Archives for posts with tag: hip

Are you a person living a safe life or a person taking risks? Do you prefer to be in a safe zone or choose the difficult, walk towards the unknown and take the risk in your daily life? I continued to practice flows on chakras in this week’s yoga classes. This week, it was “manipura chakra”s (navel chakra) turn. And we would practice a flow for our inner power and jewel. The theme of the session would be whether to stay in the safe zone and do a known flow in confidence or take chances and risk and walk towards the unknown?

We strengthened the core muscles with several “asana”s (pose) throughout the first half of the session and get ready for the peak pose. The peak pose would be something that would take the students from the safe haven. We should take risk when trying the peak pose.

I decided on two different peak poses for the morning and evening session that day because the students in the morning and evening classes could do some poses well but have difficulties in some other. The aim was to get out of the safe haven and take the risk so the groups should take the risk and activate their navel chakra. So one of the groups tried “bakasana” (crow pose) and the other “eka hasta bhujasana (leg over shoulder pose). Both asanas were poses that the students were not used to and that would be a challenge, taking them out of the safe haven and take the risk.

In the session we tried “bakasana”, some students got out of the safe haven, took the risk and tried the pose. Some of them only lifted one foot from the ground while some preferred to bring their knees on their back arms and keep their feet on the ground, staying in the safe haven.

In the session we tried “eka hasta bhujasana”, I observed the same thing. Some students only stretched their hips and brought their legs over their shoulders and stayed there some of them tried to lift their hips of the ground.

What I observed that day was that what we were doing on the “mat” was directly linked with our personalities. If we were people who liked to stand firm on our feet, we were having difficulties in balancing poses and taking risks. Or if we were not taking life so seriously and considering life a fun, such poses and sessions were just fun for us. The question was whether we should take life seriously, live in the safe haven and ground firmly on our feet or get out of the safe haven and take risk? Was life something that serious? Would it harm us if we take risk and mock with life a bit?

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 do generally not talk about yoga philosophy and the story of “asana”s (pose) in group yoga classes. The answer is so simple if you want to learn the reason of it. I usually teach group yoga classes at gym clubs and new students always show up in classes. I think what would I feel if I were in their shoes. I imagine myself in a gym club joining my first ever yoga class, assuming that yoga is “simple, easy and stretches the body.” And I imagine myself in a yoga class in which the teacher talks about something, which is totally nonsense to me. I think of my own first yoga class as a student. I remember myself thinking “body is body, can body have a language, can it talk, is it possible for parts of the body to express a special emotion” and wishing the class to end particularly when I was lying down in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). I remember begging the god to end the class immediately. Maybe because of this, I do not talk about philosophy in group yoga classes at gmy clubs. But sometimes I feel myself totally turned inward and eager to talk about philosophy. Last week was such a week.

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When students asked to stretch both back muscles and hip mucles, I decided on the peak pose as “kurmasana” (tortoise pose). This “asana” would stretch both upper back muscles and shoulder girdle as well as hip muscles and would be a class that would make all students happy. Usually I talk about the peak pose and which muscles would be strengthened or stretched for that pose at the beginning of the class. I informed the students again in that class. Maybe it was because of the books I had been recently reading or subjects I had recently been interested in, I did not know the reason but I started to talk about philosophy all of a sudden. Turning inward, harmonizing the body, mind and soul, slowing the breath down and then calming the body down. After calming down the body, watching the breath and keeping the mind on the body by watching the breath. Of course, I was saying the same things at the beginning of all yoga classes but that day, something was different. Only deal with yourself, close the eyes and turn inward, live inside your body not outside, cut links with the outside world for at least a few moments and just focus on the body and the breath.

After stretching the parts of the body that should be stretched for the peak pose, it was time for “kurmasana.” The tortoise pose was a pose in which we bent forward and turned inward. As how tortoises turned inside, got into their body and home when they felt afraid or take some time alone, we got into our home, return home and body and turned inward. I ended the class saying, “instead of just focusing on the outside world, just watching the outside world and being interested in it, sometimes we should live in our bodies, turn inward and feel our inner self.”

When I showed up in the evening yoga class, I was planning to teach a core strengthening class. However there were new students in the class and therefore I decided on an easier class and picked a hip opener pose as the peak pose. What is challenging in a group class at a gym club is the new students who join their first ever yoga class besides the old students. You always want to please both the new and old students and make them get the most benefit from the class. That evening was really challenging for me. I decided on a hip opening sequence because it would be easy for everybody to perform however I picked up a challenging pose as the peak pose in order not to offend the old students. “Hanumanasana” (monkey pose). This pose required the opening of groins, inner thighs, hip flexor muscles as well as hamstrings. We opened up the required muscles in the first half of the class. “Hanumanasana” was an “asana” which told about devotion, loyalty and love. It told us the story of a person who tried to do and achieve something with loyalty and devotion to help his friend. It told about how an impossible thing could be achieved when you loved and devoted yourself to a friend. It was a story that talked about making a giant leap forward with love, devotion and loyalty and turning back with another giant leap forward. Maybe our leap was minor that day, maybe it was not so giant when compared to our past leaps. Maybe it was better than the previous leaps. What was important was to make the leap. What was important was to take action. What was important was to make leap with devotion, loyalty and love. To take action, to make a giant leap forward and take step with love, devotion and loyalth not only in our daily lives but also in yoga classes… To take steps and get to somewhere with pure love and without being negatively affected with ambition.

