Archives for posts with tag: balancing poses

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

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

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

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

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

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

I 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!”

Sometimes we do not live a life exactly as we imagine. We want one thing but that thing does not happen. And we get sad as that thing does not happen. Maybe it is for our benefit that it does not happen but we want that thing to happen. I know that I sound like a riddle. Let me begin from the outset.

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When I went to one of my private yoga classes last week, the hall we were practicing was full. So we had to practice in another place that was cooler with a high ceiling where your voice echoed a lot. As that was our first class after a week-long vacation, the student’s body was tenser than ever. I was thinking of what type of a flow I should teach that day. And as our usual hall was full and we would practice in a cooler place, I decided on a flow class. I would warm up the body and focus on balancing poses. When I told this to the student, she said she also wanted to practice balancing poses and she was about to tell me that. What a coincidence!

Following opening meditation, we began balancing poses on all-fours. We warmed up the body with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) flows and added new balancing poses in-between “vinyasa”s (flow). One knee bent, leg up, one leg up extended forward, one leg extended backward. After such warm-up poses, we practiced “vrksasana” (tree pose), “garudasana” (eagle pose), “eka pada utkatasana” (one-legged chair), “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III), “ardha chandrasana” (half moon pose). And a few more balancing poses. The peak pose of the class was “vasisthasana”… One hand extended to the leg and grabbing the big toe.

A few forward bends and twists after the peak pose… Then came “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

The student was thinking the same with me at the end of the class. Everything happens for a reason. If we had been in the hall we always practiced, balancing poses would not have been that easy. That hall was carpet-covered. The poses on our knees, hip openers and forward bends were easier to practice there. However, it was not so easy to practice balancing poses in that hall because one could not get grounded well and establish balance. The floor of the hall we were practicing that day was made of wooden. When we were practicing balancing poses, we were standing on the wooden ground. So, it was easier to do the balancing poses that day. Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes we were not happy with what happened to us and we got sorry because what we wanted and planned did not happen. Actually, we should accept everything as it was and let us go with the flow. Then life would be easier, wouldn’t it?

 

I showed up a bit earlier than the usual time to my private class last week. I had some time on my own before the class began. I chose the music I would play during the class and I wanted to warm my body up. I was feeling a bit tired that day and therefore I wanted to revive myself. Listening to my favorite “mantra”s (the sacred syllables chanted to free the mind), I started “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) flows. I closed my eyes to feel the “mantra” in my mind and spirit more intensively. After all when we close our eyes, the mind stops talking. I hadn’t realized how much I needed to turn inside, silence my mind and revive. That day we would focus on balancing asanas. This was what we had decided long before. When I was practicing “surya namaskara” flows eyes closed, something interesting came into my mind. Could we do practice with eyes closed throughout the entire class? By feeling the mind and spirit more intensively, by listening to the breath and totally turning inside…

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I turned off the lights. During the opening meditation, I told the student that today’s class would be different than the usual balancing flows and we would keep the eyes closed throughout the entire class. Maybe we could not enable coordination at first as the eyes we closed and sometimes we might not find our coordinates correctly on the “mat” but we would get used to finding our coordinates with eyes closed as we progressed on flows.

It is easier to balance when eyes are open. However when eyes are closed, no data is sent to the brain and it is hard for the body to percieve its position and coordinates on the space. Therefore, it is really difficult to find balance when eyes are closed.

We can get information about the place of the body parts with the help of our eyes. This means that it is so easy to know where our arm is, whether we could lift the leg up to 90 degrees or the leg stayed in 45 degrees with open eyes. Our eyes are open, we can see and get information. However, when eyes are closed, it is not that easy to get this information. Therefore, it is more difficult to practice balancing asanas with eyes closed.

We began “surya namaskara” flows with Krishna Das’ “Baba Hanuman” mantra  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ar7xwyvAvEM). I planned to just practice “surya namaskara A” as the eyes were closed. We began sun salutation series slowly just like the mantra. Keeping the pace of the mantra and feeling each “asana.” As the mantra speeded up, we speeded up the flow. In the third or fourth round, the student started to find her coordination more easily and better. In the first rounds, she was not so much oriented. Her hands were out of the mat or her hands were so close to each other. When we got to the third or the fourth round, she could find her balance and coordination more easily. She started to place her hands and legs to the same places as she did when her eyes were open. At first, the hands and feet were so close to each other but in the following rounds, there was enough distance between the hands and feet. All parts of the body were exactly in the place they should be. The mind had already understood that no data was coming and got used to it. The mind accepted that there were no more new data and therefore the body and mind were acting more comfortably. The student started to see with eyes closed.

