Archives for posts with tag: yang

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.

It is the sine qua non aspects of a yin yoga class to inform students about meridians. When students were standing still in poses in a yin yoga group class last week, I was informing them about yin yoga, meridians and emotions as usual. As the students were stimulating their gallbladders in an “asana”, one of the students said she had her gallbladder removed and asked, “so what am I supposed to feel right now? Can’t I feel the emotions you are telling us about right now?” I had nothing to say to the student because I had no idea and I preferred not to comment if I was not well-informed about a subject. I told the student, ” I have not idea about this subject and I do not want to misinform you. Let me look into this subject and give you more information in our next class.”

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Once I got home, I looked into my books but could not find anything about this subject. So I googled. Guess what I had seen? Many teachers were asked this question in their yoga classes.

Even if we had a surgery and had one of our organs removed, the energy of that organ did not vanish. We continued to feel that energy. The gallbladder was related with our courage, action and flow as well as the element wood. The energy of the element wood is clarity and therefore when this energy is in balance, we could see clearly and take action.

The gallbladder and liver are partner organs. The gallbladder is a “yang” organ and the liver is a “yin” organ. “Yang” organs are related with digestion and transmission of nutrients in the body. “Yin” organs are responsible for production, regulation and storage of fundamental substances. The gallbladder produces and releases bile and controls decision-making and planning. It affects our dreams. Emotionally, gallbladder is related with inspiration, passion for life, decisiveness, courage and taking action. If we do not enjoy life and have difficulties in making decisions, it means we may have a problem with the gallbladder energy. If this energy is in balance, we are happy, healthy, decisive and passionate.

The emotion of liver and gallbladder is anger. If we feel anger and we cannot burst it out, then we can have problems in liver and gallbladder meridian. If you are under stress and not eating healthily, you may deteriorate the energy of this meridian. When the meridian is unbalanced, anger shows up and it can have some visible effects on your body. You may have red face and eyes, you may get angry very easily, you may suffer from ringing in the ears and migrane.

Moreover, gallbladder affects sleep. If you have a problem with this organ, you may wake up suddenly in the middle of the night or early in the morning and could not fall asleep again.

According to yin yoga, meridians, acapuncture and Chinese medicine, even if the gallbladder is removed, we continue to feel the energy of this organ. If we go on eating fat and spicy food which is harmful for the gallbladder and do not change our diet, then we go on feeling the damp-heat of the gallbladder. When the gallbladder is removed, we can feel its deficiency in our body since it does not do its duty in the body. Despite everything, we could go on acapuncture treatment on this meridian and benefit from it as if our gallbladder was not removed.

What I learned from my google research was that even if any of our organs was removed, the emotion and effects of it on our body remained. Maybe a little less but the energy was not vanishing. Therefore the energy of the organs and meridians were eternal.

What about trying to observe what you feel inside even if your organ is removed in our next yin yoga session when we focus on meridians? What about laughing if you want to, what about crying if you want to, what about shouting if you want to, what about grumbling if you want to, what about showing your anger if you want to? You and I have altogether learned what will happen if we keep our emotions inside and do not show them. So what about expressing your emotions instead of keeping it to yourself?

I have been focusing on core strengthening flows and inversions in my yoga classes for a long time. I do not know why but if it is summer and if it is hot, almost all students want to focus on flow classes and get the most benefit from that class. We forget to stretch our bodies in those times. And when we start stretching our bodies, the body reminds us for how long time it has been neglected.

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Last week was the week of fall equinox, So we focused on “surya namaskara” (sun salutation) flows and core strengthening flow classes in last week’s yoga classes. One of the groups told me that they wanted to stretch their bodies. However, they did not want to stay long in “asana”s (poses) as “yin yoga” style but wanted a dynamic stretching instead.

Following opening meditation, we sat in cross-legged position and laterally stretched the spine. After bending the spine forward, we got on all-fours for “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow strtech) and relieved the spine with a twist.

As the students wanted dynamic stretching, we got into “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog) after the twist on all-fours. In this pose, we stretched calf muscles and then we bent the knees and straightened them in order to extend “hamstring” muscles.

