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Are you a person living a safe life or a person taking risks? Do you prefer to be in a safe zone or choose the difficult, walk towards the unknown and take the risk in your daily life? I continued to practice flows on chakras in this week’s yoga classes. This week, it was “manipura chakra”s (navel chakra) turn. And we would practice a flow for our inner power and jewel. The theme of the session would be whether to stay in the safe zone and do a known flow in confidence or take chances and risk and walk towards the unknown?

We strengthened the core muscles with several “asana”s (pose) throughout the first half of the session and get ready for the peak pose. The peak pose would be something that would take the students from the safe haven. We should take risk when trying the peak pose.

I decided on two different peak poses for the morning and evening session that day because the students in the morning and evening classes could do some poses well but have difficulties in some other. The aim was to get out of the safe haven and take the risk so the groups should take the risk and activate their navel chakra. So one of the groups tried “bakasana” (crow pose) and the other “eka hasta bhujasana (leg over shoulder pose). Both asanas were poses that the students were not used to and that would be a challenge, taking them out of the safe haven and take the risk.

In the session we tried “bakasana”, some students got out of the safe haven, took the risk and tried the pose. Some of them only lifted one foot from the ground while some preferred to bring their knees on their back arms and keep their feet on the ground, staying in the safe haven.

In the session we tried “eka hasta bhujasana”, I observed the same thing. Some students only stretched their hips and brought their legs over their shoulders and stayed there some of them tried to lift their hips of the ground.

What I observed that day was that what we were doing on the “mat” was directly linked with our personalities. If we were people who liked to stand firm on our feet, we were having difficulties in balancing poses and taking risks. Or if we were not taking life so seriously and considering life a fun, such poses and sessions were just fun for us. The question was whether we should take life seriously, live in the safe haven and ground firmly on our feet or get out of the safe haven and take risk? Was life something that serious? Would it harm us if we take risk and mock with life a bit?

I sometimes got myself thinking why I am posting yoga blogs and why I am trying so hard to write these blogs. Yes, I love to write and I feel as if I was just born to write. However, I cannot keep myself from thinking whether people are really reading the posts or whether they are making a difference or being beneficial to some people’s lives. When these thoughts come to my mind, I stop writing for a while. Then a moment comes and life reminds me why I should write. 

I have not been writing for a few weeks. Besides group and private yoga classes, the yoga teacher training program is so full and I cannot have time to post blogs. Moreover, I have a private life. Whenever I turn on the computer to post a blog, I find myself taking notes for the training or making researches for the training. However, I should write. This is what makes me happy. How could I get away from myself and the things that makes me happy this much and when did this happen? 

Daily flow of life reminded me the answer to this question. One morning, I got the answer when a friend of mine with whom we are training teachers called me. She told me that a woman called the studio, who was suffering from a serious herniated disc in her lumbar spine. Doctors had advised that she undergo a surgery but she instead googled to read about herniated discs. That was when she found one of my blogs on herniated discs and then she found the yoga studio of my friend and called the studio. My friend invited her to the studio for a free trial class and had a really beneficial class with the woman. The woman told my friend that she felt so relieved after the class and she had not felt so well for a long time.  

After the class, my friend called me and informed about the development. That was when I found out the answer I had been searching for a long time. Why was I writing? I was looking for an answer for a long time and I was thinking that what I was doing was just in vain because there was not any satisfying answer to my question. However, maybe I was writing a blog in order to beneficial to only one person. Only one person would benefit from it and maybe this benefit would be today, tomorrow or a year later however that blog would be a healing for “just one person.” This reminded me a story I shared with you years ago. A story by Lauren Tseley: 

“Once upon a time there was an intellectul who used to write his stories on the shore of the ocean. Before starting writing, he used to walk on the shore. One day, he saw a man who seemed like dancing on the beach. He thought that the man could be a person who liked to start the day by dancing and he smiled. He walked fast to catch up with the man. When he got closer, he saw that it was a young man who was in fact not dancing. He was running a few steps, taking something from the ground and then throwing it to the ocean smoothly. He talked to the man as he came a few steps closer: 

– Good morning sir. What are you doing? 

