashtanga yoga community.
(To get to the interview, click on Prem Carlisi.)

For some time my theory is that this rigidness in the so-called 'traditional' Ashtanga yoga classes is caused, because more and more people want to practice this style of yoga. Individual teaching is no more possible. The interview assured this.

How to teach the masses is the question? 

1. It was new to me that the led classes were such an attempt to teach more and more people at the same time.

2. I knew from the book Guruji that a bit more than a decade ago the Ashtanga yoga students remained in a pose for 8 breaths. I learned from the interview that a pose was even held for 10 breaths.
I thought the number of breaths has changed because the practices were too long for the busy students with jobs and family. But of course the faster the students are through a series the faster new students can be whipped through a series. The reasons to breathe only 5 times are not caused for didactic reasons, but for economic reasons.
At my age (57) it is necessary to stay longer in a pose than only a few seconds (5 breaths) if I want to learn a pose, if I want to relax when in a pose. It takes more time than only 5 breaths till an asana shows an effect. To get into the pose for 5 breaths and to get out of the pose has almost zero effect. You have done it, that's it. Quick, quick, next students are waiting already............At home I work on holding the challenging poses longer.

3. If everybody has to do the same, it's easy to control it.
Who can remember hundreds of students and what individual exercises were given the last time?

4. Another issue are the teacher: The masses need teacher. Too many people pilgrimaged to India who have never tried an Ashtanga yoga class before. So Sharath decided that only those students are accepted in India in Gokulam if they can prove that they practiced 3 months with an authorized teacher. This is a bottleneck. Are there enough authorized Ashtanga yoga teacher around the globe? Yet I think this action was necessary. It helps to get the more series students to India and to reserve a place for them.
Years ago we already discussed the issue that too many students want to go to Mysore. A friend had the idea that only those who want to become a yoga teacher should be accepted. I didn't agree with this suggestion. I never wanted to become a yoga teacher, but I never want to miss the time that I spent in Gokulam with Saraswathi. I consider myself as a series student of Ashtanga yoga.
I see it coming already. One day only Ashtanga yoga teacher are welcomed in the shala in Gokulam.

I loved to read how Prem is handling newcomers. First they have to watch one day and then they have to enroll for one month.
How are newcomers managed outside India? Newcomers know nothing. This is OK. The teacher usually have to focus 80% of the time to those people who drop in often only once. In the meanwhile an assistant is adjusting the advanced yoginis. Why has nobody the idea that assistants shall teach the newcomers and those students who practice less than one year while the more advanced teacher can dedicate the precious time to the more advanced yoginis?
There remains a lot to reflect.

If one wants to become an authorized yoga teacher (from India authorized, I don't talk about these 200-hours yoga teacher trainings), it's good to be male, one must be able to perform the asanas of the second series, and one must travel to India every year to see Sharath.
To point A: There are only 17 authorized yoginis 2016 even though the female practitioners make 80% to my estimate. In India I saw more yogis than in the Ashtanga yoga classes in the Western world yet also in Gokulam the men are in the minority, but make more than 90% of the authorized teacher. Why?
To point B: If you are young and flexible and strong, it's very likely to get authorized. But my experience is that those who have difficulties to perform asanas are more likely to understand the poses than those who are flexible by nature. Those stiff and weak aspirants might even be the better teacher therefore. Karandavasana might be the pose why more men get authorized than women. It requires a lot of strength in the arms to perform this pose. Men are usually stronger than women.
To point C: Sharath wants to know the teacher and I understand this. He wants to keep up the lineage. Yet the conditions have changed a lot. Ashtanga yoga today is no more the Ashtanga yoga a decade ago. To keep the Ashtanga yoga community together is indeed a very challenging job.

5. I've never heard that anybody learned anything about didactic (how to learn an asana) in the Ashtanga yoga community before getting authorized. During the years everybody got adjustments, surely. But that's it. It would be too time-consuming to teach the proper adjustment in addition. This has consequences.

I want to give an example. I practiced also with the Sivananda community more than a decade ago. I was taught the headstand in one session.

Those who have seen the movie 'The breathing Gods' have also seen how B.K.S. Iyengar taught an absolute newcomer to yoga headstand in only one session.

In the Ashtanga yoga community, it can take years to learn this pose. If the student is lucky he finds an online video. In classes I see 80% of the yoginis with wrong arm position when they are performing this pose. Because of this some (the women) are not able to hold the pose and the other group (the men) can hold the pose because they use strength. Only few have the right alignment. The wrong alignment can always cause injuries especially if exercised daily.
In the meantime a lot of very good practitioners share their knowledge online. This compensates a lot. A big thank you to all the yoginis who share their videos online for the world community for free even.

Often P. Jois is quoted. Once he must have said that everybody can do yoga, only the lazy ones cannot do yoga. This might be true. But if you follow the rigid Ashtanga yoga program of today it's likely that you get injured or that you are stopped at a very early asana. Only primary is not a balanced practice. It's focused on forward bending. And to do Urdhva dhanurasana, this intensive back bending asana after more than an hour of  forward bending asanas is awful.

Home practices will be part of my yoga journey. It allows me to adjust the practice to my needs. I admit I have to work on my discipline. This is the very first challenge, Every single day.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Hanumanasana - back bending preparation


I consider to exercise hanumanasana even before ustrasana. I used to do it before the kapotasana attempts.

If an asana is difficult I try to understand the pose. I separate the different skills that are necessary to perform the pose. I observe different aspects:

These questions can help for a better understanding of a pose?
1. How can I improve the technique? Do I move into an asana correctly, i.e.?
2. Do I need more strength? If yes, which muscles need a strength training (perhaps even in an extra session)?
3. Am I flexible enough? What can i do to get more flexible?
4. How is the breath when I perform an asana?
5. Is the dristi correct?

I use my own pictures to analyze my poses. So I realized that it could be good to be more flexible in front of the hips when I do back bending asanas. Probably due to too much primary this part shortened.

Hanumanasana helps me to open this part of the body.

1. If one stretches it is important to relax. In the above picture I sit on a block. I challenge myself, but I don't go too far. I hate to overstretch myself. This would mean a set back. I could do the pose already without a block, but for the time being it's good to use it. I repeat this pose.
2. To engage the leg muscles helps to protect the body. It supports the stretching.
3. I move the hip of the leg that is stretched backwards, forward and the other hip backwards.
4. Gravity helps.
5. The pose becomes easier when the toes are pointed.

For me hanumanasana is the ideal preparation for back bending.

Also today I practiced. 75 minutes of asana practice is enough. I felt done after this. Strength is coming back, too.



Yes, yes, it feels good to practice. 

My home practice makes me independent. I'll cultivate it. It IS possible to be alone on the mat and to practice consequently and to challenge oneself. But sometimes I might prefer to relax and to take it easy. This is possible at home, too. 