Throughout the class, we mostly did standing poses like “lateral stretching” in “tadasana” (mountain pose), “uttanasana” (standing forward bend), “parsvakonasana” (side angle pose), “ashwa sanchalanasana” (high lunge), “anjaneyasana” (low lunge), “eka pada raja kapotasana” (pigeon pose), “square”, “gomukhasana” (cow face pose) and did the arm position of “garudasana” (eagle) pose when sitting in gomukhasana. After “upavistha konasana” (seated angle pose) we ended the class with a twist and “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

As we would not wait long in poses that day, I started to do the flow together with the students. We closed the eyes and felt the warming up of the spine. Then we got into downward facing dog and realized how tense our hamstring and calf muscles were. When dynamically stretching the body, we flew from one pose to another with the help of our breath and as if we were dancing. No interruption between the poses, and a class like a dancing class.

In the poses, I tried to find out for how long we had been focusing on flow classes. Of course we are strengthening the bodies with flow classes but what about the flexibility of the body? We were stretching our mind and thoughts when we stretched our bodies, weren’t we? How tense we got without even realizing. I saw that I was having difficulties in poses which I used to do so easily and it was so hard to wait for even a few breaths in these poses. My body got strongther ok, but it also needed a good stretch. I had forgotten the yin-yang cycle. I decided to always remember the yin-yang cycle in my daily life and my yoga classes, starting from that moment. Life was not just full of excitement, heavy flows and entertainment but it was also full of calm times and the times we turned inward. I once more thank my students for reminding me this very important motto and I bend with respect in front of them. Namas’te.

Sometimes I find myself always busy with some projects and plans. Yoga classes, meetings, hangouts, excursions, trips and a rush. In those days, I do not even think of taking a rest even for a while. I feel like time is flying so quickly and I cannot catch up with it. Can you imagine living your entire life this way? We will get exhausted at one point, won’t we? And I feel myself tired and exhausted after such an active period of time. Yang, isn’t it?

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Then I start to live my days in a calmer way. I start to take a rest, read books and live on my own. I start spending time alone and turn inward. Yin, isn’t it?

Just like in my daily life, my yoga classes are affected with my yin and yang mode. When I feel myself so yang, my classes show up to be yang and especially I teach “vinyasa” (flow) style classes. We flow from one “asana” (pose) to another just like I rush from one place to another in my daily life. In such a time, I focus on core strengthening classes, backbends, arm balancing poses and inversions.

When my yin mode is on, I focus on stretching the body. I teach yin yoga classes, stay longer than usual in all poses and aim to ensure body and mind relief. I use “pranayama” (breathing) techniques and meditation to calm the mind down.

After a busy week, my “yin” mode was on in my classes. I was on “yin” mode but what about the students? Students usually prefer flow yoga in evening classes so we practiced “vinyasa” with them. When I went to one of my morning private groups, students were also in “yin” mode, which pleased me a lot.

Following a long meditation, we practiced “butterfly,” “half frog”, “half saddle”, “dragonfly”, “sleeping swan”, “melting heart” and “twisted roots.” We stayed for four minutes in each pose and tried to accept the body as it was at that moment and surrender that way. We observed how we got deepened in the pose as minutes passed. We ended the class with a long “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose).

What if life was monotonous? What if there was only the night and not the day? What if there was only summer and not the winter? What if the world was just full of women and not men? What if we were living our lives so quickly and in a rush or what if we had a dull and calm life? How boring it would be, wouln’t it? Yin and yang… Feminine and masculine… Sometimes yin and sometimes yang. What is important is to establish the right balance and flow. When we want to act crazy and live our days full of joy, to be “yang” and when we want to rest, calm down and live in serenity, to become “yin”… Shortly yin and yang… Shortly a life in a right flow…

Days, months and years go by. And again International Women’s Day comes. Before posting a blog on this special day, I take a look at my previous posts. Actually I have something in my mind but I want to remember what I wrote in the previous years. Guess what? I posted blogs on violence against women and women being hurt and oppressed. What has changed in a year? Could we make a difference? Unfortunately I could not keep myself from thinking that everything had been worse in my country.

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March 8 International Women’s Day. How did March 8 become the international women’s day? Let’s first remember this. On March 8, 1857, garment workers in New York City marched and picketed, demanding improved working conditions, a ten hour day, and equal rights for women. Their ranks were broken up by the police. 129 women died and at least 10,000 people attended their funeral.

On August 26-27, 1910 at the Second International, a world wide socialist party congress, German socialist Clara Zetkin proposed that March 8th be proclaimed International Women’s Day, to commemorate the US demonstrations and honor working women the world over. On March 16, 1977 United Nations General Assembly decided to celebrate March 8 as the “International Women’s Day.”

