Archives for posts with tag: backbends

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 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.

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 think I have told you in my previous posts that I am teaching the same type of yoga class through a month, working on the same “asana” (pose) to observe the bodily and mental changes. Every month, we work on a single group of “asana”, focus on one of two certain “asana”s and stretch and strengthen the parts of body that are necessary for that “asana.” This month, we focused on backbends in our group classes through the month. And guess what? The peak pose was “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel pose) — the most challenging asana for many people.

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We needed to prepare the shoulders, chest and legs for the pose in the first half of the class. We needed to externally rotate shoulders, strengthen arms, open up the chest and hip flexor muscles. To prepare these target areas for “urdhva dhanurasana”, we began the sequence with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. After warming up the bodies, we added in-between the sun salutation series some poses that would strengthen and stretch the target areas. We stretched hip external muscles and started bending the spine backward with “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge) and “anjaneyasana” (low lunge). We bent the spine backward more and more in “tadasana” (mountain pose) in each sun salutation and experienced going back and looking to the unknown. To prepare the shoulders for external rotation and to stretch them, we interlaced fingers in “uttanasana” and brought the hands towards the head as much as our bodies let us. Also to prepare the shoulders for external rotation, we brought our hands to “garudasana” (eagle) pose arm position in “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I)  and brought the body down towards the front leg as we exhale and lifted it up in each inhale. Moreover, we used the arm position of “gomukhasana” (cow face pose) in “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II) for the external rotation of the shoulders. We strengthened the arms with “phalakasana” (plank pose) and “ashtangasana” (knees chest chin pose) during each “surya namaskara” series. To open up the chest more, we waited long in “bhujangasana” (cobra pose) and ” viparita virabhadrasana” (reverse warrior).

When we first began backbends, we were trying “urdhva dhanurasana” after we did “setu bandhasana” (bridge). As days passed, the bodies got used to the pose. So we needed to make a little change. For this reason, I decided the students to experience falling from “camatkarasana” (wild thing pose) to “urdhva dhanurasana” and to feel how to cope with going back to the unknown. After warming up the bodies in the first half, we tried it. Unfortunately, nobody managed to do it in the first class. Maybe because of fear, maybe because of the mind’s opposing to a new idea. I do not know. That day we again tried “setu bandhasana” and “urdhva dhanurasana” and then we neutralized and relaxed the body.

The next class we tried again. Believe me, there were students who could do it. And this was the only thing that made me happy. To see the change in the students. To see how their bodies answered the practice. To realize how everything was possible if we worked hard, were determined and wanted. To defeat even our fears by coping with them.

In the meantime, the students continued to progress and so I did not want to do the same sequence in our two classes a week. So I decided to teach “urdhva dhanurasana” one day and “ustrasana” (camel pose) the other day. When we tried “ustrasana”, I would ask the students to fall into “kapotasana” (pigeon pose) if they were so easily and comfortably doing the camel pose. And believe me, there were such students.

Thus, I got the answer of my question and the result of the experience. If we work hard, if we exert efforts, if we are determined we could be successful. Just be careful, I am just saying if we are  determined, not if we are ambitious. With love, with belief, with determination. If we go on and try with determination, we could do anything. If we really want, if we really believe, if we really love and if we really work regularly, we will reach our targets.

What made me so happy at the end of this experience was to see the light in the eyes of the students that was really observed when they reached their goals as they believed in themselves. And I think this was worth anything.

Backbends are the most preferred asanas in yoga classes. When bending backward, you are going towards unknown and are afraid of falling. Or when you are bending backward, you may have difficulties in opening your chest. To open the chest, to love more and to be more understanding… When we are down and gloomy or when we are bodily and mentaily tired, exhausted and unhappy, we want to bend forward and turn inward. To be on our own. However, this is the right time to bend backward and to feel more energetic. When I went to the private and group classes that day, I saw the students unhappy and tired. Unhappy, tired and hopeless.. They told me that they wanted to bend forward, stay in all asanas longer than usual and stretch their bodies. However, I had totally a different idea. We would bend backward, open up the chest, boost our energy and try to revive.

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After the opening meditation, we started to stretch the chest with “vyagharasana” (tiger pose) and “uttana shishosana” (extended puppy pose). Following a “vinyasa” (flow), we stood up and warmed the bodies with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. Our class would be a “vinyasa” class. Therefore, we added asanas stretching the chest, shoulders and hip flexors in-between sun salutation series. Like “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge), “anjaneyasana” (low lunge) and their variations. In order to stretch the shoulder girdle more, we used the arm position of “garudasana” (eagle) pose in “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I). In “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), we used the arm position of “gomukhasana” (cow face) pose to stretch the shoulder girdle more and more. First right arm on the top and then the left on top.

We would do “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel) as the peak pose. Wheel was a pose loved so much by the student but in which most of students have difficulties. Therefore, we were repeating the pose once in every three or four weeks. This asana was one of the routine asanas we were practicing often. It would be good if we made a little change.

When preparing the bodies for “urdhva dhanurasana” in the first half of the class that day, I decided to try the asana in a different way than usual. What we mostly observed in this asana was the problem to keep the legs and arms parallel, not to bend the elbows and the difficulty in opening up the chest. Moreover, the other problems were not being able to extend the area between the navel and groins and to cause a compression in lumbar vertabrae.

