burcuyircaliblog

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.

When I go to my yoga classes, I usually have some flow to pratice that day and believe me, what I have in mind is mostly what the students need that day. What a coincidence, isn’t it? However, some days I want to just show up in the class and get inspired by the students. I go to the class almost half an hour before the session begins, put my yoga mat and I either meditate or lay down supine to relax and rest. When people show up in class, I chat with them and this conversations mostly ends with a yoga plan in my mind. This is exactly what happened a few days ago.

When I went to class, no one had arrived yet. I put my yoga mat on the floor and I laid down to “supta baddha konasana” (reclined bound angle pose). I closed my eyes and totally surrendered my body on the floor. I calmed my breath down and rested before the class began. The students were showing up one after the other. When they came, I left the pose and started to talk to them That evening, our class was a “yin” (female energy) class. Our aim was to relax the bodies and minds on the last week day.

In “yin yoga”, we do not have so many options. As this type of yoga focuses on the sacroiliac joint, hip joint and the thigh bone and it aims to stretch even the deep connective tissues for a genuine relaxation, the “asana”s (pose) are limited. But that evening, I wanted to practice something different but I did not know what when one of the students helped me find what I was looking for. He inspired me.

Before the class began, one of the students had asked whether we could work on “vishuddha chakra” (throat chakra). We had practiced this chakra in our “vinyasa” (flow) classes before and the students was willing to know whether we could also work the same chakra during a yin yoga session. Why not? Surely, we could.

Meanwhile, a new student with “scoliosis” in her throacal spine arrived in the class. I talked to her and learned about her story. I looked into her spine and made some recommendations to her to pay attention during the class. Surely, I would also keep an eye on her during the entire class.

Suddenly, something came up in my mind. That day, we would not only stretch the chest but also stimulate the throat chakra. I could not only make the new students benefit from the class by stretching the chest but also make the other student happen by stimulating the throat chakra. Also, all students would experience a different type of yin yoga class.

We began the class in “supta baddha konasana” to stretch the chest. We rolled the yoga mats and placed it under the scapulato raise the chest and stretch it this way. I asked the students to close their eyes, direct their breath towards the chest and to fill their lungs with oxygen. After staying in the pose for about five minutes, we dropped the bodies to the right side and came to a sitting position.

We stayed at least four minutes in poses like “melting heart” and “sphinx” to stretch and open up the chest. In sphinx pose, we turned the neck to right and left and dropped it to the chest and lift it up the ceiling to stimulate the throat chakra. We rested in “balasana” (child pose) after all these poses. We were stimulating the “anahata chakra” (heart chakra) and letting the “energy of love” rise out of our bodies.

For the throat chakra and the shoulder girdle, we opened up our arms on both sides of shoulders and worked out wrist flexion and extension. Then we accelerated the blood flow in arms with “finger fans.” With “broken wings” we stretched shoulders and relieved the scapula. We stimulated the lung and heart meridians with these poses.

The other throat chakra poses were “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch), “sarvangasana” (shoulderstand), “halasana” (plow pose) and “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose).

We ended the class with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) after “twisted roots”. When everybody was in “savasana”, I got into “supta baddha konasana” , my favorite pose. The lights turned off, the class dark, the class peaceful and the instrumental version of “What a wonderful world.”

It was hard for every one to wake up from “savasana.” What did I feel during the class? Was it so hard to listen to the voice of our hearts instead of our minds? Weren’t we happier and more peaceful when we listened to our hearts? Actually, wasn’t it the heart that knew the very right for us? So why were we always listening to the mind and were unhappy? Could we feel the vibrations of love in our heart? With the love in our hearts, could we speak out good words? Could we express ourselves in a right way? Could others understand what I was saying in the right way? “Let’s wish to listen to our hearts and do what it says as well as establishing right and accurate communication from now on. I bow in front of my dear student for he has become a source of inspiration for me. Namas’te my dear student.”

We had worked on and practiced two different types of classes during yoga teacher training program. One of them was a circular class and the other one was a class with a peak pose. After I had started teaching yoga, I preferred classes with a peak pose. I prepare the bodies and minds to the peak pose in the first half of the class and I neutralize, relieve and make the bodies rest in the second half of the class. Last week in one of the group classes, one of the students asked whether we could do something “mixed” that day, a class that included everything. At that moment, I remembered the circular-style class.

