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

Asana or tapas?

A posture is achieved when effort stops and the mind is merging meditatively into infinity.

In morden yoga practices, we call the postures asanas. However, following Patanjali’s yoga sutras, the term asana only refers to a seated posture, literally asana meaning „seat“. This could be Padmasana (Lotus pose), or any other seated pose, with the aim to sit firm and still for a longer period of time. Obviously this is not Bharadvajasana, as in the picture!


Interestingly in the early times of yoga, any standing and dynamic postures have rather been named tapas. Studying the yoga philosophy we might find the term tapas translated as devotional austerity, but literally it means „heat“.

So, how comes that we are calling the postures asanas? Shouldn’t tapas be the better matching term for what our physical practice is today? Well, our asana practice today has at least a similar ambition – through steadiness and ease, reaching a state of moving meditation.

Ashtanga

Good morning practice! 

I played with the 2nd, the intermediate series recently – fuuuuun! While some of the super fancy transitions and advanced inversions are still out of reach for me right now, I was quite surprised that many postures are fully accessible for me and I’am quite close to others. 

Someone said once, if you always do the same, you can’t expect different results. Well, I don’t agree when it comes to the yoga practice. In the Ashtanga method we do exactly that, we practice the same sequence, the same postures every day. And with this slide more and more into a moving meditation. But not just that, with practice, the body opens, we go deeper and deeper into the poses. Once in a while I try a posture that I couldn’t access before and notice that all of a sudden I can. Without even working on this specific pose. The body changed.

And I’m transitioning more and more into the next series. A new chapter to start, exciting!

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. 

Upavista Konasana

Upavista Konasana was a long journey for me and I thought I will never reach the ground with my upper body. Even if not flat yet, I‘m down! It was never a posture that had too much of my attention, as I know it’s a matter of open hips and long hamstrings and it’s an intense stretch of the insides of the legs. Nothing to force, but slowly develop. It’s all about patience. Haha, my strength! Not. At. All.

This posture is a fabulous teacher. Everything is possible and comes when the time is right. When we are ready. The body open, the mind without the intent to push. Allowing the body to immerse into the asana and eventually one day we’re in. And if not? Well, I don‘t worry anymore, I just practice. 

Hesitation

Hesitation comes when there’s something we want to do, but doubt we can do it by just being ourselves.

Ups. Read that again:

Hesitation comes when there’s something we want to do, but doubt we can do it by just being ourselves.

Trust that being yourself is all you need! Love who you are! Life is tailor made for you, life happens FOR you. Take a break if you need one, but never stop. Keep on walking your path, trust your intuition. Put yourself into the driver seat, change what needs to be changed, it’s your life, your journey, your decision.

It’s exactly the same when it comes to your practice. Just feel it and do it. It might be slow here and there, that’s totally fine, just don’t stop. If you can’t practice, e.g. due to an injury or sickness, remind yourself what yoga is. No, it’s not just about performing asanas. Keep on going, keep on practicing, you are on the right path!

Feel it darling

Where are your feelings coming from? Check in to yourself and figure that out. Where do they sit in your body? Are they truly yours? Or are you adapting to the mood of the person you’re talking to? To the news you’re reading? To what you think you should feel? Do you know the situation when facing an angry person and how this affect you? Even if the anger isn’t pointed to you? It is ok to be compassionate, but not to take these feelings over. They are not yours. At your core, stay with what you feel, what’s yours. It might not seem to be appropriate in certain circumstances, anyhow own them and stay true to yourself. 

We are driven by our thoughts and believes, which express themselves through what or how we feel. Your feelings are dependent on your thoughts and vice versa. Meaning, allowing yourself to smile and feel happy (even if you don’t feel like at that moment) will also change your thoughts. A powerful interaction!

Put a drop of your favourite uplifting oil into the palms of your hands, rub them and hold them in front of your nose, so you can inhale the support they give. They do their work in your body, you will feel it immediately. I love Bergamot to lift me up, Sandalwood to ground me, Cardamon to make me feel cosy and home, Tumeric to make me „fly“ and the new Adaptiv, which allows me to deal much better with my daily duties and not get overwhelmed.

Own your feelings, change them if you want to, but always stay true to yourself.