Balancing asanas

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.

Headstand

Sirsasana July 2020

Sirsasana July 2020

As I do this handstand training on omstars.com, headstand becomes interesting again.

To hold this pose at least up to five minutes will surely better the ability to balance.

During the closing sequence of Ashtanga Yoga, after the second series, headstand is done a bit differently than on the picture. One shall lift the head. The chin moves to the chest. I found very very few videos on that movement. Kino had produced one. In order to lift the head, the arms must lift the body. this creates room for the head. This tiny movement requires a lot of strength. To bring the chin to the chest is not a huge movement, yet it’s a challenge.

  1. Every asana gets more difficult when held longer.

  2. For most asanas variations can be exercised that are more challenging.

  3. How to get into an asana can be easy or difficult. To get into headstand with straight legs is surely more challenging than getting into the pose with bent legs.

Headstand can be rather relaxing.

How to balance:

  1. The finger hold the head.

  2. The arm position must be correct. It’s often said that the elbows shall form a triangle. Very often yogis have the elbows too far away from each other. My arms are rather parallel.

  3. An even breath helps to balance.

  4. Calm eyes help to balance.

  5. The bandhas (abdomen and pelvis floor) shall be engaged. This gives a certain lightness.

  6. Pressing the wrists against the floor stabilizes the pose as well.

Last year I went to Sivananda yoga. They always do handstand in the beginning of the asana series. They hold sirsasana rather long and do variations. Sirsasana is such a classic asana it’s worth to get to know this pose a bit better.

I knew a person who did only headstand, no other asana. He has found his asana, for sure.

Balancing asanas and age

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When we come into this world, we cannot balance at all. As babies we mainly lie on our backs. It takes some time till we can sit. Then we crawl. I guess it’s curiosity that we want to learn to walk. Usually we find furniture that supports us in the adventure to come to a standing position. The next milestone is to take steps without getting held by someone and without leaning against a chair or sofa or what ever. This is the time when these little human beings fall a lot. And they stand up again. They usually remember how to crawl to a furniture when on the floor. This helps to stand up again. Sometimes it also helps to scream as loud as possible to get help from a grown-up person.

To be in a standing position means that we have learned to balance. This is not easy and usually a little child has to exercise it rather often. She falls, she stands up again, she falls and with each time she becomes more experienced and stronger. The sense of balance gets trained.

What I learn from this process of learning how to walk in the very beginning of everyone’s life is:

  • Exercise this skill as often as possible.

  • Get stronger.

  • Get more experienced.

  • Learn to fall and stand up again.

  • Develop the sense of balance.

Being able to walk is the first condition to see the world alone.

For many people, who are so lucky to get older and older it also means that they lose the ability to walk on their own. They need walking frames. Some cannot walk at all anymore. They live their lives in bed. Some older people fall, injure themselves and then they become so afraid of falling again that it becomes a limitation. They are afraid to get out. Falling becomes more likely as a result, because they get weaker. Many people don’t know anymore how to stand up when on the floor. They often have to wait till someone finds them. Physical therapist teach older people how to stand up from the floor when they fell. Some consider this as humiliation, but it’s not.

I know that I’ve not defined what ‘older people’ is. It also differs. There is the age that counts the years that we’re on this globe and there is the biological age. Some are like 40 with 60. Others are like 80. Some are dead already.

No matter how old we get, we can do something so that life won’t aggravate as it would if we’d done nothing. An improvement is always possible. We’ll get weaker when we get older, but we can do strength training i.e.

I found yoga for myself. Here we go. There are endless possibilities to stay strong, to balance, to learn how to get up when on the floor.

Yoga has a lot of balancing asanas:

All standing asanas are balancing asanas as I described it in the beginning of this blog. Just to stand is a balancing challenge, we’re only so used to it, that we forgot that we balance. We yogini also learn to be on our heads or to balance on our hands. There is always a progression.

Balancing means:

  • Develop strength.

  • Exercise to balance, develop experience and your sense of balance.

  • Learn to fall and learn to stand up. Safely.

  • Engage your abdomen.

  • Breathe evenly.

  • Be courageous.

Many balancing asanas are a combination of balancing and forward bending or back bending, even twists.

Being able to do sirsasana gives self-confidence. When doing a balancing asana we conquered the fear to fall. That’s something.

Primary Ashtanga Yoga has some nice balancing asanas. They deserve their own posts.

Keep walking. It means independence.

Balancing asanas

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To try a pose is totally different than to look at it.

This one is easy, I thought. Twice I fell on my knees when I tried it the first time. This was it, I thought. This is not good for my knees. Usually I do this asana with the hand next to the foot. To balance is also a challenge, but not that much.

Being in downward dog with one foot in padmasana pose and holding the big toe is another challenge. I saw so many beautiful pictures on Instagram, so I tried it again. This time my hand was not so far away from my foot. Slightly easier poses often allow to study a pose.

To balance means to engage the abdomen. This stabilizes the body.

This is not a variation that I will integrate in my daily practice. Nevertheless I’m glad that I tried it.

My focus is back bending.

Today is Thursday. I practiced every day. Most practices were intensive. I know that I need a break on Saturday.

Balancing asanas

Carmens May challenge on Instagram is about balancing (#balanscience). My approach to these monthly challenges are playful. I’m less ambitious as many asanas are too advanced. I don’t want to risk injuries. I reflect on certain asanas. Sometimes I try new variations to see if I can integrate them into my practice. Mainly it’s fun to be part of a group of committed yogini. Some asanas are so challenging that I leave them out. The starting point is sometimes already my end asana……..

Balancing asanas vary a lot. One can fall out of a sitting asana, that has a balancing aspect. This is more or less funny. One can also fall out of handstand.

How to conquer the fear of falling?

  • Learn first to fall out of a pose. Learn a somersault.

  • Have enough space around yourself. Often injuries happen, because the student falls against things (yoga blocks) or the wall or a piece of furniture. Years ago I fell out of headstand. This happened once to me in my lifetime. I fell against the corner of a wall. This hurt and I got a huge bruise. If I had space I would have been shocked, but everything would have been OK.

  • Imagine what to do when you lose balance. In the above pose I know exactly what I have to do when I move too far forwards. Chin to chin. Then I land on my head (bone) and not on my nose or face. Falling usually happens very quickly. Exercise the exit and you won’t be surprised if it happens.

How to balance?

  • Engage the abdomen.

  • Breathe evenly.

  • Keep the eyes calm, gaze towards a point.

  • Ground yourself. In bakasana (picture) I feel more stable, when I try to turn the hands on the floor. Suddenly I become also stronger and more stable.

All the balancing asanas give self-confidence when mastered.

The balancing asanas force the mind to focus on the presence. Dreaming and thinking often comes with losing balance.

Utthita hasta padangusthasana is a standing asana. It’s a challenge to balance on one leg. I’m rather good at it these days. Yet when I start thinking I start wobbling. I remember days when I could perform this asana already very good. Then I started thinking: Oh, today is a good day. Et voilà. I started wobbling. Balancing asanas train the mind to focus on an even breath and to keep the eyes calm. If the core is strong in addition one can enjoy these asanas. Balancing asanas can give the feeling of weightlessness.

Carmen shows a tiny variation of bakasana on Instagram. She lowered the head. This makes the asana more difficult. My next step is rather to stretch the arms. Strong arms and core strength is needed to lift the body. This makes is possible to stretch the arms. To jump into this pose is another step further.

There is always a variation that is a bit more demanding. For me it’s important to know my next tiny step. When this tiny step is mastered, the journey can go on.