Archives for posts with tag: flexibility

Anatolian people believe that three radiations of heat fall into the air, water and earth to herald the beginning of spring. The first radiation fell into the air last week. First into the air, then into the water and then the earth… In my previous post, I had written about the yoga classes I thought in the week when the radiation fell into the air and how we tried to prepare our bodies to changing weather conditions and the spring. The radiations herald the beginning of spring. And, we can prepare our bodies to the spring by practicing in line with these elements.

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The raditations would start falling into the air, heralding better and warm weather conditions. The first into the air on February 20, the second into the water on February 27 and the third into the earth on March 6 (March 5 in leap years).

We had worked on the element water in the first week. This week, it was time for the element water. Element water was related with being in the flow, action and movement. It was about change. Instead of resisting, to be with the flow and to move. But not a disgraceful move, but moving with grace. As if we are dancing. The flood was also a type of water but it was destructive. However, a brook was also a water but it was calm and serene. To be like a brook, not flood. To be calm and serene and move this way…

The element water was also related with the second chakra, i.e. the “swadisthana chakra” (sacral chakra). Flexibility, elasticity and female energy. Hip opening series… Creativity and to love ourselves. To love and get rid of all negative emotions that take shelter in this chakra.

Flow and action were important in a yoga class on the element water. Change was important. Therefore, we should practice a “vinyasa” (flow) class. To move, to sweat and feel the element water.

The peak pose would be “hamunanasana” (monkey pose). So, we got prepared for the peak pose by stretcting hip flexor, hamstring and groin muscles. After trying the peak pose, we neutralized and rested the bodies in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

The element water was about change. As Heraclitus of Ephesus said, “you could not step twice in the same river. The river changes and so do you.” Isn’t yoga the same? Every moment is a new moment. And when a moment is being lived, it has already become “history.”

I have been focusing on core strengthening flows and inversions in my yoga classes for a long time. I do not know why but if it is summer and if it is hot, almost all students want to focus on flow classes and get the most benefit from that class. We forget to stretch our bodies in those times. And when we start stretching our bodies, the body reminds us for how long time it has been neglected.

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Last week was the week of fall equinox, So we focused on “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) flows and core strengthening flow classes in last week’s yoga classes. One of the groups told me that they wanted to stretch their bodies. However, they did not want to stay long in “asana”s (poses) as “yin yoga” style but wanted a dynamic stretching instead.

Following opening meditation, we sat in cross-legged position and laterally stretched the spine. After bending the spine forward, we got on all-fours for “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow strtech) and relieved the spine with a twist.

As the students wanted dynamic stretching, we got into “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog) after the twist on all-fours. In this pose, we stretched calf muscles and then we bent the knees and straightened them in order to extend “hamstring” muscles.

Throughout the class, we mostly did standing poses like “lateral stretching” in “tadasana” (mountain pose), “uttanasana” (standing forward bend), “parsvakonasana” (side angle pose), “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge), “anjaneyasana” (low lunge), “eka pada raja kapotasana” (pigeon pose), “square”, “gomukhasana” (cow face pose) and did the arm position of “garudasana” (eagle) pose when sitting in gomukhasana. After “upavistha konasana” (seated angle pose) we ended the class with a twist and “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

As we would not wait long in poses that day, I started to do the flow together with the students. We closed the eyes and felt the warming up of the spine. Then we got into downward facing dog and realized how tense our hamstring and calf muscles were. When dynamically stretching the body, we flew from one pose to another with the help of our breath and as if we were dancing. No interruption between the poses, and a class like a dancing class.

In the poses, I tried to find out for how long we had been focusing on flow classes. Of course we are strengthening the bodies with flow classes but what about the flexibility of the body? We were stretching our mind and thoughts when we stretched our bodies, weren’t we? How tense we got without even realizing. I saw that I was having difficulties in poses which I used to do so easily and it was so hard to wait for even a few breaths in these poses. My body got strongther ok, but it also needed a good stretch. I had forgotten the yin-yang cycle. I decided to always remember the yin-yang cycle in my daily life and my yoga classes, starting from that moment. Life was not just full of excitement, heavy flows and entertainment but it was also full of calm times and the times we turned inward. I once more thank my students for reminding me this very important motto and I bend with respect in front of them. Namas’te.

If you ask me if I face any difficulties in group yoga classes, I would have two answers. New students who show up in a group with whom I am working for a long time and who do not have any yoga experience and people with several health problems who join yoga classes and the difficulty in pleasing everybody in the class including the ones with health problems. It is a fact that yoga is good for health problems. However I am not sure how we can achieve this in a group class.

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All bodies are different. All bodies are different in flexibility and strength. All bodies have some shortcomings. Therefore, it is not so possible to teach a yoga class that answers everybody’s features in crowded classes. In this case, the teachers are trying to find a moderate way by inviting everybody to “stay in the limits of their own bodies.”

One of the students who came to yoga classes last week said, “teacher, I have a great lower back pain. I painted trees over the weekend and I think I pushed my body hard.” And I told her to try keeping the pace but rest when she had difficulties and then keep the pace again. I recommended that she should not push herself hard, keep her spine erect and push her coccyx back in forward bends and not to round her spine. The class began with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. I was watching the group and also the student with the lower back pain. She had difficulties in keeping up the pace. People were preferring yoga classes as they knew that yoga was restorative. When the group was staying in “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog) for five breaths, I walked beside the student with the lower back pain and told her to stay by the wall throughout the class and to do whatever I said. And the class went on this way. On one side students were flowing on the other side we were making a “restorative” yoga class with the student with lower back pain.

