Archives for posts with tag: asana

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?

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.

“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.

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.

Inversions are poses that all students want to experience in yoga classes but that challenge them. To be upside down, to feel the blood flowing towards your brain, to feel as if you are flying and not to believe all this happening. These poses seem impossible at first. If you go on with yoga classes, you start to try these poses slowly. Step by step. One step forward in each trial. Like constructing a building, from the ground to the top.

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We would try an inversion in one of group classes last week. Inversions generally require a strong spine, a strong core and a strong posture. So, I prefer to begin with “sirsasana” (headstand), which is relatively an easier “asana” (pose). In my opinion, “pincha mayurasana” (forearm stand) and “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand) are more advanced poses.

As usual, we prepared the body for “sirsasana” in the first half of class. We added “asana”s that strengthened the shoulder girdle and core muscles in-between “vinyasa”s (flow). It was time to try the peak pose.

My aim was to raise the body on top of the head by taking the control of all your body, not to get in the pose by jumping or throwing the legs to the wall. Therefore, we tried two different poses before the full pose. “Sirsasana II” (tripod headstand) and “ardha sirsasana” (half headstand) were these two poses. In these two poses, we kept the legs in the level of the abdomen and waited at that pose for at least five breath to strengthen the core and pelvic floor muscles. The aim was to get into full headstand by slowly and synchronously lifting both legs.

First, I asked the students to try on their own. Staying in half way in “sirsasana II” was relatively easier for student. Both arms and head were on the ground, which made the students feel more secure. The students who could get into this pose tried to lif their legs up immediately because they were used to it. I do not know why but we are living on result and outcome. Therefore, we do not attach any importance to the stages before the outcome. It also happened in the class. As we focused on standing on the top of our head, we did not get interested in what came before.

When I saw this, I asked the students to get out of the pose to remind the goal of that day’s class. “Our aim is not to get into the headstand. We have tried this pose for several times before and I know that you can do it well and stay in the pose for at least five breath. The aim of today’s class is to see that you hold the control of your body. To enjoy every step you take. Not to work for just the result or the outcome. Remember your math classes at high school. We used to get some points if we could not get the correct result but if our path was correct. Like math classes, the way you go, your path is important in yoga. To wait after each stage, to digest that stage and to go on building.”

Then, students tried both poses once more. After waiting in the second pose for five breath, I asked them to lift their legs simultaneously without losing the control. In the meantime, some students could not do the half headstand. I knew that they were physically capable of doing that pose, so I did not believe that they were not able to do the pose. They had strong shoulder girdle and pelvic floor and they could so easily do the “asana.” I believed they were not aware of their inner power. My inspiration was not enough. One of the students in class was interested in “life coaching” and I asked her to inspire the students, which was so effective. They realized their inner power and they got into full headstand after they stayed in half headstand. It was a real “flying”.

What did we learn from the class? There is an amazing inner power within us but we do not know how to use it. And second, we just live for the result and outcome. What about the path we take until we come to that result. The journey and the path we take step by step? To stop for a second after one step and go on after digesting that stage? Aren’t all these more important than the outcome?

What draws my attention in yoga classes is that everybody has a different type of body. Some of them have flexible hips and some are born with a flexible chest. It is so easy for some people to stand on their hands whereas it is impossible for some people to stand upside down. If we leave aside the soul and mind, the characteristics of our bodies help us do certain “asana”s (pose) or refrain from some of them.

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It was an evening class. I wanted to focus on backbends that evening. There were a few new comers. People who had showed up in a yoga class for the first time… Nevertheless, I insisted on a backbend flow and the peak pose. The peak pose would be “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel pose).

We began the class with meditation as usual. What was important during meditation was to feel comfortable. So, I was not forcing students to sit at a certain pose. What was important to feel bodily comfortable so that the mind also relaxes. Therefore, every one was free to sit either in “sukhasana” (easy pose) or “virasana” (hero pose) or “dandasana” (staff pose). What was important was to sit with an erect spine, without rounding the spine. I asked the students to pick the pose that was comfortable for them, close their eyes, relax the chin and jaw and the area between the eyebrows, to roll the shoulders back and push the shoulder blades down, to extend the spine as their breathe in. I watched the students picking up their meditative poses, either “sukhasana” or “virasana.” Those with knee issues preferred “dandasana.”

That evening, one of the students sat in “padmasana” (lotus pose). I can hear you ask what was so special about that. Yes, nothing special. “Padmasana” is one of the “asana”s we may prefer while meditating. What is interesting is that this was that student’s first ever yoga class.