After the opening meditation, we warmed up the bodies with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. Once the bodies were warmed up, we focused on standing asanas. We were refreshing the bodies with a “vinyasa” (flow) after each “asana” (pose) and then we were practicing another “asana.” Moreover, we were doing a “vinyasa” immediately after we did the right side in assymetrical poses. This way, the class was lika an “ashtanga yoga” class. But of course, I was not a professional at “ashtanga yoga” series but when I decided to teach a circular-style yoga, the class looked like an “ashtanga yoga” class.

We went on with forward bends and backbends. We were practicing two or three “asana”s from each asana group. Twists, core strengtheners and hip openers. One “asana” followed by a “vinyasa”… It was hot, the class was hot, the “agni” (element fire) in us was burning and maybe this was the first time that I had ever practiced such an active class like that with this group.

In the end came inversions. Since the class was cosmopolitan with the beginners and the advanced students, I asked the students to choose among “salamba sirsasana” (supported headstand), “salamba sarvangasana” (supported shoulderstand) and “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand).

We ended the class with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). I was thinking just one thing at the end of the class. Why do I love and prefer classes with a peak pose? I guess I have found the answer. I do not like monotonous things. I do not like to know the next move and to act by knowing what is coming the next. I loved the unknown. “To live the moment”, “to stay in the moment”, “to be happy and peaceful without knowing what the next moment will bring but just to live that single moment.” I loved that. When we live by knowing the next step, the mind has already known everything and it moves before the body and the breath, i.e. the mind. Then we become people directed and steered by the mind. We become puppets. However, it is possible to live just the “moment” and be happy. And this is what I am trying to do.

I have been waiting for summer to come for almost two months. As I am waiting, it is not coming. I love hot weather, sun, pool, sea and sunbathing. The more I want all these summer-linked things, the longer it takes for summer to come. Moreover, I want to write an article on what type of yoga we can do during the summer. However, I cannot write it as the summer has not arrived yet. I decided to write anyway June 21, the summer solstice, has passed away. What type of yoga should we do to celebrate the summer solstice?

Before answering this question, let’s try to explain what summer solstice mean and what happens that day. We experience two solstices a year, including winter solstice on December 21 and summer solstice on June 21. It is the time when the movement of the sun’s path (as seen from Earth) comes to a stop before it reverses direction.

The summer solstice or June 21 is the longest day of the year. It is the completion of the cycle that began at the winter solstice. The sun is at its highest point on this day. After June 21, days start to get shorter and nights grow longer until September 23 — the autumnal equinox. I should remind you that all these things happen in the northern hemisphere. It is just the opposite in the southern hemisphere.
Let’s come back to the solstice after this brief scientific information. The solstice is the best time to let the nature embrace us. Particularly during the summer solstice, we can find ourselves dancing with bare feet on grass or sand with the sun warming our bodies and soul. So far, we have only talked about the effects of the solstice on our souls.

If you ask me what type of yoga we could do to mark the summer solstice, I would just tell you to perform 108 “surya namaskara” (sun salutations). The sun is at its highest point on this day, so it is so meaningful to mark the day with sun salutations. This way we can burn the fire within us. We can expand each time we inhale and imagine that the sun is warming us each time we exhale.
Can we only mark the summer solstice with a flow yoga? Of course not. We can also mark June 21 with yin yoga. We cannot burn the fire within us with this type of yoga but we can extinguish the fire and we can calm ourselves down on this summer solstice. These are types of yoga we may perform on June 21 summer solstice. Now let’s try to find an answer to the question “what type of yoga during summer”.
As you may remember from my previous articles, our bodies are divided into three groups according to Ayurveda (Indian science of living). They were “vata, pitta and kapha”. Only one type was dominant on some bodies. On some bodies, two or three types were active. Also, one of the body types can be dominant over other during different seasons. During cold, dark, severe and harsh winter, the “vata dosha” (air and space) in our bodies was increasing. Therefore, we were giving priority to grounding in our yoga practice. During winter, the “kapha dosha” (earth and water) was dominant and to this end, we were feeling heavy and exhausted.