PS: Ustrasana on the second picture is done after hanumanasana. The front of the body is parallel to the wall due to this exercise. 

Ashtanga Yoga - Half Primary



A happening. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

External clues are better than internal clues



I read a lot of books these days in order to close a huge gap. It's the 'how' to learn something not the 'what' to learn that interests me these days.

Many sportive people have a coach, who motivate the sportswoman. What is said in such a session can be effective or less effective.

If there is no coach or teacher, there is self-talk. This can be motivating or not. It can be effective or less effective.

One found out that external clues are more helpful than internal clues. An example, please have a look at the picture. 'Open your chest' is less useful than 'bring your chest to the wall'. 

(I know, the holy practitioners among us even prefer to think: open your heart.)

This is the work one can do. What is the external clue that helps me to get deeper into an asana?

The picture here is only 3 hours old. I practiced. It was not the early morning when I stood on my mat ready for the sun salutations. Too late I woke up and even with back pain. This is no longer an excuse. Back bending feels good, It helps to eliminate the pain. Amazing, but it is so.

After back bending I stopped my practice. It was enough.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

On home practices


I'd like to start with practice advice by James Brown, yoga teacher in LA, California. The quote can be found in the book 'Yoga at home':

Page 158: 
"- Regardless of the space you have available for practice, when you are on your yoga mat, you are practicing, and only doing that. When you can't bring that onto the mat, pause and find it.
- If you want to fix your attention, start by choosing something that actually gets your attention. Choose something that is uplifting to you."

Page 160:
"Shifting my habit to self-practice, done alone without external distraction, was like cleaning a pair of glasses that I didn't realize was dirty. Without the distraction of my ego dealing with the ever-shifting landscape of a group practice, I suddenly saw myself with new clarity: Once that happened, I was hooked for life. My home practice has cultivated a healthier and more accruate awareness of self than the one that I saw when practicing in public."

I like both quotes.
Almost my entire life I practiced alone at home. I had years when I could join a yoga class once a week. I wished to have the opportunity to go to a yoga class on a daily basis. And one day with the growing yoga community also in Munich Ashtanga yoga schools opened that allowed me to practice daily there even in the early morning hours. My joy was huge. I dare to say that I was one of the most regular students. A mistake. I'm injured now and this socrialiac joint is still not OK. My psoas hurt. Often I realize it after a practice. During today's practice I had to roll out the psoa muscle several times. So many poses are lost. This I have to accept.

Yoga is a concentration exercise. If anything got better during the last decades it's my ability to concentrate. I have no difficulties anymore to practice for 90 minutes. Nothing distracts me. No music is on, I want to focus on the breath. This is surely something that improved because I attended yoga classes.

My yoga week starts on Sundays with second series. Only half of the series is possible these days.

My plan for the next week:
- Strength training three times a week before the yoga practice.
- I add pranayama and meditation after the asana practice, exactly in that order.

I feel good. The body, the mind, the spirit, this unity jubilate when I practice.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Home practices - do I need a yoga room?


I practice at home these days. To find inspiration and motivation I bought a book 'Yoga at home'. Many, also well-known yogis wrote about their practices at home.

Almost all yoginis agree that a home practice is different to a yoga practice in a shala. It's good advice not to compare the two. To practice at home requires discipline. There is more energy in a classroom. Home practices are not worse, because they are mainly not so exhausting, they are different.

To practice alone allows to alter the practice to the own needs. It's easier to listen to the body.

My own experience is that it's easy to get up, jump into a train that brings me to a shala. It is/was like going to work. When I practice at home I need discipline. Being disciplined can help in many other areas in life, too. It makes independent. I learn how to learn. This helps me to find my own insights, my own stories with the practice.

Our homes are all different. Some yoginis live in countries with more room available. People who live in cities often have smaller homes.
Some yoginis use or have to use a tiny space for their practice, others have yoga rooms.

I don't have a yoga room and I think I don't need one. I also don't need an altar.
My props are in a drawer in the wardrobe. My yoga mat is in a corner, invisible. I put it away after the practice. My yoga practice always reminds me to create a simple life. I don't want to have so many things. I don't need an altar with buddhas there, flower, pictures of the Gods or whatever.....
I want to be able to practice everywhere.....

I saw it several times in yoga schools. First the rooms were empty and clean. After a few months or years more and more things were standing around. The rooms became messy. It was no more possible to use the wall as a prop because things were there. Some teacher were musicians and soon music instruments were added. It drove me crazy. Soon one had to remove all that stuff before one could start with the practice. At home with a special yoga room one can fall into the same trap. To stand space is difficult for many yoginis.

My priorities: A room must be warm and clean. I don't need a yoga room. The space should be huge enough so that I can fall out of poses safely.. Many rooms have multiple function. Whatever we live in that room all the things in it need a place. That's it. Simplicity is the goal.

I collected pictures of Indian yogis on Pinterest: What I see is my imagination of yoga. One can practice it everywhere. To have a body and a blanket perhaps is enough.

Picture is taken 7 years ago.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Primary


What will be possible?

This was the question that was in my mind when I stepped on the mat this morning. Second series feels better for me these days, so I focus on this series. Yet once a week I'd like to do primary.

Oh it was difficult to start and not to stop after the first two sun salutations. I switched on music and lowered the ambition.


Vinyasas are lost.
I practiced cat pose as a counter pose to the forward bending asanas.

I could put my leg behind the head, yes and I'm happy about it, but I had to hold it and it didn't feel as good as it used to. Yes, I see progress again. This is what I appreciate and I even thanked the Universe for the hope that was sent.

Only twice I had to use the fascia roll to get rid of the painful tension in the right psoas.
Tomorrow morning I'll be able to say if pain returned or not.

As ALWAYS, I never ever regretted to have practiced. I feel good. 

My motivation: This idea came up this morning and I think it's a good idea as I want to be up to date with all the technical stuff. When I feel ready I'll  film a session and show it on periscope.




Thursday, September 15, 2016

The benefits of yoga for physical fitness


I read a lot these days about fitness. I know that I have to change my daily routines. My injured sacroiliac joint tells me this. I found a book that acknowledges my experiences with Ashtanga yoga.

Here is  a quote from the book 'Which comes first, cardio or weights?' by Alex Hutchinson, Ph. D..

Page 136 ff:

What are the benefits of yoga for physical fitness?
"..........Considered strictly as a form of exercise, yoga has many strengths and a few key weaknesses. A 2001 study at the University of California, Davis, found that an eight-week program of two 90-minute hatha yoga classes per week led to significant increases in strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility. Other studies have found improvements in balance and even bone density. This is not really surprising - yoga is, after all, a weight-bearing physical activity.

