Archives for posts with tag: turn inward

I know that I have not been posting blogs recently I do not want to write these days and I do exactly what I want and I do not write. If I try to write under these circumstances, I know that I will hurt myself and do something that my heart and my soul do not appreciate and thus, I will be unhappy. So, I go in line with yoga philosophy and I do not write until my mind and soul allow me.

Actually, I do like writing a lot. And, so many things happen in my daily life and classes. However, I do not know why but I want to turn inward and live and experience all these events by myself.

So, how have I started to write again? One of my students asked my why hadn’t I been writing for a long time and told me that she expected to see my new posts. When I was asked this question, I was ashamed. Believe me, I am doing a favor to myself when I am writing but I know that people are reading my posts and expecting the new ones. By not writing, I was not meeting their expectations and I was depriving them of my posts. What a big word it is! “Depriving them of my posts.” It is not such a big deal. I am just writing what is going on in my life and how I feel. That’s all!.

Yes, why have I re-started writing? When one of my students asked why I was not writing, the answer was simple. “Because, I do not want to write these days and I do not want to force myself and do something that I do not really want. When I do something by force, I do not think it will be useful to me. Neither to me nor to others.”

The answer of my student put me back to posting new blogs: “Teacher, you are like the moon. As how the moon reflects the light and the energy it gets from the sun to the earth at night, you should reflect the light and energy you get from your training programs, readings and experiences to us, i.e. to your students. I am not saying that you are not doing so, you are doing so. And always doing so particularly in your classes. However, in your blogs, you talk about some other things that you do not talk in the class when you do not have that much time. Your blogs are more detailed and deeper. Therefore, you should go on writing and should reflect the light and energy just “like the moon.”

This was one of the most inspiring comments I have ever heard. I was moved so much that I could not stop crying. That day, I decided again. I should be “like the moon.” I should read more, I should look into resources more, I should learn more and reflect what I learn to my students “like the moon.” I should be the light and energy. Thank you my dear student. I am so glad that you have walked into my life. I am so glad that I have got to know you. And I am so glad that you are in my life. There are a lot of things that I would learn from you. I bow in front of you with respect. Na’maste.

Advertisements

Everybody is tired on the last weekday. Most of us want to go home, watch television and take a rest at home while some of us want to end the week with a yoga class, get bodily, spiritually and mentally relieved and calm down with the last yoga class of the week.

20130412_130012

I prefer to teach a calm and meditative yoga class instead of a flow yoga class on Friday evening. I aim to stretch the full body with “yin yoga” (yoga aiming to stretch deep connective tissues) especially in the lasst few weeks. I make students wait in each “asana” (pose) for at least four or five minutes in order to stretch a different part of the body and get rid of physical and spiritual burden accumulated in that part. The hip flexor muscles and the stomach and spleen meridian, the inner thighs and the liver and kidney meridian, the hamstrings and the urinary bladder meridian and the hip external rotator muscles and the gall bladder meridian.

In the first week, we stretched hamstrings with “half butterfly”, “half frog”, “caterpillar” and “viparita karani” (legs up to 90 degrees) and focused on the urinary bladder to work on the emotion “fear.”

In the second week, we focused on the spine and the upper back. The back of the body was related with the urinary bladder. It was the second time we would stimulate the same meridian however, we focused on spine-strengthening poses because most people were having back problems. We stayed at least for one minute with an erect spine before bending forward and tried to bend forward after we had pushed the coccyx backward. We relieved the spine with twists at the end of the class.

In the third week, we focused on inner thighs and groins. Our aim was to stimulate the liver and observe the emotion of fear and its effects on ourselves. We bent in-between the two legs in “half butterfly” and “half frog.” The other poses were “dragonfly” and “frog.”

I will go on focusing on a certain part of the body every Friday evening. My aim is to stimulate and relieve a certain part of the body instead of stimulating the entire body. Just focus on a certain part of the body, ensure a deep stretch in that part and observe the emotions that came out of the stretch. To close the eyes and turn inward, to close the eyes and see what is instead not outside. To close the eyes and just realize the body, mind and soul… And do everything with a full awareness…

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.

