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.