Archives for posts with tag: forward bends

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.

Photo

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?

 

We always like to practice challenging asanas in our yoga classes. Either in our own yoga practice or in any class we join or we teach, we mostly focus on backbends, deep twists, hip opening poses, balancing and arm balancing poses and inversions. We do no prefer forward bends. However, I like and prefer forward bends in my own practice. Yet I mostly focus on backbends, deep twists, deep hip openers, balancing and arm balancing poses and inversions in the classes I teach. Therefore, last week’s private and group yoga classes were an exception.

2009-2010 tum fotolar 308
Last week, I wanted to have a different experience in my classes. I do not know whether it was because of spring felt throughout the week. I wanted to make a change as we mostly practiced challenging asanas and tried the same asanas in almost every class. Last week’s peak pose would be “kurmasana” (tortoise). I had made up my mind. So, how would I prepare the bodies for “kurmasana?” I should have stretch the “hamstring” muscles as well as shoulders and hips. The shoulders had to be internally rotated and abducted and scapula should be pushed to the hips. The coccyx should be pushed backward and one should bend forward from the hip joint. And at the latest point we had reached, we should round the spine (flexion). If we assume that we would do the peak pose just in the first half of the class, I should prepare the bodies for the asana till the peak pose came. In the second half, we should do counter-poses to relax and relieve the spine and then rest.
After the opening meditation, we sat on the knees (virasana) or in “sukhasana” (easy pose) and started to stretch the shoulders. We used the arm position of “gomukhasana” (cow face pose) and we rolled the shoulders back. We then stretched the scapula with the arm position of “garudasana” (eagle pose). Then we lifted the hands to the level of the chest waited for five breaths and then bend forward with eagle hands position and stayed there for five breaths. Thus, we had opened the scapula. We laid face down and used yin yoga’s “broken wings” in order to internally rotate the shoulders and stretch the scapula more and more.
Following a “vinyasa” (flow), we stood in “tadasana” (mountain pose). We warmed the bodies up with a few “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) flows. In-between “surya namaskara” flows, we added some asanas to prepare the body for the peak pose. In one flow, we stayed long in “uttanasana” (standing forward bend) and in another flow we interlaced hands in “uttanasana” and tried to keep the arms away from the body as much as we could in order to stretch the shoulders. Moreover, we used “eagle arms” in “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I) and “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II).
In-between the flows, we added “padangusthasana” (hand to big toe pose), “pada hastasana” (hands to feet pose), “parsvottanasana” (intense side stretch pose) and “prasarita padottanasana” (wide-legged forward bend) in order to stretch the hamstrings. In “prasarita padottanasana”, we interlaced hands behind, kept the arms away from the body and continued to stretch the shoulder girdle. At the same time we were stretching the groins as well. In order to stretch groins more, we used “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge), “anjaneyasana” (low lunge) and “parsvakonasana” (side angle pose).
We stretched groins more with “malasana” (garland pose) and yin yoga’s “water bug” and “half frog” poses. “Upavista konasana” was the last preparatory pose before the peak pose. After staying for five breaths in this asana, we rolled the shoulders, put the hands below the legs, rounded the spine and tried to get into “kurmasana”. Some of the students had a flexible spine but tense hamstrings. Some of them had flexible shoulders so they could easily got their shoulders and arms under their legs. Some of them had tense “hamstrings” so they bent their legs a little bit. Some with tense shoulders could not rotate their shoulders internally but just a little bit. Everybody experienced the peak pose within his/her limits. As much as his/her body allowed. Without comparing himself/herself with his/her neighbor. Only by turning inside.
Why do we always prefer challenging asanas in our yoga classes? Why do we always focus on doing, achieving and succeeding? What do forward bends teach us? Why do we love or hate forward bends? My mind was full of these thoughts when ending the class. Forward bends calm us and help us get into a meditative state. They help us turn inside and realize what is inside ourselves. Forward bends can be hard for some people due to body limitations. Because of unflexible and tense spine, hamstrings and hip muscles. Forward bends can be challenging for some others due to mental aspects. Forward bends mean acceptance. Forward bends mean surrendering. Forward bends mean staying silent and calm before others and keeping the “ego” silent. Forward bends means disciplining the self, the ego. Even though they are a group of asanas which many of us can easily practice within the limits of our bodies, forward bends can be mentally and spiritually challenging. Have you thought of this aspect of forward bends before? Why is bending forward difficult or easy for you? This was the question that we had to answer at the end of the question.

Yoga is a part of my life for a long time. I was joining two or three yoga classes a week when I first started yoga and it was enough for me. After I joined teacher training program and started to practice asanas on my own, two or three classes a week was no more enough for me. I wanted to practice yoga even for only five minutes almost every day. My body wanted yoga. Thus, yoga was always a part of my life even with a few asanas until one and a half months ago.