The young man raised his head and answered: 

– I am throwing starfish to the ocean. 

– I think I should ask in another way, thought the intellectual. Why are you throwing starfish to the ocean? 

– The sun has already risen up and it’s the low tide. If I don’t throw them to the ocean, they will die. 

– But don’t you see that the coast is kilometers long and full of starfish. It will make no difference. 

The young man listened to the intellectual politely, took another starfish and threw it to the ocean. 

– It made a difference for this one. 

This answer surprised the intellectual and he could not know what to say. He went back home. When he tried to write for the rest of the day, all he could do was to see the man’s face in front of his eyes. He tried not to think of the man but he could not. In the end, he realized what the young man was trying to do. The young man was trying to be an actor in the universe and making a difference instead of being just an observer and watching what was going on. He felt ashamed. That night he did not sleep well. He woke up next morning, got out of bed and went to the shore to find the young man. He spent the morning throwing starfish to the ocean with the young man.” 

Maybe I am calling it “just a blog” however maybe that single blog will make a difference in the life of “a single starfish” that is just one person. I really want to thank to that person who inspired me again in days when I question why I am still writing blogs. I am grateful for having yoga in my life, reaching people with yoga, helping and extending body, soul and mind support to people with yoga as much as I can, and touching not only my life but also lives of other people. How could one be better than this? 

I have been so busy recently due to yoga classes and yoga teacher training program. I have been reading new books for the teacher training program and preparing documents besides ongoing yoga classes I am teaching. Of course, I am not on my own in this program. A friend of mine who is a genuine “yogini” and I have started the program. Despite all her contributions, it is not so easy to get to the classes on time and prepare the training program and go on living your own personal daily life. That is why I had to stop posting blogs, which I did not appreciate.

I welcomed the new year in a seaside town away from the city I am living. This four-day retreat was really excellent for me. I really needed such a retreat, away from the city and I was desperately in need of having some spare time in the rural area. To be alone, to just stare at the sea, to drink something while staring at the sea, to take a stroll and to spend a few days without watching the time or without having a need to hurry. So once I returned home, I sat in front of the computer to write again.

I have experienced a great deal of things since I write the last blog. Not only reading resources on yoga but also reviewing the training programs I had attended before and making a synthesis of all of them made me a progress on this path. I realized that I have been focusing on only physical aspect of yoga in my classes for a long time. However, yoga is something that cannot be thought of without the spirit, soul and the mind. As I started to deepen on the path of yoga, I started to deepen in my own yoga group classes.

In the group classes, I aimed to end the previous year by leaving everything behind, the good and the bad before welcoming the new year. The past was just the past, nothing beneficial for us but taking a lot from us. Making us sorrowful and sad. Ego or the mind liked to feed from the past and pitty for itself. So, as we were leaving behind 2017, we should not bring any burdens from that year to the new year but solve everything and leave everything behind. We should purify ourselves bodily, mentally and spiritually and get cleaned up. In 2018, we should neither focus on the past nor the future as future was one of the best friends of the mind, by which it was feeding up itself. The future was unknown and the fear and worry caused by the unknown. What was need for sorrow or fear or worry? So what should we do? What kind of a path should we draw ourselves in 2018? We should just live the moment, stay in the moment, pay attention to the “right now”, understand what “now” means and experience just the “now.” How was the yoga classes shaped up with this aim? The aim was obvious: “Just to live the moment, to stay in the moment, to pay attention to the right now and understand what now means and experience just the now.” So, what type of a class should we perform to reach this aim? A class which gives priority to the breath and focuses on the coordination and harmony of the breath and the body. Thus, we could enable the unity and harmony of the body and soul. Surely, we should also add the mind to this couple. The mind should watch and follow the body and the breath but at the same time listen to what the instructor was saying instead of doing what it knows would come the next. We should do “vinyasa”s (flow) different from the flows the class was used to and confuse the mind. Thus, the mind would not do what it knows and walk on the path it knows but stay in the moment and do something by being totally aware not automatically. If you ask what was the most important decision we made for the new year… To stay in the moment, to live the moment, and to be totally aware, to work with full unity and harmony of the body, mind and soul even if it was hard in the daily life and even if we cannot do it in our daily lives,

