Archives for posts with tag: hip-opening poses

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

BEN_4569

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

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

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

I have told you in my previous posts about how the body got tense when you do not practice yoga or go to gym for some time. In such a time, your body gets tense, lose its flexibility and there is need for time and patience in order to re-gain that flexibility. After we stretched the student’s body for two classes, it was now time to make the body remember what it had forgotten in one and a half months. So how could we make the body remember what it had forgotten? I had decided long before I went to the private class that day. As in a yoga teacher training program, we would start working on the body from the feet to the top. The standing asanas, hip opening poses, core strengthening asanas, twists, backbends, inversions and balance. Like the roots, branches, leaves and flowers of a tree.

IMG_6820

That day, we would begin with standing asanas. Following the opening meditation, we stretched the spine and warmed the body up with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. I particularly focused on grounding on “tadasana” (mountain pose). Spreading all the toes on the ground and grounding the roots of the big toe and the little toe, the inner part of the heel and the outer part of the heel equally. Feeling the energy of the element earth under the feet. Extending to the top of the head by feeling that energy under the feet. Extending to the top of the head from the tips of the toes with that energy. Closing the eyes and feeling the earth beneath the feet. Grounding.

After grounding well in “tadasana”, we added some standing asanas in-between “surya namaskara” series including “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I), “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), “parsvakonasana” (side angle pose), “trikonasana” (triangle), “parsvottanasana” (pyramid pose), “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge) and “anjaneyasana” (low lunge). We continued grounding with all these asanas.

Then we sat down and went on grounding with “dandasana” (staff pose) and “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend). After neutralizing the body with “setu bandhasana” (bridge), we relieved the spine with “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist) and let the body melt and surrender with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). Our aim was to feel the roots and stand strong and robust in life.

In our next class, it was time to work out the hip joint. Every class, we would go on from the foundation to the top as if we were constructing a building. Or like from the roots of a tree towards its leaves. As it was time for the hip joint, we would focus on forwardbends and hip opening poses. After preparing the body for forwardbends with some standing poses like “uttanasana” (standing forward bend), “prasarita padottanasana” (wide-legged forward bend), “ashwa sanchalanasana” and “anjaneyasana”, we stretched the hip joint more with sitting forward bends. After sitting on the ground, we stretched “hamstrings” with a”janu sirsasana” and the groins and inner thighs by bending in-between legs in “half butterfly.”

After stretching the hamstrings more with “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend) , we opened the legs in “V” shape and focused on inner thighs and groins with “upavistha konasana” (wide-angle seated forward bend). It was time for the peak pose. There were two peak poses in that class including “kurmasana” (tortoise pose) and “hanumanasana” (monkey pose). We ended the class with “purvottanasana” (reverse plank pose), “twisted roots” and “savasana”. Our aim was to bend forward in order to be more modest, turn inside, accept and surrender and to intensify on hip openers in order to avoid negative emotions and to boost our creativity.

The next class was on core muscles. I wanted to focus on the core for a week. In one class, we would focus on upper and lower core muscles and the other class we would deal with oblique muscles. In the first class, we practiced “kapalabhati” (skull shining breath) and “nauli kriya” (abdominal cleansing method). In “kapalabhati”, the inhales were passives but exhales were active. In every exhale, we brought the diaphragm in and felt the core muscles. The first stage of “nauli” was to completely empty the lungs and tighten core muscles, i.e. “uddiyana bandha.” Our aim was to tighten the core muscles from the groins up and in upto the ribs and feel the core in every asana. We did all asanas without loosening the core muscles.

We worked the core with balance in all-fours and by “utkatasana” (chair pose), “phalakasana” (plank pose), “chaturanga dandasana” (low plank), “vasisthasana” (side plank pose) and by tightening core muscles well in “marjaryasana” (cat pose) and “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog). Sitting down, we did many variations of “navasana” (boat pose) and strengthening the core more with “purvottanasana” (reverse plank pose). In the end, we laid down to feel the core more with yogic cycles and a few crunches. The aim of the class was to focus on core muscles and to be decisive and ambitious enough to end what we had started.

