Archives for posts with tag: chest

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I cannot post a blog for some time. I just think that writing about yoga and meditation would make me seem like a person who closes her eyes to what is going on in her country, especially to increasing terror incidents in our country, economic crisis and political developments. Therefore, I did not want to post blogs on yoga and meditation. Even though I sat in front of the computer every week, I looked at the screen and then decided not to write. Actually, I do not want to write even at this very moment.

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What makes me feel happy in these days when I really feel sad and hopeless is my yoga classes. I would not even want to go out of my house even if I did not have any yoga classes. When I went to classes, I feel relieved and away from everything maybe just for an hour. I think the spirit and happiness of students in yoga “asana”s (poses) are reflected on me. And I show up on the scene just like an actress, forget all negative things and smile for an hour.

Cobbler’s children have no shoes… Me, too. Even though I do my self-practice and spend a lot of time practicing yoga and meditation, it is no use. The only thing that makes me happy these days is my yoga classes and the bliss of my students at the end of classes.

All my students were in the same mood during this time. Therefore, we focused on “hip opening poses”, “twists” and “chest opening asanas.” We tried to love more and understand others by opening our chest. With twists, we wanted to get rid of what has been kept inside for a long time and detoxifying. With hip openers, we tried to end the emotions like anger, hatred and fear. Even if it was just for an hour, we forgot all these emotions and thoughts and could breathe. Even if it was just for an hour, we could fully integrate our body, soul and mind. Even if it was just for an hour, we forgot all negative things. Even if it was just for an hour, we watched our own body and tried to realize how our breath was. Even though it was just for an hour, we purified ourselves from all thoughts and made our mind just focus on body and breath. And at the end of that one hour, we left the class with a little bit peace and happiness, which was what we longed for.

December 21… Winter solstice… The shortest day and the longest night of the year… We experienced the solstice a few days ago. This year seems longer and darker to me. Ongoing terror attacks in our country is making these days longer and darker. Moreover, the summertime application is still underway in our country, which makes days darker. When we wake up in the morning, we see a dark day. When we get out of our homes to go to the office or school, it is still dark. It gets lighter when we are on our ways to school or office, which makes waking up in the morning harder than ever. We have understood how important the daylight is for people and how it biologically helps us live our lives.

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When winter comes, I feel depressed. Even though I am a person who have been practicing and living in yoga for years, I cannot get accustomed to the duality of life. Actually, I have accepted duality in many areas, however when it comes to winter and summer, summer is much more important for me. In fact, the sentence saying “there is winter if there is summer” is not one that I feel like saying. Just try to imagine what has happened to me when I am waking up to dark mornings.

Winter… Cold, dark, dry and harsh… All these are characteristics of “vata dosha”, one of the three body types in Ayurveda (Indian science of living). “Vata dosha” resembles adjectives like airy, light and creative. The main feature of this body type is instability and inconstancy. “Vata dosha” controls the central nervous system. When this “dosha” is out of balance, it can lead to nervous problems, including anxiety and depression.

With the cold, dry and harsh weather during winter, the “vata dosha” in our bodies rise irrespective of what our ayurvedic body types are. When the “vata” in our bodies rise, the best thing to do is to ground in yoga classes. Therefore, we should give priority to grounding in our yoga practice during winter and we should keep our awareness in our roots and grounds.

Why do we have to ground when “vata” increases in our bodies? “Vata” is associated with not only cold, dark, dry and harsh but also light and airy. Therefore, when “vata” increases in our bodies, it is so normal to fell ourselves lighter, more airy and as if we are flying. To this end, we should reduce, balance or regulate the “vata dosha” in our bodies. If we give priority to inversions that increase “vata” during our yoga practice and mainly practice “sirsasana” (headstand), “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand) and “pincha mayurasana” (forearm stand), we raise the “vata” in our bodies. Thus, our mind will be tired, we feel impatient, and we feel like we are flying. We cannot focus, we cannot stay at one place and we will lose attention.

