Archives for posts with tag: flow

I sometimes got myself thinking why I am posting yoga blogs and why I am trying so hard to write these blogs. Yes, I love to write and I feel as if I was just born to write. However, I cannot keep myself from thinking whether people are really reading the posts or whether they are making a difference or being beneficial to some people’s lives. When these thoughts come to my mind, I stop writing for a while. Then a moment comes and life reminds me why I should write. 

I have not been writing for a few weeks. Besides group and private yoga classes, the yoga teacher training program is so full and I cannot have time to post blogs. Moreover, I have a private life. Whenever I turn on the computer to post a blog, I find myself taking notes for the training or making researches for the training. However, I should write. This is what makes me happy. How could I get away from myself and the things that makes me happy this much and when did this happen? 

Daily flow of life reminded me the answer to this question. One morning, I got the answer when a friend of mine with whom we are training teachers called me. She told me that a woman called the studio, who was suffering from a serious herniated disc in her lumbar spine. Doctors had advised that she undergo a surgery but she instead googled to read about herniated discs. That was when she found one of my blogs on herniated discs and then she found the yoga studio of my friend and called the studio. My friend invited her to the studio for a free trial class and had a really beneficial class with the woman. The woman told my friend that she felt so relieved after the class and she had not felt so well for a long time.  

After the class, my friend called me and informed about the development. That was when I found out the answer I had been searching for a long time. Why was I writing? I was looking for an answer for a long time and I was thinking that what I was doing was just in vain because there was not any satisfying answer to my question. However, maybe I was writing a blog in order to beneficial to only one person. Only one person would benefit from it and maybe this benefit would be today, tomorrow or a year later however that blog would be a healing for “just one person.” This reminded me a story I shared with you years ago. A story by Lauren Tseley: 

“Once upon a time there was an intellectul who used to write his stories on the shore of the ocean. Before starting writing, he used to walk on the shore. One day, he saw a man who seemed like dancing on the beach. He thought that the man could be a person who liked to start the day by dancing and he smiled. He walked fast to catch up with the man. When he got closer, he saw that it was a young man who was in fact not dancing. He was running a few steps, taking something from the ground and then throwing it to the ocean smoothly. He talked to the man as he came a few steps closer: 

– Good morning sir. What are you doing? 

The young man raised his head and answered: 

– I am throwing starfish to the ocean. 

– I think I should ask in another way, thought the intellectual. Why are you throwing starfish to the ocean? 

– The sun has already risen up and it’s the low tide. If I don’t throw them to the ocean, they will die. 

– But don’t you see that the coast is kilometers long and full of starfish. It will make no difference. 

The young man listened to the intellectual politely, took another starfish and threw it to the ocean. 

– It made a difference for this one. 

This answer surprised the intellectual and he could not know what to say. He went back home. When he tried to write for the rest of the day, all he could do was to see the man’s face in front of his eyes. He tried not to think of the man but he could not. In the end, he realized what the young man was trying to do. The young man was trying to be an actor in the universe and making a difference instead of being just an observer and watching what was going on. He felt ashamed. That night he did not sleep well. He woke up next morning, got out of bed and went to the shore to find the young man. He spent the morning throwing starfish to the ocean with the young man.” 

Maybe I am calling it “just a blog” however maybe that single blog will make a difference in the life of “a single starfish” that is just one person. I really want to thank to that person who inspired me again in days when I question why I am still writing blogs. I am grateful for having yoga in my life, reaching people with yoga, helping and extending body, soul and mind support to people with yoga as much as I can, and touching not only my life but also lives of other people. How could one be better than this? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

When I was writing about summer that had not come to my hometown yet, summer has come at once. Of course, I am so happy. I love hot weather and the sun and I never complain. However, hot weather has started to affect yoga classes. Even though the students go on showing up in classes, they feel themselves so tired due to hot weather. And they want to practice something that would make themselves feel well.

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As this week was June 21, the summer solstice wek, I practiced just “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) in my classes. As the classes last only one hour, we limited ourselves with 54 sun salutations instead of 108. Before the classes began, I told students that we would practice 54 sun salutations. The students were so exited and said they were not sure they would complete the entire flow. And I told them, “we have been working for a long time and I know how strong you are. Don’t worry I am sure you can do it. We will rest in every five sets.” And the flows began.

