Hard work shows results.

Urdhva dhanurasana June 2020

Urdhva dhanurasana June 2020

I had a clear goal in mind. Feet and hands should get closer to each other. Last time four boards were between hands and feet. I got closer. To have only 3 boards between hands and feet was the goal. I’m not yet there, but I’m closer. This astonished me when I checked my pictures. I thought it would take longer to minimize the distance between hands and feet.

I did stretching exercises for the hips (lunges).

I did additional stretching exercises for the upper body and the shoulders (hangman i.e.) This allowed me to get deeper into this back bending asana.

I usually hold this pose for one minute. I start a timer. It’s still a challenge and I’m always close to give up. But I hold it. This stretches the body. The body gets familiar with the asana.

Most important is to practice safely. I always try to get safe into this pose:

  1. I start from lying on my back. I bring the feet as close to the body as possible. Feet shall be parallel to each other. It feels as if they are turned inwardly. The pictures proofs that the feet are rather parallel.

  2. I put the hands under my shoulders.

  3. The next step is important. I press the back on the floor. This causes a movement of the hips, that prepares for the back bending. I engage the bandhas to protect at least the SI joints.

  4. Then I lift the body up, till the crown of my head is on the floor.

  5. With the next inhaling I get into the pose. I try to keep the elbows parallel. I also try to get into the pose without moving to the feet and then swinging back. It’s recommended to get straight into this pose.

  6. Finally I adjust. In order to have an even bridge I push the body to the hands with my feet.

  7. I breathe deeply. After a while I walk the hands closer till I reach my limit.

Those who experienced injuries especially back injuries know that it’s important to practice correctly. Strong legs are important, strong arms, too. A strong core is useful, too. Yet it’s recommended to create length in order to bend. This allows to relax the lower back.

This picture is taken after many many back bends. I was prepared for this asana. It’s summer here, it got warmer. Warm weather is such a support for the practice.

Become your own yoga teacher.

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In the beginning of any journey one needs a map. To go to yoga classes is a very good idea. Not everything can be learned online. Feed-back is necessary. Adjustments are very important.

Right from the beginning on one can deepen one’s own practice alone at home. Home practices are possible from the very beginning on. It’s good to establish very early in one’s yoga journey a home practice. This brings independence. It shows what is learned, which asanas one can remember. To practice alone develops discipline till finally the practice becomes a habit.

After years, many yoga classes later, many workshops later, many tutorials on YouTube later, one becomes more experienced. This is the point when the yoga student does not only repeat what is learned. Own ideas change the practice. It’s possible to consider the own strength and weaknesses.

Questions might help to deepen the understanding of one’s own yoga journey:

  • Are there variations of an asana?

  • What is an easier version of a pose and what is a more difficult version?

  • Perhaps blogs might support the journey?

  • Are there different vinyasa?

  • What else can support the practice? Strength training? A different diet? Pranayama?

  • Can it make sense to explore other yoga styles than the preferred one?

  • What eating habits support the practice. What diet supports the practice and the body.

The asana on the picture is a preparation asana for pincha mayurasana. I prepare myself for falling. I’d like to land safely on my feet, no matter if I fall out of the pose forward or backward. I want to avoid injuries. This is why I adjust my practice. This is possible at home.

This asana also intensifies back bending in general. It stretches the upper body.

My yoga week at home started today. When I take another day off I’m sure these days that my body needs it. Saturday and Sunday I relaxed. Today I started with primary. The mind was so unfocused that I forgot several times if I had practiced the left side already. Sometimes the body is weak, sometimes the mind is wild.

Ustrasana

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Today’s yoga practice was fantastic again. The body felt light. To go through all the asanas was a joy. After ninety minutes concentration faded away, I finished the practice with a rather short closing sequence.

To practice daily makes every single practice easier (also the difficult ones).

I like to repeat asanas up to three times, when I think it would be good to go deeper.

To hold the asanas longer is a good idea. I use my timer a lot.

I take my time to get into an asana. To create length comes always first. Then I move forward or backward into an asana.

When in the end position I breathe deeply. Yet there is always also inner work to do. The bandhas are engaged. With every inhaling I create length. The hips move forward in ustrasana. The chest moves upwards, the hands press into the feel. The knees shall stay parallel, so the thighs move inward. The little toes move to the floor.

With every repetition the pose feels better.

One more practice this week. Saturday is rest day.

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Next months is another challenge on Instagram created my Carmen (cyogalife). The wall is used as a prop. The wall is indeed my favorite tool. I’m ready to be part of this challenge. My Instagram account is called: photoyogablog. Feel free to join. It’s an opportunity to explore new variations of asanas.

Bakasana

One of the counter poses of the back bending asana is bakasana. It’s exercised after all these demanding back bending asanas of the second Ashtanga Yoga series. Sometimes I do first baby pose before practicing bakasana. It’s more relaxing. I usually don’t omit bakasana. It’s a balancing pose. Strength is required. The goal is to stretch the arms. I think they are already more stretched than ever. It’s important to engage the pelvis floor and the abdomen to create a light body. This pose improved because I stretched the wrists. Reverse dog is part of the gravity training. It’s an intensive stretch, but doable. The fingers point to the toes and not forward. When stretching the arms the body moves forward in order to balance. Strong and flexible wrists must allow this movement. It’s possible to exercise the wrists separately I reverse dog for instance.

