Archives for posts with tag: injury

Have you ever had any time when you did not feel any pain? Have you ever felt a slight pain or no pain when you hurt a part of your body? I can hear you ask me, “what you mean?” But it’s not a joke. Have you ever injured a part of your body by not feeling any pain? I have. Let me start from the beginning.

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I used to lift my legs 90 degrees up before my injury. See now!

Almost a month ago, I had decided to stretch and relieve my body with yin yoga after a long cardiovascular workout. Having spent an hour on the treadmill and elliptical trainer, I particularly wanted to relax and stretch my leg muscles. Yin yoga was the best remedy. I got into yin yoga poses one after the other in order to stretch my quadriceps and hamstring muscles as well as hip external and internal rotator muscles and stayed in each pose for almost ten minutes. (A detailed post is available at https://burcuyircaliblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/be-careful/)
That day, I had not felt anything because my body was warmed up. I woke up with a pain in my groin next morning. I thought that I had hurt my “iliopsoas” muscle which was located between my upper and lower bodies. Long minutes I stayed in “half saddle” pose cost me too much. I could find the problem on my own because I had a similar kind of injury before and I started to use painkillers and pomade to ease the pain. The pain would go in a few days, I believed.
But it did not go away. Surely it would not go as I continued my cardiovascular workout, yoga classes and group classes in the gym club I was a member of. The pain did not go away but got worse. It was a disaster for me to get into and out of the car. I was feeling great pain in my groin, inside and outside my legs. Unfortunately my leg became numb. I felt my leg was not my leg any more.
Some more time went by and I agreed to consult to a doctor. The doctor listened to my complaints and asked in which pose I could have hurt my leg and I showed.
At first I thought that I hurt my “iliopsoas” muscle but I started to think that I could have hurt my inner thighs and adductor muscles as the pain went through my groins. I found the “guilty” asanas. “Dragonfly” and “frog”. The doctor recommended that I do not do any yoga, stretching, “lunge” and “squat” and I continue with medication. Besides he told me to alleviate small tears and/or hematoma in my groin with warm water compress.
I was diagnosed, recommended a treatment and sent home. You could guess how happy I was when the doctor told me that I could go on with my cardiovascular workout on the treadmill. I also continued to join group classes that focused on core and back muscles. When everyone was working their back muscles with “dumbells” in “lunge” or “squat” poses, I was standing straight on my feet and working that way. Better than nothing, isn’t it?
Everything is ok but what would I do in my private and group yoga classes? In my group classes, I asked one of my students to be a “model student”, stand in the middle of the class and show the poses. During the entire class, I was explaining the alignment of each pose in detail and saying the name of the asana. Therefore, there was not any problem in my classes. If I had to show anything to classes, I was showing it on the “model student.”
In my prenatal classes, I did not face any problems either as no new student joined the class. As all the students were attending the classes for a long time, they were used to the flow and asanas and therefore I did not have to show the asanas. Thus, I could go on with my classes but I was not harming my body.
The only problem I felt during this process was in “yoga sculpt” classes. I had told about these classes in my previous post. (The post is available at https://burcuyircaliblog.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/sculpt-the-house-of-your-soul/)
“Yoga sculpt” was a flow yoga style in which dumbells were used. A “vinyasa” yoga style. A yoga style which speeds up your heartbeat, increases your metabolism and helps shape your body up when flowing from one asana to another. As you were using “lunge”s and “squat”s during the flow, it was not a suitable class for me due to my injury. Think of new people who had not joined this class before and showed up for the first time in my yoga sculpt class during my injury.
What did I do? As I warmed up the bodies with “surya namaskara” series, I used directives to help students get into the pose. I showed the asanas with “dumbell”s in my hands without getting so deep in the poses. After showing the “lunge” and “squat” for one time, it was enough for me to only say the names of the poses. Yes, it was a little bit difficult because that day was not like my previous classes in which I felt the melodies, flew with the melodies as if I was dancing, I worked out my back, shoulder and arm muscles with “dumbell”s in ly hands, and felt my quadriceps muscles with “lunge”s. As I had not flown together with the students, I could not keep the pace of the class as much as I wanted to. But wasn’t the class as it was supposed to be? No, surely it was as it was supposed to be. But as I had said, it was not perfect.
One more week passed by. My pain alleviated a little bit more. Again, “yoga sculpt” day came. I was not so hopeful. I was thinking that nobody would show up. And what I saw? The students who attended the class last week came again. I was so happy that I could not tell you. This meant that I could make them love the class even though I was in great pain, even though the class was not as if I wanted it to be and even though I could not create the atmosphere I wanted to creaate. This second class was a quicker class with greater pace and flow in which different asanas were added as I felt better. I felt the music and melodies in my heart. I was more dynamic and enthusiastic. When feeling the rhythm, even my voice had changed. I was back. Of course, I did not push myself hard. I did not do “lunge”s or “squat”s. I only directed the students to the asanas by saying their names. But I felt so well. I thought I had learned how to live with pain and agony.
When I started to write the blog, I had thought how would I end it. Why did I hurt my adductor muscles? Why did I hurt myself even though I paid great attention to alignment and using my muscles in the right way? At first, I thought the injury in emotional sense. What the emotion of the groin muscles could be and if I felt those emotions intensively those days. No, those emotions were not my emotions those days. So what was the problem? Was it because my muscles were so stretched and eased with my yin yoga practice for a long time and was overstretching the cause of my injury? This was possible. Or how could I not feel anything when staying static in “dragonfly” for at ten to fifteen minutes and hurting my groin during that time? How could I not feel any pain? How could I not feel anything sharp, any pain like a knife cutting my groins? Was I insensitive to pain this much? Or was it because I was used to pain in any part of my body due to my yoga practice and I had not felt anything when hurting my muscles? Or did yoga grow me up and make me mature with pain? Believe me, I have not found the answer yet. Maybe I can find the answer when I get deeper in a yoga asana one day. Who knows?

