Happy New Year

Germany Dez 2021, last sunset

Happy New Year.

2022 will be exciting. Yoga will be a part of it.

Today I make plans regarding the focus of the January.

It will probably be strength and vinyasa.

I’m pleased to meet you again here…….

Yoga in winter

Balancing pose, October 2021

Balancing pose, October 2021

I’ve a new project: Handstand.

I can imagine that the handstands drills and exercises will help me to get better at the vinyasa.

Almost one year ago I bought an online class created by Kyle Weiger. It’s a handstand specialist. He used to travel around the world to teach press handstand. Even his mother was able to press into a handstand after this 6 week course. This makes me optimistic. Time is not wasted even when I don’t manage to get into a handstand in the middle of the room. The core exercises will help me to perform other asanas with more ease.

Online classes are not easy to follow. I need gglasses to see the exercises on the screen, but when I practice I don’t need classes. To take the glasses off and on gets on my nerves. It’s an obstacle and it makes any class not really pleasant.

My method: I watch the video first. Then I write down the order of the exercises and I write down how many repetitions are recommended. Some exercises especially the stretching ones are rather easy for me. The strength exercises are difficult. I can focus on those.

When possible I integrate drills and exercises into my daily yoga practice.

I’m curious how far I’ll come with this handstand adventure.

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A variation of vasisthasana, October 2021

A variation of vasisthasana, October 2021

It’s helpful to structure a day. a month and even a year.

Every day is a new beginning for me.

Every month is a new beginning as well. The past is over. The first day of each month gives a new opportunity to do something entertaining, something satisfying, something creative. It’s a reminder to reflect on one’s goals. Hints might arise what went well and what needs modification.

Some weeks are lame, some months as well. It doesn’t matter. Today was the first October. My motivation to practice was fresh. In the morning I practiced primary. In the afternoon I went to place not far away from my home to take new pictures.

Times are dynamic. Balancing poses are great to stay grounded. These balancing asanas are like a symbol, like a rock in the stormy sea. They don’t allow much thinking. Distracting thoughts often provoke that I fall out off a pose. Not to think calms the mind. There is so much worrying and even panic in the air, that it’s good to remind oneself that thoughts are thoughts, not necessarily the reality.

Lately I found a quote by Till Eulenspiegel: Even the truth is invented.

Breathing, practicing yoga, cooking, walking, all these activities can be daily joys despite all the limitations that we might experience these days.

Finding balance

Standing asana, September 2021

Standing asana, September 2021

The world in panic.

This pandemic showed how important it is to know tools that help to calm down and that help to center. Fear is not a good advisor. Healthy habits are important. A healthy body can handle stress and illnesses so much better than a sick body.

Yoga keeps the body strong and flexible. The mind learns to focus and concentrate. The even deep breath helps to stay calm and awake.

Keep practicing.

The intensity of every practice is not so important. What makes a difference that is a daily practice.

All the best for you during those challenging times.

Relaxing practice

Padmasana, July 2021

Padmasana, July 2021

It’s July and it’s so cold here. I almost trembled when I stepped on the mat. I kept my jacket on to keep myself warm. To switch on the heater on a day in July is over the top. It’s summer.

I started slowly and practiced only asanas that I like and that are easy for me. I breathed. I relaxed. I was rather long in sirsasana. After one hour I was through my tiny practice. That’s what is called a restorative practice, I thought.

I finished this hour on the mat with savasana. I didn’t omit my Friday practice. I worked with my exhaustion and the available energy. I was creative. The body got its dose of bending and stretching. The mind was focused.

In sum I’m very happy with the last week. Very intensive practices altered with lame ones.

It can be that I do the gravity training in the evening before bed time. Since I scarcely watch TV anymore, I found a lot of time that I can use in a better way than watching a boring TV program.

Do I have ideas for the next week?

Yes, I want to start filming. Pictures and films are excellent learning tools.

Enjoy the weekend.

Gravity training - hangman

Hangman, July 2021

Hangman, July 2021

Lucas who created Yogabody calls this position ‘hangman’. This stretch of the shoulders is part of the gravity training. When the upper body and the shoulders are stretched back bending asanas become easier.

