Creating time and space for my Ashtanga practice

Kurmasana, 2031

Kurmasana, 2031

Today is Friday. The Ashtanga yoga practitioner focus on primary. So did I this morning.

I’m by far not where I used to be a few years back. I’m still weak. Not all vinyasa are possible. I don’t care that much.

Important is:

  1. To practice on a daily basis

  2. To practice in a correct and effective way

Point 1 is challenging.

Point 2 is even more challenging, because what is correct and what is effective is not always clear. I learned a lot in the last years.

In order to stretch one must hold a position longer than 5 breaths. There are also dynamic exercises that are very useful. Stretching can be done twice a day or even more often. A short stretching sequence in the evening can help to fall asleep fast.

When doing strength training the body needs time to recover.

Exploring what other active people do can open eyes. So much knowledge is available these days. Gymnastics, dancer, body weight trainer are learning constantly as well.

In the meantime more and more yogini explore the asana in great detail.

When I started with Asthanga yoga more than a decade ago I learned that Ashtanga yoga focus on the flow, Iyengar yoga focus on the correct performance of the asanas. Yet what is done on a daily basis needs to be done correctly. This avoids injuries and pain. Nobody wants to exercise ineffectively either.

Yoga is time consuming, Time is spent very well, yet sometimes I felt overwhelmed because so much other activities were on my to-do lists, too. My solution for the last months was to discard everything that doesn’t serve the goal to have enough time for what is important to me. This my yoga practice.

I decided to give up knitting and baking. I went through all my social media accounts. It’s too time consuming to feed these greedy pages like Instagram and LInkedIn and Facebook and twitter….. you name it. I prefer to feed my blog. To feed 4 more pages makes me crazy. My blog on Squarespace is a perfect way to reflect on my practice. It’s a great place to document my asana progress and challenges. The rest can go. I give minimum attention to these socials these days. It’s better for my well being to stroll around, to cook something healthy or to read a book.

Yogis live a simple life.

I hope that my progress in having less will allow me to feed my blog more regularly.

Thank you for reading.

Core strength - plank pose

Chaturanga dandasana, March 2021

Chaturanga dandasana, March 2021

Plank pose: The body is supposed to be straight.

From plank pose one can exercise a lot of variations. They have all the purpose to make the body stronger. One can lift one arm or one leg or the right arm and the lift leg and so on. To stay in that position for one minute can be challenging as well.

It’s a great arm exercise when lowering slowly.

Important is to engage the entire body.

One can shift the weight of the body from one hand to the other.

I like that it’s easy to integrate some variations of this position when doing the sun salutations.

The core and the back must be seen together. Shalabhasana gives the opportunity to work on back strength.

All core strength exercises are preparations for the jumping back and forward vinyasa.

My experience is that it’s better to exercise a few core strength exercises that one can integrate in a practice than to aim for another strength practice. Repetition is a key here. Repeat the poses and movements that you like. After a while one can alter the exercises.

Keep practicing.

Ashtanga - jumping back

March is the vinyasa month.

Yesterday I watched a lot of YouTube videos on yoga and also on asanas and vinyasa.

I started with an interview with yogi Swenson, who sat years on my sofa in my practice room via his great book. He’s a yoga teacher and has decades of experience with students. He described the journey of yoga how many experience it: First the learning curve goes up. Then comes a plateau. The plateau might last rather long. It’s when students often stop practicing. After this plateau it gets worse for so many. A setback is experienced. And here I am, but I don’t give up. Since this back injury years! ago I’m not yet where I've been. I’m so much weaker. I lost many asanas and vinyasa. I’m relaxed and keep practicing. The yoga practice per se is so fulfilling no matter how advanced or modest my practice is on a given day.

When I write this blog I don’t come from a situation of I know it all. I am a modest student. I’m looking for the next tiny step.

And here it is. The first step when jumping backwards is to lift up. I use blocks, because my core is not strong enough to lift the body without this useful height of the blocks. .

I also watched a Youtube video by David Garrigues. He got a question from a student. She wrote that she was working on jumping back for 10 years now and she was still not able to do it. She asked if she should give up?

David’s answer was very motivating. If you like to learn a fancy movement give it up. Yet the goal is not that fancy movement, it is to get stronger. Strength is necessary for so many asanas in the series. Strength is so important in general. His recommendation was to lift up and to hold the position as long as possible. Blocks can be used. It helps enormously. To give up on the hidden goal of this crazy movement is not an option.