If we have such complaints, we should focus on grounding more than ever during winter in order to ensure physical, emotional and spiritual balance because most probably, the “vata dosha” in our bodies has increased. The standing yoga poses, particularly “tadasana” (mountain pose), “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I), “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), “trikonasana” (triangle) and “vrksasana” (tree pose) are all poses that ground us and help us regulate the “vata dosha”. These standing poses do not only make us stronger but also help us stand firm and balanced on our feet.
Actually, we do not only ground in standing poses. If our aim is to ground ourselves, we can feel our roots in every pose. You must be wondering how we can do that? For instance, let’s practice “paschimottanasana” (sitting forward bend). If we bring our awareness to our sit bones in this pose and aim to get rooted and ground towards the earth through these bones, we can also make ourselves be rooted and grounded in a sitting yoga pose.

Similarly, we can also get grounded and rooted in backbends. For example, we can get into “bhujangasana” (cobra) or “salabhasana” (locust) poses, and we can ground ourselves onto the earth from our abdomen while we raise only our chest from the ground.

Twists also help us regulate the “vata dosha” in our bodies. However, our breath should freely move when we are in a twist. If not, the “vata dosha” in our bodies can increase.

We can get cold or flu more easier during winter than all other seasons. Therefore, it could be useful if we focus on asanas opening the chest, throat and sinuses. After warming the bodies up with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series, we can open the chest with backbends like “ustrasana” (camel), “dhanurasana” (bow) and “salabhasana” (locust) and clean and purify the throat with “salamba sarvangasana” (supported shoulderstand) and “matsyasana” (fish pose).

Besides all these yoga asanas, warming the bodies up with “ujjayi pranayama” (conquerer breath) during the winter can be a good method to balance the increasing “vata dosha”. Other techniques that can warm the bodies during winter are “bhastrika pranayama” (bellows breath) and “kapalabhati kriya” (skull cleansing method). Particularly “kapalabhati” could help eliminate mucus from the bodies.

So, we can regulate and balance the “vata dosha” in our bodies by trying to ground ourselves more on the ground and earth during this cold, dry and harsh winter. Let’s try to ground ourselves more and more on earth in standing yoga poses but at the same time let’s try to feel the energy rising from our soles. Let’s try to flow our energy to the ground, and feel the energy coming from the earth and ground in every yoga pose.

Grounding… One of the main principles of life. Everybody and everything wants to have roots and belong somewhere. Winter is a good opportunity to get grounded and be rooted and to improve our sense of belonging. If there is duality in life, we should continue being grounded until the moment we need to take our feet off the ground, i.e. till summer. Don’t forget that the days when we will need to take our feet off the floor are also ahead of us…

I have been facing the same exhaustion, unhappiness and insecurity in the eyes of the students in my yoga classes recently. Everybody in tense, everybody is afraid and everybody is restless. Terrorist attacks one after the other increase the exhaustion, insecurity, unhappiness and uneasiness of our bodies and souls in these long, dark and gloomy winter days. When I show up in class and ask students what they want to do that day, they always say, “something that can make us relax and something that can make us feel peaceful and happy only if it is for an hour.” For this reason, I focused on flows that would stretch the chest in this week’s yoga classes.

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I aimed to focus on backbends and stretch the chest in three different yoga classes. The peak pose would be “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel pose). Before the flow began, I told students “today we will try wheel pose. When trying it, we would try to look behind, look at the past and look at the unknown. To look behind, have trust in our arms and lift the body upward is something that requires courage. If we are afraid, if we have something to fear in our lives, we cannot open our chest with courage. But we can try it with confidence and courage and can proceed towards love, enthusiasm and happiness.”