How could we, the women, accept losing all these rights we have gained with so many difficulties? I cannot understand it. Particularly if we take into consideration the violence against women, the rapes and women killings in our country, shouldn’t we respect women’s right more than ever and try to protect them? Isn’t this an imposition of male-energy societies? Have we returned back to old patriarchal days? I really think so.

If we go back to old ages, just remember King Hattusili III of the Hittite Empire, who made the first peace treaty in the world. The treaty was also sealed with Hittite Queen Puduhepa, which meant that the queen also had a word to speak in the name of the empire. Moreover, in the Yazilikaya Open Air Sanctuary, God of  Sky and Storm Teshub was decorated together with his spouse Hebat. The “mother earth” belief system in Anatolia goes back to 7,000 BC. The belief system reflected by fat women figurines which emphasize the women aspects of a body in agricultural settlements like Catalhoyuk and Hacilar had developed in thousands of years and was the basis of the Kybele/Cybele mother earth belief in the Phrygian world. An agricultural society, the Phrygs converted “the Great Mother” into a goddess of nature and believed this goddess symbolized the fertility in the nature. This mother earth cult of the Phrygian world was later adopted by the Greek and Roman world. The Greek called this goddess as “Meter Megale” and the Romans as “Magna Matar.”

In ancient Turkish societies, Umai was the “goddess of birth” and “the goddess who protected the family, marriage and the generations.” Umai was a spirit who was worshipped to make women more fertile. Known as a mythological deity, Umai was referred in the ancient Turkish “Orhun” monuments, “Turfan” monuments and Mahmud al-Kashgari’s “Diwan ul-Lugat al-Turk.” In the Orhun moruments, Umai was mentioned together with the God of Sky Ulgen and it was written that Kul Tigin was born with the help of Umai. Moreover, Turkish is actually one of the most democratic languages that when we say “O” we mention both all female and male creatures.

The matriarchal societies were replaced with partriarchal societies as agriculture developed and animals were domesticated. When animals were domesticated, men stopped hunting and settled down. Thus, men pushed the women to the second place at home and in the society and became the leader at home and in the society.

These are only the social reasons of transformation from matriarchal to patriarchal societies. There were also psychologic reasons of this transformation. According to yoga master Osho, men have an inferiority complex for they are not as creative as women. Osho thinks women are more creative than men because of their capability of giving birth and says that men are aware that women are superior than themselves. He also states that men tend to supress women, usurp women’s rights and push them to a second place in society in all societies in order to overcome their inferiority complex. Moreover, men do not want women to work and earn their own living, make them give birth to as many children as they can, make them stay at home and make them financially-dominant in order to keep women stay beside them.

As matriarchal societies were demolished and replaced with partriarchal ones, the world started to be ruled with male energy. Female energy was annihilated. Let me explain female and male energy with yoga. According to yoga belief, human body sets up of two energies. Feminine and masculine energies. Masculine energy starts from the coccyx and ends in the right nostril, whereas feminine energy also begins at the coccyx but ends in the left nostril. The male part is hot and active while the female energy is cold and passive. The male side is solar energy but the female side is lunar energy. This is how hatha yoga came out. Simply, ha means sun and tha means moon. Body is formed with the unification of these two dual energies. The aim is to balance the masculine and feminine energies, awake the divine force believed to live in the root chakra (muladhara chakra), help rise this divine force through the seven chakras, join the female and male energies in the third eye chakra (ajna chakra) and get enlightened.

Male-dominant societies are unfortunately aggressive and warrior. Since the birth of humanity, men hunt and they try to be strong by ignoring their emotions in order to hunt. Unfortunately, for we are living in a male-dominant world, we use this energy just to produce weapons and to fight. Because of this energy, the world is gradually getting more aggressive and cruel.

“Yang” is trying to change the world. To change ourselves, to change our life and the world. To struggle to make this change. To do something to make this change. Sometimes to push hard the life and ourselves. However “yin” is accepting. To accept everything as it is and to surrender. To accept life and ourselves as we are. Actually when we accept ourselves and do not push life hard, maybe everything will go in the right track but however we are so much “motivated by being the doer, being the active side” that we cannot surrender to life.