What happens to our bodies during summer? When summer comes, the “pitta” (fire and water) in our body increases. We may feel ourselves tired due to hot weather. Moreover, as the “pitta dosha” increases in our bodies, we may be aggressive and demanding. For this reason, it will be good for us if we begin our yoga practice by lying supine during summer. Starting with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) to bring the awareness to our yoga practice, then a lateral stretch and a twist will make us feel well at the beginning of our yoga practice. This way we can balance our internal heat.
Not only at the beginning of our yoga practice but also during the entire practice we may prefer a calmer yoga style than a fast and active yoga style. This way, we can give more priority to relaxation and meditation. But, this does not mean that we should not practice a flow yoga during summer. We can do it in a calmer and more aware way when we practice flow yoga.
Naturally, we can begin the practice with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series and go on with all standing asanas such as “trikonasana” (triangle), “ardha chandrasana” (half moon pose), “utthita parsvakonasana” (wide angle pose), “setu bandhasana” (bridge), “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel), “bharadvajrasana” (sage Bharadvaj pose), “upavista konasana” (seated angle pose), “parivritta janu sirsasana” (twisted head to knee pose), “baddha konasana” (bound angle pose), “paschimottanasana” (east looking forward bend), “halasana” (plow pose), “salamba sarvangasana” (supported shoulderstand), “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose), “matsyasana” (fish pose). We can focus on forward bends in our yoga classes or own practice in order to calm the mind and body down.
In addition to all these asanas, we can use a “pranayama” technique called “sitali” to cool our bodies down. In short we curl the tongue and protrude it slightly past the lips. We inhale deeply and smoothly through the tongue and mouth and exhale through the nose. This technique calms and cools us. You may feel cooler when you do this pranayama for a few minutes.

Another “pranayama” technique we can use during summer is to close the right nostril and just breathe through the left nostril. Right nostril is the male and solar side of our bodies and named “pingala nadi” (solar energy center). The left nostril is the female and lunar side of our bodies and named “ida nadi” (lunar energy center). When we close the right nostril, we close the male, active and warming side of our bodies and when we inhale and exhale through the left nostril, we use our female, passive and cooling side.

At the end of our yoga practice, we can either rest in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) or we can reverse the flow of the body and rest in “viparita karani” (legs up to the wall).

Have you noticed that yoga is such a wide world that you may practice different types and use different “pranayama” techniques in every season. It is possible to warm or cool our bodies during winter and summer with these breathing techniques. So you may ask how to breath during spring or autumn? There is a breathing technique to equalize the right and left energies in our bodies, which can be used especially during spring and autumn. That is, yoga offers us many different things.
This or that way, summer or winter. Or spring or autumn. Not important. What is important is to love yoga and have yoga in our daily lives during all seasons maybe only by asanas; or by asanas, pranayama and meditation; or by asanas, pranayama, meditation and philosophy.

 

 

“Teacher, I was undergoing an MRI last week. There was something wrong with the MRI device and I had to stay in the device for about one and a half hours.” “So, how could you endure it?” “Teacher, I only thought about the yoga classes. I told myself that this would not last forever but would end soon. And I closed my eyes and focused on my breath.”

One of the students told me all these things in one of the yoga group classes last week. That day, we were working on “vayu”s (wind/air flow/energy flows in the body). Therefore that class was a bit different and more spiritual than any other yoga classes. We were working on some “asana”s (pose) related to the energy flows and trying to observe towards where the body was moving  and how the body was moving together with the breath.

When we were resting in “balasana” (child pose) in-between the flows, one of the students said, “teacher, I can see the advantages and benefits of yoga classes in my daily life. Yoga has changed my daily life. I have turned into a very different person. A recent incident helped me once more see how yoga is beneficial to me.”

The other students and I wondered what had happened to the student and asked her to tell the whole story. At that point, the student said,”teacher, I was undergoing an MRI last week. There was something wrong with the MRI device and I had to stay in the device for about one and a half hours.” “So, how could you endure it?” “Teacher, I only thought about the yoga classes. I told myself that this would not last forever but would end soon. And I closed my eyes and focused on my breath.”

“I remembered the opening meditation and overviewed what we were doing in that meditation. I remembered that we closed our eyes and focused on the breath. I inhaled and exhaled and started to count my breath. I tried to realize at which part of the body the breath was moving. At first, I panicked and my breath was shallow. Then I closed my eyes and tried to leave my mind aside and shut it down. Then the breath started to calm down. And I started to take longer breath. I could deepen the breath from my chest to the abdomen and even to the pelvic floor. The deeper my breath was, I was calmer. As I kept my eyes closed, I was calmer. I concentrated my mind on my breath. A while later, my breath was so calm that it almost stopped. My body was no more tense but relaxed.”

