Monday, February 22, 2016

At the physiotherapy

I'm very lucky. I found a very good physio therapist. It was the first person who listened to me. She said in the beginning: Please tell me your version. What do you think why you have this back pain.

When I told her that I think that it happened during a yoga practice she expressed not the slightest mistrust towards this art. The opposite was the case. Yet she also mentioned that it's important to build strength to stabilize the joints.
To block the IS joint can also happen when walking down steps.
She is optimistic that we can heal my back.

In the meantime the muscles around the joint are tight, too, because they compensated the issue of the IS joint.
Her grips seemed very competent. She works exactly on what I feel is not right. I always have the feeling something is not at the right place. I can relate to the sentence. The SI joint is blocked. The goal is to free this blockade.

This is not done with pain killers or injections, the solution of the doctors. It also doesn't go away from alone. This can happen, but in my case it didn't happen.

The therapist twisted my body and stretched it. She also treated the muscles around the joint, so that they could relax.

It's not 'You can go through all the gym offers', if you like. Gymnastic is something else than physiotherapy. Some doctors are really arrogant.
To free the blockade is a mechanical thing. I was so lucky that I could remember when it happened. To tell me that I might have some issues in life that manifest in back pain is so incompetent.

The therapist gave me too further exercises. After the above one which is a preparation pose I shall exercise cat pose, minimum 40 times. What cannot be seen in the picture above is that I lie on a rolled towel that is posed along my spine, so that the hips can move down on the sides.

Of course I shall do nothing that causes pain. I have 5 more sessions and I have high hopes.
That people come with a blocked SI joint happens rather often. Fingers crossed that I'll soon be pain free.

When I was at home again, I fell into the bed and slept. Very deeply.

And tomorrow a tooth will get extracted. I push away this thought. It comes with discomfort. Yet this treatment is necessary to safe the next teeth. Might this be true.
It's sunny outside. I'll get some yogurt. It will surely be difficult to eat tomorrow.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Ashtanga yoga is not a strength training

Ashtanga yoga is not a strength training neither, even though I got stronger.

There are asanas and vinyasas that require strength a lot of strength. If one has not built enough strength the asanas or the vinyasa becomes impossible.

I mention only two examples:
Laghu vajrasana and karandavasana are such poses.
- To come up from laghu vajrasana the legs must be very strong. Of course technique and flexibility complement the skills that are required.
- Also karandavasana is only possible if a yogini has enough strength in the arms and core strength.
- Jumping backwards is a vinyasa that requires strength in the arms and core strength, too.

Classic Ashtanga yoga only knows one method to learn/teach something:
One practices the full series till the asanas that is difficult to perform. It's the last post, when the yogini is exhausted already. Then one exercises this asana, the teacher  adjusts it. Perhaps one repeats this asana or one holds it a bit longer, but this is it.
In classic Mysore classes not more is even allowed:
- Props are a taboo.
- Explanations are not part of the teaching.
- Extra strength training or flexibility training are a taboo and not allowed.
- No preparation exercises are foreseen.

Yet to get an adjustment is not enough. 
A pose like laghu vajrasana is within reach for me. I exercise this asana now since more than 6 years minimum with no success. My best result was to get down in the pose and to get up. I never could hold the pose for 5 breaths and was able then to come up. Most of the time (98%) I got down, I held this pose for 5 breaths then I 'collapsed.
The solution: Extra strength training for the legs.
I also learned split pose that increased my flexibility around the hips and made this pose easier.

In classes these extra exercises that might be necessary are unknown.
In the meantime I know that those who are able to perform these difficult asanas do strenth training.

- Kino MacGregor describes in her book on second series that she practiced pincha mayurasana against the wall. She held the pose for many many breaths to develop the necessary strength that she needed to perform the asana.
- When I watch YouTube videos I realize that those who are able to do the challenging poses learn them with additional exercises: strength training, flexibility training.
- I also remember that Gregor Maehle recommended additional exercises but he added one shall do them not during the regular practice. (Because it's a tabu in the community that only performing an asana is not enough to learn it.)

Whenever I'll be back on the mat I'll surely analyse much more the necessary skills of an asana. I'll add strength training or flexibility training if this helps. This is one reason why I'll surely will practice more often at home again.


