Back bending, an overview

My focus is back bending.

How many back bending asanas has Ashtanga yoga, I wondered.

1. Setu bandhasana
2. Urdhva dhanurasna

Second Series:
1. Salabhasana A and B
2. Bhekasana
3. Dhanurasana
4. Parsva dhanurasana
5. Ustrasana
6. Laghu vajrasana
7. Kapotasana A and B
8. Supta vajrasana
9. Urdhva dhanurasana

Advanced A:
1. Viparita dandasana
2. Eka pada viparita dandasana
3. Viparita Salabhasana (not possible for me anymore)
4. Ganda Bherundasana (in my next life)
5. Natarajana
6. Raja kapotasana
7. Eka pada raja kapotasana
8. Urdhva dhanurasana
9.. Urdhva dhanurasana

Advanced B:
1. Padangustha Dhanurasana A and B
2. Eka Pada Dhanurasana
3. Eka Pada Kapotasana
4. Parivrttasana A and B
5. Urdhva dhanurasana

OK, I give in. Kapotasana is my next Himalaya. Sometimes it requires many many attempts to climb up this mountain.

Strength training

I started with strength training. This time I found an approach that works. It's a 90 day challenge with different levels that got me going. The book is written by Mark Lauren. I have the German version. There are strength training books for men and for women. Englisch versions exist, too. The exercises are very interesting and exhausting. The 90 day challenge is thought through. I don't agree on everything, but this is OK.

There is a group on facebook who do strenght training with this book. This helps a lot to stay committed. The training is without weight, only the weight of the body is used. After the third day only I have already sore muscles. This is a very positive sign. It means I worked hard, I didn't betray myself.

One day I'll come up from the pose on the picture. Strength is needed to accomplish this.

Is there protein in it?

When I started Yoga over 30 years ago it was clear, a yogini doesn't eat meat. It's possible to survive without doing harm to other creatures. One should live a life full of respect for other creatures on this planet. 

There are few rules, but to live a life in peace with others is one of the few rules. 

It seems clear that muscles are build of protein. If one wants to get stronger it's recommended to eat protein. I even think that I felt so weak years ago, because my nutrition was not adjusted to my lifestyle of 2 and a half hours of Ashtanga yoga. Some poses didn't improve. I felt too weak. I think now that more protein would have made my life easier. 

No matter what sports one wants to do, nutrition is as important as the sportive activity itself. 
The asana practice is so demanding in Ashtanga yoga, that it's a must to reflect on what we eat. 

In the meantime I know people who don't go to restaurants anymore. In restaurants quantity is important, not quality. If one wants to eat well, one must become a chef. 

I go so far to say: An advanced yogini can also prepare delicious and healthy meals. 

I analysed my food with that fitbit tracker. 

Different levels of flexibility

There are different levels of flexibility.

Very flexible people can do a yoga pose without any warm-up. After a deep back bending asana the body allows it to go at once into a deep forward bending asana.

This all gets more difficult when the body gets older.

I need a warm up for most asanas.
Often it feels so much better to do some preparation asanas. In yoga classes this is a tabu. At home I feel free to do whatever feels good.
For me it's so much easier to do urdhva dhanurasana with my hands on a block first before I do the real thing.

I also practice this pose against a wall first. It's very helpful to have an external clue. The idea to bring the chest to the wall is much more useful than to think 'open your heart'. 
It makes sense to look for an external clue if one wants to learn an asana. The alarm clock can also be an external clue, too. It might help to hold an asana longer. Counting the breath is less effective. 

The HOW TO learn a pose is so important. It is neglected in the community. Self-study is a key word here. 

It's Sunday. The sun is shining. We have a guest, my mother-in-law is here. A Sunday excursion is planned. 
I slept longer than I wished. The plan was to get up early to practice before the common breakfast. It didn't happen. I can blame our neighbour why I didn't get up early. They had a party yesterday night. It was already after 1am, when they opened the balcony doors. Loud music could be heard everywhere. I was not the only one who checked who was so ruthless. I saw other neighbours on their balconies. to check who made such a noise at such a time. Party guests smoked on the balcony. the ash of the cigarettes flew through the air. I thought that I got older. I remember that I usually was amused when someone had party time. My life style has changed. I want to sleep before midnight. I love the early mornings. The music was not my taste either. The calm after a storm is very calm. 

