Archives for posts with tag: urdhva dhanurasana

Life is a cycle of taking and giving… The more we give, the more we take. I have always believed that we should first give in order to take. We should give so that we open a space in our lives and then we fill that space with the new one. Just like the movie “Pay it forward”… Do you remember the movie? A boy named Trevor with a problematic family life creates an ideal word in a homework given by his new  teacher. In that ideal world, Trevor conjures the notion of paying a favor not back, but forward–repaying good deeds not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people. In the meantime, some changes occur in lives of every one Trevor knows, particularly his teacher. Every favor paid forward is repaid somehow.

When I decided to focus on giving-taking cycle in the yoga classes this week, I remembered this movie. To give before taking and to open a new space for the new comer. To wish to get rid of emotional and physical problems in our lives and to open a new space for something new and better for us. Is it possible to open a space for something new and better without getting rid of the old one?

Therefore, I focused on stretching the chest with backbends in all yoga classes this week. The peak pose was “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel) which is the most feared but the most desired pose of all students. All students feel so happy when they see they can really get in the pose. I asked the students to try the “asana” (pose) by getting rid of the emotional and physical burden which prevent them from getting in the pose. Who knows what kind of burden we had in our minds and hearts those days that prevented us from getting into this pose? First of all, I asked the students to focus on their minds and emotions. To realize their mental and emotional burden and then to realize that this burden was no useful to them, to get rid of the burden and to rise in the pose. First give, purify and get rid of and then to welcome the new one… Cycle of taking and giving… The law of circulation…

Some of us are just givers. They like to help every one without expecting anything in return. They prefer to make others happy by giving without expecting anything in return. They become happy when others are happy.

Some of us are just takers. They always want to play the leading role in life. They want every one to love them, like them, be kind to them, be appreciated and loved so much. They always want to draw all the interest and attention. They want to attract all love, material and moral everything on themselves. However, they do not think of paying attention to others and making others happy in return.

In my opinion, to be always a giver or always a taker is not a right thing. If life consists of dualities and if there is “yin-yang” (female and male) energy in life, then we should not just be a taker or a giver. We should somethimes take and sometimes give so that we can live the life in full balance.

What was I thinking at the end of the class? We should first give in order to take. We should get rid of things that give us pain and trouble and open a space for the new comers that might be better for us. We could not take if we do not give. If we do not open a space for the new things, nothing could get into our lives. It was this simple. We could not get a new shirt if we do not give the old one to someone in need. The law of circulation was this simple. We could apply the law to moral and material things, i.e. everything in life. We should open a space for the new comers. This was what I was thinking at the end of class, To live without piling up, to first give in order to take and to open a new space for the new comers.

I have been feeling so lazy since the summer began. I could post blogs every weekend during winter, however I cannot since the beginning of summer. Since then, I have been walking outside, sunbathing and spending time with my friends. This is why I have not been posting for some time. In the meantime, yoga classes are under way. Moreover, the classes are as crowded and enjoying as the winter classes. Every class is a different experience for me and each of them is a topic for my blog. However, as the sun is shining and in the breeze of the evening, I prefer having fun instead of posting. Sorry!

Every yoga class is a new experience for me. Feedbacks from students, communication and interaction with each student. Every day, I learn a new thing and I feel myself rich of knowledge and experience at the end of each yoga class.

I focused on backbends in one of evening group yoga classes last week. When I woke up that day, I was not feeling well. There was something wrong but I did not know. I was upset somehow. Maybe because of the sky and the astrological developments. I am sure you have heard of the solar and lunar eclipse and the Mercury retrogade. Maybe I read a lot and that’s why I am spiritually moved by all these posts? Maybe it is so hot in my city. And that’s why I feel tired and tense. Who knows? Whatever, I decided on practicing backbends that day since I did not sleep well. So, selfish of me. I am feeling like that, and so everyone should feel so.

