Friday, April 28, 2017

Luck is on my side



Today we have rainy weather. Tomorrow the sun will come out, partly it will be cloudy. On my birthday it will be warm and sunny. And on Monday it will rain again.
This entertains me a lot. This morning it even snowed. The roofs were all white. And exactly on my birthday in 2 days it will be sunny and bright. A big thank you flies to the weather makers in the sky.



Sunday, April 23, 2017

Cardio, strength training, Yoga, nutrition


Cardio:
It's overrated. It's time-consuming and boring. I have the feeling that it has not so much effect on my body. My feet have wounds now from all the walking. OK, I could find better shoes. I admit, that to walk a bit is better than sitting all day long. In order to have a good training for the heart, I think it must bump hard. That is interval training should be added.
Many people do cardio in order to lose weight. Yet not much kcal are used up when walking. In addition one has found out that people get hungry after cardio and eat more than usually.
What I take from all the researches AND my own experiences: It's good to move, but I won't set my goals higher and higher. 70.000 steps every week is enough. I will take steps fast, so that I get out of breath. I consider to go by bicycle much more often. With that goal I won't win a prize on fitbit...haha....

Strength training:
I think it's important and underestimated. It's also rewarding. 30 min every second day is enough. Breaks are important. Being strong makes daily living easier. Being stronger will help me to master some of the difficult asanas. I'm sure. I won't lift weight. My own body weight is enough to work with.

Ashtanga Yoga:
The asset of this activity is that one can get very flexible. I love it. I got stronger, I got very flexible with time. Ashtanga yoga is my focus. The rest of the activities circle around this activity.
Pranayama and meditation is part of this practice, too.

Nutrition:
Everybody knows something else. As a yogini I want to live without doing harm to other creatures. I also want to eat well. It's possible these days. Everything is available, but we also have to make smart decisions.
I had underestimated the importance of protein. I try to avoid sugar when possible and processed food. My portions are small. I have 2 meals every day, breakfast and lunch. this is enough for me. I love to eat.
I'm on my way to become a chef.


On my yoga practice:
The last few days I woke up with back pain. I was not motivated to do anything, but walking around.

Today a new Ashtanga week has started, and I practiced. Oh my it was painful. Several times I did fascia massages. NOW I feel good. To practice these days requires a lot of motivation. I have a focus and a plan. During the next week kapotasana will be my focus. I'll dedicate 20 min to that pose when I do second series. My timer supports me. I started today with the execution of this plan. I did different exercises. I also added passive stretching.
Pictures will follow.

Practice is over. I'm looking forward to the next one.

Picture: Myself 7 years ago on my former balcony.

Monday, April 17, 2017

One hour on the mat, despite Easter


One tiny wrong position, one wrong movement and this sacroiliac joint gets crazy and the muscle around it, too. Then I curse, not loud, but I curse. This tiny joint dominates my life. It causes pain again and again. I know what to do to calm it. I have to roll out the muscle with my fascia roll. I had forgotten it at home. Nevertheless, I also know asanas, especially the twists, that help to relax this huge muscle.

I think now strength training will stabilize my back. Let's see.

It was surely a mistake to practice only here and then. This is past, too. I'm on the right track again.

This journey is an adventure. Sometimes it's bumpy. I'm looking forward to my practice tomorrow morning.

This morning it snowed. It looked great. Some trees were green already and then the snowflakes sat on the green leaves to rest there for a while, for a moment.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sunday means second Ashtanga series


Wow, Yes, I did it. I did it with many variations, I practiced slowly and after the twists I started the closing sequence. As it was not possible to get from salamba sarvangasana (shoulder stand to halasana, I finished my practice with the last three sitting asanas. Great. It's so much harder to practice with pain. But I get to understand what's going on in my body. I'm learning to take care of my body during the practice. I force nothing. But I also keep practicing.

One hour was enough.

Tomorrow I'll start with strength training again before my practice. To document the progress I ordered a journal. Everything is available these days to make it easier to practice. One only has to do it.

My new rules, if an asana is not possible and not painful:
1. I prepare this pose with an additional exercise. I.e. it's very helpful to do a split pose before the back bending asanas. If done correctly it stretches the front of the hip flexor.
2. I repeat this difficult asana up to three times.
3. I try to hold it longer, at least for 8 to 10 breath.
4. Another motivation could be to take pictures of the pose. Every month I could compare what happened within  this month.

This sounds like a good plan. Every finished practice makes incredible optimistic.

The picture is taken in 2010 in Barcelona. Today I found a title for it: Being blond is a life style.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Primary


I practiced primary today. I don't want to lose the asanas of primary. The picture is a few years old already. This pose is no more possible. I must still learn again to lift up the feet. But these days I know how to do it. It's about stretching the legs and not trying to lift them up. This is a tiny, but important difference.

It was a painful practice. Three times I used my fascia roll to relax my muscles. It's not permanent pain. I can more and more locate the pain. I also found out in which position it can be felt. I don't want to focus on it too much.

Not all vinyassas were possible. I was astonished that it was possible to jump forward and it felt good.

My focus these days is discipline. I want to have a daily yoga practice again, no matter what happens. I get up at 6 am. To make it easy I go to bed at 9:30 am. Sounds easy, but you know there are so many distractions these days. I set priorities. It's my yoga practice. No discussion.

One must really believe in oneself if one falls back that much.

It's still before breakfast. I'm looking forward to it.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Cardio, Yoga, Strength


I'm sitting here with rosy cheeks. I feel slightly exhausted which feels good. My lousy mood of today is like blown away. I was outside and walked. My goal was to take my daily  10,000 steps. My fit-bit tool says that I walked 7,935 stepy by now. I almost was downtown. To walk 10,000 steps, if one doesn't want to jog takes a very long time. I thought cardio training would complement my yoga practice. To be honest I think cardio training is boring.

What is cardio training? 
One repeats tiny movements again and again. The speed might change. It can be nice to be outside. But that's it. There is scarcly any variation that could make this activity more interesting. Walking, swimming, going by bicycle are typical cardio activities.

