Plans for this blog

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I’ve plans for this blog:

  • In January I’d like to focus on forward bending asanas.

  • In February the vinyasa shall be the focus. When practicing Ashtanga the connection between the asanas are an important topic. And they are challenging.

  • In March urdhva dhanurasana - back bending shall be the focus.

If you’ve ideas or wishes for months to come, please let me know.

How to learn asanas and movements is always a topic. The correct method helps to avoid injuries. The method can help to speed up a process or it can slow down a process.

Headstand is always a good example: If taught correctly with an approved method it can be learned in 30 minutes. On the other hand I know people who are struggling for years with this asana and are convinced that they’ll never learn this classic inversion.

Forward bending asanas stretch the entire body. Stretching can be done effectively.

The first Ashtanga yoga series focuses on forward bending asanas. I think t’s a good start.

It’s the time between the years, how we call the time between Christmas and New Year. Many people have vacation. It’s lock down due to Covid-19. I walk around a lot. The low temperatures are refreshing.

Plans for 2021

Christmas 2020

Christmas 2020

Many of us start planning the year 2020. Many make resolutions. To lose weight is a favorite resolution in societies where 50 % of the population is overweight.

My resolutions circle around my main interests: yoga and photography. Projects are already announced by people on the Internet (Facebook, Instagram).

I realize already that it’s easy to dream and that it is a challenge to stick to the resolutions.

Lately I found a book with a provocative title: Average sucks. The author recommends to find out one’s average first. An example: If the yoga practice frequency is three times a week, it makes sense to pick oneself up there. It’s very likely to fail if a person plans to practice every day twice, seven days a week. This is overambitious. It’s a dream and often not realistic. To add one more weekly practice is already progress. After a month another practice can be added. It’s a realistic plan.

There are still seven days till 2021. There is still a lot of time to make plans. I like to begin the New Years with new plans. It is as if the tanks are filled with energy. I’m filled with the idea of ‘further’. Further can mean a lot. It’s different for everybody. My plans are not yet on paper. I’m looking forward to planning the next year. I stay open for surprises. I try to be realistic. Tiny steps in the wished direction is better than dreaming big and staying lazy.

Stay realistic.

Becoming minimalist

Summer 2020

Summer 2020

The ad found me on Facebook. Perhaps it was also the other way round. A workshop by Joshua Becker * was in my stream. It had the title ‘becoming minimalist’ and should last 12 weeks. I enrolled and didn’t regret it. The course had a dynamic that I hadn’t expected. It became one of my highlights in the Covid-10 year 2020.

What grows slowly gets easily overlooked. I don’t see myself as a hoarder but very soon after this course has started I realized that I had too many things. The course was different than books with the same title. It started with the question why we enrolled for the course. It’s often that people want to get away from being overwhelmed, away from buying things twice because the searched thing is anywhere. Some want to get out of consumer debts.

There are often also positive reasons. Some want to spend more times with their kids. Some want to live in a more relaxed house without all the stuff.

I sometimes skipped the yoga practice because I had so much to do. Soon I realized that all these things that I have keep me from practicing yoga. Every tiny thing that one has needs attention. I started to declutter like a wild one. Many things I could donate. Soon the volunteers knew me at Oxfam. To declutter exhausted me. The sessions lasted much longer than I thought. Very soon I wondered: Why did I buy this and this and this? I found answers for myself. I came to the conclusion that I need so much less. I made the decision to give up knitting. I wont’t become a baker anymore. All these baking tools found another kitchen. I love to cook. It’s enough and already time-consuming. I don’t want to get skilled in baking cakes. I don’t read books twice, so I could let go of many books as well. Every home is different. To declutter forces to focus on what’s important.

There are different levels of minimalism. It might start with things. Soon pictures, papers come into mind. One might also discover habits that one can give up. Do we still need CDs?

It was planned to work intensively within this time frame of 12 weeks. To see an end gave me momentum. When the last day arrived I knew that I had discarded a lot, but there is still a lot to do. Staying decluttered is a process. To take care that the sum of things doesn’t increase again can be a tough job already. Yet I want to have less things and more time.