Now I could start adding balancing poses in-between “surya namaskara” flows. We should progress slowly. At the end of one sun salutation flow, we stayed long in “tadasana” (mountain pose) with eyes closed. We felt the grounding beneath the soles of the feet. Then we grounded on one of the foot and then put the tips of the toes on the ground. If we managed to do this, we lifted the leg up to 90 degrees with the knee bent. We would begin with right or left leg, whichever we wanted to as one part of the body could be more balanced and strong and the other could be unbalanced and week. Therefore, I advised the student to begin with which part of the body she was feeling more balanced and stronger.

In the next flow, I asked the student to lift one of the legs to 90 degrees and extend it to the front. Then in the next flow, we extended the leg and then bent it in each inhale and exhale. In the next flow, we kept the hands in “anjali mudra” (prayer pose) and tried “vrksasana” (tree pose). Then we tried to lift the arms over the head in “vrksasana.” The other balancing poses we tried with eyes closed were “garudasana” (eagle pose) and “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III).

I decided to cool the body with “surya namaskara” flows. As the pace of the mantra slowed down, the sun salutations with eyes closed also slowed down. We ended the class with “dandasana” (staff pose), “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend), “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist) and “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). Eyes closed all the time.

When we were cooling the student with “surya namaskara” flows, I also wanted to join the flow. I stayed just opposite the student and started to practice sun salutations with my eyes closed. At that moment, the student said, “are you also practicing?” “Yes, I am also practicing.” Seeing with eyes closed was something like this. Seeing with eyes closed… Realizing the place and coordination of our body, environment and those around us with eyes closed was something like this. Feeling the instincts and intuition, listening to the soul and understanding what the soul is telling us, acting with intiution, and realizing those around us. Maybe this way we could create a difference in the world.

 

What would your answer be if I asked what pleased a teacher the most? Teaching, having many students or being loved by his/her students? In my opinion, what pleases a teacher the most is to witness the progress of his/her students. Seeing the improvement and progress of all students and realizing how they improved in time… This was what had happened to me last week.

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When I went to a group yoga class last week, I observed the students as usual in order to understand what they were willing to do that day. Most of the students were eager to try balancing poses. “We have not tried balancing poses for some time. Can we test our balance today?” Surely we could. But what would the peak pose be? I should decide on this. There were many peak poses in my mind and I could not pick one of them at that moment. Then I decided to focus on a flow in which many balancing poses were added to each other. It would be a fairly advanced class. But we were working with the same group for about two months and I believed that they could easily do this flow.

Following the opening meditation, we came on all-fours to start balancing. After “vyaghrasana” (tiger pose), we neutralized the spine with “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch). Then came a “vinyasa” and we stood up in “tadasana” (mountain pose). After warming up the bodies with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series, we started to test our balance. First we grounded on the left foot, bent the right knee and lifted the right leg up until it was parallel to the floor. After staying in this pose for five breaths, we did the same thing by grounded on the right foot. Following a “vinyasa”, we stood up in “tadasana” to ground on the left foot again. This time, we extended the right leg to the front. Following five breaths came the same asana on the right foot. Another “vinyasa” and “tadasana.” This time, the left leg was grounded to get into “vrksasana” (tree pose). “Vrksasana” was not a challenging pose for that group. So I had to make it harder. I was thinking what we could do to make “vrksasana” a challening pose, I decided that the students should try “vrksasana” with eyes closed. “Staying in vrksasana, pick a point in front of you and gaze at that point. Now slowly close your eyes but visualize that you are still looking at that gaze with eyes closed. If you are losing balance, slightly open your eyes and re-focus on the gaze. Now close your eyes again and try to stay balanced with eyes closed.”

It is easer to stay balanced with open eyes. However, no data goes to the brain with eyes closed and it is hard for the body to perceive its position and location. Therefore, it is fairly hard for the body to find balance with eyes closed.