Following meditation, we started to get prepared for “urdhva dhanurasana.” We stretched the chest, hip flexor muscles and shoulders. It was time for the peak pose. I wanted the students to try the peak pose in three stages. In the first stage, they would do “setu bandhasana” (bridge pose). In the second stage, they would get into “setu bandhasana” and then they would place their hands beside their ears and put the top of the head on the ground. In the third trial, they would exactly do the second stage and then try to lift their body up to fully get into “urdhva dhanurasana.”

All students did the first stage. Some of them tried while some did not try the second stage. And something interesting happened in the third trial. A new student could do “urdhva dhanurasana” with the right alignment.

After the peak pose, we neutralized the bodies with “dandasana, “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend), “baddha konasana” (bound angle pose) and “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist). The class ended with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

Some of the students took their time to leave the studio after the class ended. What drew my attention also drew the attention of the old students. “Teacher, have you realized the new students today”, they asked. I answered, “yes, I have realized them. I have seen that one of them could easily do ‘padmasana’ at the beginning of the class. However, we try very hard to do that pose but still have difficulties. And the other student could so easily do the wheel pose. How different our bodies are, aren’t they? Some of them can easily bend backward and feel so comfortable in wheel pose. Some of them feel so happy in ‘padmasana.’ Some of them feel happy and comfortable with handstand. When I was a child, I was refraining from handstands in our gym classes. I loved to do wheel pose but I hated handstand. The school ended and I thought that I would no more have to do handstand. How could I know that I would have to deal with this pose again during yoga teacher training program? This means that refraining is not a solution. There is still something I am supposed to learn from it.”

“Every one has a different type of body. Some can stand on their arms as if they are standing on their feet while some of them like to bend backward. Some have flexible hips and no problems with ‘padmasana’ or ‘hanumanasana’ (monkey pose/split). What is important is to realize what our body prevails and not prevails and our talents and just enjoy the journey when our bodies do not let us do some poses.

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 or some other’s place and they went out to have fun in a restaurant. Remember, I have told you that you could only feel the joy of the new year in cake shops. Our parents used to buy us a special cake for the new year from a cake shop in order to please us. When they came home, we would already have been fallen asleep. The new year was to play with friends, eat cakes and to fall asleep before midnight when we were a kid.

Days, weeks, years and years passed by. One-digit ages were over. Two-digit ages came. Everything was so fine at the 20s. Between 20s and 30s, we used to go out to mark the new year. Drink, music and dance till the morning. When we were heading from 30s to 40s, everything started to change. The new year was no more as attractive and joyful as it used to be. We had lost that joy. The house and Christmas tree that used to be decorated with joy in the 20s and 30s were replaced with some sentences like, “oh my God, it’s the new year’s eve again. What are we going to do? How can we have fun? It is more boring than ever.” On the other hand, the new year’s eve celebrated with friends was still fun. The “crazy night out”s were replaced with “chat” and “a dinner table” with friends.

And again we are on the eve of a new year. Am I joyful and enthusiastic? Not really. So what am I feeling? I have goals for the new year. I am willing to learn new things and develop myself. I am eager to read and learn more. I am willing to travel and see new places. I am eager to visit exhibitions, go to seminars and develop myself more. I have the ambition to progress on the path of yoga, practice new “asana”s or at least try the “asana”s I am not good at and enjoy the journey. I am willing to make new beginnings. I am willing to have a new hobby. I wish to write a book, which most of my friends ask why I haven’t started so far. New year, new wishes, goals, willingness and beginnings. And the ambition to achieve all of them in the new year.

A long meditation and “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) in the last yoga class of the year. What did I wish for? “2017 has come and gone. It is now a history. We do not care about the past in yoga. We cannot intervene and we cannot change the past. The past is over and you should forget about it. 2018… New year, new wishes, new demands, new dreams, new goals and targets… However it has not yet arrived. It is about to come. However, the future is so far away from us. We can only have plans and goals but we cannot know what the future will bring us. So, no need to think about it so much. We can deal with it when the time comes. So what about now? Now, the moment we are just living? We should try to enjoy “now” and the “right now” and the “very right now we are living.” When we are talking or writing, the right now is over. The right now is also a past. So we should have a goal in the new year. Just to live the right now we are living and not to think about a moment before or after. Just to live the right now and realize and be aware that all our wishes, goals, dreams, demands and targets are not so far away from us.