Time to see what my darlings are doing.......

Saturday is rest day

Saturday is rest day. Really?

At least it is a yoga free day.

I try to do every day some chores. Nevertheless often the Saturday is a marathon cleaning day. Especially when I expect guests. My mother-in-law is already in the train to Munich. She is on her way to visit us.

A lot is done here, I hope that I can pick myself up again to vacuum. It's usually a loud activity. If one vacuums when not alone the message is clear. Can you hear it. I'm so busy doing chores. And you?
Most chores one can do almost secretly, as if one has brownies. Things get done, but nobody realizes how. Not so when the floor is dirty.  If the vacuum cleaner must leave the storage room to do a cleaning job, it gets loud. It gets on the nerves of everybody.
I remember a story of a colleague. He used to work longer on Thursdays, because every Thursday his wife was vacuuming the floors. This was obviously not his thing. He preferred to work overtime hours than to listen to the sound of the cleaning machine.

Yes, it's possible to take my leg behind my head. It must become comfortably again. The goal is to relax in that pose. One must think: Ahhhhhh, this feels sooooooo goooooood. Right now I think: I hope I can hold this pose till it makes click. Ah, finally I can get out of the pose.

It's easier to work either on back bending or on forward bending asanas. To have both sorts of asanas in one session requires too much flexibility right now.

I'm sitting here, enjoying my Pu Errh tea, I have some ginger sticks with it. The combination of bitter, hot and sweet aroma pleases me.

I'm looking forward to my practice tomorrow morning. I'm so glad that I practice again. Action helps to stop complaining. Action helps to stop blaming others for the own situation. Focusing on the breath doesn't allow destructive thoughts.

I got a warning, a serious warning. I adjusted my practice. But I won't give it up. I see myself as a very old person, still stretching and bending on a sticky mat. Follow me.

A long way down

 A long way down, but I'm on my way.

To take pictures forces me to hold the pose longer than I usually do, as I have to wait till it makes click.

I repeated this pose 3 times. Repetition is always good and helps to get deeper into a pose.

Next time I could lean blocks against the wall.
This could be the next tiny step.

It feels so good to practice, because it becomes easier again.
When stretching pain is felt at every asana I do, it's difficult to motivate myself to keep practicing. Stretching pain is fading away. I can focus on back bending. It requires enough willpower to do these poses and to repeat them and to get a bit deeper. But that's what it is. One must like this sort of exercise and I like it. It's not for everybody.

Advice to my younger self

The first picture is from 2010. The second picture is taken yesterday. One can also learn from the own mistakes. Wall-walking was an exercise I knew also in the past.

I was too close to the wall in picture no 1. With bent arms I'm weak and I cannot push the body forward. The consequence is that the upper body doesn't get such an intensive stretch like in picture no 2.

One must know that there are two forms of kapotasana. In both forms the hands reach the toes. Once the arms are stretched. In the second form the forarms are on the floor. The asana with stretched arms is more difficult. The arch of the back is much more intensive.

I remember that it was not easy to hold the pose in picture no 1. I tried to walk down the wall as fast as possible. I wanted to reach my toes. Being too obsessed with a goal can be a hindrance. The body needs time to adjust.

A better goal would have been to define the next tiny step. One must feel good in a pose. One works from feeling awful to feeling good. In every pose one must search the limit. Then one relaxes, then one goes a tiny bit further. It must be possible to observe the breath when in a pose.

These days I try to reach the floor with stretched arms. My hands might be relatively far away from the toes when this happens. Yet this is the next step to get closer.

Wall walking

Wall walking is a very effective technique. It helps to stretch the arms. It's possible to push the body forwards to stretch the hip flexor. The chest muscles get stretched, too. When walking down the wall, the spine rounds. This feels so good afterwards. 😮

It's helpful to have external clues. I know now exactly the distance of my feet to the wall. My goal is to reach the floor with my hands. I'll track it. To track anything is so motivating.

My timer will help me the next time to hold this pose longer. A timer is also an external support.

Kapotasana is a very demanding pose. Just doing it every day after 90 min of primary is not enough. I did that for 6 years. I focus on second series these days.

My method to learn kapotasana finally:
1. I have tiny goals. Also this pose can be learned step by step.
2. I repeat this asana
3. I do preparation asanas like split pose
4. I take pictures.
5. I'll work with my timer to hold this pose longer.