At the end of that day, I realized that I should give priority to philosophy in group classes. Students could join other group classes in gym club and get physically strong and stretch in those classes. What was important was to honor and refresh our souls and minds in yoga classes, which could be only done with more breathing exercises, meditation and philosophy. To turn inward like a tortoise and to take steps, make a giant leap forward, take action and overcome obstacles with devotion, loyalty and love like “God Hanuman.”

Sometimes we push ourselves so hard in life either physical or emotional. Whether physical or emotional, this pressure leaves a mark on our bodies and souls. And we need to work hard and try hard to overcome these marks. To overcome physical and emotional disturbances, to refresh and renew…

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I was thinking of a vinyasa class when I was heading towards my private yoga class that day. Sometimes things may not go as planned. It was the same that day. When I asked the student how she was before we began the flow, she said that she had a pain under her hip just at the back of her leg. Wen I asked her whether it was because of our former yoga class, she said that it happened just after a dance class. She showed where the pain was and described the pain. It seemed that she hurt her “hamstrings” when she was dancing. She might have also hurt hip external muscles and the iliotibial band. Of course, it did not happen because of the dance. The only problem was that she did not stretch her body after class. Dance was a “yang” (masculine, solar energy and active) activity and therefore she shortened and forced the muscles and connective tissues. One should stretch the muscles and connective tissues after dancing so much. If not, we might feel our hamstrings and hip muscles tense and we might also feel some pain. So, I changed my mind and decided on a yoga class aiming at stretching the legs and hips.

We came on all-fours after the opening meditation and extended the right leg to the back. We did not do this to work a balance on all-fours but instead we did it to stretch “gastrocnemius and soleus” muscles by placing the tips of the toes on the ground. Exhailing, we tried to bring the heel closer to the ground. After ten breaths, we stretched the same muscles of the left leg. Again we came on all-fours and extended the right leg back and placed the sole of the right foot on the ground to stretch the right side of the body. We extended the right arm beside the right ear. Then we rose up on the knees, extended the arms to the ceiling and exhailing, we stretched the left side of the body by dropping the right arm on the right leg. We did the same flow on the left side. Then we did “parighasana” (gate pose) on the right and left side to stretch the groins and inner thighs.

Following a “vinyasa” we stood up in “tadasana” (mountain pose). After warming up the body with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series, we stretched the hamstrings with “uttanasana” (standing forward bend), “padangusthasana” (hand to big toe pose) and “pada hastasana” (hand to foot pose). In order to stretch groins, inner thighs and gastrochnemius and soleus muscles, we used “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge pose). In “ashwa sanchalanasana”, we placed the hands on the two sides of the front leg and exhaling we tried to bring the heel closer to the ground. Again in “ashwa sanchalanasana”, we bent the back knee and extended it in each exhale and inhale. When inhaling, we exteded the front leg and exhaling we bent it again. After five breaths, we kept the front knee extended and bent forward on the front leg. The same flow on the other leg… And then we tried to bring the heels closer to the ground in “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog). First one by one and after ten breaths, the two of them at the same time. To feel hamstrings more in “adho mukha svanasana”, we pushed the front muscles to the back and kept the legs so strong. Before sitting down, we stretched hip external muscles in “ardha baddha padmottanasana” (half lotus standing forward bend).

Following a “vinyasa” we sat down with “eka pada raja kapotasana” (pigeon pose) to stretch hip external muscles. We extended the arms to the front and stayed on finger tips and tried to feel the extension towards to tips of the toes of the back leg. After ten breaths, we pushed the hip of the bent leg to the back to feel the stretch at a different part of the hip. Then if the right leg is bent, we walked the body to the right side (i.e. to the side of the bent leg) and felt the hip more. After ten breaths, we walked just to the opposite side to feel the stretch more in the middle of the hip. When we changed the angles, the muscles we were stretching changed. And we relieved different muscles and connective tissues.

To go on stretching hamstrings on the ground, we used “half frog”, “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend) and we relieved inner thighs and groins with “upavistha konasana” (seated angle pose).

We were about to end the class. We laid supine, placed the sole of the right foot on the ground and lifted the left leg up to 90 degrees. Here, we did “plantar flexion” and “dorsiflexion” (to turn the tips of the toes to the ceiling and pull the tips of the toes towards the body) in order to stretch the muscles in the front and back part of the legs. Then we put the right leg on the top of the left leg just as men did and stretch the hip external muscles of the right side. Then we crossed the legs just as women did and dropped the knees towards the right side and relieved the spine with “twisted roots.” We also stretched the “iliotibial band” with this twist. After repeating the same flow on the left side, we hug the knees towards the chest (apanasana) and neutralized the spine. Then came “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

At the end of the class, we once more remembered that the body was the “house of the soul.” When we pushed the body hard, it was reacting, getting tense and hard. We had to work hard, refresh and renew in order to overcome this tension. To stretch, renew and refresh the “house of our souls.” Not to always be active and in motion, but sometimes to be calm, serene, flexible and peaceful…

 

 

 

 

Do you believe in coincidences in life? My last week’s yoga classes were full of coincidences. Don’t you think it is a coincidence that all groups were eager to do the same yoga flow in my classes last week even though these classes were taking place in different places and were attended by totally different people? “We have not practiced a core strengthening flow for a long time. Why don’t we do such a flow this week?” What can I say? It is my favorite group of asanas.