When we talk about balance, we should also talk about vestibular and proprioceptive systems because both systems help us balance. Vestibular system contributes to balance in mammals and provides the leading contribution about movement and sense of balance.  Situated in the inner ear, it sends signals primarily to the neural structures that control eye movements, and to the muscles that keep a creature upright. The brain uses information from the vestibular system in the head to understand the body’s dynamics and kinematics (including its position and acceleration). In short, vestibular system is a system in inner ear that gives us information about the position of the head.

On the other hand, proprioception is the sense that helps us perceive where our body is in space and gives us the ability to plan and coordinate movements. Sense receptors in the joints and muscles are constantly sending signals to the brain and with the help of these signals, we can know about the position or tension of our joints and muscles. One should have a developed sense of proprioception in order to move right, healthily and in coordination.

Let me try to give you an example to make it more clear. In “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), it is the “vestibular system” that makes us perceive whether the back arm is in the same level with our shoulders. With proprioceptive system, we can feel the “grounding” or the connection. With this system, we can plan and coordinate our actions. This system creates “body awareness.”

We have information about the position of our organs thanks to our eyes. This means that when our eyes are open, we can easily know if we could lift our leg to 90 degrees or if it was staying in 45 degrees. With open eyes, we can see and easily access to information. However, it is not that easy to get access to such information with eyes closed. Therefore, balancing asanas are more difficult with eyes closed.

If we go back to that day’s class… “Vrksasana” with eyes closed. Where is the body? Can I joined my hands in front of the heart in prayer position? Is the bent leg on the knee cap or under it or above it? Trying to realize all these information with eyes closed.

Another “vinyasa” after “vrksasana” and slowing down the breath in “tadasana.” Now it was time for the flow full of balancing poses. “Vrksasana”, “garudasana” (eagle pose), “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III), “urdhva prasarita eka padasana” (standing split), two different types of “utthita hasta padangusthasana” (hand-to-big toe pose) including the one with leg extended to the front and the other with leg extended to the side.

Balancing poses one after the other without losing the balance. Without losing the gaze and without putting the leg in the air to the ground… I told you, it was an advanced class. And what pleased a teacher the most? Seeing the improvement and progress of his/her students. Seeing how the balance of the students had changed and developed in these two years and how they could easily do all balancing poses without even touching their toes on the ground… Worth everything…

After working this much balance, we rested in “malasana” (garland pose). Then I found an interesting idea. We had worked this much balance. So why weren’t we trying “bakasana” (crow pose)? There were also new students in the class. So I asked them to lean on the front and try lifting the foot one by one. I told the old students to directly try “bakasana.” All the old students managed to do “bakasana” and stayed at least five breaths in the pose.

Following neutralizing and calming asanas, we had a long “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). I ended the class by reminding that the balance of the body could change anytime, the balance and energies of the right and left of the body could differ, the goal of yoga was to ensure the balance and eliminate the imbalance between the male and female sides of the body and wishing that our goal in yoga and life should be to find and ensure balance between dualities.

Driving home after the class, I was thinking one thing. What pleased a teacher the most? Teaching, having many students or being loved by his/her students? Yes, what pleased a teacher the most? Witnessing the progress of his/her students… Seeing and realizing how bodily, mentally and spiritually the students have improved and progress and growing and progressing more and more with them each passing day…

I want to focus on a certain part of the body in my group and private yoga classes. Sometimes on the hips, sometimes on the back and sometimes on the navel. Sometimes on inversions, sometimes on standing poses and sometimes on balancing poses. I want to work a different part of the body in every class and focus on a different group of asanas so that we can get both physical and mental and spiritual benefit. Last week’s private class was of the same type. We only focused on balancing poses.

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I have mentioned in my previous posts that balancing poses are really challenging. It is not always so easy to keep the balance. Core muscles should be strong and you need to ground well. Coordination and concentration are a must in these asanas. You need to gaze at a certain place, keep your breath calm when trying balancing poses. (For further information, you may visit https://burcuyircaliblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/being-aware-of-balance/)