Yesterday it was not even possible to be in baby pose. It took me ages to get in that pose to relax. To get out of it was painful. My back hurt like hell. It was time for an Aspirin. It helped and it made me happy. At night I slept well. That's great, too, I need energy to stay optimistic.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Ashtanga yoga is not a cardiovascular training

I stared at my PC at the statistic that my fitbit tool has created. This software records activities. An activity is if the body gets moved longer than 15 min. The heart rate must go up. When I practice Ashtanga yoga the heart rate goes up only when I do the sun salutations and at the end when I do urdhva dhanurasana, back bending. Yet it's so short that the system doesn't record it. Fitbit only recorded when I walked around.

This is indeed a disillusion.

It is important to do a cardiovascular training to stay fit.

To get to the yoga shala and to return exercised my cardiovascular system more than the yoga practice itself. Haha.......

The consequences: 
- When I take the steps to get to the fifth floor I'm out of breath at the end. My muscles burn like hell. - Last week I was swimming. After only 2 rows I was done.

I had the illusion that I was fit, but I'm not fit at all. I might be flexible, yes, but to be fit is something else.

Again I realize that my time was not well spent when I was two and a half hour on the mat to practice Ashtanga yoga. One and a half hour would have been more than enough. It would have been so much safer. I would have had time 6 hours left for cardio training or pranayama or meditation.
I never wanted to make Ashtanga yoga to a full time job, but this is exactly what had happened with these long long hours on the mat.

It's recommended to exercise the body minimum 3 times a week for 45 min. What to do? Swimming, jogging are cardio trainings.
It's difficult to find something that it's so attractive to me that I want to d it 3 times a week. It will be probably swimming. I can add sauna afterwards.
Brisk walking might be something else.
From now on I'll take the steps instead of the elevator whenever I'll have the choice. These little activities add up.


If I knew what a horror night I would have, I'd have taken the pills last night. I'm glad that I always find body positions that are pain free. Nevertheless I experience pain too often....
I slept 7 hours, This is enough.
This back pain is a huge limitation in my life. Yesterday I was at the hairdresser. Afterwards I wanted to pick up my handbag that stood on the floor. I was not able to bend forward. The hairdresser picked it up for me.
This pain has the potential to wear me down. I have to stay optimistic that this pain will fade away. Next week I'll have the first physiotherapy session.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

I can't sit, I can only dance

I can't sit, so I dance. I found a CD  with songs with Bob Dylon when I came home tonight. The songs invited me to dance. Suddenly my left arm was vibrating. What is this? I was shocked. What happened? Haha, I made 10 001 steps today and my fitbit armwrist was vibrating. Lol.

Life must be celebrated. I do.

Shall the Gods care for my back, in the meantime I'll enjoy what life offers to me.

Two and a half hours

Yesterday my back hurt that awfully that I went to the family doctor. I had in mind that he could give me a prescription of the medicine that I got in 2012 in hospital when I had this lumbago. I got this prescription and tonight I'll take it. I have high hopes. Perhaps a miracle can happen twice. Last time when I took this medicine, I slept a few hours. When I woke up I was healed.
I shouldn't have looked up this medicine. It has too many side effects. This is why doctors don't recommend it anymore. However. I'll take it one more time.

I took the report of the hospital to the doctor. My back was x-rayed in hospital. More or less everything was and is OK. This was also the result of the orthopedist after his examination. This is why many experts think back pain has psychological reasons. One cannot find an anatomical reason for the pain, but the pain is experienced. I was asked: Have you issues? Stress? But I feel excellent. I was never happier with my life than now. (Except that I have this back pain.)

In the report of the hospital stood that I practice two and a half hours yoga every day. I remember that I had said it, but I had regretted it at once. People outside of the Ashtanga community don't understand it. And I don't understand it anymore neither. I felt even a bit embarrassed that I had told this. I felt as if I was doing something that I kept better as a secret. Two and a half hours of yoga practice 6 times a week over a period of several years is too much. Even I see it now.

It's the second time in my life that I practice so long over a long period of time (2 years). Within that long time frame I haven't mastered any of the asana that I should  learn. It's a wrong strategy to practice the difficult asanas at the end of a practice, that is after 2 hours. I'm sure that if I had practiced laghu vajrasana in the beginning, if I had repeated it, if I had done some special strength training for the legs I would be able to perform this asana. But I did primary, primary, primary before performing this asana once or twice. I was too exhausted to do more. More more more...... this is a wrong path. To focus on the essential exercises is it.
A young male body might react differently. But I am soon 57.