Why cardio training?
It shall strengthen the cardio-vascular-system. It's good for the heart, so to say. Sounds good. If it weren't that boring and so time-consuming.

I decided to walk much more as cardio training. Quickly I realized that I need good shoes. Not only this. The sole needs to get repaired rather soon. Or one buys new shoes. I have already red parts on the sides of my feet.10.000 steps, this is something. And in the last weeks I walked even more. The air in a big city like Munich is not so good.

Perhaps I should alter these 3 activities. Walking, swimming and going by bicycle during the summer month could be an idea to make the training for the heart more interesting.

BUT, more important for me is my yoga practice. The strength of yoga is that it's the best stretching activity that I know. Yoga makes flexible. The body and hopefully the mind, too. Yoga has almost no influence on the cardio-vascular-system. One gets stronger, but it's not enough. In order to accomplish some of the challenging asanas like laghu vajrasana it might be necessary to add strength training. Just doing it for 5 breath is definitely not enough.

Strength training is also very important, especially when we grow older. Strength training is very rewarding. Three times a week is enough. Within 30 min a lot can be done. Breaks are important. The practice is sweaty and my heart rate goes up. Results can be felt very soon. I don't want to lift weight. I tried a training that uses my own body weight. This is enough for me. That way my joints don't have so much stress.

Indeed, the fitness industry grew in the last decade. So much material is available. It can be a challenge to find valuable information. It's possible. I read so much during the last month. It can be rather confusing. In the meantime I got an overview again.

I want to do all this effort to stay fit as long as possible. This is one of the promises of diligent yoginis. This practice can help to stay fit. Am I also a bit vain? Perhaps, yes. My body is what I have. I live with it 24 hours every day. I love to take care of this perfect instrument of the divine.

Facing the obstacles can give a lot of energy. Keep practicing. 🏆



15 min longer than yesterday


Yes, I did it. My practice lasted 15 min longer than yesterday. I took some pictures of the back bending asanas. It motivates me. It's also a learning tool.
I always add twists after the back bending asanas, but after the twists I had enough. To practice with back pain is not that easy.

What seemed good, turned out to be the wrong path. This is also a life lesson. One never knows what is good and what is not so good in the long run. We tend to judge things, events rather quickly. often we are wrong.
I remember how I jubilated when I learned that I could practice every single day in a yoga studio. It injured me. This rigid asana training ignored every individuality.  I had to return to my home practice. That's what I'm doing now. I practice at home.

Of course I learned something during these years when I went to a yoga class as if I went to work. My concentration improved. Also at home I focus on my practice. I don't leave the mat anymore. I remember that this was an issue during many years. I think this is a huge improvement.

A few months back I attented a yoga class again. I'd like to have a group of practitioners that allows me to exercise what I consider good for me. The teacher practiced and taught at the same time. While he was doing his asanas he observed the few students. From time to time he interrupted his practice to give adjustments.
Practicing yoga means to focus, to concentrate. This is why Indian student went to yoga teacher decades ago. They wanted to improve their concentration to pass the exams. If one tries to do several things at the same time, the energy is scattered. Yoga is also energy work.
What could I learn from this teacher? If he hadn't tried to adjust me and to give me his wrong dangerous tips, I'd probably be there more often just to be part of a group.
It's so important to learn about the own limits as a student as well as a teacher. If you don't know your limits as a student it might happen that you injure yourself. It's always an approach, because often the consequences of  a mistake show the other day and not at once. If you don't know your limits as a teacher, you might injure others.

A friend recommended a very interesting book: 'Your Body, Your Yoga' by Bernie Clark. Alone the forward by Paul Grilley is worth buying this book. Yoga became part of the fitness industry. Yoga became a sportive activity for the masses. There was a need for teacher, a lot of teacher as fast as possible. Quickly teacher trainings (TT) were created: 200 hours of yoga and you're a yoga teacher. Great. The more rigid the teaching is, the easier it is to teach.That's what we can observe in yoga classes these day. This is no more what makes me happy.

There is still one yoga teacher I'd like to see. There is hope. :)
In addition I joined omstar. Kino MacGregor has created this online yoga platform. It costs a monthly fee, I think this is more than OK. Kino is one of the best yoginis, I know. She understands a lot of didactic. And it's motivating to feel part of a group.

Let's keep practicing. What works is worth repeating. What's not working must be left behind.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

One hour on the mat



It feels always good afterward. To practice with this back pain is a challenge. It requires a lot of discipline to keep practicing. I went from one painful asana to the next. Sometimes I'm also pain free. However, I don't expect anymore to return to that lightness I came from. It feels good to practice at home. I get up at 6 am again. I've time to write my journal. There is even time to sit together with my beloved E, while he has breakfast. When I'm alone I start my practice. Slow. Very slow.

I still love it. I love to stretch my body. The asanas fascinate me.

Strength training is very rewarding.  It's very effective and not so time-consuming like stretching (yoga) and cardio training. Breaks are even recommended. Strength training and yoga fits very well together.

Being alive, being able to practice is enough reason to feel more than content.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Back bending, an overview


My focus is back bending.

How many back bending asanas has Ashtanga yoga, I wondered.

Primary:
1. Setu bandhasana
2. Urdhva dhanurasna

Second Series:
1. Salabhasana A and B
2. Bhekasana
3. Dhanurasana
4. Parsva dhanurasana
5. Ustrasana
6. Laghu vajrasana
7. Kapotasana A and B
8. Supta vajrasana
9. Urdhva dhanurasana

Advanced A:
1. Viparita dandasana
2. Eka pada viparita dandasana
3. Viparita Salabhasana (not possible for me anymore)
4. Ganda Bherundasana (in my next life)
5. Natarajana
6. Raja kapotasana
7. Eka pada raja kapotasana
8. Urdhva dhanurasana
9.. Urdhva dhanurasana

Advanced B:
1. Padangustha Dhanurasana A and B
2. Eka Pada Dhanurasana
3. Eka Pada Kapotasana
4. Parivrttasana A and B
5. Urdhva dhanurasana

OK, I give in. Kapotasana is my next Himalaya. Sometimes it requires many many attempts to climb up this mountain.