We have tried many balancing poses in our previous classes including “utthita hasta padangusthasana” (extended hand to toe pose), “natarajasana” (dancer pose), “ardha chandrasana” (half moon pose) and “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III).
As “vrksasana” (tree) and “garudasana” (eagle) are easier balancing asanas, they were sine qua non of almost all my yoga classes.
For we would focus on balancing poses that day, we started to work our balance in table pose after the opening meditation. Right arm to the front and left leg to the back. Stay in this pose for five breath. Then join the arm and leg in the middle and extend them for five times. The same series for the other arm and leg. Then another balancing pose on the ground: “Vyaghrasana” (tiger pose).  In order to work core muscles before standing up, we were on all fours and tuck the toes on the mat to lift the knees up the floor for a few inches. Stayed there fore five breath. We did it for three times. Strengthening core muscles would help us stay strong in balancing poses.
After the balancing poses on the ground, we stood up to “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog) and then came a “vinyasa” (flow). We stood tall in “tadasana” (mountain pose). Following a few “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series, we started to add core and balance strengthening asanas in-between “vinyasa”s. We lifted the right leg up in “adho mukha svanasana”, kept the hips even first and then brought the iliac bones over each other and turned the hips to the left side. When the hip was looking to the left side, we bent the upper leg from the knee and extended it for five times in order to work out the hip joint in different angles. First iliac bones were kept side to side and then on each other…
We worked out core muscles in “phalakasana” (plank) and “chaturanga dandasana” (low plank) and in the next “vinyasa” we lifted the right and then the left leg up, keeping the hips beside each other (square).
We added “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge) in-between the flows and put the back knee on the floor and grabbed the foot to stretch quadriceps muscles. We had to stretch quadriceps for the peak pose.
“Inhale extend arms over your head and exhale bend forward (uttanasana/standing forward bend). Inhale open the right leg back, keeping the hips square. After five breath, exhale and put the leg down and lift the left leg up as you inhale.”
The flow went on by working hip joint and core muscles. We were so close to the peak pose. “Vasisthasana” (side plank/Sage Vasistha pose) and variations. “Vasisthasana” in one “vinyasa” and in the other flow tree pose in “vasisthasana” and in the next flow, bending the upper leg from the knee and trying to hold the foot with the hand in “vasisthasana.”
A “surya namaskara” and then resting in “tadasana” to regulate breath. Then came the peak pose: “Ardha chandrasana” (half moon). First right leg on the floor with both hands on the floor. When lifting the left leg up, we lifted the left arm up. First hips side by side and then iliac bones over each other. This was the first step of the pose. We were trying to focus on breath and not to lose concentration. We would try a more difficult step of the pose. In the next exhale, we bent the right knee and tried to grab the foot with the right hand. If we managed to hold the foot, we turned the body to the side and stayed in the full pose for five breath. After staying in “uttanasana” for a few breath, we tried the same flow on the other side. The peak pose was over. The student could easily do one side but the other side was more difficult for her. We knew the reason. The right and left energies of our bodies could differ. Of course, the right and left balance. We could be more balanced on one side and less balanced on the other side. Moreover, the balance could change every day. We could not do an asana we could do well just a day later we tried it.
As we worked core muscles and balance throughout the class, I thought it would be good to try inversions before the relaxation and resting pose. We would pick among “salamba sirsasana” (headstand), “pincha mayurasana” (forearm stand) ya da “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand). The student wanted to try all of them. We stood by the wall. She was trying the poses by the wall but she was staying away from the wall when trying the headstand. She was feeling safe to know that the wall was near in case of any need. She practiced “headstand” without hurrying and in a controlled way. Then came “pincha mayurasana” and “adho mukha vrksasana” with the support of the wall.
After inversions, we balanced the body with “utthita balasana” (extended child pose). Before “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose), we relieved the body with “cat tail” pose.
How did I end the class? “Actually there was nothing we could not fulfil. We had the power in ourselves. That power, ambition and determination was present in all of us. The stronger our core was, the stronger will be our ambition and determination. When we realize the power within ourselves and keep our attention, when we do not hurry and take every step in harmony with our breath, there is not any single asana that we cannot do. The only thing we should do is to remember that this is a journey and we have stops in our journey. Taking a rest in those stops and heading for the next stop after renewing ourselves.”

I attended different types of yoga classes when I went to another country to spend my vacation with one of my dearest friends last spring. One of these classes was hot yoga or “Bikram yoga.” (A blog on this topic is available at https://burcuyircaliblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/11/hot-yoga-really/) Another different type of yoga for me was “yoga sculpt.” So what was “yoga sculpt”?