“Surya namaskara” series accompanied by music. We practiced sun salutations comprised of “phalakasana” (plank) and “ashtangasana” (knee-chest-chin) in the fist 20 sets. This way, I wanted to show the students that they could manage to complete all sets and to warm their bodies. After 20 sets, we did four of the five sets with “phalakasana-ashtangasana” and the fifth as “surya namaskara A” which included “chaturanga dandasana” (low plank). In the meantime, I was practicing with them to support them. When we came to the 30th set, I added “surya namaskara B” to the series. We practiced the first three of the five with “phalakasana-ashtangasana”, the fourth with “chaturanga dandasana” and the fifth as “surya namaskara B.” And thus, we activated the element fire during our one-hour sun salutation practice and tried to reduce the exhaustion.

When I went to one of my evening classes, there were fewer students in the class. I guessed hot weather also affected us. I had something in my mind but I saw that students were really exhausted, so I asked them what type of a class they wanted. They wanted to work slowly and it would be good to stretch their bodies that evening. After the opening meditation, we stretched the spine and groins with “butterfly” and then came on all-fours for “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch). After warming up the spine with cat-cow stretch, we stretched the chest with “melting heart.” We stretched the groins, inner thighs and hip flexor muscles with “dragon” pose. At that moment, I decided to go on with partner yoga, had some fun and stretch the bodies more.

The students were facing each other in “parsvakonasana” (side angle pose) and extended their arms towards each other to help stretch each other. The other partner yoga poses were “phalakasana”, “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog), “vrksasana” (tree), “utthita hasta padangusthasana B” (hand to toe pose B). One student was in “balasana” (child pose) and the other laid down on him to open the chest up. One student was in “paschimottanasana” (sitting forward bend) and the other again opened up the chest on him. Then “navasana” (boat pose) and “upavistha konasana” (wide-angle seated forward bend) in pairs. One laid down supine and the other was flying high on his feet. Finally spine stretch with “cat tail”. Then came “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

When I went to class that day, I had a plan in mind but when I saw the students so exhausted that they could not practice what I was planning, I changed my plans and decided to stretch their bodies. When we were twisting in “dragon” pose, I decided to go on with pair yoga. And how the class began and how it ended. Sometimes plans were of no use. It was possible to change ourselves and adapt ourselves to the new flow. What was important was to stay in the flow, feel what the flow was bringing and to move with the flow instead of resisting it.

We all want some things to happen in our lives. We all struggle to achieve some things. We all push things hard to get some thing in our lives. Not only in our daily lives and professional lives but also in our emotional lives and in any physical activity including yoga, we all try to get some things done. Sometimes we are so obsessed with “that thing” that we cannot even think of any other thing and guess what “that thing” is so away from us.

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When I went to my private yoga class last week, I decided to teach a “yin” (female energy) yoga class due to the mood of the student. She said that she had issues to settle and maybe she needed to let some things go and wanted a class that could be good for her. And I decided to teach a “yin” yoga class and asked her to watch what would come out.
We began with a long meditation. We started to warm up the spine with “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch). When moving with breath between two “asana”s (poses), I asked her to close her eyes and watch her breath moving her spine. Instead of moving her body consciously in each asana, I asked her to see how her breath moved her body. “Let the body open to the outside world in each inhale and turn inward in each exhale. In which pose do you feel more comfortable? Is it better to open to outside world or to turn inward? How do you feel in these two poses today?”

After warming up the spine, I wanted to see what would come out of “dragon” pose when we focused on inner thighs and groins. We began. It would be useful to make one thing clear. The student was on paid leave and she had not practiced yoga for a month. Naturally her body was reacting to the first yoga class in a month. “Dragon” was a challenging pose both physically and emotionally. So she could not stay long in this pose and got out of it. If the body tells you to “get out of the pose because it cannot endure any more”, we should listen to it.
Resting in “balasana” (child pose), we would stretch hip flexor muscles with “half saddle.” I thought that it would be good for the student to try “dhanurasana” (bow pose) after stretching hip flexors and the chest. In the right side of “half saddle”, the student thought that she could not endure any more and she got out of the pose. In the other side, we began to talk.