Strength training


I started with strength training. This time I found an approach that works. It's a 90 day challenge with different levels that got me going. The book is written by Mark Lauren. I have the German version. There are strength training books for men and for women. Englisch versions exist, too. The exercises are very interesting and exhausting. The 90 day challenge is thought through. I don't agree on everything, but this is OK.

There is a group on facebook who do strenght training with this book. This helps a lot to stay committed. The training is without weight, only the weight of the body is used. After the third day only I have already sore muscles. This is a very positive sign. It means I worked hard, I didn't betray myself.

One day I'll come up from the pose on the picture. Strength is needed to accomplish this.




Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Is there protein in it?



When I started Yoga over 30 years ago it was clear, a yogini doesn't eat meat. It's possible to survive without doing harm to other creatures. One should live a life full of respect for other creatures on this planet. 

There are few rules, but to live a life in peace with others is one of the few rules. 

It seems clear that muscles are build of protein. If one wants to get stronger it's recommended to eat protein. I even think that I felt so weak years ago, because my nutrition was not adjusted to my lifestyle of 2 and a half hours of Ashtanga yoga. Some poses didn't improve. I felt too weak. I think now that more protein would have made my life easier. 

No matter what sports one wants to do, nutrition is as important as the sportive activity itself. 
The asana practice is so demanding in Ashtanga yoga, that it's a must to reflect on what we eat. 

In the meantime I know people who don't go to restaurants anymore. In restaurants quantity is important, not quality. If one wants to eat well, one must become a chef. 

I go so far to say: An advanced yogini can also prepare delicious and healthy meals. 

I analysed my food with that fitbit tracker. 



Sunday, March 12, 2017

Different levels of flexibility


There are different levels of flexibility.

Very flexible people can do a yoga pose without any warm-up. After a deep back bending asana the body allows it to go at once into a deep forward bending asana.

This all gets more difficult when the body gets older.

I need a warm up for most asanas.
Often it feels so much better to do some preparation asanas. In yoga classes this is a tabu. At home I feel free to do whatever feels good.
For me it's so much easier to do urdhva dhanurasana with my hands on a block first before I do the real thing.



I also practice this pose against a wall first. It's very helpful to have an external clue. The idea to bring the chest to the wall is much more useful than to think 'open your heart'. 
It makes sense to look for an external clue if one wants to learn an asana. The alarm clock can also be an external clue, too. It might help to hold an asana longer. Counting the breath is less effective. 

The HOW TO learn a pose is so important. It is neglected in the community. Self-study is a key word here. 

It's Sunday. The sun is shining. We have a guest, my mother-in-law is here. A Sunday excursion is planned. 
I slept longer than I wished. The plan was to get up early to practice before the common breakfast. It didn't happen. I can blame our neighbour why I didn't get up early. They had a party yesterday night. It was already after 1am, when they opened the balcony doors. Loud music could be heard everywhere. I was not the only one who checked who was so ruthless. I saw other neighbours on their balconies. to check who made such a noise at such a time. Party guests smoked on the balcony. the ash of the cigarettes flew through the air. I thought that I got older. I remember that I usually was amused when someone had party time. My life style has changed. I want to sleep before midnight. I love the early mornings. The music was not my taste either. The calm after a storm is very calm. 

Time to see what my darlings are doing.......


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saturday is rest day


Saturday is rest day. Really?

At least it is a yoga free day.

I try to do every day some chores. Nevertheless often the Saturday is a marathon cleaning day. Especially when I expect guests. My mother-in-law is already in the train to Munich. She is on her way to visit us.

A lot is done here, I hope that I can pick myself up again to vacuum. It's usually a loud activity. If one vacuums when not alone the message is clear. Can you hear it. I'm so busy doing chores. And you?
Most chores one can do almost secretly, as if one has brownies. Things get done, but nobody realizes how. Not so when the floor is dirty.  If the vacuum cleaner must leave the storage room to do a cleaning job, it gets loud. It gets on the nerves of everybody.
I remember a story of a colleague. He used to work longer on Thursdays, because every Thursday his wife was vacuuming the floors. This was obviously not his thing. He preferred to work overtime hours than to listen to the sound of the cleaning machine.

Yes, it's possible to take my leg behind my head. It must become comfortably again. The goal is to relax in that pose. One must think: Ahhhhhh, this feels sooooooo goooooood. Right now I think: I hope I can hold this pose till it makes click. Ah, finally I can get out of the pose.

It's easier to work either on back bending or on forward bending asanas. To have both sorts of asanas in one session requires too much flexibility right now.

I'm sitting here, enjoying my Pu Errh tea, I have some ginger sticks with it. The combination of bitter, hot and sweet aroma pleases me.

I'm looking forward to my practice tomorrow morning. I'm so glad that I practice again. Action helps to stop complaining. Action helps to stop blaming others for the own situation. Focusing on the breath doesn't allow destructive thoughts.

I got a warning, a serious warning. I adjusted my practice. But I won't give it up. I see myself as a very old person, still stretching and bending on a sticky mat. Follow me.




Friday, March 10, 2017

A long way down


 A long way down, but I'm on my way.

To take pictures forces me to hold the pose longer than I usually do, as I have to wait till it makes click.

I repeated this pose 3 times. Repetition is always good and helps to get deeper into a pose.

Next time I could lean blocks against the wall.
This could be the next tiny step.

It feels so good to practice, because it becomes easier again.
When stretching pain is felt at every asana I do, it's difficult to motivate myself to keep practicing. Stretching pain is fading away. I can focus on back bending. It requires enough willpower to do these poses and to repeat them and to get a bit deeper. But that's what it is. One must like this sort of exercise and I like it. It's not for everybody.




Advice to my younger self



The first picture is from 2010. The second picture is taken yesterday. One can also learn from the own mistakes. Wall-walking was an exercise I knew also in the past.

I was too close to the wall in picture no 1. With bent arms I'm weak and I cannot push the body forward. The consequence is that the upper body doesn't get such an intensive stretch like in picture no 2.