20160114_123329

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.”

I always believe and say: “it is so easy to practice yoga, meditate and calm the mind on top of the Himalayas, near a pond or a lake or a river, on a mountain or in an ashram in India. What is important is to calm the mind in our daily lives and in a metropolis and also practice yoga and meditate.” Believe me, what I said just happened to be in a group class last week.

BEN_4569

When I showed up in my group yoga class in a gym club, the boss told me that our “calm and serene” studio which was “away from the crowd and busy area of the gym club” was under construction and therefore we had to practice yoga in a studio which was just in the center of the gym club. As we had accepted everything as it was and agreed to adopt new conditions, I told him that it was no problem and we could practice our yoga in the other studio.

As the gym club was not so crowded in the mornings, we had no problem in the morning session. I generally prefer “yin” (female energy) yoga in order to overcome bodily and mental exhaustion of the entire week on our yoga class on the last week day. Both in the morning and the evening session. We did not face any problems in the morning sesion. After stretching hip external and hip internal muscles, groins, inner thighs, hamstrings and hip flexor muscles, we tried “hamunamasana” (monkey pose) and observed whether it was easier to do this challenging and deep pose after stretching the body this much. We ended the class after a long relaxation.

When I showed up in the evening class, I saw that the gym club was so crowded as usual and I thought how we could practice yoga in that studio which was so noisy. I realized that I was panicking and then I started to watch my breath. I focused on my breath and tried to calm down. I told myself, “Burcu, is there something you can do? You have to teach this class in this studio. Whether it is crowded or it is too noisy, you have to teach this class. What you have to do is to be serene, relax your students and prevent them from getting negatively affected by this crowd and noise. What you have to do is to teach them an enjoying class in which they could relax, rest, get calm and serene. It is not the right time to panic.” I was trying to calm myself. Yes, there was nothing to do but just to accept what came.

We began the class with meditation. I was playing classical music as usual. I was playing classical music for I wanted students to observe and realize their own experiences and I was not turning it up. I was not connecting my tablet to the musical system of the studio as the volume of the tablet was good for yoga class. Unfortunately the volume was not sufficient that day for the studio was in a crowded part of the gym club. I could not get it connected to the musical system as I was not so good at technology. I turned the tablet up to the highest volume and asked the students to watch their breath and start relaxing with breath. At that moment, there was a loud music. One you can hear in a disco or a bar. I could not understand where it was coming from. Then I realized that it was coming from the “spinning” studio. Why was the music so loud? Or let me ask another way, why was there this much noice? I knew that the music was high in spinning classes however it was as if the music was playing in our studio. As I asked the students to watch their breath and bodies, I checked the spinning studio. And guess what I see. The door of the studio was totally open and that was why the music was so loud. I went and closed the door and came back to my own class. I ended the meditation and we began the flow.

The students were distracted because of the loud music. “Close your eyes. Watch your breath. Start observing your breath. Bring your attention to your breath. I know that there are many distratcions and the most important of them is the loud music. But try observing your breath and bring your attention to only yourself, your breath and body. Close your eyes and do not get interested in anything coming outside. Is it possible. Ok, I accept that we are used to collecting data from outside

and living with that data but is it possible to turn inward, not to get interested in the outside world, close your eyes and just to live and experience this class and live just within ourselves?”

I could not understand why the music was getting louder and louder each passing moment. When the students were warming up with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series, I checked the spinning studio and saw that the door was opened again. It was no use to close the door again because the spinning studio was small and the students wanted to keep the door open so that fresh air could get in the class. They were right, too. So what would we do in that case? I could not even hear my own voice. I was continuously talking about “turning inward”, “keeping the body, breath and mind together”, “closing the eyes” and “totally being interested in our own mats and bringing our attention to just our own practice.” But could I bring my own attention to what I was saying and was I flowing together with the students and their moods? Even if we were practicing “yin” yoga, the class should have a certain flow, order and “bhava” (mood). What could the “bhava” of our “body-mind-soul” journey accompanied by a loud music could be?