That day, I decided on a different theme. We would focus the chest by backbending however we should do it in a different way. There may be people who may be afraid of backbending. So, we should try defeating the fear with courage and we should trust ourselves. Or we could get the assistance of our instructor or a friend when we are trying the peak pose and trust those people. The theme would be fear, courage and trust. To fall to the unknown and to fall to the back. From “ustrasana” (camel pose) to “kapotasana” (pigeon pose). One step forward, from “tadasana” ( mountain pose) to “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel pose). Maybe we used to do the second pose when we a child and we were never afraid. However, in time as we grew up, we have more fear and nothing is that simple anymore. The fear of falling, the fear of being unsuccessful, the fear of the unknown. And many other fear. We could only overcome fear with courage and trust. First trusting in ourselves and then the others around us and supporting us.

Believe me, I used to fall to the wheel pose from standing so easily when I was a child even without any warming up. I had not practiced this flow in my classes for a long time. I was afraid when I was showing it. Instead of trying it on my own, I got the support of two students and asked them to place their arms behind my lower back. Only then, I could fall back and did “urdhva dhanurasana.”

Students tried the pose after me. Some got help from me, some from others. What was important was the “trust.” We could overcome fear with confidence.

I was thinking when everyone was in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose). Everyone had fears. Some have major fears while some have minor fears . To be afraid of height, to be afraid of snakes, to be afraid of falling, to be afraid of being unsuccessful, to be afraid of the unknown, to be afraid of the future. We may count many more. Fear is one of the negative emotions created by our minds. The opposite of fear is love. It is possible to overcome fear with love. In order to go over fear with courage, we should open and stretch the only area where “love” cand develop. Our heart. That is, we should focus on bending backward and continue trying and trying without yielding even if it is hard for us. And, we should try ourselves and those around when we are trying to defeat fear with courage. We should look in the eyes of those people, see the light in their eyes, trust them unconditionally, and surrender to them. Then, we are neither afraid of backbending, nor falling backward nor any other thing.

I am aware that I am flying once the spring has come. One of Turkish poets once said, “this beautiful weather has messed me up. I am just as the poet said. I did not want to sit in front of the computer and post a blog. Instead, I wanted to go to the countryside, watch the blue sea and enjoy my time there. But surely, this laziness should end, shouldn’t it? Back to real life and back to my posts.

In my previous post, I had wrote that our bodies changed with the spring and told you about what type of yoga we should practice in springtime. This week, our classes were just how I wrote in my blog. In some classes, we only practiced “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) while in some “vinyasa” (flow) classes we focused on backbends and balancing poses. In some “yin” (feminine energy) yoga classes, we focused on liver meridian and tried to purify the liver, which has been affeceted by the cold and long winter.

In one of classes we focused on backbends, I witnessed the progress of some of the students. I have been practicing with the same group for about a year and that day, I decided to try “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel) as the peak pose. “Urdhva dhanurasana” was one of the poses in which most students have difficulties. Even though how challenging it is, students want to try this “asana” (pose) from time to time and want to get used to it and deepen in the pose.

As usual, that day, we prepared the bodies for the pose by stretching the chest, shoulder girdle and hip flexor muscles. We tried the peak pose in three stages. In the first stage, we tried “setu bandhasana” (bridge pose), in the second trial we got into “setu bandhasana” and then we put the top of the head on the ground and placed the hands on both sides of the head. In the last stage, we tried the full “urdhva dhanurasana.” Some students stayed in the second stage whereas some asked for my assistance and got in the pose that way, In the meantime, I realized the progss in two students. Both of them did the “asana” on their own. One of them was thinking that her chest was closed and her chest was making “weird” noises in backbends. I asked the student to try the pose again. She did it again, rose on her arms, took another breath and opened her chest so widely. This was one of the happiest moments in my life. To see a student progress this much in time and to observe that she was doing a pose she thought she could never do. This was the greatest happiness.

The other student was also one of the students who found “urdhva dhanurasana” the most challenging pose. That day she rose on her arms and opened her chest up. Maybe she could not lift her chest as much as desired but she tried this pose with courage and made a progress. Determination was the most important thing if we wanted to make a progress.

Another student deeply affected me that day. I asked the students to get into “urdhva dhanurasana” from “camatkarasana” (wild thing pose). I realized that one of the students was so flexible and strong to do the transition however she was afraid. I stood by her to encourage her and told her that I could help her when trying. I just stood by her and encouraged. That student got into “urdhva dhanurasana” from “camatkarasana.”

