High pain tolerance

40 min of intensive yoga practice are behind me. I sweat. My attitude: Do it. Don't give up again.

I used my timer to hold ustrasana 1 min. I repeated it with one arm stretched against the wall. 1 min was too long then, but next time I'll be there. To work with the timer is great. The timer helps me to jump over my own shadow. I do more than I'd do if I only counted my breath.

I practiced 3 times in a row. Fantastic. From time to time one must also be happy with the accomplishments.

Picture: A veggie burger. Who thinks I ate all that, doesn't know me. Less is more. It is. It was delicious.

Time to move.

Fitbit tells me that I'm inactive. So today I want to see 15.000 steps on my fitbit watch. I love to live Zeitgeist.

In the valley

I curse. I'm sad and disappointed. My practice was painful. Not all the time, but this pain was felt again and again. I had to get out of shoulder stand. At the end I had no willpower anymore to stand the pain.

It is as it is. I don't expect anymore that this pain will disappear fast. I'll have to live with it. It seems as if back bending relieves my back, my nerves, my muscles. This shall be my focus. I got so stiff, too.
Not to work on flexibility is not an alternative.

A timer helps me. I know that it's important to hold a pose long enough if one wants to move deeper and deeper into a pose. Today I used my timer. I set it to 1 min and 10 sec. I give myself 10 sec to get into the pose. Then I focus on breathing. After a while the body adopts, I could feel how the pose, ustrasana, improved during that time.

I practiced. This is what counts.

A sloppy practice is better than no practice

The second practice after a break is often more difficult than the first one. Yes, I practiced, focus was second series. I want to stick to it for some time. It was difficult to practice.

Fake it till you make it.
Be happy that you can do this crazy stuff.
Respect your body.
Search the limits and enjoy how the stretching pain is fading when you  breathe evenly.
Just do it, no matter how.
One hour is enough.

All these sentences guided me through my practice this morning.

I was so weak that I couldn't hold a single chaturanga dandasana. From plank pose I lowered to the floor. Strength training is on my list. Flexibility is not lost totally, because I lost strength. But to be strong is equally important, especially if older. When aging the muscles become weaker.

A friend and long-term reader asked me for my morning routine these days:
The morning routine starts the night before. I take care that I have 7 or 8 hours of sleep. I also want to go to bed before midnight. Not always this is the case. Yesterday I was in bed at 1 am, because I wanted to see a movie again 'Das Leben der Anderen'. Yesterday was a movie day. In the afternoon I saw LalaLand.
In the morning I get up a bit earlier than my E. I brush my teeth, put cold water in my face, dress comfortably and then I prepare a coffee for myself first. I get my daily. It's in front of the main door. Then I prepare a little breakfast for E and a coffee, too. I do enjoy this breakfast time with him. We sit together and chat. Soon he has to go and then often I have a little breakfast, too. I fill the washing machine, I make the bed, clean the sink. Time flies.
Today I was at 9 am on the mat. At 10 am I was through the asana practice. I'm sure that soon I'll practice longer again.
I learned to be flexible in many ways. It's possible to practice after a tiny breakfast. It's not necessary to be hungry on the mat. To practice after sun rise is possible, too. If the rules are too strict, it's very likely that one uses excuses not to practice. For instance: Oh, today I cannot practice because I had a breakfast already. Oh, today it's too late and so on.

When I started yoga 30 years ago I practiced any time.
It's good to know when it's best to practice, but being flexible is good, too. As the title of this blog says: A practice is better than no practice.

To meditate after the asana practice might be good. I prefer to shower first.

Today I'll go out for breakfast. I found a tiny cafe round the corner. I feel as if if I've deserved something special.

The book 'Awakening the spine' by Vanda Scaravelli is next to me. I'll reread it. I'll take it to the cafe.

The picture is taken 7 years ago in Mumbai. It's unique, because I wouldn't take pictures like this anymore. When I saw it today on fb I was so entertained. It reminded me that yoga is fun.

What else:
A few days back I was in a store that sold clothes. The two young ladies and one man talked about yoga. The one lady showed how flexible she was. She did a perfect split pose while standing. The other lady showed dancers pose, but one could see how difficult this pose was and how she avoided the pose. Breath was gone, but she started complaining: I cannot do this pose.

This is the mainstream in the community. They both do Bikram yoga. To learn back bending asanas with dancer's pose is difficult as this asana is not really balanced. Dhanurasana is a better approach. Yoga became goal-oriented. I so understand this. But I keep reminding myself that yoga, like any other activity, too gives us an opportunity to explore life, our life. What is possible today? What will be possible in a year? What do I have to learn to progress? How can I relax or intensify a pose?

What if one masters an asana? The next asana will come that we won't be able to do...... The joy to reach a goal is temporarily, but the joy of a daily practice can remain.
The path and the goal are evenly important. It seems to me that we want to see results, no matter how.
We tend to think: I want to be able to do this asana. Now. As fast as possible.
Another thinking pattern could be: What can I do to learn this pose? How can I learn to learn? What effect has this pose on my body?

My insights from my injury: Get back to a home practice.

I feel good, I feel ready for the day.

Second series feels better

To start a yoga practice with pain is difficult. So after my last primary back pain returned and I stopped practicing again. Instead of yoga I walked. 10.000 steps every day is my goal. To walk is great, but this cannot be everything.

Today I practiced again. Back bending feels better than all these forward bending asanas of primary. Second series is much more balanced.

One hour I practiced. Oh my, I got weak. I still profit from 12 years daily yoga practice. I'm so far away from exercising the whole series. I'm working on it.