This morning I practice primary and I lifted myself up between asanas and between sides. It’s so easy to omit this strength exercise. Yet then nothing moves.

When I hear that someone worked on a pose or a movement for 10 years without success I know that the method was not effective. It’s huge tabu in the Ashtanga community. Just doing it again and again might not bring the wished success. One must exercise correctly. The Ashtanga community is huge and in the meantime the asanas are broken down into tiny digestible pieces. There are teacher who share their knowledge on how to learn something correctly. A lot has changed in the meanwhile, yet there is still a lack of information.

One must pick oneself up where one is. So let’s lift up the ‘heavy’ body and let’s count how long one can stay there.

Transitions

March 2020

March 2020

I don’t know how I shall call this asana on the picture. It is an in-between position. There is an overlooked position that I wanted to try. I also avoid it, because it’s scary. It’s lifting the head when in sirsasana. Sirsasana is part of the closing sequence. It’s recommended to stay minimum 25 breaths in that inversion. Yet there is also a variation that one shall exercise. It is to lift the head, the chin moves to the chest.

Because I was so scary I wanted to put one foot at least at the wall. Therefore my head obviously moved in the other direction than I had intended. I bent backwards. I totally lost my straight posture. One of the reason is surely a lack of core strength. All transitions need strength. This is the topic of this month. So from tomorrow on I’ll add some strength exercises in my practice again.

Without strong arms, a strong core, strong muscles in general, transitions become difficult if not impossible.

It’s dark here already, too dark to take another picture.

To lift the head and to move the chin to the chest when in sirsasana is a position I’ll work on. I think it helps to learn pincha mayursana.

A new month, new energy

Urdhva mukha paschimottanasana, Feb 2021

Urdhva mukha paschimottanasana, Feb 2021

It’s March. February somehow went by so fast, that I missed to blog. Here I am again. The focus of this month is the Vinyasa.

When we speak of the vinyasa count in Ashtanga yoga, we count the number of breath that are required from a starting position to an end end position.

The above asana ‘urdhva mukha paschimottanasana’ has 16 vinyasa according to the book ‘Ashtanga yoga’ by Patthabi Jois. It assumes that the student starts from a standing position and returns to that position.

In a daily practice adho mukha svanasana (or down dog position) is the starting point.

When yogis talk about vinyasa they usually refer to a difficult transition like jumping forward or jumping backward. Yet there are much more transitions than the jumping. Every asana is connected with the next position or the next asana.

There are challenging vinyasa and easier ones. Sometimes it can make a huge difference how a yogi moves into an asana. It can make an asana possible or impossible.

Vinyasa is part of the Ashtanga yoga practice.

Other yoga styles have awesome combinations of asanas as well. Yet the vinyasa are not really a focus. In Ashtanga yoga the vinyasa are a focus. They are an invitation to work on strength. The vinyasa system makes the Ashtanga yoga practice rather dynamic and exhausting.

So let’s start this month with fresh energy.

Thank you for reading

The pelvis, the femur and the abdomen

Marichyasana B, left side, Dec 2020

Marichyasana B, left side, Dec 2020

Yesterday I had time to go through my anatomy books. One of the best is ‘Functional Anatomy of Yoga’ * by David Keil. Davis is a practitioner of yoga himself and he has profound knowledge of anatomy. I read the part about forward bending.

I think it can help to understand that what we call hips is the pelvic and the femur. This is the joint we move when we bend forward. That is if we move forward from the hips. It’s usually not recommended to bow the back to stretch forward in order to reach the toes with the hands in paschimottanasana for instance. With a rounded back the hip joint remains unmoved, yet the goal is to enlarge the movement of the hips. Another gaol is to stretch the hamstrings and further muscles that are involved.

It’s worth to have a look of the pelvic and femur. Many pictures can be found online. All pictures show that the hip joint allows to move the leg in all possible directions. I dare to say that ninety percent of the skeletons walking around on this globe are able to put the leg behind the head. Most of us have the potential to do this. Most of us only don’t try it.

Around the bones are the muscles. They might be strong and not stretched at all. That’s the work we yogis do. We stretch the tight muscles. and enlarge the movement of the joints.