When practicing “urdhva dhanurasana”, we should push the inner thighs towards each other and keep the arms parallel to each other. If we were having difficulties in doing this, we should put a block between the legs and bind the arms with a yoga belt to keep the arms parallel. We should pull the navel up in order to keep the navel away from the groins and prevent a compression in lumbar spine. We should extend the spine starting from the groins, axially extend the spine and bend backward from the thoracic spine.

After repeating all these technical information, we would try a different way of “urdhva dhanurasana.” We would use the wall. First we turned our back to the wall and put the hands on the wall. We spread the fingers and placed the roots of the fingers on the wall. Then we inhaled and axially extended the spine and we exhaled, rolled the shoulders back and tried to open up the chest towards the ceiling. In every exhale, we tried to stretch the chest more and more. After five breaths, we relieved the lumbar spine in “uttanasana” (standing forward bend).

The second trial would be a bit different. This time, the top of our head was turned towards the wall and we would try wheel this way. After lifting our bodies to wheel, we would try to lift the chest up to the ceiling more and more in each exhale and at the same time we would try to bring the chest close to the wall. Also, we would try to keep the legs and arms parallel to each other and keep the elbowy straight. Was it that much easy to do this and do that at the same time?

Unfortunately no! Keeping the legs and arms strong and parallel, not to bend the elbows, to bend backward from the chest and upper back, to keep the groins and navel away from each other and not to compress lumbar spine. It was not that easy. When we were trying to do one thing, we might lose the other. But what we should not compromise was to stretch from the chest and not to compress the lumbar spine.

After working out “urdhva dhanurasana”, we neutralized the spine with “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend), “baddha konasana” (butterfly/bound angle pose) and “twisted roots”. We opened the legs to both sides of the mat, keeping the soles of the feet on the ground and knees bent. Then we leaned the knees on each other. Then we swung the spine to right and left in “apanasana” (knees to the chest).

Following “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose), students said that they were so happy to practice a backbend even thought they did not want it at the beginning of the class. Even though they wanted to bend forward according to their mood, it was useful for them to just do the opposite.

And what I learned from class… We can become routine and monotonous from time to time not only in our daily lives but also yoga classes. Same types of yoga classes, same times of asanas and same peak poses. In fact the world of yoga is limitless. Why do we just hang on the same asanas even though there are many yoga asanas we can try? Believe me, I could not find the answer. It is worth thinking, isn’t it?

I have told you in my previous posts about how the body got tense when you do not practice yoga or go to gym for some time. In such a time, your body gets tense, lose its flexibility and there is need for time and patience in order to re-gain that flexibility. After we stretched the student’s body for two classes, it was now time to make the body remember what it had forgotten in one and a half months. So how could we make the body remember what it had forgotten? I had decided long before I went to the private class that day. As in a yoga teacher training program, we would start working on the body from the feet to the top. The standing asanas, hip opening poses, core strengthening asanas, twists, backbends, inversions and balance. Like the roots, branches, leaves and flowers of a tree.

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That day, we would begin with standing asanas. Following the opening meditation, we stretched the spine and warmed the body up with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. I particularly focused on grounding on “tadasana” (mountain pose). Spreading all the toes on the ground and grounding the roots of the big toe and the little toe, the inner part of the heel and the outer part of the heel equally. Feeling the energy of the element earth under the feet. Extending to the top of the head by feeling that energy under the feet. Extending to the top of the head from the tips of the toes with that energy. Closing the eyes and feeling the earth beneath the feet. Grounding.

After grounding well in “tadasana”, we added some standing asanas in-between “surya namaskara” series including “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I), “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), “parsvakonasana” (side angle pose), “trikonasana” (triangle), “parsvottanasana” (pyramid pose), “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge) and “anjaneyasana” (low lunge). We continued grounding with all these asanas.

Then we sat down and went on grounding with “dandasana” (staff pose) and “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend). After neutralizing the body with “setu bandhasana” (bridge), we relieved the spine with “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist) and let the body melt and surrender with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). Our aim was to feel the roots and stand strong and robust in life.

In our next class, it was time to work out the hip joint. Every class, we would go on from the foundation to the top as if we were constructing a building. Or like from the roots of a tree towards its leaves. As it was time for the hip joint, we would focus on forwardbends and hip opening poses. After preparing the body for forwardbends with some standing poses like “uttanasana” (standing forward bend), “prasarita padottanasana” (wide-legged forward bend), “ashwa sanchalanasana” and “anjaneyasana”, we stretched the hip joint more with sitting forward bends. After sitting on the ground, we stretched “hamstrings” with a”janu sirsasana” and the groins and inner thighs by bending in-between legs in “half butterfly.”

After stretching the hamstrings more with “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend) , we opened the legs in “V” shape and focused on inner thighs and groins with “upavistha konasana” (wide-angle seated forward bend). It was time for the peak pose. There were two peak poses in that class including “kurmasana” (tortoise pose) and “hanumanasana” (monkey pose). We ended the class with “purvottanasana” (reverse plank pose), “twisted roots” and “savasana”. Our aim was to bend forward in order to be more modest, turn inside, accept and surrender and to intensify on hip openers in order to avoid negative emotions and to boost our creativity.

The next class was on core muscles. I wanted to focus on the core for a week. In one class, we would focus on upper and lower core muscles and the other class we would deal with oblique muscles. In the first class, we practiced “kapalabhati” (skull shining breath) and “nauli kriya” (abdominal cleansing method). In “kapalabhati”, the inhales were passives but exhales were active. In every exhale, we brought the diaphragm in and felt the core muscles. The first stage of “nauli” was to completely empty the lungs and tighten core muscles, i.e. “uddiyana bandha.” Our aim was to tighten the core muscles from the groins up and in upto the ribs and feel the core in every asana. We did all asanas without loosening the core muscles.

