Schnupperwoche bei der VH 12.-16. September

Schnupperwoche bei der VH. Probier’s mal aus! September 12-16.

Meine Kurse sind: Mo: Lunchtime Flow 12:45-13:45, Di: Vinyasa Krama 14:00-15:30, Mi: Complete Body Workout 1 +2 18:45-19:45 und 20:00-21:00, Fr: Fit ins WE 13:30-14:30.

VH Programm

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Your hands have shock absorbers… use them!

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Just like the feet our hands have arches. If you have ever lifted your toes in standing poses you become aware of how those arches stabilize your foundation. Likewise in all poses where you bear weight on your hands it is important to have this buffer which also distributes weight in a way that is friendly to your wrists. Try spreading your fingers out as far and wide from one another as possible (separating and lifting as in the photo), then clapping your hands together. You will feel 3 (if you are really sensitive 4) bony points on each hand and if you look through as I show here, you will see a little cave. This indicates that the arches are lifting. Now relax the fingers only and see what it takes to maintain the arch without using the fingers to do the work. There should be enough of an arch remaining to place a 1Euro coin under the palm of the hand without it touching the hand. (If you have a couple of coins lying around, give that a try). Try it out on all 4’s then move to plank and down dog. For me this translates in a sense of lightness and not as much heaviness in the hands. Can you feel a difference?

** This of course does not take into account all of the other elements through the arms up to the shoulder girdle and thoracic spine which are all key to stabilizing.

What’s up with openly hating on Ashtanga Vinyasa???

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Perhaps I have been in the wrong company over the last two years. I feel that everywhere I go people openly hate on Ashtanga Vinyasa, and it is very confusing.

Since 2012 I have been studying Yoga with intensity, completing a teacher training in Germany and two here in the East Bay of San Francisco. I personally chose to venture out and study different forms, having studied a bit from Iyengar-style, flow, restorative and generally the Krishnamacharya style of asana practice. My personal practice is Ashtanga Vinyasa, although I did start out in the world of Vinyasa Flow back in the day. In each of these trainings, I have consistently heard people speaking in very harsh and unfair terms about the practice of Ashtanga Vinyasa. Interestingly enough, when I start to chime in, there is almost always and interjection about how the discussion is not about Ashtanga, and we are redirected to the matter at hand.

 

So here are some of my comments to some of the remarks I have heard:

“Ashtanga is not a safe practice.”

Ashtanga is a safe practice, if practiced safely.

Time and time again I hear people talking about how unsafe the practice is. I have never injured myself as a result of practice, and I have had just as much instruction as the next person.

I feel that the issue is, many people are focused a lot on going further and not listening to their body/teacher. That element of competitiveness combined with the speed of transitions, plus the independence of Mysore allows for people to go too far, or skip over parts of the practice that they really need to work on.

“Ashtanga is not precise, Ashtangis don’t care about precision”. 

This one is a little harder to explain. Yes, in the practice during a Mysore or led class you follow a given format which allows very little time to work a pose in detail. What it does do is show you your body’s limitations at the moment and gives you a guide where you need to focus more.

As you are supposed to practice 6 times a week, you will at some point be practicing at home. This means there is the opportunity to work a single pose a bit longer, or at another point in the day. As a freelancer I have a home office, so when I am taking a 5-10 minute break I might work that single pose. (I have been working handstand this way for the last 6 months)

There are usually no props used in the traditional practice, but again, why can’t what you do at home be slightly divergent? I, for example always use a blanket or thin mat to support my thigh bones or sitzt bones in the seated postures because I have an imbalance between the two sides and I want to work a little more evenly.

I am not an Ashtanga teacher, but I would be willing to say that most teachers would rather you work with awareness at home and a blanket than pull a hamstring–in my experience the number one rule above all is the consistency of practice.

“Ashtanga Vinyasa was developed for adolescent boys. It is not right for women”. 

Woah. Ashtanga Vinyasa was given to Pattabi Jois as a practice by his teacher Krishnamacharya. It was a method that even Iyengar had practiced, although he was given a different method to work with. Desikachar, Krishnamacharya’s son, was given yet another assignment.