How to do hangman?

Lie on your belly. The head must touch the wall first. Then crawl up the wall with your hands. Pose them a bit wider than shoulder width at the wall. Let the head hang forward. It intensifies the stretch. Don’t hold onto anything. This would tighten the muscles. Instead press the hands against a flat wall. The arm pits move forward. Hold this pose for five minutes. If possible.

My pranayama teacher in India used to say: Practice according your capabilities, but not beyond. When the body starts trembling it’s too much.

Learn the language of the body. Every discomfort, every pain is different and tells a different story. One must learn to work with the body not against it.

My experience with hangman:

When I did this pose for the first time I cursed. It hurt to be in that pose. It felt like hell. After decades of yoga this stretch was so uncomfortable that I almost didn’t believe it. I had a good day and held this pose for five minutes. To give up before that time wasn’t an option. I knew that if I accomplished it once, I’d be able to hold the pose for five minutes the next time as well. I focused on the breath. I counted the breath. 15 breaths are one minute. And finally it was over.

By now I practiced this pose rather often. It never hurt that much like the first time. These days it hurts more to get out of the pose than to hold it.

Why I love hangman:

For me it is one of the most effective gravity stretches. My back bending improved almost immediately. I know a lot of shoulder stretches. Often all these puppy poses are recommended. They are by far not so effective like hangman. It’s important to hold hangman for 5 minutes (if possible). It’s important to relax.

Of course one must first find out what is possible. From there the shoulder stretching journey can begin. To begin with 2 minutes is great as well. Enjoy the stretch.

Different levels of flexibility

Urdhva dhanurasana, July 2021

Urdhva dhanurasana, July 2021

Being flexible can mean being able to do asana that require a stretched and flexible body.

Another level of flexibility is to switch easily from back bending to forward bending asanas and the other way round.

My back bending asanas feel good these days. Yet usually I practice easier back bending asanas first and then I move to more challenging ones. I start with salabhasana as recommended in the second Ashtanga yoga series. I exercise up to eight back bending asanas till I give my best at urdhva dhanurasana. The repetition of so many back bending asanas allows me to go deeper and deeper. At the end my body is soft and stretched. To bend backward feels good.

Today I practiced primary, because I need core strength. The movements between asanas are lost. It’s mainly jumping forward and jumping backwards. After all these vinyasa and forward bending asanas it was so difficult to practice urdhva dhanurasana. It felt so weakly and awkwarrdly that I consider to add preparation asanas next time.

The picture is taken yesterday without an intensive warm up. I think it’s visible. More is possible.

I’m sure that one can train the body to get fast from forward bending asanas to back bending asanas. It’s possible to switch fast from twists to balancing asanas. My body needs a bit more time to adjust.

These days I’m happy when I can get deeper into asanas. It’s OK to move from easy to challenging asanas. It’s fine to repeat asanas. There are ‘good’ days and ‘stiff’ days. The energy level changes every day. I learn to listen to my body.

Surely the more advanced a yogini is the less volatile is the practice. Nevertheless every day is different for everybody. This makes the yoga practice also interesting. Take care.

For me the playful practices are as precious as the ambitious practices.

Two more days and another yoga week is over.

Hanumanasana

Hanumanasana, July 2021

Hanumanasana, July 2021

No day without hanumanasana.

The splits stretch the hamstring of the front leg and they stretch the hip flexor of the leg that is stretched backwards. The goal is to keep the hips parallel. To get there takes time and patience.

The legs move rather to the middle of the body. than apart from each other. This allows to bring the hips parallel step by step.

Deep breathing and holding this asana longer than one or two minutes is recommended.

To get into a position and to get out of it as fast as possible won’t stretch the body.

The path goes from discomfort to joy. Finally an asana must feel good. To relax in an awkward looking position is the goal. Being able to do this might also allow to face difficult situation in life calmly and relaxed.

The breath is a huge support when performing any asana. Sink deeper into hanumanasana when exhaling.