We worked the core with balance in all-fours and by “utkatasana” (chair pose), “phalakasana” (plank pose), “chaturanga dandasana” (low plank), “vasisthasana” (side plank pose) and by tightening core muscles well in “marjaryasana” (cat pose) and “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog). Sitting down, we did many variations of “navasana” (boat pose) and strengthening the core more with “purvottanasana” (reverse plank pose). In the end, we laid down to feel the core more with yogic cycles and a few crunches. The aim of the class was to focus on core muscles and to be decisive and ambitious enough to end what we had started.

In our second core-focused class, we worked out twists. In-between “surya namaskara” series, we added “parivrtta uttanasana” (twist in standing forward bend), “parivritta trikonasana” (revolved triangle), “parivritta parsvakonasana” (revolved side angle pose), “parivritta ashwa sanchalanasana” (twist in high lunge), “parivrtta anjaneyasana” (twist in low lunge), “parivrtta adho mukha svanasana” (twist in adho mukha svanasana), “parivrtta ardha chandrasana” (revolved half moon pose) and “parivrtta prasarita padottanasana” (twist in wide-legged forward bend). The peak pose was “parivrtta ardha chandrasana.” We went on twisting on the ground. Before sitting down, we did “parivrtta malasana” (revolved garland pose). After sitting down, we twisted the spine with “parivrtta janu sirsasana” (revolved head-to-knee pose) and “parivrtta upavistha konasana” (revolved wide-angle seated forward bend). Lying supine, we twisted the spine more with “cat tail” and relieved the body with “savasana.” Focusing on twists, we wanted to purify, clean and calm don the body and mind.

In the next class, our focus was the chest. That day we bent backward. Bending back in “tadasana”, bendin back in “ashwa sanchalanasana”, bending back in “anjaneyasana”… In-between flows, we waited long in “bhujangasana” (cobra pose). In order to stretch and open the chest, we bent back in “virabhadrasana I” and waited longer than five breaths in “virabhadrasana II”, “parsvakonasana” and “trikonasana.” In-between flows, we used “urdhva mukha svanasana” (upward facing dog), “sphinx” and “seal”. Our peak pose was “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel). We used “setu bandhasana” (bridge) as a preparatory pose. Our aim was to bend back that day, stretch the chest and love more and understand more not only ourselves but also those around us.

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After the chest, it was the neck’s turn. We began the class by stretching the neck to right and left, to front and back and to sides. We turned the neck in every asana throughout the class and purified the neck from all negative emotions. In the middle of the class, we stimulated the neck by “sarvangasana” (shoulderstand), “halasana” (plow pose), “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose) and “matsyasana” (fish pose). Then we tried to change our perspective by standing upside down in “sirsasana” (headstand). We ended the class with “balasana” (child pose), twist and “savasana.” Our aim was to purify the neck from all negative emotions, to express ourselves right and to be well-understood by those around us. Also, to look from another perspective and understand every one.

After working all the body from the feet to the top, it was time to work the entire body. How could we work the entire body? Of course with balancing poses. We should now focus on the balance of the body. Warming up the body, we tried to stand on one foot and then close the eyes to stand on one foot. In the next flow, we stayed in “tadasana” and opened up one leg to 90 degrees up and tried to stay there in balance. In the next try, we did the same with eyes closed. In “vrksasana”, we waited eyes closed. We combined the balancing poses one after the other. “Vrksasana”, “garudasana” (eagle pose), “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III), “urdhva prasarita eka padasana” (standing split), “utthita hasta padangusthasana” (hand-to-big toe pose) with the leg in the front and on the side and “natarajasana” (dancer pose). After neutralizing the body came “savasana.” The aim of the class was to find the balance in yoga and in the polarities and dualities of the daily life.

As in a yoga teacher training program, strengthening and stretching the body from the tips of the toes up to the top of the head. Standing asanas, hip opening poses, core strengthening poses, twists, backbends, inversions and balance. Like the roots, branches, leaves and flowers of a tree. From the ground to the roof as if constructing a building. When the foundation is strong, it is not hard for that building to stand still on that foundation. When we build the foundation of our body is strong, it is not also hard for our body to stand strong and still on that roots.