I also remember that despite this long practice I always wanted to do an extra session at home to focus on the asanas that I was not able to do. I know I wouldn't improve them a lot in class because I was too exhausted at the end of my practice in the morning. But I felt also too exhausted to do another session at home. I was in a dead end road. I knew it. But I ignored my feelings till I couldn't ignore them anymore.

Less is more. 
Work smarter than harder is my motto. This is true also for Ashtanga yoga. I'm forced now to apply my motto also on the mat. 

Tradition is almost a holy word in the Ashtanga yoga community. But in the meantime life went on and what was considered as good is proofed wrong. We arrived in another century.

This overlong practices exhausted my body till it answered: The answer is pain.

It is as if I got a message: It was too much, baby.
My body was no more able to stay balanced. The SI joint got blocked. The muscles around it started to cramp.

My big fear is that this pain will never stop. My doctor gave me hope.
Next week the physiotherapy starts. I'll have 6 sessions.

To undo the effects of the last years might take some time.

I try to live as always. It's amazing how much energy I have.

The picture is taken a few days ago. Sometimes wonderful practices are possible. What a joy.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Ashtanga yoga and nutrition

What and how people eat is important. It reflects the society. Wrong nutrition can make ill. We are so lucky in the Western society to have enough food here. Our challenge is to make wise choices.

There is no group without eating and fasting rituals. The Muslims have Ramadan, the Christians have fast days, too. It was Friday. Not so many Christians fast on Friday anymore. This ritual got lost is my observation. Nevertheless it exists. In India I realized that some groups don't eat eggs.

I see two rules re nutrition for Ashtanga yoga practitioners:
1. Ashtanga yoga is practiced on an empty stomach. This is why it's practiced early in the morning.
2. All Yoginis are vegetarians, mainly for ethic reasons.

I'm very conscious that even these two simple rules are already fallen into oblivion. Sometimes I speak with yoginis and they have never heard about Ahimsa (nonviolence). They've never heard about any rule re nutruition, they just do asanas.
Yoginis eat vegetarian/vegan because they care for animals. The effect of practicing asanas is very limited when they are practiced isolated. A life style supports this art of this practice.
Also the second rule often plays no role anymore in modern Yoga and even Ashtanga Yoga. Yoga is a business and owners of yoga studios want to offer classes all day long till late at night.

I think  practicing Ahimsa (non-violence) is very important. It's a pointer also for our asana practice. The asanas are not performed with force. This makes the practice safe and can avoid injuries.

Many yoginis might think being thin or super thin is most important, because then it's easier to perform the asanas. A healthy non-violent diet comes first, being slim is just a consequence.

When practicing anything 7 days a week anything becomes a serious sports. 
Then it's time to think in greater detail about what to eat.
One can learn a lot form other sportive groups. Nutrition is a key to top performance.
1. A vegan diet is perfect. There are top athletes who are vegan.
2. Protein is important for the muscles.
3. Good carbohydrates give energy.

Food can support our activities, it can also make us ill. It can make tired. Food has an influence on our moods..........

Above all food is a pleasure. Enjoy your meals.

Friday, February 12, 2016

What can I do for my muscles?

I think it's not only the SI joint that is not functioning as usual, also the muscles around it suffer in the meantime.

How can I pamper my muscles, I wondered?
1. Muscles love warmth. Then they relax. I was at the sauna again.
2. I take Magnesium and Kalium.
3. I eat more protein, that is red lentils, red beans to name a few edible plants.

4. What is also important  is to rest. This is often overlooked. Muscles need time off. It's nonsense to practice every day 2 and a half hours. Even those who prepare themselves for a marathon do this within shorter practices before the running. It's dangerous and not effective to practice that long every day.

I often go to bed after midnight because I read and read and read. There is so much knowledge outside, knowledge that has not yet reached the Ashtanga community.

This morning I practiced primary. When I'm on the mat I want to find out what is possible. I cannot practice lame. It was possible to take my legs behind my head. I did yoga nidrasana instead of supta kurmasana. This stabilizes the back. This calmed me that I was so flexible. Only setu bandhasana was not possible. My practice was not pain free, but I AM recovering. I AM RECOVERING.

