Trikonasana

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The standing asanas build the foundation of the Asthanga series. They are practiced every day. . On a sticky mat it doesn’t matter if the legs pull apart from each other or if they move together. The sticky mat prevents the feet from sliding. On the grass it’s crucial to engage the leg muscles and to take care that the feet rather pull to each other than apart from each other. This gives stability to the asana. That’s the goal to be grounded and to stand stable.

It’s possible to engage the leg muscles without any inner direction. The legs and feet can move slightly together or apart from each other. One can feel a huge difference even though nothing might be seen.

Even when learning side split. The legs move together when they are in position.

The inner body work is important.

Correct muscle work helps to perform an asana savely. To engage the muscles also supports stretching.

Practicing on soft grass, in fresh air is a joy. I avoided sitting asanas. I didn’t like to spoil my clothes.

Nothing is needed

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Not even a yoga mat is needed to do sun salutations. A green grass and the imagination that it’s possible is enough. The grass was soft and fresh. My heels were green after the tiny practice. I can wash them. If I hadn’t practiced on the grass I would have missed a practice. Ideal conditions seldom exist. But one can make the best out out of any situation. Tomorrow my body is so much better prepared for the asanas than without this tiny practice. Just doing it, is it.

Deepening the understanding of pincha mayurasana

Today I took again a couple of pictures of pincha mayurasana exercises.

  1. Picture: the head is lifted

  2. Picture: the head is in line with the back

  3. Picture: the head is in line with the back and I bend the knees to get closer to the body

No matter what I do, it’s impossible to bring the back parallel to the wall. It’s also possible to get into pincha mayurasana from the above positions, but then one has to swing and this is very difficult. I also think that one has to get controlled into a yoga pose. That’s why it’s a first goal to bring the back parallel to the wall.

My hamstrings are flexible enough. The issues are the shoulders.

To press the feet against the wall might be indeed a good exercise…..

Pincha mayurasana exercise

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I walked the feet as close as possible. One must walk the feet to the elbows so far that the back is parallel to the wall. I’m still far away from this position. Next time I’ll bend my knees.

The above pose is challenging. Every asana done correctly is probably challenging in the beginning. Yesterday I watched a lot of tutorials on Youtube. Finally I came to the conclusion, that videos are inspiring. There are great teacher in that world. More important than watching others doing pinch mayurasana is to exercise. Theory is good, but it must be combined with practice.

Facebook and Instagram are down in Germany and in other areas of this world, too. I’m curious when I can post the above picture. It seems to work again after many many hours. This is a catastrophe these days. I read from desperate people: I cannot post anymore, I cannot post anymore. It’s like I don’t live when others don’t see that I live….. I checked these pages much too often. I wanted to post back bending pictures that the Internet needs to see……. lol.

We all seem to need a lot of appreciation.

We love to follow our tribes. It’s fantastic to feel connected with like-minded people, people who do back bending asanas every day like me…….. haha…….

I checked cyogalife’s picture and realized that her neck is straight. This might make a difference. Today I’ll try this pose with the neck in line with the back.

This asanas a very useful. A lot of work is still to do.

Time to practice.

Wheel every Wednesday

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Another Wednesday has come. Another Instagram challenge #wheeleverywednesday wants to get fed with a picture. It’s already the 4th week of this wheel party.

My plan was to publish from time to time a variation of the classic wheel pose. Today I wanted to stretch one leg to the ceiling. It was heavy like a van and didn’t lift an inch. Creativity is needed. Are there exercises that are doable and prepare my body for this variation, I wondered? I found them.

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First I supported the back with my hands. Elbows and hands, the foot on the floor and the back did the work of the leg in the air.

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Then I lifted the leg without support for the back. It’s more challenging. This pose will build strength that is necessary. Again it’s really different to get the straight leg parallel to the wall. Important is to hold this pose for some time. 15 breaths or more would be good. Trying variation also means that I repeat this asana. Repetition is a method to speed up learning. To repeat the same asana again and again might be boring, but the variation keeps the exercise interesting.