“At that very moment, I realized your words. Bad news, nothing lasts forever. Good news, nothing last forever. Nothing is permament. Everything changes. We were closing the eyes and focusing on our breath in order to silence the mind in yoga “asana”s in which we really have difficulties. We were trying to connect the body and the breath. This was one of the moments which was really hard for me. And, I told myself that it was not permanent and it would last soon. And I believed in what I was telling myself. I hadn’t realized before how yoga got a part of my daily life. It was the first time I realized that I was applying to yoga in the moments I really felt difficulties and problems in my daiy life.”

I could not explain how happy I was to hear all the story. Yes, I am teaching yoga in gym clubs but this does not mean that yoga should be regarded just like any other physical activities. Of course, our priority is to get a good physical and body shape and look. Even though many people come to group yoga classes at gym clubs for only this goal, they start to “be yoga” in time. “To be yoga”… “To be whole bodily, spiritually and mentally.” Then in time, the goal to have spiritual and mental peace replaces the goal to get a good physical shape and look. I guess this is what yoga is and here we can find the philosophy of yoga. To get loved and adored by people just by being itself and without imposing anything or forcing anything or anyone.

“Teacher, there is an important issue I have to decide upon. I have two choices and I cannot decide which one is the best and right for me. Can yoga help me decide?” This was a question I came across in one of group yoga classes recently. I decided to teach a class on the third eye to answer this question.

That day was the day of “yin yoga” (the type of yoga in which we stretch the bodies up to connective tissues). I decied to make a practice which included “yin yoga” poses and poses that would stimulate “ajna chakra” (third eye chakra). I was planning to talk about mind and soul when we were practicing.

After we began the class with meditation, we stayed in “utthita balasana” (extended child pose) for at least three minutes. I recommended that the students place their hands or something like a sweatshirt under their forehead if they were not able to place their forehead on the ground. When staying in this “asana” (pose), I started to talk about the mind. I told the students that the mind was totally pure and clean when we were born but was being polluted as we got socialized in time. The right, the wrong, the sin and the shame. All these were things that the society was putting in front of us and asked us to accept and obey. And the mind believed in all these things and made us live our entire life within these patterns. The mind believed that it was safe and healthy to live within these borders and patterns. Therefore, it preferred to stay in the safe haven and was not pushing itself hard. At this point, we were losing our connection with our soul and the divine power. We could not see the signals and messages sent to us and we were turning into individuals only conspired of mind, brain and reason.

We practiced poses to stimulate the third eye, i.e. the area between the eyebrows, throughout the class including “salamba sarvangasana” (supported shoulderstand), “halasana” (plow pose) and “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose). During the closing meditation, we closed the eyes and turned the eyes towards the area between the eyebrows.

I was talking about the mind and soul all during these poses. “When was the last time you did something really from the heart? You did not listen to your mind even though it said it was wrong but listened to the heart and did what the heart told you? Anything that your soul liked but mind and reason objected? I just want you to think about it as we wait in this pose. When was the last time you put your mind aside and did something that your soul wanted? Can you remember or was it so long before?”

“When the mind is active, there are always patterns, borders, the right, the wrong, the sin, the taboos and the shame. The mind prevents us from seeing clearly. However, if you listen to your heart, it will show you the right way. The mind knows the truth and what is right but we never listen to it. We always take the mind into consideration. Now, we should return to the question the students asked before the class began. If we are the pieces of the God, then we should know the truth and what is right once we are born.  The soul knows what is right and wrong however the mind prevents us from seeing them. If we inactivate the mind for some time, we could hear the sound of the divine power, the earth, the universe or the God — however you may name it. And thus, you may see which choice or which path is right and good for you. However, the mind makes our eyes so blind that we cannot see the signs that are just in front of our eyes. If we listen to our soul and if we keep listening to our mind, we can realize that the divine power is talking to us and showing us the right and the good. As long as we become more aware, as long as we open our hearts, as long as we listen to our soul, as long as we get away from “robot-style” individuals who only act with their “brain” and “mind.” Then, we will become individuals who are not polluted by the society but instead clean, open-eyed and loveable individuals. As long as we re-establish our connection with our soul.

Every yoga class is a different experience not only for students but also for me. Not only the students progress in every yoga class but also I learn new things. Particularly when I am practicing with groups to which I feel close and with which I have a good communication, I do not think about what comes the next but the class flows. What is important is our interaction.

It was such a class when I asked the students what they wanted to do that day. The students said they felt so tired that day and wanted a calm class in which they could stretch their bodies. I had always liked calm classes however that day I wanted something active and I did not know how I could handle a slow and calm class.