Time to rest. And tomorrow is a day off. Halleluja.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Warmth is good

When I learned that warmth shall be good for my aching back, I had at once an idea. I went swimming and I added a visit to the sauna. Indeed the warmth felt very good. In the heat of this sauna room one feels nothing else but the heat. Breathing is difficult, but deep breathing is recommended in the sauna, too. Finally I sweated. And I breathed. The body relaxed.
After 15 min I yearned for an ice cold shower.

I cannot remember when I had slept so good.

When warmth is good and it seems so I'll repeat this. One day of rest is good. But tomorrow after primary I'll go again.
It's time-consuming. Sometimes priorities move. I'm recovering, but it's all not yet over...

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Modern Times - Controlling

Fitbit Charge HR:  I joined this community.

A few times back I read in a magazine that students of a university have to wear a Fitbit Charge HR. They have to walk 10 000 steps every day. Sport is part of the marks with 20% priority.

In general I think it's good when students, people move. Yet I always thought it's rather part of the fun live than a duty.

I got interested and realized that much more but only steps can be measured. Steps, floors, sleep quality, activities, calories, heart rate.....Especially the heart rate interested me. During Christmas time I measured my heart rate and it was above 100 and I was only sitting at the breakfast table. I know now thanks Fitbit, that all is normal. My average heart rate is 77.

It's possible to join the fitbit community. Different groups formed. It costs about 50 Euro extra. Then it's possible to compare the own data with the data of the community, which is interesting.

Above you see my sleep data. It takes 40 min till I fall asleep. Twice I woke up and 16 times I was uneasy. So I was 8 hours in bed, but slept only 7 hours.
This is exactly how my sleep feels. It's not really calm, too often I feel uneasy.

This tool that is like a wristband has also an alarm clock. It's vibrating to wake up. This is very attentive if one is not alone in bed.

The system gives also rewards and tips.  I'm sure it's motivating. Observing means changing. Observe your breath and at once it's deeper. I live in the fifth floor. Yesterday I took the steps already..... and I always take the elevator.

Oh my, this is funny. For me this is modern times.

Do you 'fitbit', too?
Comments are welcomed.

PS: I found out why my sleep is so uneasy. My back hurts when I turn around. I have to support my back with my hand.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Average heart rate during primary

Today I practiced primary. To practice second series feels better. Yet this is another topic. I wanted to know my heart frequency during the Ashtanga yoga practice.

There is nothing that one cannot meassure these days. So my heart rate goes up till 117. Especially in the beginning and the end. I guess this was urdhva dhanurasana at the end.

The average heart rate is 103. This is not spectacular. Yet this is yoga. The even breath that is a goal during the entire practice doesn't allow that one reaches limits.

On yoga rooms

It often begins with Ganesh, the Indian God who shall be able to remove business obstacles. He often seems to do his work well. So the next step of the owners of yoga shalas is to buy props for the students. There are mats, rolls to relax. Capitalism is not lazy and tries to read from the eyes of the yoginis every wish they might have. In the meantime there exist also props for headstand. They are place-consuming. Soon the storage rooms are overloaded with stuff. What to do? There is still the entrance room and the practice room.
Soon stuff uses up room there, too. This invites to leave also music instruments there after classes. Some teacher don't put the gadgets back to a place where these gadgets belong to. Or is there no room anymore? So other teachers try to move the gadgets from other teachers in a corner.
The better Ganesh works, the more yoginis come and they leave their mats in the shala.

Every shala also needs a shop. Yoginis want something to drink, the latest magazines and of course fancy clothes. Books, jewelery, lotions, parfum...... you name it, you get it in yoga shalas.
Not that I damn this. It's often necessary to have a shop in order to being able to finance the shala. Soccer clubs do merchandising, too and this IS the income source.

Ganesh is only the first God who has the honor to reside in yoga rooms. Soon other Gods are allowed to move in. Oh yes and each yoga style has gurus and masters and pictures from last events. They need a place in the shala in form of pictures on the floor and on the wall.

Some flowers please? Flowers give a yoga room something fresh, isn't it?

Slowly but surely the yoga rooms become a mess.

Who is cleaning behind all that stuff standing around everywhere? Nobody. The next step is that the shalas get dirty. Is there a God who takes care of dust clouds and hair of yoginis?

My personal taste:
A yoga room is empty.
A yoga room is clean.
A yoga room is warm.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Gulp that frog!