David Keil also wrote that it makes not so much sense to engage the abdomen when bending forward because this causes that the back will create a curve. The goal is to keep the back almost straight. I always thought that I engage the abdomen to get excess body fat out of the way. But, no. Today I experimented. Engaging the pelvis floor has no influence on the back, yet engaging the abdomen has. It is counterproductive to what one wants in forward bending asanas.

David Keil’s book is an excellent reference.

Knowing the functioning of our body, our joints and muscles can be useful. It can build confidence. Knowing that the ‘hips’ allow to put the leg behind the head for most people alters the view on those asanas. The asanas are no more considered as extreme. These movements are within our possibilities. We must only exercise them.

*This site contains affiliate links which earn a fee per purchase.

Forward bending asanas from easy to advanced

Baby pose is a very relaxing forward bending asana. It’s accessible for all of us, perhaps not at once. This easy forward bending asana can serve as a counter pose after intensive back bending. To put the arms next to the body makes this asana even more relaxing. With closed eyes and deep breathing also the mind relaxes.

All leg behind head poses are forward bending asanas. It can take decades to get there. These poses require stretched legs and a stretched back. Yet the hip flexibility is evenly important, too. To enlarge the hip flexibility is a further challenge. Many forward bending asanas have more than one challenge. They can have a balancing challenge in addition or they can be combined with an inversion. Stretching and opening the hips require time. We learn to become patient. There are exercises that prepare such asanas like supta kurmasana. I’ll write about it in posts to come.

Being able to bend forward is also a preparation for handstand. It’s good exercise for the vinyasa like floating forwards and backwards. In the above picture I shift my weight to the hands. I hope that one day my feet will leave the ground…Working on a stronger core could be a next step…….All these possibilities are a huge motivation to work on something that ‘boring’ like forward bending. :)

Yesterday I finished a page on this blog. It shows all the asanas of primary Ashtanga Yoga. Primary has mainly forward bending asanas. When one forward asana improves all the others profit from this progress as well. Applying a scientifically approved stretching technique can speed up the progress. To hold an asana longer than only five breaths, but up to five minutes can speed up the progress. Stretching can be done twice a day. To stretch only is not recommended. Strength training balances stretching. Holding an asana longer can be easily integrated in the morning practice. It interrupts the flow. I differentiate between learning sessions and performing sessions.

Today is Friday and the Ashtanga yogis practice primary. So did I. The vinyasa are the challenge these days. I got too weak. This is why next month I like to focus on the vinyasa…….

How do the masters do it?

Sputa hasta padangusthasana, January 2021

Sputa hasta padangusthasana, January 2021

To be a student of yoga and the same time the own teacher can be a challenge. It’s not possible to see oneself from the outside. Picture allow this and it’s worth using this tool. Often one can realize rather fast what needs to get improved. Some tinier things like thumbs who point in the air can be corrected at once. One can discover next steps to improve a pose.

By chance I flipped through the book by B.K.S. Iyengar yesterday. I saw him performing supta hasta padangusthasana. Wow. I know that this pose is challenging. I realized that I avoid the pose.

  1. I obviously tend to move my elbow away from the body. This is something that I could correct easily.

  2. Both legs are stretched. Als the arm that lies on the thigh is stretched. This gives body tension.

  3. When taking care of these things it becomes suddenly a challenge to lift up the body. I couldn’t reach the shin with my chin anymore. My abdomen are too weak. This pose strengthens the abdomen.

The posture on the picture looks so much better than my first attempts.

It’s a very effective method to take pictures of asanas. It goes a step further if one compares these pictures with the asanas of the masters.

As an autodidact or home practitioner one must learn how to learn.

A daily practice is only the beginning…….

Doubts

Forward bending exercise, January 2021

Forward bending exercise, January 2021

Does this all make sense?

Is it worth doing it?

These thoughts are doubts. Doubts are obstacles. When creating a plan, doubts might be useful. Yet when the planning phase is finished, doubts are no more useful. They weaken and sabotage the plan.

My plan is to hold one forward bending asana for 5 minutes during my morning practice and I want to hold one forward bending asana for 5 minutes in the evening during a second yoga session. It’s a modest session with pranayama and relaxing. It’s to cool down and to finish the day.

