Ashtanga Police

Commitment has a downside. When practicing Ashtanga Yoga we commit to practice 6 days a week. And yes, there are days, when I can’t manage to get up that early. Days when I feel weak. Days other plans cross badly. 

However working at home allowed me all of a sudden to practice in the morning, bringing more flexibility into my life. What a relief! And still, there are weak spots. The moment I notice I won’t practice at all, or time only allows for half the series, or I even practice and test a class I will teach later that day instead of doing my practice…. I feel bad. 

I can hear the Ashtanga Police knocking on my door. Guilty.  

Isn’t this – yes, bullshit. Let’s get it clear: 

Listening to my body has become my priority. When not feeling good, I go slow and I listen, I feel. Eventually practice less, or do Yin Yoga. I might even just sit and meditate, followed by some pranayama. 

When I didn’t sleep the night, staying one hour longer in bed might be more important. Being prepared for my classes a must and this too can be my practice once in a while. Everything is practice.

There is no Ashtanga Police 😉 They won’t come and knock on my door to put the guilty stamp on me. It’s this voice in me talking. Time to make a deal with this voice and send the so called Ashtanga Police to the land where the pepper grows. And once and for all, stop judging myself.

Guess what? This too is Yoga. This too is commitment.

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

Yoga saved my life

This is a bold statement. I don’t even know if this is right or wrong, but I truly believe it kind of saved me.

What a year! No one could have predicted all the collective obstacles we’re facing, not to mention the individual ones. I see them as life lessons and new opportunities. 

Additionally I found myself this year in a very challenging situation in my job, which grew over months into a massive work overload. The stress factor wasn’t just 14 hours work per day and also the last weekends, but the fact that I had and have full responsibility, not knowing if I can manage it and all the effort and struggle will pay off. Pressure on me!

I faced the peak almost 2 weeks ago, when my body started internally shivering and I just thought, gosh no, I’m 2 steps away from burning out. Breathe. Trust. Relax. One more week to go. I can do this. And I did. 

So what’s this about yoga? In this stressful time, I kept on practicing every day. Almost. It was nearly impossible to get up in the morning, so I rarely managed to do the full practice, but I was on the mat, no matter what. This was the little me time I had before I jumped into the next crazy day. My practice made my day. It gave me focus and strength and yes, helped of course my body to move and deal with the many hours of sitting. 

But it was much more. Breathing, feeling my body, being with me, connected. I always start my practice in childs pose. The knees wide, so I can relax and merge into the posture. This already is the moment of ahhhhhhhhhhh. When lifting one leg up in down dog, I hear the joints cracking, hello, wake up! The opening prayer, the series, no matter how much of it, makes me feel so good…. 

In extreme times we can notice even better what the practice does for us. Physically and mentally. Just keep on going, no matter what.

Struggles

This year is a challenge for many and it is for me. No, this isn’t another covid post, my challenge is a different one. It’s seems to be the year of pain for me. It all started when I broke my ribs in February. After months of recovery, the other side of the ribs made trouble. Not broken, but bad pain. Recovery again. And a third time. It’s end September and I’m still not fully through it. Exhausting. 

Additionally my leg plays games with me, that bad, that some days even walking becomes a problem. I had a bad accident about 25 years ago and my leg likes to remind me here and there, but not as bad as it does now.

How does this affect my yoga practice? A lot! I had to step back from a 5-6 days Ashtanga practice to „let’s see what I can do“. From absolutely nothing, followed by a bit of yin yoga to a modified Ashtanga practice, and backwards and forwards. A mix which is difficult when used to a rather strong Ashtanga regime. I always liked yin, it’s a beautiful change and add on to the Ashtanga world, however, being forced into something isn’t the same.

I’m suffering on the mat. 

Physically due to the pain and trying to gently figure out where to stop and not overdo, but also find the right level of challenge. To not forget the mental dimension, thoughts such as „I will never make it to where I was“, „I can’t do it“, „my body get’s weaker and weaker“, you name it. Same time, I also feel grateful that I still can practice! Unfortunately this doesn’t stop those slamming thoughts. 

There are these days, when I practice, even with modifications, and just feel happy. Yes, I’ll be back soon. It’s a damn rollercoaster.

I’m suffering off the mat. 

Physically due to a lack of strong practice, all of a sudden my hamstrings complain a lot, guess they thought, great, let’s go on holidays forever! Well, many muscles, tendons and joints tell me, you should have relaxed on the sofa, let’s get rid of that mat!