2009-2010 tum fotolar 682

I have mentioned in my previous posts that I had been suffering from a pain in my groin for one and a half months and this pain spreadt hrough the side of my leg and to my sacrum and towards my heels. I was diagnosed at last. Unfortunately everybody’s problem: Herniated lumbar discs. I was lucky as we had diagnosed it just at the beginning of the problem. The doctor said the condition was not so serious and I could recover with medication and right type of movement. Great news!
After the diagnosis, I reviewed my yoga teacher training notes, particularly those about spine. Nobody loves to be sick but in fact the symptoms were just there but I could not see them.
First of all what was herniated lumbar disc? I googled and scrutinized it. The spine is made up of a series of connected bones called “vertebrae.” The disc is a combination of strong connective tissues which hold one vertebra to the next and acts as a cushion between the vertebrae. The disc is made of a tough outer layer called the “annulus fibrosus” and a gel-like center called the “nucleus pulposus.” As you get older, the center of the disc may start to lose water content, making the disc less effective as a cushion. This may cause a displacement of the disc’s center (called a herniated or ruptured disc) through a crack in the outer layer. Most disc herniations occur in the bottom two discs of the lumbar spine, at and just below the waist. A herniated lumbar disc may also cause back pain, although back pain alone (without leg pain) can have many causes other than a herniated disc.
After reviewing what I had learned so far, I started to think of what type of sportive activities and yoga I should practice. The doctor told that I could go on walking on the treadmill. He recommended that I stop yoga and stretching for some time. It was good to work out core and back muscles.
So, I had made small changes in my daily program. I continued to walk on the treadmill but with a slower pace. I was not inclining the treadmill and I stopped eliptical bicycle. I was working out my core muscles, lying supine. I was not lifting my legs up to 90 degrees. I was not working my oblique muscles out because I was not feeling well in lateral stretch.
What about stretching and yoga? When I joined a “stretching” class, I was using “blocks” and “bolster.” When folding forward, I was slightly bending my knees. I was not “flexing” my body, which meant I was not rounding my spine in forward bends. I was bending forward after “axial extension.” “Axial extension” is the simultaneous reduction of both the primary and secondary curves of the spine. In other words, the cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back) and lumbar (lower back) curves are all reduced and the result is that the overall length of the spine is increased. Similarly, before twisting my body, I was lifting my spine up and turning it slightly. The “full back” class that strengthens my back muscles was very good for me. I was using “blocks” and “bolster” in this class, too. When we folded forward, I was keeping my spine in axial extension and I was bending with a straight spine from my sacroiliac joint. I was using half-kilogram “dumbell”s. When I felt difficulties, I was putting the dumbells aside and continued without them. I had a new program. I was working out this or that way but I gave up yoga temporarily. I was stretching my body with “yin yoga” after my cardiovascular workout for a long time. “Yin yoga” is a yoga style which ensures a stretch till deep connective tissues by staying in an asana for at least three minutes. It mainly consisted of forward bends which “flexed” the spine, i.e, it included asanas that I should refrain from after the diagnosis. Therefore, I suspended my yoga practice. I could practice “hatha” or “vinyasa” yoga but the doctor advised me not to stretch my body for some time. I also had to give up inversions. Even though I tighten my core muscles as much as I could, I could stand in a “banana” position in inversions. To this end, “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand) and particularly “pincha mayurasaan” (forearm stand) were a dream for me for a while. Sometimes I was practicing “sirsasana” (headstand) but only by the wall.
What would you recommend if a student suffering from herniated lumbar discs joined your class and told you about the condition before the class? So far, I only gave theoretical information. When you do not feel, you just give theoretical information and could not build empathy. What was I recommending to such students?” When folding forward, extend the spine as much as you can and keep that extension and bend from the hips. Do not round your spine. Slightly bend your knees in forward bends. When bending backward and twisting, keep the spine long and then bend or twist.” Ok, it is theoretical true. But in real life?
If I am suffering from herniated lumbar discs and joining yoga classes, I should first pay attention to forward bends. You need to bend the knees slightly, extend the “sternum” and extend your spine, keep the lumbar area straight and then fold forward. That means you need to push the tailbone out, keep the lumbar spine straight and extend the whole spine… We refrain from rounding the spine when we are suffering from herniated lumbar discs. We aim to stretch “hamstring” muscles in forward bends so we can also do it lying supine. If the pain is too much, we can lie down, lift the legs up to 90 degrees, use a yoga strap and stretch hamstrings in “supta padangusthasana” (reclining big toe pose). Or we can lean the hip to the wall, put a bolster under the lumbar area, lean the legs up to the wall in 90 degrees and stretch hamstring muscles in “viparita karani” (legs up to the wall pose).
We should also extend the spine in backbends. If we have acute lower back pain, we should not practice backbends. Those with lower back problems should be careful when backbending. However, “ardha bhujangasana” (baby cobra) or “sphinx” are poses that are good for back pain if body is lifted up to the level of the chest. If you feel any pain, you should leave the pose and rest. We can add “bhujangasana” (cobra) to these poses. “Ardha salabhasana” (half locust) or “salabhasana” (locust) are also among backbends that could be recommended to people with back pain and problems. Lifting the body up to the level of the chest and working out back muscles by taking the arms back and forward could relieve the body.
“Tadasana” is also a helpful asana that could be used to heal herniated lumbar discs as it helps us get back to the natural curvature of the spine and tuck in the tailbone. Core strengthening asanas are also helpful in the same process. Twists can be good for some people but bad for some others. Therefore, we should be careful when twisting and should not twist the body with the help of hands. We should first extend the spine and reduce the curves of the spine (axial extension) and twist the body by turning the navel to the right or left. We can put the hands on the floor after getting in the twist. Thus, we can do the twist from just thoracal spine and we can step back if we feel any pain.
Now that yoga is this much relieving and helpful, why have I injured myself? Maybe because of “yin yoga” practice for a long time and “flexing” my spine for a long time… Maybe because of long-time inversion workout. Jumping to handstand and forearm stand to the wall for a long time, over and over again and again… Maybe walking too much on the treadmill or maybe running or walking too fast by inclining the treadmill. Or maybe just relaxing in “yin yoga”, meditating and not knowing for how long I stayed in that particular asana… Not feeling the pain… Even though the reason of my health problem is my too much yoga practice, I know that I can also solve it with yin yoga. I know that the deep world of yoga include asanas and practices that will heal my body. I am aware that my body is “the home of my soul” and I have mistreated it. But I am aware now, I have waken up. What should I do now is to choose the practices that will be helpful to me from the deep world of yoga and intensify on these practices.