Summer supports my practice. It’s warm here. For me it’s joy. The body becomes so much more flexible, it’s amazing.

Tomorrow is the challenge #Thursdayswesplit. I also joined the #pinchaparty. This is again so much. It would be good to take all the pictures on one day.

Every photo shooting spoils a practice. A pictures shows the direction, it gives feed-back. Once a week this is enough.

Plank pose

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Plank pose is more challenging than it looks, especially if one wants to hold the pose longer. One could aim for a minute and three sets. It’s also recommended to move forward and backward. I can imagine to integrate this asana in my daily practice. It builds strength in the shoulders. My upper arms could be a bit more parallel to the wall, but it’s also OK as it is. My body is straight, which is good. The poses feel differently than they look. Pictures help to adjust the asanas.

It’s easier to keep the body straight when the neck is in line with the body. I prefer looking to the floor than to the wall. These days I also keep my neck in line with the body when I do chaturanga dandasana, which is part of sun salutation. Some people have flexible necks, I don’t have a flexible neck. It’s a very sensitive part of the body. There is pressure on the neck when moving the head backwards. It’s more likely that the back arches when the head moves backwards. This is why I prefer the above version.

Plank pose is supposed to prepare pincha mayurasana. I can imagine this, because it strengthens the shoulders.

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One pose leads to the next. All sorts of asanas have easier versions and more demanding versions.

So glad that I practiced and explored new poses. After 90 minutes I was exhausted. Within 90 minutes one can do a lot. If one focuses on the 80 % relevant activities, if one doesn’t avoid the challenging parts, I’m sure progress comes fast. It’s great if one can enjoy an asana. This is the final goal. An asana is mastered when it feels good.

Pincha mayurasana challenge

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Cyogalife created a new challenge for July: pincha mayurasana. It’s an important asana of second Ashtanga Yoga series. It’s challenging. It can take longer than a year to learn it. But I’m also convinced, that there are always faster ways to learn it if one knows how…..

A Sivananda yoga teacher taught me how to do headstand. Within half an hour I could do headstand. So I checked how they teach pincha mayurasana.

First step is to practice headstand. One must be very familiar with headstand before one tries the next challenging asanas. The order is headstand, then pincha mayurasana, then handstand. To hold any variation of headstand for 2 minutes is a first goal. In addition it’s recommended to practice variations, i.e. folding the legs in Padmasana or moving one leg to the floor, then the other one.

When headstand is a peace of cake, pincha mayurasana is on the schedule.

The way how one moves into an asana often makes the difference. The Sivananda yoga teacher recommend to get into headstand with arms in pincha mayurasana position first. From there one lifts the head and gets into the pose pincha mayurasana. This seams easier to me. They even recommend to do a variation of vrschikasana first. That is one shall bend the knees and lift the head. The back is performing a back bending asana. In the correct form of pincha mayurasana the back is straight. With an arched back it’s easier to balance. As one can see in the picture, to have a straight back is one of my challenges. I need stronger abdomen.

I just tried exercise #1 from the #pinchaparty challenge. It’s too dangerous for me. So my first task is to hold the headstands longer and to do a headstand variations with arm positions like in pincha mayurasana.

Time to practice!

Primary on Fridays

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I think I had a balanced practice even though the focus was forward bending asanas.

A balanced practice covers different types of asanas:

  • forward bending asanas

  • back bending asanas

  • twists

  • inversions

  • balancing asanas

  • side stretch

The many many forward bending asanas of primary get balanced on Sunday again, when back bending is the focus.

Today I was able to do three times urdhva dhanurasana. It was hard, but doable. I progress again.

I’m happy that I can still do one of the most intensive forward bending asanas: supta kurmasana (see picture). I take my time till I do the pose. I warm up the body. First I put one leg behind the head while lying on my back. This is more relaxing than septa kurmasana itself. I practice yoga nidrasana, eka pada sirsasana till I finally get to supta kurmasana. The pose feels already better, but not as it used to be.