It is one of the hard parts of being a yoga instructor. Sometimes new students join your group classes, particularly in gym clubs and you try to adjust the new students with the old ones. You try to find a solution not to make old students be bored of the class and not to force the new students and make them have negative thoughts and feelings about yoga. And when some students with special conditions show up in crowded group classes. How? Like students with scoliosis, herniated discs and ankylosing spondylitis. This was just what happened in my group class last week.
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Before the class began, a new student came beside me, introduced herself and told me that she was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis. I knew about what this disturbance was as I had joined workshops on spine and spinal problems. But I had only theoretical information. I knew that it was kind of arthritis, it was genetic and it was first felt in the lumbar spine. I also learned that it could affect all the spine in time, increase throcal kyphosis, bring shoulders forward, narrow the chest and lead to shortness of breath. What could I advise to the student that day with this much of knowledge about the disturbance? Her doctor recommended that she join yoga classes. My advice was: “Listen to your body throughout the class. When you feel tired and exhausted or feel the asana and flow are too much for you, take a rest. Do the asanas without harming yourself and as much as your body prevails.”
That day we would focus on standing asanas, balancing poses and backbends. When I evaluated the situation before the class began, I thought that backbends would be good for ankylosing spondylitis. Backbends were stretching the chest and strengthening the back muscles. I guessed this class would be beneficial to the new student.
Following meditation, we began to stretch the spine with “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch). After stretching the chest with “uttana shishosana” (extended puppy pose), we started to bend the spine backward with “vyaghrasana” (tiger pose). Resting in “utthita balasana” (extended child), we stood up in “tadasana” (mountain pose) after a “vinyasa” (flow).
We started to warm the bodies up with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. I thought sun salutation would be beneficial to “ankylosing spondylitis.” “Surya namaskara” was bending the spine forward and backward, opening up the chest and stretching the body. When we inhaled and lifted the arms and slightly bent the body back in “urdhva hastasana”, we were stretching the chest. When we exhaled and bent forward, the lumbar spine was relaxing, when we came half-way up and made the back straight in “ardha uttanasana”, when we got into low plank (chaturanga dandasana) and when we extended forward from the chest bone (sternum) in upward facing dog (urdhva mukha svanasana), we were stretching the chest. We were getting from one “asana” to another each time we inhaled and exhaled and thus we were regulating the breath.  We were lifting the coccyx upward in “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog) and relieving the spine, particularly the lumbar spine.
By adding standing asanas like “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I), “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), “parsvakonasana” (side angle pose), “utkatasana” (chair) and “trikonasana” (triangle) in-between sun salutation series, we continued to open up the chest. To stretch the chest more, we inhaled in “urdhva hastasana” and bent backward and waited in that pose for five breaths. “Viparita virabhadrasana” (reverse warrior), “camatkarasana” (wild thing), “urdhva mukha svanasana” (upward facing dog), “bhujangasana” (cobra), “sphinx” and “salabhasana” (locust) were the other backbends of the day. After all these backbends, we rested in “balasana” (child pose) and stretched the spine, particularly lumbar spine and hip flexor muscles.
We added “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge) and “anjaneyasana” (low lunge) in “surya namaskara” series to go on stretching the chest and hip flexor muscles. I thought these asanas helped relieve “ankylosing spondylitis” pain. When bending the spine backward, we were stretching the chest, rolling shoulders back and stretching quadriceps muscles.
After stretching the chest and hip flexor muscles this much, I wanted to try “setu bandhasana” (bridge) and “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel). As you may imagine, these were poses good for people suffering from anklyosing spondylitis.
Before ending the class, I also wanted to do some corework. The stronger the core was, the stronger the lower back was. I decided on “navasana” (boat) variations. So far, we did “chaturanga dandasana” (low plank) and “phalakasana” during sun salutation series and worked the core muscles. Now we would wait in “navasana” for five breaths and make the core stronger. We did “navasana” for three times. We were trying to sit on sitting bones and try to keep the chest open. Surely, core muscles were engaged. It was also a good asana to relieve ankylosing spondylitis.
With “gomukhasana” (cow face pose), we rolled the shoulders back and opened the chest up more and with “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend), we anteriorly tilted the pelvis and kept the chest open. Thus, not only the spine was stretched but also the lower back pain relieved.
I wanted the students to practice a “pranayama” (breathing) exercise just before ending the class. People suffering from “ankylosing spondylitis” could face shortness of breath from time to time. As I was thinking about the type of the breathing exercise, I decided on “nadi shodhana” (alternative nostril breathing) in order to equalize the right and left energies of the body. In the most simple way, we sat in cross-legged position, used the index and little fingers of the right hand (or the left hand if we are left-handed) and opened closed the nostrils one by one. First we inhaled and exhaled from both nostils, then closed the right nostril and inhaled through the left nostril. As the exhale is over, we closed the left nostril and exhaled through the right nostril. After the exhale, we inhaled through the right nostril and closed it then exhaled through the left nostril and went on doing the same one by one. One from the right one from the left. To end the breathing exercise, we should exhale from the left nostril and place the hands on the knees to feel the effects of the breathing exercise on the body and mind.