When the students were on all-fours in “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch), something came into my mind. We should work “pelvic tilt” that day. “Pelvic tilt” was the exercise in which we moved the pelvis front and back. In an exhale, we were tilting the pelvis posteriorly and in an inhale we were tilting the pelvis anteriorly. If we assume that we have a tail, we were hiding our tail in-between our legs and pushing the “iliac bones” forward when we exhale and showing off the tail at the back of our hips and pushing the “iliac bones” backward when we inhale.

We tried “pelvic tilt” in “tadasana” (mountain pose), “ardha uttanasana” (standing half forward bend), “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog), “padangusthasana” (big toe pose) and on our back. All these “asana”s (poses) were added in-between “vinyasa”s (flow). During the flow, not only hamstring and gastrochnemius muscles stretched but also the back muscles and core muscles strengthened. After strengthening core muscles with “pelvic tilt”, we worked out “mula bandha” (root lock).

All these preparatory poses should be followed by a peak pose. We would stand in “ardha sirsasana” (half headstand) and do push-ups only with our legs, extending the legs to the ceiling in each inhale and descending them to the level of the abdomen in each exhale. Those who thought they could not do this pose would do the same thing in “salamba sarvangasana” (shoulderstand).

That day, we realized one thing. We were not aware of the power within ourselves. Even though we think that we engage our core muscles and pelvic floor muscles, we were not using them effectively. We thought that we were efficiently engaging these muscles, however we were so weakly engaging them. If we could use our inner power in the real sense, there was nothing that we could not do. Everybody was saying the same thing at the end of class: “I was thinking that I was using my pelvic floor muscles, however I was not. I just realized what it means to engage the pelvic floor muscles together with core muscles. Everything will be different from now on. I will be open to new experiences by using all my inner power”

I do not know why but yoga classes are considered just like other physical activities. Maybe this is because yoga classes are so wide-spread in gym clubs. Who knows? Whatever the reason is, we should separate yoga from other physical activities. Why? Because yoga is the “state of being” not a physical activity, as most people think. It is a discipline and a spiritual philosophy.

You may consider yoga as just like other activities and just as something we do with our bodies. However, it is a bit different. Yoga means the harmony of the body, soul and the mind. Yoga means to unite the body, mind and the soul. Yoga means to bring together the body, mind and the soul. That is, yoga is not a physical activity but a state of being. The only relation of yoga with physical activity is “asana”s i.e. “poses.” What we want to do in yoga classes is to keep the body and breath together with the help of “asana”s, focus the mind just on what we are doing without thinking anything else and do everything with full awareness.

What is the use of talking about all these? Yes, you may ask why I am telling you all these. Because of what happened in one of group classes last week. When we are doing the “asana”s that our body is used to, like forwardbends, most of us do not have any problems. Our spine and body is used to forward bends and rounding of he spine so we do not lose the connection of the body and the breath and we can do most of the sequence without the need of the focus of the mind. However, we start having problems in backbends, balancing poses and inversions. In these asana groups, if we do not have body-breath connection, we can have problems. We may hold breath and when we do so, the poses become more challenging, The mind is so important particularly in balancing poses and inversions. What does the mind think and how it feels? Am I afraid and am I short of breath because of my fear? Am I holding my breath? Does my mind tells me that I can do this pose or does it say that I cannot? Does my mind trust my body? Is my mind supporting me or is it preventing me?

I remembered all these questions in the group class last week in which we tried an inversion. I have been working with this group for about a year. The group had practiced with another yoga instructor before me and they are also attending pilates classes twice a week, which means they are bodily and physically strong They have enough physical power to do all “asana”s. But they are having problems in “sirsasana” (headstand), “pincha mayurasana” (forearm balance) and “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand). So what is the problem?

If we have enough physical power and if our core area and shoulder girdle is strong enough to do these poses, we first look into whether we are aware of this physical power. Let’s assume that we are aware. Then the second question is whether I can really use this power. Do I really engage my core muscles or do I only assume that I am engaging them? Can I use my pelvic floor muscles or do I only assume I am using them? Can I engage all my muscles or just asumme that I am doing so. If I just assume and cannot do the pose, then this means that I am not aware of my physical and bodily power and it is high time that I trust my power and be aware of it.