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These were the sentences I heard in my private and group classes last week. Isn’t it a coincidence to see the same eagerness in all classes even though they were taking place in different places and were attended by totally different people? And that this demand was made within the same week.
We began classes by relaxing body and mind with meditation. After meditation, we came on all-fours and started to move the spine with “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch). Since we focused on core muscles that day, we strengthened core muscles as much as we could in “marjaryasana” (cat pose). When inhaling, we got into “bitilasana” and relaxed core muscles. After repeating the flow for five times, we came on all-fours, rounded the spine and lifted the knees off the floor for about a few inches. Now, we were engaging core muscles in our flow. I had not decided on the peak pose until that moment. I had a few alternatives in mind. At this moment, I made up my mind about the peak pose: “Tittibasana” (firefly). I could remember the Sanskrit name of the pose but I could not remember it in English. At last I told them, “a species of insect” and told them that I would google the English name.
“Tittibasana” was an arm balancing pose and one had to stretch the hip and strengthen core muscles as well as arms and shoulder girdle for this asana.
First of all, we should warm the bodies up. We started to warm the bodies with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. In-between sun salutation series, we stayed in “phalakasana” (plank pose) for at least five breaths in order to strengthen arms, shoulders and the core. The other core strengthening asanas in between “surya namaskara” series were “vasisthasana” (Sage Vasistha pose/side plank), “chaturanga dandasana” (low plank) and “one-legged variation of “phalakasana”. Inhaling and exhaling in “vasisthasana”, we brought the body close to the ground and then lifted it up in order to more intensely feel the core. Sometimes we shifted the balance to the tips of the feet in “uttanasana” (standing forward bend) and lifted the body on the tips of the toes to feel the core more and more. During sun salutation series, we gave all our focus on the core. I told the students to engage their core muscles from the groins up to the ribs. Thus, they could feel the core without even practicing a single asana. “Utkatasana” (chair pose) was the other core strengthening standing asana. After waiting static in this pose, we lifted the toes from the ground to test the balance and worked out the core. “One-legged chair” was the other asana we tested the balance.
It was time for core strengthening asanas on the floor. In-between a “surya namaskara” flow, we jumped to “malasana” (garland pose) from “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog) and stayed there for a few breaths. Our aim was to stretch the hips. Then we sat on floor for “paripurna navasana” (full boat) variations. After two “navasana”s and stayed in both poses for five breaths, we engaged core muscles up to the ribs and tried to bring the legs as close to the bodies as we could. Inhaling in “navasana”, we exhaled and brought the body to the ground until the scapula touched the ground. In the next inhale, we stood up to “navasana.” From “navasana” to “halasana” then again to “navasana.” For three times. Sometimes we could sit on sitting bones and stay there in balance but sometimes we rolled back or rolled forward. Then came “upavistha konasana” (wide-angle seated forward bend) to stretch groins and then we rolled back for “supta konasana” (reclining bound angle pose). Flowed between these two poses for three times and then rolled back to “halasana” and stood up in “malasana” to stretch groins more and more.
The peak pose was so close. Before the peak pose, I wanted to prepare the bodies for arm balancing poses with “bakasana” (crow pose). Those who wanted could do “bakasana”, those who did not feel comfortable in this pose could keep their feet on the ground, those who wanted could keep the tips of the toes on the ground. Even keeping the tips of the toes on the ground and trying the pose this way was an arm balancing workout. If the body and mind were not ready, we should not force ourselves. And now it was time for “tittibasana.” Compared to “bakasana”, we tried to bring the shoulders and arms inside the legs. This was the first stage. Those who wanted could stay here. If they wanted to move on, they could open their legs to the sides. And the last stage was to lift the legs off the floor and try the full pose. Everybody lived his/her own experience.
There were also some students who did not want to experience both poses. They were contented neither with “bakasana” nor with “tittibasana.” As we had prepared the body this much, I could suggest them another alternative. “Bhujapidasana” (shoulder pressing pose) and “eka hasta bhujasana” (leg over shoulder pose) were the other two alternatives. I was showing a lot of alternatives because everybody had a different body structure. Some had flexible shoulders some had flexible hips. Some had tense “quadriceps” muscles and therefore “eka hasta bhujasana” were challenging for them as they could have cramps. Some had short arms and therefore were having difficulties in “bhujapidasana” and “tittibasana.” But “bakasana” were easier for them. I wanted to please everyone and therefore there were many alternatives.
After the peak pose, we neutralized the body with “dandasana” (staff pose) and “paschimottanasana” (sitting forward bend) and then laid supine for “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist) to relax the body. Now it was time for “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).
I kept “savasana” long since it was a tiring and advanced class . I wanted to totally relax the body and mind. How did we end the class after “savasana?” “Arm balancing poses are fairly challenging poses. Coordination and concentration are a must for these poses. To adjust the body and breath, to look at a fixed point and to cope with fears. When we talk about arm balancing poses, fear is in question. Now we were on our feet not on our arms. We were now grounding on our hands. Therefore, we should place our hands strongly on the ground, spread the fingers on the mat, and keep our grounding as strong and wide as we can. As the hands and arms were not as strong as the feet, we have to cope with fear. To fly like a crow and firefly. To shift the weight of the body a bit forward and a bit backward and to fly. To flitter… To cope with fear and to address the fear.” This was what we learned that day.