And let there be hope… Let there always be hope… 2018! Be a lovely, more peaceful year in which we face no problems or troubles in our country and in the world. Let us wake up to bright mornings. Let us close our eyes at night peacefully. Let there be love. Let everyone love each other more. Let everyone understand each other… Let us all be peaceful, serene, happy and hopeful… Let there always be hope… 2018! Please bring better and brighter days to particularly my country, will you?

One of the main questions I come across in my yoga classes is about how breath should be used in yoga. When we are flowing in yoga classes, we inhale as we open the chest and broaden ourselves and exhale as our chest is closed and as we narrow ourselves. Whe exhale as we bend forward but inhale as we open our spine up. We, the instructors, give breathing directives to students throughout the flows. However, we still face problems and questions about breath in yoga classes. So what should be done is to elaborate on this topic.

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One of the main problems I face in yoga classes about breath is to inhale and exhale through the nose. In almost all other physical activities, we exhale through the mouth but in yoga we prefer exhaling through the nose. Those who show up in yoga class for the first time might have problems in exhaling through the nose.

The second problem is faced during “vinyasa”s (flow). People who have been practicing yoga for a long time can extend and deepen their breath however the new students cannot deepen and prolong their breath so they are out of breath during the flow. We can face such problems mostly in gym clubs because new students always show up in the gym clubs as well as group classes. Most yoga studios solve this problem by teaching basic yoga classes, advanced or intermediate classes. However, there is not such a classification in gym clubs so there can always be new ones in a group of students who have been practicing for a long time. If we are teaching an intermediate or an advanced class, we may face problems in not only “asana”s (pose) but also “vinyasa”s and breath. Advanced students can take in and out deep breath and do one “asana” in each breath but the new students need to take more than one breath throughout one “asana.”

Maybe one of the most important problems about breath is holding breath. During a “vinyasa,” we — the instructors — give breathing directives and students practice in line with the directives. However, students tend to hold breath in any “asana” we add in-between “vinyasa”s or in poses which are hard and challenging for them. Particularly in backbends, arm balancing poses and inversions. When we hold our breath, our heart beat is quicker, adrenaline is released and we are not able to do that pose since the sympathetic nervous system is activated. However, if we do not hold breath and go on breathing as if we are sitting in a meditative position and if our heart beat is calmed down, the parasympathetic nervous system will be activated and we may have a chance to do that “challenging” pose. What we want to do in yoga is to always keep our breath calm and deep, slow down the brain waves, calm down the mind and thus activate the parasympathetic nervous system and be able to do the most challenging pose in a “calm and peaceful” way. Unfortunately, we cannot achieve this goal when we hold our breath.

We want to harmonize the body and breath in yoga flows. One breath for one “asana”. Exhale to “uttanasana” (standing forward bend) inhale to “ardha uttanasana” (standing half forward bend)… Exhale to “chaturanga dandasana” (low plank) inhale to “urdhva mukha svanasana” (upward facing dog) and exhale to “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog)…

We practied “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) and a few “asana”s in-between the sun salutation series throughout a class. Just by watching the breath. First we tried inhaling and exhaling in three counts. We did each “asana” when inhaling in three counts and another when exhaling in three counts. Then we prolonged the breath to five counts. Some students felt difficulties in prolonging the breath to five counts at first but as the “surya namaskara” series continued, the breath prolonged and body and soul become more harmonized. Instead of acting separately, the body and soul tried to act together. And in the end, each “asana” was done in five breath counts. Each “asana” without being quickly done… Slowly and deeply…

One pose in each breath. One pose throughout one breath. When the exhale ends, the final shape of that pose as if each pose is that day’s peak pose. To prolong the pose throughout one inhale or exhale. Yoga was the harmony of the body, mind and soul. If “asana”s were the physical and bodily part of yoga, the breath was the spiritual part of yoga. When we harmonized body and breath, the only thing we should do is to make the mind watch and follow the body and breath. But the priority was always the harmony of the body and breath.

I do not know if it because of what we experience, feel or think in our daily lives but almost all yoga groups — even if they do not know each other — want to try same yoga “asana”s (pose) the same day, the same week. I have been paying attention to this in my classes for a long time. I go to one group class and students want a hip opening sequence that day. Then the same day, I go to another group class and they also want to practice hip opening “asana”s. Even though I do not know the reason, it is a different experience for me.