Naturally one cannot immediately remember what to do in such a case. When the mind focused on a flow type yoga class and thinking about what to come next and how to prepare the bodies for the peak pose, it could not remember the asanas that were good for lower back pain. I took a deep breath and thought of the asanas that were good for me when I had a lower back and coccyx problem the year before. Forward bends with an erect spine and a sacral nutation helped me. “Viparita karani” (legs up to 90 degrees) by the wall helped me. “Apanasana” (knees to chest pose) helped me. “Ananda balasana” (happy baby pose) with my coccyx on the floor helped me. Rolling my spine to side to side in “ananda balasana” helped me. Standing up, keeping my hands on the wall at 90 degrees angle and pushing my coccyx back helped me. Placing a belt under my feet in “paschimottanasana” and bending forward with an erect sipe and a sacral nutation helped me. And I asked the student to do all these as well as “baddha konasana” (bound angle pose), “upavistha konasana” (seeated angle pose) and “janu sirsasana” (head to knee pose).

In the meantime, the flow was going on. The peak pose, the neutralizing poses, twist and deep relaxation and resting pose (savasana). I wanted the student with the lower back pain to rest in a “restorative” way. Unfortunately we did not have enough equipment in gym clubs. So I picked up one of the thickest mats, I rolled it and made it a “bolster”. I placed it under the knees of the student. Thus, her lower back was totally on the ground. She rested that way.

She came beside me at the end of the class and said that she was feeling better. “I hesitated to join the class but now I am glad I joined.” Unfortunately we do not listen to our bodies and we mostly do it in our daily lives. Not only in yoga classes but also in other group classes like “pilates”, “sculpture” and “zumba”, teachers are consciously helping students. First, they warm up the bodies, then they do something more advanced and in the end they neutralize, cool down and rest the bodies. Unfortunately, we get injured in our daily lives not in group classes. If you just pay attention to your daily activities… Assume that you have to take something off the floor. How do you take it? Are you squatting or are you trying to bend yourself from top to the tip of the toe? You are driving and your handbag is on the back. Your phone rings. How do you get your bag? How do you turn back? And you need to lift something heavy. How do you lift it? We can find other examples. I just wanted you to see how careless we move and how we can get injured this way in our daily lives.

Yoga means the unity and integrity of body, mind and soul. Yoga means awareness. Yoga means to live with awareness not only on the “mat” but also in the real world. It means being aware of your body. It means moving with awareness in daily lives and physical activities, to listen to your bodies, to watch your bodies and to do as much as your body prevails. We all are different. Our bodies are all different. Everybody can do something and cannot do another thing. One is more flexible, the other is stronger. One is both stronger and flexible. It is possible to live our daily lives and join classes by watching ourselves, being aware of our positive and negative sides and accepting them, and being one and whole and just be yoga.

Every yoga class is an opportunity to observe and learn new things. I always say: “Sometimes I teach the students and sometimes they teach me.” When I am walking among the students during a yoga class, I can observe who can do which “asana” easier than others, whose right or left body is more flexible or strong, and which part of their bodies are more flexible or tense. I do not know why, but we generally think that women are more flexible and men are stronger. In time, you realize that every person should be taken one by one and there should not be any generalization in yoga. In last week’s group class, I had the opportunity to deeply observe whether women or men were more flexible.

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I wanted to focus on hip opening flows in my private and group classes lately. From time to time I find some asana groups more interesting and attractive than others and I want to experience them not only in my own yoga practice but also my classes for a couple of weeks.

When I went to group class that day, I had already decided on a “yin” (female energy/lunar energy/cold/winter/dark/passive) style yoga class, focus on hip external muscles, inner thighs and hip flexor muscles and try “padmasana” (lotus pose) at the end of this deep practice. We had tried “padmasana” before with the same group but at the end of “vinyasa” (flow) style classes. This time, we would stay long in some poses that were targeting at these parts of the body, stretch the body up to deep connective tissues and try to sit in “lotus” pose. Let’s see what we would come out.

Following a long meditation, we stretched the body to right and left (lateral stretch) in “sukhasana” (easy pose). We tried to keep the left hip on the ground when we laterally stretched to the right and the vice-versa. Thus, the hip joint stretched more deeply. We interlaced fingers and lifted the hands above the head, tilted the coccyx and bent the spine forward. Then we changed legs, i.e if the right was in the front we put the left in the front in “sukhasana” and repeated the same flow.

In order to stretch inner thighs and groins, we used “water bug”, “dragonfly”, “half frog”, “frog” and “dragon.” To stretch the muscles in the front and back part of the leg, we did “plantar flexion” and “dorsoflexion” and bent the body on the front leg. Thus we stretched “hamstrings.” In “dragonfly”, we turned the toes inward and outward and activated the hip joint and later we moved the hip to the front and back and opened inner thighs and groins more.

We stretched hip external muscles with “sleeping swan”, “square” and “shoelace”. In “sleeping swan”, we twisted the body to the opposite side of the front leg and in “square” we twisted to the opposite side of the upper leg and opened hip external muscles more. In “shoelace” we twisted to the opposite of the upper leg and continued to stretche the same muscles.

“Rock the baby” and “akarna dhanurasana” (archer pose) were the last preparatory poses before the peak pose. After swinging the leg to in and out in “rock the baby”, the toes were facing the ceiling and in this pose we lifted the leg to the forehead and brought it back to the level of chest. Assume that we began with the right leg, we drew circles with the hip joint inwardly and outwardly. Lastly, we put the right foot near the left groin and stretched the right hip. Then we placed the left leg under the right leg and got into “ardha padmasana” (half lotus). Those who were able, placed the left leg over the right leg and sat in “padmasana” (lotus).