This morning it was not so easy to start practicing again. No breakfast before a practice, I told myself. Quickly I was on my mat. When it's difficult to start I plan less. As so often I got surprised. I had a lovely practice.

Breakfast NOW.

Stretching pain is fading

I practiced again this morning. Oh, I'm so disciplined again, how I love it. Being disciplined is the very first asana.
Beside my back pain, I also have to handle with this stretching discomfort. That's where I am now. But at least the stretching pain is fading fast when I practice daily. At least I know how it feels when there is no stretching pain. Even supta kurmasana has been comfortable for me. The real goal is not the outer form of an asana, but the ability to relax when in a pose. One day an asana should feel good. Then you're there.

I practice twice these days: In the morning and in the evening. In the morning I focus on back bending. In the evening I focus on forward bending asanas. A few readers might think: OMG so much. But it's much less than I was asked to do when I still went to yoga classes. Two and a half hour lasted my practice only because one pose was not as perfect as it should be. This pose was kapotasana.

After the twists I tried to prepare my body for the leg behind head poses. It was not possible. Not even marichyasana A could be done without pain. I finished my practice. It was not possible to get from sarvangasana to halasana. That was it for today, I thought. Padmasana was possible, so this was my end.

From 9:15 to 11:00 I was on the mat. I did a lot additional asanas, mainly to prepare the back bending.

My concentration improved over the decades. I don't want music anymore. I don't interrupt my practice unnecessarily. I take short breaks when I'm exhausted, but I stay on the mat in a simple twist or baby pose to relax my back. These days I don't want to interrupt my practice with a photo shooting as I want to profit from the heat that I produce during my practice. To stop always cools down the body.

Right now I feel mentally exhausted. I'll rest on the bed for a while. I want to recover.

1. Being disciplined is the first asana.
2. Progress comes with daily practice.
3. Attitude: Be content, so much is possible

Time - keep it simple

Ashtanga yoga is time-consuming. It's not only the practice, it's pranayama and meditation. It's commuting to the classes. I shower much more often, that is before and after the practice. I could go on.

Because this practice is important to me and because it's so time-consuming I got reminded again and again: Keep it simple. Everything.

Several questions help: 
1. Which activities are really important. What can be omitted. Example: watching TV, being online.
2. Less things simplify every life. One must care for things, too. They must be cleaned i.e. Less is more.

Being organized:
Nevertheless things must get done. I always try to organize myself better, so that it seems as if I've less to do.
I have strong routines:
1. I make the bed every morning
2. I do the dishes after every meal.
3. I brush my teeth after every meal. I mention this because it's helpful if you have strong routines.
4. I close the curtains at night and I open them in the morning.

There are tasks that I like to postpone. They exist.

I experimented. I tried to add activities to those strong routines. It didn't work.
But to do one of these 'difficult' tasks before a routine works very well.
That way I feel very prolific.

What's your tip?
How do you fly through your days?
Your comments are very welcomed. 

Accepting the pain

I don't think anymore that my back pain will disappear that fast, perhaps it will disappear never. The words of my orthopedic are still in my mind: It would be a pity if you gave up your practice. And he added. Most people with back pain do nothing.

I practice regularly again, it seems so. I did even a second practice yesterday. Quickly I want to get back to my level of 2 years ago. It's too frustrating not being able to do so many asanas. But there are highlights. Yesterday night I was able to do yoga nidrasana. Wow. What a feeling.

In the morning I focus on back bending. In the evening I focus on forward bending asanas.

One practice is over and I'm looking forward to the next one.

During my morning practice I don't want to take pictures. It interrupts my practice and I need the heat in my body when I practice. I don't want to cool down. This means stiffness and it increases the danger to injure myself.

It might be different in the evening.

Urdhva dhanurasana was great today. What else can I wish.

Morning routine:
- Getting up at 6 am (today it was 2 hours later)
- Drinking coffee and writing my journal.
- Preparing breakfast for my E and sitting with him
- In the meantime the washing machine is running, the bed is made. All these routines happen on autopilot.
- Then I practice.
- Shower
- Blogging
- Breakfast, reading my daily
- Pranayama and Meditation is planned for the afternoon.

I miss the yoginis, but my home practice is safer and more intensive. I learned to concentrate on my practice for 90 min.

Wow, I feel so good. Where is the next horse to ride?