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.

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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.

I have given up my yoga practice for a few months. If you are following my posts, you know that I have been suffering from pain in my lower back and groins for about four months after I fell from the stairs. Therefore, I had suspended yoga asanas for some time. At the end of four months, I began my yoga practice with “yin yoga” in order to stay in an asana for at least three minutes and stretch deep connective tissues. During the four months when I was away from yoga asanas, my body got tense and rigid. It had lost its flexibility and therefore I started to feel tense and restless in asanas I used to do very well and easily before. Unfortunately, this was because of the four months of obligatory recess. During those four months, the social media was like an enemy to me. The friends I followed from the yoga world were showing of different asanas, taking photographs and sharing them in the social media. I was trying to be happy and content with only “stretching” classes in the gym club. Neither inversions nor deep twists nor backbends… This meant that I should not only get a physical rest but also a spiritual and mental change and growth.
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At the end of the four-month recess, one of my friends invited me to a 21-day yoga challenge at “instagram.” We would try a different asana every day for 21 days and take photographs. Of course, we would share the photographs on “instagram.” The program intensified on backbends. In the first week, we would focus on stretching “quadriceps muscles” and the chest. There were fundamental backbends in the first week. The first-day asana was one of the most challenging asanas for me because we had to stretch quadriceps muscles and groins. The asana was named “kuntasana” (spear yoga pose). We could get in the pose from “anjaneyasana” (low lunge) by bending the back leg from the knee and trying to bring the foot as close to the lower back. After doing this, we were to bend the chest backward. This was a very challenging pose for me as a person with tense hip flexor muscles. I could make this pose “a bit possible” by using a yoga belt. This was all I could do. The fourth-day challange was also a pose named “lunge warrior” where hip flexor muscles were to be used. After getting into “lunge” pose, we would interlace the fingers and bend backward from the chest. In the meantime, we would try to keep the hips square and not squeeze shoulders. It was really a challenging and hard experience for me.
My hip flexor muscles and groins could not become flexible even though I stretch them a lot. The other challenging poses for me during the 21-day event were “eka pada raja kapotasana II” (one-legged king pigeon pose’s second variation), “eka pada raja kapotasana III” (one-legged king pigeon pose’s third variation), “natarajasana” (dancer’s pose), “supta bhekasana” (supine frog pose), “kapotasana” (pigeon pose) and “laghu vajrasana” (little thunderbolt pose). As you may guess, all were focusing on hip flexor muscles. These muscles had to be flexible in order to do these poses in the real sense. I just tried. I tried to stay in the asanas in a calm way with the help of breath even though it was really hard for me. The most difficult of the poses was “eka pada raja kapotasana III” because I had to extend the front leg totally. I just extended my front leg as much as I could and put a block under it just like I did “hanumanasana” (monkey pose). I also used yoga belt to practice “natarajasana” and “eka pada raja kapotasana II” in order to stretch the back leg.
Before trying all these poses, I waited for five minutes in yin yoga’s “half saddle” pose to stretch right and lef hip flexor muscles. Then I stayed in “saddle” for three minutes. Yin yoga’s “saddle” pose is the asana we named “supta virasana” (supine hero pose) in hatha yoga. Before “supta bhekasana”, “laghu vajrasana” and “kapotasana”, I stretched the front leg muscles with “half saddle” and “saddle”. Then I tried all those three challenging asanas. Therefore, “kapotasana” and “laghu vajrasana” were no more impossible for me. In “Supta bhekasana”, I first grabbed the right foot and then the left foot, but not both foot at the same time. In fact, I could not do the full “bhekasana” (frog) pose. I always prefer “ardha bhekasana” (half frog pose).
I was feeling happy the days we were stretching the chest. The day we tried “setu bandhasana” (bridge) was a day when I could “challenge” others. However in this event, we grabbed the ankles instead of putting the hands beside our hips or interlacing them or supporting the lower back with hands.
There were several new asanas for me including “garuda matsyasana” (eagle arm fish pose). “Matsyasana” (fish pose) is one of my favorite asanas which I use in not only my own practice but also in my classes. However, I had never thought of using eagle arms (garudasana) in this pose. I backbended and with this arm position I felt the stretch in-between my scapula more intensely. “Uttana shishosana” (extended puppy pose) was also one my favorite asanas. However this pose was a little bit different in this program. Normally we do the pose with the knees on the ground but in this program our chest was on the ground, arms extended forward, shoulders being stretched and hip lifted up. It was an intense backbend. This was the first time I was experiencing this pose and I really enjoyed it. Before this 21-day challenge, I did wheel on the wall (urdhva dhanurasana). But this time we tried something different. When falling to wheel from the wall, we placed the palms on the wall and waited on the tips of the fingers instead of placing the hands on the ground. At the same time, we tried to bring the chest closer to the wall. Stretching the chest and opening the heart… Different experiences and different emotions…
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My favorite asana in this challenge was the one in which we got into handstand (adho mukha vrksasana) by the wall, placing the hips on the wall and separating the chest from the wall. I loved this pose. However, I could not do it as much as I wanted because although I was trying handstand for a long time, I did not manage to stand on my arms away from the wall. Therefore, this was a challenge for me. I would stand on my arms and stretch my chest. I had to keep my arms a bit away from the wall but as I could not easily stand on my arms, I was feeling comfortable the more closer I was to the wall. When I was close to the wall, I did not have enough room to stretch my chest. A dilemma. However, this was enough to make me fly.
The asanas were getting harder and harder by the end of the 21-day program. Especially on the last two days. On the 20th day, we would try “vrschikasana II” (scorpion pose). This pose was not only a backbend but also an inversion. I was still trying “pincha mayurasana” (forearm stand) by the wall. Some days I was feeling comfortable and taking my feet away from the wall and stay in the pose for five months. Sometimes I was swinging. I was taking one foot from the wall, trying to get the other. Then I was not feeling balanced and stable, putting one foot on the wall again. One day I was progressing, the other day I was regressing. Before trying “vrschikasana”, I tried “pincha mayurasana”. After resting for a while, I jumped to “pincha mayurasana” and tried to open my chest. At the same time, I tried to bend the knees and bring the feet closer to my head. I had a long path to walk. I realized it at that moment.
The last day’s pose was “viparita salabhasana” (inverted locust pose). This was also a hard pose for me. I tried but could not do it. So I laid on my abdomen and practiced different variations of “salabhasana.” I only lifted the arms, I only lifted the legs, then both. Then I interlaced fingers behind and opened up the chest.
Thus, the 21-day yoga challenge was over. There were some asanas I liked and enjoyed to do and some other asanas in which I had physical challenge and pain. During the event, I took a few photographs. My goal was to experience the poses and share my experiences in a post. I took the photographs just to add them to my post.
So what have I realized during the 21-day challenge? What has this event taught me? That there are many asanas I have not experiences even though I have been practicing yoga for years. That yoga is a wide world. That some parts of my body are tenser and some parts are more flexible. That I should do more to get more flexible and stronger. That I have a long path to walk. That the journey itself is more enjoying. And that the journey never ends and will never end.