And the class began. We stretched the chest and hip flexor muscles and worked on our shoulder girdle in order to externally rotate the shoulders. I decided to make students try the peak pose in three stages. In the first trial, we would practice “setu bandhasana” (bridge pose). When inhaling, we would lift the spine up to the thoracal area and in our second inhale, we would lift the chest up more. In our second trial, we would again begin with “setu bandhasana” and after we got in the pose, we would place the arms beside the head and put the top of the head on the ground. If this stage was impossible for us for that day, we would again do “setu bandhasana.” In our third trial, we would try wheel pose. We would get in the second stage first and when inhaling we would lift the body on the arms and lift the head up also. If this pose was hard and challenging for us that day, we would stay in the second stage.

There were students who did all three stages, those who only did bridge pose, and those who tried the first and second stages. Everybody tried the pose as much as their bodies and souls prevailed and accepted their condition.

When the students were in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting position), I was thinking. All students felt unhappy, desperate, sad, disappointed, tired, exhausted and unsecure due to recent incidents in the country. Every one was afraid. Even though we thought that we were not affected, we were feeling unsecure, tired, exhausted and hopeless about the terrorist attacks. Accurate or inaccurate — we were getting tip-offs from social media every day. “Don’t go there, don’t wander around this area.” Even though the bodies were not tired, the souls were. All the incidents caused insecurity, exhaustion and desperation. Even though we bent backward in order to avoid this spirit and stretched the chest, we could not get the desired outcome and effect. Maybe we used to bend backward so easily in the past and now we were facing difficulties. Was it because our souls and hearts were so heavy? What about the fear? New fears every day? And to be deprived of the courage to overcome this fear? And not to feel brave enough to do something? Not to take any steps with courage and confidence. To feel exhausted and not being able to lift the chest up by all these emotions…

We tried an “asana” which required balance as well as flexibility in our group class the previous week. “Natarajasana” (dancer’s pose). The students who joined the class liked to go to gym, walk, run and join other group exercises so they had tense muscles. That’s why they had difficulties in trying this pose. When we tried the full version of the pose, I had made up my mind and decided to try two poses in our two following classes so that this pose might seem possible also for the students who had difficulties that day.

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In our first group class, we would try “ardha chandrasana” (half moon pose) and open the hip flexor muscles which should be stretched to try “natarajasana”. In our next class we would try “natarajasana.” As both poses were balancing poses, the body would be prepared for balance. Moreover, we would have to stretch the chest, hip flexor muscles as well as hamstrings for both poses. We would try the full version of “natarajasana” so we would also open the shoulder girdle.

In the first half of our first-day clas, we stretched the hip flexor muscles with “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge), “anjaneyasana” (low lunge), “ardha bhekasana” (half frog pose), “half saddle” and “cat pulling its tail.” In order to bring the “iliac bones” over each other when opening the chest, we worked “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II) and “parsvakonasana” (side angle pose). We first tried the simple version of “ardha chandrasana” in which the leg we lifted stayed straight. In our second trial, we bent the knee of the straight leg and try to pull it with our hand of the same side. We could not make any concessions of our chest and iliac bones which should turn to the right or left depending on which leg was on the ground as well as our shoulders which should stay over each other. If we could not align well, then we should use a block or a belt. The students who could not turn their chest and hips used blocks and belt and tried the pose once more.

The following day, our bodies were stretched and a bit more flexible than before. I wanted to stretch the chest as well as the shoulder girdle more for “natarajasana.” So we prepared the bodies with “bhujangasana” (cobra pose), “urdhva mukha svanasana” (upward facing dog), “supta virasana” (supine hero pose), “broken wings”. We tried to grab the back leg in “anjaneyasana”. In “eka pada raja kapotasana” (king pigeon pose), we bent the back knee and placed the foot incide the elbow of the same side and tried to join hands behind the head.

We tried “natarajanasa” in its simpleset way. We bent the back knee and tried to grab the leg with our hand or with a belt. In our second tried, we tried to place the foot in our elbow and turn the other arm behind and join the hands behind the head. We were going step by step. First one stage and if we felt comfortable there, we went to the other stage. We tried, experienced and stayed at the stage our body let us. Without pushing hard, without forcing, we accepted and stayed where we were supposed to stay that day.