........
A more controversial question is whether yoga is vigorous enough to count as aerobic exercise that improves cardiovascular fitness. While the UC-Davis study observed a small but measurable improvement of 6 percent in aerobic fitness, other studies have failed to confirm this. In a 2001 Northern Illinois University study of 45-minute "power" (ashtanga vinyasa) yoga sessions, the participants' heart rates stayed below the recommended threshold for aerobic exercise. ........But at a certain pint, it's probably best to accept yoga's strengths and weaknesses rather than to fight them, and seek your aerobic exercise in other ways. After all, McCall points out, having a balanced approach is a writhy yogic principle - that's why he hikes, bikes, and dances in addition to doing yoga."

End of quote.

My own experience is that I got stronger during all the years of practicing Ashtanga yoga, but not strong enough to perform some of the challenging asanas of the series. This is why I add strength training now. My physio-therapist, who got to know my body even realized that I'm very flexible, but I lack strength. This I want to balance these days.

That my sweaty yoga practice is not a work-out shocked me. I few months ago I discovered fitbit and it allowed me to measure my heart rate. It stayed the same during the practice. Only during the sun salutations in the beginning it went up. This is why I take the steps, every step that comes in my way as fast as possible. Then my heart starts racing......

As mentioned in my last blog posts, I do strength training these days before my practice 3 times a week. My surprise: It prepares my body perfectly for the asana practice. I feared I would be too tired when I do exercises already before the practice, but this was not the case. Some of my readers are already curious what I do. I work with a book by Paul Wade. It's great. Pictures will come......

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The right order


1. Strength training
2. Asana training (flexibility)
3. Pranayama
4. Meditation
5. Relaxation

6. Shower and breakfast

Since some time I know that strength training is important for me. The asana practice made me stronger, but not strong enough to perform certain asanas like laghu vajrasana.
The physio therapist also recommended not to forget to do strength training. She found my body very flexible. In order to stabilize my back (sacroiliac joint blocked) it would be good to have strong abdomen.

It took me some time to find out what sort of strength training I should chose, when to do it, where to do it......
Soon it became clear, that weight lifting wouldn't be good. Thanks to the advice to my vegetable and fruit dealer who has done weight lifting, I know now that it's a burden for the joints.

I discovered a strength training that works with the own body weight. It's done 3 times a week. That's it for me.

So Monday, Wednesday and Friday, before my asana practice I'll work on getting stronger. What exactly I do will come in one of my next blog posts.

Picture: This is the reward if one gets up early.

Practice: Back pain is back. Four or five times during my yoga practice I had to massage my fascia to relief the muscle. The hope that I'll be soon pain free disappears. I love to move, I love to practice, I try to practice smart. This is the only solution that I see. Strength training is important. To live on the sofa is not an alternative.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

How to adjust myself?




I practice often at home these days.

Let's start with trikonasana:
1. The position of the feet are important. First the feet are in one line when stepping sidewards from standing position. I turn the right foot on my heels. Now the heels are in one line.
2. The leg muscles are engaged, not 100%, but strong. The standing poses teach a strong foundation.
3. The upper body is parallel to the wall. This is the challenge. This is why it can help to move the arm behind the back to the thigh. This allows to open the upper body. I can realize the difference when I move my arm in the classic position again, upwards to the ceiling.
4. Fingers are together, also the thumb.
5. The back of the head and the spine are in line. The head doesn't move backwards to see the thumb.
6. The bandhas are engaged. Otherwise it's easy to make a hollow back which one shall avoid.


I practice, my back complains, I stop, I get back to the mat. That's how it is these days. Disappointing. But with time I also learned how to be disciplined and I learned not to give up.

So let's dance, I mean, let's practice.




Thursday, September 08, 2016

Top 100 yoga blogs on the web

... And I'm on the list. This is a great joy in the morning. I'm ready for my practice now....

Here is the link.




Sunday, September 04, 2016

Hope


I practiced before breakfast. I'm glad that this happened. It felt good to stretch. One hour was enough.

There is hope that my practice will flourish again.

The picture is from 2010.

Friday, September 02, 2016

I can sit again


Yesterday I sat hours at my desk. I was busy with Photoshop. I listened to videos. Quickly hours passed by. I stood up from my chair and after some time I thought: Wow, I had already forgotten how painful it was to sit longer than 25 min. I could even stand up without pain. It's a good idea not to sit so long without moving the body. Yet it's a difference if pain forces me to stand up or if I move from time to tome out of rationality.

I don't practice very regularily, that is every third day I'm on my mat and it's great. Perhaps my body still needs not to be challenged yet. The breaks might help to heal.

As important as yoga is to me, it's not my all and everything. It used to be my lynchpin over more than 3 decades of my life, but not more. This is enough. This is a lot. Ashtanga yoga can be so demanding that it's not only a life style, but a greedy diva. As always I think less can be more. One must use this tool 'yoga' with intelligence. One must also practice with intelligence.

My soilliac joint will heal. After about one year ! it's better, remarkably better. I'm one precious experience richer. It has been a frustrating ride.

One teaching method for everybody is never a good approach to anything. We are all different, that is the way of teaching must be flexible and consider the student. This doesn't mean that one isn't following a lineage. But with 57 years a more intelligent training is necessary. A 25 year old body is more forgiving. My body needs more variety as it takes longer to integrate new movements, just to mention one difference in comparison to a younger body.

What is the next important step for me after this injury that stayed with me for so long?
- I'm striving for a daily practice again. Just being on the mat and to practice is enough. Second series feels good. I've overdone forward bending asanas. And second series has enough forward bending asanas. By now my back got worse after a yoga practice. This is why my motivation to practice faded away. In the long run it's not a solution to be a 'couch potato'.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Ashtanga yoga and nutrition


When I started practicing yoga 37 years ago it was clear a yogi is a vegetarian. That's when I changed my meals. I became a vegetarian. That time back not so many people thought they could live without meat and sausages and fish. I was even told that I would get ill. I'm still healthy. I never liked meat or sausages neither fish so it was easy for me to make this transition. I discovered Indian dishes. It was the first time that I thought to eat is something joyful in live.

Ahimsa means living a life without hurting other creatures. Living a non-violent life is one of the few rules for yoginis.

In the meantime to eat vegetarian might not be enough anymore. When I first read about the production of milk I was shocked. It's so cruel. I don't want to get into detail here. We can survive without eating animal products. It's even healthier than the usual meat diet. Exceptions might exist.

I think the direction is clear. If it's possible to eat well without killing or exploit other creatures, this is the way.

The reasons are mainly ethical ones.

But is this enough?

I used to practice 2 and a half hour Ashtanga yoga every day for more than 2 years. So glad that I gave up this ineffective practice. In the afternoon I was so tired. I slept again. Often hours. My body needed incredible much sleep. Even though I didn't like this, but it seems as if Ashtanga yoga was the only activity I was able to perform. For anything else I had no more energy.