Believe me, there were two male students in class that day and they could so easily sat in “padmasana.” We, the women, had difficulties in doing the pose. Except a few women, most female students stayed in “ardha padmasana.” At that moment, a question came into my mind: Are women or men more flexible? How come women, thanks to their flexible bodies, have difficulties in this pose which we assume they could do so easily but instead men do it so easily?

If we leave aside physical capabilities, we know that negative emotions are stuck in hips like anger, grief, disappointment and rage. All these negative emotions can negatively affect our creativity. In order to be creative, we should leave aside disappointment and anger. If we feel guilty, we should forgive ourselves. To share with others was related with the energy of the second chakra. Creativity can intermingle us with other people. Nobody can live alone. Everybody wants to be in a relationship with his/her environment and create something.

How come we, the women, have lost this creativity—naturally granted to us? In time, we have grown, got emotionally polluted and lost our flexibility and creativity. The emotional and physical stressed were accumulated in hips and prevented us from doing this pose. To sit in “padmasana” meant to be open to ourselves and environment. To accept our own creativity, to love and use our creativity. The name of the pose itself openly shows what it means. “Lotus flower”… Everyone sees only the flower of the “lotus” and thinks “lotus” is just a flower. However, the root of the “lotus flower” is muddy. If there were no mud, maybe “lotus” would not blossom. Our roots might be muddy as well but we cannot grow and blossom without that mud. Just like the “lotus flower,” we can shine, grow and blossom in every part of our lives with the “lotus pose.” And as we try “lotus pose” more and more, maybe in time we can purify from all negative emotions and energies, create our own flower and blossom in every part of our live. Yes, maybe this was the main problem with us, the women. Maybe we should accept our muddy roots and re-born from these roots. So, more and more often “padmasana” in classes.

When I went to class that day, I was planning to teach a class focusing on arm balances. Sometimes it happens to me. Does it also happen to you? You decide to do something but conditions and circumstances change and you cannot do what you have decided. Mostly, it happens to me in classes. Whenever I plan an advanced class, many new students show up in class. And I ask them whether this is their first yoga class and guess the answer. Of course it is their first yoga class. It happened again when I decided to teach a class with an arm balance pose as the peak.

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There were as many as new comers as  the old and experienced students. Therefore, I should teach a class that would both satisy the old and experienced and the new. The best choice would be forward bends as our spine was more used to bending forward than bending backward. However, the peak pos should not be an easy forward bend. It should force the students a bit. “Kurmasana” (tortoise pose) could be the best peak pose for that class. Yes, definitely! The peak pose would be “kurmasana” and we needed to stretch inner thighs, groins, hamstrings and shoulder girdle to try the peak pose.

It would be a “vinyasa” class as usual. After warming up the bodies with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series, we added in-between sun salutation series some asanas in order to stretch and strengthen the parts of the body that needed to be stretched for the peak pose. In order to stretch hamstring muscles, we did “uttanasana” (standing forward bend), “padangusthasana” (hand to big toe pose), “hasta padasana” (hands to feet pose). To stretch the shoulder girdle, we interlaced fingers behind our back in “uttanasana” and kept the arms away from the body. We joined the hands in the back in “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I) and bent the body inside the front leg. In “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II) we used the arm position of “garudasana” (eagle pose) and in “parsvottanasana” (pyramid pose) we kept the hands in reverse “namaste” (prayer) pose.

To stretch the groins and inner thighs, we used “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge), “anjaneyasana” (low lunge), “parsvottanasana”, “water bug”, “prasarita padottanasana” (wide-legged forward bend) and “malasana” (garland pose).

Once we sat on the floor, we continued to stretch the hamstrings, inner thighs and groins. With “half butterfly” and “half frog”, we first bent forward on the extended leg and then we folded in-between the two legs. With “mandukasana” (frog pose), we stretched the inner thighs and groins more and we were so close to the peak pose. With “upavistha konasana” (seated angle pose), we stretched the inner thighs and inhaling we lifted the bodies up.

It was now time for the peak pose. We kept the legs in “V” shape. Exhaling, we bent forward in-between the legs. We rolled the shoulders back and we placed the arms beneath the knees. The palms were facing the floor and the finger tips were facing backward. We rolled the shoulders more and we also rolled the spine to deepen in the pose. And this was “kurmasana.”

There was a student whom I believed could do this pose so easily thanks to her body structure and flexibility. And yes, I was right. I looked at her and saw that she was totally in “tortoise pose” enjoying the pose. She totally turned inside, closed her down and as one of my students whose views I appreciate the most said: “She had turned back to her hidden garden.”

As we had folded forward throughout the class, we had to neutralize the spine with backbends. We relieved the spine with “ardha purvottanasana” (reverse table pose) and “setu bandhasana” (bridge). We laid supine and put the soles of the feet on the ground and “pelvic tilted” to relieve the spine more. Then we hug the knees and rolled the spine to right and leg and front and back (apanasana). Then “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

We ended the class with a long resting pose. Once the students came to “sukhasana” (easy pose/sitting pose), I told them that we bent forward, turned inside and had a class with full body-soul-mind integrity. At that moment, the student who could fully do “kurmasana” was in front of my eyes and I went on saying: “As how a tortoise turns inside, turns inward, gets into its shell and returns home when it is afraid and having a difficult time, you also turned inward and returned home today. Body, soul and mind a whole and at home. You turned back to your hidden garden. Maybe you have re-lived your past, what you have lived so far, reviewing your feelings and thoughts and cleaned up. Purified… Maybe you still have to review your hidden garden and add new things or get rid of some things. What about reviewing your home and hidden garden from time to time?”