Being a woman? Bending, stretching, creating, accepting and surrendering… Moving with the flow of life… Accepting everything as it comes to you and just the same as something leaves you… Being one with the life, flowing with life.. Melting and eradicating the stiffness of masculine energy in the compassion of the feminine energy…

Awakening the female energy? March 8 International Women’s Day… Women! Let this magnificent energy flow out of you! What is my suggestion? Of course, yoga and particularly yin yoga. A yoga class or practice which awakens your second chakra, swadisthana chakra (sacral chakra). That is, a yoga practice focusing on hip openers. The second chakra, including our sexual organs, is associated with sweetness and creativeness, which is not something that can be ignored. In order to be creative, we should leave aside anger and disappointment and we should forgive ourselves if we feel guity. Sharing is related with the energy of the second chakra. Creativity intermingles us with other people.  A chakra associated with the element water. Water is soft and flexible. As Lao Tzu said, “The best of man is like water,  Water is good; it benefits all things and does not compete with them. It dwells in (lowly) places that all disdain.That is why it is so near to Tao… Bend and be straight; Empty and be full; Wear out and be new; Have little and gain.” Hoping that feminine energy can get the place it deserves in the world again, aggression is replaced with understanding and empathy, war is replaced with peace, and that we can accept and surrender more…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

“To be one and whole”… “The unity and integrity of the body, mind and soul”… The meaning of “yoga”… “To be yoga”… I have been teaching yoga for three years. Are my classes just a physical workout or can I touch the souls and minds? Are my classes bring bodily relief and progress or do they change the perspective on life and make spiritual and mental progress? Can I make a change even it is a minor change? Can my classes go beyond physical exercise and enable bodily, spiritual and mental unity and integrity? Could I make a difference in the perspective, approach and stance of my students on life?

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You may have thought why I am talking about all these. I have been often thinking about it recently. Are my classes just physical exercise? Do my classes consist of a series of asanas joined to each other and a peak pose that “is tried to be done” at the end of the class? Can I make a change in approaches and stance? Or in energetical sense? Does male or female energy prevail my classes? And I am thinking about life when I am thinking all these. The country we are living and the world. The recent incidents. And a question comes to my life: Why do we let the male energy prevail the world and dominate us? Why this much violence? Why this much anger? Why this much battle, row, argument, war and terror? Why and why?

In these days when violence prevails, i.e. the male energy, prevails… In these days this cruelty, this anger and this terror is more violent than ever, I am heading towards a yoga class and I am about to write a blog. Just watch yourself when you fell this much tense. Go over your body. For example beware of your shoulders. Maybe you have lifted your shoulders up and brought them close to your ears. Thus, you have squeezed the shoulder girdle and neck and become more tense? Are you squeezing your teeth? What about the area between the eyebrows? As you may have realized, our body gets tense when we feel tense and stressed and certain parts of the body gets tense. Therefore relaxation and relief start from the body. When we relax the body and the face, internally we can feel more relaxed and relieved.

Yes, I was feeling tense and first of all I tried to relieve and relax my own body. My shoulders were up and my face was really serious. I had also squeezed my teeth. First I relaxed myself and I suggested the students the same thing. “Soften your face, watch your shoulders. Roll your shouders back and push your shoulder blades towards your coccyx. Shoulders away from ears.”

That day we focused on “yin yoga” in order to reduce male energy and boost female energy. In my earlier posts, I had written that “yin” and “yang” were adjectives that were explaining “the duality” of life. “Yin” was the female energy and associated with “cold, winter, dark and passive” whereas “yang” was male energy and associated with “hot, light, summer and active.” Yin energy represented acceptance, surrender, let go, softening, tolerance and patience. Yang energy was “being the doer” and “active” whereas yin was “acceptance” and “being inactive and passive.” Similarly “yang” or “the male energy” was being aggressive but “yin” energy was tolerance and patience.

Unfortunately, the male energy prevails the world for centuries and therefore there are still conflicts, rows, battles, wars and terror in the world. According to yoga master Osho, the world is prevailed by male energy by 99 percent and the female energy is very limited. The only remedy is to release the female energy. Wars and terrorism cannot be prevented by demonstrations or anti-war protests because this is also a male energy.

According to the yoga master, the protestors are as aggressive as anybody and peace protests could turn into a revolt. Sooner or later buses are burnt, police are attacked by stones, police use tear gas and attack protestors by truncheons. Even for a good intention, peace cannot be ensured as male energy prevails. Osho says: “we are going to war in order to gain peace. What a conflict! We are going to war this way for centuries but we have not brought peace yet. Humanity has got into 5,000 wars in 3,000 years but it was no use because ideologies are male. (Therefore) female energy should be released. This is how balance is ensured.”