I do not know if you have wondered where I have been for a month. I was on vacation. It’s not because I could not write when I was on holiday but I just wanted to stay away from posts and technology for a while. A technological retreat. Actually, I was not in a retreat. I was visiting a friend. I suspended cardiovascular workout. I just walked in the streets when I wanted to. I practiced “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand), “pincha mayurasana” (peacock) and “sirsasana” (headstand) when I wanted to but I did do neither a serious workout nor a yoga practice. I have not suspended yoga and cardiovascular workout for so long but I liked it. This meant that I needed such a break.

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I suspended gym classes, blogs and yoga. So what had I done for a month? I travelled. I saw new places and learned new things. Good news: I joined “Bikram yoga” classes.
I really wanted to try “Bikram yoga” so much but I did not have any opportunity to join “hot yoga” classes so far. I seized the opportunity when I came across with it. I joined a week long program in a studio.
Hot yoga is a yoga system developed by an Indian yoga instructor named Bikram Choudhury taking traditional yoga techniques as the basis. “Bikram yoga” classes consist of 26 hatha yoga asanas and the class is heated up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 F).
I was thinking that I could easily practice hot yoga since I was a person who had attended many yoga classes and tried different styles so far. I was lucky to take extra clothes with me when I went to the class but before the class, I was asking myself “why I was carrying all those stuff with me because I was supposed to join just a yoga class.”
I entered the studio fifteen minutes before the class began. I stepped in the class and then stepped out of the class in one second. I could not breathe. I felt dizzy as the class was so hot. I found myself thinking how I could practice yoga in such a hot class. I waited outside the studio since the class began. I entered the studio immediately after the instructor. The first class was not “hot yoga.” It was kind of an aerobic class and the temperature was around 32 degrees Celsius (90 F). The class was not hard for me as I was used to cardiovascular workout. My only problem was the hot class. I could not stand it. I felt as if I could not breathe. After taking aa deep breath and then giving it out, I tried to calm my mind down. It ws just an hour and I could do it if I focused on my breath. When I felt so hot, I could get into “balasana” (child pose), rest a while and then catch the flow again. When I thought so, the class was a bit easier for me.
I am a person who likes to “live in the edges” in my nature. Therefore, I decided to join another class that day. I did not know it was the most advanced class in the studio. It was one-hour flow yoga class in a humid 40-degree-Celsius class. I stayed out of the studio since the class began. I entered the room together with the instruction. I talked to the instructor before the class. I told him that this was the first time I would join such a class, I would stand at the back of the room, take a rest when I felt dizzy or tired and then catch the flow again. How could I explain that class to you? It could not be explained, it could only be experienced. The studio was so hot that I did not need to practice any asana. I was just sweating from the top of my head to the tip of my toes. My hands and feet were sweating. I could not stand firm on the mat. I was slipping. I stepped out of the mat and onto the wooden floor. I was thinking that I would slip less on the wooden floor. I was wrong. I was as if taking a shower. No, I could not go on. I looked around. I guess everybody was used to this type of class. They were moving with the flow and practicing their own yoga. Everybody was sweating but not like me. When I looked around again, I saw paper towels in the corner. I got a few paper towels and started to wipe out the sweat in my hands and feet. I am just summarizing the rest of class. Two asanas and drying my hands and feet. Then two more asanas and drying myself up again. I do not want to talk about my heartbeat. Was my heart beating in my brain or in my mouth? I do not know exactly. Most probably, the other yogis heard my heartbeats. I felt myself as practicing yoga in a sauna. In the end, we were resting supine, relieved our bodies with a twist and it was time for “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). Fortunately, the class was cooled down and the humid machine was stopped before the relaxation pose. I liked “savasana” more than ever at that moment.