Yesterday I met a friend, a yogini and we talked about our yoga teachers during the last decade. We realized a pattern. Every time when we studied with a new teacher we were enthusiastic. This is my teacher now for the eternity (at least for the next decade), I thought. Yet after a year or two the strength and the weaknesses of each teacher and the teaching couldn't be overlooked anymore.

This has been always that way. When I hear what B.K.S. Iyengar tells about his teacher Krichnamacharya, it's not only good stuff. He talks about serious injuries. He was forced to do split poses for spectators and he had never done these poses before, i.e..
Also P. Jois, whose teacher was also Krichanamacharya had horrible stories to tell. He could show scars that happened during yoga shows, when P. Jois had to perform asanas too long on an inappropriate floor with stones.

Each time when I thought that I've leanred everything from a teacher that I could learn, a new teacher came in town. My practice leaped ahead first. Yet the pattern went on. I learned a lot, but every teaching had parts that were even dangerous for my body.

Because this issue is so old like humanity, the wise yogis of the past found a solution. It's self-study. 

'Study what the teacher say,' I read somewhere. This tranlates: experiment with it, find out if it's true. Does it fit to me? Is my body able to integrate this movement. Is there any pain ? What are the tiny steps to learn something....

The teaching can only be a pointer.

Every teacher has a personality. Some are detail oriented, some are serious, others are very ambitious. There are also relaxed ones and so on. This influences the teaching and also the relationship to the students. It can fit very well, it can also create friction if the personalities of student and teacher are not matching.
The yoga experience of the teacher vary a lot.
Someone can be an advanced yogi/yogini, but a lousy teacher and the other way round is true, too.

My view in terms of people (teacher and studends included) is that everybody gives always the best at any given moment, also when it doesn't seem so.

It's easy to go to yoga classes every morning.
It's easy to blame the teaching for being able or being not able to perform asanas or vinyasas. Yet this is not a solution of the described issues.
It's so easy today to get all sort of information for free via the Internet. One day it's time to take responsibility of the own practice. In the beginning of all learning a lot of help and support and teaching is necessary, but after years of learning, one must become independant from this support.
One must learn to learn. This doesn't necessarily mean not to go to yoga classes or workshops, yet more and more the student of yoga must learn to walk by herself, to stand on her own legs.

Finally the student of yoga has to walk his/her path alone.
Self-practice must become part of the path. This is the frog to gulp.

Picture: Leg behind head poses are difficult because of my aching SI. So I practice marichyasana A instead.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

"Come back."

I got an Email from a yogini on Sunday. "Come back," she wrote.
This is a message from universe via this yogini, I think. I know that I want to practice in a group several times every week. But even more important is that I need a school with a teacher who allows me to  practice in a way so that my back is safe. Where can I practice that individually? I know it's teacher #2.

I was almost relieved when I realized that this is indeed a possibility.
Times have changed and what he offers is much more attractive than 2 years back. The Mysore classes start at 7am till 10 am, five or six times a week. I don't want to practice till lunch time anymore.
At 9am I'll be through my practice and I can go to the Viktualienmarkt to have a fruit drink there.

Yesterday I picked up my yoga mat from the 'old' shala. It was emotional difficult. I loved the atmosphere in the shala and also the committed yoginis and the enthusiasm of our teacher. I'll miss it.
The fact is that after 2 years of almost daily yoga practice there, I'm injured. Five years ago I was able to do much more than I'm able to do now.
But I have also learned a lot and what I've learned is very precious. I focus on one thing. It is to have strong legs when doing back bending.

After having picked up the yoga mat yesterday I stopped at a restaurant, it was rather a bar and I ate an awful salad. The leaves were swimming in sour dressing. I read 'Adieu Paris'.
Later I watched TV, so the sitting time was too long. I don't know how I made it to bed. To get from upright position to a horizontal position caused cramps. These painful happenings last not so long, but it's a sign that all can get worse. It limits how I live. I got assured that I cannot go on as usual.

This morning I practiced. Slowly. After kapotasana I did urdhva dhanurasana. This was it. It's easy to practice safe when at home. I hope that I don't feel forced to follow any rules that are not good for me when I'm in a group setting.

For me the Ashtanga rules have one intention: They are an orientation for the mass of yoginis. Individuality is cut out. But I am an individual. I feel free to adjust this practice to MY needs. Especially now.