Everything does not go well as we just imagine in our daily lives. Sometimes we face problems and challenges. We could not say, “ok, I’m out of this game” under such circumstances. As how we face problems and challenges in our daily lives and as how we do our best to overcome them, we should do the same thing on the yoga mat. Weren’t we always telling the same thing? The reactions and approaches on the yoga mat was just the same as our reactions and approaches in our daily lives. So, instead of leaving the yoga class and getting out of the game, we should complete the class under those circumstances and as fruitful as we can. And we completed the class. And even, the spinning class ended before our yoga class and we could rest in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) accompanied by classical music and in full unity of body, mind and soul.

After the class, one of the students said, “teacher, I listened to your recommendation today and I only focused on myself. I tried to keep my body, mind and soul together, closed my eyes and just watched myself and listened to myself. And guess what? This was the first time I totally passed out and even did not hear what you were saying. I totally closed myself to the outside world and it happened in such an atmosphere. Ironic, isn’t it?”

We were practicing yoga together for about four years. We were getting our silent and calm studio, turning the lights off or dimming them and were practicing yoga. Even though we were practicing in such an atmophere, could not we turn inside as much as we should have? Why were we always focusing on the outside world? Why were we opening our eyes and missing the distinguished moments of opening meditation just to see who was late for class instead of getting interested in only our own practice? Why could not our body move with our breath from one asana to another? Were my body and mind both at the same place, in the class? Or was my mind wandering around, in the past or the future? Even though we were practicing in a calm and serene place, we were away from serenity if we could not ensure body, mind and breath unity. Whether you are on the top of the Himalayas or on the bank of a river or in an “ashram” in India or walk in the most crowded street of the city we are living in. What is important is to calm the mind, practice yoga and meditation in our daily lives and the rush of the metropolis. Whether in a calm and serene yoga studio or beside a loud music, we can ensure body, mind and soul unity as long as we want, practice yoga and turn inward and get serene and calm. As long as we want to…

What should a teacher do when s/he begins yoga classes with a new group? What type of a class should we do? From which “asana”s (pose) should we start? What tyep of flow should we do? Should the class be “vinyasa” (flow) or “hatha” (sun-moon yoga) or “yin” (female energy yoga)? It is hard to decide, isn’t it?

2009-2010 tum fotolar 726

I was thinking about all these things when I began working with two new groups in the previous weeks. Of course, these two groups had their own yoga experience. They were used to yoga. The problem was I did not know their level or which “asana”s they were used to. Therefore, I decided to start from the outset. I would start from the ground and end up on the top. From standing asanas to inversions.

We focused on standing asanas in our first class with the two groups. We did not focus on just one peak pose. After warming up the bodies with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series, we tried a particular standing pose in each “vinyasa”. “Virabhadrasana I” (warrior I), “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), “trikonasana” (triangle), “parsvakonasana” (side angle pose), “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge), “anjaneyasana” (low lunge), “parsvottanasana” (intense side stretch), “utkatasana” (chair pose), “prasarita podottanasana” (wide-legged forward bend) were the standing poses we tried. Then we got into “vrksasana” (tree pose) to test our balance.

After sitting on the ground, we continued getting grounded from the sitting bones. Following “dandasana” (staff pose), “paschimottanasan” (sitting forward bend) and “baddha konasana” (bound angle pose/butterfly), we laid supine, neutralized the body with “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist) and rested in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

The students were all very good at yoga. Maybe this class was so simple for them. However, I was thinking that we should move slowly to get used to each other. When you set on a journey, do you immediately reach the final destination? No, of course not. We were passing through many places. So, we would do the same with the new groups. We would go one by one. Step by step. After standing poses, hip openers or forward bends. Then core strengtheners, chest openers i.e. backbends, head and neck i.e. inversions.