As we laid supine, we twisted the spine to right and left with “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist). We hugged the knees and relieved the spine with “apanasana” and ended the class with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).
Once I got home after class, I looked into my yoga sources and googled “ankylosing spondylitis.” It was a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine. Other joints could also become involved. It caused inflammation of the spinal joints (vertabrae) that could lead to severe, chronic pain and discomfort. The inflammation of ankylosing spondylitis usually started at the base of the spine, where the spine attaches to the pelvis (sacroiliac joints). This inflammation could spread upwards to involve other parts of the spine and, in the most severe cases, it could involve the entire spine. As the inflammation continued, new bone forms as the body tried to repair itself. As a result, the bones of the spine began to “grow together” or fuse, causing the spine to become very stiff and inflexible. Even though new bone had formed, the existing bone might become thin, which increaser the risk of fractures. It not only affected the vertabrea but also other joints, tendons and ligaments.
According to theoretical information, because of the fusion, joints became less flexible and all the bones stuck together. Mostly the pelvis was affected at first.
So could yoga help ease ankylosing spondylitis pain? Surely yes. To alleviate the pain, the chest had to be stretched, core and back muscles, particularly the lower back should be strengthened. Moreover, breathing exercises could also help. Asanas like “marjaryasana-bitilasana”, “balasana” and “adho mukha svanasana” were stretching the spine. Asanas like “salabhasana”, “sphinx”, “bhujangasana” and “setu bandhasana” were bending the spine backward, stretching the chest and strengthening the back muscles. Asanas like “navasana”, “phalakasana” and “chaturanga dandasana” were strengthening core muscles. Lateral bends were opening the chest up and stretching the two sides of the body. Yoga practice was increasing the mobility of the body, strengthening the body and correcting the posture.
When the body was getting more and more flexible with yoga, it was also regulating the breath. When moving from one “asana” to another, we used the breath and helped stretch and extension of the chest. “Pranayama” exercises were also so helpful to people suffering from this disease. Particularly diaphragm breathing could be so helpful. Breathing techniques like “nadi shodhana” and “kapalabhati” (skull shining breath) at the beginning or end of the class was enlarging the chest and providing more oxygen to the body. “Kapalabhati” was also a breathing technique that engaged core muscles and therefore it was so good for people with ankylosing spondylitis. If we could do none of these, we could just blow up the abdomen in each inhale and bring it down in each exhale, work out our core muscles and increase our breath capacity.
After I read all these, I realized that I did something correct with my instinct. We are not doctors but yoga instructors however we could know about particularly spinal diseases as we could face any type of disturbances in our classes. We should only accept students to class after asking the students if their doctors allowed them to join yoga classes. We should remind that they could rest any time they felt tired and exhausted and suggest them that they should not push themselves hard. We should also tell them that they should check their breath and body and take a rest when they lose body-breath balance and connection. Even though we know that yoga helps relieve many physical disturbances, we should not be defeated by our “ego”s and always remember that we are not doctors. We should keep the “ahimsa” (non-violence) principle of yoga in mind and remind it first to ourselves and then to our students. We should not give harm when we want to be beneficial. Particularly in crowded classes, all students have different health problems. We should learn all of them before the class, find a moderate way of teaching that day and teach a class suitable for everybody. We can never know what we will face when going to a class. What is important is to trust ourselves, keep our information fresh all the time and be ready for every condition.

You know that I have been teaching classes on “vayu”s (currents of prana/life force or literally winds) for a few weeks. Since last week was June 21- the summer solstice – I taught classes with the solstice theme and therefore I suspended “vayu”-focused classes for a week. This week was the turn of the last “vayu”: “Vyana vayu” i.e. “outward moving air.