Not being able to find time for self-practice is one of the most difficult parts of being a yoga instructor. Sometimes you have so many classes that you cannot stand on your own yoga mat for one or two weeks. Or you can find time for your self-practice and you want to turn inside and be alone with yourself but one person approaches you and asks if s/he can practice with you. These are the ups and downs of being a yoga instructor.

2009-2010 tum fotolar 309

I could not self-practice enough recently due to my increasing classes ahead of summer holiday. It is summer time and I am facing a dilemma. It is too hot and the sun is shining brightly and warming you. As a person who loves the sun and adores summer, I am affected by this weather so much. I get indecisive when I go to the gym club of which I am a member. Should I go to the swimming pool after my one-hour cardiovascular workout and be a lazy girl or should I practice yoga? Of course, I face another question once I find an answer to this question: What type of yoga should I practice? I am a libra and surely an indecisive person. I find a solution in the end. After my cardiovascular workout, first I practice flow yoga and focus particularly on backbends and inversions. Then I practice yin yoga. I make my asanas and stance “yin-like”, slow and calm down. And when I listen to my favorite songs at the same time, I am the happiest person in the world.
It was such a day. After my cardiovascular and dumbell workout, I opened my mat. I focused on inversions for forty-five minutes. If you follow my blog, you may notice that I have been working inversions these days. That it, inversions are my “sine qua non” asanas. “Sirsasana II” (tripod headstand), “pincha mayurasana” (feathered peacock pose) and “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand) came one after the other. I tried to get from “pincha mayurasana” into “bakasana” (crow). I tried these poses for at least fifteen or twenty times or more.
When I realized that I was tired, I started my yin yoga practice. I sat on my mat. I decided to stretch all my muscles that became tense after my cardiovascular workout. Particularly my quadriceps, hamstrings, hip internal and hip external muscles. And my spine. I practiced “half saddle” and “saddle” for my quadriceps, “half butterfly” and “caterpillar” for my hamstrings, “dragonfly” and “frog” for my hip internal muscles and groins and “sleeping swan” and “square” for my hip external muscles. In order to stretch and relax my spine, I did “butterfly” and “twisted roots.”
I stayed for five minutes in each pose. If it was an asymmetric pose, I stayed for five minutes in each side listening to my favorite melodies. I closed my eyes and did my self-practice.
Even though my body revived a lit bit when doing backbends, I was turning inside during forward bends. As you know, forward bends are poses that turns somebody inside and prepares him/her to meditation. That day, I forward bended one after the other, my eyes closed and with my favorite melodies. My eyes were as if they had been sealed. My eyelashes were stuck to each other and I could not open them. I felt just this way. I totally turned inside and did not want to wake up.
When practicing hip opening poses including “sleeping swan” and “square”, I also folded forward. As I say, I did not even want to lift my head. I just wanted to listen to what my body and mind were saying. It seemed that my body, soul and mind needed such a practice so much. I had forgotten myself in my daily routine. My mind was always tired and my body was always in a rush.
I was self-practicing, no problem with that but I was always watching people around me because when people saw me practicing yoga, they were joining my practice. I was correcting them. You can call it the ups and downs of being an instructor. When someone comes beside you and says, “can I practice yoga with you and beside you just by looking at you and copying what you are doing?”, you answer, “why not. Sure!” Our final goal is to spread yoga practice. But since you are an instructor, you cannot just say, “let me do my own self-practice and the person beside me copies what I am doing.” You look at him/her and see that his/her knee is misaligned. If s/he continues that way, s/he can wound his/her knee and you warn. Ok, you do not teach yoga at that very moment but being an instructor is such a thing. You cannot say, “I do not care. Whatever happens happens.” You cannot let go. You feel yourself responsible. Ok, let’s assume that you have turned inside in an asana. Suddenly, you remember the person beside you. You open your eyes and check that person and see if something is wrong in his/her pose.
That day, my yoga practice was completely different. I was alone. Nobody came beside me. My body, mind, soul and breath were whole and I turned inside. I had not lived such an experience for a long time. After “twisted roots”, I got into “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). I closed my eyes and could let my body melt with the force of gravity. My body got heavier and heavier. I could just feel my breath. My leg was not my leg, my arm belonged to another. I was totally relaxed on the ground and let my body melt with the help of gravity. My soul was free or this was how I felt. Neither people walking around me nor the loud music. I was “out of order.”
When I woke up from “savasana”, one of my friends was sitting beside me. “I came beside you when you were resting. Your eyes were closed but I waved you. I waved my hands just in front of your eyes so that you opened your eyes and looked at me. But you id not feel anything. You were lying there as a dead person.”
If you say this sentence to a person who does not know yoga, s/he may be afraid but these words made me so happy. Particularly “you were lying there as a dead person.” This was what I wanted. To make my body heavier and heavier, surrender and relax completely.  To make my body, soul and mind a whole and in union. To turn inside and listen to what my body, mind and soul are saying. What could I want more?