That day all these words of Osho wandered in my mind throughout the class. Do not focus on the goal, just enjoy the journey. If you focus on the goal, you become aggressive. You become greedy and male energy prevails. However if you let go with the flow, you only “be the flow yoursel”, “a state of acceptance” and “a surrender.”

And the end of class… We should equalize both energies to maintain balance. Not only bodily but also in our lives, our stance and approaches… We should give importance to female energy in the world, we should adopt female energy and try to boost female energy. More flexible, more tolerant, more acceptive, softer, more flowing, more passive, more receptive and more humane… When the female energy is boosted, violence will be less. Violence is destructive and creative energy, i.e. the energy of love, turn into a destructive energy if not used. Therefore, for better and more peaceful days in our country and the world lacking violence, we should boost female energy and become more flexible, more tolerant, more acceptive, softer, more flowing, more passive, more receptive, more creative and more humane… Not only men but also women…

 

 

We have been used to such a rush in our daily lives that we do not know how to stop and take some time. We are even against time. We are always in a hurry. We either try to get to somewhere and therefore rush and we do not even have a single moment to realize what we are doing to ourselves. We cannot see how time flies. We look at the watch and see it’s morning and the next time we look at the watch comes the evening. What have I done all day? Am I always a “doer?” What if I stop for a while, get calm, ease my stance? Why am I always in a hurry? Have I thought about the reason? Maybe it’s just because we want to occupy our minds and just live. Just breathe and end another day no matter what…

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I have been writing about my yoga classes and my own practice for some time. You may wonder why I am writing so philosophically this time. In my last private class, my student was experiencing some health issues. If you are practicing yoga, you are used to different types of emotions and “pain.” When I say “pain”, do not think that we are torturing ourselves. The “pain” we feel in yoga is the physical tension we feel in an asana, our emotions, our mind and breath. All of them. When getting into an asana, the muscle tension we feel in a certain part of the body, the slow relaxation of that muscle when waiting in an asana, the smooth emotion, feeling, patience and serenity that we feel when relaxing and stretching. On one hand being eager to get out of the pose with the provocation of the mind, on the other hand trying to stay in the asana with the patience and serenity of our soul. This is what I mean by “pain.” Focusing on breath, accepting what we are experiencing calmly and with serenity and surrendering…

For we have been practicing together for a long time, my student got used to such “pain.” That was the first time I had seen her experiencing such a “physical pain.” As she was working before computer for long hours, she was having some health issues. As you may guess, neck and shoulder problems. That moment, I realized that we were in a “yang” (male energy) stance with this student in our classes. Continuously “the doer.” Always “vinyasa” (flow) classes. Never slowed down. Never smoothened the stance. Never assumed a “yin” (female energy) stance. Always worked on challenging asanas. Inversions and backbends. What has happened to the balance of life? Why have we been trying and trying to do and achieve something instead of accepting and surrendering? We have lost balance.

Even if we have lost balance, life was reminding the balance again and again. It was urging us to find our balance again by sending us some physical disturbances. Surely if we could see the signs. I myself experienced some physical disturbances a few months ago and remembered to assume a “yin” stance and slow down. Now it was my student’s turn. She would also “accept and surrender.”

That day we worked on stretching and strengthening the neck and shoulder girdle. First we rounded the neck to right and left and then we moved the neck forward and backward like a “turkey.” If we spend a lot of time before computers, moving the neck like a “turkey” could help. Then we turned the head to right and waited there for five breaths and then to the left. We did it for five times. The next neck strengthening exercise was to bend the neck to back and squeeze the back of the neck in an inhale and in an exhale bringing the chin to chest and stretch the back of the neck. Then we dropped the right ear to the right shoulder and stretched the left side of the neck with the help of our right hand and the vice-versa. Then we put the hands on the forehead and tried to push the head backward but at the same time tried to push it forward so that the neck would not move. The same thing for the sides of the head and the back of the head. Thus neck muscles would get stronger.