I have mentioned that “I like to be a warrior.” Next day, I showed up in the studio again This time, I would join two different classes. The classes were classified according to how heated they were, from the easiest to the most challenging. It was my luck or misfortune, I do not know, to join the most challenging class on my first day. The second day, I joined the first two easiest classes in the studio. In fact, the flows were similar to each other. We were doing the same flows almost in every class. The only difference was the temperature of the class. Either my body, mind and soul were used to the heat or the class was not so hot as the day before. The classes were a bit easier for me on the second day. I did not sweat as I had on the first day and I could more easily practice the asanas and flows. Even I could do “sirsasana” (headstand) in that hot class.
It was taking some time to recover after those hot classes. Even one hour after the class, my body was still hot and I was still sweating.
When I woke up the next morning, I was as if I was beaten. Even though I drank a lot of water during and after the classes, I was still thirsty. Thirst was the most important side effect of “hot yoga” on me. I woke up the next morning, I took a few steps and then “oooohhh.” The back of my right knee was hurting. I guessed my muscles were too flexible due to the hot class and I was beyond my limits. The result: I hurt my knee. It was not a serious injury but it was an injury.
At that moment, I thought how beneficial or how dangerous “hot yoga” was for our health? The first thing that came to my mind was that one could flex his/her body beyond the limits in a hot atmosphere and this overflexibility could injure us. I remembered that I was dizzy from time to time during the hot yogaa classes. One could feel dizziness, headaches, nausea and cramps due to hot classes. All these symptoms may be the indication of heat intolerance. In such a circumstance, we should rest or leave the class for a while and return back after relieving our bodies. I do neither think that such hot yoga classes could be good for heart and blood pressure patients. One could not control the body temperature in a hot class and temperature could hit us. Under such a circumstance, the heart, liver, kidneys and other organs could shut down. Therefore, we should consume a lot of water before, during and after “hot yoga” classes.
Some say that people can more easily practice hard and challenging asanas in heated plces since such places help flex the muscles. “Hot yoga” experts note that heat flexes blood vessels, dilutes blood and speeds up cardiovascular system. According to these experts, this type of yoga speeds up blood pressure and metabolism, strengthens immune and nervous system and is good for asthma patients as it teaches how to take controlled and deep breath and increases the capacity and efficiency of lungs.
I have told you about the benefits and dangers of “Bikram yoga.” The benefits and dangers may differ from person to person and therefore it is not possible for us to make generalization. Everybody should live his/her own experience. I was really curious about hot yoga and I joined the classes. Will I try again? I do not think so. It is not my type. Even though I love hot weather and summer so much, I do not feel like practicing yoga in a hot and humid atmosphere. Will I recommed you? Surely I will, but not like “you must include this yoga style in your daily life.” More like this: “Try and see whether you like it or not. Decide whether or not to make it a part of your life.” After all, it’s a matter of style and choice.

I wrote some time ago that I was injured because I overstretched some parts of my body. I have been feeling pain for some time. I remembered that we always forget something that we should attach the greatest importance in our lives when I was trying to practice an asana, which was so easy for me, in my yoga class today. What was that? Of course, “our health”.