Do you think it is possible to play hangman when you are waiting in an asana? I would say “no, not possible” if you asked this question to me two weeks ago. However, I think you can play hangman when you are staying in an asana. Have you wondered what were the questions in the hangman? Of course, they were yoga asanas.

20140201_113356

Two weeks ago, I had a kids’ yoga class. I always talk about them. They are two young ladies at the age of 11. They were having more fun with their former yoga instructor because they used to draw “mandala”s (a cosmic design that helps us get into a meditative state) in some classes and they were playing with yoga cards in some other classes. They used to do some asanas in pairs like “bow and arrow.”  That is, they were having more fun with that instructor than they do with me. On the other hand, I take my classes, even those with the kids, very seriously and want all my students to get the optimum benefit from each class. Therefore, I choose a “peak pose” before each kids’ yoga class as I do in my adult classes, prepare the bodies of these two young ladies for that asana in the first half of the class, try that pose in the middle of the class and balance and relax the bodies in the second half of the class. Until two weeks ago.
That day, I entered the class and guess what I had seen. A whiteboard. We were organizing workshops in the studio in the recent weeks so I guessed this whiteboard was used in those workshops. I asked the girls to play their favorite music as usual. We had not had kids’ yoga classes for two weeks. I did not want to begin with a flowing class. So did the girls. We decided on “yin yoga.” We would stay in asanas for at least three minutes and relax the bodies and minds. “Supta baddha konasana” (supine butterfly) was our first pose. We placed a “bolster” under the body. What a joy!
At this moment, one of the girls had a good idea. There was a whiteboard on the class. “Why don’t we play hangman?” I would ask asanas and they would try to find them. The questions would be the Turkish names of the asanas, not Sanskrit.
So how would this happen? We had to do only forward bends. When staying in “half butterfly”, “dragonfly”, “sleeping swan” and “dragon”, I was asking the asanas. We went on playing in backbends including “sphinx” and “seal.” The questions were “downward facing dog” (adho mukha svanasana), “locust” (çekirge), “bridge” (urdhva dhanurasana) and “crow” (bakasana). The girls found the answers even in the last minute and “saved the man.”
When there were no more forward bending asanas left, it was time to stop playing. We backbended the spine with “saddle” and balanced the body. Then we relieved the spine with “twisted roots.” We laterally bent the bodies with “bananasana” and the girls deserved a long “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose), which was their favorite pose. We can say that they “were getting ready” for this pose. They were putting a pillow under their heads, an eye pillow on their eyes and a blanket over them. They wanted me to give them a massage with oil. However, I could not find any bottle of oil in that class that day. I did not want to go downstairs and get some bottles from the other class, where adults were practicing yoga. I promised to give them a massage with oil in the following week. That day, I gave them a massage without any oil. After “savasana”, we sat in a cross-legged position. I had to say a few words before I ended the class. What was I feeling? What kind of a class was that? What kind of an experience was that for me?
“Girls, I know you like yin yoga and I am very glad that you stay in an asana for a long time and rest, relax and stretch your bodies and minds. Under normal circumstances, teenagers at your age are not expected to stop and stay and not move their bodies and minds for some time but you are really good at this. We have not been practicing yoga for two weeks. Before the class, I had also decided on a class with a slower pace but I did not have any idea to play hangman with you. Obviously, I think that you disrupted the class a little bit. You concentrated on the board to play the hangman and did not stay in the poses as correctly as you should. However, I do not take it as a problem and ‘accept this day as it is’.”
“I am aware that you are missing your former teacher since the day I began practicing with you. You were having more fun with her. However, I see you as adults and try to practice adult-type classes with you. I think I am boring you from time to time. But, I think you can see your own progress so far. Today was a lesson for me. I also need a little bit relaxation and ‘letting things go’ from time to time. In some classes, I can be friends with you instead of being a serious teacher and play with you. No need to be serious all the time. We can make our classes a game from time to time and make them more enjoying. I thank you for making me feel this energy.”

I have mentioned in my previous posts that I started to attend yoga classes in a preschool. Practicing with kids is really hard but fun. I will tell about my new experiences with them in my following posts. Today’s post is also about the preschool but the parents not the kids. I can hear you asking “what’s the point?” Let me explain. I started to practice with teachers and parents at the preschool during evenings and weekends. This was really a new experience for me. Why? Let me start elaborating.

