Monday, 21 August 2017

Stop bending the knees!

When your hamstrings are too short.

The truth rely on practice. You can read a Yoga book where all asanas will be well described with the "perfect" alignment and recommendation such as "bending your knees when your hamstrings are too short....".

I have been instructed to do so by some teachers, I have read it on several books, I have seen it during yoga practice and unfortunately I have been doing it and teaching it as well.....

Then when I started to practice with Iain Grysak he told me not to fold my knees in all forward fold (standing and sitting).

I was surprised.... 

But I listened to him and from that day my all practice drastically changed.

All my forward fold were actually folding deeper, the huge pain I used to have on the back of my legs started to disappear while my upper body was getting straighten and my lower back wide open.

I understood something, for instance in Padanghustasana the "goal" (if there was any achievement to it) was not to keep the chest on the knees or lower, it was simplest, just bend forward and the body will adjust to it.

The goal was not to go into one asana in particular with a specific way but more about becoming the asana itself with the actual ability.

Anatomically speaking we can not give or judge a proper alignment for one asana as everyone has a different body type.

Therefore there is no "your hips has to be facing that way on a sagittal plane and this is the last word", absolutely not. It is okay to have the hips slightly unaligned, it is okay to have a rounding back.

What is happening when we are bending the knees while forward folding?

In order to bend the knees we have to use the hamstrings as they are in charge of bending the legs. While bending, hamstrings are getting shorter so they are not stretching. 

What is a forward fold?

Mainly it is a stretch of the back of the legs and lower back, actually it is stretching the all posterior part of the body.

If the hamstrings are too short and not flexible while bending forward it can become uncomfortable, so to ease the movement automatically we want to bend the legs..... by bending them we are not stretching them.... so basically not solving any issue regarding their flexibility. 

A tight hamstrings does not help the lower back neither. Sometimes we think we are protecting our lower back by bending the legs while we are not.

Of course if there is any hyper extension of the knee it is advisable to slightly bend it. We should not work with a "locked" knee.

Enjoy your practice!

- Namaste -

Monday, 17 July 2017

The "laws" of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

The practice of the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga is a very personal journey. It is a commitment, a silent contract signed between You and You only. No one will be knocking at your door every morning and wake you up for the practice. Only you are responsible for this action of "Tapas".

There will be a lot of frustration about yourself: Why I can not do the asana and how long will I be stuck here? When will I be "upgraded" and given a new asana?

And also a lot of frustration toward your Teacher: Why he is not helping/adjusting me? Is he only noticing me? Why does he let this student doing more asana when he can not catch? Does he really know my practice?

At one point your body will talk to you. Whether it will be hurting you or might surprising you. Some asanas that were out of reach are now coming easily as others asanas that were easier will become harder to reach. The body intelligence will open new path into your movements by creating more space and developing new muscles.

Your mind will play with you, it will scare you for some asana such as the drop back telling you it is not safe while some others days will let you do whatever your want.

And in the middle of this revolution happening in and outside of your inner Self you will have to remain stable and focus.

There is a dogma about Sharat. Sharat says "this" or "that" and everyone has to follow it blindly. Older well established Ashtangis are not following Sharat but still continue to pay tribute to Pattabhi Jois. Others prefer to follow Manju Jois.

Therefore some teachers will stop you during your practice and some others won't, allowing you to practice with variation. If you practice with Sarawasti she will let you do variation.

Some westerner teachers try to teach such as Sharat. They wear the towel around their waist, speak like Sharat, try to count like Sharat but got lost in the sanskrit counting, teach the led class very fast and even use his tone in order to replicate him the best way they can.

What I have learned lately it that there is not really any "laws" or rules in the Ashtanga as it might be different from one teacher to another one.

There is a story about the fact that "you won't receive any new asana on a Tuesday".... why? no one knows but some like to say it is about the alignment of the planet.

Why there is no practice on Full Moon or New Moon? Some say that it is because your body might be injured during this particular time, some others says that as Pattabhi Jois was also into astrology he took the decision to not teach during this time, no one has a proven or written scientific proof or even in the tradition about why there is no practice during these time.