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We always forget “our health” in our daily lives. We do not attach importance to our health as much as we should. Our priorities are always some other things. Our job, how to earn our living, having fun, travelling, meeting friends, eating and drinking. We always focus our minds on things that makes us happy and smile all the time.
Our elderly always say, “health comes the first”, which is a really true saying. We always forget or ignore this simple truth in our daily lives until something happens and reminds us its importance.
I injured my “iliopsoas muscle” which is both a hip and a abdomenal muscle that joins the upper and lower extremity. It happened due to overstretching a few weeks ago. I didn’t know that it took that long for this muscle to get well. At first, I did not understand that it was this muscle that was hurting. I thought that I hurt my back muscles as I did many backbends. I did not practice backbends for a few days. Then I saw that the pain was still there and I was also feeling pain in front of my leg in addition to the pain in my sacrum. Then I understood that I heart “iliopsoas” muscle.
I am not a person that listens to physical pain. I go over that pain and I live with it. This may be the reason why my injuries last long. This was the first time that my injury started to limit my physical behaviors because this muscle helps us do many movements as it is located between our upper and lower extremities. Like what? In simple words, it flexes and extends our hip muscles. It helps us walk and climb the stairs. We also use this muscle when sitting and standing up. It helps us stand erect on our feet. This muscle has to be healthy so that we can move.
Do all these mean anything to you? If not, let me go on explaining. Even walking and climbing stairs were dhard for me. I had back pain and pain in my groins. The pain was not so intolerable but I think somebody else would feel so.
We were about to use this muscle in my class. It was gloomy for two days and therefore my students and I had difficulty in breathing. So we decided to focus on strecthing our chests in today’s class. The peak pose was “ustrasana” (camel). We needed to strecth our chests and front of our legs for this pose. When we talk about front of our legs, we also talk about hip flexor muscles, i.e. “iliopsoas”. When we practices “anjaneyasana” (low lunge) for a few times, which I could define as one of the simplest asanas for me, my iliopsoas muscle yelled at me, “hey, I’m here”. So, I stopped practicing and just gave verbal directives to my students. Before the peak pose –“ustrasana” (camel), we went on opening our chests with “salabhasana” (locust) and “ardha bhekasana” (half frog). All these asanas and the peak pose were a challenge for me. That moment, I remembered something that I had always ignored: “Health comes first.”
Moreover, I hurt my knee when I dived into the swimming pool. I thought it was dislocated. Fortunately, not, I felt pain for a few days and it was over. Then, I hurt my shoulderblades and muscles around them in a class at the gym club. It happened before and I didn’t care too much. It was then ok.
Then I started to think why this was happening. I was doing cardiovascular workout as well as weight training. I was strengthening my body. I was stretching my body with yoga. That means that I was both getting stronger and more flexible. So why was I getting injured?
Moreover, one of my students felt dizzy a few days ago. Maybe it was because of hot weather or exhaustion. She is undergoing some medical tests right now. I was deeply affected with this development. I do not know why? Maybe I am living this way too. Maybe I always joke with my life and health and ignore the seriousness of health. If you ask me, “do you go to a doctor and run tests?” I will surely say, “no.” You have read a few paragraphs above that I am trying to ease the pain in some parts of my body instead of going to a doctor. However, when it is not me but someone else, I take it more seriously. Even when it is a student whom I love and care about.
All these reminded me that the most important thing in life is “health.” We always ignore health in our daily lives. We only remember our health when we face a problem. Then everything is less important. Our jobs, our ambition to earn money, travelling, shopping, missing the skirt on sale, grazing our car. All these are things that can be compensated but when health is deteriorated, it is not coming back. For this reason, we should attach importance to our health, we should practice sports, make yoga a part of our daily lives, not be too ambitious, be happy, satisfied and content with our lives and not ask for or want more. Just health. When there is health, the rest will come to you.

Yin yoga teacher training program ended with a week long retreat. During the retreat, we were practicing on our own for two hours every morning. These hours were the hours when we were just by ourselves and we met the demands of our bodies. It was so enjoying. We were doing the asana we wanted. Maybe “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) for two hours. Who knows?