2009-2010 tum fotolar 730

I went to the preschool at an evening last week to practice with teachers and parents. The parents of two kids had not arrived yet to pick up their children from school. Teachers would either join the yoga class, taking the two kids to the class or we would wait until the parents arrived. That day was their first yoga experience and they did not want to wait more. Therefore, we took the two kids to class and began the practice.
I talked to the kids before the class began. “Today we are going to practice with mothers and teachers. This yoga is a bit different from the one we are practicing with you. Would you do me a favor?” The two kids shouted, “yeeeaaahhh.” “Then I want you to keep quiet during the class. Today the only one to speak is me. Your other teachers will also keep quiet. You may also try the adult yoga if you like.” They were so happy to be regarded as an adult.
I turned on my playlist. It was dark. When we turned on the lights of the class, it was so bright. So, I turned off the lights. I opened the door half-open. The light of the corridor would be good for us. We started in “sukhasana” (easy pose). I reminded them the fundamental sitting alignments like keeping the spine straight, rounding the shoulders and keeping the chin parallel to the floor. Then I asked them to close their eyes. We first inhaled through the nose but exhaled through the mouth for three times to relax and leave aside the stress of a tiring day. Then the group started to inhale and exhale through the nose. You should have seen the two kids. They also started to take deep breaths. One of thee teachers could not keep her laughter. Then we all joined her. The opening meditation was a fiasco. We all lose our concentration but the two kids were really something not to be missed. They were so interested in the class that they were trying to do what we were doing. I had established a nice connection with my little students in two months. They loved me so much and I lived them so much, too.
We focused on the class again because the door rang and the parents came and picked up their kids. Now we were just the adults in the preschool.
This was their first yoga experience as I mentioned before. Therefore, I wanted to start from standing asanas. What I focused on throughout the class was to keep the knees just above the ankles and to tighten their quadriceps muscles in particularly standing forward bends. I reminded it throughout the class in order to prevent mis-alignment and injuries.
“Tadasana” (mountain pose), “uttanasana” (standing forward bend), “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I), ” virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), “parsvakonasana” (extended side angle pose), “utkatasana” (chair), “trikonasana” (triangle), “prasarita padottanasana” (wide-legged standing forward bend), “parsvottanasana” (pyramid pose), and “vrksasana” (tree) were the main standing asanas we practiced at the beginning of the class.
Since none of them joined a yoga class before, I was reminding the alignment rules in detail. It was a “hatha” (sun-moon yoga/the yoga that brings union “of the pairs of opposites) class that day.

IMG-20131124-WA0000
Moreover, the group was giggling all the time. They were looking at themselves at the mirror and telling me, “I could do this pose”, “I can’t believe how inflexible I am”, “did I do it correctly?” “do you think I managed to pull my knee caps?” They were practicing the asanas and at the same time they were giggling. The class was so fun that the group asked me, “don’t you think that we have harmed the seriousness of a yoga class?” I told them, “no, we have not. A yoga class does not always have to be spiritual and serious.”
Following standing asanas, we practiced sitting poses like “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend), “marichyasana” (sage Marichi pose) and “baddha konasana” (bound angle pose).
Then we laid down to work our abdominal muscles. The legs were 90 degrees up and the group lowered both of them step by step in every exhale. Then the legs were down one by one. When abdominal muscles were burning, they hug their knees to the chest (apanasana). The best way to forget about burning abdominal muscles was to work out the hips. Eye of the needle was the best pose to work out the hip external rotating muscles.
And it was time to end the class. “Savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) came after “jathara parivartanasana” (revolved abdomen pose). I was playing mild jazz songs to go well with an evening class. I prepared the class to deep relaxation with verbal directives and then I went beside each of the students and helped them relax more with slow interventions in the tight parts of their bodies. I sat and waited. I kept “savasana” long. They were thinking that the class was so tiring after a tiring and stressed day because they were tired when they were practicing the asanas. It was the first time that their bodies were doing something different but “savasana” was the best pose to relax and rest the body and to boost energy. Since this was their first yoga class, they did not know that they would be full of energy after the class although they thought that they were exhausted during the class.
I woke the class up slowly from “savasana”. We sat in a cross-legged position. I told them that yoga was the unity of body, mind and soul and therefore we could relax, rest and fill our bodies up with energy. Even though we could not silence our minds throughout the class, even though we were affected from what was going on around, eeven though we heard the breaths of the kids and lost concentration, this was our first yoga experience. We could ensure the unity of mind, soul and mind in time. We should not give up but continue our yoga journey.
This was how I ended the class. When my students opened their eyes, there was a huge applause. Believe me. I have received very nice feedbacks from my students so far but this was the first time that I received a huge ovation. I was so moved and pleased. I came home and told my husband how inspired I was. It was my second class that day, I was exhausted but very happy.
The following day, I had a class with the kids. I went to the preschool and I was welcomed enthusiastically. My colleagues welcomed me as, “here comes my favorite teacher.” This was worth everything. It meant that I could make them feel the energy I wanted to give and they could take it. This meant that there was a good interaction between us. And, wasn’t this our aim?

One of my friends was waiting for serious news about her job. We were planning to spend all day together last week. She was so stressed and impatient. She thought that she could get the news sooner if she was impatient, she hurried, she worried about it and she was nervous. She was wrong as everybody. You may ask me what’s this got to do with yoga?

2009-2010 tum fotolar 690

We may have to face such cases in cour lives. We may expect some news or somebody. We may be patient for something else. How should we behave under such a circumstance? How can yoga be useful in such a case?