What this tells me is that if Krishnamacharya had taught the three students so uniquely, that there is obviously an asana practice that is right for you, and for some of us it is Ashtanga Vinyasa. Even if you are a woman. That being said, exploring the other practices are also extremely helpful. We have all seen that video of BKS Iyengar flowing through vinyasas. While his work was on more static detail of poses, he still did other things.

It is great that these very different styles exist, so that one can inform the other. Also, to be more aware of the attention that needs to be given to making a practice individual.

“There are no modifications or alternatives for different bodies, so the practice is exclusive of the general population”

NO! It is a strong practice, but in my experience modifications and alternatives are given. Ronald Steiner has an entire methodology intended to make the practice more accessible to people (see Ashtanga Yoga Institute Ulm). Another example is David Garrigues Asana kitchen where he used props all the time to help people work on challenging poses. He even shows modifications for Utkatasana?!

It [Ashtanga] is creepy like a cult.

I mean this one is really subjective, but I get the sense that people who haven’t gotten to experience this practice as it is with an open mind may not get it. There are lots of rules, mantras, and every element of the practice is trancelike in a way. Breath, movement and transitions alike are like a set choreography. There is no music and there is very little talking.

For me this is what allows Ashtanga to actually be even more accessible to different populations.

The idea is to keep your eyes on your own practice. The minimal chatter and the pacing of practice by your breath allows the practice to truly be individual, and there is very little chance for some of those unpleasant comments to come out which cause a lot of hurt and insult to certain groups in the classroom. While you might be paying attention to what the next guy is doing, it is on you and you will eventually be challenged enough to get your nose back on your own mat.

So this doesn’t mean that things like ‘-isms’ and ego do not exist in the Ashtanga Vinyasa practice, it is just not put front and center. To my mind, even with the best of intentions Vinyasa Flow classes inherently bring the elements of our society into play: from the playlist to the metaphors to the reading of quotes and texts. Ashtanga skips all of that during the practice itself. What happens after class and off the mat may or may not change, but eventually, as with the practice of yoga in general, your mental state will shift and you will begin expressing more compassion.

This is not an exhaustive list, but this is the best I can do while my toddler is still occupied. Any comments, questions or different points of view are welcome. This is only my personal experience!

 

 

The winds are changing

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Well, I am going to pick up some lessons at my old studio in Dublin, Ca for the last few months of my stay in the East Bay. Come and practice with me if you can!

What I am most excited about is transitioning back to my old life in southern Germany with all the new knowledge I have picked up along the way in the Bay Area. The teacher trainings at both Yogaworks and Piedmont Yoga have really given me two very diverse perspectives on yoga as a practice, yoga in the west, and the ‘business of yoga’. One thing is for sure: no matter what, the practice of yoga (be it the yamas and niyamas, asana meditation or otherwise) is a healing practice and for those of us who teach, it is a huge responsibility as spokespersons for something that does not necessarily belong to many of us culturally. With the right intention and commitment, however, I feel that we can really help to make our stay on this planet a little more pleasant, and perhaps even evoke the need for change in society.

What happens when it is about the journey and not about the finish line?

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Well, for starters, you no longer worry about the end point, which could be something realistic or completely ridiculous.

Why is it so necessary to have a goal anyway? I am definitely one of the folks who would be called goal-driven, but it isn’t necessarily getting there that is important to me. That being said, it sets you up for a long line of little wins if you are persistent and stay positive. For me, it is actually the little wins getting me closer to the goal that I experience coincidentally that I enjoy the most.

Let’s take Bhujapidasana for example. I recently saw a post by David Garrigues talking of how it takes some students 3 years to get that pose down. I raise my hand. And as a matter of fact it wasn’t even that long ago, and I am still working on lowering my hips (see picture above). I am pretty strong, so I expected to get the hang of it within like 6 months. But let me tell you, from my first attempt, I knew I would be working for quite a while. And I did, diligently. My teacher had given me some instruction, but allowed me to work through a lot of it myself. Then I watched and practiced the David Garrigues ‘Asana Kitchen’ modification, working it for a while that way and then finally after taking a couple of classes from Lakshmi Norwood where she gave me some pointers on technique, I could get into a rough version of the pose. Along the way, my daily home practice supported all of this.