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“Yoga sculpt” was a flow yoga style in which dumbells were used. A “vinyasa” yoga style. A yoga style which speeds up your heartbeat, increases your metabolism and helps shape your body up when flowing from one asana to anothyer. I liked to call this yoga style as “shaping up yoga” in Turkish.
Imagine a yoga class in which disco music is used, dumbells in hands, in which you flow from one asana to another and thus you sweat a lot. Imagine lots of “lunge”s and “squat”s in the class. This is what “yoga sculpt” means to me.
“Yoga sculpt” was my favorite class during that vacation. This class was done in a warm studio in that country. However, I decided to teach the class in a regular-heated studio in my hometown. Before the classes began, we had to acquire the necessary equipmet. First we bought “half-kilogram dumbells”. I can hear you asking why “half-kilogram dumbells”? The answer is so simple. Because, when you are flowing from one asana to another with dumbells in hands, those half-kilogram dumbells were turning into two-kilogram dumbells. I also added disco music to my playlist. Everything was ready. We only needed students who wanted to try different types of yoga.
What was this class like? How was the flow? Was the flow the same with other yoga classes? Yes, as you may imagine, “yoga sculpt” classes were also beginning with an opening meditation. You were sitting in cross-legged position and preparing the mind to class. Then you went on with warming the spine. You were extending the spine with “utthita balasana” (extended child pose) and warming the spine up with “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch). Then “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog). And vinyasa ending up in “tadasana” (mountain pose).
After totally warming the bodies with a few “surya namaskara” series, it was time to take the “dumbells” in hands. Vinyasa flows continued with dumbells in hands. The main flow of “yoga sculpt” was getting from “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog) to “ashva sanchalanasana” (high lunge), from high lunge to “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), and from warrior II to “viparita virabhadrasana” (reverse warrior).
You could work different parts of bodies with dumbells in hands. You could work biceps and quadriceps muscles in “ashva sanchalanasa”, raise your hands on the sides of your ears and lift them up and then get them down to work the shoulder muscles. In “virabhadrasana II”, you can bend the elbows a bit and bring the elbows closer to each other and then away from each other in order to work the scapula. In “yogic squat”, you can lift one heel up at one time, then both hills up and sometimes you could work your shoulders in the same pose.
You could test your balance by lifting your toes up in “ashva sanchalanasa”, “virabhadrasana II”, “viparita virabhadrasana” and “utkatasana” (chair). In “utkatasana”, you could bend your elbows, keep your arms close to your body and open and bend your elbows to work your triceps muscles. Sometimes, you deepen in the poses and wait in these poses for five breaths. Maybe this was the most challenging time of the class. To deepen in an asana and wait.
Balancing poses were the sine qua non asanas of a “yoga sculpt” class. Balancing poses one after the other with dumbells in hands. This could also be defined as another challenging moment of the class. From “vrksasana” (tree) to “garudasana” (eagle), from eagle to “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III), from warrior III to “urdhva prasarita eka padasana” (standing split) from standing split to “uttanasana” (standing forward bend). You may guess how challenging it could be to get from one balancing pose to another with dumbells in hands.
It was time to work out core muscles when first half of the class was over. Jumping to “malasana” (squat pose) from “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog) and lying supine. Crunches lying supine, crunching with legs up to 90 degrees. Then active twists for oblique muscles. Ending up with “phalakasana” (plank pose).  Static waiting in “phalakasana” so that your core muscles resisted to gravity.
A few “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) flows to cool down the body and get ready for sitting asanas. A backbend and an inversion. Preferably “setu bandhasana” (bridge) and “salamba sarvangasana” (shoulderstand). A forward bend and a twist to balance the body. “Paschimottanasana” (sitting forward bend) and “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist). Relieving the spine with “ananda balasana” (happy baby) and “apanasana” (knees-to-chest pose). Then came “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).
For “yoga sculpt” was a body-focused yoga class, it was not so possible to end the class with a philosophical perspective. I could only say a few words when sitting in a cross-legged position after “savasana”: “Our body is our home. The place where our soul resides.  Today, we have worked to make this house beautiful and shape and sculpt it up. Do not neglect your soul and try to make it beautiful and sculpt it up all the time.”

It was a year ago when I finished the hatha and vinyasa teacher training program and got my certificate. I was so excited that I could not explain it to you. I returned to my hometown still feeling that excitement. Do you wonder where I got my certificate? We were at a yoga retreat in the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.