Unfortunately, impatience is one of the disturbances of this age. Our lives have become so easy that we have forgotten how to be patient. For instance, we use cell phones. When we cannot reach someone at home, we call him/her on his cell and reach him/her. There are computers, cell phones and internet. We can communicate with our loved ones so easily thanks to all these means and therefore we have forgotten how to be patient. Are there anyone who can remember the old days? Remember that you had a friend in another town, you wrote a letter to him/her and the days you waited for the answer. Sometimes it lasted a week or ten days to get the reply. We used to wait patiently and with aspiration. However, we sit before computer and talk to our loved one via internet. Therefore, we have forgotten how to be patient and become an impatient society. That’s why my friend cannot be patient when waiting for the news about her job and want to hear it as quickly as she can.

Do you wonder how our conversation was? That day, she told me, “I am waiting for serious news from my job. It will come tomorrow or the other day but I cannot wait patiently. Should I call or should I wait? What would you do if you were in my shoes?” You know me for some time and you should have guessed what my answer was. I said, “in my opinion, you should wait. Just be patient for a while. If you keep thinking about that news and be impatient, that news will not come. You will keep wondering about it.” “As you keep wondering about it and be patient, that news won’t come to you and you cannot get the result soon.”

So, “what should I do?” “In my opinion, you should learn to be patient. You should surrender and accept the process. You should let go and not force.” These were how I thought at that moment. She said, “I cannot do that, I am nervous and curious. I want to call and learn”, and I said, “let’s associate it with yoga.”

In fact, all this happened because we are two different people. I am a person who accepts, lets go, surrenders and do not push hard. She is an ambition, more forcing person who wants to go beyond. For instance, we two are windsurfing. She windsurfs even in the most windy weather and even though she knows that she will push herself hard. I prefer to sit in my sundbed on such a day. It is enough for me to windsurf in a calm weather and just to practice and develop my style. I never think of surfing quicker or using a wider mast or a smaller board. But unfortunately, I had to start using a smaller board as my teacher forced me this summer. He said, “you cannot keep going using this novice board all your life, Burcu” and he added, “you do not like to be forced and pushed hard. If you liked it, I would give you a bigger mast but you do not like it.”

Here you see two different personalities and two different life styles. Forward bends are my favorite asanas and yin yoga is my favorite type of yoga. Do you wonder why? So simple. Forward bends symbolize surrendering, being patient and accepting. I can bend forward so easily! When it comes to yin yoga, it is mostly comprised of forward bends and stable asanas. You get into one pose and stay in it for at least five minutes. You do not move, you just accept, surrender, be patient and wait in one asana. It is something just for me. It is how I live my life. It is how I accept everything that comes to me and how I surrender to them.

Think what my friend would do if she practice yoga. Ashtanga would be her favorite style and she would probably like backbends, inversions and arm balancing poses. Adventure, enthusiasm, excitement and adrenalin. You move from one asana to another in each breath and you are always in a flow. You do not need to be patient, you are just feeling the enthusiasm and the excitement. What could the theme of the class she joined would be? Courage, enthusiasm and new experiences. For all these reasons, my friend cannot be patient. She was so nervous when she was expecting the news.

Ok, let’s say that we may be patient as regards with our personality. But does this mean that we can never change? Believe me, we can because I have changed. I was an impatient person once. I wanted everything to happen all at once and I did not like to wait. I forced my life, I pushed my life and myself hard once. When I pushed it hard, life was moving away from me. My wishes and demands were not coming true. When I was impatient and wanted something to happen, everything was moving away and away from me.

I told my friend about all my experiences. I changed myself and gave this habbit up. I learned to let go. I started to accept and surrender and have seen that this is more easier and fun than before. When I do not push the life hard and do not become impatient about my wishes and demands, let go and live in the flow, all my dreams and wishes are coming true and I am living a more cheerful life.

Patience, acceptance and surrender or pushing hard, being impatient and stress. Two different life styles… It is all your choice.