Summer was almost over and the herbs had to go as well. See picture. I wanted to declutter every day. I did it.

If I wasn’t at home for such long periods due to the lock down I would have overlooked all that stuff. From time to time I would have complained that I have so much to do. But I would have also wondered why this is so. Clutter stole my time.

I’m in for a second round in 2021.

There is still potential.

Stay cool, stay curious, stay creative.

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Marichyasana A

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Today I took pictures of marichyasana A, B, C and D. It’s in sum 8 pictures. I thought I’d need an hour, not more. Yet I had to do all pictures twice or even three times. The time was spent well. When I saw the pictures I couldn’t believe it. Why do I move my elbows so high, I wondered. It looks strange. The arms stretch downwards along the body. This supports the forward movement of the upper body.

On the first picture I had moved the elbows close to the body. The elbow doesn’t hang in the air any more. This looks nicer and it feels more correct. The shoulders always move away from the ears. The longer one practices, the more details get noticed.

That I had bound my hair was rather an aesthetic reason.

  • Pictures are a.great tool for home practitioners, who have nobody who gives adjustments. But also for those who go to classes it’s very useful to take pictures. A teacher can never ever adjust everything.

  • Pictures document the journey. It’s very motivating to see progress.

  • Pictures often give me ideas what else I can try.

Marichyasana A, 2012

Marichyasana A, 2012

This third picture is taken in 2012. I realize that I even stretched my arms. I’ll surely try this the next time.

Pictures are one of the best methods to get feed-back.

Cook

The restaurants were closed for a very long time in 2020 due to Covid-19. After a while the restaurants offered ‘meals to go’ Often it’s cold when you get it delivered. It’s the same if you pick it up by yourself. In addition one has always similar meals. Only once I got a pizza during all the months of the lock down.

For me the lock down was an opportunity. I started cooking from the very first day on. I used to be a weekend chef. At 12 pm I usually stood in the kitchen, opened my refrigerator and checked what vegetables I have. I used to cook with recipes and followed the instructions rather exact. This has changed when I started cooking on a daily basis. I became free. I want to use up the remaining fruit and vegetables. Soon I even developed a style. I always prepare different vegetables with rice or noodles or couscous or potatoes or bread. I prepare a sauce which consists of different liquids: coconut cream, white or red wine, tomatoes….. I usually add a lot of different spices. That’s it. I use my cooking books when I like to try something new, which is often the case. Then I vary the recipe. Monday is always my noodle day. We never ate so well. I also know how to prepare some desserts. My mango cream with fresh mango, dried apricot and almond puree with pomegranate on top is a legend. I use always fresh ingredients, we saved a lot of money. I got faster. Nevertheless in sum I need two hours from start to finish. When I leave the clean kitchen it’s usually 2 pm or a bit later.

Cooking became a routine. I’d never cooked so regularly if restaurants were open.

This was for me one of the positive aspects of the last Covid-19 year 2020.

A good approach of cooking is to have few cooking books. Start repeating the recipes. Vary them. Cook them without the book. This builds confidence.

I started to taste the meals before eating. I hated this. Yet it helps to improve the results. Too spicy sauces get some cream or coconut cream. When the sauce is boring I add chili powder or other intensive spices. A spicey dish can get milder with soy yoghurt on top or a piece of bread aside. Very soon I got experienced.

I don’t aim for the perfect dinner, but I like to eat healthy. When the pots are empty after a meal, it’s a compliment. I don’t want to feel so full that I’ve the feeling that I explode. This is scarcely possible with vegetables. 🌽 🍆 🌶 🥒 🥕

My book recommendations:

  1. Vegan cuisine I’m almost shocked. The book that I wanted to recommend costs now over 200 USD. It’s my favorite. The one here is probably with less recipes but by the same author.