 

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When we were a child and when we were younger than two-digit ages, the new year was the best time of the year. However there were not so many opportunities like this before. There were not any shopping malls that were decorated with new year lights where you could feel the joy of the new year. You could only feel that the new year was coming from the cake shops. And also from the lunch at the school.

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The new year’s eve was like a holiday at school. The cook used to wear Santa Claus costume and serve us the best food we had ever had so far. There was nothing different with the food that day. They were just serving us the food we loved the most. There were no lessons. We used to have fun all day. At night, our parents brought us altogether in either our place…

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Life itself is a school. When we graduate from university and start earning our living, we think we know everything and we act so. However, education never ends with graduation from university. Life-long education. Life teaches us new things. We develop and progress continously throughout our lives. Yoga classes are the same. When we become a yoga instructor, we think that we know everything. How wrong it is. Every class is an interaction and exchange. It is possible for us — the teachers — to learn new things from our students. Also, it is possible for us to develop and progress ourselves with the help of the questions asked by our students.

In the previous week, one of the students asked why we were breathing through the nose in yoga. At first, I could not make up my mind. I could explain why we were inhaling through the nose but I could not explain why we were exhailing through the nose because I had no information in detail. Every word I said would just be a guess. I promised to look into this issue.

Breathing in yoga? Yes, “prana” simply means “breath.” In deeper sense it means “life force” and “physical, mental, intellectual, spiritual and cosmic energy.” “Prana” is the principle of life and consciousness. It is breath, respiration, life, energy and strength.

“Pranayama” is comprised of two words: “Prana” and “ayama.” “Ayama” means extension, stretch, length, expansion, regulation, prolongation, restraint or control. So, “pranayama” means extension of the breath or its control. “Pranayama” consists of inhalation, exhalation and retention. Retention can be done after both inhalation and exhalation. Inhalation stimulates the system whereas exhalation is to throw away the toxins from the body. Retention distributes the energy throughout the body. When we talk about “pranayama”, we talk about movements including horizontal expansion, vertical ascension and circumferential extension of the lungs and the rib cage.

When we breathe in, the chest expans and the lungs fill with fresh oxygen. When we breathe out, the chest narrows and the lungs are emptied. When we hold breath, the heart rate slows down and the heart muscle takes a rest.

Generally, it is possible to talk about four types of respiration:

  1. High/Clavicular (collar bones) respiration: The neck muscles activate only the upper parts of the lungs.
  2. Intercostal/midbreathing Only the central prats of the lungs are activated.
  3. Low/diaphragmatic breathing: The lower parts of the lungs are activated chiefly whereas the top and central parts remain less active.
  4. In total/pranayamic breathing: The entire lungs are sed to ther fullest capacity. When we inhale, the chest and abdomen rises and when we exhale, all these parts distinguish. The chest and abdomen is lifted up, forward and to the sides.

In yoga classes, “pranayamic breathing” is preferred. In classes, teachers ask students to breathe in and out through the nose. The air is cleaned and warmed up with the help of the structure of the nose. The air then goes down through the neck and reaches the lungs. When the diaphragm muscle contracts, the ribs move up and forward (intercostal muscles), the lungs expand and fill with air. When exhailing, the diaphragm relaxes, the ribs move down and inward (intercostal muscles) and lungs shrink, giving out the air.