What is a forward bending asana?

Not always this is crystal clear. Whenever the upper body gets closer to the thighs it’s a forward bending asana. Often a position is a combination of forward bending, balancing and twist. Only back bending and forward bending at the same time is not possible. The above asana is a clear forward bending asanas. There is no balancing part. The body is not twisting. Gravity supports the movement. Yet I also use the my arms to take my stretched legs closer to the body.

Again my question? Does this make sense? Especially when practicing alone the question might come up more often than in a yoga class, when a teacher is recommending an exercise. Teacher might be wrong, too.

How to handle doubts?

Experiment for a limited time. Doubts also come up because we don’t see progress at once. Yet stretching needs time. Perhaps progress is not visible at all after a view sessions, but a pose feels much better and familiar. Perhaps one could manage to breathe deeper than before. This is not visible, yet it’s progress.

Nevertheless it might be that progress is visible. Before and after pictures help to build confidence. They also motivate and can give hints for the next steps.

Confidence cures doubts. Firstly one gives a new method a leap of faith. After a while one can check if it was worth it. If yes, one usually becomes more confident for projects to come.

The method in question?

Hold asanas longer than only 5 breaths how we usually do it in Ashtanga Yoga. I want to hold asanas for as long as 5 minutes. Perhaps this cannot be done at once. To start with a holding time of 1 minute is perfect. Injuries are to be avoided. From here it’s possible to lengthen the holding time. I use an interval timer. After every minute I hear a sound. This structure helps to stay in a pose for five minutes, because it’s rather five times one minute than five minutes.

I’m sure that the method makes sense. It’s tested. It’s rather scientifically proved. Now I add my personal experience. I learn how to learn.

I’ll show other forward bending asanas that make sense to hold longer………

Do it every single day.

First practice - primary

Paschimottanasana, Dez 2020

Paschimottanasana, Dez 2020

Yesterday I prepared today’s practice with gravity training. This morning I stepped on the mat to practice primary. I had practiced during the holidays yet not every day. This morning I realized that we have already the 4th of January 2021. Many yoga challenges have started already. Diligent yogis have practiced already minimum three times. This makes a difference. Four practices is much more than one practice. Even worse, I felt behind. Kino offered a core challenge, cyogalife created a new demanding January challenge that started with handstand. There is Wednesdaywheel, Thursdayswesplit. I’ve still a handstand workshop in my inbox. Mentally I cancelled everything.

My topic in January is forward bending. This can be very challenging.

Forward bending asanas are part of all four Ashtanga Yoga series.

So why should we exercise to bend forward?

No other movement is so part of our daily life than forward bending. When we want to pick up something from the floor, we bend forward. When we tie our shoes we bend forward. It’s possible to avoid the stretch. I know people who sit on a chair when they put on their shoes. Over time this movement becomes more and more difficult till some of us will need help to put on their shoes. Many people gain weight which makes it even more difficult to bend forward. This is the sad truth.

My mother in law is 96 years old. In summer time she works in the garden every day. She bends forward with stretched legs to weed. At her advanced age she is able to put on her shoes, of course. We needn’t get stiff only because we age. Exercise is necessary. Exercising forward bending asanas will allow to stay independent.

This is huge. To stay independent when stretching and exercising. What is this bit of stretching discomfort in comparison?

Everything gets easier when slim and well-nourished.

To eat well and not too much makes a difference as well. Holidays are over. I had a plan and I sticked to it. I didn’t gain weight, which was a relief. Returning to our home we always return to a tiny healthy breakfast with protein (oatmeal and almond milk) and fruit. We still have lockdown due to Corona. I cook every day. I often prepare something raw, a salad for instance. We always eat vegetables.

Start a healthy diet or get back to your healthy routine. This is a good start of the year, whenever this is. I needed three days to be back on the wagon.

Nutruition and yoga (and exercising in general) belong together. Unhealthy food or beverages can sabotage progress.

Forward bending is the basis of many asanas to come. Also those who want to learn press handstand must be able to fold forward deeply.

Stretching takes time, so why not starting with forward bending?

First steps:

  • Clear the why?

  • Reflect on your nutrition and eat healthy and not too much.

  • Make a plan. Daily exercising is recommended.

I wish my readers and yogini a happy and intensive new year 2021. Let’s start.

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.