We do not mostly know the value of what we have in our lives. We always think that everything stays with us forever. We all maket his mistake. We realize the importance and value of what we have in our lives only when we lose them. From the simplest to the most valuable thing…

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My private student was on vacation for one and a half months. I could only realize how valuable and important my classes with her were only when she was on vacation. We were in continuous exchange. Sometimes I was the teacher sometimes I was the student. We were changing roles all the time. We were practicing yoga twice a week and yoga classes were an important part of our daily lives. We were not cancelling the classes if we did not have something important to do. This was the same for both the student and me. There was also interaction. The student was inspiring me. Sometimes a behavior or a word was the inspiration of my posts. I realized how important the student was and her place in my life when she went on a vacation.
When we met again after the long vacation, we could not go on from the point we suspended the classes. In fact, my aim was to focus on a peak pose as usual and organize a flow to prepare for that peak pose. However, I realized that the student got so tense and unflexible in one and a half months. First of all, we should stretch the body and prepare the mind. Then we could begin peak-posed flow classes. Even though it was the summer holiday and even though the body was flexible thanks to sea, sand and sun, it was not the same flexiblity that yoga gave to the body. The bodily, mental and spiritual relaxation was the result of the flow between asanas with eyes closed and with a peaceful breath.
Therefore, we gave priority to stretching the body in our first class after the holiday. To stretch the entire body from the top of the head to the tips of the toes. We began the class by stretching the spine with “utthita balasana” (extended child pose). In each inhale, we tried to fell the body extending to the front through the arms and in each exhale, we tried to feel that the hips were getting closer to the feet and the groins were getting more stretched. After calming down the breath and mind in this asana, we came on all-fours and opened the right arm to the front and left leg to the back and stretched the body from the both ends. Then we put the left foot on the ground and dropped it side-ways and opened the right arm to the ceiling in order to laterally stretched the body. When inhaling, we lifted the hands off the floor, rose on the left knee and when eşhaling we stretched the body to the right. After doing the same flow on the other side, we moved the spine with “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat cow stretch). Then we backbent the spine with “uttana shishosana” (extended puppy pose) and relived the spine with a twist on all-fours. Then we stood up with “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog) and following a “vinyasa” we rested in “tadasana” (mountain pose).
After a lateral stretch in “tadasana”, we warmed up the body with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation). Now we would stretch the muscles in the front, back, in and out of the legs with standing asanas. These asanas were “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge), “anjaneyasana” (low lunge), “prasarita padottanasana” (wide-legged forward bend), “uttanasana” (standing forward bend), “padangusthasana” (hand to big toe pose), “pada hastasana” (hand to foot pose) and “parsvottanasana” (pyramid pose). We relieved the inner thighs by bending the right knee and stretching the left leg in “prasarita padottanasana” and then the other side.
After stretching inner thighs with “malasana” (garland pose) more, we sat on the ground. We kept the spine straight in “dandasana” (staff pose) and relived the hamstrings with “janu sirsasana” (head to knee pose). We opened the long leg in “janu sirsasana” to the side, bent in-between the legs and stretched inner thighs and groins. In the same pose, we opened the arm of the long leg up and got into a twist (parivrtta janu sirsasana). After doing the same flow on the other side, we stretched hamstrings more with “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend). In order to stretch the hip external muscles, we brought the right leg parallel to the short side of the mat and bend the left leg from the knee and opened it like a “half frog” leg. Exhaling, we bent the body to the front and stretch hip external muscles. After staying in this pose for five breaths, we lifted the body up and then we twisted the body towards the back leg. Then the same flow on the other side. In the end, we opened up the chest by laying supine for “setu bandhasana” (bridge pose). We hugged the knees with “apanasana” and opened the arms in the level of the shoulder and dropped the legs first to right and then to left for a final twist. We stayed in both twists for ten breaths. Eyes closed. Breath calm and peaceful. Preparing the mind and body for a deep relaxation and rest.
Following a long “savaşana” (deep relaxation and resting pose), it was time to end the class. What did we feel that day? What was the student experiencing? “My body is so tense and unflexible. I have totally lost my flexibility in a short time like one and a half months. This simple? Yes, this simple. Practice yoga for months, stretch your body and do not practice for a month and look at your tense body. I could not imagine the place of yoga in my life before this vacation. I could not imagine how important yoga is for me. I have seen in this one and a half months that what could happen to me if there is no yoga in my life. I am so glad that yoga is a part of my life.” So what did I feel that day? “We can only understand how important and valuable some things are for us only when they are no more in our lives or only when we lose them. Maybe so simple but you have realized how important yoga is for you when yoga was not a part of your life for a month. This is what all humans are experiencing. When something is present in your life, you do not know how important it is. You do not appreciate it. But we only understand the importance of those things when we lose them. So, let us be aware of the importance of what we have in our lives more and more from now on. Let us realize how important and valuable they are before we lose them or before it is too late.

Turkey is celebrating another women’s day but in days when women are underestimated and overwhelmed. Being a woman in Turkey? Being a woman in the world? Being a woman in male-dominan societies? These were questions wandering in my mind days before March 8 International Women’s Day. I focused on reviving the female energies in our bodies in my yoga classes the previous week. We have been living in a male-dominant world for ages. I could not stop thinking “how it would be if women energy was not suppressed in the world and if we lived in a matriarchal world.”