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On the last two days of the retreat, our teacher divided us into groups and asked us to prepare two-three hours of yin yoga classes. We would teach the other future yin yoga instructors. It was like an internship class. What a great news! But it would mean that we would practice yoga four to six hours on those days. What was it like to practice yin yoga for four to six hours a day? Let me try to explain it.
Waking up early in the morning to a clean and fresh air. To walk to the yoga tent and place your mat on the floor. To bring pillows and blankets with you since there we not any props in the yoga camp. To practice asanas. To begin the day with a 20-minute meditation after a ten-minute pranayama (breath) practice. What a joy!
In addition to our personal yoga practice, we also attended theoratical classes until the last two days. We started to practice yoga up to four and six hours a day on the last two days.
I can hear you say “come to the point”. Yes, you are right. Let me come to the point. Everything was so nice. I started to feel very well as I was practicing that much yoga. I was not feeling well if I do not stretch my body. I was almost addicted to stretching myself.
I returned to the city I am living. Even though I am used to going to sports club every day, I felt tired the following day and I did not go to the club. I went to the club the other day and what did I feel? Pain in some parts of my body which was caused by overstretch. Then a question came to my mind: “Is it good or bad to overstretch our bodies?” or “can overstretching our bodies cause injury” or “what was the reasons of injury?”
In fact, using our muscles and connective tissues too much or too less can cause injury. When stretching our muscles, we do not only stretch our muscles but also stretch our deeper connective tissues. These connective tissues bind our bones to each other (called ligament), bind muscles to bones (called tendons) or separate muscles, tendons and other anatomic structures from each other (fascia).
Connective tissue consists of proteins called collagen and elastin. Collagen makes our muscles stronger whereas elastin helps us stretch the muscles.
If we overstretch our bodies, we overstretch our tissues and injure our muscles. Especially we can cause micro-tears in our muscles.
What happened to me? My groin muscles (psoas and iliacus) were aching and there was a pain in my sacrum. It was such a strong pain that it woke me up at nights from time to time.
I was not an ambitious person, particularly in yoga. I preferred to stay in the safe haven. This meant that the pain was not related with overworkout or overstretching my body. I think it was due to longer hours of yoga practice than I was used to.
I was practicing yoga every other day in my hometown. I was practicing two hours of yoga one day, I was stopping the following day and practicing yoga again the other day. Generally I began with yang asanas, warmed my body up and ended my practice with yin yoga poses. Therefore, my body was used to yoga every other day. I think this was the main reason of the pain. My body was not used to practicing yoga every day.
The second reason was, I think, long hours of yoga practice. My body was used to two hours of yoga. Four to six hours of yoga might have hurt my body. I did not notice it those days because I was enjoying myself. I did not feel any pain since my body was overstretched. I started to feel the pain after I returned to my hometown.
Let’s get back to our question. Can overstretching the body cause injury? It “may” but it is not a definite answer. Particularly practicing intense yoga every day may injure us if we stretch our bodies to the latest range of motion of our muscles and connective tissues.
If our muscles are healthy, we can enjoy a balance between flexibility and power. Too flexible muscles cannot support joints and can cause injury. Tight muscles can limit our range of motion and can make us tear our muscles. all these are the anatomic reasons behind our injuries.
Of course, we should not ignore our ambitions and ambitious way of practicing yoga. If we are too ambitious, we can force our body in asanas and can injure us.
However, my injury has nothing to do with all these above mentioned facts. Yes, my body is fairly flexible. I may sometimes go beyond my “range of motion” due to this flexibility. At that moment, my body tells me, “no, do not go any further. Step back” and I listen to my body.
The reason of the pain in my groin muscles and sacrum is to go beyond the yoga practice I am used to. Instead of yoga practice every other day, I practiced yoga every day. I practiced yoga for four to six hours instead of two hours.
What am I doing now? I tried to practice a few asanas two days after I returned home and my body stopped me. I stopped practicing yoga then. Two days later, I tried again but I could not do that day either. I then focused on cardiovascular workout. However, I have to show the poses to my students since I am giving yoga classes. Therefore, I try to focus on vinyasa or hatha yoga in my classes. I am staying away from yin yoga for now. Until when? Until my body says, “yes ok. I’m fine and I want to stretch with yin yoga.” Listening to and meeting the demands of our bodies… Only then, flexibility, power, peace, happiness and health is with us.

People usually start yoga due to physical problems  or injuries or emotional burdens and with the advice of a doctor or a friend. “Oh sweet heart, I started yoga to ease my neck and lower back problems and now I feel myself so good and all pain has gone away.” Yes, yoga saves us from not only physical problems and injuries but also emotional burdens and provides us with a high-quality life ONLY IF we do yoga asanas with the correct alignment rules, ONLY IF we watch our body and its limits and ONLY IF we take into consideration the warnings of our instructors.