Why it has to be practice 6 days in a row one day off? The best answer is you always need a day off to rest your body. But there is nothing wrong to practice 5 days in a row 2 days off. Or 2 days in a row, one day off and 2 days in a row. 

Why you can not practice asana with a variation? No one know, some of them are saying is because your body can not fully open if you are using a variation but what about a permanent injury that does not allow the student to go into the asana?

Why you can not practice backbend before the Intermediate Series (outside of the closing series)? It is said that the Primary Series is the preparation of the Intermediate Series. So does that mean that others practitioner of other style of Yoga are doing it wrong?

The most important thing is to practice it in order to understand it and your body. Your body is getting "purified" by a regular practice because it is constantly opening your joints and bringing fresh energy to your body as it is removing all the bad thoughts that can stay printed into your muscles.

The best thing that I am now looking forward to it is to practice it on my own, not in a class completely packed where it is impossible to spread your legs or your arms and to move forward only with myself, not waiting for the approval of any teachers.

What I also learned is that I won't be following blindly any "guru" and won't listen to the so called rules of Ashtanga. I will follow what my heart and body will tell me because I am my own guru.

- Namaste -

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

The logical limit of the Ashtanga Yoga

The logic behind the Asthanga "system" is each asanas are preparing you to the next one. Therefore when an asana can not be done your practice stops there.

Pattabhi Jois has given different series to different students, he never stops anyone during their practice.

The moment "you stop there" has come from Sharat itself.

Now it is call the Tradition.

Therefore you can practice the same series for years before adding and practicing  any other asanas.

However in Hatha class even though practitioners are not following any series such as the Ashtanga they can do all asana they want, they can back bend as much as they want if their body is capable of and same for other style of yoga.

A "pure" and complete devoted Ashtangi won't touch Krounchasana until :

1. He binds in Marychasana D
2. He catches in Supta Kurmasana
3. He can do drop back without any help

Once everything has been done as it is supposed to be done then he will be introduced to the Secondary Series starting from Pasana. Once Pasana is done perfectly he will finally start Krounchasana followed by Salabasana A, B and so on...

Does that mean that other practictioners of other style of Yoga are doing wrong by having much more variety and choices in their practice?

I don't think so.

When you have an hamstring injury what is the point of still practicing the Primary Series knowing that most of the asanas are based on a forward fold? Why not introducing some other asanas such as Salabasana, Bhekasana, Dhanurasana, Parsva Dhanurasana, Ustrasana?

This is to me the logical limit of the Ashtanga. If you can not do forward fold then work on the back bend and all harms balanced such as Bakasana, Mayurasana.

I had this conversation yesterday with a lady following point by point Sharat words. I told her since my injury when I am not in the shala and after I will be back home I will stop the Primary to focus more on other asanas that I haven't really practice since I started to dedicate my practice only to the Ashtanga. And she was telling me it was completely wrong!

To me what is wrong is still doing Prasaritta Padotanasana 4 times with an hamstring injury while Dhanurasana does not harm at all, on the contrary I really like to do it and my body is getting more flexible.

Basically it is our own choice, following blindly the tradition or choose to practice with an open mind.

I am choosing the second option.

- Namaste -

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Rehabilitation exercices

Since the workshop with Mark Robberds I have been doing another practice in the afternoon and so far I do it daily. Not a full hour of primary or secondary series but some rehabilitation movement in order to heal the hamstring.

I am working a lot on my core doing Pilates exercices and also reinforcing considerably the gluteus muscle because I realised that I did not really have any muscles in that area.

Also my practice has to change drastically so now I am working a lot with my core while before I used to rely in the gravity.

I am starting to be grateful to have this injury. It made me realise the weakness of my practice and of my body as well.

Basically now I am doing glut and core exercices.

And this morning even though the pain was still there it was less. I had a beautiful practice and when my injury will be healed completely my practice will be at the top.

Patience is the word ;-)

- Namaste -