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We all know that the thing we call “prana” in yoga philosophy is not just “breath” but also “life force.” We also know that “prana” moves our body and helps our mind think. We can reinvigorate the body and mind with the help of “prana” in yoga practice, increase our awareness and reach high consciousness.
Therefore, yoga masters realized that “prana” was moving in five directions in the body and enumerated them as “prana vayu” (inward and forward energy wind), “apana vayu” (downward and outward energy wind), “samana vayu” (balancing air), “udana vayu” (upward energy) and “vyana vayu” (outward moving air). All these “vayu”s affect different parts of the body and when they work in harmony, the body and mind are healthy.
“We all know that the thing we call “prana” in yoga philosophy is not just “breath” but also “life force.” We also know that “prana” moves our body and helps our mind think. We can reinvigorate the body and mind with the help of “prana” in yoga practice, increase our awareness and reach high consciousness.
Therefore, yoga masters realized that “prana” was moving in five directions in the body and enumerated them as “prana vayu” (inward and forward energy wind), “apana vayu” (downward and outward energy wind), “samana vayu” (balancing air), “udana vayu” (upward energy) and “vyana vayu” (outward moving air). All these “vayu”s affect different parts of the body and when they work in harmony, the body and mind are healthy.
“Vyana vayu”, i.e. outward moving air, is the opposite of “samana vayu” (balancing air). This “vayu” is an energy wind that balances all the other “vayu”s. It is an energy wind that circulates throughout the body and goes beyond the body. It is an energy wind called “aura” which is thought to be spread out of the body.
Responsible for all types of circulation in the body including food, water and oxygen, “vyana vayu” sends these stuff to necessary parts of the body, helps assimilation of them and then production of positive energy at the end of this assimilation.
Located in the heart and lungs, the healthy functioning of “vyana vayu” depends on healthy functioning of all the other “vayu”s. It is related with the “svadisthana” (sacral), “manipura” (navel), “anahata” (hearth), “vishuddha” (throat) and “ajna” (third eye) chakras and thus related with the elements water, fire, air and ether. It is responsible for the free circulation of thoughts and emotions in mind.
If “vyana vayu” is healthy, then we move in harmony and in balance. If it is unbalanced, the mind and body connection is lost and we are open to diseases. If “vyana vayu” is in balance, then we are physically, emotionally and mentally in balance.
So how could we stimulate “vyana vayu?” With standing asanas, balancing poses and backbends… We could use “nadi shodhana” (alternative nostril breathing) as a “pranayama” (breathing) technique.
We began the class with meditation. After meditation, we inhaled and put the hands on the heart and we exhaled and opened the hands on the knees as palms facing up to feel the “outward moving air.” In each exhale, we tried to feel the energy going out of arms and hands with eyes closed.
After the breathing exercise, we came on all-fours and warmed up the spine with “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch). We stretched the chest with “uttanasa shishosana” (extended puppy pose) and we backbent the spine wit h”vyaghrasana” (tiger pose). We rested in “utthita balasana” and stoop up with a “vinyasa” (flow) and ended up in “tadasana” (mountain pose).
We tried to feel all five “vayu”s in “tadasana.” As we grounded beneath the feet we felt the “apana vayu” and as the spine extended up to the ceiling from the top of the head we felt the “udana vayu”. We stayed in the center with “samana vayu” and when we inhaled the chest moved forward and we felt the air entering the body and thus the “prana vayu.” Finally we felt the energy going out of the fingertips and thus the “vyana vayu.”
We warmed up the body with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. We were trying to do each “asana” with full awareness. When we lifted the arms up (urdhva hastasana), we felt the energy going up and out from the hands, when we bent forward we felt the energy going down. When we opened the spine half-way and kept the spine straight, when we got into low plank (chaturanga dandasana) and the upward facing dog (urdhva mukha svanasana), we felt the energy rising up and forward from the “sternum” (chest bone)… In downward dog (adho mukha svanasana), we felt the energy in the navel– the center. Because we could stimulate “vyana vayu” only if we stimulated the other four “vayu”s.
In-between sun salutation series, we added standing asanas like “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I), “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), “parsvakonasana” (side angle pose), “utkatasana” (chair) and “trikonasana” (triangle) to stimulate “vyana vayu” more. The body had warmed up well. Now we could go on with balancing poses. In-between “surya namaskara” Series, we started to add balancing poses like “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III), “vrksasana” (tree pose), “garudasana” (eagle pose), “ardha chandrasana” (half moon pose) and “navasana” (boat pose).
We could also activate “vyana vayu” with backbends. Therefore, we added some backbends in-between sun salutation series. Inhaling in “urdhva hastasana” we bent backward a bit and stayed there for five breaths. “Viparita virabhadrasana” (reverse warrior), “camatkarasana” (wild thing), “udhva mukha svanasana” (upward facing dog), “bhujangasana” (cobra), “sphinx” and “salabhasana” (locust) were the other backbends.
We sat down in “dandasana” (staff pose) and lifted the arms up and then we neutralized the body with “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend). Before deep relaxation and resting pose, I aimed to clean the energy channels in the body with a “pranayama” (breathing) exercise: “Nadi shodhana:” We tried to equalized and balanced the right and left energies in the body, or the male and female energies, with this breathing exercise. In the most simple way, we sat in cross-legged position, used the index and little fingers of the right hand (or the left hand if we are left-handed) and opened closed the nostrils one by one. First we inhaled and exhaled from both nostils, then closed the right nostril and inhaled through the left nostril. As the exhale is over, we closed the left nostril and exhaled through the right nostril. After the exhale, we inhaled through the right nostril and closed it then exhaled through the left nostril and went on doing the same one by one. One from the right one from the left. To end the breathing exercise, we should exhale from the left nostril and place the hands on the knees to feel the effects of the breathing exercise on the body and mind.
Following “pranayama” exercise, we laid on our backs and felt the outward moving energy “vyana vayu” with “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist). We brought the energy to the center with “apanasana” (knees-to-chest pose) and spread the “prana” (life force) to the entire body with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).
How could I end the class after “savasana”? We realized that “vyana vayu” was an outward moving energy and an energy that was spread from the body named “aura.” We knew that this “vayu” helped “prana” (life force) to move from the energy channels named “nadi.” We also realized that we could feel a pose more and more deeply if we felt the upward, downward, inward, outward and centered energies. Now all five “vayu”s were totally in our mindb. From now on, we would not only do an “asana” but try to feel the energetical aspects of that “asana.”
And “vyana vayu”? Do I have a balanced life or am I nervous and is my mind confused? Am I in harmony and balance? Is my mind and body a whole, in balance and harmony or is my mind disjointed? Am I in harmony with myself and environment? Am I physicall, emotionally and mentally in balanc? Am I moving in grace? Do my thoughts and emotions freely move in my mind? Is my entire body in harmony and balance? This was what we was left behind “vyana vayu”-focused classes.