A few months back I used a fitbit armwrist. It measures the heart rate, counts the steps and so on. The accompanying software allows to enter the food that one has eaten during the day. That way I found out that I don't eat enough protein. This might have been a reason why I was so often so tired.

In most other sports the connection between nourishment and accomplishments are known.

With this post I want to draw the attention to this important aspect.

I practiced as mentioned already 2 and a half hours daily. Alone with this amount of time my practice was no more a hobby. Because of the injury of my sacroiliac joint I saw a physio therapist. She helped me a lot. I also appreciated the conversations with her. She said: Many amateurs practice more and longer than professionals, but they don't know that they have to relax as well. They have no treatments by physio therapists.  They don't get any advice what to eat and  so on. This is why injuries can be expected.

In order to have a healthy but also an effective practice nutrition is as important as the practice itself.

My meal planning:
1. Monday - lentils (Indian lentil soup, or a salad)
2. Tuesday - Tofu
3. Wednesday - Quinoa
4. Thursday - chickpeas
5. Friday - we usually eat out

Saturday and Sunday I'm flexible and I often try out new meals.

This is a list of ingredients with a lot of protein. How much protein does a body need? No more than your body weight. Otherwise the liver and kidneys are overloaded.

In order to build muscles the body needs protein. This is worth repeating. One of the reasons why I was not able to perform some asanas even though they were within my possibilities was because I was not strong enough. Additional strength training would have been good, but probably not enough, too. A nutrition with enough protein would have supported my endeavor to perform laghu vajrasana i.e. After 6 years of practice and not being able to come up from this pose requires for reflection: What went wrong? I guess I have to adjust my meals and I see the importance of strength training.
Life is an experiment, my yoga practice, too.


On my practice:
I practice, back pain returns, I interrupt my practice only to start again a few days later. Not to practice seems to be good, but it has disadvantages, too.  Quickly the body becomes weak and stiff. I got so weak. Incredible.
To do nothing for the rest of my life is not an alternative.

I focus on second series these days as it feels so much better. Yesterday's practice brought a highlight. I could do sun salutation B without back pain. It was such a joy.
This morning I practiced again. It was the first activity in the morning still before breakfast. I gave up rather early, but it counts as a practice. I was glad that I practiced in the morning.

I need a group of practitioners, but I don't want adjustments from people I don't know and who don't know me. M will be back in September then I'll join his morning sessions again......







Monday, August 08, 2016

"No pain, no gain." So true, so wrong.


"No pain, no gain." This is a core sentence in the Ashtanga  yoga community with fatal consequences. Sharath says this sentence sometimes. But when he speaks to a huge audience I'm sure he wants to use sentences that people remember. This sentence is often quoted out of context. It needs correct interpretation.

It's always good not to complicate things unnecessarily, but this sentence is so short that it becomes wrong.

In addition, as mentioned already it leaves too much room for interpretation. Mainly it's interpreted: Work through any pain that you feel, no matter what it is. No pain, no gain. Stick to the series and keep practicing as usual. One day you'll feel better again. Unfortunately this is not true.

I know now that this over-simplified approach to pain can have unwanted consequences till the point that one has to stop practicing at all. Not every pain stops one day from alone. Things can get worse.

Since  my sacroiliac joint was blocked about a year ago already I read a lot. I found a lot of knowledge. Of course injuries can happen also when doing other sportive activities. One can learn a lot from each other if one stays open-minded.
It was wrong to practice as usual. My back pain got so painful that I couldn't sleep anymore, I couldn't sit anymore, forget about a yoga practice. A yogini then wrote me to go to a physio therapist. This finally brought relief and a lot of understanding.

As it's so to the point in the book 'Fat loss happens on Monday: habit based diet & workout hacks' by Josh Hillis with Dan John I refer  to the chapter: Pain and other problems in the workouts: pain versus pain versus pain.

There are different sorts of pain and they require different actions. Pain is a warning from the body. Via pain we get messages that we shouldn't ignore.

1. There is muscle soreness when we work on strength. We feel when the muscles get tired. Only when we feel something the muscles get stronger.
2. Stretching discomfort: It's also wanted. If one relaxes the pain fades away. Then one can go deeper into a pose. The pain can guide us when we are attentive.

Only for these too sorts of discomfort the sentence 'no pain, no gain' might be true.

3. Pain from the joints or other pain are a warning. It's best to work around the pain and to see as fast as possible a physio therapist or a doctor (the more specialized the better) . This sort of pain becomes quickly chronic. After a few weeks of pain one speaks already from chronic pain.

It is not recommended to work through the pain. I repeat it, because it's so important.
Most Ashtanga yoga teacher cannot differentiate between the different sorts of pain, because they don't understand the sentence: no pain, no gain that Sharath says sometimes.
And what to do if someone has serious pain? A yoga teacher is not a doctor, but he/she can recommend to see a doctor........

The consequences of this lack of knowledge can be rather awful. Since almost a year I have this back issues now. I lost many asanas. My practice was so painful that I omitted the practice too often. Perhaps I could have avoided all the months of pain if I saw the physio-therapist much earlier.

Pain doesn't equal pain.

If you want to learn something from this post then it is to differentiate between 3 different sorts of pain. The one when you get stronger, the one that is felt when you stretch and the dangerous one that tells you: Stop, something went wrong. Something is seriously injured. Immediate action is required then. See a physio-therapist, reflect on your practice in general, alter your practice. Perhaps strength training is necessary and so on. To keep going as usual is not recommended.

My summer break is over and I practice again at home. Today I started at 6 am. I sweated and enjoyed my modest practice. There is a long way to go till I can practice again like 3 years ago. This I must accept.

Instead of thinking 'no pain, no gain', I recommend to think: 'Work smarter than harder'. 

I'll write in posts to come what I mean with 'smarter than harder'.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Halleluja, I practiced.



With this practice this morning the summer break is over. Friday still means that I focus on primary. I had to try out what is possible.

The first surprise came when I did the first upward facing dog during the first sun salutation. An unbearable pain was felt on my upper left foot below my big toe. It felt as if the nerves there are sore. Perhaps I was too long in my shoes last night when we flew home from LA. I interrupted my practice and stretched the feet, the toes. Then I adjusted upward facing dog, I remained on my toes and didn't stretch my feet backwards.

A very positive surprise is to report, too: I could get into sirsasana with straight legs. Back pain was so minimal that I could do this. My muscles could hold my legs. This is so WOW for me. I could jump up and down out of joy.

After an hour it was enough.

The summer break is over. 

Picture is from 2011. 

I daydreamed that I practice


We are at home again. This one month in the US was great. Yet in not one single hotel room I was motivated to roll out my yoga mat, not even for the tiniest practice. Once I practiced forward bending asanas on the bed. The consequence: back pain. My fascia roll was in the suitcase. From then on I bowed forward from time to time, but this was it.
It is possible to practice on soft carpets in a hotel room, that looks dirty, it is possible, but not inviting. I was not motivated to do sun salutations between the door and the bed as if I was in a deep valley.