  2. Nigel Slater *I have his book for the summer season. There are books for autumn and winter season available as well. He cooks daily. He asks himself every day what vegetable he’s going to prepare. He is not 100% vegan (but almost). Nigel Slater is cult

  3. Vegan India* As a yogi I like Indian foot. My first vegetarian meals were Indian dishes. Most Indians are vegetarians. In the meantime also vegan Indian cooking books are available.

Cooking books can also inspire for the own creations. Just do it. It will improve your health and your life.

I was forced to cook during 2020. It bettered my life. I don’t want to give up the cooking routine.

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Sleeping pill for yogis

Lucas from Yogabody calls this asana noodle pose. I learned it in the gravity training lately. Feet and arms hang in the air. This position shall be held for five minutes. This is doable. It’s important to have a soft and thick cushion on the chair or step or ladder or whatever one uses. The height is important as the limbs shall be in the air at least in the beginning. The issue is to get out of the pose. I move my feet slowly to the floor. If one can get into a position, it’s also possible to get out of it. This thought helps. This asana helps to get tired, but I wouldn’t like to stay in this position overnight.

It’s crazy, but it’s true. After this intensive back banding I got tired. As soon as I was in bed, I slept. Deeply. I cannot even remember my last thoughts. To get from day dreaming to night dreaming happened so fast.

I never ever took a sleeping pill in my entire life. But now I’ve found my new sleeping pill. Just in case.

It also works with forward bending positions. Today I held navasana for 5 minutes. Firstly I tried out several variations. Most comfortable was to habe the arms stretched towards the feet. I relaxed and breathed deeply. Very soon I got tired.

I think the trick is to find a position that allows to relax. Deep breathing is important and to stay for a while. Five minutes seems to be a good time span.

As always: Take care when trying something new.

To fall asleep is doable.

But how to wake up?

How long shall one hold a yoga postition?

Halasana, December 2020

Halasana, December 2020

There is a story about a yogini who practiced Ashtanga yoga with P. Jois in Mysore. She was practicing sirsasana (headstand) when he told her: Stay. He left the room. Then he might have forgotten about her. An hour later he returned and the yogini was still in sirsasana.

I learned about Indian yogis who moved the body in a position and never left this position for decades. Surely some stories might be legends.

  • In Ashtanga yoga most asanas are held for five breaths. In former times eight breaths was the standard. Some of the asanas of the closing sequence are held for 25 breaths like sirsasana, padmasana. Most asanas of the closing sequence are held for ten breaths. It’s recommended to remain in rest pose at the end of the practice for 10 minutes.

  • Last year I joined yoga classes of the Sivananda community. The basic asanas were always held for five minutes. This can be a challenge. Yet it’s more likely that a position has an effect on the body. The more advanced a student is, the longer she holds the asanas. To hold an asana up to ten minutes is the goal.

  • Lately I flipped through the book ‘Light on Yoga’ by B.K.S. Iyengar *and realized that he also recommends to hold asanas up to 5 minutes or longer. Salamba Sarvangasana shall be held up to 10 minutes.

I learned from other disciplines like gymnastics that it’s important to hold a position minimum a couple of minutes. The body needs time to relax. Only a relaxed body will stretch. Progress comes much faster when an asana is held longer.

The reality can be cruel sometimes. I know back bending asanas that I can hold for one breaths. When I aim at holding urdhva dhanurasana for one minute I struggle. I’m yearning for the peep of my alarm clock when practicing this back bending asana. It’s a process. First one must find out how long one can stand in a position. Then one can stay longer. My timer always helps me to get a feeling of the time. Getting deeper into a position and holding it longer can be done in steps.

My next step is to hold halasana for 5 minutes. I’m very curious.

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Tri konasana

I’ll probably repeat the following sentence again and again: There is no easy asana. When practicing Ashtanga yoga the practice starts with the sun salutations. Then follow the standing asanas. They are difficult. All poses feel differently than they look. It’s a challenge to adjust oneself.

All standing asanas are balancing asanas. To engage the legs is important. The feet rather move to each other than apart from each other. The upper body is straight. In order to open the shoulders it can help to move the arm behind the back to the thigh. This allows to give oneself a nice adjustment, it helps to move the shoulder backwards. To stretch the arm like in the second pictures supports the straight line of the body.