At the end, this makes me rather laugh, this is the „sweet“ pain. It’s my mind bothering me more. „Give it up, you just can’t do it anymore“, „at your age, go find something matching“. But also thoughts like „you don’t have any discipline anymore“, „you don’t have any will, you’re just weak“, „you should have done this“, „you’re so lazy“….

All my challenges show me how important my practice is, physically and mentally, and yes, I will continue, no matter how difficult it is, as giving up has never been an option.

Urdhva Padmasana

Urdhva Padmasana – one of my favorite postures, as it combines inversion, stretch and balance. The pressure at the thyroid brings my attention up and the posture as such allows some fine tuning in the entire body until feeling steady.

Each time you reach this state of steadiness and ease, it feels like arrived. The posture feels stable, easy and makes me wonder why it was such an effort to reach this state. It’s the same for most postures that don’t come naturally. The moment headstand felt like this, I thought, finally, I’m there. Wrong. Totally wrong. An injury threw me out of my practice and inversions moved far away. Once again. Nothing is for granted only because you were there once. Insecurity and mistrust in my body instead. I know this by now and I also know it’s just a matter of slowly getting back. Accepting the weakness through injury, building up step by step. No doubts, but patience. Consistency. Forgiving. Learning. Benevolence. Trust. Ease. And back you are.

Once the body is back, it doesn’t mean the posture can be easily accessed. And no way to push yourself. It’s the mind that need to follow!

Janu Shirshasana C

Janu Shirshasana C is said to help activate and balance the muladhara chakra as it can release any tension held in the legs or lower abdomen. It is also associated with stimulating the bladder meridian in Chinese medicine, which helps one to manage change in life.

For me it feels like a 3D version of Janu A and B, getting kind of consolidated or complete with this foot position. 

Go for it

These babysteps. They are progress too. Don‘t underestimate the little things, they do count. Armbalances are difficult for me. I have the strength, the balance, know the technique, but there‘s something in my mind holding me back. It‘s called fear. Hard to get hold of it, particularly when it doesn‘t make sense. What for? Falling? Against the wall? It even gets worse with age. However, I’m so grateful to still be able to overcome the fears and just progress. Even if it takes time, babysteps. Kick age!

I‘m practicing hand- and forearmstand since some time and finally could hold it long enough for some pics today. It felt amazing to not only be off the wall, but hold it a bit. Once there, it‘s kind of easy, weightless. I know, not fully straight, this play starts now!

Another point to be aware of is, that technique and knowledge is in your mind, you need to translate and integrate it into your body language to be able to practice it. Any technique is worthless when you don‘t feel it in your body.

Does your morning routine impact your day?

Did anything changed for you in this time? Over the last few weeks I managed to implement a new morning routine – thanks to the lockdown. I love working from home! It’s so important how we start a day…. Usually I got up very early in the morning to go to the office before the major traffic makes driving impossible, so I was in a rush. Which means I started into the day already with stress. As I have issues sleeping, there’s no point to even get up earlier, I’m grateful for every additional minute in bed. A catch 22. 

These days are very different. I start with hot lemon water and a shower, I check my work emails, meetings and to do’s for the day and then I sit to meditate for 30-40 minutes. In silence with the only sound of my diffuser, enriching the air with beautiful scents. Additionally I put a drop of either Sandalwood or Blue Lotos on my 3rd eye, crown chakra and collarbones and just sit, doing nothing, not physically, nor mentally. It needs about 15 minutes for me before my body gets heavy, movements are not even possible anymore and my mind to pause with the incoming thoughts. Slowly I start seeing. Images, that can be clear or only show parts or colors. No judgment, no wondering, no questions, no answers. Just taking it in, letting it happen, what ever is there for me. Sometimes I go into these scenes, not being the observer anymore. Sometimes when I see myself, I merge with that part of me to experience this particular moment. This also happens naturally, I don’t force anything.

After that I enjoy a matcha latte outside, no matter the weather. Sitting on my dining table in the garden, enjoying nature and my precious state of calmness. This stillness inside is magic. This moment is magic. Now I’m ready for the day, fully connected to myself, calm and open. Any yeah, still in time for the business world.

I wish I could also fit my yoga practice into the morning, but still, sleep is important. I do this on the weekends and it’s a huge difference to practice in this state of calmness! Anyhow, for now, the yoga practice finds another time during the day or evening. Having this too in the morning might be a next step 😉

What’s your morning routine and how important is it for you?