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In the Old Age, there was an egalitarian society in which women, men and children worked together. Those days, women and men worked in same areas hand-in-hand and shoulder-to-shoulder. Women were raised as people who knew everything because they were handling everything when men were away. Girls could get equal share from the family’s weath when married.
According to Greek, Persian and Roman myths, the wife of the late ruler became the head of the society until a new ruler was elected after a ruler died. Archeologists had found out the traces of matrilineality in many excavations carried out in Eurasia. “Matrilineality” is a system in which descent is traced through the mother and maternal ancestors, i.e. from mother to grandmother and to the grand grandmother… In Eurasian societies, women who rocked the craddle joined battles when necessary.
As you can see, in old societies, woman was not only a person who gave birth to children and raised them but also a person who was standing by her spouse and had equal rights. Moreover, a woman who was giving birth to a child was a creative person. For this reason, the creator of nature, people and plants was classified as “the goddess.” When we take into consideration the statues of goddesses, we can see that the statues are emphasizing the fertility of women. The goddesses have been fertile, prolific and reproductive. They have been the guard of animals and plants and the symbol of fertility, prolificacy, marriage, reproduction and motherhood. The hips and breasts of the goddessess were stressed in sculptures as an indicator of prolifacacy. Moreover, it is not a coincidence that fertile soil is defined as the Mother Earth in many societiesb
Old Turkish societies were matriarchal. Women had equal rights with men including heritage, divorce and witness rights. Women had a right to say in the state administration. The spouse of the ruler used to have a seat beside the ruler and a right to speak as well. Women used to rule the country when necessary.
The matriarchal societies were replaced with partriarchal societies as agriculture developed and animals were domesticated. When animals were domesticated, men stopped hunting and settled down. Thus, men pushed the women to the second place at home and in the society and became the leader at home and in the society.
These are only the social reasons of transformation from matriarchal to patriarchal societies. There were also psychologic reasons of this transformation. According to yoga master Osho, men have an inferiority complex for they are not as creative as women. Osho thinks women are more creative than men because of their capability of giving birth and says that men are aware that women are superior than themselves. He also states that men tend to supress women, usurp women’s rights and push them to a second place in society in all societies in order to overcome their inferiority complex. Moreover, men do not want women to work and earn their own living, make them give birth to as many children as they can, make them stay at home and make them financially-dominant in order to keep women stay beside them.
In addition, female energy is something all societies have attached importance since the beginning of humanity. However, it has been supressed and tried to be annihilated in certain ages. Defining a woman as a “witch” during the Middle Age Europe can only be an example. I think that we should clarify something when we talk about women defined as “witches” and being killed for this reason. Splendid caps decorated in detail were a cultural way of manifestation since the old ages. According to the book titled “Warrior Women: an Archeologist’s Search for History’s Hidden Heroines”, the scenes on the walls of Kangjiashimenzi cave in China, the graves of warrior-nuns on the Altai Mountains and the northeast of Kyrgyzstan and the mummies in the Autonomos Region of Xinjiang indicated that these caps were used in the ancient times. The cone-shaped caps were made black and made a symbol of women who were accused of being a witch in Europe in the 15th centry.
As matriarchal societies were demolished and replaced with partriarchal ones, the world started to be ruled with male energy. Female energy was annihilated. Let me explain female and male energy with yoga. According to yoga belief, human body sets up of two energies. Feminine and masculine energies. Masculine energy starts from the coccyx and ends in the right nostril, whereas feminine energy also begins at the coccyx but ends in the left nostril. The male part is hot and active while the female energy is cold and passive. The male side is solar energy but the female side is lunar energy. This is how hatha yoga came out. Simply, ha means sun and tha means moon. Body is formed with the unification of these two dual energies. The aim is to balance the masculine and feminine energies, awake the divine force believed to live in the root chakra (muladhara chakra), help rise this divine force through the seven chakras, join the female and male energies in the third eye chakra (ajna chakra) and get enlighted.
When we say male energy, we mean man’s being active and restless. Male-dominant societies are aggressive and warrior. Since the birth of humanity, men hunt and they try to be strong by ignoring their emotions in order to hunt. Unfortunately, for we are living in a male-dominant world, we use this energy just to produce weapons and to fight. Because of this energy, the world is gradually getting more aggressive and cruel. If we return to yoga again, the lunar energy, i.e. tha or yin, are all feminine energies. It is passive, accepting, cool, creative, fertile, soft, compassionate and it surrenders.
What if the female energy was not supressed in the world and we lived in a woman-dominant matriarchal world? How would such a world be? No wars, full of peace and happiness, calmer and more fertile. A world in which we accepted life as it is, we
went with the flow and surrendered.
Unfortunately, men are told that “they are men” in partriarchal societies. Men have forgotten that they are getting half of their codes from their fathers and the other half from their mothers. They were told that “they were real men.” They were told, “men never cries.” All these codes were implanted in men’s minds since their childhood. Their creativity was taken from themselves. They were only taught to “do”, “achieve” and “obtain.” Female qualities were considered a shame. Their feminine qualities were erased one after the other. What were they? Showing their emotions, expressing themselves, crying, showing affection and empathy, understanding, loving and being gentle… Men stayed away from all these qualities as they were considered weakness. They became firmer and firmer each passing day. They lost their flexibility, became firmer people who only focused on the result and obtaining.
However, every woman has man characteristics and every man has female characteristics. Half of our bodies is male energy and the other half is female energy. If we want to live in a better world, we should not forget that women and men all have female and male energies. Sometimes a man should think and act like a women and the vice-versa. Sometimes a man should be flexible, express his feelings, surrender, accept and let go. He should not only be a “doer” and “active.” He should “surrender”, be “passive” and “creative” when necessary. Sometimes a woman should act like a man. Should show her anger, protect herself and rebell. If a woman always surrenders and behaves passive, then she becomes a slave of man. However, men and women are equal. They complete each other just like the night completes the day, the winter completes the summer and the darkness completes the brightness. If man is always aggressive, a doer and active, he always causes argument and war and makes the world a violent place. Therefore, men should become more “passive” when women becomes more “active.” When women becomes a bit more “doer”, a man should start “surrendering.” And women and men should share each other’s characteristics and meet on a common ground. Then the world would be a place where both feminine and masculine energies prevail, not a place where one dominates the other. Then the world will be a place where neither “surrendering” nor “aggression” dominate.

