No asana is isolated

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No asana is isolated.

  • To get into and out of an asana belongs to an asana as well. There are often different possibilities how to get into an asana. Sometimes this makes a huge difference. How to get out of an asana belongs to an asana as well. The Ashtanga yoga practitioners connect the different asanas with a rather dynamic movement. Other styles recommend to rest between asanas. Yesterday I attended a Sivananda class. We were asked to lie on our back to relax after having performed a couple of similar asanas. The difference is huge. It can make a practice exhausting or relaxing.

  • Most asanas have easier versions and more advanced versions.

  • Many asanas allow variations.

  • After every asana should follow a less even intensive counterpose. After twisting to the right side one twists to the left side. After inversions baby pose is recommended. Forward bending asanas are balanced via a soft back bending asana and the other way round.

If one reflects on these possibilities, the understanding of a yoga practice deepens. First stands the analysis: Is the asana a twist, a forward bending asana, a balancing asana or is it a combination of balancing and twist and so on? Once the asana is analyzed one can vary it.

  • Injuries might force us to work around an asana and to adjust it to our needs.

  • In order to approach a challenging asana it can be useful to exercise an easier version and to get step by step closer to the original version.

  • We have all different strength. If twists are easier, why not practicing more advanced twists?

  • To vary asanas keeps the mind attentive.

A simple way to challenge oneself is t hold an asana longer.

Repetitions often allow to go deeper in a pose when performing an asana the second or third time. Often the second and third time the asana seems to be easier.

Repetitions and holding asanas up to one minutes are effective learning methods.

These reflections finally allow us to create a practice that fits to our personal needs.

For me Ashtanga yoga gives me a perfect skeleton of an intensive yoga practice. After more than a decade of practicing this yoga style some asanas of even primary are not as I wish they were. I work on these asanas more intensively now instead of trying them, holding them for 5 breaths and then moving on to the next asana. This method was obviously not that effective.

Picture: It shows arch matsyendrasana. In Ashtanga yoga on arm is behind the back. If you don’t have very long arms it’s very likely that you don’t reach the thigh with your hand. The arm is then more or less in the air. If the arm is posed on the floor it can support the twist (see first picture). Tiny changes can make a huge difference.

Back bending

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Thursday:

I practiced before breakfast. Before breakfast is the best time to practice. After an exhausting practice the breakfast tastes so delicious, so deserved. This is of course not the main reason. To twist and stretch with a full stomach feels awfully.

Today was my back bending day. Time flies so fast that 90 minutes are too short for a full second series. I do a lot of extra asanas.

Every day I do the splits do stretch the front side of the body. I also practice urdhva dhanurasana against the wall. I repeat ustrasana up to three times. I think that this time is not wasted. I realize progress. Repetitions and holding the asanas for 1 minute minimum is useful.

I also practice variations. To lift the arm while practicing urdhva dhanurasana might help psychologically. One arm is already up, so it seems possible to come up. Right now I’m still working on getting the hands closer to the legs.

Patience is necessary.

Yesterday Carmen (cyogalife on Instagram) published two back bending picture, one was taken in 2015 the other one in 2020. When I saw the former picture I thought that she was very close to reach her calves. It still took 5 years!!!! till she was there. Even she thought that she had been close already to catch the calves. She didn’t expect to need 5 years to reach the calves. Yoga can teach not to give up.

If something is difficult it’s also often attractive. Things that are too easy to accomplish seem boring. That’s why talented flexible strong yogini often give up the practice entirely.

In the meantime I see advantages if something is tough. One learns patience. Difficulties invite to reflect on the method. One learns to learn.

Karl Lagerfeld once said: I love the battle field.

In life we learn more when facing difficulties. It’s the same on the mat.

I know there is a long way to go to the calves. Step by step a lot can be accomplished. First the hands shall walk closer to the feet. One day urdhva dhanurasana will feel fantastic again.

The trap

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Yesterday I postponed my yoga practice. I had so much to do. First I wanted to practice in the early afternoon, but it got evening till I found time again. Every single task takes longer as planned. I was no more motivated to practice at 6:30 pm, but I did it. My stomach was still full, this made the twists almost impossible.

To practice in the morning before breakfast is so much more satisfying. Today I heard my alarm clock. I got up and practiced at 7:30 am. What a difference. To practice before breakfast in the early morning is the best time.

It’s a trap to think that it’s OK to postpone a yoga practice. Finally it’s more important to practice than any other activiiy, duty, or whatever. When I practice yoga I care for myself, I take care of my health. What is more important?

As mentioned already, the older one gets the more important it is to have a daily routine. Breaks are difficult. The body gets weak and stiff very fast. To practice every day at the same time helps to create a habit.

Today I practiced primary, that is mainly forward bending asanas. I add asanas like the asana on the picture. I learn them during the January challenge created by Carmen (cyogalife). Often these asanas are challenging. It offers the possibility to explore different movements.

Now I’ve time for all the other ‘important’ activities………

Hanumanasana

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I practice the split poses every day. Usually my body is upright and my hands are on blocks. Getting into hanumanasana means that one must stretch.

How to stretch safely:

  1. Practice daily.

  2. Be patient and trust the process.

  3. Feel the stretching pain. It will fade away after a while. Go a bit deeper. How far can you go without over stretching? This is your personal knowledge you acquire. Get to know your limits and get a bit beyond them, not too much.

  4. Practice stretching exercises only after a warm up.

  5. Repeat this pose three times.

  6. Hold the pose up to one minute. Start with a couple of breaths. Change sides. Repeat. This time it should be possible to get a bit deeper and to hold the pose longer.