Thus, we would walk from the feet to the top of the head. When working a different part of the body in every class, we would sometimes stretch sometimes strengthen that part. When working a different part of the body, we would watch our emotions. Every part of the body and each “asana” group makes us feel something different. When we try to bend forward, we experience turning inward, when we were backbending, we were watching our fear of going back, opening our chest, facing our fear, understanding each other. When it comes to core strengtheners, we were testing determination. In hip openers, we were observing the ability to love ourselves, to accept, to be creative, to flow like water and be flexible. We would walk step by step in our journey. When we strengthen and stretch our bodies, we would also watch our emotional bodies and observe what kind of changes we would undergo during the journey. New beginnings and changes. They always add something new to us. We just have to keep ourselves and our perceptions open and accept the newcomers.

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

BEN_4569

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2009-2010 tum fotolar 309

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I went to class that day, I was planning to teach a class focusing on arm balances. Sometimes it happens to me. Does it also happen to you? You decide to do something but conditions and circumstances change and you cannot do what you have decided. Mostly, it happens to me in classes. Whenever I plan an advanced class, many new students show up in class. And I ask them whether this is their first yoga class and guess the answer. Of course it is their first yoga class. It happened again when I decided to teach a class with an arm balance pose as the peak.

2009-2010 tum fotolar 308

There were as many as new comers as  the old and experienced students. Therefore, I should teach a class that would both satisy the old and experienced and the new. The best choice would be forward bends as our spine was more used to bending forward than bending backward. However, the peak pos should not be an easy forward bend. It should force the students a bit. “Kurmasana” (tortoise pose) could be the best peak pose for that class. Yes, definitely! The peak pose would be “kurmasana” and we needed to stretch inner thighs, groins, hamstrings and shoulder girdle to try the peak pose.

It would be a “vinyasa” class as usual. After warming up the bodies with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series, we added in-between sun salutation series some asanas in order to stretch and strengthen the parts of the body that needed to be stretched for the peak pose. In order to stretch hamstring muscles, we did “uttanasana” (standing forward bend), “padangusthasana” (hand to big toe pose), “hasta padasana” (hands to feet pose). To stretch the shoulder girdle, we interlaced fingers behind our back in “uttanasana” and kept the arms away from the body. We joined the hands in the back in “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I) and bent the body inside the front leg. In “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II) we used the arm position of “garudasana” (eagle pose) and in “parsvottanasana” (pyramid pose) we kept the hands in reverse “namaste” (prayer) pose.

To stretch the groins and inner thighs, we used “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge), “anjaneyasana” (low lunge), “parsvottanasana”, “water bug”, “prasarita padottanasana” (wide-legged forward bend) and “malasana” (garland pose).

Once we sat on the floor, we continued to stretch the hamstrings, inner thighs and groins. With “half butterfly” and “half frog”, we first bent forward on the extended leg and then we folded in-between the two legs. With “mandukasana” (frog pose), we stretched the inner thighs and groins more and we were so close to the peak pose. With “upavistha konasana” (seated angle pose), we stretched the inner thighs and inhaling we lifted the bodies up.

It was now time for the peak pose. We kept the legs in “V” shape. Exhaling, we bent forward in-between the legs. We rolled the shoulders back and we placed the arms beneath the knees. The palms were facing the floor and the finger tips were facing backward. We rolled the shoulders more and we also rolled the spine to deepen in the pose. And this was “kurmasana.”

There was a student whom I believed could do this pose so easily thanks to her body structure and flexibility. And yes, I was right. I looked at her and saw that she was totally in “tortoise pose” enjoying the pose. She totally turned inside, closed her down and as one of my students whose views I appreciate the most said: “She had turned back to her hidden garden.”