The final goal is to feel excellent in an asana. The path goes from feeling discomfort to feeling great in a pose.

Practices like today give a lot of motivation to practice daily.

Tomorrow is a day off from yoga……

Wheel every Wednesday

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Nothing is more effective than a daily practice. This is true for everything one wants to learn. It’s also true for the asana practice.

One must be motivated to practice. There are many reasons to step on the mat, yet what finally makes a person practice is individual. One must find it out for oneself.

Most people feel better after a yoga practice This can be a huge motivation.

These days I like to be part of all these online challenges on Instagram. This asana will soon be published under the hashtag #wheeleverywednesday.

My plan was to exercise a variation. I wanted to lift one leg in direction to the ceiling. The foot didn’t lift a tiny bit. I was really grounded. So this was it today. A classic wheel is fine, too.

I want to practice 90 minutes every day. I set a timer. After the twists of second Ashtanga Yoga series the 90 minutes are over. I do a lot of additional exercises to improve all the back bending asanas.

Repetitions and holding the asanas longer than 5 breaths are the most important changes that I made to exercise more effectively.

There is a counter asana to every asana to balance the body. It’s good if this counter asana is relaxing. It needn’t to be paschimottanasana after urdhva dhanurasana. Both asanas require a lot of flexibility. Today my counter asana was just lying on the back while I embraced my legs.

 
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Practice for your own well-being

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Practice daily for your own well-being, Sharath said on Instagram. It’s so true. This is such a good reason to step on the mat on a daily basis.

It’s hot here. It’s amazing how flexible the body becomes when it’s hot (above 30° Celsius). Also sweating is so much easier.

My focus was primary today. That is the focus is forward bending asanas.

I joined another challenge on Instagram. It’ s rather fun than a challenge. Under the hashtag #thursdayswesplit yogis publish their splits every Thursday. It’s motivating to work on #hanumanasna. Within a week a lot can happen. The splits are a basic asana. All stretching asanas must be practiced with care. It takes time to stretch. Patience is required. Every injury means a set-back.

 
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Join the party on Instagram .

Primary series on Friday

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My biggest obstacles on my yoga path are trips. This usually interrupts my routines. I love both, I love to travel and I love to be at home. But I practice much more often at home than on the road. It’s amazing how quick I can realize progress.

My practices are great these days. I know that if I want to avoid future injuries it’s important not to be overzealous. Nothing can be forced. A daily practice is what will bring success. In addition one must practice the asanas correctly. Sometimes less is more. One must learn to be very attentive to the messages of the body. If this basic attitude is not respected two main things can happen. First one doesn’t progress, what is frustrating. Or one gets injured in the long run, which is even more frustrating.

The asanas deepen with time, but also the understanding of the asanas.

I practice the above pose differently than I used to do a few years ago. The most obvious is that I’m on the ball of my feet. This feels better to me. My feet move inwardly, they don’t press away from each other, exactly the opposite is the case.

The shoulder moves down.

This asana is one of the standing asanas. It comes rather early in the series and it’s difficult. No asana is too underestimate. It’s a deep twist when performed correctly and a slight balancing challenge.

Summary:

  • practice daily

  • practice correctly

  • listen to the body, sometimes less is more

When an asana is mastered it feels good. It amazes me, but the deeper I can get into an asana the easier it becomes and the better it feels.

Enjoy your practices.

84 lakhs asanas

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In the ancient texts one speaks of 84 lakhs asanas. Lakhs is an Indian numeral and stands for ‘a hundred thousand’. Lakhs can also mean an unknown amount. Out of these unlimited asanas are 84 important and 32 are made for the humans. The source of hatha yoga are the classic texts: Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Gheranda samhita and Siva Samhita.