In the meantime I read a lot of books on exercising. There are important rules to follow in order to make any practice safe. I'll write about it.
I'll write much more often again. Writing about anything that one wants to improve supports the process: Documentation is a well-known tool used in most sportive activities.

To travel is often also a trip to oneself. I do love the variety of this world. I'm in awe, fascinated, entertained. It's great to try out different life styles, different food, different weather. Highlights are always to meet locals. It helps to find out what one loves and if it is fine-tuning the own life-style.  I love a healthy elegant life style that implies yoga practice and cooking. I also love to have time for nothing. To function all the time, to work towards a goal all the time, to be busy all the time and so on is not enough. Simply to sit and to kill time is wonderful. This might be even more effective than running around all the time without creative breaks.

Sun rise is at 5:55 am here in the south of Germany. The days become shorter again, the nights longer. When getting up at 5 am it will feel as if it's deep night. It rains. The sound is so familiar. I feel ready to start practicing again - modest, passionate, careful.

I loved this trip in the US, I love to be at home again.



Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Focus is the process


Today my practice was painful again. I needed breaks. This is absolutely OK for me. I'm not stopped because one asana is not as it should be, I don't feel pushed. All my ambition is focused on getting up early (5am) to practice Ashtanga yoga. That's it.

I learned that even top performer are better when they have a relaxed attitude. Trying to give 90 percent shows better results than trying to give 180 % every day.

On the other hand I prefer to stay in bed to do anything half-hearted. My heart-blood must flood, otherwise it's not worth doing anything. I love Ashtanga yoga, but not every fashion of it.

Every day I become a bit stronger. At least it feels so. I focus on the positive aspects and I ignore the frustration. This is what yoga is. It's a mental exercise.

Now, at 15:49 this Wednesday my back is not existing. It's like a miracle. How long will it last?

Also today I'll go to bed early and I'll get up early.
On Friday I'll try primary again.






Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I take the steps


I take the steps of the subway entries, I take the steps at home. I need strong legs for so many asanas. My legs are slightly sore, something is moving.

Before katotasana I was advised to do an exercise that shall help me to relax the upper body and to keep the legs engaged. I lie on 5 blocks that are under my arms in the middle of my back. With the hands I press against a wall. Slowly I walk down the wall with my hands. The pose gets deeper that way.
I'll have focus on the breath again. My breath is superficial these days. I even hold it, not on  purpose, but I fear the back pain. My practices are not pain free. A yogi told me a trick today after the practice, that helped him. Just laugh at and about the pain. This can indeed help, because in my case the pain is probably chronic already.

I do what is possible without pushing too much. I trust that my daily practice will help me to get better every day a tiny bit.

The rhythm to go to bed early and to get up early is perfect. I love the sun rise. Often the sky is red. It's such a joy to see this in the morning.

After the practice I went to a vegan restaurant round the corner to have a lemon-chia-cake and a chai. It had the addiction factor. But my breakfast at home is also excellent. From time to time to step out of the routine spices up life.

Monday, June 27, 2016

I progress again, and this shall be my focus


This was my supta kurmasana in 2014.
(Facebook excavates all these old pictures. I'm not sure if I'm convinced about it.)

A reader asked me in a comment if I know how this SI joint injury happened:
One cannot be sure. But I suspect that in my case i.e. supta kurmasana was the cause, because in the 'tradition' (whatever this shall be) it's always the left leg first behind the head. Then comes the right leg. My right side of the body is stronger as I'm right-handed, so it's harder to be as flexible on the right side as on the left side. But I needed much more flexibility to get the right leg not only behind the head, but also above the left leg (see picture). I personally am convinced that if I had altered legs, my body would still be balanced and therefore my body would be OK.
Padmasana is another pose that created imbalance in my body. Here too, one has to take the left leg first. Always. I used to alter legs. And I'm back to it.
These asanas are advanced asanas. For me it's important to practice both sides evenly. I can be wrong.
Not only Ashtanga yoga practitioners have SI joint issues. There are many causes. But one can do something to avoid it.

I learned that it's important to have strong abdomen. One has to do extra exercises probably. The muscles always keep the joints safe. I got stronger during my yoga practices, but Ashtanga yoga is not a strength training.
I think that this is an important rule. Always engage muscles to keep the joints safe.
This is also true for poses when the shoulders are challenged. How to do it? I learned a lot from books written by people who do strength training. I.e. when you want to do a pull-up, it's very dangerous to hang on the bar. From the beginning on the shoulder muscles must be engaged and this happens when the shoulders are pulled downwards slightly. Test it. Stretch your arms to the sky or the ceiling and then slightly pull your shoulders down. Muscles do this work and with this tiny movement the joints are protected. This knowledge is important to make the practice safe.
There are always muscles that must be active.
This shoulder tip is important for urdhva dhanurasana.



And this is two years later (now):


I curse. It drives me crazy how many poses I lost.

This is my very first focus to let go of the past. I cannot turn the clock backwards. It can be that I must live now with this Si joint injury and the pain that comes with it. Then it might be so.
And I progress. Today M helped me also in supta kurmasana. I could bind, my fingers could hook and my legs were crossed behind my head. I was passive. This is also something one learns when practicing Ashtanga yoga. The ability to relax when it gets tough is a skill, that can be learned.

It's still not very easy to get up that early (5am). But I did it and enjoyed a wonderful Mysore class. It helps me, it supports me. I go home content. I'm back exploring what is possible in this life and on the mat, too.

My practice was slightly painful. I rested in child's pose after every back bending asana. This feels good and makes sure that I feel great afterward. I do.
Best is for me that I can listen to my body and it's needs. I feel free to alter the rules. I don't feel any pressure. That's how it shall be.

Now I must only get stronger again.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Pashasana


There are always alternatives. Instead of pashasana I practice the above pose. It was shown to me as pashasana is no more possible for me, too. I can only indicated it these days. A lot of poses are lost due to my SI joint injury that is fading away every day a tiny bit more. After more than 7 months with this painful back I have to return to my level 3 years ago. I will.

I practiced today at home. This allowed me to take some pictures. Again I realize what a great learning tool this is. The poses all look different than they feel.

Tomorrow I'll go to a Mysore class. I'm looking forward to my practice, the adjustments and the group. I feel very welcomed where I practice now.
I don't feel forced to do poses that damage my back. I can practice close to the Ashtanga series, but not strict. Yoga is about flexibility.

Soccer time now........European Championship (Germany : Slovakai)










Thursday, June 23, 2016

My current supta kurmasana


"Do what is possible."