The bandhas are a huge support, too. They protect the body. They mean inner strength. Some asanas are not possible without engaging the bandhas.

Keep practicing.

The practice has the potential to be your best coach.

Morning practices are the best

Bakasana, July 2021

Bakasana, July 2021

The highlight this morning: Back bending felt good.

The mind is fresh and attentive in the morning. The body is strong and relaxed.

This morning the temperature was rather low. With every sun salutation I felt warmer and warmer. After 90 minutes I ended my practice, happy that I practice.

At the end of the day most of us feel exhausted. Me, too. The important rituals in my life have priorities therefore. They deserve being executed with energy.

It’s worth to find out if one is a morning person or a late riser. It can change when getting older.

Life needn’t aggravate when getting older. Following the life style off a yogi 🧘‍♂️ helps to stay fit and independent perhaps till the end.

Picture: Bakasana is a counter asana to back bending. Back bending and forward bending asanas and twists belong together.

Free style

July 2021

July 2021

Today I strolled around with my camera. A few asanas I can do without any warm up. Especially those asanas that require more strength than flexibility can be done any time. The grass in that garden invited me to take some pictures.

At home again I started with a free style practice. At 4 pm my body is different than in the morning.

This practice today was a warm up for tomorrow.

Not every day is the same.

Not every practice is the same. The one today didn’t exhaust me. Boundaries were not pushed, not even reached. It felt good to stretch. It felt good to add some strength exercises.

Five more practices are planned this week. I’m curious.

Patience

Halasana variation, June 2020

An intensive yoga week came to an end this morning. I practiced 2 hours almost every day. I know too many asanas and variation that I want to exercise. Splits are always part of my program, but also back bending.

The pandemic forced me to practice again alone. I miss the other yogini. Yet the lock down was also an opportunity for me. I see my own responsibility for my practice. I adjust the Ashtanga Yoga series to my needs, skills and possibilities. Being an autodidact doesn’t mean to rely on oneself only. So many yoga practitioner have created and published useful videos. There are books to read. I’m a member of Omstars and get a lot of tips and tricks from the teacher on Kino’s TV.

The yoga community is so strong with so much knowledge. What a gift.

First we learn from others mainly. The longer we practice the more we become our own teacher.

Despite intensive practices it’s not guaranteed that progress comes quickly. Patience is required. One must find joy in the daily discomfort. It sounds like a paradox. Stretching and strength training come with unpleasant feelings. Not being able to master the vinyasa after more than a decade of practicing is frustrating. The practice gives the opportunity to face these challenges and to find solutions. Deep breathing helps to stand the discomfort, i.e.. Finding extra exercise might be a solution for challenging asanas. Observing the feelings that come and go helps to stay relaxed. What is practiced on the mat, is often useful in daily life, too.

Enjoy a rest day.

Why I work on the splits.

Lunge, Juni 2021

Lunge, Juni 2021

Firstly: The splits are basic asanas. When they are mastered other asanas become easier.

In Ashtanga Yoga the splits get introduced already during the standing sequence. Utthita hasta padangusthasana and utthita parsvasahita are the poses. They have an additional challenge which is balancing.

Secondly: I discovered hanumanasana when I looked for exercises to deepen back bending. Urdhva dhanurasana, but all the other back bending asanas as well are easier when the hip flexor is stretched. There are many positions that aim for stretching exactly this part of the body. All the lunge poses are a great preparation exercise for all back bending asanas.

It’s recommended to keep the hips parallel. In order to protect the knee one can get on the balls of the feet. This intensifies the stretch.

To hold lunge poses for 5 minutes is challenging. The discomfort gets worse and worse. Deep breathing helps to relax and only a relaxed body stretches.

Everything stretching takes time. It’s better to begin slowly. Injuries take time to heal. Consistency is the key.

I integrate lunges into my morning practice. I don’t want to miss them.

To stretch the hip flexor is rather challenging for me. I cannot hold the position for 5 minutes. Not yet. The pose is improving. My back bending profits from this work.

Today we have the 1st of July, the fist half of the year 2021 is over. Back bending will remain my focus in the next 6 months.