When we expand in yoga classes, when we extend the spine, when we open the arms to the sides or lift them, when we are getting out of a forward bend or twist, when we are rising up from a pose against gravity, we inhale. When we close our bodies, when we bring the arms to the center, when we bend forward or twist or do something in line with the gravity, we exhale.

We have told that the reason why we breathe in through the nose is to clean and warm up the air. So why do we prefer to exhale through the nose? When we breathe out through the nose, the air exhaled absorbs moisture, reducing dehydration. When we breathe out through the nose, it is good for oral health.  Mouth breathing causes a drying out of the gums, increasing the acidity in the mouth. Exhaling through the nose reduces snoring and sleep apnoea and enables a good sleep. Moreover, breathing through the nose regulates the volume of air breathed, so that it can effectively match the body’s oxygen needs.

Also, breathing through the mouth causes overbreathing or hyperventilation as we use the upper chest rather than the diaphragm. It dries the airways, causing coughing and worsening of asthma.

Also, breathing through the nose is related with the carbondioxide level in our lungs and blood. When the carbondioxide level is normal, enough oxygen is sent to our tissues and brain. Most of us believe that carbondioxide is bad for us. However, if no carbondioxide, then we cannot get the oxygen our bodies need. When the carbondioxide level is in proper level, it triggers the red blood cells to release oxygen they carry.

We provide the carbondioxide our bodies use through our own bodies, not the air. Therefore, if we do not breathe correctly, we cannot produce the proper level of carbondioxide we need.

The lungs store carbondioxide. If the carbondioxide is under a certain level, we feel some imbalance and some symptoms show up. When there is enough carbondioxide in the lungs, the respiration is done through the diaphragm.

When we breathe out through the mouth, the carbondioxide level in our lungs and blood reduces and less oxygen is sent to the brain and tissues. When the carbondioxide level is less than normal, the blood PH degree rises toward its alkaline limit and a message is sent to the brain. The brain stops the diaphragm to stop the respiration and carbondioxide level increases. When the blood pH is restored and oxygen flows again, the brain tells the diaphragm to start to move and the next breath is allowed.

If we do not use the diaphragm as the main muscle of respiration, we face problems in regulating the carbondioxide level in our lungs, When we breathe out through the mouth, we only use the upper chest not the diaphragm. We can feel tense in the chest and have problems in respiration, We regulate the carbondioxide level we will throw away the body, thanks to the diaphragm.

For all these reasons, we prefer inhaling and exhaling through the nose. In spiritual and mental dimension, breathing through the nose calms down the body and breath and silences the mind. When we breathe in and out through the nose, the breath is extended, deepened and thus, the mind is calmed down.

As a result, “prana” is not just “breath.” It is “life force.” “Prana” is breath, respiration, life, energy and strength. Yoga classes are a part of life and it is possible to learn new things during classes. The aspiration of students to learn new things make them ask questions to questions, which in return develop and progress teachers. If one of the students had not asked me why we were breathing through the nose in yoga, I would not have made such a deep research. Every moment is an opportunity for us to develop and progress. Every yoga class is an opportunity for us to develop. What is important is to open to development and progress. I am so glad I have so many wonderful students. Namas’te.

Life is a cycle of taking and giving… The more we give, the more we take. I have always believed that we should first give in order to take. We should give so that we open a space in our lives and then we fill that space with the new one. Just like the movie “Pay it forward”… Do you remember the movie? A boy named Trevor with a problematic family life creates an ideal word in a homework given by his new  teacher. In that ideal world, Trevor conjures the notion of paying a favor not back, but forward–repaying good deeds not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people. In the meantime, some changes occur in lives of every one Trevor knows, particularly his teacher. Every favor paid forward is repaid somehow.

When I decided to focus on giving-taking cycle in the yoga classes this week, I remembered this movie. To give before taking and to open a new space for the new comer. To wish to get rid of emotional and physical problems in our lives and to open a new space for something new and better for us. Is it possible to open a space for something new and better without getting rid of the old one?