As we always say, yoga is not a physical activity. If we try to practice only with bodily or muscle power in a yoga class, if we push ourselves hard and make concessions of our body in order just to achieve, that thing will not be yoga and we would just assume that we do that “asana” but in fact we would not even get closer to it. One of yoga “sutra”s says: “Stira sukham asanam.” A yoga pose should be easy, simple and comfortable but also strong, firm and stable. When doing the peak pose, our body, soul i.e. our breath and mind should be in harmony and we should exhibit that asana as if it is so simple. We should seem so peaceful and comfortable but at the same time we should stay at least five breath in that pose and we should seem strong, robust and stable when we are staying in the pose. There should be a smile in our face, a relaxed face, our breath calm and serene, our body is so confortable and strong. Only then we could say that we are in genuine “yoga.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are undertaking a lot of burden on us, aren’t we? And we do not know how much burden we are carrying. Responsibilities of our loved ones, the burden we put on our body when we are angry and cannot express it, the burden we put on ourselves when we are sad, all kind of moral and material burden on us… And when the responsibilities are over and sadness and problems go away, we think all the burden is gone. Is it really so?

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After I started teaching yoga, I am more careful about the bodies of the students. Most of the students were suffering from herniated discs in their neck and lower back. Some students had a thoracal curve more than usual curve. Some had problems in their hips. Leave aside some body injuries, almost all health problems result from emotional state of mind. Before I started yoga, I would laugh at this if somebody told me some stuff about emotional reasons of health problems. Moreover, I would burst into laughter and I could not stop until my eyes are filled with tears. Now I have realized how emotions affect our state of health.

When I went to one of my group yoga classes last week, students wanted an upper back focusing flow. As you may imagine, the weaker the upper back muscles, the more back pain we have. We would also stretch the chest when we focused on upper back muscles.

Standing erect is one of the most difficult things in life. Have you ever checked whether you are standing erect when you are standing on your feet? Imagine yourself in a long queue. Even if you stand erect for a few seconds, you will bend your knee and deteriorate your posture and spine, won’t you? Or think of yourself in front of a TV or computer. Are you sitting erect or have you rolled your shoulders in? When you are in front of the computer, are both of your legs touching the floor, have you lifted your head to look up the monitor, is your neck looking upward or is it level with the monitor? Just think.

After thinking all these things, imgine how you may feel when you try to keep your spine erect in an upper back-based yoga class. To stand erect in “tadasana” (mountain pose), to roll shoulders back, to keep the chest open, to keep the neck parallel to the floor… To keep the back straight and not to round the spine in “ardha uttanasana” (standing half forward bend)… In another “vinyasa” (flow), to extend the arms in the front just beside the ears, not to let the arms to fall down below the level of the ears, not to bring the shoulders and arms together when doing so, not to compress the neck in “ardha uttanasana.” In “dandasana”, to keep the arms beside the ears and to keep the distance between the ears and the shoulders… After waiting for some time there, not to round the spine… If the spine wants to get rounded, to resist. To keep going keeping the arms beside the ears in “dandasana”, to tuck the tailbone out and bend forward without rounding the spine. How much you bend forward is not important. What is important to keep the spine erect when you bend forward and to bend forward to that level, not more. To do the same flow in “upavistha konasana” (seated angle pose).

To observe the students when they try all these poses. To see which one of them is rounding the “thoracal” (upper back) area and could not extend the body to the front from the “sternum” (chest bone). To think of the reasons and to talk about the burden we are carrying at the end of the class. Responsibilities and burden. Take a deep breath and imagine that you leave the burden out of your lives when exhaling. Everything begins with imagination. When I was in high school, there was a picture on the wall. On the picture was the photograph of scientist Albert Einstein with his quote: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” As long as we imgine and want, nothing is impossible.