I appreciate that I can practice again with intensity. Last month I only missed one practice on a Sunday. In total I was more than 40 hours on the mat in June. I’m glad that I was so consequent.

Be patient and work on your goals consistently.

Searching discomfort

Bakasana, June 2021

In my Facebook stream and also in my Intagram stream a lot of advertising appears. The offers sound very similar: Splits in only two weeks. Handstand in 10 days and so on. This sounds familiar. The finance branch has similar ads: Become a millionaire in a year…… 10 % interest on your capital….

There are examples, who seem to prove that it’s possible, but mainly it’s not. Stretching needs time. Flexible people exist. They can learn the splits very fast. All the others have to put in the work.

Once I was told that I’d master an asana in my next life. This on the other hand meant that something went wrong, too. There is no next life. Yet the asana was within my possibilities.

It’s possible to speed up the learning process. In regard of stretching it can mean:

  • Hold the position up to 5 minutes.

  • Repeat a position up to three times.

  • Breathe and relax. Only a relaxed body stretches.

  • Increase the pain tolerance.

  • Exercise minimum once, better twice a day.

  • Apply effective stretching techniques.

  • Learn about anatomy to stretch correctly.

  • Avoid injuries.

  • Document your practice. It helps to stay motivated.

  • Find buddies.

All these points can accelerate the learning process. There are surely more tips to increase the learning process.

I know asanas, like the headstand that can be learned within half an hour.

Yet, when stretching and strength is involved, it usually takes more time, sometimes months or years (but not a lifetime).

The learning process can be an opportunity to get to know oneself. It tells how a person approaches a challenge.

Another tip to speed up the learning process is to search discomfort. I know which exercises I avoid. They seem too hard. They bring discomfort. Yet they are the key to get better. A good approach is to find the next tiny step and to increase the challenge and discomfort slowly.

Bakasana:

The discomfort one can face is the fear to fall forward when the arms are stretched. So learn to fall forward. Put a cushion in front of you and fall on the top of your head.

In order to straighten the arms the shoulders should be rounded. Bakasana requires core strength. To work on core strength is something that is hard. Yet this is what makes the difference. It’s something that I avoid, but try now to implement in my daily practice.

Know what you avoid and do it.

if you like, your comments on what exercises you avoid and what you’re going to exercise from now on are welcomed.

Two more practices this week. I’m looking forward to it.

Back bending

Kapotasana, June 2021

Kapotasana, June 2021

I do so many additional exercises that I forget sometimes the pose for which I’m doing all the stretching. Every back bending asana is a bit different. They have also much in common. They stretch the hip flexor. The shoulders get stretched. The entire body shall lengthened. This can be done with the breath and the muscles. It’s important to create room. The bow shall not be compressed, but wide and relaxed.

It’s better to bow backwards correctly than to force the body to reach the feet with the hands. Good to know the goal, but during the practice I aim for a correct movement. This helps to prevent injuries as well.

To get out of an asana is another challenge. Strong legs are required, strong bandhas, too.

Stretching can be done more than once a day. It’s even supportive to add additional training. Not always I’ve the energy to add another yoga or stretching session, but sometimes. It can make a difference.

To practice once a day is absolutely perfect.

This morning I woke up at 5 am. I also got up and enjoyed the early morning hour. Early I was on my mat. I remembered the two years in my life when I started my practice every day at 6 am. This felt wonderful. I want to get back to an early practice. This would give me a lot of time for other necessary activities. This would mean less stress.

We all have to manage our time. It seems to slip through the fingers. If one wants to achieve anything it’s good advice to monitor where the time goes. There are many distractions these days.

I was so joyful that I was so early on the mat. I hit a wall today. I felt stiff, weak. I tried to find out my boundaries for today. I breathed deeply. It’s nonsense to project the past into the future. Yesterday was good, today I practiced slowly and modest. I’m curious how I’ll feel tomorrow.

Keep practicing. This is what counts more than the performance.

Passive stretching - noodle pose

Back bending, passive stretching, June 2021

Back bending, passive stretching, June 2021

Rather regularly I practice along with the videos created by Lucas / Yogabody. His stretching method is called gravity training. I think it’s rather effective. The shoulder exercises improved my back bending almost immediately.