Therefore, I focused on stretching the chest with backbends in all yoga classes this week. The peak pose was “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel) which is the most feared but the most desired pose of all students. All students feel so happy when they see they can really get in the pose. I asked the students to try the “asana” (pose) by getting rid of the emotional and physical burden which prevent them from getting in the pose. Who knows what kind of burden we had in our minds and hearts those days that prevented us from getting into this pose? First of all, I asked the students to focus on their minds and emotions. To realize their mental and emotional burden and then to realize that this burden was no useful to them, to get rid of the burden and to rise in the pose. First give, purify and get rid of and then to welcome the new one… Cycle of taking and giving… The law of circulation…

Some of us are just givers. They like to help every one without expecting anything in return. They prefer to make others happy by giving without expecting anything in return. They become happy when others are happy.

Some of us are just takers. They always want to play the leading role in life. They want every one to love them, like them, be kind to them, be appreciated and loved so much. They always want to draw all the interest and attention. They want to attract all love, material and moral everything on themselves. However, they do not think of paying attention to others and making others happy in return.

In my opinion, to be always a giver or always a taker is not a right thing. If life consists of dualities and if there is “yin-yang” (female and male) energy in life, then we should not just be a taker or a giver. We should somethimes take and sometimes give so that we can live the life in full balance.

What was I thinking at the end of the class? We should first give in order to take. We should get rid of things that give us pain and trouble and open a space for the new comers that might be better for us. We could not take if we do not give. If we do not open a space for the new things, nothing could get into our lives. It was this simple. We could not get a new shirt if we do not give the old one to someone in need. The law of circulation was this simple. We could apply the law to moral and material things, i.e. everything in life. We should open a space for the new comers. This was what I was thinking at the end of class, To live without piling up, to first give in order to take and to open a new space for the new comers.

I know that I have not been posting blogs recently I do not want to write these days and I do exactly what I want and I do not write. If I try to write under these circumstances, I know that I will hurt myself and do something that my heart and my soul do not appreciate and thus, I will be unhappy. So, I go in line with yoga philosophy and I do not write until my mind and soul allow me.

Actually, I do like writing a lot. And, so many things happen in my daily life and classes. However, I do not know why but I want to turn inward and live and experience all these events by myself.

So, how have I started to write again? One of my students asked my why hadn’t I been writing for a long time and told me that she expected to see my new posts. When I was asked this question, I was ashamed. Believe me, I am doing a favor to myself when I am writing but I know that people are reading my posts and expecting the new ones. By not writing, I was not meeting their expectations and I was depriving them of my posts. What a big word it is! “Depriving them of my posts.” It is not such a big deal. I am just writing what is going on in my life and how I feel. That’s all!.

Yes, why have I re-started writing? When one of my students asked why I was not writing, the answer was simple. “Because, I do not want to write these days and I do not want to force myself and do something that I do not really want. When I do something by force, I do not think it will be useful to me. Neither to me nor to others.”

The answer of my student put me back to posting new blogs: “Teacher, you are like the moon. As how the moon reflects the light and the energy it gets from the sun to the earth at night, you should reflect the light and energy you get from your training programs, readings and experiences to us, i.e. to your students. I am not saying that you are not doing so, you are doing so. And always doing so particularly in your classes. However, in your blogs, you talk about some other things that you do not talk in the class when you do not have that much time. Your blogs are more detailed and deeper. Therefore, you should go on writing and should reflect the light and energy just “like the moon.”

This was one of the most inspiring comments I have ever heard. I was moved so much that I could not stop crying. That day, I decided again. I should be “like the moon.” I should read more, I should look into resources more, I should learn more and reflect what I learn to my students “like the moon.” I should be the light and energy. Thank you my dear student. I am so glad that you have walked into my life. I am so glad that I have got to know you. And I am so glad that you are in my life. There are a lot of things that I would learn from you. I bow in front of you with respect. Na’maste.