Bakasana is often a transition asana. Progress doesn’t come overnight.

Keep practicing.

Back bending day

Urdhva dhanurasana June 2020

Urdhva dhanurasana June 2020

I’m not sure if progress is visible. What has changed is that it’s no more a drama to get into this pose. This and other back bending asanas are just asana I want to exercise. They are no more labeled as extra challenging. I don’t lie on the floor anymore scaring the discomfort that I’ll experience when lifting up. My shoulders got extra treatment during the last weeks. My hips, too. The final goal is it to enjoy the asana. It shall be comfortable one day. I’ve been there already.

Holding the pose for one minute makes sense. I’ll soon adjust the timer. I’ll set it to two minutes. Challenges keep the practice exciting. Two minutes can be very long. When it’s possible to hold this asana for two minutes to hold it for 5 breaths as it’s recommended in Ashtanga Yoga is a piece of cake.

Today I practiced rather late. My rules are simple. I practice before breakfast. After breakfast I have no time anymore. I feel full. The practice feels best with an empty stomach.

Covid-19 changed our behavior. We like to eat at home. Because we gain weight when we eat in restaurants. We want to avoid this. Also today I cooked. Soon we’ll eat the Mango dessert, that I prepared for the late afternoon. What else can I wish for today?

Hangwoman

OK, this pose is called hangman. I find it very useful. It stretches the upper body. It’s very demanding to hold it for 5 minutes. In my case I progressed fast. Very soon I could also realize the result. Back bending got easier and I feel less discomfort when practicing urdhva dhanurasana. I haven’t taken pictures for a while. Yet all back bending asanas seem more doable. Important is to hold this pose. Discomfort is felt especially when moving out of the pose.

How to get into the pose:

It’s important that the crown of the head is touching the wall, when lying on the abdomen. Then the fingers shall crawl up the wall as high as possible. The hands shall be a bit more than shoulder wide apart from each other. The head and neck is relaxed and hangs forward. This is a leverage effect, like the deep breathing. Exhaling is longer than inhaling as this is more relaxing.

It’s not so important to do 15 exercises or more to learn certain asanas, one must find the effective ones. This one does miracles for me right now.

This morning I was able to lift up into urdhva dhanurasana after all these forward bending asanas.

Otherwise I was glad that I practiced this morning before breakfast. As always. Not every session is ‘oh so wonderful’. Yet I know why I’m so obsessed with my yoga practice. Just doing it, is it. How intensive it is , is of second priority. Yesterday in the late afternoon we were in a beer garden. I loved the Bavarian atmosphere. It was chilling. I realized that a lot of people don’t care so much about their health. They smoke, drink and obviously eat too much. These are behaviors which are fun, but in the long run the health gets damaged, the body becomes a burden. Life becomes difficult. The earlier one stops unhealthy behavior, the easier it is. There are other joys in that world as drinking, smoking and eating. A yoga practice forces to reflect on the own life style. Finally every behavior gets judged in relationship to the yoga practice. Does a habit support the morning practice or not, this is the question.

Stay healthy. Practice yoga.

Hold, hold, hold....

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We obviously learn in waves. I know plateaus, I now set backs and I know highlights. Right now I experience that my learning has speed. This additional hour of stretching before going to bed makes a difference. I hold poses up to 5 minutes. The hamstrings, the hips, the shoulders, the back, the wrists become an extra treatment at night. I always forget how much discomfort this is to hold a pose for 5 minutes. To give up before the peep is not an alternative. That is I cannot hold the stretch for the hips for 5 minutes. It got easier already, but I’ll need a couple of weeks till I’ll be able to hold it for 5 minutes. All the other exercises are possible. I realize already that some of them became more comfortable. When I start getting bored I’ll have to look for another challenge.

The shoulder stretches and the hip stretches improve my back bending. Back bending is my focus this year.

It makes sense to explore what different yoga styles have to offer. There are very good teachers on that globe who share their knowledge. Poses that seem impossible, become doable with a useful training.

After this evening practice I’m so tired. There is no dynamic when I focus on stretching. Important is to relax. At the end of this hour I’m exhausted and I sleep at once. I even practiced already in my pajama.

Yesterday I discovered Vimeo. That is I ignored it by now. Cyogalife is on Vimeo and I wanted to participate in a back bending class. I decided to go for an on-demand class. Time difference doesn’t allow me to attend classes. This is also not important for me. I bought a back bending class. I watched it to learn what it is about. The exercises are challenging but doable. Some of the exercises I can integrate in my Ashtanga Yoga practice in the morning. Next time I’ll do the exercises. Sixty minutes is a reasonable time span.

Summery:

  1. Try to hold the difficult asana longer.

  2. Look for additional exercises for shoulders, hips…… and hold these exercises for three or 5 minutes.

  3. Explore what other yogini or sportive people do. Learning never stops.

The gravity training I mention is by Lucas. The website is yoga body.com. This is unpaid advertising.