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I got back and went to the office the following day. The workplace was no more the same. However, I was there three day ago and everything was ok. What had changed in three days? I could end up the first day with these feelings. The following day, I went back to work. No, I was not able to stay there. There was something wrong. I could not concentrate on work. Fortunately, that day was over too. I was feeling myself in prison. I was putting a cross on the calender on my table as each day passed. The following day, I went back to the office again. There is something I should also tell you. Things were not so good at work. We had a union but it was about to be abolished and we were about to lose all our rights. I think this was what was making me unhappy and uneasy. I could no more tolerate this. At the end of the third day following the yoga retreat, I wrote a petition to bosses and I resigned. It was this simple.
On what I trusted? I think my certificate but the fact was not just like that. When a person loves something, s/he trusts it but it takes time to make his/her dreams come true. I was longing for a long summer vacation for I was working for long years. My husband was working and I did not want to leave him alone. But the sports club of which I was a member had an open-air and closed swimming pool. I was spending time there. I was doing my regular workout every morning and relaxing with yoga asanas. Then, I was lying beside the pool. Really good days. I gave myself two months of time. After the summer vacation, I would apply to several places where I could work as a yoga instuctor. I went to the Aegean coast of Turkey after spending one and a half months in my hometown. My real summer vacation lasted for a month. I was really having funb My body and soul had missed such an easy and peaceful life. I had not realized before but my office was so stressful and I was so stressed. Sometimes a person cannot see the facts in that rat race. But when out of it, one can really realize how it was like.
The vacation was over and I returned to my hometown. I got my certificates in hand — two certificates including hatha and vinyasa teacher training and prenatal teacher training certificates. I applied to many sports clubs and hotels but I was late. A wise person would not wait until September.
However, I was lucky. I started to give yoga lessons twice a week in a workplace which I knew thanks to my old office. I was feeling so well. I started to work as a yoga instructor. This was very good for me. I was also attending new training programs and workshops. Then, I started to give private lessons to a friend of mine. I was feeling so lucky. This was what I had longed for years. I was dreaming of becoming a yoga instructor for the past five years however I liked my office and job and I was earning well. Therefore, I did not go to any training program before. But when I felt unhappy and stressed at work, yoga teacher training was a savior for me.
Sometimes some things happen when you never expect them to happen. It was what happened to me. A friend called one day and told me that a pilates studio was looking for a yoga instructor. Two friends of my friend had recently opened a pilates studio and he recommended me to them. I went to the studio and I loved not only the studio but also the pilates instructors. We got a deal and I started to work there.
I have seen many things during my one year in yoga. When I went to yoga teacher training programs, I met very flexible people with a great body, mind and soul awareness. When you go to yoga studios, you think that everybody practicing yoga are not only flexible but also strong. You think that you can use many asanas that required strength or ask students to get into balancing and arm balancing poses in your own classes because you are an ideal teacher. However, it’s not the same in real life. When you get into a class, you can see people who even do not know how to breath in yoga classes or people who cannot do some poses that require leg and arm coordination (opposite leg and opposite arm poses).
If you are a yoga instructor who love to use peak poses in your classes, you may pick an intermidiate asana as the peak pose. Sometimes “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II) or “janu sirsasana” (head to knee pose) can be your peak pose. “Adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand) or “bakasana” (crow pose) which you practice in yoga studios can be a dream in your own classes. Or you plan to practice vinyasa or a flow class, but your class turn out to be a yin class that day. Moreover, yin yoga can sometimes be a savior as it is more passive and most people can practice that style more easily. Generally, you can use props or get support from the wall in yin yoga classes.
Like new idealist university graduates, you become an idealist yoga instructor when you complete a training program. You want your students to practice the hardest asanas or the asanas that require maximum flexibility. However, it is not always possible in real life. So what should we do in such a case? Should we be disappointed and be demoralized or get adapted to new conditions? A year after I got my certificate, I think that a yoga instructor should adapt himself/herself to changing conditions. A yoga instructor should be flexible and renew himself/herself. Even in a class. S/he should not be bound to anything and should not be static. S/he should be flexible. Idealism is good but it forces us to be rigid. In my opinion, a yoga instructor should not be idealistic but adapt herself/himself to daily conditions. S/he should be natural. Only then s/he can guide and help his/her students live different and limitless experiences.