PhotoFunia-84ef86The most difficult thing for me once I started to give yoga lessons was to find an asana appropriate to the theme and goal of that lesson and to prepare the flow. During the one-year teacher training program, we focused on hatha and vinyasa classes. A class should have a theme and a goal. We should find an asana appropriate to that theme and goal, prepare our bodies for the peak pose in the first half of the class and neutralize and do the counter-pose after the peak pose and end the class with cooling asanas.
In fact, it was fairly difficult to prepare such a class. It was easier to prepare a circular type of class. In a circular type of class, you first call your students for an opening meditation and mentally prepare them for the rest of the class. You warm them up with sun salutations (surya namaskar). Then you do several standing poses, backbends, forward bends, twists, hip openers, arm balances and inversions. In the end, you make your students rest in the deep relaxation pose (savasana) and conclude the class with the closing meditation. There is no need to prepare a particular flow in a circular type of class as it has a certain flow.
After the training course ended and I started to give yoga classes, I prefered the peak-pose classes, which we called “apex” type classes. In these classes, we certainly have a peak pose and find an intention and theme for that pose. For instance, if the peak pose of the class is a backbend, then the theme can be “courage” and “freedom.” If the peak pose is a forward bend, we can set the theme as “serenity” and “surrender.” If the peak pose is an inversion, the theme can be “confidence” and “acceptance.” If the peak pose is an arm balancing pose, we can set the theme as “personal harmony” and “satisfaction.”
Once we pick up the theme, it is now time to set the intention. In a class with a backbend as the peak pose, our intention can be opening our hearts and spreading more energy of love to the universe. If the peak pose is a forward bend, our intention can be turning inside, accepting and loving ourselves and being happy. In a class we focus on an inversion, the intention can be looking at the world from a different perspective, whereas in a class we choose an arm balance as the apex pose, the intention can be to watch our balance that day and realize that the balance can change at any moment.
After picking up the theme and intention, we can choose music appropriate for that class. I wrote a post about yoga and music some time ago. (you can click https://burcuyircaliblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/yoga-should-we-use-music-in-our-classes/  to read the post.) In short, we can choose calmer music in a class focusing on a forward bend and use nature sounds or flute or reed flute sounds. In a class focusing on backbends, we can pick more lively mantras or songs.
Surely, it is also one of most important duties to make our students understand the point of the class by a brief talk during the opening and closing meditation. Why? As we always say, the yoga mat is a part of our life. We live almost the same way as how we live on our mat. We give similar reactions in life to the ones we give on our mat. Therefore, we should make our teacher fully understand the point of the class. After the class, all students should understand what the lesson is all about and what the philosophy of the lesson was. On which issues we focused and what kind of similarities there is between what we experience in the class and what we live in our daily lives. We should light such a light in the minds of our students that they should start asking them these questions. Our duty is to awake the awareness of our students. Make them find a parallelism between the yoga class and their daily lives, absorb the theme, intention and philosophy of the class and make a difference in their live. To say that I am free and I can be free even though I sometimes lose courage at the end of class focusing on “courage” and “freedom.” Or to say that I can still be calm under difficult circumstances, surrender to current conditions and get adjusted to them at the end of a class based on “serenity” and “surrender.” To say that I can trust people, environment and myself and as I learn to trust, I can more easily accept, be happy and life is simpler at the end of a class with “confidence” and “acceptance” as the theme. To say that I am in harmony with myself, I have accepted myself and I am happy this way at the end of a class focusing on “personal harmony” and “confidence.”
Yoga classes are a part of our lives. They are actually the life itself. Therefore, as instructors, we should base our classes on effective themes and intentions and make our students live the life itself on their yoga mat. To be a mirror to them and make a difference in their perspectives and lives this way. Everybody looks but everybody does not see. No, everybody can see once somebody acts like a mirror to him/her and shows the reflections to him/her. This is it.

PhotoFunia-b3b943Here comes a special day again… I also wrote in my post focusing on February 14 Valentines Day. Why do we show our love and affection on only one day. Everyday is special. We should show our love and affection every day. It is again a special day. March 8 International Women’s Day. I am a woman so I should write a post on the women’s day. Let’s see what comes out!

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.

As you can see, in yoga, particularly in hatha and kundalini yoga, we have to talk about masculine and feminine energies. In fact, female energy is an energy humanity has attached importance for centuries. However, female energy was oppressed and tried to be ended in certain ages. Wichery in the Middle Age Europe can just be an example. However, it is not a coincide that in many cultures, fruitful soil is defined as the Mother Earth or goddess of prolificacy were women in many Anatolian civilizations and their hips and breasts were stressed in sculptures as an indicater of prolificacy.

When it comes to yoga, the lunar energy is yin or female energy. It is passive, accepting, cool, creative, fertile, soft, compassionate and it surrenders.

In today’s world, are we aware of our female energy? Or at what extend are we aware of it? Do we respect it? How much do we love ourselves and try to understand ourselves? How much do we listen to our body and soul?

Until I started yoga, I was a person who never listened to the demands and wishes of my body and tore my body off. I was a woman but not a woman. I was like a man and I was proud of feeling so. I was glad that I did not ask for help from men. I could carry bags, open the bumper and check the needs of the car and I could repair certain things at home.

After I started to experience yoga, I became more aware of my womanhood and I loved it. I made peace with my female energy. Before I started yoga, I was having problems with my left leg, which would not surprise you. My left leg was swollen and I had problems in the left ankle. Surely, all these happened before I accepted my womanhood and loved it.

Similarly, I was hurting myself and being so tired during the menstruation period before yoga. Even my menstruation period was at odds with me and I was having severe headaches. What happened after yoga? I started to live more relaxed during these periods. I refrained from challenging sportive activities or daily things. I was doing inversions whether I am on my period or not when I first started yoga. In time, I quitted inversions in my periods and focused on yin yoga, particularly forward bends and hip openers. I started to feel more relaxed and this regulated my periods. My headaches were gone. My temper was gone. I was less angry and stressed. All these happened as I accepted and appreciated my womanhood and female energy.

Now, you may think of me as a “wild girl”. No, I am not so. I love to get dressed and wear jewelry since I was a child. I can be considered fairly womanish when compared to some others. However, being womanish is one thing and flowing with the female energy is another.

After yoga, I started to be one with the female energy, lived and flowed with it. It became me, I became it. We were a whole. Before yoga, I was a firm person with several principles. I was not flexible. I  could not get used to changes so easily. If I had made a plan and I had to change it for a reason or for somebody, I would have been disturbed. What has changed in my life? Not only my body but also my mind stretched after yoga. As my mind stretched, I started to be more flexible in life. As Lao Tzu said, I started to be flexible as water, I bent and changed shape when necessary. I changed myself according to current conditions. I adjusted to changing conditions. I left aside principles and saw that it was more peaceful, happier and easier to live this way. Why have I forced myself this much for year? A friend of my called after we decided to meet and asked if we could delay our schedule for an hour. In the past, I would be nervous and angry that our program had changed. But now? So what? I can find something to do till we meet. Maybe this delay has a reason. Everything happens for a reason.

