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

Pigeon oh pigeon!

The king of the so called hip openers. A pose that shows me clearly the difference of both sides of my body. My right, the yang, the masculine side is very open, while the left, the yin, the feminine tends to be bitchy. Yup, I know. There’s work to do! 

A pose made for Yin Yoga, where we stay 3 to 5 minutes (or even longer) in a pose. This way we can reach the deeper layers in the body, the connective tissue and the fascia. Excellent to unclench where they stick together and release tension.

What I love about staying long in this posture is the power of working with the breath. Breathing into certain places can create space there, literally cleaning up, like a broom. And all of a sudden you notice that you became soft. Floating. Accepting. Releasing. Exhale all the stuff out, that has manifested in your body without you noticing. Leaving with the flow of your exhales.

And to come back to the physical part of it, pigeon pose increases external range of motion of the femur in the hip socket and same time it lengthens the hip flexors.

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!

Rest

You need to slow down before you can speed up.

Who is busier? Who has more important things to do? Are you in a competition of who can get more out of the work day? Obsessed with your to do list? Is this where you find your value? Do you feel comfortable being driven by chaos and fear?

Do you feel something is wrong with you when welcoming the idea of rest?

It may not feel safe to rest for different reasons, but what if you just give yourself permission to? What if you would trust your desire to calm down? To just breathe?

I sometimes feel like living in two worlds. One being the yoga world – no, I’m not only talking about the asana practice, but about all the practices, such as meditation, yoga nidra, mindfulness, breathing techniques etc. The other world being the business work, the daily challenges, high speed and useless competitions. 

Never underestimate the practice of rest and calm. Many years ago, I had a breathtaking experience during a yoga nidra session – I left my body. Relaxing was never easy for me as a named control freak, so you can imagine my surprise. I was fully conscious, feeling, seeing, yes even thinking something like, gosh what’s happening here? It was such an incredible experience and when I told my teacher about it, he just smiled at me, saying, so you experienced your subtle body! Congrats!

It was as if all the theory, all the teachings proved to be true. I’ve got a glimpse. This was just the beginning. I understood, that conscious rest and sense withdrawal isn’t just being lazy and hanging around, but can be an intense experience of another dimension. It doesn’t has to go to the extreme each time, but it is about nourishing the body, recharging, connecting. Meeting your true self. 

So let’s merge both worlds in a sense of implementing the calmness into the crazy.

Let’s do it together, join my 3 weeks course, „The Transformation“

It’s out! The registration is open – check all the details here.

ANNOUNCEMENT!

I’ve got something in the pipeline for YOU! A beautiful course inviting you to come home. Home to your self. We get soft, we connect, we go deep.

If you’re looking for some tools and practices that help to be more connected to yourself, so you can put yourself in the driver seat of your life, instead of just running behind your tasks, this is for you. No yoga experience required.

The secret will be disclosed next week. Mark your calendar! Registration opens next week and the course itself will start 1st March.

Stay tuned!

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.