When we do so and we still have problems, another question comes. What am I afraid of? What prevents me from doing this pose? We may be afraid of falling. We may be afraid of falling in front of others and disgracing ourselves. We may be afraid of falling and injuring ourvselves. We may be afraid that we can break our necks. We may have different fears. It may be hard to look at the world from another perspective and change our routine perspective. We may not be afraid of standing on top of the head but we may be afraid of getting down from the pose. It may be hard to get on the top of the head but once we get there with the help of somebody else it may be so easy for us to stay there. This is where the mind is in business. At this point, yoga practice is separated from other physical activities. What does my mind think? Does my mind acts in line with my body and breath, i.e. soul or acts separately from these two? Does my mind support me or prevent me? Does my mind believe that I can do the pose or not? Does my mind focus on just what I am doing and live the exact moment with full awareness? The answer to all these questions can raise us to “sirsasana” or drop us from “sirsasana.”

That day, students got by the wall and tried “sirsasana” there. One of them could not rise in the pose but when she did so, she was feeling so safe and did not think of getting down. The other was thinking of how she could get down so she could not do the pose. Once she did, she was panicking that she could hurt her neck and she could not get down in a proper way. Another student could get half-way on her own, panicking there and forgetting to use the pelvic floor. She rose in the pose but she fell as she did not try it by the wall. Another student was trying the pose on her mat in the middle of class, not by the wall. However when she rise in the pose, she panicked as another student told her that she was doing it so well and she immediately and carelessly got out of the pose. When the mind hears “yes, you have made it”, it wants to hamper the body and it is successful in its attempt.

That day, we once more realized that we could not do “asana”s just only with the body power. If our breath does not help us, if we lose body-breath connection and if the mind does not focus on what we are doing, we may not do some asanas we consider as “challenging.” What differs yoga from other physical activities was the state of “being.” The body, soul and mind are in harmony and together and the picture that comes out of this harmony.

I am aware that I am flying once the spring has come. One of Turkish poets once said, “this beautiful weather has messed me up. I am just as the poet said. I did not want to sit in front of the computer and post a blog. Instead, I wanted to go to the countryside, watch the blue sea and enjoy my time there. But surely, this laziness should end, shouldn’t it? Back to real life and back to my posts.

In my previous post, I had wrote that our bodies changed with the spring and told you about what type of yoga we should practice in springtime. This week, our classes were just how I wrote in my blog. In some classes, we only practiced “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) while in some “vinyasa” (flow) classes we focused on backbends and balancing poses. In some “yin” (feminine energy) yoga classes, we focused on liver meridian and tried to purify the liver, which has been affeceted by the cold and long winter.

In one of classes we focused on backbends, I witnessed the progress of some of the students. I have been practicing with the same group for about a year and that day, I decided to try “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel) as the peak pose. “Urdhva dhanurasana” was one of the poses in which most students have difficulties. Even though how challenging it is, students want to try this “asana” (pose) from time to time and want to get used to it and deepen in the pose.

As usual, that day, we prepared the bodies for the pose by stretching the chest, shoulder girdle and hip flexor muscles. We tried the peak pose in three stages. In the first stage, we tried “setu bandhasana” (bridge pose), in the second trial we got into “setu bandhasana” and then we put the top of the head on the ground and placed the hands on both sides of the head. In the last stage, we tried the full “urdhva dhanurasana.” Some students stayed in the second stage whereas some asked for my assistance and got in the pose that way, In the meantime, I realized the progss in two students. Both of them did the “asana” on their own. One of them was thinking that her chest was closed and her chest was making “weird” noises in backbends. I asked the student to try the pose again. She did it again, rose on her arms, took another breath and opened her chest so widely. This was one of the happiest moments in my life. To see a student progress this much in time and to observe that she was doing a pose she thought she could never do. This was the greatest happiness.

The other student was also one of the students who found “urdhva dhanurasana” the most challenging pose. That day she rose on her arms and opened her chest up. Maybe she could not lift her chest as much as desired but she tried this pose with courage and made a progress. Determination was the most important thing if we wanted to make a progress.

Another student deeply affected me that day. I asked the students to get into “urdhva dhanurasana” from “camatkarasana” (wild thing pose). I realized that one of the students was so flexible and strong to do the transition however she was afraid. I stood by her to encourage her and told her that I could help her when trying. I just stood by her and encouraged. That student got into “urdhva dhanurasana” from “camatkarasana.”

That day, I realized that determination was the most important thing if we wanted to make a progress. We just need to be aware of the power within us and have confidence in ourselves. And of course, we should practice a lot. We should not give up but try and try. One of yoga masters, Pattabhi Jois says: “yoga is 99 percent practice and one percent theory.”