One distinguished between asanas for meditation and asanas that improve strength and flexibility and health in general.

Herewith I refer to a time before Krischnamacharya and the following generation, mainly Sivananda, B.K.S. Iyengar and P. Jois.

Lately I found a rather interesting book by Theos Bernard ‘ Hatha yoga - The report of a personal experience’. I took a lot of this information for this blog post from this book.

Yoga was taught differently than today where yoga became part of the fitness industry.

I quote from page 17 of the book:

‘ In order to become worthy of the teachings, the student must first fulfill the moral requirements called the yamas and niyamas, which are the moral prerequisites to the study of Yoga.

The ten Yamas (rules of conduct) are:

  • ahimsa (non-injuring)

  • truth

  • non-stealing

  • continence

  • forgiveness

  • endurance

  • compassion

  • sincerity

  • sparing diet

  • cleanliness

The ten Niyamas (rules of inner control) mentioned by those proficient in the knowledge of yoga are:

  • tapas (penance)

  • contentment

  • belief in God

  • charity

  • adoration of God

  • hearing discourses on the principles of religion

  • modesty

  • intellect

  • meditation

  • yajna (sacrifice)’

Comment: I saw different translations of the yamas/niyamas. The general word must get translated into practical habits. That way they can also get adjusted to modern times.

Forty years ago when I attended my first yoga class this was still the spirit. Becoming a vegetarian was not a precondition to be accepted in a yoga class, but it seems to me that it was clear that the student of yoga follows a vegetarian diet as a yogi lives a non-violent life.

These days I have the impression that yoga students realize that performing advanced asanas is easier with a few pounds less. Then they try to find a method to lose weight. A vegetarian diet supports this. That the origin intent of a vegetarian diet was to live a non-violent life seems forgotten. All activities serve one purpose today: Looking awesome on Instagram.

Last but not least the result is more important than the motives. The less animals suffer and get killed for our nourishment the better.

Books can be filled about the yamas and niyamas. It’s worth to explore them, it’s worth to realize that yoga is not only practicing asanas.

The next step to learn hatha yoga was according to Theos Bernard to learn cleaning techniques that used up a lot of time before the asana practice. I don’t want to gulp a tissue and to pull it out again to clean my stomach. For me the cleaning techniques of the ancient yogis are rather an inspiration to reflect on our cleaning habits today

  • Do we use too much industrial products like soaps to clean our bodies?

  • Could it be a good idea to take cold showers after the warm ones? I absolutely recommend this.

  • Have we developed eating and drinking routines so that our body can easily digest our food, so that the body can clean itself?

In short:

The order to learn yoga according to the ancient texts is as follows:

  • First one follows moral rules.

  • Then one learns cleaning techniques of the body.

  • Then the aspiring yogi is ready for the asana practice. He can learn the 32 asanas for the human beings.

A daily practice is the secret

I’m so sure, that the right method speeds up every practice. One can learn fast or slowly. It depends on how I learn anything.

Part of any method is the frequency of the practice. It might be enough to do strength training 3 times a week. Ashtanga Yoga is designed for every day.

A daily practice makes it easier to practice. Body and mind are yearning for the practice after a while.

Today I sweated, because it got warm here. The heat makes the body flexible.

Amazing how good one feels after every practice. I should know it already.

Best practice is to practice every day at the same time. The mornings before breakfast are ideal. The breakfast after the practice feels so deserved then.

Not always it is possible to have time in the morning. I so know this.

Instagram for Yogins

I started a new Instagram account. Every topic requires another account. We became all marketing experts in the last decade, isn’t it? The yoga community on Instagram was the reason why I joined another social platform a few years ago. Flickr, facebook, twitter, you name it became calm, while Instagram became more and more dynamic.

I love to join the monthly or weekly yoga challenges on IG. It’s pure joy to see all the yoginis who show asanas every day. The yoginis come from almost every corner of this globe. I want to be part of the party. I enjoy to live the Zeitgeist.

