Katonah Yoga

Four intense training days of Katonah Yoga. A great concept based on Taoist theory, geometry, magic, mythology, metaphor, and imagination.

A body in an asana becomes origami, form becomes function, and measurement becomes key. 

My body was challenged, naming rather basic postures can’t do’s, while granting me break-throughs in poses I never imagined I could ever do. Yes, I had my feet behind my head, shoulders and arms in front. Ups.

My mind was flipping between an overload of information, chaos and structure. Love and hate, happiness and frustration. Struggles and insights. The entire bloody package. 

Loads of stuff to absorb and integrate, input for my own growth as well as my teachings. Lots to work with and I’m keen to do so. However, it was rather a surprise to feel kind of confirmed, that my Ashtanga home practice is my perfect match. It showed me what Ashtanga did for me, through me, with me, during the last couple of years. A huge transformation. Which is supposed to go on, with new options to organize myself – my stability, ability and imagination.

Every method, every approach has its individual beauty, there is no right or wrong; however, it always feels so good to add some new ingredients to the meal. 

Bon appétit!

High energy

Do you feel it already? It’s not only the first Full Moon and Supermoon (when the moon is closest to Earth) of the year, but also a total Lunar Eclipse – coming up between this Sunday and Monday. There are loads of readings out there if you are interested, as I won’t step into any astrological findings here. 

I’m feeling this huge energy since yesterday afternoon. My practice in the morning wasn’t affected, however, it came up a bit later. My mood shifted from laughing to sadness, and everything in-between. This emotional seesaw was my companion of the day and evening.

This morning I started my practice careful. Listening to my body and my mood. As usual I turned music on, not this kind of yoga music, I prefer some good beats when practicing at home. I couldn’t stand it. Awful. I switched to some slow pling-plong background something. Much better. My practice mirrored this – poor strength, less flexibility. Alright, I adapted. Appreciating the clear signs, so I don’t harm myself. My practice was still Ashtanga, but slow, mindful, skipping some postures and Vinyasas to honor my bodys’ messages. I’m happy I practiced anyhow, and very grateful for being that connected, feeling the energies around and within.

What does this Full Moon mean for your practice? Be mindful yogi, always listen to your body and be even more attentive the next days. Take a rest day tomorrow and use the time to meditate or if you want some physical practice, go for a slow Yin Yoga sequence. Use the moon energy to focus on yourself and what’s going on within. Grant yourself some time tomorrow and think detoxing, cleaning, charging. Think let go and same time abundance.

Happy Full Moon!

Props

Are you using props?

Different yoga styles, different approaches. It’s nothing about right or wrong, each approach is right. Coming from an Ashtanga background, I’m not much into props, as we say, if you can’t reach a posture, you’re not ready yet. Simple like that and I fully agree. However, if being really picky, a mat could also be counted as a prop, but I think this is a bit of a stretch, isn’t it. I definitely need a proper mat to avoid slipping, which can really be an issue. However, I sometimes use a block for a supported bridge pose to carefully open my body before going into full posture, urdhva dhanurasana. I’m not a backbender, my body prefers to fold forward, so this is a soft opening as an entry point. Even if I’m an Ashtanga devotee, I also believe, that it’s not about blindly following the rules, but the most important thing is to listen to my body. Accepting where I am that day, open, flexible and strong or rather stiff and exhausted with complaining muscles and joints. That’s life and I learned to accept and work with it. Also if this means using props or skipping a vinyasa here and there…. Finally, it’s my practice and there’s nobody to judge me, apart from my ego 😉

The yoga wheel is also a nice tool to play with. Not part of my practice, but part of playing, same here for supporting my body going backwards.

When it’s about my students, I’m not that strict, I allow them to use blocks and even a strap if it comes to hasta padangusthasana or binding in supta kurmasana, as I believe it leverages the learning curve in some postures significantly. Blocks can be very useful particularly for beginners, when eventually even sitting in easy pose with a long and straight spine is already a huge challenge. Just sitting on a block can be a game changer.

When it comes to yin yoga, the world is a different one. While we can do this style without props, I really prefer using them and everything can be used as a prop. We stay for 3 to 10 minutes in a posture and should make it as comfortable as possible. In this case, comfort is queen! After some minutes, a posture usually starts to get challenging anyhow, and we should be able to fully focus on our breath, releasing and letting go.

How about you? Props yes or no?

The impact of the season

The summer is definitely gone when the coconut oil isn’t liquid anymore! The summer here was a very hot and dry one, which made most of my students getting exhausted quite quickly. I love to practice in the heat. It’s so much easier for the joints, the muscles…. well, the whole body is softer, much more flexible. I felt strong, filled with energy. Furthermore, I’m under the impression my body forgives easier in the heat when I push too much. 

Season is changing right now, the temperature went down, the long desired rain is there. While the plants outside might feel a relief, my body started complaining. Some pain here, less stamina there… I know I need to practice with a stronger focus and fully aware to avoid injury. My Ashtanga practice was difficult today, the change is in my body. Got the message and put yin yoga on my schedule for tomorrow. Also using different essential oils to minimize the impact of the season change. 

How about you? Do you feel the seasons in your body? Is there any that supports your practice?

Freedom 

The older I get, the more does my yoga practice change. No, I’m not talking about anything I can’t do anymore, on the contrary, I’m taking about freedom.

The freedom to decide what it means to dedicate myself to a daily practice. Yes, it means to show up. No, it doesn’t mean to practice the full primary series 6 days a week. Well there are weeks when I do exactly this, but the difference is, my dedication is to practice yoga in a way that suits my body needs that particular day. 

This means letting go of bondage. I do practice on my mat daily. Without feeling guilty to listen to my body and do exactly what I need that moment. Mindful practice without forcing myself. Some days this might mean practicing yin yoga. Others I might do some sun salutations and a simple flow to get my body long and stretched. It can also mean to just sit in stillness and meditate. Challenging enough! And still most days, I do the full primary series. Some days I think, let’s do a slow flow following some matching music, while some time later I recognize that I’m in the midst of my Ashtanga practice. And it feels great to just move without thinking, led by my body, doing what I love.

I also let go of the need to master advanced postures. I know they will come anyhow when I’m ready. Working on them without pressure and the need to follow the crowd. This too is yoga.

This is what I call freedom. It’s my practice and I stopped judging me. No labels needed, it’s just that, yoga. This is my way to create space in body and mind.

 

Photo by Nadja Kappeler

In love with Marichyasana B!

Did you know, it’s named after the sage, Marichi, which means “ray of light” – isn’t it beautiful?

It is said to stimulate and calm the brain, while stretching the spine and shoulders. As one leg is placed in half lotus, it stimulates the colon and massages the abdominal organs, such as the liver and kidneys. Marichyasana B is associated with the manipura chakra and such a great posture for taking the attention and focus inwards.

These are the facts, however, for me it’s a pose to release. There are many different things to feel, a deep stretch here, a bit of pressure there, and I can feel my body slowly accepting and releasing. I’m facing steadiness and ease like in no other posture. Rather easy, but same time complex due to the combination of half lotus and binding.

Honestly, the only asana I breathe extra slow and sometimes I find myself counting and counting…. oh 5, yeah, it was 5 breath…. 🙂