That day, I realized that determination was the most important thing if we wanted to make a progress. We just need to be aware of the power within us and have confidence in ourselves. And of course, we should practice a lot. We should not give up but try and try. One of yoga masters, Pattabhi Jois says: “yoga is 99 percent practice and one percent theory.”

What draws my attention in yoga classes is that everybody has a different type of body. Some of them have flexible hips and some are born with a flexible chest. It is so easy for some people to stand on their hands whereas it is impossible for some people to stand upside down. If we leave aside the soul and mind, the characteristics of our bodies help us do certain “asana”s (pose) or refrain from some of them.

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It was an evening class. I wanted to focus on backbends that evening. There were a few new comers. People who had showed up in a yoga class for the first time… Nevertheless, I insisted on a backbend flow and the peak pose. The peak pose would be “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel pose).

We began the class with meditation as usual. What was important during meditation was to feel comfortable. So, I was not forcing students to sit at a certain pose. What was important to feel bodily comfortable so that the mind also relaxes. Therefore, every one was free to sit either in “sukhasana” (easy pose) or “virasana” (hero pose) or “dandasana” (staff pose). What was important was to sit with an erect spine, without rounding the spine. I asked the students to pick the pose that was comfortable for them, close their eyes, relax the chin and jaw and the area between the eyebrows, to roll the shoulders back and push the shoulder blades down, to extend the spine as their breathe in. I watched the students picking up their meditative poses, either “sukhasana” or “virasana.” Those with knee issues preferred “dandasana.”

That evening, one of the students sat in “padmasana” (lotus pose). I can hear you ask what was so special about that. Yes, nothing special. “Padmasana” is one of the “asana”s we may prefer while meditating. What is interesting is that this was that student’s first ever yoga class.

Following meditation, we started to get prepared for “urdhva dhanurasana.” We stretched the chest, hip flexor muscles and shoulders. It was time for the peak pose. I wanted the students to try the peak pose in three stages. In the first stage, they would do “setu bandhasana” (bridge pose). In the second stage, they would get into “setu bandhasana” and then they would place their hands beside their ears and put the top of the head on the ground. In the third trial, they would exactly do the second stage and then try to lift their body up to fully get into “urdhva dhanurasana.”

All students did the first stage. Some of them tried while some did not try the second stage. And something interesting happened in the third trial. A new student could do “urdhva dhanurasana” with the right alignment.

After the peak pose, we neutralized the bodies with “dandasana, “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend), “baddha konasana” (bound angle pose) and “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist). The class ended with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

Some of the students took their time to leave the studio after the class ended. What drew my attention also drew the attention of the old students. “Teacher, have you realized the new students today”, they asked. I answered, “yes, I have realized them. I have seen that one of them could easily do ‘padmasana’ at the beginning of the class. However, we try very hard to do that pose but still have difficulties. And the other student could so easily do the wheel pose. How different our bodies are, aren’t they? Some of them can easily bend backward and feel so comfortable in wheel pose. Some of them feel so happy in ‘padmasana.’ Some of them feel happy and comfortable with handstand. When I was a child, I was refraining from handstands in our gym classes. I loved to do wheel pose but I hated handstand. The school ended and I thought that I would no more have to do handstand. How could I know that I would have to deal with this pose again during yoga teacher training program? This means that refraining is not a solution. There is still something I am supposed to learn from it.”

“Every one has a different type of body. Some can stand on their arms as if they are standing on their feet while some of them like to bend backward. Some have flexible hips and no problems with ‘padmasana’ or ‘hanumanasana’ (monkey pose/split). What is important is to realize what our body prevails and not prevails and our talents and just enjoy the journey when our bodies do not let us do some poses.

I have been facing the same exhaustion, unhappiness and insecurity in the eyes of the students in my yoga classes recently. Everybody in tense, everybody is afraid and everybody is restless. Terrorist attacks one after the other increase the exhaustion, insecurity, unhappiness and uneasiness of our bodies and souls in these long, dark and gloomy winter days. When I show up in class and ask students what they want to do that day, they always say, “something that can make us relax and something that can make us feel peaceful and happy only if it is for an hour.” For this reason, I focused on flows that would stretch the chest in this week’s yoga classes.