If you are following my posts for some time, you should know that I have not been self-practicing yoga for some time due to my injuries. I used to practice “yin yoga” in order to stretch the deep connective tissues of my body after a hard cardiovascular and dumbell workout and liked to ensure a bodily and mental relief by staying in each asana for a few minutes. Unfortunataley, I had to quit “yin yoga” for about three months due to the pain that began in my groins and spread towards the external part of my hips and to my lower back. I went on teaching prenatal yoga and other group and private classes and was just giving verbal directives in classes instead of showing the flow by myself. I was not showing off any asanas. I continued with my treadmill workout as well as the dumbell workout and joined some group classes at the gym club. But I was very careful and controlled in my own workout.

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The reason of my injury was falling down the stairs. The doctor told me that I could totally recover in six months and recommended that I should take it easy. During that time, I could go on with my treadmill workout but I should be careful when stretching my body. Therefore, I only joined group “stretching” and “back therapy” classes in order to stretch my body. Besides these classes, I joined “full body” and “pilates” classes to strengthen my body and core muscles. My health issues were diminishing each passing day.

Three months after I had consulted the doctor, I sat on my yoga mat for the first time. I started to listen to my favorite music on my MP3 player. I was ready for my “yin yoga” practice. I used to stay five-six minutes in each asana before my injury. But unfortunately the body was regressing once you stopped exercising. My body had lost its flexibility within this time and I would start with two-three minutes in my first yoga practice after a long time.

I first began with stretching the spine with “butterfly” pose. The closer my feet were to my groins, the more would I feel my groins; the far my feet to my groins, the more I would feel the stretch in my spine. As I was still having some pain in my groins, I kept my feet away from my groins and focused on stretching my spine. Two minutes later, I brought my feet closer to my groins and stretched my gorins for only one minute. After this pose, I neutralized my body with a twist. Bending forward over and over again was no good for me. I felt it during my injury process. Therefore, I wanted to practice one forward bend and then a backbend in my first yoga practice in three months.