2009-2012

We are going through spring, a spring in real sense. One day, you can see the sun shining and you can enjoy the warm weather and even start planning a vacation to seaside. However on the following day, you wake up to a cold, rainy and gloomy weather just reminding you the winter. You do not even want to get out of bed and the house.
For this reason, I wanted to focus on backbends in one of my recent classes. I decided to use “urdhva dhanurasana” (bridge/wheel) as the peak pose of my class. There was a new student in my class. As usual, I asked all the attendees whether they had any health problems or injuries. I hardly heard one of my students saying, “my lower back hurts, I think I have done something.” I told him that we will experience an intense backbend that day and showed him another alternative which was easier and would not cause any problems for his back, and asked him to try this unrisky pose for that day.
We began with a short meditation. We sat in a cross-legged situation,we did lateral stretches and mild twists. Then we did cat-cow stretch and stood up to warm our bodies up with surya namaskara series (sun salutations), chandra namaskara (moon salutation) series, golden seed flow. Afterwards, we did some asanas to open our chest and the muscles in the front part of our thighs. The first half of the class was over and it was time to experience the peak pose. Two of my students could do “urdhva dhanurasana”. I asked them to get deeper in the pose because their arms were bent. I wanted them to try straightening their arms. I also asked them to walk their legs away from their bodies and deepen in the pose.
I turned to my new student and saw that she could also lift herself up the floor. I went beside her to deepen her in the pose. I helped her get a better stretch as she held my legs and lifted her chest up. At that moment, I saw my student with the lower back pain trying to experience “urdhva dhanurasana” by putting his head on the floor instead of trying “setu bandhasana” (half bridge). I immediately went near him and told him that he could worsen the back pain if he continued trying the full pose and asked him to just experience “setu bandhasana” for that class.
Now we are fast winding the movie. The next class was two days later. What happened? We cancelled the class. Not just because of his lower back pain but also other students had meetings and a busy schedule. But the lower back pain was also very effective.
Why have we experienced such a thing? Everybody was saying that yoga would not injure anybody. Can yoga injure anybody? Yes, it can. If we do not know our own body and its limits, if we do not care about alignment rules, if we do not listen to warnings of the instructors, we can surely get injured. Maybe not today, not tomorrow, but someday.

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So what are the things we should care for in a yoga practice in order not to get injured? First of all, we should always keep in mind the yoga philosophy. We should not exaggerate. We should not be ambitious and keep our ambition under control. Have all these meant something to you? Yes, yoga master Patanjali’s eight-limb Ashtanga Yoga has an ethical rule, namely “aparigraha”. If we obey it, we can avoid any injury in yoga. In simple, “aparigraha” means “non-possessiveness”, “non-hoarding”, “non-attachment”. But it also means “greedlessness”, i.e. not to try to reach any stage that we cannot reach. It means to be unambitious and modest in a yoga practice.
Let’s explain it with an example. I was injured in my ankle for three times due to intensive sportive activities. When trying to sit in “padmasana” (lotus), I need to rotate my two ankles. If I insist on doing this pose, I can injure my ankle again because it is still problematic. I am aware of my injury and deficiency and I do not force it. I may do it one day, but I do not want to be ambitious and injure my ankle again and then just sit without being able to do anything.
What can be the second rule? If I say “avidya”, does it mean something to yo? What does “avidya” mean? In simple, it means ignorance and lack of knowledge. When doing yoga asanas, how can “ignorance” injure us? If we do not know what we are doing, if we are unaware of our practice, if we do it just to do it, if we forget about alignment rules and philosophy, then yoga can injure us. First of all, we should know who we are and what we are capable of doing. Ir can we see the realities or are we blind? Are we communicating with our inner self, are we listening to it and meeting its demands and can we listen to it and step back when necessary? Here is the second golden rule. When we obey this rule, I think asanas are fairly safe.
Let’s assume that our knee is injured as most students have knee isues. To protect our knees in particularly standing poses, we should preserve 90 degree angle between our knee and ankle. In other words, our knees should not pass our toes. We should always keep this rule in mind. In sitting poses or in poses in which we need to put our knee on the floor, we should not put the knee on the floor but should walk it a little bit further. If we still feel any pain, we can place a blanket below our knee.