Believe me, I felt so well with these exercises. I was joining some “stretching” and “back therapy” classes of my friends but I had not realized that my neck really needed such exercises. I am used to giving verbal directives in my own yoga classes and preferred not to show off asanas but that day I joined my student when practicing the exercises and felt so good. Some “strange” noices came out of my neck and I really felt relaxed when neck exercises ended.
It seemed that I was a “doer”, so much a “doer.” I was continously exerting efforts and moving all the time. As my health disturbances were over, I stopped acting slowly and again assumed a “yang” stance. I was back to the quick life and rush.
Moreover, my student was just like me. We were mirrors to each other. She also liked a lively and quick life. Taking some time was not our kind. Therefore, our classes were always flow classes. Also, we are used to such active classes that the class focusing on neck and shoulder did not please us. You know that it was not so easy to change the mind and please it. We were thinking how we could turn the class into “yang” style. First we need to convince the mind: “Today we have decided on a calm class focusing on neck and shoulder and we know that a slow class could also be enjoying. Just a little bit patience and serenity. Wait and see what the class brings.”
After relieving the neck, it was time to work on the shoulder. We only used the arm positions of “garudasana” (eagle) and “gomukhasana” and relieved and relaxed shoulder blades and shoulder girdle. When inhaling we brough the shoulders towards the ears and when exhaling we dropped them. We put the hands on the shoulders and rolled the shoulders. With “broken wings” we stretched the shoulders and stretched the shoulder blades. We sat in “sukhasana” (easy pose) and we extended the hands in front of us. In an inhale we extended the arms forward as much as we could and in an exhale we rolled the shoulders back and pushed the shoulder blades towards the hips.
Before “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose), we got the wall and leaned the back of the head, shoulders, upper back and hips to the wall. The palms were turned to the wall. When pushing the palls to the wall, we tried to keep the body towards the wall instead of letting in go forward. Two-way pressure.
My closing words were not targeting the student but myself. I was thinking out loud and trying to convince my own mind: “We are in such a rush in our daily lives that we do not consider whether we have lost the balance among our mind, body and soul. Why are we in such a hurry and rush? Why are we hurrying all the time? Why can’t we get calm? Why can’t we slow down? Even this exact moment has passed. Do we really seize the moment? Could I spend some time with the dog or the cat I saw this morning before getting in my car or did I just get in the car and try to get somewhere on time? How could spending a few moments with a cat or a dog withhold me? What could I use? Anyway, I could lose nothing. I could just seize the moment. If I did not seize the moment, if time flew and if today became history, I would just regret looking back. I would have lots of regrets and a lot of time to use sentences starting with ‘if only.’ However, if I seized the moment and lived this way, the past would just be ‘the past’ and ‘history.’ As Roman poet Ovid says, “take rest: A field that has rested gives bountiful crop.”

I decided to stretch and relieve my body with yin yoga after a long cardiovascular workout last week. I have been practicing ying yoga for at least one and a half hours three times a week for two years. If you ask me what yin yoga is, I can tell you that it is stretching your body up to your connective tissues by waiting at least two minutes in an asana. When you do not tighten your muscles and let them free, you can stretch yourself till your deep connective tissues and you can observe incredible bodily changes in time. The same thing happened to me. My body has stretched more and more day by day and it was not enough for me to stay in an asana for three minutes like I did when I first started yin yoga. Three minutes became five minutes, five minutes seven minutes and seven minutes ten minutes. And then came last week.