Long, gloomy, dry and cold winter is about to end. The north hemisphere is welcoming the spring. March 21 is the day when day and night are equal and when spring officially begins. With the spring on the way, we can see some changes in our bodies as well as our sportive activites and yoga practice. Spring makes us feel more tired, heavier and as if we are carrying hundreds of kilograms of load and we may not know how to cope with this fatigue. Actually, it’s so simple. According to Ayurveda — the Indian science of living — the “kapha dosha” in our bodies increases when spring comes. For this reason, we feel ourselves heavier and tired and we do not even want to move. So, what type of yoga should we prefer in spring?
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Before discussing types of yoga during spring, it is better to talk about “doshas” in our bodies. Ayurveda divides types of bodies into three and name them as “dosha” including “vata”, “pitta and “kapha.” Every body consists of three doshas and one of the doshas prevail others and cause some phyical and spiritual changes from season to season. From person to person, one dosha prevails. Moreover, one dosha prevails over the other with seasonal changes. It is so natural that “vata dosha” increases in our bodies in long, cold, gloomy and dry winter. On the contrary, “kapha dosha” increases in our bodies as days get longer, flowers bloom and temperatures rises with spring. Kapha dosha balances elements water and earth in our bodies. Its duty is to stretch our joints, providing mucus to protect our sinuses, lungs and stomach and to regulate the amount and strength of our muscles.
When kapha dosha is in balance, we feel ourselves strong and solid. When it is out of balance, we may be exhausted, depressed and sleepy.
Therefore, it is important to balance the kapha dosha in our bodies when spring comes. Otherwise, we may have to cope with seasonal allergies and severe common cold.
When all these are taken into consideration, flow yoga is something I can recommend to yoga lovers to not only wake their heavy bodies up but also to feel themselves more dynamic. Particularly vinyasa and hatha classes, “surya namaskara” (sun salutations), standing asanas, backbends, inversions, arm balancing poses and twists are sine qua non poses of springtime. “Matsyasana” (fish), “salabhasana” (locust), “navasana” (boat), “dhanurasana” (bow), “simhasana” (lion), “ustrasana” (camel), “setu bandhasana” (bridge), “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel), “sirsasana” (headstand), “sarvangasana” (shoulderstand), “pincha mayurasana” (peacock) and “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand) open the chest, relieve congestion, stretch the throat and drains sinuses.
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If you follow a flow like “garudasana” (eagle), “prasaritta padottanasana” (wide-legged forward bend) variations, “sirsasana” (headstand), “bakasana” (crow), “chaturanga dandasana-bakasana” (low plank-crow), “bakasana (crow)-adho mukha vrksasana (handstand)”, “salamba sarvangasana-halasana-karnapidasana-salamba sarvangasana-setu bandhasana” (supported shoulderstand, plow, ear pressure pose, supported shoulderstand, bridge), this will not only balance the kapha dosha in your bodies but also make you feel yourself stronger and more energetic.
In our classes or own yoga practice, we can welcome spring and ease spring fever with just 108 sun salutations. When flowing with “surya namaskara” series, we can focus on breath and add more oxygen and “prana” (life force) to our bodies with the breath, we can wake up and strengthen our bodies and we can clean and detox our minds as well.
Following such flows, you can go on working your core muscles, add some twists to your practice and do pranayama like “kapalabathi” (skull shining), “bhastrika” (breath of fire) or “agni sara” (cleansing breathing exercise) at the beginning or end of the class. You can also use “uddiyana bandha” (abdominal lock) throughout the class and wake your body up during springtime. Twists will also clean and detox our organs and strengthen the metabolism. Core strengthening asanas would activate the “element fire” in our bodies and can help us revive and feel more energetic.
Moreover, liver and gall bladder is overworking during cold winter days since we consume more caffeine, alcohol and sugar and eat more oily and protein-strong food. In order to relieve the liver and gall bladder, we should focus on inner thighs, groins and the outer parts of the legs. If we give priority to yin yoga and work the meridians believed to pass through the inner thighs, groins and outer parts of the legs, wee may relieve the liver and gall bladder, clean them up and revive them. “Swan”, “sleeping swan”, “dragonfly”, “frog”, “shoelace” are some of yin yoga poses for liver and gall bladder. Also we may do some hatha yoga poses such as “garudasana” (eagle), “prasaritta padottanasana” (wide angle pose), and “gomukasana” (cow face pose) for our liver and gall bladder.
As a result, spring is the time of the year when day and night are equalized, then days start to get longer after the equinox and nights start to shorten. Therefore, balance is so important. That is why we give priority to balancing the kapha dosha in our bodies in our yoga practice. We want to overcome fatigue and wake our bodies up and get more energetic in springtime and we focus on vinyasa yoga, i.e. flow yoga styles.
No matter what they say! Whether spring is a season that makes us feel ourselves heavy and tired, I feel happier as nature wakes up, flowers bloom, trees get greener, sun shines, days get longer and birds return to the north hemisphere. And I forget about the fatigue and heaviness as I feel happy. My body, soul and mind enlightens and shines with the sun rising up every day.
Yoga… Whether vinyasa, hatha or yin or any other type of yoga. I always think that what is important is the desire to do yoga irrespective of its style or the season. The type is not important. This is totally your choice and preference as long as you wake your body, soul and mind up, be in harmony with your body, mind and soul with the changing seasons, and just act in line with what they want.
I have given up my yoga practice for a few months. If you are following my posts, you know that I have been suffering from pain in my lower back and groins for about four months after I fell from the stairs. Therefore, I had suspended yoga asanas for some time. At the end of four months, I began my yoga practice with “yin yoga” in order to stay in an asana for at least three minutes and stretch deep connective tissues. During the four months when I was away from yoga asanas, my body got tense and rigid. It had lost its flexibility and therefore I started to feel tense and restless in asanas I used to do very well and easily before. Unfortunately, this was because of the four months of obligatory recess. During those four months, the social media was like an enemy to me. The friends I followed from the yoga world were showing of different asanas, taking photographs and sharing them in the social media. I was trying to be happy and content with only “stretching” classes in the gym club. Neither inversions nor deep twists nor backbends… This meant that I should not only get a physical rest but also a spiritual and mental change and growth.