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Let’s say our lower back hurts. In the final resting and relaxation pose, in “savasana”, we can put a bolster below our knees and we can try relaxing ourselves more. Another option is to get into “viparita karani” pose by lifting our legs up to the wall and put a bolster below our lower back. As you can see, yoga is a philosophy aiming to relax and make people more healthy instead of injuring them.
Now comes the third rule. This rule is one that is beyond our own will. It is related with the instructor. The reason for our injury can be the “ambition” or “ignorance” of the instructor. The instructor may have forgotten about “aparigraha” and “avidya” rules and s/he can try to adjust or deepen you in one pose by ignoring these rules. Just imagine what can happen then? Let’s explore this issue more. Let’s say that our instructor is very flexible and strong at the same time and there is not any single asana that s/he cannot do. S/he is doing the poses as shown in yoga magazines. When she shows an asana in class, what may happen? If the students lack the rules “aparigraha” and “avidya”, they can just imitate the instructor and here comes another injury. Or if an instructor is not moderate and moves by his/her ambitions when adjusting students, then s/he cannot see the limits of his/her students and can cause an injury by pushing them beyond their limits.
Leave aside yoga, we can get injured in our daily lives. When we are walking down the stairs, we can twist our ankle or we can fall and hurt ourselves when trying to catch a bus. We cannot say that yoga never injures. However, the risk of injury in yoga asanas is less when compared with other activities. What we should do is to keep these three rules in mind. Let’s not be ambitious, know our limits and stay within these limits and know how to say “no” to the instructor when necassary. Now do you think yoga injures people?

Have you ever felt yourself tired when you are doing yoga asanas or any other sportive activities? Or can you do another one-and-a-half-hour yoga class after finishing one-and-a-half-hour class? Why do we feel so? Why do we fell so tired one day but energetic the other day? Most simply, because of our daily activities, whether they are too much or not. The other reason is our mind. Once the mind says you are tired, we feel tired whatever we do. Is this the only reason?

Moon(1)

There is another important factor affecting our energy. Most of us forget about this factor. I can hear you ask what this factor is. The moon and the phases of the moon. Don’t you tell me why we are talking about moon without any reason. There is new moon today. Look at the sky, and you will see.
It is possible to see beliefs regarding sun, moon, solar and lunar eclipse in Central Asian cultures. “The sky” is sacred for Turks who are living in a wide geography from the Central Asia to Anatolia. For this reason, there are beliefs and rituals regarding the sky, sun, moon and other natural events. In Turkish mythology, there are many sayings about the sun, moon and other natural events and solar and lunar eclipse.
In old Turkish beliefs, beliefs regarding sun and moon are inseparable. These cultures believe that the sun and moon are relatives. Respect to the sun, moon and stars affected daily life of Turks. For instance, the Huns searched the phases of sun or moon when starting a new project and made their decisions according to the conditions of the stars. Moreover, Turks believed that the God gave the duty of preservation to their leader as given to the sun and associated their leader with the sun.
Old Turks showed their respect to the sun and moon by referring to them in their epical stories. For example, In the Oghuz Khan Epic, Oghuz Khan’s mother was named “Ay Kagan” (Moon Kagan) and some of their children as “Ay” (Moon) and “Yildiz” (Star).
Beliefs regarding moon are more than those regarding moon probably because the moon is closer to the sun and it has many phases. The rise and fall of the moon were perceived as death and birth by old Turks and therefore, full moon was depicted as “old age” or “death” and new moon as “renewal”, “youth” and “resurrection.”
Moreover, moon is a healer according to these beliefs. A person who sees the new moon and chants “I have seen the new moon and my callus has gone away” believe that his/her callus is gone away. Similarly, a person with a wart believe that it will go away as s/he chants “I have seen the moon and my wart is gone away.”
In astrological aspect, new moon is the time to seed plants and make preparations. It is related with new beginnings whereas full moon is the time when we end up, conclude ongoing incidents or projects. If we want to start a new project, we should prefer new moon time, and prefer full moon time if we want to give up or leave anything. New moon is related with male energy but the full moon is related with female energy.
After giving some examples about our own beliefs and a few astrological examples, I want to talk about the phases of moon and yoga. What’s yoga got to do with the phases of the moon? I think this is the question in your mind. Surely, it is related because 70 percent of our body is made up of water. Just try to remember science lessons. The moon, water and tides… Has this meant something to you? Let me try to explain it as much as I can.
Most of our body is made up of water and therefore in new moon and full moon times our body is affected just as the seas or oceans during tide times. In new moon times, we feel ourselves tired and exhausted but in full moon times we feel strong. In full moon time, the “prana” (life force) in our body has an upward move with the effect of the moon and we can force ourselves more than necessary during these days. The full moon energy coincides with our inhalations and the “prana” is so strong at these times. These times are when we expand, have an upward move, and feel ourselves energetic but do not touch on a strong base, which can lead to an injury.
However, the new moon times, we feel exhausted and tired due to the effect of the moon and this time coincides with our exhalations. At this time, the “apana” (the downward energy in our body) increases and this is the time we constract, move downward, feel ourselves calm but ground firmly.
To this end, we do yoga, especiallly Ashtanga yoga, in the days between new moon and full moon days because this is the only time that we can keep our prana in balance. Only to protect our body and ourselves and to live in harmony with the natural flow.
Also, it will be useful to remember that Hatha yoga is set up of two words, including “ha” (the sun) and “tha” (the moon). Hatha yoga is a style of yoga we do to balance the energy of our body according to the changes in our lives, i.e. to balance the solar and lunar energy, or male and female energies, in our bodies.
Since the beginning of the article, I have tried to talk about the effects of natural events, particularly the sun and moon, on our bodies and cultures. Since the moon and sun are a part of nature, it is our duty to live in harmony with them. So why do we oppose to natural balance or flow when we can live in harmony with the nature, be in unity with it, and be yoga with it?