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Students wanted to focus on a hip opening sequence in one of group classes last week. When students want a hip opening sequence, we mostly try either “hanumanasana” (monkey pose) or “padmasana” (lotus). I wanted to pick a different asana as the peak pose that day, which we had not tried before. As we had been working with this group for a long time, I do not want it to be an easy “asana.” I want to see our limits but not to go beyond those limits. To realize where we were right now and to see and accept our conditions, and maybe to go further in time.

When I decided on the peak pose, I thought of the parts of the body that needed to be get prepared for the pose and we began the class. We stretched the shoulder girdle, hip external rotator muscles, hip flexor muscles and the chest in the first half of the class.

Our peak pose was “eka pada raja kapotasana” (one-legged king pigeon pose). We first tried the version of the pose in which the upper body was extended to the ceiling with a slight backbend. Then we did the forwardbend version. After that we pulled the foot of the back leg towards the hip to stretch the hip flexor muscles. And the last version of the pose that we could do was to place the foot of the back leg in the elbow of the arm of the same side, join hands at the back of the head and open the chest up.

There was another yoga instructor who joined my class that day and she did the pose very well. Some students could do the last version of the pose. However they needed to work on the pose and turn their chest forward and open their chest up. It would happen as they worked hard. Some students had shoulder or knee problems. So they did not push their body and themselves hard, do the pose as much as their bodies let them, and stayed in their limits, which pleased me the most that day. We had been practicing together with this group for a long time. Everybody was only interested in themselves and competed with nobody else. They listened to their bodies and stopped where they should.

We did the same sequence with the morning group also. Also I was practicing together with this group for a long time. They also tried the pose as much as they could do and without pushing themselves hard.

What we experienced in these two classes was to first love and accept ourselves. To accept our bodies and be satisfied and happy as much as we could do even though we could not do some “asana”s fully. “Santosha” (contentment, satisfaction) was one of the two disciplines of yoga which I like the most. To accept your current conditions and to be contented with them. Instead of pushing life hard in order to change it, to accept what the flow brings to you and to see and observe the change that is offered to you following your acceptance…

I uttered only one single sentence in my private and group yoga classses last week: “Use your inner power!” On the road to the west from the east, yoga seems to turn into a physical activity rather than a philosophical discipline. Ou course, we cannot ignore the fact that yoga has become one of the group classes taught in gym clubs. So, yoga is considered as a physical activity from which people would make the most benefit instead of a philosophical discipline and for that reason, many problems occur.

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When I go to group classes in gym clubs, I realize that most of the students try to practice the “asana”s (pose) and flows only by their physical power and bodies. They mostly try to do the “asana”s by their bodies and muscle power and some can do the “asana”s this way while some others cannot do the poses. The breath is used differently in yoga than other physical activities and so, students either forget to use the breath or hold their breath, which casuse problem in the flow. When the body does not move together with the breath, yoga classes only show up as a physical activity.

Yoga means the unity of body, soul and mind. If the body is the physical part of the process, the breath should represent the soul and the mind should follow the movement of the body and the breath in order for the three to be in harmony. If one of the three is not in harmony with each other during flow, what we are doing is only muscle power or physical activity. Then, we cannot be a whole and get away from being “yoga.” You may think of “yoga” as “a state of being.”

This is what happens in group yoga classes. Students try to do all “asana”s and flows with muscle power and physical power like in other physical activities. Of course, muscle power and physical power is important in also yoga flows. If our muscles are not strong or flexible, our range of motion will be limited and we cannot do some “asana”s or flows.

Let’s assume that we are bodily strong and flexible. If our body does not move together with our breath while practicing yoga, we would be short of breath during the flow either during the half of the flow or we can start to hold breath as the flow continues. In such a circumstance, what we are doing is only physical activity, not yoga.

Moreover, there is also the mind and its obstruction. If the mind thinks that it cannot do, then it obstructs us from the very beginning. We face this obstruction mostly when practicing challening “asana”s like inversions, balancing poses and arm balancing poses. From the outset, the mind makes us believe that we cannot do that “asana” and we get stressed, we run out of breath and we cannot make that “asana.” At this point, I make a suggestion to students: “Trust your inner power and use that power. There is a jewel inside you. Maybe you have strong muscles and you are physical capable of doing this pose. Have you ever wondered why you cannot do it? First of all, your mind makes you believe that you cannot do it. Second, you are not aware of your inner power. Believe in your jewel, power and use that power. Try to keep your body, soul and mind together and in harmony. Let your body move together and in harmony with your soul, i.e. your breath. And your mind follows your body and breath. Thus, you can bring forth your inner power. Trust in your power and use it!”