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I aimed to focus on backbends and stretch the chest in three different yoga classes. The peak pose would be “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel pose). Before the flow began, I told students “today we will try wheel pose. When trying it, we would try to look behind, look at the past and look at the unknown. To look behind, have trust in our arms and lift the body upward is something that requires courage. If we are afraid, if we have something to fear in our lives, we cannot open our chest with courage. But we can try it with confidence and courage and can proceed towards love, enthusiasm and happiness.”

And the class began. We stretched the chest and hip flexor muscles and worked on our shoulder girdle in order to externally rotate the shoulders. I decided to make students try the peak pose in three stages. In the first trial, we would practice “setu bandhasana” (bridge pose). When inhaling, we would lift the spine up to the thoracal area and in our second inhale, we would lift the chest up more. In our second trial, we would again begin with “setu bandhasana” and after we got in the pose, we would place the arms beside the head and put the top of the head on the ground. If this stage was impossible for us for that day, we would again do “setu bandhasana.” In our third trial, we would try wheel pose. We would get in the second stage first and when inhaling we would lift the body on the arms and lift the head up also. If this pose was hard and challenging for us that day, we would stay in the second stage.

There were students who did all three stages, those who only did bridge pose, and those who tried the first and second stages. Everybody tried the pose as much as their bodies and souls prevailed and accepted their condition.

When the students were in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting position), I was thinking. All students felt unhappy, desperate, sad, disappointed, tired, exhausted and unsecure due to recent incidents in the country. Every one was afraid. Even though we thought that we were not affected, we were feeling unsecure, tired, exhausted and hopeless about the terrorist attacks. Accurate or inaccurate — we were getting tip-offs from social media every day. “Don’t go there, don’t wander around this area.” Even though the bodies were not tired, the souls were. All the incidents caused insecurity, exhaustion and desperation. Even though we bent backward in order to avoid this spirit and stretched the chest, we could not get the desired outcome and effect. Maybe we used to bend backward so easily in the past and now we were facing difficulties. Was it because our souls and hearts were so heavy? What about the fear? New fears every day? And to be deprived of the courage to overcome this fear? And not to feel brave enough to do something? Not to take any steps with courage and confidence. To feel exhausted and not being able to lift the chest up by all these emotions…

Music is sine qua non for me in yoga classes. Sometimes “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series performed with “mantra”s (sacred syllables uttered to free the mind) sometimes meditations with “aum” sounds and sometimes “yin” (female energy) yoga classes with classical music. I was so used to yoga classes with music that I had almost forgotten how to practice yoga without music until a day when I had a private and a group yoga class.

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I had forgotten the tablet I was using to play music in yoga classes at home that day. And I realized that I had forgotten the tablet when I arrived at my private yoga class. I planned to play music online from the cell phone however the service was unavailable there. There was nothing to do. That day we would not use music in yoga classes. We would only listen to the noice of our breath.

We would focus on a chest opening sequence in the private class. We would bend backward and try to love more and look at backward and the past. We would stretch hip flexor muscles, shoulders, chest and try “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel pose) as the peak.

We stretched hip flexor muscles with “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge), “anjaneyasana” (low lunge), “half saddle”, “supta virasana” (supine hero pose). In order to open the chest, we practiced “bhujangasana” (cobra pose), “urdhva mukha svanasana” (upward facing dog) and bend the spine backward in “tadasana” in each “surya namaskara”. We started to stretch the shoulders by interlacing fingers at the back and trying to keep them away from the upper body as much as we could in “uttanasana” (standing forward bend). We went on stretching the shoulders with the arm positions of “garudasana” (eagle pose) and “gomukhasana” (cow face). Just before the peak pose, we opened up the chest with “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), “viparita virabhadrasana” (reverse warrior) and “setu bandhasana” (bridge pose).

We neutralized the body with “paschimottanasana” (sitting forward bend) and “baddha konasana” (bound angle pose). We ended the class with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) which came immediately after “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist). We did not need any music when we were flowing. However, I felt a need for music during the opening meditation and “savasana”. It was not a problem for the student. It was a different kind of experience for her. Just listening to her own breath in silence and a meditation and “savasana” without occupying the mind with any other thing.