It’s rather difficult to find good tutorials, so this is why I like to share what I consider as good for me.

Gravity training

Gravity training. Because learning never stops.

Since years I know that if the goal is to stretch the body or parts of the body to hold a position for 5 breaths is not enough. I aimed for 1 minute, perhaps 2 minutes, when I wanted to improve asanas. Yet that’s nothing. The results are so much better if one holds a position for five minutes, sometimes three minutes might be enough. Yet five breaths is too short to progress. This is what I learned in these five gravity classes, created by Lucas.

I found Lucas on Instagram. He is the owner of the website Yogabody. I bought his gravity training course and I haven’t regret it. This post is unpaid ‘advertising’. I’m enthusiastic, because I see results already. I practice with the 5 videos after having watched them.

Every of the 5 classes lasts about 20 minutes. I wouldn't be so determined if I weren’t led through the exercises. Some poses are held for 5 minutes and this can be like an eternity. We’re nearly there. When I hear this sentence I know I can hold the poses for a few more breaths. To listen to the explanations of Lucas helps to stay in the pose. It distracts from the discomfort. Some poses are hard.

Each of the five videos is focused on a specific area of the body: hamstrings, hips, shoulders, back, wrist and twists. Each video has 2 or 3 exercises, which is enough.

I usually do all the videos every second day. It’s so effective. Afterwards I sleep like a bear. There is no dynamic, but stretching discomfort. To stand this discomfort ‘whisky breathing’ is recommended. That is the exhaling is longer than the inhaling. This allows the nervous system to relax. Not only the nervous system relaxes, the entire body and mind is relaxed after the five videos. The exercises show me my limits.

The shoulder exercises helped me already to improve back bending.

The body needs time to stretch. It’s so easy to betray oneself and to stop too early. This is the limit, I think sometimes when the pose becomes difficult, but if one stays there, suddenly the limit moves.

For me the hip exercises are difficult. I stop after three minutes. Five minutes is the goal. I’m sure that I’ll progress fast. Gravity will help me. One must be determined. Then breakthroughs can happen.

The pose on the picture is held fo 3 minutes. It’s an arm position that I know and that is possible for me. To hold it longer is another challenge. I realize how the body is integrating this position when I hold it longer. It gets easier. The understanding deepens. Discomfort fades away. Slowly.

Key word of this blog post seems to be ‘discomfort’. I rather see the progress. I learn about new methods to stretch the body.

I cook, I clean, I read

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Corona Times are still not over. In the middle of a ‘tragedy’ it’s difficult to judge what’s happening and what are the best practices to stay healthy and alive. Was the lock down a panic reaction? We will never know. We personally stayed at home. I started cooking on a daily basis. We never lived so healthy.

After a break of several days I stepped on the mat again this morning before breakfast. My attitude: no ambition, just breathe and move to the rhythm of the breath. I didn’t feel overwhelmed.

Sometimes breaks happen. I trust my body more and more. Time to rest might be good from time to time.

Ninety minutes I practiced. There is still time to cook, to clean and to read.

What are you doing all day long?

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What are you doing all day long?

This was a good question.

I try to answer this question for myself so often. Sometimes I find an answer, sometimes not.

Time runs through my fingers.

So often I think: No, impossible It’s already 5 pm. I don’t believe it, but looking a second time at my phone doesn’t change the result. BTW, has anybody still a watch? It seems so old-fashioned for me. Either people use a fitness tracker or a phone to check the time. Time can be measured in steps.

We all have 24 hours. Not a single person on this planet has more time on a daily basis. Our life time varies. Some of us become old, some die young. To be on this globe for 100 years is the fate of some of us. Considering the daily basis we all have 24 hours. We all have to sleep. How much sleep we need varies. We all must eat as well. Substracting all these activities there is still a sufficient amount of time for everybody.

What am I doing all day long?

This question arises at night when I check my calendar and when I plan the next day. Many activities are routines. I also look back. What was yesterday? There are always things undone. I tend to plan too much.

  • I practice yoga and it’s time intensive (2 hours).

  • Like most people I have to do chores and I cook every day (2 hours minimum).

  • I read, I contact friends, I blog, I write (2 hours)

  • I nap and we walk around to stay fit (1 hour 30 minutes)

  • I have not yet mentioned that I like to take photos on a daily basis.

I could go on. It is as if nothing is done. Most activities don’t leave something that remains. Perhaps this is it what creates the feeling that nothing gets done, that time runs through my fingers. I practice, the next day I feel stiff. I clean an area in the flat and soon dust clouds are there again.

Being organized and discarding things is an ongoing topic in my life. Having less things and being organized creates time. Time is luxury. It’s limited. How we spend the time will be one day our memories.

To have too many things is felt as problematic. To have not the tools that we need is experienced as an issue as well.

Too much or too less of anything takes away energy.

Setting priorities helps to create a satisfying day. What is important on a daily basis changes. Yet some activities give structure, they have to be done.

One of my best tips for myself is: Get up early, that is 5 am. When I have my breakfast at 9 am, I have the feeling that the most important activity is already done.

Feel free to share your tips. How do you make the most out of your time?