One must know that there are two forms of kapotasana. In both forms the hands reach the toes. Once the arms are stretched. In the second form the forarms are on the floor. The asana with stretched arms is more difficult. The arch of the back is much more intensive.

I remember that it was not easy to hold the pose in picture no 1. I tried to walk down the wall as fast as possible. I wanted to reach my toes. Being too obsessed with a goal can be a hindrance. The body needs time to adjust.

A better goal would have been to define the next tiny step. One must feel good in a pose. One works from feeling awful to feeling good. In every pose one must search the limit. Then one relaxes, then one goes a tiny bit further. It must be possible to observe the breath when in a pose.

These days I try to reach the floor with stretched arms. My hands might be relatively far away from the toes when this happens. Yet this is the next step to get closer.


Thursday, March 09, 2017

Wall walking


Wall walking is a very effective technique. It helps to stretch the arms. It's possible to push the body forwards to stretch the hip flexor. The chest muscles get stretched, too. When walking down the wall, the spine rounds. This feels so good afterwards. 😮

It's helpful to have external clues. I know now exactly the distance of my feet to the wall. My goal is to reach the floor with my hands. I'll track it. To track anything is so motivating.

My timer will help me the next time to hold this pose longer. A timer is also an external support.

Kapotasana is a very demanding pose. Just doing it every day after 90 min of primary is not enough. I did that for 6 years. I focus on second series these days.

My method to learn kapotasana finally:
1. I have tiny goals. Also this pose can be learned step by step.
2. I repeat this asana
3. I do preparation asanas like split pose
4. I take pictures.
5. I'll work with my timer to hold this pose longer.

This morning it was not so easy to start practicing again. No breakfast before a practice, I told myself. Quickly I was on my mat. When it's difficult to start I plan less. As so often I got surprised. I had a lovely practice.

Breakfast NOW.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Stretching pain is fading



I practiced again this morning. Oh, I'm so disciplined again, how I love it. Being disciplined is the very first asana.
Beside my back pain, I also have to handle with this stretching discomfort. That's where I am now. But at least the stretching pain is fading fast when I practice daily. At least I know how it feels when there is no stretching pain. Even supta kurmasana has been comfortable for me. The real goal is not the outer form of an asana, but the ability to relax when in a pose. One day an asana should feel good. Then you're there.

I practice twice these days: In the morning and in the evening. In the morning I focus on back bending. In the evening I focus on forward bending asanas. A few readers might think: OMG so much. But it's much less than I was asked to do when I still went to yoga classes. Two and a half hour lasted my practice only because one pose was not as perfect as it should be. This pose was kapotasana.

After the twists I tried to prepare my body for the leg behind head poses. It was not possible. Not even marichyasana A could be done without pain. I finished my practice. It was not possible to get from sarvangasana to halasana. That was it for today, I thought. Padmasana was possible, so this was my end.

From 9:15 to 11:00 I was on the mat. I did a lot additional asanas, mainly to prepare the back bending.

My concentration improved over the decades. I don't want music anymore. I don't interrupt my practice unnecessarily. I take short breaks when I'm exhausted, but I stay on the mat in a simple twist or baby pose to relax my back. These days I don't want to interrupt my practice with a photo shooting as I want to profit from the heat that I produce during my practice. To stop always cools down the body.

Right now I feel mentally exhausted. I'll rest on the bed for a while. I want to recover.

Summary:
1. Being disciplined is the first asana.
2. Progress comes with daily practice.
3. Attitude: Be content, so much is possible





Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Time - keep it simple



Ashtanga yoga is time-consuming. It's not only the practice, it's pranayama and meditation. It's commuting to the classes. I shower much more often, that is before and after the practice. I could go on.

Because this practice is important to me and because it's so time-consuming I got reminded again and again: Keep it simple. Everything.

Several questions help: 
1. Which activities are really important. What can be omitted. Example: watching TV, being online.
2. Less things simplify every life. One must care for things, too. They must be cleaned i.e. Less is more.


Being organized:
Nevertheless things must get done. I always try to organize myself better, so that it seems as if I've less to do.
I have strong routines:
1. I make the bed every morning
2. I do the dishes after every meal.
3. I brush my teeth after every meal. I mention this because it's helpful if you have strong routines.
4. I close the curtains at night and I open them in the morning.

There are tasks that I like to postpone. They exist.

I experimented. I tried to add activities to those strong routines. It didn't work.
But to do one of these 'difficult' tasks before a routine works very well.
That way I feel very prolific.

What's your tip?
How do you fly through your days?
Your comments are very welcomed. 

Accepting the pain


I don't think anymore that my back pain will disappear that fast, perhaps it will disappear never. The words of my orthopedic are still in my mind: It would be a pity if you gave up your practice. And he added. Most people with back pain do nothing.

I practice regularly again, it seems so. I did even a second practice yesterday. Quickly I want to get back to my level of 2 years ago. It's too frustrating not being able to do so many asanas. But there are highlights. Yesterday night I was able to do yoga nidrasana. Wow. What a feeling.

In the morning I focus on back bending. In the evening I focus on forward bending asanas.

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

During my morning practice I don't want to take pictures. It interrupts my practice and I need the heat in my body when I practice. I don't want to cool down. This means stiffness and it increases the danger to injure myself.

It might be different in the evening.

Urdhva dhanurasana was great today. What else can I wish.

Morning routine:
- Getting up at 6 am (today it was 2 hours later)
- Drinking coffee and writing my journal.
- Preparing breakfast for my E and sitting with him
- In the meantime the washing machine is running, the bed is made. All these routines happen on autopilot.
- Then I practice.
- Shower
- Blogging
- Breakfast, reading my daily
- Pranayama and Meditation is planned for the afternoon.

I miss the yoginis, but my home practice is safer and more intensive. I learned to concentrate on my practice for 90 min.

Wow, I feel so good. Where is the next horse to ride?

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

High pain tolerance


40 min of intensive yoga practice are behind me. I sweat. My attitude: Do it. Don't give up again.

I used my timer to hold ustrasana 1 min. I repeated it with one arm stretched against the wall. 1 min was too long then, but next time I'll be there. To work with the timer is great. The timer helps me to jump over my own shadow. I do more than I'd do if I only counted my breath.