Each step of progress I made… getting my shoulders through my legs in a forward fold, then bending he elbows enough to really ground through the hands, and then finally the counterpressure that allows you to balance… was a small and equally satisfying victory to the end victory (for the moment) of actually finding an endpoint in that range.

That is the point I want to make. Why rush through all the good stuff? I was able to celebrate 4 victories instead of 1. And there will be another one + to come once I feel ready to float into and out of the pose, but that is for another year. Enjoy the journey: not only will your body thank you and allow you to practice for years to come without injury, but you will see how you improve and be able to love your body a little more each time you realize you have moved forward some.

7 Arguments that Prove that Capoeira and Yoga are a Perfect Marriage

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I love the practice of Yoga and the practice of Capoeira. What is nice is that while both have very different roots, they both share so many beautiful qualities, many of which either overlap or compliment one another. This is precisely why I am so keen on studying these similarities. I feel that the perfect combination of both makes for a well-balanced, spiritually aware and socially responsible part of the community.

Here is my (non-exhaustive) list of why the two marry so well:

1) They are both disciplined physical activities that focus on technique and application.

In both, you will study for years and years, and make it to a certain point. That being said, it is never easy, from day 1 to day 1,000.

2) In each you usually learn from one teacher, and a specific style. That teacher is respected and usually guides the student to the next step.

This has changed a bit in the yoga scene, with exception of traditional Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga (my preferred form so my bias). In Capoeira there is also a cord system where you go through a test to be recognized as having a certain proficiency. 

3) Both have music and some degree of spirituality.

In Yoga you find Mantras and Kirtan events where music and songs are chanted, often in call-response. In Capoeira, the Roda <hoda> is the circle where the actual game takes place, and song (also call and reponse), instrument and clapping are used to create, motivate and inspire players and to lift the vibe of the group. SOme Capoeira songs show how it intermingles with Candomblé, a religion in Brasil that was borne of the same roots of capoeira.  Today it is generally acceptable for a practitioner in either Yoga or Capoeira to incorporate or submit to part, none or all of the spiritual  elements present at the basic level, but at a certain point it usually becomes a topic of some study.  

4) The movements are so very similar.

You will find a cross-reference to practically every Capoeira move to a Yoga posture. This is where it gets interesting for me. The body should have the flexibility and strength to move in this way, but the two diverge in one way: in Yoga you go from movement to stillness (this can be anywhere from 1-5 breaths to 2-5 minutes) and in Capoeira you go from stillness to movement (usually only briefly to set up for a block or a kick). 

5) They both use varying degrees of flexibility and strength.

Yoga aires on the side of flexibility and Capoeira more on the side of strength. Yet another reason that both can help to keep the body sound and healthy. 

6) Both Yoga and Capoeira have interest in promoting community well-being

Most every Yoga and Capoeira group offers some community class so that people who otherwise could not afford may attend, and in many cities there are programs for both Yoga and Capoeira in schools which makes a huge difference there. Not only that, but being part of a Yoga group or Capoeira group means being part of a small community that welcomes you globally. For example, if I practice Ashtanga anywhere in the world, I know what to expect, and I am welcomed in the same way as in my home school. Likewise, I have the same feeling of being at home if I practice my form of Capoeira in other places. 

7) Meditation is meditation in both.

This is a little harder to argue (depending on how you define meditation), but just as any Ashtangi will tell you that the practice is your meditation, the Roda is the meditation in Capoeira. The music, the song, the seamless movement and the vibe of the group create a type of meditation that is very interactive, one that takes you away from where you were or will be and puts you right there in the spirit of the moment. That to me is what meditation is all about. 

So, if you have tried one but not the other, jump in there and see what you’ve been missing. It might just be you’re match made in heaven, too!