As we had folded forward throughout the class, we had to neutralize the spine with backbends. We relieved the spine with “ardha purvottanasana” (reverse table pose) and “setu bandhasana” (bridge). We laid supine and put the soles of the feet on the ground and “pelvic tilted” to relieve the spine more. Then we hug the knees and rolled the spine to right and leg and front and back (apanasana). Then “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

We ended the class with a long resting pose. Once the students came to “sukhasana” (easy pose/sitting pose), I told them that we bent forward, turned inside and had a class with full body-soul-mind integrity. At that moment, the student who could fully do “kurmasana” was in front of my eyes and I went on saying: “As how a tortoise turns inside, turns inward, gets into its shell and returns home when it is afraid and having a difficult time, you also turned inward and returned home today. Body, soul and mind a whole and at home. You turned back to your hidden garden. Maybe you have re-lived your past, what you have lived so far, reviewing your feelings and thoughts and cleaned up. Purified… Maybe you still have to review your hidden garden and add new things or get rid of some things. What about reviewing your home and hidden garden from time to time?”

I do not know whether it is becase of winter but I am in the mood of yin yoga recently. I prefer yin yoga not only in my self-practice but also in my classes. It was the same in my recent class a few days ago. I had a few alternatives in mind when I was driving to the gym club that evening. Either the peak pose would be a twist or a core strengthener. Another alternative was yin yoga.
wpid-facebook_-960930394.jpg
There was no traffic jam that evening. I arrived at the gym club earlier than I expected. If there had been traffic jam and I had tried to get to the gym club on time, a class with a twist or core strengthener as the peak pose would have been a better alternative. As I reached the gym club easily and without any stress in the traffic, I felt myself prone to relaxation and wanted my students to relax at the same time.
I dimmed the lights and put a relaxation cd on the player. I had decided on a yin yoga class but I also had different alternatives when teaching yin yoga. The class could focus on hips and femurs, the entire body or a certain meridian. I made up my mind on hips and femurs. We were sitting on chairs and sofas all day and therefore we needed to open our hip muscles.
The class began with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). Everybody lied down on mats and relaxed with the music. I briefed the group on yin yoga when I wanted the students to relax their bodies and minds. I told the class that yin yoga was about surrendering and letting go, it was a practice developing the mother affection, mother affection was related with being, a yang practice was a practice developing affection to a father and it meant that change was possible, affection to a mother encoraged acceptance and affection to a father inspired us to develop. I had learned all these from the books of Sarah Powers, Bernie Clark and Paul Grilley.
When I was talking, there were people entering the studio to get some mats to be used in the other class in the next studio. I lost concentration. I tried to find out “what I was talking about.” At that moment, one of the people who entered the studio accidentally dropped the key in his/her hands. When I was trying to make the group relax and prepare them for yin yoga, this noise and action in class were not so good. Moreover, I was distracted. It was now harder for me to voice my views but in the end I managed to gather my thoughts and start speaking again. “To surrender and to let go.” I also surrendered. I could do nothing about this action and noise. “Let it go Brcu. This is something that you and the participants should experince right now.”
I woke the class from “savasana” and prepared their bodies for yin yoga with mild stretchings. First pull the right leg to your chest and then the left leg, and then both…Then opening the legs to right and left side to stretch the inner thighs and pulling both legs to the chest again and rolling over the spine…
Now it was yin yoga flow’s turn. We would wait in every asana for three to four minutes. We began with “butterfly” to open up the spine and inner thighs. “Dragon”, “half saddle”, “caterpillar”, “sleeping swan” and “half butterfly” were other hip and femur stretching asanas. After these poses, I asked the students to prefer among “square”, “shoelace” and “eye of the needle.” Giving the right to choose to students was changing the bhava of the class and helped them pick the asana which they needed at that moment and which was more suitable for their bodies. The three asanas were stretching the hip external rotators, so it did not matter which one they picked. This was what I wanted the students to experience.