I practiced 3 times in a row. Fantastic. From time to time one must also be happy with the accomplishments.

Picture: A veggie burger. Who thinks I ate all that, doesn't know me. Less is more. It is. It was delicious.

Time to move.

Fitbit tells me that I'm inactive. So today I want to see 15.000 steps on my fitbit watch. I love to live Zeitgeist.


Monday, February 27, 2017

In the valley


I curse. I'm sad and disappointed. My practice was painful. Not all the time, but this pain was felt again and again. I had to get out of shoulder stand. At the end I had no willpower anymore to stand the pain.

It is as it is. I don't expect anymore that this pain will disappear fast. I'll have to live with it. It seems as if back bending relieves my back, my nerves, my muscles. This shall be my focus. I got so stiff, too.
Not to work on flexibility is not an alternative.

A timer helps me. I know that it's important to hold a pose long enough if one wants to move deeper and deeper into a pose. Today I used my timer. I set it to 1 min and 10 sec. I give myself 10 sec to get into the pose. Then I focus on breathing. After a while the body adopts, I could feel how the pose, ustrasana, improved during that time.

I practiced. This is what counts.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

A sloppy practice is better than no practice


The second practice after a break is often more difficult than the first one. Yes, I practiced, focus was second series. I want to stick to it for some time. It was difficult to practice.

Fake it till you make it.
Be happy that you can do this crazy stuff.
Respect your body.
Search the limits and enjoy how the stretching pain is fading when you  breathe evenly.
Relax.
Just do it, no matter how.
One hour is enough.

All these sentences guided me through my practice this morning.

I was so weak that I couldn't hold a single chaturanga dandasana. From plank pose I lowered to the floor. Strength training is on my list. Flexibility is not lost totally, because I lost strength. But to be strong is equally important, especially if older. When aging the muscles become weaker.

A friend and long-term reader asked me for my morning routine these days:
The morning routine starts the night before. I take care that I have 7 or 8 hours of sleep. I also want to go to bed before midnight. Not always this is the case. Yesterday I was in bed at 1 am, because I wanted to see a movie again 'Das Leben der Anderen'. Yesterday was a movie day. In the afternoon I saw LalaLand.
In the morning I get up a bit earlier than my E. I brush my teeth, put cold water in my face, dress comfortably and then I prepare a coffee for myself first. I get my daily. It's in front of the main door. Then I prepare a little breakfast for E and a coffee, too. I do enjoy this breakfast time with him. We sit together and chat. Soon he has to go and then often I have a little breakfast, too. I fill the washing machine, I make the bed, clean the sink. Time flies.
Today I was at 9 am on the mat. At 10 am I was through the asana practice. I'm sure that soon I'll practice longer again.
I learned to be flexible in many ways. It's possible to practice after a tiny breakfast. It's not necessary to be hungry on the mat. To practice after sun rise is possible, too. If the rules are too strict, it's very likely that one uses excuses not to practice. For instance: Oh, today I cannot practice because I had a breakfast already. Oh, today it's too late and so on.

When I started yoga 30 years ago I practiced any time.
It's good to know when it's best to practice, but being flexible is good, too. As the title of this blog says: A practice is better than no practice.

To meditate after the asana practice might be good. I prefer to shower first.

Today I'll go out for breakfast. I found a tiny cafe round the corner. I feel as if if I've deserved something special.

The book 'Awakening the spine' by Vanda Scaravelli is next to me. I'll reread it. I'll take it to the cafe.

The picture is taken 7 years ago in Mumbai. It's unique, because I wouldn't take pictures like this anymore. When I saw it today on fb I was so entertained. It reminded me that yoga is fun.

What else:
A few days back I was in a store that sold clothes. The two young ladies and one man talked about yoga. The one lady showed how flexible she was. She did a perfect split pose while standing. The other lady showed dancers pose, but one could see how difficult this pose was and how she avoided the pose. Breath was gone, but she started complaining: I cannot do this pose.

This is the mainstream in the community. They both do Bikram yoga. To learn back bending asanas with dancer's pose is difficult as this asana is not really balanced. Dhanurasana is a better approach. Yoga became goal-oriented. I so understand this. But I keep reminding myself that yoga, like any other activity, too gives us an opportunity to explore life, our life. What is possible today? What will be possible in a year? What do I have to learn to progress? How can I relax or intensify a pose?

What if one masters an asana? The next asana will come that we won't be able to do...... The joy to reach a goal is temporarily, but the joy of a daily practice can remain.
The path and the goal are evenly important. It seems to me that we want to see results, no matter how.
We tend to think: I want to be able to do this asana. Now. As fast as possible.
Another thinking pattern could be: What can I do to learn this pose? How can I learn to learn? What effect has this pose on my body?

My insights from my injury: Get back to a home practice.

I feel good, I feel ready for the day.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Second series feels better


To start a yoga practice with pain is difficult. So after my last primary back pain returned and I stopped practicing again. Instead of yoga I walked. 10.000 steps every day is my goal. To walk is great, but this cannot be everything.

Today I practiced again. Back bending feels better than all these forward bending asanas of primary. Second series is much more balanced.

One hour I practiced. Oh my, I got weak. I still profit from 12 years daily yoga practice. I'm so far away from exercising the whole series. I'm working on it.

So tomorrow another practice is planned.

Picture: It's my substitute for pashasana. Twists feel good, but I also want to relax when in a pose. I do this relaxing pose whenever my back aches.

I'm healing, I think so, I believe so.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Brainwashed


I'm brainwashed: Friday is primary day. More than a decade this was my credo. Friday, primary.

It's difficult these days not to follow this rule. But it doesn't feel good. It's possible to do forward bending asanas without creating back pain. Yet primary gives me set backs. After all these forward bending asanas my back has enough.

So last Friday I did primary. Then I could 'enjoy' back pain again. I was not motivated to step on the mat on Sunday again. To start my practice with fascia massage drives me crazy.