Balance has always had an important place in my life. As a Libra, a balanced life is my sine qua non condition. But can I maintain my balance all the time? What if I am out of balance? I was thinking about all these issues when I focused on balance and balancing poses in my yoga class the previous night. Balance? What kind of a balance? Does our balance change day by day? How can we maintain our balance?

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We are still experiencing spring. One day, it is hot, the sun is shining and warming us up. That day, we take off our socks and wear summir clothes and sandals. The other day, it is cloudy and rain is expected. We feel cold if we go out with our summer clothes. Yoga classes are also changing day by day in such a season. Sometimes we prefer an active yoga class or sometimes a calmer class in hot days. In cooler days, we prefer a yoga class that can warm us up. Therefore, our yoga practice changes day by day under these circumstances.
That day, it was very hot in Ankara. I was feeling sleepy because of the sun that made me hot when I was driving to the pilates studio. I drank a cup of coffee once I arrived at the studio just to feel more energetic. It was a nice day to test our balance.
Students came and the class began with a short meditation. We then got into balancing poses in table pose because I had planned a balance-based yoga class for that night. Then we tested our balance by standing on a single hand and by lifting a single leg at one time in “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog). Then we stood up and warmed our bodies up with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. Now, it was time to focus on balancing asanas. Among them were  “vrksasana” (tree), “natarajasana” (danscer), single-legged “utkatasana” (chair), “ardha chandrasana” (half moon), “vasisthasana” (side plank/Sage Vasistha pose). Thee peak pose of the day was  “utthita hasta padangusthasana” (extended hand to toe pose) variations.
We were supported by a block or by the wall in somee asanas and we just watched our balance. We saw that the balance in the right and left parts of our bodies might be different. We realized that we might do one asana successfully in one day but might fail in it the other day. So, what was the point of that class? Why did we focus on balancing asanas? To know that our balance may change from day to day and accept this fact.
This was the point of that class. Most importantly, to accept that the balance in the right and left sides of our bodies might be different. Maybe we were more balanced in our right side, maybe we were more balanced in the left side. Or maybe we were balanced in both the right and left sides. But most importantly, what mattered was to accept our balance or imbalance, in other words our strong sides and infirmity, and love ourselves this way. The entire class was about this motto. All the class aimed to bring our awareness to this issue.
I am a Libra. My life has to be in balance all the time. I have to maintain my balance. What if I cannot maintain the balance? I will be physically and emotionally exhausted. How can I maintain this balance?
First of all, all of us has to accept that the life is built on “dualities.” We have to realize that there cannot be a man without a woman, a winter without summer, a day without night, brightness without darkness. In other words, we have to accept that night, summer, woman or darkness is meaningless without the presence of the opposite poles. Everything is meaningful with its opposite pole. So, we can build a balance in our life by accepting the presence of these opposite angles. We can establish balance only this way. Neither too much activity nor too much calmness, neither eating too much meat nor eating no meat, neither too much sportive activity nor too much stillness, neither too much love nor too much hatred… Only moderate behavior and only balance of all aspects. This is the order of our lives…

It was a few days ago in one of my yoga classes when I was asked the question: “when am I be able to do this pose?” Actually, this is a question we often ask when we have difficulties in a pose or when we can no way do an asana. Me! I asked the same question for several times, particularly during the teacher training program. I asked it when I was trying hip-opening poses, or a arm balancing pose or an inversion. Forward and backward bends, twists, core strengthening poses, and many balancing poses were not a so big problem for me. I could do or try most of them. Doing a pose means entering the pose and staying in that pose for at least five breath, not just getting in and out of the pose immediately. This is what doing a yoga asana means.