The gravity training that I had bought has 5 videos, each has up to 3 poses. The first video focuses on the hamstrings. The next video focuses on the hips, the shoulders. follow Then the back is the focus. The last video focuses on wrists and twists.

What makes a difference is the holding time of the asana. The above pose, that Lucas named ‘noddle pose’ is held for 5 minutes. At the end of this time my feet and my hands reach the floor. No strength is needed in that position. The body can relax, which is important for stretching.

Lucas mentions it in the video, but I also feel it that muscles get stretched I had no clue they existed.

I practice the gravity exercises not during my regular morning practice. I don’t want to move furniture when I practice. The gravity training is a very effective preparation for the morning practice when performed in the evening before.

Every single back bending is a tiny step forward. Every single back bending makes this movement a tiny bit more comfortable. Tiny steps count.

To get out of this pose feels unpleasing. I move towards the feet, then I sit on the first step. Slowly I come up with the upper body, like I come up from urdhva dhanurasana.

It’s summer here and it’s rather warm. People start complaining already. I love it. The heat is a huge support.

I’m thankful for every single practice. The challenging practices are as precious as the easy ones. All practices are opportunities to get to know oneself. They are opportunities to learn. Sometimes it’s the best pastime we can do.

Urdhva dhanurasana - a detailed approach

Urdhva dhanurasana, June 2021

Urdhva dhanurasana, June 2021

This is how my urdhva ddhanurasana looks these days. It’s visible that I worked on back bending.

My understanding about back bending deepened. It allowed me to work with different body parts separately.

  • The leg muscles need to be strong in order to come out of the pose. Equally important is to stretch them.

  • Most of us have a sedentary life. Many Ashtanga practitioners practice primary for years these days. The hip flexor is shortened therefore. This makes back bending difficult. To stretch the hip flexor takes time, it comes with discomfort. Yet finally flexibility can improve. In order to stretch the hip flexors I add exercises during my practice. I work on the splits every day as well.

  • The entire body can get lengthened if one hangs over a high chair so that feet and hands are in the air. One can also hang at a bar.

  • To stretch the shoulders and upper body made a huge difference for my back bending ablilities.

  • The arms need to be strong in order to lift up the body. Isolated strength training can be done.

  • It’s also important to get into the pose correctly.

  • Deep breathing supports the movement.

A goal is to feel good when performing an asana. To stretch and to work on strength comes with discomfort. Otherwise nothing happens. Yet finally an asana can bring joy. It can be possible to relax in an awkward looking position. Sometimes I reach this status, sometimes not. Often an asana feels better at the second and third attempt. Not to give up too early can be rewarding.

My yoga week has started. The first surya namaskars is always a bit stiff, but soon the body woke up.

Explore your possibilities.

Life is an experiment. Be courageous.

Rest day

Savasana, June 2021

Savasana, June 2021

Saturday is a day without Ashtanga Yoga. It’s a rest day. This gives the opportunity to reflect on the last week. It gives the opportunity to shovel away all the other duties and tasks that I’ve postponed. This will allow me to start the yoga week tomorrow without a long to do list in mind.

I’ll also use this weekend to discard things that I don’t need anymore. It is said that in the Western world most people have more than 10.000 things. This is too much.

Don’t accumulate unnecessary possessions. This is a very good hint. We need much less than we think. Less things equals a more relaxed life. Less things means less chores. Less things means more time and time is precious.

For those who are bored without a yoga practice I’d like to recommend a YouTube channel created by an Indian yogi:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXmoD51IIiop8k0V1EgN9PA/videos

Be inspired.

Friday means primary for Ashtangis

Paschimottanasana, June 2021

Paschimottanasana, June 2021

Friday is the last practice of the yoga week. It’s dedicated to primary. The asanas are mainly forward bending asanas. The vinyasa are very challenging.

I’m not yet there where was 4 years ago, when I injured my back. My core muscles are too weak. arm muscles and hip flexors perhaps, too. There is a lot of work to do. I have ideas, so I don’t feel stuck.