So tomorrow another practice is planned.

Picture: It's my substitute for pashasana. Twists feel good, but I also want to relax when in a pose. I do this relaxing pose whenever my back aches.

I'm healing, I think so, I believe so.


I'm brainwashed: Friday is primary day. More than a decade this was my credo. Friday, primary.

It's difficult these days not to follow this rule. But it doesn't feel good. It's possible to do forward bending asanas without creating back pain. Yet primary gives me set backs. After all these forward bending asanas my back has enough.

So last Friday I did primary. Then I could 'enjoy' back pain again. I was not motivated to step on the mat on Sunday again. To start my practice with fascia massage drives me crazy.

Is Ashtanga yoga enough to stay fit? I don't think so. The asset of yoga is that one can become very flexible. I also got stronger, but not strong enough for some asanas. I recommend strength training in addition if you are in your 50th.

As I didn't like to become a sofa animal again due to my returning back issues, I searched and found my fitbit tracker watch. At least 10.000 steps every day became my goal. It feels fantastic to walk. I feel that I become fitter. And tomorrow I'm ready for SECOND SERIES. Friday primary must belong to the past. Who knows for how long. My experience is it's not good for me these days. Second series is more balanced.

To walk 10 000 steps betters the mood. Every mood. I picked me up this afternoon to get out. It was cold so I felt resistance. With my winter coat and a scarf around my neck I felt warm and I walked downtown. At home again, I realized that I had to walk 100 more steps to meet the goal of 10 000 steps. It's ridiculous, but I walked around in my flat till I felt the vibration on my wrist. Yepeeeee....... Done.

These 10 000 steps compliment my yoga practice.

One has to pick oneself up again and again.
I'm in exploration mode and I can enjoy the ride.

A day off

Saturday is a day off. I need it.
My picture project motivated me to practice yesterday. As I'm not that happy with the pictures I took yesterday I'll redo them on Sunday.
Yesterday was Friday. To practice primary on Friday is so in my mind, I cannot stop doing it. It always becomes a nightmare. Back pain returns I don't know why. I know it will disappear when I walk again. Nevertheless, these setbacks challenge me to stay calm and not getting frustrated.
It's back bending that feels good these days. Especially on Friday I must remember this.

Utthita parsvottanasana

Utthita parsvottanasana was the next pose of the standing asanas that I wanted to document. It's a challenge to limit myself and to take a picture of only one asana. To take only one picture or two doesn't interrupt my picture that much. But to turn a practice into a shooting session does interrupt the practice and the flow. This is only one reason why I only take one picture. Another reason is that I want to give my body time to become flexible again. I want to avoid injuries. To practice with passion and committment is great, to be overzealous is dangerous. I have to play it safe these day.

I distinguish between performance practices and exercising practices. At home I'm in a learning mode. I do preparation asanas. I repeat asanas. I rest when it feels good.

Today I realized that I got stronger already. I could hold my body when I lowered it from plank pose. This makes my heart sing.

Once I was in a class and the two yoga teacher were discussing how far the feet shall be apart in utthita parsvottanasana. A student has complained, because one teacher taught her to have the feet rather close together, the other one was the opinion they should be wider away from each other.
For me this is not that important. The asanas of the standing sequence mean strong legs for me. I always check if my legs are engaged. In the above pose I think one shall also learn  to keep the chest open and not to round the back. That's why the hands are in prayer pose behind the back.

This pose used to be challenging for me. It took me years till the chin could touch the shin bone. I haven't lost this pose, but it's painful to get into it. That's why I was downtown yesterday to get a battery for my timer that allows me to set any time till the shutter clicks. The one in the camera has a 20 sec timer. This can be rather short.

My practice lasted 1 hour and 20 min. Then I was spent. My practice is very slowly. I know that I have to develop strength and flexibility slowly if I want to avoid injuries. The mind has stored that so many asanas were possible, but the body has lost the ability. I want to close this gap again.

I'm glad that I'm so disciplined. My practice gets easier with every practice that I did.

My picture project motivates me.
It motivates me to see videos of yoginis and yogis before my practice.

Prasarita padottanasana

Again my picture project motivated me to practice today. There will be 9 more shooting sessions and then I'll have a picture of every asana of the standing sequence. It's what is possible in 2017 after that long break. Especially to move into the asanas can be painful. Yet to sit on the sofa is not enough for me. I want to move, I want to practice Ashtanga yoga. 

I felt stronger today. That is I could hold my body when I lowered it from plank pose. Now I realize how fit I was one year ago. It's possible to get back to that level of fitness and flexibility, why not. 

Document it:
This is a recommendation of almost everybody who wants to learn something seriously. I start a journal only for my yoga practice.A new month has started. It's a new beginning. The focus in February is the standing asanas. 

The steps:
1. I'll take a picture of every asana
2. I'll practice with the CD by Sharath. This will help me to get back to an even flow. 
3. I'll work on some difficult vinyasas. To be a bit more precise: To get out of utkatasana is not only jumping back. It's to shift the weight of the body to the arms. The legs are bent in the air, close to the body. It's possible to hold that interim pose, which is not easy. 

I've a plan for March already. Then I'll focus on the closing sequence. It became difficult, too. That way I've still a bit more time for the middle parts of the series. 

In prasaritta padottanasana the folded hands are supposed to touch the floor. It's possible if I get an adjustment. For me it's not so important to accomplish this alone. The pose as it is now is perfect for me. One day my hands will touch the floor. Till then I'm happy with the current flexibility. I don't think that this pose needs extra attention.