Steadiness and ease

I remember quite well when I heard this for the first time; it was in my teacher training and my only thought was: now she (my teacher) lost her mind.

I was sweating my heart out, my concentration at a peak, my muscles sore, my entire body a mess of tension. Ease? Really? I rather felt like made of concrete, ease was a term I wasn’t even dreaming of!

It took some time to get an idea of what this means, to find steadiness and same time ease in a posture. Stability and consistency without effort. When holding a posture, while being in correct alignment, there’s a certain moment when it feels just easy, almost like a relief! This is ease.

The best postures to understand the concept of steadiness and ease for me are headstand and handstand. There is this moment, when all of a sudden you feel weightless, your body is in every detail in the right alignment. As if you can stay forever in this posture, almost levitating.

This happens when it all comes together: concentration and an inward view through drishti (focus point), proper ujjayi breath, stability through activating  the bandhas and correct alignment. For me it’s additionally about not thinking how to do a pose, but just do it. 

Then your yoga starts.

Embrace the unexpected

I didn’t manage to sleep last night and when the alarm told me to get up this morning, everything in me shouted loud and clear “NO!” Tuesday morning means an extra early start as I teach an early bird class. So no excuses. Luckily, traffic had mercy on me and I arrived early. It was still dark outside, candles were burning next to my mat and I sat in meditation. So grateful for this peaceful time, just to connect with myself, get settled and ready for class. I was waiting for my students, not expecting many to show up, as I had a few cancellations. This time of the year, people tend to be over busy, often driven by a do-more and be-more attitude, easily forgetting to take a moment to stop and breathe or an hour to practice asanas, getting some quiet and quality time next to the daily craziness….. However, I was surprised that finally just one student showed up.

Instead of being disappointed, I decided to embrace the situation and even felt blessed when my student agreed to practice together – what else works better than a nice Ashtanga practice to move in synchronicity! Even if time was limited, I enjoyed our beautiful flow through the vinyasas a lot. I’m so grateful for this unexpected opportunity!

Early morning practice and particularly getting myself upside down into a headstand always brings my world back to peace. What a shift into a most beautiful start into the day! Thanks for your flexibility B., it was a pleasure practicing with you!

Practice mindful

 „If you practice yoga to get better at practicing asana, you will quit.“

Of course we all want to get better and master certain postures. But Yogis, this happens automatically, you just need to show up, practice and do your best. Yoga is much more – I had a quite good teaching today.

I woke up this morning with a terrible headache. I could hardly get up and as it’s weekend, I allowed myself to stay a bit longer in bed. I had my lemon water, but the stabbing pain was still there. I practiced with the hope it might help. It was tough, not just due to the pain, but my full body was stiff and constantly asking for Shavasana.

All of a sudden I recognized that I mixed up the sequence, wrong order of what I’m used to practice each day. I stopped, that was crazy. And I had to laugh, I was distracted by thoughts and forgot where I was in the sequence. The more I practice mindfulness, the more I recognize what it means NOT to be in the present moment. I clearly wasn’t when I practiced and this affected my flow. Nothing major of course, but it made clear how easily it could lead to injuries when allowing the mind to wander.

I continued my practice with a better focus and my medicine was close – no, not Shavsana, but headstand. My bad headache was much better after turning upside down.

My practice today teached me about the importance of mindfulness. Practicing asanas was nothing but the means to an end. What happened today to me on the mat is happening off the mat exactly the same. Think about it. How often are your thoughts wandering and you’re not paying attention? Particularly when doing things you are used to, things that reached a state of routine or even automatism?

Commit to what you’re doing, fully and mindfully. And take your learnings from the mat off the mat.

Progress

Never underestimate your progress! Sometimes we can’t see it, but feel it. Sometimes it’s rather going backwards and the progress isn’t in the body, but in the mind.

Are there postures you wish you could do, are you trying again and again, but mostly not very successful? Well, if you really want to master a posture, it means daily practice. This is what I did with headstand. It took me one year. Each day I practiced what I could and one day, boom! I was up. And headstand became my absolute favorite posture, I’m just in love.

Now handstand moved into my focus. I know, it’s quite easy for some people, unfortunately not for me. I couldn’t even imagine me balancing on my hands ever, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I started walking up the wall, which showed me, that I’ve got enough strength. That’s what I did for some time, to get used to it and feel my body in this position better. But the problem isn’t my body, it’s in my head and it’s called fear. A beast not easy to handle. I took the challenge. Within one week, I managed to touch the opposite wall. Yeah. Now I can really feel the posture and what needs to be done. I feel how my body lengthens, I feel the difference when pointing my feet, when engaging the bandhas, when pushing into my hands. And I know, I will make it.

But finally, mastering a posture is just a side effect. The real progress is recognizing what happens in our body when working on a certain posture. Being aware of the effects when engaging, activating etc. It’s amazing. Also what needs to be done mentally to overcome fear. This is so important, not just on the mat, as you will take your experiences with you, whatever you do.

I’m working on my body, I’m working on my mind, I’m changing and I love it. I’m showing age my middle finger, I’m still learning and won’t stop. Progress in baby steps can be even more beneficial as just doing a huge jump.

Yogi, never underestimate what you’re doing!

Non-Judgement

Judgement. A hard word. It might be a matter of language, but the word itself is kind of giving me a jerk. I even feel guilty without knowing why!

Are you free of judging? What about your practice? Are you looking at your neighbor in class? Analyzing what he/she is doing better? Or worse? Did you see her belly? OMG, this must be a so called 6 pack! Wait, this tiny awesome looking girl has cellulite? Thank good, not just me… oh this posture is looking so bad! Can’t believe the teacher doesn’t correct anything…. Alright, you already switched to bitching about your pears!

Well, judgement can also be directed against yourself. Thoughts such as, I wish I could wear this, but I’m to fat. I’ll never be able to do this pose, I’m just not flexible enough, I look ridiculous, I’ll never ever attend a class again… and millions more.

Are any of those sound familiar?

You know what helps? Continue practicing yoga. The purpose of yoga is purification. Yes, it’s not about being the queen/king of flexibility. It’s not about fancy asanas and poses. It’s about getting rid of all those expectations, purifying your mind and connecting to your self. Yoga is your practice to be luminous, clear, happy and focused. You won’t win a price for mastering your chaturanga. Nope. Neither headstand, no applause.

When you’re on your mat next time, starting your practice, take a couple of deep breath and let your intention be „non-judgement“. Practice for yourself. Don’t care about others, don’t even care about yourself. Listen to your teacher, breathe, flow and enjoy. Not thoughts about right or wrong, good or bad, can or can’t. Accept that everything is exactly how it should be in this moment.

Enjoy the ride yogi, just be.

Pay off

Discipline. Persistence. Trust. Faith. Practice. 6 days a week. It works.

Our bodies are very different – what’s easy for you might be impossible for someone else. Or the other way around. Age is another barrier, as it’s much harder to gain strength, overcome stiffness and convince our bodies of new options. Plus all of a sudden, there’s fear. The older we get, the more.

So it’s not just the body. The mind has to support a lot. No room for evil thoughts, but a can do approach. No limits. It just takes its time.

Headstand is quite easy for a lot of people. Some need a bit more practice. It took me about 8 months to be able to do free headstand, without the wall or any other support. Progress in baby steps. And finally, I was there. Tears were running over my face. I did it. It felt so easy…

Never give up. Do what you want to do. Even if it takes ages. It’s so worth it!