Is Ashtanga yoga enough to stay fit? I don't think so. The asset of yoga is that one can become very flexible. I also got stronger, but not strong enough for some asanas. I recommend strength training in addition if you are in your 50th.

As I didn't like to become a sofa animal again due to my returning back issues, I searched and found my fitbit tracker watch. At least 10.000 steps every day became my goal. It feels fantastic to walk. I feel that I become fitter. And tomorrow I'm ready for SECOND SERIES. Friday primary must belong to the past. Who knows for how long. My experience is it's not good for me these days. Second series is more balanced.

To walk 10 000 steps betters the mood. Every mood. I picked me up this afternoon to get out. It was cold so I felt resistance. With my winter coat and a scarf around my neck I felt warm and I walked downtown. At home again, I realized that I had to walk 100 more steps to meet the goal of 10 000 steps. It's ridiculous, but I walked around in my flat till I felt the vibration on my wrist. Yepeeeee....... Done.

These 10 000 steps compliment my yoga practice.

One has to pick oneself up again and again.
I'm in exploration mode and I can enjoy the ride.


Saturday, February 04, 2017

A day off


Saturday is a day off. I need it.
My picture project motivated me to practice yesterday. As I'm not that happy with the pictures I took yesterday I'll redo them on Sunday.
Yesterday was Friday. To practice primary on Friday is so in my mind, I cannot stop doing it. It always becomes a nightmare. Back pain returns I don't know why. I know it will disappear when I walk again. Nevertheless, these setbacks challenge me to stay calm and not getting frustrated.
It's back bending that feels good these days. Especially on Friday I must remember this.




Thursday, February 02, 2017

Utthita parsvottanasana



Utthita parsvottanasana was the next pose of the standing asanas that I wanted to document. It's a challenge to limit myself and to take a picture of only one asana. To take only one picture or two doesn't interrupt my picture that much. But to turn a practice into a shooting session does interrupt the practice and the flow. This is only one reason why I only take one picture. Another reason is that I want to give my body time to become flexible again. I want to avoid injuries. To practice with passion and committment is great, to be overzealous is dangerous. I have to play it safe these day.

I distinguish between performance practices and exercising practices. At home I'm in a learning mode. I do preparation asanas. I repeat asanas. I rest when it feels good.

Today I realized that I got stronger already. I could hold my body when I lowered it from plank pose. This makes my heart sing.

Once I was in a class and the two yoga teacher were discussing how far the feet shall be apart in utthita parsvottanasana. A student has complained, because one teacher taught her to have the feet rather close together, the other one was the opinion they should be wider away from each other.
For me this is not that important. The asanas of the standing sequence mean strong legs for me. I always check if my legs are engaged. In the above pose I think one shall also learn  to keep the chest open and not to round the back. That's why the hands are in prayer pose behind the back.

This pose used to be challenging for me. It took me years till the chin could touch the shin bone. I haven't lost this pose, but it's painful to get into it. That's why I was downtown yesterday to get a battery for my timer that allows me to set any time till the shutter clicks. The one in the camera has a 20 sec timer. This can be rather short.

My practice lasted 1 hour and 20 min. Then I was spent. My practice is very slowly. I know that I have to develop strength and flexibility slowly if I want to avoid injuries. The mind has stored that so many asanas were possible, but the body has lost the ability. I want to close this gap again.

I'm glad that I'm so disciplined. My practice gets easier with every practice that I did.

My picture project motivates me.
It motivates me to see videos of yoginis and yogis before my practice.

How to do an Ashtanga Jump Back


Fantastic post. 



Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Prasarita padottanasana





Again my picture project motivated me to practice today. There will be 9 more shooting sessions and then I'll have a picture of every asana of the standing sequence. It's what is possible in 2017 after that long break. Especially to move into the asanas can be painful. Yet to sit on the sofa is not enough for me. I want to move, I want to practice Ashtanga yoga. 

I felt stronger today. That is I could hold my body when I lowered it from plank pose. Now I realize how fit I was one year ago. It's possible to get back to that level of fitness and flexibility, why not. 

Document it:
This is a recommendation of almost everybody who wants to learn something seriously. I start a journal only for my yoga practice.A new month has started. It's a new beginning. The focus in February is the standing asanas. 

The steps:
1. I'll take a picture of every asana
2. I'll practice with the CD by Sharath. This will help me to get back to an even flow. 
3. I'll work on some difficult vinyasas. To be a bit more precise: To get out of utkatasana is not only jumping back. It's to shift the weight of the body to the arms. The legs are bent in the air, close to the body. It's possible to hold that interim pose, which is not easy. 

I've a plan for March already. Then I'll focus on the closing sequence. It became difficult, too. That way I've still a bit more time for the middle parts of the series. 

In prasaritta padottanasana the folded hands are supposed to touch the floor. It's possible if I get an adjustment. For me it's not so important to accomplish this alone. The pose as it is now is perfect for me. One day my hands will touch the floor. Till then I'm happy with the current flexibility. I don't think that this pose needs extra attention. 



Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Parivrtta parsva konasana



The show must go on.

I practiced. Parivrtta Parsva Konasana was the next pose that I wanted to document. The battery of the self-timer was too low to work this morning. So I used the self-timer within the camera. Like years ago I had 20 sec from pushing the button to get into the pose.

It ashtonished me that I was able to get that fast into that pose It amazed me that I was able to do that pose at all. But I got so weak, that my body is still relatively flexible.

I realize:
- I could jump a bit wider, so that the thigh is parallel to the floor.
- Trying to move the feet apart from each other helps to keep the legs strong. It also brings automatically  the rim of my foot on the floor.
- That my hand is not relaxed is strange.

This pose is challenging. It's a deep twist combined with a balancing challenge. The shoulder is supposed to be behind the knee. When this is possible the asana becomes stable. Then it's also possible to twist even a bit more.

The standing asanas are underestimated. The goal is to build a foundation.

Strong legs is a key word.
To engage the legs important for every single asana of the standing sequence.




Back home from Berlin


Four travel days lie behind me. My yoga mat was with me during my trip to Berlin. I didn't use it. Either I thought it was too cold in the hotel room or I didn't get up on time. I have still some time to finish my picture project, that is to take a picture of the asanas of the standing sequence of Ashtanga yoga. My deadline was the 10th of February. Till the end of February the standing sequence will be my focus.