To have a correct head position is not easy, too. It’s already good, when the head doesn’t hang. This looks lazy.

Many call this pose tri konasana, the full name is utthita tri konasana. Utthita translates ‘stretched’, konasana means ‘triangle’. The pose forms only straight lines with the body. Having the word stretched in mind helps to give meaning to the asana.

It’s a pose that is great for pictures. Arms, legs and the body are seen clearly. The limbs are separated from each other. It’s an asana that opens the upper body.

My yoga week began this morning at 6 am. At 5 am I got up, at 6 am I was ready. It was still dark, yet I didn’t like to switch on a light because I didn’t like to wake up my beloved E. It was absolutely OK to start before sun rise. It’s not necessary to see the details of the surrounding. At 9 am I had an intensive practice behind me, I was showered and I enjoyed a tiny breakfast. What a start.

Letting go

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Saturday is my day off. My days have a structure that I follow very flexible. I don’t even set an alarm clock to get up early. Usually I wake up on my own rather early. Today I did grocery shopping in the morning, when the shops were still rather empty. Tonight when we strolled around I realized a long queue standing in front of the grocery store. It rained. I thought it’s always a good idea to get up early. Some people surely have no alternatives, they can only go shopping in the evening, when everybody does it.

In 2020 I enrolled for a workshop ‘becoming minimalist’ I didn’t realize how much excess I’ve hoarded over the years. I don’t see myself as a hoarder. Most things have their place. But I had accumulated too many things. This is for sure. To let go of all my wool and knitting projects was probably the most difficult task. I found a group of people who knit scarves for homeless people. This made it easy to let go.

Things come slowly into our homes. I started projects, then something else seemed more important to do. Yet the first and second and third project still lingered in the drawers and shelves. The unconsciousness knows about it. Sometimes the projects wake up from the underground and inform the consciousness. They complain. Don’t forget me. This creates lousy feelings. With all these possessions that need attention it can be that one can feel overwhelmed without knowing why. I always think that I’ve so much to do. I have a lot to do, but my life should be manageable. I’ve no pets, no kids.

Today I went through this blog here and deleted neglected pages. They became a burden, too. It’s wishful thinking that I can update three blogs in addition to all the other activities.

Bit by bit I’ll feed the remaining pages. The vegan blog, the back bending blog, the gravity page, they all had to go. It’s too much. One yoga blog is enough. Saturday is my day off from yoga. It gives me opportunity to write also about other topics than asana practice.

Within the last 12 weeks I also went through my yoga props. Not everything was used or useful. I use my three yoga mats, but I don’t need five. Twelve yoga pants are too many.

Discarding of things and living with less made my life already easier. I feel relieved. It’s a journey an ongoing process to let go of things, bad habits and so on. Having less possessions helps to focus on what is important.

Flowing through life with ease is so much easier with less possessions.

Three similar asanas

The first asana is uttanasana. It Sanskrit it means ‘intense stretch’.

The second asana is called hasta padanghustasana. It means ‘hand-toe stretching’. Hasta means hand. Pada means foot and anghusta means big toe.

The third asana is called pada hastasana, which translates ‘hand-foot posture’.

The asanas are rather similar, yet also different.

The pictures show me that there is still potential. Yet when I started with yoga I could scarcely touch the floor with my fingers when my legs were stretched.

Lately I improved all the forward bending asana. I let gravity do the work. The crucial difference was the time. I hang in the following pose for 5 minutes.

M legs are slightly bent and I hang forward. It’s important not to move. One can close the eyes, it’s OK to open the eyes. The hands shall not touch the floor. Gravity does the work. Exhaling shall be much longer than inhaling, because it helps to relax. Only a relaxed body is able to stretch. The nerve system must feel save. The most important point is: Stay in this position for five minutes. This makes the difference. Progress will come fast.

