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?

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!

Creating

Yogis!

I’m working on the Yin classes for our retreat next year — and I’m happy to give a hint on what to expect:

Next to the Ashtanga or Vinyasa classes in the morning, we will practice Yin Yoga in the evenings, which means we will go into the postures and hold them for several minutes. Our focus will be on our breath while we will strengthen the mobility of the joints and stretch the deeper muscles, the connective tissues and fascia. The meridian systems will be stimulated and inner organs massaged.

Each class will focus on one of the five elements — wood, fire, earth, metal and water. We will learn about the relating organs as well as the assigned emotions. No worries, we won’t go to much into the theory, but experience it!

Each class will have an introducing meditation and/or breathing sequence to prepare us for the calming, but intense practice.

I’m so looking forward to seeing you there! Get the details here and contact me for any questions!

Get ready for the next season

Do you feel it too? Summer is gone in Europe and my body speaks loud to me, telling me to slow down, be mindful while adjusting to the changes. Well, getting more receptive to what’s going on around might be also a matter of age, what can I say? It’s hard staying young 😉

During this period of time, I feel my joints cracking, as if they ask to be lubrified. My hamstrings behave like the strings of a guitar with too much tension.

So, what to do? Embrace your body and its awesome capabilities! Accept where you are in this moment and adjust your practice. This is what I did this morning:

I turned on music. Yes, I’m practicing Ashtanga, so what! My favorite music made it easier to release and just flow. I have to admit, between Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana and Ardha baddha padmottanasana I lost my focus and started dancing. I had a huge smile on my face, it all felt so right. It was ok. It’s MY practice. And my body found its rhythm, tuned in, opened and turned into its softness. It’s all about steadiness and ease isn’t it? So don’t be so hard on yourself and remember the second part, „ease“. Finding ease in our steadiness is the moment we start doing yoga.

All you need to do is listen to your body. Be aware and only do good to you. Hehe, this doesn’t mean shavasana only, well it might…. It’s your practice! Even being an Ashtangi might mean yin yoga for one day. If it feels right, it is right. Just show up, adjust your practice and get your blood flowing. And please, always keep a good sense of humor!

Ashtanga yoga and Yin yoga are the same

Ups. What? Ashtanga yoga and Yin yoga are the same.

Let this melt in your mouth, and even more, swallow it. Don’t reply darling, read first:

What we do in Yin yoga: we hold a posture, we connect, we tune in, we feel what we’re doing. We breathe intense, we relax. We meditate.

What we do in Ashtanga, a Yang yoga practice: the same. Really? Well, we don’t relax, but it’s about finding ease. We make our practice a meditation. Yes, when practicing Ashtanga, we move a lot, we sweat. And best case we find ourselves in a moving meditation.

If you look at the Yin/Yang symbol, you can see there’s a black dot in the white and a white dot in the black. There’s always both, there’s a little Yin in every Yang, there’s a little Yang in every Yin. It’s all about balance. Obviously not just in yoga, it’s everywhere, literally.

So, where exactly is the Yin in Ashtanga? Think about it. It might be different for you, but for me it’s this: when holding a posture for 5 counts (or more in the closing sequence). We connect, we aim for stillness, we are in deep ujjay breath, looking for steadiness as well as ease. That’s Yin! Even if we don’t relax, we get kind of soft in all our stability. We don’t close our eyes like we do in Yin yoga, but we practice drishti. A focus point that supports us to go internal. We tune in, we feel our body, we feel what we’re doing. Same as we do in Yin, right.

I like the idea of balancing. Doing some Yin to balance my Ashtanga practice, but also being aware of where there’s Yang in my Yin practice and of course the other way around, where I find Yin in Ashtanga.

Same objectives, same tools. Just such a different implementation!

Play more

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

― Lao Tzu

My practice at the moment is quite difficult. I couldn’t practice for some weeks and before being even back on the mat, I caught a terrible cold. Impossible to breathe properly, not to even think about any physical strain.

I had to step back, once again and restarted my practice with some restorative and yin yoga. Careful and soft, listening to my body even more, only doing what felt good without challenging my sick body. Finding my strength in accepting a different practice, accepting to go slow, accepting to struggle.

I’m not injured, nothing major, but anyhow, sometimes it’s tough to see ourselves rather stepping back than moving forward. Hello ego!

It’s time to cultivate the courage to enjoy who I am. Each moment. With all the limitations, all the highs. It’s time to enjoy. I turned different music on for my practice. I start playing, just moving with the music, without thinking. Feeling, listening, playing, celebrating the slowness, getting soft. Interestingly, by playing, you’ll remember what’s important. It’s not about permanent progress, not about always getting better. It’s about doing good for your body and mind. Learning who you are. Stop holding, learn to let go. In my case, particularly let go of expectations. That’s it, that simple. Do good to yourself. You’ll improve anyhow, maybe much more as you can imagine…

Stay true in your practice

Step back

From time to time I believe it’s a good approach to step back. Step back in my own practice, as well as in class with my students. Back to basics. All class focusing on correct alignment. Taking time to look at the details. Slow down. Practice to feel the postures. Also experience the difference when the alignment is not fully correct. Sometimes back to modifications and simple, basic postures. It works like readjusting the body and setting new anchors.

No rush

Stepping back is quite challenging for our minds. Particularly for those who claim themselves to be ‘advanced’. Let me give you an example of just one pose: after a very stressful day, go into Vrikshasana, tree pose. The graceful, steady stance of a tree. While maintaining your body balance, feel your roots, feel how they reach out through your mat, the floor, into the ground, guided by your breath. This is a huge opportunity to understand what’s going on with you. Are you able to properly connect? How about your balance that day? Are your thoughts wandering?

It might sound boring, but yogis, practice is not about more more more. It’s not about the ability to do the most complex or advanced poses. Practice is about your connection to yourself. It’s about withdrawing your senses, going internal. A meeting with yourself, a meditative state. Bring your attention to whatever pops up in your mind. What are your thoughts telling you? What do you feel?

The Ashtanga approach

Practicing Ashtanga means a commitment to practice 6 days a week, except moon days. A strong commitment. A useful one, no doubt, as it also strengthens our willpower and discipline. But. Yes, there’s a but. Yoga also teaches me to listen to my body. So what if my body says clearly, no? What if my body threaten to injure itself if I keep on pushing? I keep my commitment to practice 6 days a week, but adjusted the content into ‘yoga’. I’m on my mat each day, Ashtanga on the schedule, but if anything shouts out a clear ‘no’ (laziness doesn’t count!), I allow my body to get into the driver seat: a nice yin practice, a music driven flow, just a bunch of sun salutations, maybe a pranayama session or a meditation. Sometimes my body surprises me and I find myself doing the primary series, although my body told me a different story before 🙂 However, on my mat every day, that’s it.

Stop the competition approach. You are on a journey to yourself! Make your practice mindful and take care. Allow any progress to happen naturally, no matter if on a physical or mental level. Step back from time to time, take your time yogi and enjoy the ride!