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I sat in my yoga mat after one-hour cardiovascular workout and half-hour dumbell workout. I wanted to start with “half butterfly” and bend my spine forward. My aim was to turn inside and get calmer after this much yang workout. I listened to my favorite melodies as usual. That was wonderful. I let myself out. I got into the pose as much as my body let me to. I accepted that stage of my body and did not compare it with the previous day or days before. Maybe I could bend my spine forward more and more a day before but I might be staying above that point. No problem. I surrendered my body and I let my body get into the pose slowly and slowly. I was totally on my leg sometime later. The melodies let me turning inside more and more.  I did not know how long it took. I opened my mind and looked at the watch. And what I saw? I was in the same position for ten minutes. I got out of the pose slowly. Since “half butterfly” was an asymmetric pose, I should also stay in the other side for ten minutes. I was more cautious this time. I was glancing at my watch. After ten minutes were over, I had flexed my spine, bent my body forward, surrendered and turned inside.
It was now time for a backbend. I should turn outside by bending backward and getting into a spinal extension. After twenty minutes of a forward bend, I was feeling nerveless. I should wake myself up. I decided on “half saddle.” I chose this asana for also physical reasons. After one-hour walk, I had to stretch quadriceps muscles. It was also an asymmetric pose. I would stay five minutes on the right and left side. Since my spine would bend backward and I would feel the pose in my lower back, I decided to stay only five minutes. I closed my eyes. The lights above were disturbing me so I put a towel on my face. Melodies in my ears, my eyes closed. I silenced my senses. It was a bit extravert asana but I managed to turn inside. I did not know how long I stayed there. I was so relaxed. Do not think that I was sleeping. I wasn’t. Like “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) My senses silent, my mind silent and my body relaxed. I was hangingo out. I could not believe my eyes when I looked at my watched after I took the towel off my eyes. I was staying in “half saddle” for ten minutes. Since it was also an asymmetric pose, I waited in the other side for ten minutes too.
The other asanas I practiced that day were “dragonfly”, “frog”, “sleeping swan”, “square”, “melting heart”, “sphinx”, “seal”, “sarvangasana”, “halasana”, “karnapidasana”, “setu bandhasana” and “cat tail.”
That day, my practice lasted for two hours because I stayed longer than usual in all poses. I was so peaceful that I relaxed more and more in “savasana” and I surrendered my body. My body was so heavy that I thought it did no more belong to me. After a long and deep resting and relaxation pose, I ended my practice. Everything was so nice until next morning.
Next morning, I woke up with a pain in my groin. Yes, you guess. I hurt my “iliopsoas”, a muscle between upper and lower bodies, just because I overstretched myself. That is, relaxing in “half saddle” and passing out was no good to me.
How did this injury affect me? Since this muscle is located between the lower and upper body, it was even difficult for me to walk. Taking steps, working my core muscles, lifting my legs up to 90 degrees, climbing the stairs… All were hard for me since we use this muscle in all these things. My daily life was limited.
What should one do in such a situation? Stop, rest and wait until recovery. Do you think I did that? Unfortunately no. I went on with my daily cardiovascular workout, yoga classes and own practice. But I stopped doing backbends. I did not want to stretch and hurt this muscle more and therefore I stayed away from poses that stretch the muscles in front of my leg. Even this was a huge step for me.
What was the lesson? Or would I listen if I drew a lesson from this experience? I am doubtful. But what was the lesson? During my yin yoga teacher training program, our teacher said something: “Yin yoga is associated with mothers’ love, affection and compassion. Now observe yourself when staying in this pose. How do you behave your body? Do you behave as a mother with compassion or do you behave it cruelly? Do you behave your body with compassion, affection, love and ease as if a mother does to her kid or do you push yourself hard as a warrior? Do you continue to stay in the pose with pain if your feet hurt because you are a warrior or do you put a blanket under your feet and ease the pain like an compassionate mother. Which one?” I know who I am. What about you?

The falling leaves, cool weather, less sunshine, more clouds and sudden rainfall… Yes, again autumn has come. And September 23rd the fall equinox. Day and night was equal. However, this equinox was a bit different from that on March 21. On March 21, there is the summer ahead of us. We all know that days will be longer, the northern hemisphere will be hotter with longer and brigther days. However, on September 23rd heralds darker, shorter and colder days for the northern hemisphere. You may think, “what’s the use of informing us about all these geographical facts?” In fact, it concerns us. If you keep following  my blog for some time, you must have seen that the sun and the moon affect our bodies, souls and minds. So do the changing seasons. They all affect our yoga practice. What type of yoga should be do in the fall equinox and the following two-and-a-half-month fall season?