In the evening class, we focused on arm balancing poses. “Phalakasana” (plank pose), “phalakasana” variations, “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog) variations, “chaturanga dandasana” (low plank)… “L” handstand on the wall or real “adho mukha vrksasana” (handstand) as the peak pose.

Forwardbends and twists after the peak pose. Then “savasana”. A long deep relaxation and resting pose without music. By just listening to breath. In full harmony and unity of the body, breath and mind. Students just living their own experience. Neither “aum” sounds nor “mantra”s or classical music. Just the noice of the breath.

Everything happens for a reason. Maybe I had forgotten the tablet at home that day so that the students could remember how to occupy their minds with just their breath instead of music. Maybe we were supposed to re-establish body-mind-soul integrity in a class without any music. Maybe it happened because the teacher who had forgotten how to teach a class without music should remember again how to teach without any music. Sine qua non is not a word we use in yoga classes. Either with music or without music. Always and everywhere. Yoga and meditation is possible under any circumstances. This was what I had learned that day.

I think I have told you in my previous posts that I am teaching the same type of yoga class through a month, working on the same “asana” (pose) to observe the bodily and mental changes. Every month, we work on a single group of “asana”, focus on one of two certain “asana”s and stretch and strengthen the parts of body that are necessary for that “asana.” This month, we focused on backbends in our group classes through the month. And guess what? The peak pose was “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel pose) — the most challenging asana for many people.

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We needed to prepare the shoulders, chest and legs for the pose in the first half of the class. We needed to externally rotate shoulders, strengthen arms, open up the chest and hip flexor muscles. To prepare these target areas for “urdhva dhanurasana”, we began the sequence with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. After warming up the bodies, we added in-between the sun salutation series some poses that would strengthen and stretch the target areas. We stretched hip external muscles and started bending the spine backward with “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge) and “anjaneyasana” (low lunge). We bent the spine backward more and more in “tadasana” (mountain pose) in each sun salutation and experienced going back and looking to the unknown. To prepare the shoulders for external rotation and to stretch them, we interlaced fingers in “uttanasana” and brought the hands towards the head as much as our bodies let us. Also to prepare the shoulders for external rotation, we brought our hands to “garudasana” (eagle) pose arm position in “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I)  and brought the body down towards the front leg as we exhale and lifted it up in each inhale. Moreover, we used the arm position of “gomukhasana” (cow face pose) in “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II) for the external rotation of the shoulders. We strengthened the arms with “phalakasana” (plank pose) and “ashtangasana” (knees chest chin pose) during each “surya namaskara” series. To open up the chest more, we waited long in “bhujangasana” (cobra pose) and ” viparita virabhadrasana” (reverse warrior).

When we first began backbends, we were trying “urdhva dhanurasana” after we did “setu bandhasana” (bridge). As days passed, the bodies got used to the pose. So we needed to make a little change. For this reason, I decided the students to experience falling from “camatkarasana” (wild thing pose) to “urdhva dhanurasana” and to feel how to cope with going back to the unknown. After warming up the bodies in the first half, we tried it. Unfortunately, nobody managed to do it in the first class. Maybe because of fear, maybe because of the mind’s opposing to a new idea. I do not know. That day we again tried “setu bandhasana” and “urdhva dhanurasana” and then we neutralized and relaxed the body.

The next class we tried again. Believe me, there were students who could do it. And this was the only thing that made me happy. To see the change in the students. To see how their bodies answered the practice. To realize how everything was possible if we worked hard, were determined and wanted. To defeat even our fears by coping with them.

In the meantime, the students continued to progress and so I did not want to do the same sequence in our two classes a week. So I decided to teach “urdhva dhanurasana” one day and “ustrasana” (camel pose) the other day. When we tried “ustrasana”, I would ask the students to fall into “kapotasana” (pigeon pose) if they were so easily and comfortably doing the camel pose. And believe me, there were such students.

Thus, I got the answer of my question and the result of the experience. If we work hard, if we exert efforts, if we are determined we could be successful. Just be careful, I am just saying if we are  determined, not if we are ambitious. With love, with belief, with determination. If we go on and try with determination, we could do anything. If we really want, if we really believe, if we really love and if we really work regularly, we will reach our targets.