My first Instagram account will now slowly develop into a page for photography. I’ll focus on yoga photography there, too. Yoga is so part of my life, it’s my topic. But I want to focus more on the art aspects on my first account, while the new account will focus more on the practice of yoga itself. I’ll publish yoga series, picture from challenges, back bending progress and so forth…..

You’re welcomed to follow me there. Ma account is called Instagram.com/photoyogablog.

How to learn asanas is important

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I’m much more interested in how to learn an asana or vinyasa than in what to learn next. The next asana is not that important. The next step forward is important. There are 6 different forms of asanas:

  1. forward bending asanas

  2. back bending asanas

  3. side stretches

  4. twists

  5. inversions

  6. balancing asanas

Everybody can start with an easy form. With time and exercise one can get deeper into forward bending, backhanding and so forth.

How to learn the asanas and how to speed up the process is my question these days. The method of Ashtanga Yoga is not up to date. To practice 2 and a half hours till I could focus on the one asana that I was not able to do was not successful. I want to exercise the difficult asanas rather early in my practice this is why I alter primary with second series. That way I can practice the challenging back bending asanas when I’m still full of energy and not at the end of 2 hours, after primary……

These days I do at least 3 things differently:

  1. I hold the asanas that are difficult for me longer than 5 breaths. The body needs time to relax. The body needs time to stretch. This is known in many other disciplines. I usually use a timer and set it to 1 minute for one forward bending asana, one backhanding asana, one twist…….. Sirsasana I want to hold for 2 minutes. Today I held it 1 and a half minutes. Then I got out of the pose. There is still work to do….This tiny alteration to the classic Ashtanga flow makes already a difference.

  2. I do preparation exercises before the challenging asanas and I repeat them. My body tells me when it’s enough. I listen to myself. Rules are guidelines and no laws.

  3. I use as minimum props as possible. I use them when it makes sense. The wall is my favorite tool, especially when I bend backwards.

An asana is accomplished when it has the wished form and when it feels good. One must have the feeling that one can sleep in an asana. Then you’re there.

More than anything else it’s important to establish a daily practice.

I keep practicing at home. It gives me the liberty to adjust the practice to my needs.

One must love the process

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One must love the process and not only the goal. It must be a joy to get there. One must even fall in love with the daily practice. It is an interesting journey to get from point A to point Z. But between A and Z are many tiny successes. Those whose bodies allow to do the poses easily often miss the learning process.

It’s a totally different approach to get to the Himalaya by foot than to get there by helicopter.

Of course I’m also happy when I practice a pose that is easy for me like baddha konasana.

I also embrace those asanas that are a challenge for me. I work now for 10 years on standing up from urdhva dhanurasana. I know it’s possible. My last teacher said I was already able to do it. Then this crazy back pain told me that the path is not only upwards. Sometimes one is in a valley so quickly one cannot think so quickly. After 2 years the journey can continue with a different speed again. I experience progress, when I practice daily. The pain frustrated me so much. My energy got low. Slowly I realize that this back pain taught me something. The first step was to cultivate again a home practice.

The urdhva dhanurasana looks so much better than my very first one. Oh yes, a lot better.

The process teaches stamina, patience. It also teaches to celebrate tiny successes. Set backs are part of the game, they needn’t to be taken too seriously.

The wall gives orientation when I practice urdhva dhanurasana. On the picture I used the chair as an orientation. Working with external clues is very useful.

Enjoy the ride, it could be worse.

Asanas May challenge - I'm in

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Cyogalife has created a May challenge on Instagram. I’m in again. This months the wall is used to support the performance of the asanas. The cushions of my sofa were a great substitute for the wall for pose #1. They prevented me from falling backwards. I could focus on the splits. This was exactly the intention.

He hashtag for the challenge is #YogaWallPaper.

It’s not yet too late to join.

This pose could become my new position when I watch TV.