Being a woman? Bending, stretching, creating, accepting and surrendering… Moving with the flow of life… Accepting everything as it comes to you and just the same as something leaves you… Being one with the life, flowing with life.. Melting and eradicating the stiffness of masculine energy in the compassion of the feminine energy…
Awakening the female energy? March 8 International Women’s Day… Women! Let this magnificent energy flow out of you! What is my suggestion? Of course, yoga and particularly yin yoga. A yoga class or practice which awakens your second chakra, swadisthana chakra (sacral chakra). That is, a yoga practice focusing on hip openers. The second chakra, including our sexual organs, is associated with sweetness and creativeness, which is not something that can be ignored. In order to be creative, we should leave aside anger and disappointment and we should forgive ourselves if we feel guity. Sharing is related with the energy of the second chakra. Creativity intermingles us with other people.  A chakra associated with the element water. Water is soft and flexible. If we keep in mind that 50/60 percent of women’s body consists of water and this percentage is 60/65 percent in men, why shouldn’t be as soft and flexible as water? As Lao Tzu said, “The best of man is like water,  Water is good; it benefits all things and does not compete with them. It dwells in (lowly) places that all disdain.That is why it is so near to Tao… Bend and be straight; Empty and be full; Wear out and be new; Have little and gain.” Hoping that feminine energy can get the place it deserves in the world again, aggression is replaced with understanding and empathy, war is replaced with peace, and that we can accept and surrender more…

I had a kids’ yoga class at the studio where I am working a few days ago. There was a new student in the class besides the two teen girls who always attend my class. This new student was five years old. The other two were 11 years old. Before the class began, the new student said, “I will not do yoga today.” My answer was ready: “OK, do not do yoga but come sit beside me. Let’s watch the elder sisters together.” She did not oppose. At that moment, I was thinking about how to make her join the class. The answer I was looking for was hidden in my recent class at a preschool a few days ago. Let’s flashback.

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I arrived at the preschool almost twenty minutes before my yoga class. I had something special in my mind for that day. If you have been following my blog, you know that I am teaching yoga in English in this preschool. We would practice animal asanas that day. I can hear you saying, “so what’s the point?” The point is we we would do the animal poses by singing “Old McDonald had a farm.” When we sang the name of the animals, we would do the asana and shout the sound of that animal. For me, it would be a very interesting and enjoying class. It would be fun only if I coud recall animals. I really forgot which animals had poses in yoga. The first animals coming to my mind were “cat” (marjaryasana), “cow” (bitilasana), “downward and upward dog” (adho mukha svanasana and urdhva mukha svanasana). We started to flow. “Old McDonald had a farm. E-I-E-I-O. And on that farm he had a dog E-I-E-I-O. With a waf-waf here and a waf-waf there. Here a waf, there a waf. Everywhere a waf-waf. Old McDonald had a farm E-I-E-I-O.” What was funny was that I did not know the sounds of animals except some of them. Kids helped me. Some of them were really copying the sounds very well. Thus, there was an interaction. As I have told, kids were helping me when I could not recall animals when we were flowing and then we were practicing the asana of that animal. Both kids andd I had so much fun.
I remembered this enjoyable class when I was thinking of how to make the new comer join the class at the yoga studio that day. I made up my mind and now it was time to put it into practice. I briefly mentioned about what we would do. However, there was a problem. They knew the melody of “Old McDonalds” but they did not know the words. What about our mother tongue? There is a similar song in Turkish about a man who owns a farm. Then we began the class.
“Cat” (marjaryasana), “cow” (bitilasana), “downward facing dog” (adho mukha svanasana), “upward facing dog” (urdhva mukha svanasana), “frog” (mandukasana), “rabbit” (sasangasana), “fish” (matysasana), “dolphin” (ardha salamba sirsasana”, “lion” (simhasana), “cobra” (bhujangasana), “eagle” (garudasana), “locust” (salabhasana), “pigeon” (eka pada raja kapotasana), “crow” (bakasana), “camel” (ustrasana), “butterfly” (baddha konasana), “turtle” (kurmasana) and “tiger” (vyaghrasana) were some of these asanas.
I had also seen in some kids yoga videos that many adult asanas were named after an animal when working with the kids. For instance, when practicing with kids, “malasana” (squat pose) was named “spider” if you internally rotate your shoulders and got them inside your legs. “Urdhva hastasana” (upward salute) was named “giraffe” and “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II) the “horse pose.” Bending in “malasana” and jumping up was “monkey” pose and “ardha purvottanasana/chatus pada pitham” (reverse table) was “crab” pose. Also there were “crocodile”, “elephant”, “bear” and “donkey” poses.
The five-year-old new student who said she would not do yoga that day started to practice with us just at the beginning of the class. Practicing animal asanas by singing a song caught her attention. The animal asanas were over but we did not want to end the song. Therefore, there were trees, dancers, warriors, triangles, moons, stars and many other things in “Ali Baba’s farm.”
When the class was about to end, the girls practiced “salamba sirsasana II” (headstand on your arms) and “sarvangasana” (shoulderstand called candle in kids yoga).
Now it was time for “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). Two girls who had been joining my classes for the last two months lied down on the mats. They got pillows under their heads, eye pillows on their eyes and blankets over them. They were really so happy to stay in savasana. When they got into “savasana” with a ceremony like this every time, I want to do savasana with them too. I told the new student that it was time to lie dow and relax and the girl started to cry. I did not what to do. I asked her what was the problem. She told me that she missed her mother who was in the other studio. She asked if she could go to the other studio and I told her that she could. At the same time, I was busy asking for a massage oil in the studio but I could not find it. I told the other two girls that I would go to the other studio and got and brought the massage oil and I asked them to go on enjoying “savasana.” I went to the other studio, got the massage oil. I asked the five-year-old new yoga student whether she would like to come to my class with me. She held my hand and came with me. When we got in the class, I again told her to lie down. She again started to cry and told me that she would wait for her mother outside the studio. “Ok then.” There was nothing more to do.
I gave massages to the other two girls. However they started to complain when I was giving them a massage. They liked orange oil but I brought lavender oil. This was a small crisis.
When the class was over and they woke up from “savasana”, they went to the bathroom to clean the “terrible” smell of lavender oil. A note for the teacher: “Remember to use orange oil when giving massages to the two teens.”
When the girls were in the bathroom, I went to the kitchen and joined the other members of the studio. The  girls’ mothers were also there and saw me getting the oil. They said, “you are giving massage to the girls every class. We are jealous.” I said, “join my classes and I give you massages too.”
A joke only. For real, a student is always a student whether adult or kid. We need to show the same attention and interest to all of them, and treat them the same way. Therefore, I do not make any comparison between my adult students and kid students. I act the same to my kid students and the adults. I take their feelings, thoughts, wishes, demands, fears, joys, exhaustion and courage seriously. I respect their desire to listen to their own music when practicing yoga. Maybe that’s the only way they concentrate.
Since today’s yoga aims to relax and expand the body, soul and mind, then we should act in line with this goal. In my opinion, we should not be so normative and rigid but should find “our new way” immediately like “water” in our classes when necessary. What do you think?