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However when it comes to arm balancing poses or inversion, I was asking myself: “When am I be able to do this pose?” or “Am I ever be able to do this asana?” In fact, I am still asking the same question.
Yoga does not mean to achieve something, leaving that aside and then focus on another thing and try to accomplish that. Yoga is accepting the body, mind and soul as they are. Accepting the possibilities and impossibilities as well as the advantages and disadvantages and doing the asanas in that way. A person may have an open chest and backbends may be the best and easiest poses for him/her. But, that person may have tight hamstrings and forward bends may be the hardest poses for him/her. This all depends on our bodies and their capabilities.
If I am to talk about my own experiences, I like forward bends. Why? Simple. My hamstrings are flexible and forward bends calm down my soul and I like to turn my attention inside when I am doing yoga. Forward bends are my favorite, but they can be a nightmare for some people with tight hamstrings and for people with an extraverted and lively character.
For me, backbends are also enjoyable poses. I loved to do a wheel in school or at home when I was a child. I was so excited when I saw that they were doing wheel in yoga classes. My favorite gym class workout was also a yoga asana. Moreover, whether it was dhanurasana (bow pose), salabhasana (locust pose), ustrasana (camel) pose or bhujangasana (cobra pose), none of the backbends did matter to me. Backbending meant making your soul alive, awakening your soul, and having fun. Experiencing all these was making me happy. I was a person with such an unsteady temperament. I loved not only forward bends but also backward bends. They both have a place in my heart.
And comes twists… I also love them. They recall me my childhood. We were washing our clothes in an old-fashioned rolling washing machine with my grandma during summer when I was a child. The rolling device was broken, and we had to roll the clothes by ourselves. I feel myself like the rolled clothes for a minute when I am doing a twist, whether a sitting or a supine twist. I am rolled, then I am opened up and it makes me so delightful and happy.
However, hip opening poses were one of the most difficult poses for me. Genetically, I do not have so flexible hips. Therefore, I even cannot do “padmasana” (lotus). When I am doing baddha konasana (butterfly), my legs are not touching the floor. Of course, these are the problems many people are facing today. As we sit in chairs and coaches all the day long, our hips lose their flexibility in time. Since I started to add yin style yoga in my daily yoga practice and stayed at least five minutes in hip opening poses, I can see that my hip muscles are getting more flexible each day. This means that I have a method that I can use to deepen in hip opening poses. How lucky I am!

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When it comes to balancing poses… I was a balanced person during my whole life. I suffered from several injuries in my legs, feet and ankles due to long hours I spent at the gym hall for years. They were not so severe injuries but they affected my balance. I cannot get in balancing poses so easily as I used to do. However, as I tried standing balancing poses as much as I can, I have achieved to re-balance myself. But we all know that our balance can change at any moment. We cannot catch the balance we had a minute ago. Or we may be more balanced in right or left side. It is so natural. I do not fight, I have accepted it.
That is, forward and backward bends, twists and balancing poses are not so big deal for me. However, inversions and arm balancing poses… Sometimes one may think that what the use of such poses in yoga is. Now that we are seeking mental, bodily and spiritual relaxation in yoga, what is the use of fantastic poses that can only be done by “Rambo?”
Fantastic poses… Standing on your head, arms or shoulders… Standing on shoulders was not such a big deal for me as we used to do the same pose in gym classes when we were a child. It was fairly an easy pose for me. What was a difficult inversion for me? Surely, sirsasana (headstand), adho mukha vrksasana (handstand), pincha mayurasana (peacock pose)… I managed to do sirsasana by working too hard. But, handstands? They scare me, and when I am scared, I cannot do it. I am getting one step closer to the pose, the asana gets one step away from me.
Surely, there are also arm balancing poses. Bakasana (crow), bhujapidasana (arm balance pose), astavakrasana (eight limbed sage Astavakra pose), eka hasta bhujasana (one hand arm balance pose)… Getting in these asanas and staying at least five breath in them. It is beyond physical characteristics. My arms, chest and back are physically strong. But my mind and fears… For this reason, inversions and arm balancing poses are away from me. I am used to bakasana, and a little bit eka hasta bhujasana…
When am I be able to do these poses? Am I still asking? Yes I somethimes ask. Sometimes, I just leave everything aside and let go. But, sometimes I think about when I can do a handstand or whether I can stay in pincha mayurasana for five breath. I do not know.
I gave the same answer when I am asked the same question in classes. In my opinion, the only way to get into a pose and stay in it for at least five breath is to know the capabilities and limits of one’s own body, i.e. the compression and stretch limits, to accept those limits, to believe that a little, not much, change may happen in time, but most of all not to be obsessed with that asana. Just like everything gets in the right track when you let go instead of forcing in your daily life…
When am I be able to do this pose? When I accept myself as I am, know my limits, not force myself and accept everything as it is and let go…