When working out the hips and femurs, we mostly bend forward. To this end, people can turn inward and the bhava of the class can be heavy. My aim was to dim the lights, feel the tiredness of the body and relax and stretch the emotions and energy stored in the hips. In my opinion, the class served that aim.
When staying in hip opening asanas, some participants were feeling very peaceful, calm and comfortable while some of them were continuously moving in the asana. I always say, “whatever our reactions on the yoga mats are, the similar our reactions in our daily lives.” I said the same thing in class that evening. In every asana, I recalled the class to “let go, surrender and accept.” There was a saying in yin yoga: “We do not use the body to get into the pose, we use the pose to get into the body.” I told this saying to the students. I recalled them that breath was the guide. I said they could calm themselves with breath when they felt it was difficult to stay in the pose, and told them to leave the pose if it was not possible to stay more and more in that asana. Of course, we needed to quit the pose if we felt any physical disturbance. If there was no physical disturbance, the only thing that was challenging could be emotions and thoughts. Was it possible to be patient, accept, surrender and let go?
I also gave more information about yin yoga when the students were waiting in the poses. Yin was the feminine and lunar energy, cool, cold and dark whereas yang was the masculine and solar energy, hot and light. Yin yoga was a healing yoga style in which we had some target areas in asanas and the area we felt the stretch in the pose would be blooded after the asana. We were as if acapunturing ourselves when practicing yin yoga. We were first squeezing a part of our body and then relaxing that part and sending there blood, life force, “chi” or “prana”. I briefly talked about meridians. When talking about the quadriceps, hamstrings, spine, inner thighs and hip external rotators, we were in fact stimulating stomach, spleen, urinary bladder, liver, kidney and gall bladder meridians and healing these areas.
It was the end of the class. The time had already been over but the flow was not yet complete. Another feature of yin yoga: When you are staying in asanas and feeling that energy, you as an istructor is becoming so much talkative. Let me mention this, let me talk about that also. And time flies. Luckily next class was half an hour later than my class. Nobody was in a hurry and they all seemed happy and satisfied. So, I thoght nobody cared about the time. I would end the class after one or two asanas.
Now, I wanted to raise the energy and the mood. I showed two backbends. They could prefer “sphinx” or “seal.” “Sphinx” should be the choice of those who had back problems. Or they could first get into “sphinx” and go on with “seal.”
We relaxed the spine with “cat tail.” I said, “whoever wants can directly get into savasana. Those who thinks their spirits are still low and the backbends have not boosted their energies could do any asanas they want before savasana. Urdhva dhanurasana (wheel), sirsasana (headstand), sarvangasana (shoulderstand), pincha mayurasana (peacock) and adho mukha vrksasana (handstand) are some of them.” Some students directly got into “savasana” while some of them did one of those asanas. “And now everybody gets into deep relaxation and resting pose,” I said.
After “savasana” accompanied by a mild song, it was time to end the class in a cross-legged pose. In addition to what I said at the beginning of the class, I said, “we need both yin and yang energy equally in our daily lives. The unbalanced side of mother affection means excessive yin energy, which caused lack of motivation, chronic complaints, feeling oppressed. Excessive father affection means excessive yang energy, which can cause unsatisfaction, being too much judgmental, perfectionist and intolerant. Yin without yang causes clumsiness and yang without yin causes apathy and misuse.” The theme of the class was “balance.” “Therefore, we need to have equal yin and yang energies in or lives.” Before opening the eyes, we wished that we old find the balance and maintain it in our daily lives.
Nobody wanted to get up and leave the class, like after every yin class. Everybody wanted to lie down and continue relaxing. Yin energy was something like this.
A student approached me after the class. “I took some footage during the class. I wanted to use these poses when I am working with my patients (she is a physiothreapist). Will it matter for you,” she asked. Of course not. What’s the point of getting involved in yoga unless we do not teach what we learn and we do not share as we learn more and more? This was how the world of yoga will grow and develop. This was how the yin energy, the mother affection in our hearts will increase. We would first learn to “be affectionate to ourselves” and then to others. This way, we would accept ourselves and life as it is, surrender and let go.