Now it was time to backbend the spine with “half saddle.” This pose would stretch my quadriceps muscles at the same time. I stayed in the pose for three minutes for each leg.
During the practice, I felt as if this body was not the body I used to have three months ago which was so flexible, which could flow from one asana to the other and which was not feeling any pain or tension. Has three months turned my body something like this? Have I become so “unflexible” in three months? Every part of my body was aching. Every muscle was talking to me. I was feeling as if I had not practiced yoga for years. I was feeling that this was the first time I was stretching my body. Every part of my body was tense.
I would bend forward for one more time with “caterpillar” in order to stretch hamstring muscles. My spine would stretch as well. After staying in this pose for three minutes, I got into “dhanurasana” and stayed for five breath to bend my spine backward.
It was the “sleeping swan” I chose to stretch hip external rotator muscles and to bend the spine forward. I stayed for three minutes in each leg. Every inch of my hip was aching and tense. Actually, my hips were stretching and opening more and more. On one side a different kind of pain on the other side joy.
After bending the spine backward and opening the chest up with “sphinx” pose, I stayed in “dragonfly” for three minutes. Thus, I not only bended forward but also focused on my inner thighs. Before the injury, I used to stay for seven-eight minutes in “dragonfly” but felt no pain. It was as if I was standing up. Time was flying in that pose and I was feeling joy. I could even get surprised to see how long I stayed in “dragonfly” when I looked at the watch. Eight minutes were as if one-two minutes for me.
After three months of interval, when I opened my legs in “V” shape and bent forward, I started to feel the inner thighs from the groins towards down the knees. When I bent forward, I realized how tense my muscles were. In a few minutes, I saw that the tension diminished but not totally disappeared. The slow motion of muscles, slow surrender of muscles. Softening of muscles. But not the same as months ago. Still intense emotions and tension. After three minutes, twist to right and left in “dragonfly”. Leaning backward to open my chest up and reaching my feet with my hand. Taking my head in-between my arms and extending the other arm towards my feet beside my ear. And that moment… Reaching the feet with both hands. A deep twist I have not practiced for months. A great happiness. My emotions were twisting when my body was twisting. Tears in my eyes and gratitude. After neutralizing my spine with “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist) came “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).
This was my first yoga practice in three months. I stayed only three minutes in asanas which I used to stay for seven-eight minutes before the injury. My body was tense, my muscles were tense and were talking to me all the time. I felt every part of my body, one by one as if I had not practiced yoga before and as if I had not stretched my body before. I felt the slow pace of stretch. The relaxation. Felt the tension in the target area when relaxing. And then the tension went away gradually. The body got into the pose and surrendered. Not only my body but also my mind remembered the “yin” style. Getting used to letting go and surrendering. Just letting go. Change of stance. Not only my body but also my mind had changed in three months. My stance had changed. Easing and softening my stance with “yin yoga.” This was what I had to learn and get used to again and again…

Have you ever experienced the treating aspects of energy or have you ever felt the energy itself? Have you ever felt it around your body even if you did not actually see it? Or what comes to your mind once we say energy? What is energy? Is there really an energy around our body? What am I talking about? I am talking about the energy I felt around my body last week. Let me start from the outset.