Tomorrow a new month begins. This is always like a fresh beginning.

Let's practice.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

My picture project gets me going




My picture project motivates me to practice. It's difficult these days to step on the mat as I'm weak and my back hurts. I'm so weak that I cannot hold my body when I lower it after plank pose. I lie my body on the floor and from there I move into upward facing dog. Today I managed it to hold my body once. When this will become easy, I'll try to hold my body twice and so on.

My picture project is to take one picture of an asana of the Ashtanga yoga series every day. I limit myself to one asana (right and left side).  It's not that easy to limit myself. The advantage is that I give my body time to get stronger and more flexible for the poses that come next. 

My very first goal is to master again the standing asanas. I know when I've reached this goal. It is when I can follow easily the CD by Sharath. I don't strive for perfection. 

This little project ends at the 10th of February. When I can do the standing sequence with a certain flow, I'll celebrate it. 

Then comes the next project: primary. 

I love my pictures. They bring fun in my life. They motivate me to practice. Sometimes they spoil the flow of a practice. It's OK. Who cares. 



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

You heal well


Last week a tooth of mine got extracted. Yes, another one had to go. It was the last one on the right side of the lower jaw that had to leave my mouth.
Today the huge wound was checked. But all was perfect.

He: You heal well.
Me: Yes, I know.
He: Shall I inform your dentist Mr XY, that all is OK?
Me: No, this is no more my dentist. The one who treated me has left the practice. You are now my dentist.
He: I'm not a dentist. I am an oral surgeon.
Me, folding my hands in front of my chest in awe: Oh sorry.
He: It doesn't matter.
Me: Can you recommend a dentist?
He thought for a while and then his assistant had to give me a business card. I'm happy about this recommendation.

To get a tooth extracted is no fun. One can bear it. But I remember, I sat already on this chair when the thought came up: Run away, run away, it's still time. But I kept sitting in that chair and soon the oral surgeon (now I know it better) came and gave me the injections. This hurts. And here my yoga practice helps me. I know how to relax when feeling discomfort. I keep breathing. I focus on the breath. This calms. I learned not to draw back. You do very well, he said when this initial work was done. And I thought, that I'm an advanced yogini. Keep practicing, I told myself, too. Silently.

Then after 5 min the tooth got extracted. This is awful. It's not really painful, but awful and bloody. Afterwords he showed me the tooth and it was so rotten. It was totally black around the root. 2 years ago I got an expensive crown on it. A few months back another dentist wanted to clean the tooth during a surgery. The flesh should be cut, the tooth should get exposed this way. Also this treatment would have been only good for the purse of the dentist. This tooth was in pieces.
My dental hygienist who saved me from this treatment uses to say about dentists: They always work on something, their boat, their house, their vacation. I add: And at some point they are divorced and this costs money, too. Who cares about the patients.

I asked the oral surgeon of today if everything is OK. It is. I also feel it. When I'm courageous enough, I'll count how many teeth I still have. To have ill teeth in the mouth and permanent inflammations is not the solution.

And yes, I heal fast and I can also relax when getting an injection, when getting a tooth extracted. I think this is because of my yoga practice, as mentioned already. Yoga taught me to focus on the breath. One learns to relax and not to draw back when pain sets in. I don't talk about sudden pain. Yet when practicing yoga stretching discomfort can be felt. We stand it. We learn how to stand discomfort. Pain doesn't equal pain. Yet this huge topic deserves another post.

How to finish this post?
I wondered why this tooth was in such a bad condition. I blame sugar for it. Nutrition is so important. I'll reduce the consumption of sugar even more. Especially this industrial white sugar. Some health apostle even warn to eat an apple, because it has fructose, a form of sugar. If one has diabetes, it might be necessary not to eat fruit anymore. But an apple has so much more important ingredients, vitamins i.e.. This is my opinion. It developed through life and own experience. And I read a lot of books about nutrition. As a yogini I respect other creatures, I don't eat them. And from now on I think twice when I want to eat anything with too much sugar.

Eat well, move, stay optimistic.


Discipline




1. I know people who simply do what they want to do, always and now.
2. I also know people who postpone everything and don't do what they want to do or what they pretend what they want to do.

I'm between these extremes. 
When a habit is formed it's easier to be disciplined. But I also know times when I fell off the wagon. Then it  became difficult to get back to routines. 

Getting up at 5 am and going to a yoga class requires discipline. For me it felt like going to work. It became easier every day. Soon it was no challenge at all to get to work. Who does not go to work?

To practice alone is much more difficult. But I'm back.

It makes sense to observe oneself. What exactly is it that makes me do anything. One can be one's own role model. 

I have a  plan and this gives me enormous energy and motivation. I want to take pictures of the Ashtanga yoga series, one by one. Every day I take another one till I reach a pose that is lost. Then this pose will be my focus for a month or till it's mastered. By now I only think of the standing asanas. I'm so curious. 

Without discipline nothing will get accomplished ever. To ask oneself what gets me going is an important question. It differs from person to person. 

Building routines help to be disciplined: Same time, same place, same beginning.
It's also useful not to question every day if one shall practice or not. Just doing it, is it. 

Next pose is utthita trikonasana. 

Learning to be disciplined is often the very first step in anything one wants to learn. 



Monday, January 23, 2017

Preliminary exercises



When I practice at home I add exercises that help me to perform asanas  that are difficult for me.

I approach all the poses slowly after the break.  I remember that I had put blocks under my feet (picture 1) as a preparation exercise. Yesterday it was enough to lie on the floor. I could feel the stretch on my upper thighs. This little exercise was a perfect preparation. Bhekasana felt good.

Bhekasana is a challenging pose.
I was astonished how far I could get into the pose. But I lost strength and this helped me to stay rather flexible.

Today I start my practice with strength training.

Here is a list that helps to master asanas:

1. Find preliminary exercises.
2. Hold the asana longer than 5 breaths.
3. Repeat the asanas that you want to learn and that are difficult. Up to three repetitions seem OK for me. Each time it becomes easier.