What can be seen in the picture is possible. I'm so far away from what I was able to do. And this all because of my blocked SI joint, an Ashtanga yoga injury!!!!! Annoying is only that I could have avoided it, if I were a bit more rebellious. Past. I see a bright future and I see myself there with the legs behind my head again and it's so easy that I can relax in that poses. LOL.

I should practice supta kurmasana instead of dwi pada sirsasana. Primary doesn't feel good. Second series has also forward bending asanas, but not that many, which is good for me. Alone I'm no more able to do dwi pada sirsasana. And all these leg behind the head poses were a piece of cake for me.

So in the last Mysore class we started with the pose shown above. Then M put my feet on blocks. My task was to be passive. One must be able to be passive. I trust M. Resistance is not necessary. I don't have the feeling that I have to protect myself. Soon my feet were on 2 blocks and my arms were under the legs. No way to bind. But my legs were somehow behind my head. I was lifted and the outer form was a dwi pada sirsasana. On my own, I could push my legs backwards. Perfect.

Since yesterday my back seems to be better. Perhaps this adjustment stretched my body and the cells could move to their origin place. I don't know. I'm on my way to recover. Sometimes in tiny steps, sometimes it seems that I'm back to normal soon. Oh my, I needed a lot of patience.

An advanced yogini thinks: Thank you. I'm ready for everything.
The show can go on.
Our likes and dislikes are not really that important.

(No spellcheck available....)


Instead of eka pada sirsasana


This is the pose I was recommended to practice instead of eka pada sirsasana. This pose was also recommended by my physio therapist. It opens the hip and it's relaxing. It's indeed an excellent preparation.

All the leg behind head poses scare me these days, because I think they might be the cause for my SI joint issues. Not the poses themselves were the cause, but the rule to use only i.e. left leg first.

My issues came because my SI joint was blocked. Then the psoas adopted the work of the SI joint, but they are not made to do this. The consequence is they cramp. To loose this cramp is painful, yet it forces again the joint to work. But why is this SI joint blocked???? I always want to find out the cause. One must solve issues by finding out  why something happened. Only cosmetics is not the solution. M mentioned it yesterday, why this SI joined is blocked. It comes because of a misplacement of the hips. And why did this misplacement happen???? Because in Ashtanga yoga it's a not understandable rule to take always one leg first, either the right side or the leg side. Especially if one has to go deep into these forward bending asanas, because the legs are not that long there is a lot of pressure on the hips and the lower back. Now I have to undo this. And my strong abdomen have to support my lower back. My hips that were always even must be exercised evenly again.
Understanding is precious. It took me some time. I mean a doctor told me I have psychological issues. He obviously has a very reduced way to make diagnosis: back pain is psychological. Point. My physio therapist shook her head in astonishment. SI joint issues are never caused by the soul. Other back pain issue might have stress factors as a reason.

Now where I know the causes, I know how to practice.
Since my last practice and it was a very intensive one all is better. It's really like a miracle.
M positive feeling begin to dominate again the entire process that lasts now more than 7 months. I have hope, I love to practice. Yesterday I started taking pictures again.

At a certain age the teaching must be individual. So happy that I returned to M.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Relieved beyond imagination


Today it was already a tiny bit easier to get up at 5am.

I went again to a Mysore class, That starts at 7am.
This morning I answered to a comment that I want to alter home practices with Mysore classes. But after the Mysore class today I changed my mind. I simply learn more with M than I could teach myself at home. I want to get back to my level of 3 years ago as soon as possible, but safe. This is possible with the advice of M. He has the experience. He has the knowledge and the sensitivity. He is flexible also in his mind.

Back to the teaching. M is able to teach individually. He doesn't stop students as main teaching method, he gives tips how to progress, how to do even more.
Yesterday I stopped my practice at eka pada sirsasana. I indicated this pose. It's a deep forward bending pose and afterwards comes urdhva dhanurasana. Yet today I was advised to practice till pincha mayurasana. After this pose back bending (urdhva dhanurasana) is easier. It's important for me now to have a  soft transition from one form of asanas to the next. The advice proofed to be excellent. I practiced pincha mayurasana against the wall. First I was scared, but after several attempts I was up.

As so many asanas are not possible anymore I was recommended to do asanas that prepare the ones I'm not able to do. Yes, why not. This is flexibility.

Instead of eka pada sirsasana I do a pose that even my physio therapist recommended. Instead of dwi pada sirsasana I exercise supta kurmasana, that is I do what is possible. I practice yoga nidra and then pincha mayurasana. This feels good.

I left the practice room without any pain!!!!!!!! I sit here without pain.
I know I have to work on strength especially on the abdomen. It's very important.

When I arrived at 7am, M arrived at the same time. We chatted a bit and I learned that he has had SI joint injuries, too. This makes him to an experienced teacher.
This is always my speech, that those teacher are the better ones who had difficulties with asanas. That forced them to understand the asanas.

It's the same with yoginis. Sometimes someone comes to a yoga class and is able to bend back and reach the calves after a few months only. Usually this gets many admiration. Me, too, I love to see these forms, I love to see what is possible with a body. But for me this doesn't mean that this person is an advanced yogini. The body simply allows to do this poses. I admire those who have difficulties with the asanas, but stick to the practice.

Yogi M knows more than me. He'll guide me out of the valley, I'm currently in with all this SI joint issues. Finally I found back my optimism. This feels good.

I sit here for more than an hour and I still have no back pain. I'm relieved beyond imagination.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I return as an invalid.


I must have slept a bit last night, but not much. Again and again I woke up, I tossed and turned. At 5 am my alarm clock woke me up. Only 10 more minutes, I thought. I was so tired and I had the feeling that I could finally sleep. If I hadn't an appointment with my friend S. I would have slept in. But so I had to get up. And I managed it. This morning we had only cold water. This cold shower was good. The tiredness disappeared. Black coffee helped, too.

I had a breakfast date with friend S. after yoga, after the Mysore class with my former yoga teacher. It's now almost 3 years that I didn't practice with him. The last 7 months I was alone on my mat at home. My back pain made it difficult to practice regularly.

A lot has changed since then.
The practice starts at 7am and not at 9am, which is great.
The location is new and I love it much more than this old garage.
All the bureaucracy is done by staff and not by yoga teacher.  

When I saw M in the practice room I told him about my blocked SI joint. This injury was familiar to him. I must engage the bandhas, I know. I even think I must do extra strength training for the abdomen.

It was absolutely OK that I focused on second series only. The kapotasana adjustment that I got was perfect. I was so deep in that pose. It has been ages that I had such a performance. I sum it up: I'm again enthusiastic. I found a teacher who allows me to take care of my body.

When I left the shala M asked me if everything was OK with my back. It was. He is caring. He is not dogmatic. The yogi is the focus and not the rules.