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I had a group evening class last week. If you are following my blog, you should know that I am suffering from a physical disturbance that has not been diagnosed yet. A pain taht began in my groin and then spread through the outer part of legs and on my sacrum… A pain that spread through my heels. A numbness in my leg… Is the problem in my groin or my hip joint, or sacroiliac joint or lower back? I could not understand it so I went to the doctor to get X-rays and MRI. I am still waiting for the results. When I woke up that morning, I was feeling better. I was fairly well till the class. An hour before the class, I had a pain in my leg as if an electrical wave and the pain did not go away. Nevertheless I went to the class. For a few weeks, I was asking one of the participants to be a “model student” and stand in front of the class. I did the same thing in that class too. This time, the model was a male student because we would focus on inversions.
I decided on a “vinyasa” class with “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand) as the peak pose. We strengthened arm, shoulder, back and core muscles in the first half of the class. As the half of the class was over, we got into the peak pose then we stretched and relaxed the body. I showed many alternatives for the peak pose. “Half handstand” on the wall, “full handstand” on the wall, getting into pairs on the mat and helping each other, jumping to “handstand” by opening the legs to sides, jumping to “handstand” by throwing the legs from the back. And even I recommended “pincha mayurasana” (forearm stand) for those having problems in their wrists.
I ended the class with a long “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) and thanked the “model student.” After the class, some of the students came beside me and we started to chat. One of the students said, “I had difficulties in plank (phalakasana) and particularly low plank (chaturanga dandasana). Even when we got from plank to low plank, I couldn’t do it and I gave up. What should I do? What is the problem?” Students were asking me such questions. Surely, the shoulder girdle and back muscles had to be strengthened. To roll the shoulders back and push the scapula towards the hips in all poses. Remember the meditation. We are watching the body in meditation and rolling the shoulders back and pushing the scapula to the hips not to be collapse. It should be the same in all asanas.
We were talking about such things when one of the students came and said, “teacher, I realized that you were in pain throughout the class. If you want, we can practice bioenergy healing. What do you think?” What could I say as a person who believes in energy and evil eye? Of course, I would like to try it but how? The student said, “right now if you want.” This was the best thing I heard. Other students started to watch us with great curiosity.
The student asked me to lie down like in “savasana.” I lied down. He asked me to close my eyes and relax. I left my body to the ground, I surrendered. He asked me to turn the palms to the ceiling like “savasana” and not to close my hands. An energy give-and-take was in question. The hands should be open. My hands were open, my palms facing upward. I was ready. My eyes were closed but remember what I always say, “seeing with eyes closed.” It was the same. The student was walking his hands over my body but not touching my body. His hands were over me. He first drew circles over my legs and then over my third eye. I could just feel it as my eyes were closed. I was not seeing but just feeling. The student continued to work with my energy body. He was walking his hands all over my body. He asked me to do whatever I had to do at that moment, to give bodily reactions. A few minutes later, my legs were tingling and tickling and got numb. My leg contratced involuntarily, I pulled it to my chest and opened it back. I opened it to the side. I moved a lot. I felt the pain in my back, my sacrum, outside my leg and in my heel. I was feeling the energy all around my body.
Some time later, I was felt dizzy. My whole world was turning as if I was meditating. I told the student about my experience. He said, “teacher, we are working on your energy body. This is a normal reaction. Your energy body is open and you are open to all energy. So this is natural. Do not push away your bodily reactions.” As the healing continued, I felt nausea. When I told my student, he said all was totally natural and told me to vomit if I really wanted to. He told me I could cry, laugh or whatever else I wanted to do at that moment.
Then I asked another question to him. “You are working with energy. You are trying to clean the evil energy in the body and try to purify and clean the body. Aren’t you getting the evil energy on yourself? How do you get rid of this energy? What do you do? What about evil eye?” The answer surprised me. “Teacher, I am just a mediator. I do not take the energy on myself. I am just a channel. Evil eye and evil energy… I am using stones. My stone is lapis lazuli. Yours can be different. When I am going to a crowded place like a mall, I close my body to evil energies. I will also show you.”
As the practice continued, my body relaxed more and more. My painful leg was heavy and then relaxed. It fell to the side. The student said, “teacher your energy started to change. You will sleep well tonight. You can fell more pain tonight but feel better afterwards. We can do this healing for two more times. If it is not enough, we can do five more. We will practice it every other day. We can also practice if we are not together, when you are at home and I am in my own place. I am ending the healing. Do not rush. Take your time. Rest a bit more. Then stand up.” I rested for some more time and then I stood up. I was really relaxed and relieved. I was as if I just woke up. Woke up from a dream. My pain was over. Really or was I feeling that way? I thanked my student. I told him that I wanted to learn more about bioenergy and he informed about a few web-pages to read about bioenergy healing.
So what was bioenergy healing? According to a Turkish bioenergy expert, Kenan Boyraz, bioenergy is a health and liveliness wave”. According to the expert, bioenergy is a cosmic energy that can be seen, observed and detected scientifically by special thermal cameras and “kirlian photography.” Bioenergy is a flow of frequencies and energy.
According to Kenan Boyraz, bioenergy healing is a subtle energy that aims to eliminate blockages and heal several diseases. The energy healing activates all cells in the body and strengthens the person physically and spiritually. With this healing, diseases or disturbances can be healed and a person can be protected from possible new diseases.
According to the expert, diseases and healing are some stations in the journey of the soul and energy from the sun and earth penetrate into the cells in the body and shape up the energy body.  When one of the energy systems in the body loses balance or when some of the systems do not work in harmony, the body breaks down. The energy body attracts energies closer to itself in order to re-establish balance and the thoughts spread subtle energy. The subtle energy is affected by thoughts and intentions. The disease breaks out first in the energy level without it shows itself in physical symptoms.
According to Kenan Boyraz, the energy body is a subtle reflection of the physical body and it has a higher capacity than the physical body to respond to several inputs. As the energy body is closely linked with the physical body, it is the focal point of the energy healing and all treatment affecting the energy system can be observed in the entire system.
According to Boyraz, the energies around us can help us but at the same time can harm us. The bioenergy expert says if there are animals in an environment, it is easier to practice bioenergy healing. When the energy is rhythmic and clear, it is good for our health. During the healing practice, the brain waves of the healer and the patient are synchronized and a single energy environment is created. According to the expert, this synchronization raises hemoglobin level of the patient, alleviates the pain, eases the worries and heals wounds more quickly.
According to the bioenergy expert, one healing session lasts for about an hour and one needs seven or eight sessions to get totally healed. In the bioenergy healing, the healing is not only regional but on the entire body. Boyraz compares bioenergy healing to an equation which consist of the universe, bioenergy healer and the patient. He says that what is healed is not the illness or the injury but the body of the patient and the energy given to that person stays there weeks after the healing and the healing process continues. For more information (but in Turkish), you can visit http://bioenerjiterapisi.com/?SyfNmb=1&pt=ANASAYFA.
At the end of the session, I asked how much I should pay to him as there was giving and taking and its circulation in the world. If I was getting a service, I should pay for it. My student said, “teacher you have thought many things so me so far. When I step into your class with an intention in my mind for that day’s class, you made us practice that. Without talking, you just felt it. If I got these classes somewhere else, I might pay a lot of money for it. Therefore, I do not want you to pay me. I am doing it willingly.” You may imagine how emotional I got. “Then, whenever you want to work any asana or a flow, you just let me know and we work in private. Let’s say, you want to work handhand or a backbend or any other flow, we meet here and practice. Ok?”
There is a giving and taking cycle in the universe. First you should give so that you can take. Whether it is your personal effort or anything material, you should first give and open a space in your life so that you can refill it. So that the new one comes to you. So that you can get the new one. Moreover, there is a great energy in the universe. Good and evil. If you are an open person and if you believe, you can attract both good and evil energy. It is good to attract the good energy but what if we attract the evil energy? We will clean and purify the body. We will surround ourselves with people with good energy and affection. Or we will just believe and let ourselves go with the flow. We will trust the universe. When we believe, the good will come to us. Don’t you think that what I have experienced is a good example?

When I arrived at an evening group class last week, I found the class furious, angry and tense. Actually I was feeling the same for a few days. I have mentioned in my previous posts that I am a Libra. Therefore, balance is so important and necessary in my life. When I am out of balance and when my routine changes, my mood changes so quickly. Think of my mood when there is full moon in the sky. As a result, I was furious and tense that evening. I was trying to get to the class on time despite heavy traffic and ran into the studio. Literally. I managed to arrive at the studio on time but you cannot imagine how difficult it was for me.