Sunday, January 22, 2017

A new approach to my yoga practice


It's Sunday today and I practiced at home. Before starting I prepared my camera. My pictures are an excellent learning tool. Filming could be even better. I feel not yet ready to film my practice that became so slow. Pain is still there. I needed about 40 min for the sun salutations and the standing asanas and a twist. I take care not to overstretch after the break. 

The break was too long, but who knows. It can be that it was the best that I could do. There is still this inflammation on the right side of my back. 
I haven't lost so much flexibility, but I got very weak. 

I used the break of my Ashtanga yoga practice to read a lot of books. When a body grows older usually it becomes weaker. Most people don't do anything against it. But if one wants to age without experiencing that life aggravates, strength training is recommended. 

Strength training also protects from injuries. It is very important. Ashtanga yoga training makes stronger, but it is not enough. I wasn't able to perform some asanas (i.e. pincha mayurasana) because I was too weak. 

If I have learned anything during the last year it is that I have to adjust the practice to my needs, to my age, to my abilities. 
Classes offer usually on practice that shall fit to all students the same way. This is simple, but dangerous. In my case it led to a serious injury, that lasts over a year already. 

Downdog is the first asana in the Ashtanga yoga practice. It's the first pose we hold 5 breaths when doing sun salutations. 

Here comes the next adjustment I do because of my age. After every pose comes a counter pose. This is relaxing and helps to balance the body. A counter pose of forward bending asanas is upward facing dog. To hold it only for one breath is not enough for me. I don't reach my limits, I cannot relax when I practice a counter pose only for one breath. I feel free to prolong the pose. 



I summarize some of my experiences:
1. Adjust the practice to your needs.
2. Cultivate a home practice.
3. Strength training is recommended and even necessary at my age.
4. Hold counter poses longer than one breath, if the body needs more time to get into a back bending after a forward bending asana i.e.. 



Sunday, January 08, 2017

When the student is ready, the teachers disappear.


A friend posted this sentence on Facebook yesterday. It's her variation of the sentence: When the student is ready, the teacher appear.

After decades of practicing yoga, the teacher disappear. This fits much more to my current situation.

This doesn't mean that learning has stopped. To learn never stops. Learning happens through multiple channels, through books, online-videos, my own practice, conversations, reflections, also through teachers and practitioners. One can learn from anything. The one main learning source disappeared. It's substituted through many sources.

In former years I loved it to get attention and adjustments in yoga classes. Every tiny hint was appreciated. These days I have the feeling I heard everything already. I like not to get interrupted during my practice only when absolutely necessary.

I do miss the yoga community, the energy of a group session. I love to see all these yogis bending.
When I feel ready I'll go again to the the yoga school that I found last year. I felt welcomed there. Yet I'll begin with home practices.

In the first week of 2017 I had a cold. I felt thwarted.
The cold disappeared.
So today is my start of my yoga practice of 2017. Whatever happens is appreciated, also a single pose.

Happy new year again to everybody. Let's move.

Picture: My breakfast these days. It's one of Attila Hildmann's recipes found in his new book 'Vegan for fit 2'.

Monday, January 02, 2017

10 years of blogging


I blog 10 years already. I practice even longer Ashtanga yoga. And yoga I practice for decades. Last year I had under 100 posts. My practice was more or less interrupted due to my back injury caused by unreasonable teaching. Why did I not run away earlier? I still can't believe it that I was supposed to practice 2 and a half hour every day only because I wasn't able to do kapotasana. Each month I was a bit more frustrated. Is this the goal of Ashtanga yoga?

To restart is hard. I don't see an alternative. I'm an active person, I want to stay flexible and strong.

I know I'm not alone. There are a lot of sports invalids not only in the yoga community. I cannot turn the wheel backwards. I'll have to live with the pain. I gave up on the idea that I'll be pain free one day. I know how to release the pain: fascia massage helps. When I reflected on 2016 I asked myself what was good and what was not so good. I hesitated. Shall I judge the back issues as positive or negative? Finally I put it on the positive list as it is all better. I can sleep again, I can sit again. I can stand up. This was not possible in the beginning of the year 2016. Only walking was possible without pain. But who can walk all the time? It was an Odyssey to find a good doctor and the right treatment. A physio therapist helped me finally.
I'm sure that sooner or later I would have injured myself if I practiced re the rules in the Ashtanga yoga community. In classes no tiny bit of  variations are allowed. No individuality is allowed. Everybody has to do the same. So perhaps it's even good that I got injured now and not later. At my age the body needs longer to recover.
No complaints anymore. I'll focus on second series when I'll be able to start again. Too many forward bending asanas don't feel good right now.

Here I sit with a cold. It's impossible to practice. I feel weak, my nose and my throat need all my attention. There is snow outside. Perhaps I walk a bit. And I'm sure I'll sleep a lot. This cold is temporarily.





Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy new year



Happy new year to everybody.

We celebrated the end of 2016 in an Indian restaurant called 'Guru'. They were so kind to prepare a vegan dinner for me. We got 5 different courses. The lentil soup was a poem. I loved the mango sorbet at the end.

At midnight we were at home. I was amazed about the firework here in that tiny village. They must safe all year long for this hour, I thought.
At 1:30 am I was in bed and I woke up before the alarm clock could wake me up. I put on my clothes, had a coffee and then I got outside. I wanted to walk 10 000 steps. There is a sea not so far away. It's a beautiful place, but I knew already that I had to circle it minimum 7 times till I would have done the 10 000 steps. After the 6th round my smart phone shut down. I cursed. Should I really make the last round when I cannot count the steps? I did it.

I wonder if it makes sense to walk 90 min every day. It's probably better than sitting on the sofa all day long. But it doesn't really exhaust me. It's time consuming to reach 10 000 steps. The huge advantage is that one can walk everywhere. To be outside, to get fresh air is also wonderful. To move betters every mood.
At least my discipline muscle got trained. I wanted to walk and I did it.

We all have a cold here. I'll adjust my plans to it.

I wish everybody a wonderful start 2017.