After breakfast with S. I headed home and I was tired like hell and slept for hours. This was it for today. Tomorrow I'll practice again in a Mysore class. I loved the energy in the group, but it was not pushing. After the twists I finished my practice. Safety first.
On Thursday I'll have to go to the dentist in the morning. I don't know what I'll do on Friday. I want to cultivate home practices, too.

I'm more than happy. The show can go on. I love to get back to a life rhythm that means to get up early and to sleep early. I love the early mornings.

Today is soccer time: European championship. I watch TV.
The picture above is taken 6 years ago during the world cup.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Painful and frustrating


This picture shows me about 5 or 6 years ago. This pose would still be possible if I hadn't attended Mysore classes for the last 2 and a half years. Point.
These days I move into headstand with bent legs.
At home I would never had injured myself. I have 30 years of yoga practice behind me with more or less no injuries. 12 our of these 30 years were dedicated to Ashtanga yoga.

Today my practice started very good. I was able to do all the standing asanas. But then it got worse, even though 'only' primary was on the schedule. That I'm no more able to do supta kurmasana is not the cause for the frustration. I got weak and the vinyasas are not possible either. What frustrates me is the pain. My practice was painful again. I had to interrupt it several times to give my back muscles a fascia massage. I rolled on this tool I had bought some time ago. It lies always next to my mat just in case.

Home practices are safer. But it's too late now for me.

Today I found a post by Grimmly about injuries. He also suffered from injures and went to classes which was not the best for the injuries.
 Firstly in classes one is told what to do.
But after a decade one knows what one shall do and one tries to meet the expectations. That is one knows that it is not allowed to do preparation asanas. One has to do the vinyasaas and so on. But this is exactly what can make the injuries worse. One must be also allowed to omit asanas. Even this should be possible when injured. This seems to be a world-shaking compromise in the Ashtanga yoga community.
Today I tried surya namaskara B. It didn't feel good, so I was happy that I did it. In classes I'd surely forced myself to repeat it again. A setback would be predictable.

To follow any rules, only because it's the rule now is not convincing for me anymore. Why was I not more rebellious? I knew that it was nonsense what I had to do.
- What is difficult comes first and not after 2 hours. The results of  this training was little. Of course. It was so ineffective.
- One must alter legs in order to exercise the body evenly also in padmasana, supta kurmasana and so on.
-  I needed strength training
- To have a variety of asanas is better than practicing every day the same, every day the same, every day the same. Also mistakes repeat that way.
- Goals have a deadline. After a certain time span one has to reflect again how to go on.


Second series feels better. It's a more balanced series.
I know, it's another post where I express my frustration and where I complain. Last night I was so optimistic, but reality taught me something else. To practice with pain is hard. It's demotivating.

Every twenty minutes I have to stand up, because I cannot sit longer. A nightmare. I have to work on my attitude. The past is over.....

I think now seriously, that primary is not so good for me. After second series I feel better. I'll focus on second series.

I'm not alone when I practice at home.
The best yoginis practice at home.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Home practices


I practice at home these days. This allows me to listen to my body. It allows me to add asanas to prepare the difficult ones like back bending. I also feel free to omit asanas if they doesn't feel good.

In sum the back pain is less painful than a few weeks ago. I can do much more asanas than a few weeks ago. For example today it was possible to get into headstand with straight legs. Surya namaskara B was possible. Three times I did urdhva dhanurasana.

Nevertheless these back pain issues last now more than 7 months. This drives me crazy from time to time. Eat that frog, I think then. There is no alternative to home practices. Mysore classes focus on beginners. Beginners need rules. But the teaching must become more flexible when students practice a decade or longer. This is not the case. This rigidness of  Ashtanga yoga classes causes injuries. I know I'm not the only one who experienced this. As much as I miss being part of Mysore classes I also know that the risk to get injured is too high when practicing in classes every day. Especially at my age (57y) a variety of asanas is supportive. Instead I practiced  every day the same asanas only because one asana (kapotasana), the last one didn't look perfectly. After 2 hours of yoga practice I could finally exercise it. Exhausted I was by then. For 5 breaths I exercised this asana, this was it. Did I expect miracles? No I didn't. I followed the Ashtanga rules without reflecting. Two and a half years the same show every day, till I got injured. Why didn't I stop this earlier. I felt incontent. I knew I wanted to omit primary and focus on second series.
The only didactics in yoga classes is to stop yogis when an asana doesn't look perfectly. It follows an adjustment for 5 breaths. Voilà. This is not enough. This is simple, but too simple.

When practicing at home I have no commuting. I can shower after the practice. Sometimes I'm up till midnight. Then I practice a bit later. I get up after 7 or 8 hours of sleep. My life is flexible, I adjust it to my daily wishes and schedules. Not that I want to make a principle out of it. The goal is to get back to an early morning practice. But one can also maintain a daily or almost daily practice when living a bit more flexible without a strict schedule.

Time to move. To sit longer than 30 minutes is not good for my back.

Friday, June 03, 2016

On vinyasas - a list


1. One decade (!) I thought that the vinyasas, the dynamic movement to connect the asanas make my Ashtanga yoga practise to a workout. A few months ago I bought a fitbit armwrist, which I wore during my practise. Afterwards I checked my heart rate. This was a shock. Only when I did the sun salutations and when I did urdhva dhanurasana the heart was challenged. This was all under 1 minute. I had to realize that  Ashtanga yoga is not a work out, also not because we practise the vinyasas.

2. In order to being able to do the vinyasas one must be strong and flexible and one must understand the how to do it, the technique. All this might be a reason to practise the vinyasas. But what I see in classes (I include myself)  most students betray themselves or they don't know what to exercise. After 12 years of practicing Ashtanga yoga I got close to being able to perform it. Close. By now I'm not able to do it nicely. This is a wake-up call to reflect on what happened.

3. Almost 30 times the vinyasas are exercised when doing primary. I didn't count the transition from kurmasana and supta kurmasana ie. Now imagine how long I try this dynamic movement without being able to do it.
What does this mean not being able to do it? My feet touch the floor during this transition. The goal is to float through the arms without touching neither the arms nor the floor.
In the first years I learned that this transition is science fiction. Later, when the community grew more and more talented yoginis joined the community. They also analyzed the movement. I learned how to do the vinyasas from the generous yoginis on YouTube and other social channels. I didn't learn it because I practises it 30 times every day for years.

4. It is said that in the early years of Ashtanga yoga there were not so many vinyasas. There were no vinyasa between sides. Similar asanas were formed to a group and only in the beginning and afterward a vinyasa was performed.

5. Why doing the vinyasas at all? For me there is one main reason. During the vinyasas is a counter pose, upward facing dog. Being flexible means not only being able to have a deep forward bend. Flexible people can alter from forward bending to back bending to twists without long preparations.
The upward facing dog is often done very sloppily. This is what I see in classes. I know why. It comes with discomfort. But this is it. It's good to stand it till the discomfort fades away. This makes flexible.