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The class began in this mood. I asked the participants to take deep breaths and then exhale totally in order to relax. In the meantime, I was breathing in through the nose but breathing out through the mouth in order to relax more quickly. Before the class began, the students said they wanted a class that could ease their tension and anger. As I was trying to relax them with the help of their breath in the opening meditation, I was thinking of what type of a class should I teach that day. Anger, tension and fury. I thought it would be good for me and the students to practice yin yoga that evening.
When students were trying to relax in meditation, I told them that we would focus on yin yoga in order to ease fury, anger and tension. I asked them to watch their breath. I told them to be aware of their rising bodies and spines and expanding chests with each inhale and their more rooted bodies with each exhale. I asked them to watch the route of air after they breathed in. I tried to calm down the students for about five minutes.
Before starting the flow, it was time to set the intention. “We will practice yin yoga today in order to ease our anger, fury and tensino. My aim is to focus on hips, kidneys and heart. To purify our bodies from bad emotions by focusing on hips, to reinvigorate the life force by focusing on kidneys and try to melt angry, hatred, fury and tension with love, compassion, understanding and empathy.”
I focused on hip external rotators in the first part of the class and stretched hip external rotating muscles with “swan”, “sleeping swan”, “square”, “shoelace” and “eye of the needle.” We got into twist in “sleeping swan” and “square” in order to sretch the mentioned muscles and connective tissues in the same area. When waiting in these asanas, I observed students. Some of them were waiting calmly in the asanas whereas some of them were moving all the time and I thought it was difficult for them to stay in those poses. “When waiting in asanas, relax your body. Do not move all the time. Let your body relax in poses. Let poses take your bodies in and melt your bodies in those asanas. If you keep your eyes open, you cannot keep the mind silent. The mind first tries to conquer you with physical disturbances. Like ‘Your legs got numb, ‘ ‘Doesn’t your ankle hurt? and ‘ ‘Is your knee aching?’. If it cannot conquer you this way, then it tries to affect you with your emotional problems. ‘When waiting in this pose without moving, aren’t you out of breath and aren’t you bored?’, ‘Hasn’t your friend behaved you so mean today?’, ‘Your kid shouted you so badly today.’ And it becomes impossible to stay calm in these poses once the mind had influenced you. Now you start to count the minutes. Let me give you a secret. When you are with the loved ones or doing something you like, time flies and it is never enough for you. However when you are with some people you don’t like or do something hard, seconds are longer than an hour. This is the most challenging part of yin yoga. If you do not enjoy yourself in poses, yin yoga can be an enemy for you. You should surrender your body and soul to poses. Then, nothing is more enjoying for you.
I was thinking that we had been purified from bad emotions by working hip external rotators. Then a new idea came into my mind. Why weren’t we trying “padmasana” (lotus) after we had stretched hip external rotators this much? First “ardha padmasana” (half lotus) then “padmasana.” One of the students could do “padmasana.” The rest, including me, stayed in “half lotus” but we were feeling so well. We had accepted the bodies.
Now it was time to focus on kidneys and reinvigorate the life force — called “chi” in yin yoga. “Sphinx” and “seal” were the best poses for this intention. We waited for almost six minutes in these two asanas. Some of the students kept their arms close to their bodies and worked out the lower back and kidneys more intensely. Some of them did not want to put a lot of pressure on their lower backs and for this reason they kept their arms away from their bodies.
At the last part of the class, we woud try to replace anger, hatred, fury and tension with love, compassion, empathy and understanding by focusing on heart. We had started to bend the spine backward with “sphinx” and “seal” and now it was time for “melting heart.” “Each time you exhale, try to bring your chest closer to the ground. Each time you breath out, melt your heart a little bit more. Try to release energy of love. Forgive. First yourself then whoever around you. Try to develop empathy. Both parties have guilt in bilateral relations. Both parties could be guilty in a discussion. Therefore, put yourself in the shoes of the person you are facing and develop empathy. Try to understand. Replace anger and hatred with love and understanding.”
Sometimes I am moved by the flow in my classes and could add some more asanas to the flow. The same thing happened that evening. I had decided to conclude the class after focusing on the heart chakra but I wanted to relieve the throat also. Our final intention was to ease hatred, anger and fury and practiced some asanas for this aim. Then we practiced some poses to reinvigorate the life force and to replace bad emotions with the good ones. Now it was time to focus on throat chakra to express our feelings and thoughts in the right way. We drew our attention to the throat when flowing between “marjaryasana” and “bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch).  We compressed and opened the throat in this stretch.
Before “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose), we stretched the body and spine with “twisted roots” and relaxed and calmed down the nervous system. After relaxing the body with this twist with eyes closed, a long “savasana” came. I gave a massage to students during “savasana” in order to help them relax and let go more. Our intention was to accept, let go and surrender during the entire class. We accepted the bodies and surrendered them in “savasana.”
Do you wonder what were the last words of the class? “Our aim was to focus on hips to purify ourselves from bad emotions, to focus on kidneys to reinvigorate the life force and to focus on heart to replace anger, hatred, fury and tension with love, compassion, understanding and empathy. Today there is full moon. Therefore we may feel more intense than usual. Maybe because of the full moon, you may feel more angry and fruious. You may feel more emotional because of the full moon in Pisces. Something that could never affect you generally might have affected you today. Under such a circumstance, you should try to understand others. Develop empathy, try to love more and understand more. Put yourself in the shoes of others and try to understand their thesis. What would you lose if you just try?