In yoga classes, students usually ask us to teach a chest opening and back strengthening class. Long hours in front of computers and careless moves in our daily lives which can injure our bodies any time. IN this case, back strengthening and stretching flows are sine qua non for yoga classes.

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Almost all students wanted a back strengthening and stretching yoga class in almost all my yoga classes last week. After opening meditation, we extended the opposite arm and leg to front and back in “marjaryasana” (cat pose) in order to warm up the bodies. To stretch back muscles during the entire class, we practiced “eye of the needle” twist, “utthita shishosana” (extended puppy pose), “trikonasana” (triangle), “parsvakonasana” (side angle pose), “ardha uttanasana” (half-way forward bend), to bend forward with an erect spine in “dandasana” (staff pose) and “upavistha konasana” (seated angle pose). Following “salabhasana” (locust pose), “dhanurasana” (bow pose) as the peak pose.

When I showed up in one of my morning classes, students again asked for a back stretching flow and I added a few twists to the above mentioned asanas. “Parivrtta uttanasana” (twist in standing forward bend), “parivrtta trikonasana” (revolved triangle pose), “parivrtta parsvakonasana” (revolved side angle pose), “parivrtta adho mukha svanasana” (twist in downward facing dog)…

In another morning class, we used the wall. After warming up the body and the spine on yoga mats with “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch), twist in “marjaryasana”, “uthitta shishosana”, “ardha uttanasana”, “parivrtta uttanasana”, we stood by the wall. The students could not extend their spines as erect as I wanted in “ardha uttanasana” so I wanted them to try this pose by the wall. The students stood beside each other, put their hands on the wall, extended their coccyx toward the middle of the studio, and stood in 90 degrees angle to the ground. Taking support from the wall, they made their spine erect. They pushed their hands to the wall and extended their coccyx to the middle of the studio. After staying in this pose for five breaths, the students lifted their right leg up and extended it to the back. With this change in the angle, their bodies were misaligned. They started to push themselves more to the wall from one of the hands and therefore one hip was above the other. I told them not to lift the leg up so much and keep the hips side by side. They tried. A bit more, a bit more and yes! Then the other side. We came out of the pose and rested. They said all their spines were extended so much. We went on practicing by the wall. I asked them to lean one of their sides to the wall and extended the arm in that side up to the wall in order to stretch that side of the body. Then we started to externally rotate that shoulder a bit more a bit more and a bit more. As much as their bodies let them to. We were stretching the shoulders and the chest. Next, we leaned our back on the wall and bend the legs and the knees as if we were siting on a chair. We would work out both the upper and the lower bodies. We lifted the arms in the shoulder level arms in the shape of “I surrender” and extended them up in an inhale and then bent the elbows and touched them to the bodies in each exhale. Then standing in the same pose, we tried “pelvic tilt” by the wall. The last pose by the wall was “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II). We tried to bring the bent knee closer to the wall as much as we could without arching the lower back. In the meantme we were trying to bring the back hip closer to the wall. I helped each student stretch their bodies more in this pose.

We went to the mats, laterally stretched the spine in “horse” pose. Again in the same pose, we worked out the shoulder blades by bending the elbows in each exhale and opening up the arms to both sides in each inhale. It was time to sit down. “Dandasana”, “upavistha konasana”, “supta virasana” (supine hero pose) and “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist) and in the end “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

After the class, I was thinking that we were not behaving nice to our bodies. We had forgotten that the body was the house of the soul and we were behaving badly to the body. We were not listening to our bodies and did not care what the body wanted or did not want. We were pushing it hard from time to time. Particularly we were not aware how much harm we were giving to the bodies in our daily lives. When driving, we could turn to the back to get our bags and hurt our spine. Or at home, we could lift something too heavy or we could get injured while doing the ordinary housework. Have you ever realized whether we get injured in a physical activity class or doing simplest things in our daily lives. Maybe it was high time that we had realized and become aware of that!