As the student had the opportunity to ship books abroad, I had asked her if we could ship two yoga books. She told me it would not be a problem so we asked for the books. Neither of the books came but a DVD came instead. The student was so angry with the post office and told me that she felt so sorry and she did not know what to do.
“No problem. Maybe it would not be good for me if I got those books. Maybe those books were no use for me. Maybe that DVD would be so useful to me. Really no problem” The student, “teacher, I feel so bad and so sorry. I made a promise to you and I told you that we could get your books but something different came.” Me, “if something does not happen, it is really for a reason. There is no need to force.” The student, “how come if it does not happen, it is for a reason. I cannot manage to do that. I cannot let go. I cannot accept. I think I should learn this. If we have made up our minds and decided something, that will happen. I cannot just walk away.”

And I started to tell her about something that happened to me recently. Something in my daily life and something not philosophical. There was something I wanted to buy and it was on sale. It was a good sale and I decided to buy it. I gave my credit card. However, the salesperson could not get the price from the credit card. That day, something was wrong with their lines and the system was not working. And I had not enough cash money one me. They tried again, but failure again. So when it could not be done in the second trial, I asked them not to try again and give back my credit card. Can a salesperson give up? No, of course not. She tried again. And no success. I told her that it was not a problem, maybe I should not buy that because it was not good and useful for me. The salesperson insisted: “If you are in this mall, come again in an hour.” No, whatever she told me would be no use. Even if she gave it as a present, no. Why would I force it? Maybe it would be no good to me, maybe I would be allergic and it would give harm to me. If it doesn’t go well and happen, no need to force.

I would meet one of my friends however we could not make a plan and adjust our schedules. “Let us not meet for a while. Maybe we should not see each other for some time. Maybe we would have a fight or argue if we meet. Maybe the flow keeps us away from us and prevents it.” Maybe everything happens for a reason. If it doesn’t happen, no problem.

Maybe all these may seem you like “giving up.” No, it is not giving up. It is following the marks and trying to see what the signs are showing us and acting accordingly. Not to force life, to move with the flow in real sense and to really be together with the flow. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. No problem. This simple. Not only in our daily lives and emotional lives but also in our physical activities, yoga and meditation. Everywhere… “Everything happens for a reason.” Maybe the thing we are so desperate about will be bad for us and therefore it does not happen. So, do not force. Let go if it doesn’t happen. Just try to look at from this perspective and try. What will you lose?

I prefer to teach “yin” yoga classes in my morning and evening classes on the last workday. On the last workday, students come to class with tired bodies and minds even though they cannot admit it to themselves. In this case, we need to relieve and relax their bodies and minds.

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I wanted to do something different in my “yin” classes last week. My aim was to bend forward and then backward, forward and backward and physically stretch the spine and mentally turn inside and open to outside world. At least, I wanted the students to observe how it felt like to bend forward first and then backward.

After a long meditation, we began by bending the spine forward with “butterfly.” We were not in a hurry. So, I decided to keep the students in one pose for at least five minutes. Of course, I recommended that they should get out of the pose if they felt any physical or emotional disturbance. That day, my aim was to intensify on the spine with forward and back bend and so, I asked the students to keep their feet away from their hips in “butterfly” pose. We began the pose as much as the bodies prevailed. We did not push the bodies hard but we just waited the bodies to get into the pose slowly. After we waited for some time, the spine could relax more and bent forward more and more. And even the bodies did not want to get out of the pose when the time came.

After the forward bend, we bent backward with “sphinx” pose. In that pose, the closer the arms were to the body, the more we would feel the lumbar spine and the more we kept the hands away from the body, the less the compression on the lower back would be. That day, everybody began at the level s/he wanted as we would stay in the pose for at least five minutes. So I recommended that they got into the pose slowly without forcing their bodies and deepen as time passed.

We were working on the spine, which was related with the urinary bladder. The urinary bladder was related with the emotion fear. Was it easier to bend forward or backward? Or should I ask this way? Was it easier to turn inward or to open to the outside world? To turn inward? To bend in front of somebody else or to step backward even if we were right? Or to bend backward and look at the past or to love more? Which one was easier?

