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…. 🙂

 

UNPLUG from age

I wrote this post some time ago and thought about it today. It’s my birthday in a couple of days and my practice this morning didn’t made me feel my age, which was just fantastic! I know, it’s different each time and I don’t take it for granted. But a good reason to repost the below!

Discover the magic
Unplug from the ordinary and discover the extraordinary. Free yourself from the idea of age. Yes, agree, that’s quite a difficult one and I’m struggling myself. Yoga teaches me to believe in myself. As long as you love what you do, don’t care about anything.

There’s just one thing you should be aware of when you passed your 20s and 30s and 40s and are not already a super-duper yoga pro, doing handstand on your index finger: Stop comparing yourself to the 20 years old girl next to you.

It’s not about ‚she can do and you can’t‘. Not about her perfect body and your body showing a tiny little bit the fun you had in life so far (yes, you read it, bloody amazing experiences, I know!).

Our whole body simply works different at certain ages. Our body change and sometimes we might recognize this as something negative. But it’s not. It’s just different. We might get less stable and scarier than we were 10 years ago. Even if you work hard, there are no guaranteed results. Life doesn’t work that way.

Try changing your perspective to one of gratitude over what you can do, right now. Try changing your expectations. It’s not about that fancy posture, it’s about your inner connection and peace. You’ll progress anyway!

The beauty of age is to not care anymore and just do what you want. Becoming a yoga teacher in your 50s? Go for it! Worrying that you can’t do it same way as all the youngsters? True, you won’t. You’ll do it differently and your students will appreciate your approach. Just trust in yourself and do whatever you love. There’s no better guidance as love and passion. Accept who you are. Where you are. Live your dreams, without struggling with thoughts of right and wrong. You are never too old for anything.

Be driven by love. End of story.

༺♡༻

Back or forth?

Are you a forward folder or a back bender? I once heard that we tend to be either one or the other, well if not made of rubber of course. I have to admit, it’s very true for me. I’m a forward folder and I love it. My back is rather rounded and stiff, it’s difficult for me to go backwards. Physically spoken! As going backwards in any other meaning than physically isn’t just difficult, but a no go for me. I only know one direction, forward. Haha, yes, there it is, must be a connection. Well I leave it with this, even if my mind is just telling me stories about optional deep psychological interpretations… not now, not here!

I’d like to tell you about forward folds and hamstrings. I’m talking about a group of muscles placed on the backside of our thighs. I have an intense relationship with my beauties, a daily conversation, as they are kind of shilly-shally, everyday in a different mood. Some days very open and soft, which makes all forward folds such a pleasure, other days stiff, hard and full of tension.

„To breathe into and release the hamstrings can be very upsetting. We store many powerful emotions, such as suppressed anger, competitiveness, and fear of inadequacy, in our hamstring muscles. All suppressed emotions are potentially crippling to our health: they are toxic and have an impact on our personality…“

(Ashtanga Yoga, Practice & Philosophy, by Gregor Maehle)

Here you go, one reason! Another reason is that we spend too much time sitting, which shortens our hamstrings. Changing habits helps of course, as well as regular practice.

When working on your hamstrings it’s not just about stretching. We need both, lengthen and strengthen them. Always be careful, listen to them, treat them thoughtful and respect whatever they present you with that moment. Send your breath into the hamstrings and actively let all tension go with each exhale. Instead of forcing, go with the yin approach and get soft together with your hamstrings. Allow them to open in their own time and appreciate all they do for you!