I am aware that I have not been writing blogs for about two weeks. We were on vacation during the Feast of Sacrifice. For a lot of people, feast means spending your time with your family and seeing people and relatives whom you have not seen for ages. The Feast of Sacrifice means sacrificing ovine and bovine animals, distributing their meat to the needy and eating the rest of the meat. For me, feast means “holiday” but the Feast of Sacrifice means “nightmare.” I cannot standing sacrificing of the animals just as a requirement of the feast. Ok, I do not want to discuss fests or the Feast of Sacrifice. As I have said, feast means “holiday” for me. And this feast was a ten-day holiday when you add two weekends to it. My husband and I went to our favorite esort town to spend this feast. For this reason, I have not been writing blogs for two weeks. Is this an excuse? No, surely not. I would like to go on writing there but my husband and I have not spent such a long holiday together. Therefore, I did not write there. After all, yoga means freedom, doesn’t it? Or doesn’t it mean the union of mind, body and soul?

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When I was at that town in the last hottest days of the fall, when the sun was shining and I was staring at the blue sea, how could I think of writing a blog article? It was impossible. And I couldn’t write anything.

Yoga also means flexibility, doesn’t it? Then, I was behaving flexibly. I could not make up my mind and start writing. Actually there were some topics in my mind and I could write something about them. About yoga asanas and practice or yoga philosoph. However, I could not focus on writing. This meant that I should be flexible. My mind, soul and body were not prepared for writing at that moment. And I was applying the yoga principles of flexibility and freedom and I was doing whatever I wanted to do at that moment.

Leave aside writing a blog article… I could not even practice yoga. In fact, I had a plenty of time. However, I was spending it with my husband. We had not been on such a long vacation for about two years. We were not waking up with the alarm in the morning. We were waking up at what time our bodies and souls wanted to. Then we were having a good breakfast at home or in a cafe. If we were having our breakfast at home, we were riding our bikes after the breakfast. We were riding the bike on the seaside. If we were to have our breakfast outside in a cafe, then we were riding all through the seaside and stop at one of the cafes we preferred that day. This should be freedom.

We were getting on our car and touring the towns nearby in the afternoon. Free and happy. We were doing whatever we wanted to. We were peaceful. I guess that we needed such a holiday in which “we acted as we liked it.”

Yoga was not included in this one-week holiday. My body wanted it especially after long bicycle rides. Particularly my leg muscles including the hamstrings, quadriceps, hip external and internal rotator muscles were tight after riding the bike. They wanted to be stretched. My body was talking to me but my mind and soul were not listening. In this case, when my body, soul and mind were not thinking and wanting the same, I could not stretch and relax them. This was my “reality” at that moment. My “satya” (truth) was this and I had to accept that. If I rejected this truth and reality and insist on a yoga practice, the asanas and that practice would neither be beneficial to me nor they would relax me. What was important was to “accept my that moment reality and truth” and behave in line with it.

Meditation… Everywhere was meditation for me. When I was riding the bike, my mind was purified from feelings and thoughts. When staring at the sea, my empty mind. When drinking something or eating an appetizer, I was exactly present there with my mind, soul and body. Everywhere was meditation and peaceful for me.

I have said before… Yoga means freedom for me. Yoga means union for me. Yoga means flexibility for me. For all these reasons, I behaved as I liked it during this holiday. My body, soul and mind were in full harmony. I was not writing for two weeks for this reason. I did not want to write and I accepted this “reality.”

I have returned to the city I am living. Surely, I am also back to my blog site. Because my mind, body and soul had a good rest and they are more peaceful now. I am ready to share my yoga practice, thoughts and experiences with you. I have missed writing. I think one should have some time off and be away for a while to understand what some things mean to him/her. Don’t you think so?

“Now you will take a deep breath as if we are blowing up a balloon and then we blow out all our breath. One more. Let’s blow up our balloon once more.” You haven’t understood what I am talking about, have you? I could not understand it either until two weeks ago. I am talking about yoga for kids. Yoga for kids, which I started to teach two weeks ago.