In the rest of the class, the sequence went on as “half butterfly”, “seal”, “caterpillar”, “salabhasana” and “dragonfly.” In the end, we twisted the spine with “twisted roots” and “twisted twisted roots” and rested in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

I got some feedback and comments after the morning and evening classes. Students came by me and wanted to share their feelings. I listened to them all. One of them told me that she had so much difficulties in bending back. I asked her if she had some emotional problems and how she was feeling lately and she told me that she was undergoing an emotionally difficult time. I told her that she might have felt problems because of that and she should take a rest and should not push her more if she felt such problems again in yin yoga class. Another student was having difficulties in bending forward. However our spine was used to “flexion” and “bending forward” in our daily lives. How could it have difficulties? Actually it was not that simple. Bending forward was turning inward, watching and observing your emotions, listening to your true self, accepting yourself, surrendering. Could we do that? Could we accept ourselves as we are or was it difficult for us to stay by ourselves? Were we organizing events and meetings just not to stay by ourselves? Could not we tolerate to stay on our own and listen to ourselves? Were we trying to meet our friends just not to listen to our internal voice? Did we like to do something alone? To go to the movies alone? To dine at a restaurant alone? To go to the museum alone? To wander around alone? To go shopping alone? If we did not have any problems with being alone, so why was bending forward difficult? Maybe it was difficult for us to bend in front of others. Maybe our true self did not want to bend in front of others. Sometimes we needed to apologize and step back even if we are right. Were we stubborn? Could we surrender? Could we totally give ourselves up in an “asana” and relax our bodies, minds and stay there just watching the breath? Could we just wait? Could we just stay and could we just “be”? Or were we continuously moving in poses, changing our pose, counting minutes and thinking that time was not flying. That is, were we always the “doer”? Actually how we behaved on the yoga mat were the reflection of how we behaved in the real world. Were we accepting the life as it was, surrender, and let go with the flow and live an easy life or were we making the life difficult by intervening and trying to change it?

We did a spiritual and mental examination as we bent forward and backward. Some of the students said that this was the first time that they felt this much peaceful, that they went by the flow for the very first time, that they closed their eyes, that they even did not hear me talking, that they really turned inward. “Maybe it was because of the music you played. Was your preference on purpose.” No, it was not on purpose. Sixth sense? Maybe… Because of the “bhava” (emotion, mood) of the class? Maybe, I do not know. The only thing I know was that the students needed to take a rest from the rush of the daily life, turn inward and deepen that day. And to give me feedbacks and share with me…

When I showed up in class that day, all the students were exhausted because of the new year’s eve and the three-day new year holiday. I decided to pick a backbend as a the peak pose in order to overcome the tiredness. However, things did not go as planned. The first student who showed up in class asked me whether we could strengthen back muscles that day. Why not? Surely we could. Moreover, we could pick a backbend as the peak pose as we would focus on back muscles throughout the class.

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Following the opening meditation, we started strengthening back muscles with a balance flow on all-fours. We stood up after we practiced “uttana shishosana” (extended puppy pose), “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch) and “thread the needle twist.” After warming the bodies with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series, we flew between “hasta tadasana” (upward salute) and “ardha uttanasana” (half standing forward bend). We went on strengthening back muscles with “utkatasana” (chair pose) and “skier pose.

At that moment, I counted the attendants and also the blocks we had in the class. We had enough blocks for the attendants that day. Usually more students were joining the class and the blocks were not enough for each student. So we could not use blocks in our classes. When students were flowing in “surya namaskara”, I placed a block beside every student. That day the peak pose would be “chaturanga dandasana” (low plank). First we would try with blocks, then without blocks. In the end we would try to flow between “phalakasana” (plank pose) and “chaturanga dandasana.”

After I decided to change the peak pose, I started to prepare the bodies for the peak. In-between “surya namaskara” series, I kept the students waiting in “phalakasana” for five breaths, asked them to flow between “phalakasana” and “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog), asked them to try to bring the chest close to the ground by bending the elbows in “adho mukha svanasana” and to try plank pose on elbows as well as flowing between plank pose on elbows to “ardha salamba sirsasana” (dolphin pose) and staying in this pose for five breaths.