What made me so happy at the end of this experience was to see the light in the eyes of the students that was really observed when they reached their goals as they believed in themselves. And I think this was worth anything.

When was the last time I taught a yoga class in English? I cannot remember. A year, one and a half years or two? When was the last time a foreign student joined my yoga class? And how could I forget how to teach yoga in English in such a short time?

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This week had again been the week of the “first experiences” for me. When I showed up in the first group class of the week, I had seen that a foreign student was joining the class. I talked to the new student before the class in order to learn whether it was his first yoga class and whether he had some physical problems. Of course, I wanted to learn whether he knew enough Turkish to follow the class. Because that day the class was so crowded and I was trying to figure out whether I was supposed to talk in both Turkish and English. Yes as you have guessed, the student was not so fluent in Turkish. So I started to give directives both in Turkish and English.

“Gozlerinizi kapatın. Oturma kemiklerinizden yere uzarken basin tepesinden de gokyuzune dogru uzayın. Omuzlari geriye yuvarlayin, kurek kemiklerinizi kuyruksokumuna dogru ittirin. Nefesler dogal akisinda.” And English: “Close your eyes. Ground your body down from your sitting bones while at the same time extend your spine up to the ceiling from the top of the head. Roll your shoulders back, bring your shoulder blades down towards the coccyx. Breath is natural pace.”

It seems easy when I write it down. Believe me, I could hardly remember the English terms of coccyx, sitting bones and even the shoulder. Writing was one thing but voicing it was another.

My aim was to open up the chest and try “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel) as the peak pose. In the first half of the class, we did poses to open up the chest, roll the shoulders back and stretch hip flexor muscles and prepared the body for “urdhva dhanurasana.” In the meantime, I was getting used to speaking in English. “Nefes alin sag bacaginizi yukari kaldirin, nefes verirken sag bacaklari matin onune getirin.” “Inhale and lift your right leg up, exhale and bring the leg to the front of the mat.” “Nefes alin kollari yukari dogru uzatin, nefes verirken one katlanin.” “Inhale and lift your arms up, extend and bend forward.”

Just before the peak pose, we prepared the body with “setu bandhasana” (bridge pose). We now would either try “bridge pose” once more or try to get into “wheel pose.” If our elbows were opening to both sides, we could use a yoga belt to keep the elbows parallel to each other. If our knees were opening to both sides, we could put a block between the legs. If we were having difficulties lifting the chest up, a friend could help us. I showed all the alternatives before the class tried the peak pose. Everyone did the pose as much as s/he could do.

After relieving the spine with “dandasana” (staff pose) and “paschimottanasana” (sitting forward bend), we laid down. We had a long rest with “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) following “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist). But this was the most difficult moment of the class for me as I was saying something in Turkish and then in English. “Ayaklari gevşetin, bacaklari gevşetin.” “Relax the feet, relax the legs.”

I also had some difficulties in the closing speech. I usually end the class by telling about my emotions and feelings. That day, we focused on “going back, looking back and confronting fears.” And the class was over. I was exhausted.

And guess what had happened? The following day, I went to a private class and I had to teach a bilungual yoga class again. That day was our first class with that group. My aim was to introduce yoga and “asana”s to them. We had a slow-pace class. After warming up the bodies with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series, we did a “hatha” (sun-moon) type yoga and focused on alignment in “asana”s. In the second half of the class, we sat down to stretch the body and stay long in “asana”s to calm down the mind. And a long “savasana.” Again “nefes al kobra, nefes ver aşagi bakan kopek.”  “inhale to cobra, exhale to downdog.” “Nefes ver omurgani yuvarla gobek deligine dogru bak, nefes al beli cukurlastir ac gogus kafesini.” “Exhale round your spine and look at your belly button, inhale tuck your tailbone out and open up the chest.”

And what had I learned? I had forgotten how difficult it was to teach a bilingual yoga class. Teaching in my mother tongue was a great happiness. I could not express the same way in a foreign language. I should once more review the body parts in English. Everyday something new happens and I should be open and eager to welcome the new things.