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A friend of mine called me a few weeks ago. I was on holiday those days. She said, “Burcu, I have opened a preschool with one of my friends and we want to teach yoga for kids. Then you came to my mind.” My answer was obvious: “I don’t know much about kids yoga.” My friend insisted: “But I want you to be our teacher.” Then there was nothing more to say and I accepted.
I went to the preschool to see my friend once I returned to Ankara. We started to talk about the project. They wanted me to teach yoga at the preschool once a week. There would be two groups, including a group of three to four years old and a group of four to five years old. The classes would last about 20 or 25 minutes because kids lose concentration so easily. In addition to kids yoga, we would start teaching hatha, vinyasa and yin yoga to parents once or twice a week.
I took the job and wished that I could be successful. Before the first class, I turned on my computer and read articles about yoga for kids and watched videos. What did I learn? Actually kids yoga was something which makes children move and increase their flexibility as it amuzes them. When someone talks about yoga, we only think of a philosophy that unites our body, mind and soul and that relieves and relaxes us. Of course, when we say kids yoga, we cannot think about such a philosophy. We should think of making children move, telling stories to them, playing with them, running with them and helping them give out their extra energy. This meant a new experience for me.
Believe me, I was more nervous when I went to my first kids yoga class when compared to my first yoga class for adults. Why? Because I was a person who had been practicing yoga for years and I knew about what a yoga class should look like. Therefore I was nervous and excited just because it was my first yoga class for adults. However, when I was facing the children, I was speechless. I wore a clown wig to amuze and catch the interest of the children in my first class. All but one  liked it. One of the girls was a little bit scary about me, I guess. I told myself, “Burcu, what have you done?” Then the other children at the preschool convinced the girl to join the yoga class.
All children sat around me in a circle. I could not know what to do. I introduced myself. This preschool is famous aabout  teaching all classes in English. All children are speaking in English to the children as much as they can. They also asked me to teach yoga in English. The first group consisted of younger kids so I could not speak English during all the class. A bit English a bit Turkish. How? First I was talking in Turkish and telling them what to do like “let’s be a cat.” Then I was asking the kids how they were saying “cat” (kedi) in English? The answer came: “Caaaaaatttt”. Yes! Then I was asking in Turkish, “so, what do cats like to do?” And the answer came in Turkish: “They likes stretching themselves.” Then I was reminding them that “esnetmek” was “to stretch” in English. And everybody did a cat strecth. This was how my class with the first group was like.
In fact, I was planning to tell the kids a story and do some yoga poses according to that story. Plans sometimes do not work. That story’s English was a little bit more advanced for the kids. I decided to teach that class a few monts later. In the first class, we assumed ourselves in the forest and tried to count the animals in the forest. Cat, dog, snake, lion, rabbit, bird, eagle, crow, horse, butterfly. We opened our legs to both sides to see what color the wings of the butterfly was and then we rolled on our spine. Cats liked to eat, stretch themselves, pat their tummies, clean themselves up and sleep. We all became cats and did so. We were also shouting the sounds of animals when we were doing the asanas. Then we saw a lake in the forest and swam there. We saw the sun and said, “hello sun.” We saluted the earth, “hello earth.” We became trees and we all picked a tree and became that tree. Then the wind blew but all the trees were so strong that they were not demolished. We were so tired and the night began. We returned home. The sun went down as we say “goodbye sun” and welcome the moon, “hello moon.” We became moon by bending both sides. The moon needed stars. We opened our legs and opened up our arms as we shouted “hello star.” It was time to sleep. We became beds and then we went to bed. We closed our eyes. Then morning came and sun went up. We woke up. It was time to go to school. All kids were cars now and I was a bridge under which they were passing. They used that route when going to the preschool and the class was over.
I taught the same class to both groups for two weeks. They learned what a yoga class was like in the first week and they played it in the second week. In the third week? Will it be the same class and story? Not sure. The kids lose concentration so easily. They were better this week as they learned the story but next week, another story and other asanas.
During these two weeks, I had so interesting conversations with the kids. My hair is so short. I went to the first class wearing a clown wig. I got hot during the class and I took the wig off. One of the boys came beside me and asked, “teacher, are you a boy or a girl?” I laughed at that. The boy was right. Aren’t you a person who use short hair like men. It is so right for that boy to think so and say it frankly. I said, “I am a girl but I like short hair. Look, I am an active person. I am having my hair short-cut so that it is easier for me.”
In the second week, I wore an orange yoga pants. You don’t get surprised if a girl says so. But when a boy says, I was so surprised. One of the boys came beside me and said, “teacher, today your clothes are very nice.” Very interesting, isn’t it? Children are so careful and think so wisely. They noticed my clothes, hair and earrings.
So how can I teach yoga for kids, which I thought I could never do a year ago? I guess I am more patient and more experienced this year. I quit my job last year, it was so new that I was not so peaceful and patient. I have been teaching and practicing only yoga for a year and I like my job. Whatever style it is.
Did the yoga for kids amuze me? Yes, I was so amuzed. Did you know what I realized? The kids were also having fun. So were the other teachers. The children said, “teacher, come again next week.”
What did these two classes teach me? What was the point of yoga for kids for me? I saw that I can learn new styles and teach them. My life was no more routine. Yes, I was teaching yoga but I was used to it. This was a new experience. I started to search the internet, read articles and watch videos. You cannot stop learning and developing yourself. It is a proceeding process. What have I realized? If you love your job, you do every part of it with that love. You do not take any offense. When you finish for that day, you have a smile on your face and a peaceful heart. And you are happy. This is all that matters.