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The falling leaves, cool weather, less sunshine, more clouds and sudden rainfall… Yes, again autumn has come. And September 23rd the fall equinox. Day and night was equal. However, this equinox was a bit different from that on March 21. On March 21, there is the summer ahead of us. We all know that days will be longer, the northern hemisphere will be hotter with longer and brigther days. However, on September 23rd heralds darker, shorter and colder days for the northern hemisphere. You may think, “what’s the use of informing us about all these geographical facts?” In fact, it concerns us. If you keep following  my blog for some time, you must have seen that the sun and the moon affect our bodies, souls and minds. So do the changing seasons. They all affect our yoga practice. What type of yoga should be do in the fall equinox and…

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I have been feeling so lazy since the summer began. I could post blogs every weekend during winter, however I cannot since the beginning of summer. Since then, I have been walking outside, sunbathing and spending time with my friends. This is why I have not been posting for some time. In the meantime, yoga classes are under way. Moreover, the classes are as crowded and enjoying as the winter classes. Every class is a different experience for me and each of them is a topic for my blog. However, as the sun is shining and in the breeze of the evening, I prefer having fun instead of posting. Sorry!

Every yoga class is a new experience for me. Feedbacks from students, communication and interaction with each student. Every day, I learn a new thing and I feel myself rich of knowledge and experience at the end of each yoga class.

I focused on backbends in one of evening group yoga classes last week. When I woke up that day, I was not feeling well. There was something wrong but I did not know. I was upset somehow. Maybe because of the sky and the astrological developments. I am sure you have heard of the solar and lunar eclipse and the Mercury retrogade. Maybe I read a lot and that’s why I am spiritually moved by all these posts? Maybe it is so hot in my city. And that’s why I feel tired and tense. Who knows? Whatever, I decided on practicing backbends that day since I did not sleep well. So, selfish of me. I am feeling like that, and so everyone should feel so.

That day, I decided on a different theme. We would focus the chest by backbending however we should do it in a different way. There may be people who may be afraid of backbending. So, we should try defeating the fear with courage and we should trust ourselves. Or we could get the assistance of our instructor or a friend when we are trying the peak pose and trust those people. The theme would be fear, courage and trust. To fall to the unknown and to fall to the back. From “ustrasana” (camel pose) to “kapotasana” (pigeon pose). One step forward, from “tadasana” ( mountain pose) to “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel pose). Maybe we used to do the second pose when we a child and we were never afraid. However, in time as we grew up, we have more fear and nothing is that simple anymore. The fear of falling, the fear of being unsuccessful, the fear of the unknown. And many other fear. We could only overcome fear with courage and trust. First trusting in ourselves and then the others around us and supporting us.

Believe me, I used to fall to the wheel pose from standing so easily when I was a child even without any warming up. I had not practiced this flow in my classes for a long time. I was afraid when I was showing it. Instead of trying it on my own, I got the support of two students and asked them to place their arms behind my lower back. Only then, I could fall back and did “urdhva dhanurasana.”

Students tried the pose after me. Some got help from me, some from others. What was important was the “trust.” We could overcome fear with confidence.

I was thinking when everyone was in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). Everyone had fears. Some have major fears while some have minor fears . To be afraid of height, to be afraid of snakes, to be afraid of falling, to be afraid of being unsuccessful, to be afraid of the unknown, to be afraid of the future. We may count many more. Fear is one of the negative emotions created by our minds. The opposite of fear is love. It is possible to overcome fear with love. In order to go over fear with courage, we should open and stretch the only area where “love” cand develop. Our heart. That is, we should focus on bending backward and continue trying and trying without yielding even if it is hard for us. And, we should try ourselves and those around when we are trying to defeat fear with courage. We should look in the eyes of those people, see the light in their eyes, trust them unconditionally, and surrender to them. Then, we are neither afraid of backbending, nor falling backward nor any other thing.