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At the end of the four-month recess, one of my friends invited me to a 21-day yoga challenge at “instagram.” We would try a different asana every day for 21 days and take photographs. Of course, we would share the photographs on “instagram.” The program intensified on backbends. In the first week, we would focus on stretching “quadriceps muscles” and the chest. There were fundamental backbends in the first week. The first-day asana was one of the most challenging asanas for me because we had to stretch quadriceps muscles and groins. The asana was named “kuntasana” (spear yoga pose). We could get in the pose from “anjaneyasana” (low lunge) by bending the back leg from the knee and trying to bring the foot as close to the lower back. After doing this, we were to bend the chest backward. This was a very challenging pose for me as a person with tense hip flexor muscles. I could make this pose “a bit possible” by using a yoga belt. This was all I could do. The fourth-day challange was also a pose named “lunge warrior” where hip flexor muscles were to be used. After getting into “lunge” pose, we would interlace the fingers and bend backward from the chest. In the meantime, we would try to keep the hips square and not squeeze shoulders. It was really a challenging and hard experience for me.
My hip flexor muscles and groins could not become flexible even though I stretch them a lot. The other challenging poses for me during the 21-day event were “eka pada raja kapotasana II” (one-legged king pigeon pose’s second variation), “eka pada raja kapotasana III” (one-legged king pigeon pose’s third variation), “natarajasana” (dancer’s pose), “supta bhekasana” (supine frog pose), “kapotasana” (pigeon pose) and “laghu vajrasana” (little thunderbolt pose). As you may guess, all were focusing on hip flexor muscles. These muscles had to be flexible in order to do these poses in the real sense. I just tried. I tried to stay in the asanas in a calm way with the help of breath even though it was really hard for me. The most difficult of the poses was “eka pada raja kapotasana III” because I had to extend the front leg totally. I just extended my front leg as much as I could and put a block under it just like I did “hanumanasana” (monkey pose). I also used yoga belt to practice “natarajasana” and “eka pada raja kapotasana II” in order to stretch the back leg.
Before trying all these poses, I waited for five minutes in yin yoga’s “half saddle” pose to stretch right and lef hip flexor muscles. Then I stayed in “saddle” for three minutes. Yin yoga’s “saddle” pose is the asana we named “supta virasana” (supine hero pose) in hatha yoga. Before “supta bhekasana”, “laghu vajrasana” and “kapotasana”, I stretched the front leg muscles with “half saddle” and “saddle”. Then I tried all those three challenging asanas. Therefore, “kapotasana” and “laghu vajrasana” were no more impossible for me. In “Supta bhekasana”, I first grabbed the right foot and then the left foot, but not both foot at the same time. In fact, I could not do the full “bhekasana” (frog) pose. I always prefer “ardha bhekasana” (half frog pose).
I was feeling happy the days we were stretching the chest. The day we tried “setu bandhasana” (bridge) was a day when I could “challenge” others. However in this event, we grabbed the ankles instead of putting the hands beside our hips or interlacing them or supporting the lower back with hands.
There were several new asanas for me including “garuda matsyasana” (eagle arm fish pose). “Matsyasana” (fish pose) is one of my favorite asanas which I use in not only my own practice but also in my classes. However, I had never thought of using eagle arms (garudasana) in this pose. I backbended and with this arm position I felt the stretch in-between my scapula more intensely. “Uttana shishosana” (extended puppy pose) was also one my favorite asanas. However this pose was a little bit different in this program. Normally we do the pose with the knees on the ground but in this program our chest was on the ground, arms extended forward, shoulders being stretched and hip lifted up. It was an intense backbend. This was the first time I was experiencing this pose and I really enjoyed it. Before this 21-day challenge, I did wheel on the wall (urdhva dhanurasana). But this time we tried something different. When falling to wheel from the wall, we placed the palms on the wall and waited on the tips of the fingers instead of placing the hands on the ground. At the same time, we tried to bring the chest closer to the wall. Stretching the chest and opening the heart… Different experiences and different emotions…
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My favorite asana in this challenge was the one in which we got into handstand (adho mukha vrksasana) by the wall, placing the hips on the wall and separating the chest from the wall. I loved this pose. However, I could not do it as much as I wanted because although I was trying handstand for a long time, I did not manage to stand on my arms away from the wall. Therefore, this was a challenge for me. I would stand on my arms and stretch my chest. I had to keep my arms a bit away from the wall but as I could not easily stand on my arms, I was feeling comfortable the more closer I was to the wall. When I was close to the wall, I did not have enough room to stretch my chest. A dilemma. However, this was enough to make me fly.
The asanas were getting harder and harder by the end of the 21-day program. Especially on the last two days. On the 20th day, we would try “vrschikasana II” (scorpion pose). This pose was not only a backbend but also an inversion. I was still trying “pincha mayurasana” (forearm stand) by the wall. Some days I was feeling comfortable and taking my feet away from the wall and stay in the pose for five months. Sometimes I was swinging. I was taking one foot from the wall, trying to get the other. Then I was not feeling balanced and stable, putting one foot on the wall again. One day I was progressing, the other day I was regressing. Before trying “vrschikasana”, I tried “pincha mayurasana”. After resting for a while, I jumped to “pincha mayurasana” and tried to open my chest. At the same time, I tried to bend the knees and bring the feet closer to my head. I had a long path to walk. I realized it at that moment.
The last day’s pose was “viparita salabhasana” (inverted locust pose). This was also a hard pose for me. I tried but could not do it. So I laid on my abdomen and practiced different variations of “salabhasana.” I only lifted the arms, I only lifted the legs, then both. Then I interlaced fingers behind and opened up the chest.
Thus, the 21-day yoga challenge was over. There were some asanas I liked and enjoyed to do and some other asanas in which I had physical challenge and pain. During the event, I took a few photographs. My goal was to experience the poses and share my experiences in a post. I took the photographs just to add them to my post.
So what have I realized during the 21-day challenge? What has this event taught me? That there are many asanas I have not experiences even though I have been practicing yoga for years. That yoga is a wide world. That some parts of my body are tenser and some parts are more flexible. That I should do more to get more flexible and stronger. That I have a long path to walk. That the journey itself is more enjoying. And that the journey never ends and will never end.