The body was ready for the peak pose. We placed the blocks under the “sternum” (chest bone), brought the elbows close to the body and rose on the hands. Leg muscles, hips and feet were all active. And everybody easily did “chaturanga dandasana” on blocks.

Now it was time to make the pose a bit difficult. We would try “chaturanga dandasana” without blocks. When we used blocks, we could lean on the block and stay in the pose easily. However without blocks, we were trying to keep the body up and against gravity. Sometimes the hips were above the chest, sometimes the chest was so low, sometimes the elbows were opening to both sides and none of them were genuine “chaturanga dandasana.”

That day, most of the students could do “chaturanga dandasana” well. Now it was time for a flow between “phalakasana” and “chaturanga dandasana.” It was easy to lower the body from “phalakasana” to “chaturanga dandasana” as gravity helped us. However it was hard to raise the body from “chaturanga dandasana” to “phalakasana” as we were trying to do something agains gravity. One-two… Could we make it three? Some of the students did three sets. Some of them gave in in two. Some of them never tried at all.

After resting in “balasana” (child pose), we neutralized the bodies with “dandasana” (staff pose) and “paschimottanasana” (sitting forward bend). When we laid down on our backs, I had a new idea. I wanted to complete the back muscle workout with “setu bandhasana” (bridge pose). To open and stretch the chest and strengthen the back muscles. We placed a block between the legs and tried “setu bandhasana” without opening the legs to the sides. Some students wanted to try “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel pose). In this pose, we would also pay attention not to open the elbows and legs to the sidez. I called one of the students who could do this pose well to the front and she showed the pose to the entire class by keeping the block between her legs and without opening her elbows and legs to the sides. Then all students tried the pose. We helped our friends who could not lift their chests off the ground. And the peak was over.

After relieving the spine with “apanasana” (knees-to-chest pose), we made a set of “salamba sarvangasana-halasana-karnapidasana-salamba sarvangasana-setu bandhasana-matsyasana” (shoulderstand-plow pose-ear pressure pose-shoulderstand-bridge-fish pose) in order to reverse the flow of the body. We once more hug the knees (apanasana) and relieved the spine. We ended the class with “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist) and “savanasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

Do you know what I realized at the end of the class? I wanted to be in full communication and interaction with the students in my classes. I wanted to listen to their requests, include them in the class, use them as a model in their favorite “asana”s and to encourage them. And to grow, develop and progress together with them on the path of yoga.

“We haven’t practiced real yoga for a long time teacher? I enjoyed today’s class so much.” When I heard this sentence in my private class last week, the class was not over yet. I was helping the student get from one “asana” to another with verbal directives and trying to preape the body and mind of the student for a peak pose. When I heard this sentence, I was shocked for a moment because I could not understand what she was trying to say. After that “one moment”, I realized what she was talking about and I thought that it was too realistic, natural and sincere. I was happy and started to laugh. I am sure you will laugh too when I tell you the whole story.