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. 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. A chakra associated with the element 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 female energy sees the support and attention it deserves in the world…

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

PhotoFunia-475b0b8
However when it comes to arm balancing poses or inversion, I was asking myself: “When am I be able to do this pose?” or “Am I ever be able to do this asana?” In fact, I am still asking the same question.
Yoga does not mean to achieve something, leaving that aside and then focus on another thing and try to accomplish that. Yoga is accepting the body, mind and soul as they are. Accepting the possibilities and impossibilities as well as the advantages and disadvantages and doing the asanas in that way. A person may have an open chest and backbends may be the best and easiest poses for him/her. But, that person may have tight hamstrings and forward bends may be the hardest poses for him/her. This all depends on our bodies and their capabilities.
If I am to talk about my own experiences, I like forward bends. Why? Simple. My hamstrings are flexible and forward bends calm down my soul and I like to turn my attention inside when I am doing yoga. Forward bends are my favorite, but they can be a nightmare for some people with tight hamstrings and for people with an extraverted and lively character.
For me, backbends are also enjoyable poses. I loved to do a wheel in school or at home when I was a child. I was so excited when I saw that they were doing wheel in yoga classes. My favorite gym class workout was also a yoga asana. Moreover, whether it was dhanurasana (bow pose), salabhasana (locust pose), ustrasana (camel) pose or bhujangasana (cobra pose), none of the backbends did matter to me. Backbending meant making your soul alive, awakening your soul, and having fun. Experiencing all these was making me happy. I was a person with such an unsteady temperament. I loved not only forward bends but also backward bends. They both have a place in my heart.
And comes twists… I also love them. They recall me my childhood. We were washing our clothes in an old-fashioned rolling washing machine with my grandma during summer when I was a child. The rolling device was broken, and we had to roll the clothes by ourselves. I feel myself like the rolled clothes for a minute when I am doing a twist, whether a sitting or a supine twist. I am rolled, then I am opened up and it makes me so delightful and happy.
However, hip opening poses were one of the most difficult poses for me. Genetically, I do not have so flexible hips. Therefore, I even cannot do “padmasana” (lotus). When I am doing baddha konasana (butterfly), my legs are not touching the floor. Of course, these are the problems many people are facing today. As we sit in chairs and coaches all the day long, our hips lose their flexibility in time. Since I started to add yin style yoga in my daily yoga practice and stayed at least five minutes in hip opening poses, I can see that my hip muscles are getting more flexible each day. This means that I have a method that I can use to deepen in hip opening poses. How lucky I am!

PhotoFunia-474bdd1
When it comes to balancing poses… I was a balanced person during my whole life. I suffered from several injuries in my legs, feet and ankles due to long hours I spent at the gym hall for years. They were not so severe injuries but they affected my balance. I cannot get in balancing poses so easily as I used to do. However, as I tried standing balancing poses as much as I can, I have achieved to re-balance myself. But we all know that our balance can change at any moment. We cannot catch the balance we had a minute ago. Or we may be more balanced in right or left side. It is so natural. I do not fight, I have accepted it.
That is, forward and backward bends, twists and balancing poses are not so big deal for me. However, inversions and arm balancing poses… Sometimes one may think that what the use of such poses in yoga is. Now that we are seeking mental, bodily and spiritual relaxation in yoga, what is the use of fantastic poses that can only be done by “Rambo?”
Fantastic poses… Standing on your head, arms or shoulders… Standing on shoulders was not such a big deal for me as we used to do the same pose in gym classes when we were a child. It was fairly an easy pose for me. What was a difficult inversion for me? Surely, sirsasana (headstand), adho mukha vrksasana (handstand), pincha mayurasana (peacock pose)… I managed to do sirsasana by working too hard. But, handstands? They scare me, and when I am scared, I cannot do it. I am getting one step closer to the pose, the asana gets one step away from me.
Surely, there are also arm balancing poses. Bakasana (crow), bhujapidasana (arm balance pose), astavakrasana (eight limbed sage Astavakra pose), eka hasta bhujasana (one hand arm balance pose)… Getting in these asanas and staying at least five breath in them. It is beyond physical characteristics. My arms, chest and back are physically strong. But my mind and fears… For this reason, inversions and arm balancing poses are away from me. I am used to bakasana, and a little bit eka hasta bhujasana…
When am I be able to do these poses? Am I still asking? Yes I somethimes ask. Sometimes, I just leave everything aside and let go. But, sometimes I think about when I can do a handstand or whether I can stay in pincha mayurasana for five breath. I do not know.
I gave the same answer when I am asked the same question in classes. In my opinion, the only way to get into a pose and stay in it for at least five breath is to know the capabilities and limits of one’s own body, i.e. the compression and stretch limits, to accept those limits, to believe that a little, not much, change may happen in time, but most of all not to be obsessed with that asana. Just like everything gets in the right track when you let go instead of forcing in your daily life…
When am I be able to do this pose? When I accept myself as I am, know my limits, not force myself and accept everything as it is and let go…