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.