In our second core-focused class, we worked out twists. In-between “surya namaskara” series, we added “parivrtta uttanasana” (twist in standing forward bend), “parivritta trikonasana” (revolved triangle), “parivritta parsvakonasana” (revolved side angle pose), “parivritta ashwa sanchalanasana” (twist in high lunge), “parivrtta anjaneyasana” (twist in low lunge), “parivrtta adho mukha svanasana” (twist in adho mukha svanasana), “parivrtta ardha chandrasana” (revolved half moon pose) and “parivrtta prasarita padottanasana” (twist in wide-legged forward bend). The peak pose was “parivrtta ardha chandrasana.” We went on twisting on the ground. Before sitting down, we did “parivrtta malasana” (revolved garland pose). After sitting down, we twisted the spine with “parivrtta janu sirsasana” (revolved head-to-knee pose) and “parivrtta upavistha konasana” (revolved wide-angle seated forward bend). Lying supine, we twisted the spine more with “cat tail” and relieved the body with “savasana.” Focusing on twists, we wanted to purify, clean and calm don the body and mind.

In the next class, our focus was the chest. That day we bent backward. Bending back in “tadasana”, bendin back in “ashwa sanchalanasana”, bending back in “anjaneyasana”… In-between flows, we waited long in “bhujangasana” (cobra pose). In order to stretch and open the chest, we bent back in “virabhadrasana I” and waited longer than five breaths in “virabhadrasana II”, “parsvakonasana” and “trikonasana.” In-between flows, we used “urdhva mukha svanasana” (upward facing dog), “sphinx” and “seal”. Our peak pose was “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel). We used “setu bandhasana” (bridge) as a preparatory pose. Our aim was to bend back that day, stretch the chest and love more and understand more not only ourselves but also those around us.

2013-05-18 14.18.39

After the chest, it was the neck’s turn. We began the class by stretching the neck to right and left, to front and back and to sides. We turned the neck in every asana throughout the class and purified the neck from all negative emotions. In the middle of the class, we stimulated the neck by “sarvangasana” (shoulderstand), “halasana” (plow pose), “karnapidasana” (ear pressure pose) and “matsyasana” (fish pose). Then we tried to change our perspective by standing upside down in “sirsasana” (headstand). We ended the class with “balasana” (child pose), twist and “savasana.” Our aim was to purify the neck from all negative emotions, to express ourselves right and to be well-understood by those around us. Also, to look from another perspective and understand every one.

After working all the body from the feet to the top, it was time to work the entire body. How could we work the entire body? Of course with balancing poses. We should now focus on the balance of the body. Warming up the body, we tried to stand on one foot and then close the eyes to stand on one foot. In the next flow, we stayed in “tadasana” and opened up one leg to 90 degrees up and tried to stay there in balance. In the next try, we did the same with eyes closed. In “vrksasana”, we waited eyes closed. We combined the balancing poses one after the other. “Vrksasana”, “garudasana” (eagle pose), “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III), “urdhva prasarita eka padasana” (standing split), “utthita hasta padangusthasana” (hand-to-big toe pose) with the leg in the front and on the side and “natarajasana” (dancer pose). After neutralizing the body came “savasana.” The aim of the class was to find the balance in yoga and in the polarities and dualities of the daily life.

As in a yoga teacher training program, strengthening and stretching the body from the tips of the toes up to the top of the head. Standing asanas, hip opening poses, core strengthening poses, twists, backbends, inversions and balance. Like the roots, branches, leaves and flowers of a tree. From the ground to the roof as if constructing a building. When the foundation is strong, it is not hard for that building to stand still on that foundation. When we build the foundation of our body is strong, it is not also hard for our body to stand strong and still on that roots.

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…