2009-2010 tum fotolar 006Everybody has only one question in mind before s/he starts to yoga: Am I flexible enough to do yoga? How can I do those hard poses in which you even get into different shape than a human? I have not stretched myself for years. What is flexibility?
I am asked questions about flexibility in my classes like many other instructors. Many people think that flexibility is important in yoga. They believe that asanas can be done only if you are flexible and they cannot do yoga if they are not flexible. However, yoga has nothing to do with flexibility. I mean yes, it is related but it is not related at the same time. We are talking about yoga and asanas. Our aim is to be healthy as long as we live and do yoga with a robust and healthy body, i.e. at the age of 90, we want to do the same yoga asanas we were doing when we were 30. For this reason, we have to make our body stronger, stretch our bodies but we should also know our limits. Flexibility is a feature we just need for a healthy body and mind. But, it is not a sine qua non condition.
What does flexibility mean? Technically, it is defined as the range of motion in the joints. There is a range of motion required for performance in every joint. Sufficient stretching exercises in all sportive activities not only increases the flexibility of the body but also avoids the risk of injury.
So, how flexible? Or which parts of our bodies are more flexible or tense? Flexibility changes according to the parts of our bodies. The most flexible parts in our bodies are the muscles. After strecthing the muscles, then comes connective tissues like the ligaments, tendons and fascia. Bones are the least flexible parts in our bodies. The ratio of elastin in our muscles is more than other parts in our bodies. Our fascia is more flexible than ligaments and tendons. Ligaments and tendons have to be robust and strong and therefore, the other protein, namely collagen, is more in ligaments and tendons. In simple words, muscles are the most flexible parts in our bodies. For this reason, we primarily focus on muscles in any stretching class or a yoga class. We can stretch our fascia, ligaments and tendons only in yin yoga classes during which we stay in an asana for a long period of time and relax and do not tighten our muscles.
This is what matters. Muscles can be stretched this or that way. However, flexibility of a person is not only limited with muscles. If we do not stretch our connective tissues like fascia, ligaments and tendons, these tissues get interlocked and interconnected in time and make us lose our flexibility. To this end, it is so important to stretch these deep connective tissues in the bodies. Of course, we may lose our flexibility in time due to some reasons such as age, lack of motion, type of body and hard muscle workout. Moreover, flexibility changes according to gender. Women are more flexible than men. Flexibility is a relative definition since we all have different types of joints and bone structure and genetic coding. Also, it is a fact that women’s flexibility changes according to hormonal changes like menstruation, ovulation and pregnancy and child labor.
When all these facts are taken into consideration, we can say that flexibility is not a criterium for yoga. Surely, being flexible is an advantage in yoga but not a sine qua non condition.
Then, how important is flexibilty? Or why do we need to stretch our muscles, fascia, ligaments and tendons? Because, flexibility reduces muscle pain and avoids the risk of injury. Also, it physically and spiritually relieves a person. Stretching our bodies will make our muscles more flexible and stronger, alleviates the pressure on our joints, corrects our postural disorders, increases the range of motion and relieves the mind.
So far we have only talked about the physical benefits of flexibility. Doesn’t flexibility have a spiritual and mental benefit? Yes of course it has. When our body is stretched, our mind and soul are also stretched. We then have a different perspective, mostly a wider and more flexible perspective. We handle developments in a calmer way. Our stance and reactions change, we give more flexible and calmer reactions.
In conclusion, stretching is important and so is flexibility. However, it is not a sine qua non condition for yoga asanas. Please pay attention to this word: for yoga asanas. However, being mentally and spiritually flexible is important not only in yoga but also in our daily lives. If we live a more flexible life, everything will be easier, fun, more comfortable and peaceful. Happiness will not be so away from us only with a mental and spiritual flexibility… That’s all.