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Before talking about this issue, I have to first remind some facts about Indian science of living, “Ayurveda.” As you all know, Ayurveda classifies bodies in three different types, called “doshas” and named “vata”, “pitta” and “kapha.” “Vata dosha” dominates in some bodies whereas “pitta” and “kapha” doshas dominate in some others. Similarly, certain “doshas” dominate the seasons. Fall is the season of “vata dosha.” “Vata” is a “dosha” that activates the nervous system and the process of elimination and governs movement in the body. The qualities of vata are cold, dry, rough, light, changeable, irregular and moving. Vata is composed of elements of air and space. As the energy of vata increases during fall, we may feel ourselves unbalanced and ungrounded. For this reason, we should attach importance to grounding in our yoga practice. When we are practicing a standing asana, we should feel the energy of the earth under our feet and try to feel more grounded and when we are in a seated asana, we should try to ground ourselves from our buttocks.
In order to balance the energy of vata and to feel a bit warmer energy, we can also use “pranayama” (breathing) techniques. We can close our left nostril and inhale and exhale through our right nostril, which will wake the male and solar energy in our bodies and help get and feel warmer in the cooler days of autumn.
When we talk about equinox, whether its fall or spring, we should always talk about a balance. Day and night are equal in these times of the year and either night or day will start to get longer in the following few days. When night and day are equal, dark and brightness will be equal. We should establish a balance between fire and water and yin and yang are equal. Static and dynamic, known and unknown, inner and outher journey, seen and unseen, logic and intuition, conscious and unconscious because on September 23, we are moving from sun to moon, light to dark, yang to yin, outer achievements to inner reflection, action to contemplation and fire to water. To this end, balance is so important in these times of the year. Either in our yoga classes or own yoga practice, we should practice balancing poses like “vrksasana” (tree pose), “garudasana” (eagle pose), “natarajasana” (dancer’s pose), “utthita hasta padangusthasana” (hand to toe pose) and “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III).
Moreover, we can practice asanas stimulating the lung and large intestine meridians during the fall equinox and autumn. For instance, “marjaryasana-bitilasana” (cat-cow stretch), “adho mukha svanasana” (downward facing dog), “uttanasana” (standing forward bend), “tadasana” (mountain pose), “high lunge”, “virabhadrasana I” (warrior I), “parsvakonasana” (wide angle pose), “garudasana” (eagle pose), “natarajasana” (dancer’s pose), “apanasana” (knees to chest pose), “yogic cycles” (abdominal work) ve “jathara parivartanasana” (abdominal twist) can be a beneficial flow to stimulate large intestines and lungs.

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“Eka pada adho mukha svanasana” (three legged downward facing dog), “virabhadrasana III” (warrior III), “virabhadrasana II” (warrior II), “trikonasana” (triangle), “parighasana” (gate pose), “ardha chandrasana” (half moon pose), “malasana” (squat pose), “bakasana” (crow pose), “sirsasana” (headstand), “dandasana” (staff pose), “paschimottanasana ” (seated forward bend),  “balasana” (child pose), “phalakasana” (plank pose), “chaturanga dandasana” (low plank), “salabhasana” (locust pose), “dhanurasana” (bow pose), “supta virasana” (supine hero pose), “bhujangasana” (cobra pose), “vasisthasana” (side plank pose- Sage Vasishta pose), “marichyasana” (SageMarichi twist), “ustrasana” (camel pose) are other asanas we may practice in our yoga classes and own yoga practice during fall.
I have said that we should attach importance to grounding in our yoga practice during fall. “Ujjayi pranayama” (victory breath) not only warms our bodies up but also prevents us from getting injured. So, it is an efficient breathing technique we can use in all our yoga practices throughout the year, not only in autumn.
We can feel more flexible due to the increasing element of “vata” in fall and we can cross our limits and get injured. Therefore, we should practice at a slow, smooth and steady pace. We can stay in “savasana” (deep relaxation and resting pose) — the sine qua non asana of all yoga classes — longer than usual to balance vata energy. We can get a blanket and cover our eyes with an eye pillow to feel calmer.
I used all these recommendations in my yoga class on the equinox. I had not realized when I was preparing the flow but when we were flowing from one asana to another during the class, I was enlightened. I prepared such a class that made me so surprised. One asymmetric asana was followed by a symmetric one. We first stimulated one side of our body and then the other side. Then we practiced an asana that worked both sides of our bodies at the same time. For instance, “tadasana” (mountain pose) following “vrksasana” (tree pose). So, what was the effect of this type of class on our bodies and souls? I had a class with the same group two dayks later. I was talking to one of my students before the class. My student said, “last class in which we focused on equinox, we stimulated our bodies, souls and minds so well. I had so much work to do at the office in that afternoon but they meant nothing to me. We balanced our bodies so well by practicing an asymmetric and a symmetric asana one after the other that the class served its aim. We all got the message and felt the effect you wanted to give in that class.”
Getting such feedbacks from my students make me so happy as yoga is a matter of energy. I want to give and convey energy and if they can get this energy and feel themselves relieved, relax and serene at the end of the class, this means that the class reaches its aim.
Days, months and seasons… One come after the other. There is a flow in our daily lives like in yoga. Always an action. Winter, spring, summer. And now comes the autumn. We can practice different types of yoga to make our bodies, minds and souls happier and calmer in each season What is important is to ensure the integrity, unity and balance of our bodies, minds and souls in all these seasons. The rest! No need to care about!