Whenever I see a yogini performing advanced asana, I know that this yogini has learned to be disciplined. It’s never only about the body and the asana. The mind is involved as well. Most yogini who are able to perform advanced asanas have learned how important it is to keep practicing on a daily basis.

I also know that frustration is part of the journey. For me this is true. To realize that the yoga journey has a lot of set backs, injuries included, can be frustrating. As a yogini we learn to handle these feelings. We learn to accept that positive and negative emotions are part of the game. It’s nothing to fight, but to observe.

Jumping through (forwards and backwards) is almost lost. But I have ideas. A month ago or so I bought a handstand training. Perhaps this is the solution. Might be that after the training I’m able to do a press handstand, but I won’t be able to jump through without touching the floor. This would be so funny, that I’m entertained already now.

My dear readers, please enjoy that my blog is advertising free. I don’t see my readers as potential buyers, but as yoga practitioners. We all need spaces that allow us to relax.

Enjoy the week-end.

On Sunday the next yoga week begins. Till then enjoy what is.

My plan is to update this blog after lunch, before napping. This might allow to write more often.

Thank you to those who write to me that they miss my blog posts. It’s very much appreciated.

Rely on yourself

Laghu vajrasana, June 2021

Laghu vajrasana, June 2021

Lately I thought that I want to being able to rely on myself.

That is when I plan to practice in the morning I also want to practice, because I’m a person I can rely on. Thinking about me that way is a huge motivation to step on the mat every morning. I’m indeed a reliable person. This is my self-image, I think that others see me the same way. I keep appointments, I’m also on time. Appointments with myself are equally important.

I want to practice and therefore I also practice.

A daily practice is a key for progress. Injuries can be avoided. Doing the right actions might be evenly important, yet without a daily practice nothing can happen at all.

Not always I get up very early. Yesterday night we watched soccer. I got to bed around midnight and didn’t wake up in the early morning. Yet I practiced before breakfast.

Another trick is that I lowered my expectations. I avoid the pitfall wanting too much. I have a habit tracker. It’s set for 90 minutes not longer. Today I practiced much longer, yesterday, too, but I don’t track it. I don’t want to put unnecessary pressure on myself. 90 minutes yoga practice are a good orientation, a nice doable plan.

If 90 minutes are too long, it’s possible to limit the time to 30 minutes.

It’s summer, it’s hot, I don’t want to miss a single practice. To start is the most important step. I’m a reliable person and so I practice.

Perhaps this positive view on yourself might help those who struggle with a daily practice, too.

Focus is back bending these days. The more I practice back bending the easier it gets. Technical posts will come.

Not every day I make progress, yet when I look at the picture I realize that my body has integrated some movements.

Daily practice

Sirsasana, June 2021

Sirsasana, June 2021

It’s almost 10 pm here and I think that I don’t want to neglect my website.

It’s summer in Germany and it’s rather hot. The body is flexible even in the morning. I start sweating again, when I practice.

Whatever we want to learn, to practice daily is what brings success. Not only, but without a practice nothing happens. The opposite is the case. Skills get lost. The body becomes weak and stiff rather quickly when we are inactive.

For me best time to practice is in the morning. I prepare a cup of coffee for myself at first when I get up, then I write my journal. Next comes my yoga practice.

I lowered the expectations. I set a timer for 90 minutes and not 2 hours. Often 90 minutes are not enough for all the exercises I want to do, but I realized that it created stress to aim for 2 hours or more.

I use an App called habits. At the end of a week I can see the fruit of my work. The calendar fills with marked days. It’s somehow rewarding. The days of the practices are counted. It says nothing about the quality of the practice. Yet to show up is the first important step.

Taking pictures interrupts my practice. This is why my blog is neglected. To lower the expectations might be useful here, too.

The above picture is taken in the evening. Days are long. I could use day light at 6 pm.

My life is better when I practice. This is why I practice.

Sirsasana:

I work on lifting up the head from the ground.

And I want to expand the time in that position.

Keep practicing.

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