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I am working with this student for a long time and we both prefer “vinyasa” (flow) yoga. However, we focused on “yin yoga” (a type of yoga that aims to stretch the body up to deep connective tissues) due to physical problems of my student. As she started dance classes and her muscles were getting tighter and tighter due to these dancing classes, we gave priority to stretching her body in our recent classes. We stopped yoga flows that prepare the body and mind to a peak pose for some time.
When I got to class that day, I was planning to teach a core strengthening yoga flow. She said, “I do not feel well today but exhausted today, teacher. I do not think a core strengthening yoga flow would be good for my body and mind right now. Can we practice something else?”
As yoga is a flexible philosophy, I was used to such demands. After checking the physical condition of the student, I was trying to visualize how she was feeling. An exhausted body and mind… What type of class could we practice? To which asana group could we focus on in order to feel better and well? We should either focus on inversions or twists. I eliminated inversions all of a sudden because she was having problems in her shoulder girdle and wrists. The best thing to do was to focus on twists, clean and detox the body and calm down the mind. After deciding on the asana group, I should decide on the peak pose. “Parivrtta janu sirsasana” (revolved head-to-knee pose) or “parivrtta upavistha konasana” (revolved seated angle pose) would be easy poses for the student. I should have picked deeper twists for my student and I found it: “Parivrtta surya yantrasana” (compass pose). For this pose, we should stretch hamstring muscles and hip external rotators and prepare the body to this deep twist.
Following the opening meditation, we walked the hands to right and then to left side in “utthita balasana” (extended child pose) to prepare the spine to twists. After twisting the body on all-fours with “thread the needle” pose, we started to stretch the shoulder girdle. Sitting in “virasana” (hero pose), we stretched the shoulders with the arm positions of “gomukhasana” (cow face pose) and “garudasana” (eagle) poses. Then we stood up and started to warm the body with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series.
In-between “surya namaskara” series, we started to add twistis. “Parivrtta uttanasana” (revolved standing forward bend), “parivrtta adho mukha svanasana” (revolved downward facing dog), “parivrtta parsvakonasana” (revolved side angle pose), twist in “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge), twist in “anjaneyasana” (low lunge), “parivrtta prasarita padottanasana” (revolved wide-legged standing forward bend)  and “parivrtta trikonasan” (revolved triangle pose) were some of them.
After preparing the spine for twists, I wanted to open shoulders more. We used “garudasana” (eagle) arm position in “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I) and then we interlaced fingers in the back and stretched the body inside the front leg. When we got into “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), we joined the hands in “namaste” (prayer pose) in the back and tried to round the shoulders back. In “prasarita padottanasana” (wide-legged standing forward bend), we interlaced hands behind and bent forward. Then we tried to bring the hands away from the body and tried to stretch the shoulder girdle more.
For hamstrings, we stayed long in “uttanasana” (standing forward bend). When we sat down, we tried to open hamstrings more with “janu sirsasana” (head to knee pose) and “paschimottanasana” (sitting forward bend).
Ahead of the peak pose, we needed to stretch hip external rotators. We began with right leg. We held the right leg with our hand and the knee with the other hand and rocked the leg in and out, just as rocking the craddle. The name of this pose was “rock the craddle.” Then we held the right foot with the right hand and pulled the leg to the back under the armpit, just as nocking. As you may guess, the name of the “asana” was “archer pose” or “akarna dhanurasana.”
It was now time for the peak pose. We put the right leg over the right shoulder, put the right hand on the floor and then rotated the body to the left. This was teh first stage of this pose. If we could easily rotate the body, then we could grab the right foot with the left hand to twist the spine to the left a bit more. And now you were showing “parivrtta surya yantrasana”. In English, “compass pose.”
As we started to try the pose on the other side, the student said, ” we haven’t practiced real yoga for a long time teacher? I enjoyed today’s class so much.” As I have said in the beginning of the post, I could not understand what she was trying to say. What did “real yoga” mean? If we were not practicing “real yoga” so far, what were we doing? That moment, I stopped directives and took a deep breath. My mind needed fresh air so that I could understand what that sentence supposed to mean. Yes, breath did help.
I told my student, “when you say real yoga, I think you mean flow classes and vinyasa yoga. Yes, we were trying to stretch the body for some time and we were not connecting asanas to each other. We were getting into one asana and then flowing to the other. In today’s class, we flew from one asana to the other each time we inhaled and exhaled. We linked the asanas to each other as if we were dancing. Do you mean this when you say real yoga?”
The student said, “yes I am actually saying so. I am talking about the flow. I think I expressed it wrong. Yes you are right, everything we are doing is yoga. Yoga is a philosophy and a way of living. I am talking about flow classes when I say real yoga. I mean about the classes in which we flow from one asana to another each time we inhale and exhale. We have not done this way for a long time. I missed it so much and I enjoyed it a lot.”
Yes, this was “real yoga.” I could not stop laughing when we were talking. I was humming “real yoga” and laughing at the same time. I liked it so much. You could see the happiness of my student from her eyes. The tiredness of a flow yoga and  the state of awakening the energy and breath created in the body and mind. Things that lacked in the classes we focused on stretching the body. When we focus on stretching the body and particularly on “yin yoga”, a relaxation, lightness, stillness and calmness. However, energy and a state of awakening the “vinyasa” flows give us. This was what “real yoga” was providing us.