  7. Again be attentive. Don’t overdo. Injuries are setbacks. Practice responsibly.

I practice this pose as a preparation for back bending. When the body is upright the front side of the hips gets stretched enormously. Being flexible on the front side of the hips is very useful when bending backwards.

Keep breathing.

Marichyasana D and Ahimsa

When I saw these pictures I laughed. I practice at home these days. I swear I wash at least my face before practicing asanas, but I obviously didn’t comb my hair. It’s up and not in the way.

Interesting is to see the difference between picture three and picture four. At picture number three my hand had reached the wrist already. The back is arched. With an inhaling I stretched the upper body. Most of the time the poses allow a development. I’m sure I can bring my right shoulder more backwards. Then the twist will deepen. Most important is that this asana feels good. This is not the case in the beginning. It took me a long time till this pose felt good. But I’ve been there.

It depends on the weight if I can perform certain twists or not. I don’t even try some twists like pashasana after Christmas i.e.. To overindulge is not part of a yogic life style. Yoginis eat modest and vegan. When I started yoga teacher recommended a vegetarian diet. The reason was Ahimsa. A yogini lives a nonviolent life. To eat tortured and killed animals is so last century. These days well informed people (not only yoginis) eat vegan. It’s good for the planet, the animals and yourself. It’s not only good, it’s necessary. Then the twists are easy as well. Everybody will have to change sooner or later, but we yoginis can be role models.

Practicing only the asanas without a complementing life style is of course also good for the body, the mind and the soul, but then the activity deserves the name asana gym. Why not. It’s a beginning. The asana practice will teach that the asana practice itself becomes easier with a vegan diet. We all start somewhere. Step by step we develop. The steps might be tiny, but the direction is clear.

It surprised me that even Sharath emphasized in his last book how important it is to take care of the food we eat.

Stay healthy.

Eat vegan. Do your asana practice. Do pranayama. Meditate. Chose your issues wisely.

The one goal

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The one goal in 2020 is to come up from this urdhva dhanurasana. This is part of primary. I was told that I was able to come up already by different advanced teachers. My feeling was that I needed help to come up, always. I lost strength and flexibility in the meantime, but I have a plan and a method how to get where I’ve been and beyond.

In order to perform this deep back bending strong arms are necessary. One must lift up the body. Also if one drops back, the arms must have the strength to stretch against the floor and to hold the body. Nobody likes to fall on the head.

In yoga classes students often lie on their backs, they seem to relax. I fear they try to postpone this asana at least for a couple of minutes. It seems so hard to get into the pose. This is exactly what one has to do. To lift up again and again makes the arms stronger. If it’s possible to lift up 10 times, to lift up once is a piece of cake.

To hold the asana up to one minute or longer helps to get more flexible. The closer the hands are to the feet the easier it is to hold the pose. It’s easier to come up, too. The wrists are less challenged. This can be a motivation to work on this asana.

The January challenge on Instagram is rather interesting. It’s the same since many years. Yogins publish older posts of the same asanas:

  1. Many might not be part of the party anymore.

  2. On some pictures I see no difference even though years are between the first picture and the last one. I don’t believe that these yoginis have reached their limits. Either they have not practiced regularly or their method to deepen an asana is not effective.

  3. Then there are those yoginis who made progress a lot. 5 years ago handstand looked like a banana. This year it’s perfect. I know that hard work must be done to get an inch more flexibie. Strength doesn’t come from alone either.

  4. Another group have setbacks. I belong to this group. I don’t publish older pictures. Past is past. One cannot foresee the future when looking into the back rear. I practice and give my best every day. What this is, is very volatile. Who cares…… Nothing is really important.

A daily practice and an effective method to learn an asana will show results sooner or later. It might take years, but who cares. One must fall in love with the process.

January challenge 2020

Finally at home again. I was already one asana behind with this January challenge on Instagram created by cyogalife . The new algorithm on Instagram punishes users who publish more than one pictures a day. This is what I heard and this is why in the meantime informed users only add one picture a day. Instead of more attention one gets less if one is flooding the stream with too many pictures or videos. I came to the conclusion that an algorithm won’t be my next tyrant. I’m up to date again. Today I published 2 pictures within a very short time. Haha….I hope that I’m a tiny bit more flexible and a tiny bit stronger tomorrow morning.

I got up at 5 am. My new year has started today. At home I have room. I can put my camera far away from the mat, when I want to take pictures. It’s calm here and warm. I can be alone. As much as I love traveling and visiting family and friends as much I love to be at home again.

Having a project is motivating. Being part of such a wonderful online community of yoga practitioners is fantastic. It’s still time to join.

Headstand or handstand?

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Conditions are often not ideal. Yet for a headstand only a tiny place is necessary. One can be in a headstand for 5 minutes or 3 minutes or 1 minute. One can finish this tiny practice with 5 minutes meditation. Sometimes this can be enough. Every practice and might it a short one anchors the body and the mind. Focusing on the breathe is relaxing.

I’m not sure if I’ll have time for a full primary tomorrow. But I’m sure that I’ll have time for a few asanas.

Cyogalife has started a new January challenge on Instagram. It’s every year the same 28 asanas that yoginis publish, one after the other till January is over. The intention is to check if progress can be seen after a year. The first asana was handstand. I substituted this asana with headstand. I tried a handstand and was very surprised that I was suddenly up. My feet touched the wardrobe. But the shape was not good. It was a banana. It’s better and safer to build up strength first. Perhaps I post a handstand next year. Within a year a lot can happen.