Many people sit all day long. Nevertheless it becomes more and more difficult also for those with a sedentary life to bend forward when getting older. I’m sure, that people who bend forward every day in the above way will be able to do this till the age of 100. They won’t need a person who helps putting on shoes. Staying flexible gives independence. What a gift.

To bend forward is also an inversion for those who don’t like to do headstand for whatever reason. Sometimes health issues prevent people to do poses.. The heart is above the head in this forward bending asana. This is the criteria for an inversion. This pose is refreshing and energizing.

All stretching asanas help to become patient. Yet practicing correctly helps to progress faster.

Utkatasana

Utkatasana, December 2020

Utkatasana, December 2020

There is no easy asana. In order to get to the above picture I had to repeat the pose several times. I spotted many weaknesses that I could avoid. A pose often feels differently than it looks.

The challenges:

  • The asana aims at strengthening the leg muscles. The deeper you go, the more challenging it is. My goal was to lower the body as much as possible. Before getting into utkatasana I pose the flat hands next to the feet and bend my legs. From there I get into utkatasana.

  • I realized that I made a hollow once I was in that pose. This makes it easier. To prevent this, I engaged my abdomen. The position of the hips changes. My back remained straight.

  • To have the arms in line with the body requires rather open shoulders. The shoulders move away from the ears, yet the arms stretch upwards.

  • The thumb likes to get in distance to the other fingers. It looks so much better when the hands are a unit. This is rather an aesthetic issue.

Utkatasana is part of surya namaskars B and the standing asanas of Ashtanga yoga.

There are also variations of this asana. It’s possible to have the thighs parallel to the floor. It’s easier when the arms are stretched forwards and not upwards. One can hold this pose as long as possible.

Also the exit of this asana can vary. One can jump back. It’s possible to go first in bakasana position. From bakasana one can move into a handstand.

I’m happy with getting into bakasana and jumping back from there.

Suryanamaskara, the neck and drishti

I know people and yogini who have a long and flexible neck. Others have rather stiff necks. We can move the neck in all directions. There is also a neutral position. In order to find my neutral position I hang forward and relaxed the neck. My feeling is as if the head falls back slightly. To pull the chin to the chest requires a bit energy.

  • When I practice suryanamaskara I move the neck a bit out fo the neutral position. I don’t get to the limit. It looks wild when yogini through their head backwards in urdhva mukha svanasana (upward facing dog). Yet is this really necessary? Dristi is the third eye when practicing urdhva mukha svanasana. It’s not looking to the ceiling or upwards. It feels more harmonious to move the head only a tiny bit backwards when looking towards the third eye.

    Chaturanga dandasana is another pose which feels better for me when I don’t throw back the head. The body shall be stable and in line. It’s more likely that my body hangs through when the head moves backwards. My focus is rather to push the hands against the floor. The shoulders move backwards. The abdomen is engaged. To go to a limit with the neck is distracting. It’s not the focus. The neck must get protected. There are asanas like sets bandhasana that stretch the neck. This asana also require a lot of strength of the neck. Most asana don’t have the neck as a focus.

  • The neck position and dristi influence each other. It’s important to know that scarcely one looks at a certain point, the toe for instance or the navel. It’s always looking towards the navel or towards the toes. This In mind it’s not necessary to try seeing a gazing point. The dristhi has the work to calm the eyes. They shall focus and not look around. A direction is given. To see a precise point is not necessary.

  • At the end one ‘hands up’ is missed on the above series. I omit it. I’d rather feel like a jumping jack when I do this pose at the end. Surya namaskars is repeated five times. After uttanasana I return to samasthitih. When I start with suryanamaskara again I stretch and my arms move towards the ceiling. This is enough. To omit one of the ‘hands-up-position’ at the end was not my idea originally. I tried it and I think it feels better.

  • When practicing urdhva mukha svanasana the chin moves towards the body. I move the head only slightly out of its natural position. When the abdomen are engaged it’s not possible to see the navel. It makes no sense to go to the limit with the neck.

How I practice suryanamaskara has changed over the years. Firstly it has been a good warm up only. These days I work more precisely on every asana.

Experiment.

Every body is different.