When I showed up in class that day, all the students were exhausted because of the new year’s eve and the three-day new year holiday. I decided to pick a backbend as a the peak pose in order to overcome the tiredness. However, things did not go as planned. The first student who showed up in class asked me whether we could strengthen back muscles that day. Why not? Surely we could. Moreover, we could pick a backbend as the peak pose as we would focus on back muscles throughout the class.

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Following the opening meditation, we started strengthening back muscles with a balance flow on all-fours. We stood up after we practiced “uttana shishosana” (extended puppy pose), “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch) and “thread the needle twist.” After warming the bodies with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series, we flew between “hasta tadasana” (upward salute) and “ardha uttanasana” (half standing forward bend). We went on strengthening back muscles with “utkatasana” (chair pose) and “skier pose.

At that moment, I counted the attendants and also the blocks we had in the class. We had enough blocks for the attendants that day. Usually more students were joining the class and the blocks were not enough for each student. So we could not use blocks in our classes. When students were flowing in “surya namaskara”, I placed a block beside every student. That day the peak pose would be “chaturanga dandasana” (low plank). First we would try with blocks, then without blocks. In the end we would try to flow between “phalakasana” (plank pose) and “chaturanga dandasana.”

After I decided to change the peak pose, I started to prepare the bodies for the peak. In-between “surya namaskara” series, I kept the students waiting in “phalakasana” for five breaths, asked them to flow between “phalakasana” and “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog), asked them to try to bring the chest close to the ground by bending the elbows in “adho mukha svanasana” and to try plank pose on elbows as well as flowing between plank pose on elbows to “ardha salamba sirsasana” (dolphin pose) and staying in this pose for five breaths.

The body was ready for the peak pose. We placed the blocks under the “sternum” (chest bone), brought the elbows close to the body and rose on the hands. Leg muscles, hips and feet were all active. And everybody easily did “chaturanga dandasana” on blocks.

Now it was time to make the pose a bit difficult. We would try “chaturanga dandasana” without blocks. When we used blocks, we could lean on the block and stay in the pose easily. However without blocks, we were trying to keep the body up and against gravity. Sometimes the hips were above the chest, sometimes the chest was so low, sometimes the elbows were opening to both sides and none of them were genuine “chaturanga dandasana.”

That day, most of the students could do “chaturanga dandasana” well. Now it was time for a flow between “phalakasana” and “chaturanga dandasana.” It was easy to lower the body from “phalakasana” to “chaturanga dandasana” as gravity helped us. However it was hard to raise the body from “chaturanga dandasana” to “phalakasana” as we were trying to do something agains gravity. One-two… Could we make it three? Some of the students did three sets. Some of them gave in in two. Some of them never tried at all.

After resting in “balasana” (child pose), we neutralized the bodies with “dandasana” (staff pose) and “paschimottanasana” (sitting forward bend). When we laid down on our backs, I had a new idea. I wanted to complete the back muscle workout with “setu bandhasana” (bridge pose). To open and stretch the chest and strengthen the back muscles. We placed a block between the legs and tried “setu bandhasana” without opening the legs to the sides. Some students wanted to try “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel pose). In this pose, we would also pay attention not to open the elbows and legs to the sidez. I called one of the students who could do this pose well to the front and she showed the pose to the entire class by keeping the block between her legs and without opening her elbows and legs to the sides. Then all students tried the pose. We helped our friends who could not lift their chests off the ground. And the peak was over.

After relieving the spine with “apanasana” (knees-to-chest pose), we made a set of “salamba sarvangasana-halasana-karnapidasana-salamba sarvangasana-setu bandhasana-matsyasana” (shoulderstand-plow pose-ear pressure pose-shoulderstand-bridge-fish pose) in order to reverse the flow of the body. We once more hug the knees (apanasana) and relieved the spine. We ended the class with “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist) and “savanasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

Do you know what I realized at the end of the class? I wanted to be in full communication and interaction with the students in my classes. I wanted to listen to their requests, include them in the class, use them as a model in their favorite “asana”s and to encourage them. And to grow, develop and progress together with them on the path of yoga.