You can of course also follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ursulapreiss/

Prasarita padottanasana

A new decade has started for me. A new month has started, too. Since I practice at home these days I’m a student of yoga, but at the same time I’m also my teacher. How to look at me from the outside is the question? A most useful tool to give myself feed-back are my pictures. Even a teacher cannot correct everything. A picture reveals a lot. The asanas feel differently as they look. That’s why one must see them.

Within the last decade my forward bending got much better. I still have to work on taking my hands to the floor in prasarita padottanasana C. It all improved, but not at the speed that I wished.

I don’t follow the Ashtanga Yoga method blindly these days. I know that extra asanas, strength training, holding the asanas longer than 5 breaths can help enormously.

The pictures of the past are taken in 2011 and later. Pictures also report progress. They also report if no progress happend.

Last year I went to a yoga class and the teacher told me that I should aim for taking my arms to the floor in prasarita padottanasana C. It became unimportant for me. But after this feed-back I focused on performing this asana properly again. Just doing it is not enough.

Here are my extra asanas that shall help me to make my hands touch the floor finally without the support of a teacher.

The last pictures show the exercises that I practice before prasarita padottanasana. I prefer exercise #1 as I need no chair. The trick is to hold the body up to one minute, so that the body can get used to this position.

A word of caution: The shoulders are a very delicate joint. It’s a very flexible joint. We can move the arms in all directions. It’s also important to build strength to protect the shoulders. Many yogis exercise handstand before they have the proper flexibility and strength in the shoulders. This might lead to injuries. Practice with care.

It didn't happen overnight

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Most things don’t happen overnight. Overweight, a messy flat, speaking different languages, you name it, it took time, often years to get there. Most processes can be reversed, not all. In some cases it can be too late.

Daily steps in the wrong or right direction add up. This is why it makes sense to scrutinize daily habits. They have a huge impact.

I’m convinced that a daily yoga practice betters every life.

Let’s keep practicing.

The gap between the plan and the performance

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Sometimes there is a gap between the plan and what happens on the mat. A plan can only be a guide. It’s not written in stone. My plan today was to do 3 sets with 5 repetitions of urdhva dhanurasana. In addition I wanted to hold urdhva dhanurasana at least once for 1 minute. This was simply not what my body could do today. The idea to work on strength is surely good. It’s also good to hold the body longer in order to give the body time to stretch into the pose. The insight is that I have to create a training that picks me up where I’m now and not where I want to be . To create tiny steps are a good strategy. Tomorrow I plan to do 3 sets with 2 repetitions of urdhva dhanurasana. This is much less. I also want to hold this pose for 1 minute.

In many yoga classes I saw yogis before urdhva dhanurasana lying on the back, waiting. To lift up into urdhva dhanurasana seemed so heavy. I observed myself doing the same. I lied there, I knew what I wanted to do, but it seemed undoable. I think I know now why this was so. To lift up into urdhva dhanurasana required strength. I was not strong enough and at the end of a practice my willpower was exhausted, too. This is why I want to focus also on strength these days.

Strength: To get with an inhale into urdhva dhanurasana and to get out with the exhaling and to repeat this several times is more or less a strength training. The arms and legs are challenged.

Flexibility: Staying in urdhva dhanurasana for a longer time (1 minute or 2 minutes) and walking the arms to the feet or the other way round is a stretching exercise.

Both is needed. Urdhva dhanurasana requires strength and flexibility. One can work on both skills separately as described above.

Also the right technique plays an important role. The hips shall support the movement. A deep inhaling helps enormously to get into the pose. To create length in the body is also very important.

The wall is my favorite prop when I work on urdhva dhanurasana. It gives me orientation when I lift myself up from the floor. The upper body moves towards the wall. I also drop back against the wall from a standing position. One day I’ll surely drop back again in the middle of the room. It’s not the time yet for this dynamic movement.

Progress can be felt.

The final goal is that it’s relaxing and joyful to perform this back bending asana. I’ve been there.