6. The huge disadvantage of the vinyasas is that when done correctly the chest muscles get stronger and stronger. The upward facing dog is not enough to balance this. It would be good to do back bending, that is second series. Students are held too long at primary. When they finally start second series, they are stiff in the upper body. Back bending becomes horrible.
There are authors who say that one shall not practise pincha mayurasana when not being able to do kapotasana, because the chest muscles get too strong then when practicing pincha mayurasana. This author forgets that this exactly happens if one practises too long primary.
In my opinion it's also better to omit primary when starting second series for exactly this reason.

7. Quality over quantity.
Up to 30 times every day, year in year out students try to manage the vinyasas. Most are not so successful. It is much better to do less and correctly.



Today was primary on the schedule. Despite my cold I practiced. I had no fever, so why not practicing? If it would have been too much today, I could have stopped anytime.
I practiced vinyasas as described under point 4.
Then almost at the end I did chakrasana and pulled my neck. I was too fearful today. I feared that the back pain would return and it did. A wrong movement and it's back, I thought. I'm glad that this neck pain faded away after the practise. I added fascia massage at the end.
Oh yes, it was good, that I practised. It's always worth doing it.




Thursday, June 02, 2016

Sick


Oh my, I'm sick.  I got a cold, my throat is rough, I cough. I feel lousy and I have a bit higher temperature than usual. With fever a practise is not possible. Perhaps I'll have the energy to sit and to do pranayama, if my clocked nose allows it.

A cold is awful, but it's nothing in comparison to the influenza I had a month ago. The bacteria of this influenza had me in its grip. I felt closer to death than to life. My words were: I'm so exhausted. Then I was too exhausted to add anything. My body was burning, due to the high fever.

To gulp is painful today. I feel weak, but not that exhausted. At 7am I got up, took a shower, made the bed. To move is good. I can rest later again. But not to leave the bed doesn't support the healing process. One knows this in the meantime.

Motivation to practise is very high, but the body needs a rest day or two.
What can I do? Nothing.......


Wednesday, June 01, 2016

On aging and Ashtanga yoga


Most people have a number in mind when they shall say what is old. For some 50 is old. When I was in my twenties, I thought my life, or better the fun in life is over. Now I'm 57 and I know this isn't true. The younger people are, the more they think it's better to be young. I dare to say that every decade has it's own challenges, highlights and issues.

For other people 60 is old, or 70.

No, I don't agree when people say age is just a number. With 57 I'm different than I was with 27.
To have only a number in mind when thinking of age is too limited.

Genes, life-style and environment  influence how we are and feel at a certain age. They make huge differences from person to person.

Especially when we are 60 or above the differences between people enlarge. I know people who take part in marathons at this age, others cannot walk anymore or are dead already.

People usually think that I'm about 10 years younger than I am. When I say that I practise yoga, they think that this is the reason. But my grandma didn't practise yoga and she passed away at the age of 103.

One thing is sure: we'll all die one day. If we don't die at an accident, life aggravates slowly. This is not neccessarily so. Yoga can help that life doesn't aggravate. I was once in a workshop with Danny Paradise. This was it what I remember. He realized that those who practice yoga don't make the experience that life aggravates dramatically when getting older.

We won't stay the same over all the decades. Our bodies, our minds change. So do our abilities.

At a certain point at my life I wanted to do a sportive activity that I could do for the rest of my life. I knew it was not Karate. It was yoga. There are a lot of sportive activities that are designed for young people. Soccer is such an example out of many.

Ashtanga yoga was taught to young boys first. Also those first practitioners who pilgrimaged to Mysore were young. The few who sticked to the practice are now around 60, but they practiced this yoga style for all of their lives. They are different to those who joined later in life, like me. I discovered Ashtanga yoga when I was already 44 years old.

When we get older we become weaker and less flexible. When we practice yoga we work against these developments. This keeps us younger. Yet it's more difficult to learn the difficult asanas than in younger years.

In comparison to younger people it's much more difficult and it requires more effort to stay strong and flexible because one works against the normal signs of getting older. Nevertheless more is possible at any age than one thought it was a decade ago. It's worth exercising at any age and one will see positive results.

But and here comes the next difference to younger people. It takes longer to learn anything. It takes longer to get stronger and it takes longer to get flexible.
Not only this. Injuries last longer till they heal.

My experience is that when I want to practice according my age  a variety is good. I don't agree at all to do only primary when 50+. I read this sometimes. Primary alone is an unbalanced practise. It's forward bending. My body is more able to integrate new movements when a variety of asanas are offered. I prefer to do some preparation before doing wheel pose after all the forward bending asanas of primary.

I'm not a fan of limiting oneself neither re what one is doing, nor mentally. Exploring the limits at any age is what I recommend. One day I might be happy to keep a certain level. By now I noticed that I progress at anything that I practise correctly. I progress, but slower than in my twenties.

My personal advice for myself when considering my age is:
- Take care that the practise is balanced.
- Strength and flexibility are evenly important
- Exercise correctly, because it takes so much longer than in younger years till an injury heals
- No long breaks
- Cultivate a home practise

Currently the target group of Ashtanga yoga are the younger people. A few weeks ago I was asked if I promoted a yoga clothing page. As a 'thank you', I should get a sports bra. No, thank you. Not only the clothes but also the teaching focuses on younger people. And one has to teaches the masses. Individual teaching is rare. Yet this is what is more important for older people.

I'm convinced that I can practise Ashanga yoga till the end of my life. But if I start with exercising pincha mayurasana when I'm 70, it might become dangerous, because one must learn to fall. The risk to break bones is more likely when older.

As said: How we feel at a certain age varies a lot. How long we live varies a lot, too.
Life is about exploring the possibilities. And this is my attitude.
I don't want to focus on one asana that I'm not able to do. Every day. This is not effective, nor does it fit to my age.
I also need a variety of asanas on different days. To work day in day out, year in year out the same stuff is not effective, not only because of the age. Second series is rather balanced, primary is not balanced.

There are also advantages when older. I know myself better than I knew myself with 20. I wanted to try Karate and Aikido. Then belly dance was my passion. These days I can focus on Ashtanga yoga, because I know it fits to my personality and my life style.
Most people have found a balance in life when older. I regret that I missed yesterday's party due to my cold. When younger every distraction is welcomed. There are partys, love affairs, perhaps a family with children and jobs. This all makes it difficult to have a regular practise. It becomes easier to follow a disciplined routine later in life.

The goal and the path belong together. On the mat I focus on what is possible now. I focus on the path, yet I know where it shall lead.

Oh yes, I practiced also today: second series. Back bending was my focus. So today the leg behind head poses were almost impossible. Who cares?
I shall see what is possible tomorrow........

I hope this blog post was not too chaotic.