Backbends are the most preferred asanas in yoga classes. When bending backward, you are going towards unknown and are afraid of falling. Or when you are bending backward, you may have difficulties in opening your chest. To open the chest, to love more and to be more understanding… When we are down and gloomy or when we are bodily and mentaily tired, exhausted and unhappy, we want to bend forward and turn inward. To be on our own. However, this is the right time to bend backward and to feel more energetic. When I went to the private and group classes that day, I saw the students unhappy and tired. Unhappy, tired and hopeless.. They told me that they wanted to bend forward, stay in all asanas longer than usual and stretch their bodies. However, I had totally a different idea. We would bend backward, open up the chest, boost our energy and try to revive.

2009-2010 tum fotolar 006

After the opening meditation, we started to stretch the chest with “vyagharasana” (tiger pose) and “uttana shishosana” (extended puppy pose). Following a “vinyasa” (flow), we stood up and warmed the bodies with “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) series. Our class would be a “vinyasa” class. Therefore, we added asanas stretching the chest, shoulders and hip flexors in-between sun salutation series. Like “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge), “anjaneyasana” (low lunge) and their variations. In order to stretch the shoulder girdle more, we used the arm position of “garudasana” (eagle) pose in “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I). In “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), we used the arm position of “gomukhasana” (cow face) pose to stretch the shoulder girdle more and more. First right arm on the top and then the left on top.

We would do “urdhva dhanurasana” (wheel) as the peak pose. Wheel was a pose loved so much by the student but in which most of students have difficulties. Therefore, we were repeating the pose once in every three or four weeks. This asana was one of the routine asanas we were practicing often. It would be good if we made a little change.

When preparing the bodies for “urdhva dhanurasana” in the first half of the class that day, I decided to try the asana in a different way than usual. What we mostly observed in this asana was the problem to keep the legs and arms parallel, not to bend the elbows and the difficulty in opening up the chest. Moreover, the other problems were not being able to extend the area between the navel and groins and to cause a compression in lumbar vertabrae.

When practicing “urdhva dhanurasana”, we should push the inner thighs towards each other and keep the arms parallel to each other. If we were having difficulties in doing this, we should put a block between the legs and bind the arms with a yoga belt to keep the arms parallel. We should pull the navel up in order to keep the navel away from the groins and prevent a compression in lumbar spine. We should extend the spine starting from the groins, axially extend the spine and bend backward from the thoracic spine.

After repeating all these technical information, we would try a different way of “urdhva dhanurasana.” We would use the wall. First we turned our back to the wall and put the hands on the wall. We spread the fingers and placed the roots of the fingers on the wall. Then we inhaled and axially extended the spine and we exhaled, rolled the shoulders back and tried to open up the chest towards the ceiling. In every exhale, we tried to stretch the chest more and more. After five breaths, we relieved the lumbar spine in “uttanasana” (standing forward bend).

The second trial would be a bit different. This time, the top of our head was turned towards the wall and we would try wheel this way. After lifting our bodies to wheel, we would try to lift the chest up to the ceiling more and more in each exhale and at the same time we would try to bring the chest close to the wall. Also, we would try to keep the legs and arms parallel to each other and keep the elbowy straight. Was it that much easy to do this and do that at the same time?

Unfortunately no! Keeping the legs and arms strong and parallel, not to bend the elbows, to bend backward from the chest and upper back, to keep the groins and navel away from each other and not to compress lumbar spine. It was not that easy. When we were trying to do one thing, we might lose the other. But what we should not compromise was to stretch from the chest and not to compress the lumbar spine.

After working out “urdhva dhanurasana”, we neutralized the spine with “paschimottanasana” (seated forward bend), “baddha konasana” (butterfly/bound angle pose) and “twisted roots”. We opened the legs to both sides of the mat, keeping the soles of the feet on the ground and knees bent. Then we leaned the knees on each other. Then we swung the spine to right and left in “apanasana” (knees to the chest).

Following “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose), students said that they were so happy to practice a backbend even thought they did not want it at the beginning of the class. Even though they wanted to bend forward according to their mood, it was useful for them to just do the opposite.

And what I learned from class… We can become routine and monotonous from time to time not only in our daily lives but also yoga classes. Same types of yoga classes, same times of asanas and same peak poses. In fact the world of yoga is limitless. Why do we just hang on the same asanas even though there are many yoga asanas we can try? Believe me, I could not find the answer. It is worth thinking, isn’t it?