I practice late


I practice yoga rather late these days. That is I often start at 5 pm or even later. Time runs through my fingers during the day. At least I’ve the feeling that things get done here. Fall has come and I go through all my clothes and discard those that are worn out, or those that I don’t wear anymore. Summer shoes are used up, I walk a lot. Old bags that slept for years in my wardrobe had to go, too. The task is completed, when the stuff is out of the house. I donate most things.

My yoga practice always reminds me to keep everything simple. If there is too much distraction it’s very likely that the practice gets neglected. With distraction I also mean that one can put too many tasks in a day.

Tomorrow is All Saints. It’s a day off here. In the meantime some dear friends have left us forever. When I think of them I’m happy for every day I’m allowed to live. Hectic days or relaxed days or lame days I welcome them all. I still enjoy the gift to be alive.

Sometimes I’m ambitious on the mat, sometimes relaxed. I always exercise the splits. Sometimes I can stand a lot of stretching discomfort, sometimes I give in very quickly. That I can practice again with almost zero back pain is a miracle for me.

My yoga practices run like a golden thread through my life. They are a wonderful guide. They always center me.

Time frame


How long will it take to do the side splits?

Stretching takes time! A lot of time.

If one is too greedy one risks to injure oneself. This means that it takes even longer than without injuries.

Last week I saw a YouTube video by a young man, who managed it to do the splits. He looked very muscular. Yet he also stretched. It took him 18 months to do the splits. He started from a very high position like me in the above picture.

I’m 47 cm (= 18,5 inches) away from the floor. I guess it will take 2 years to do the side splits, also when I exercise it on a regular basis. In addition In the meantime I learned ways to stretch effectively.

Splits are a huge project. Not every day progress can be felt. The opposite is the case. There are setbacks, too.

In the next posts I’ll describe the stretching method that I apply these days.

The splits get introduced

The asanas in the first row are utthita hasta padangusthasana, utthita parsvasahita and utthita eka padasana.

The next two asana are supta hasta padangusthasana and supta parsvasahita and they are very similar to the first two asanas only that they are practiced while lying on the back. Yet this makes a difference. These asanas are practiced at the end of the middle part of the first Ashtanga yoga series.

The asanas of the second row are easier as there is no balancing aspect. They tell me my current level. When I cannot take my leg to the floor without lifting the other hip, I shouldn’t move the leg to the side when standing either. One should never sacrifice the position of the hips. It’s so easy to cheat, but one only cheats on oneself. My leg points rather forward than to the side. But that’s it.

The first asanas of both rows are forward splits. The second asanas of both rows are side splits with one leg. This is one reason why I work on the splits more intensively.

I think these poses should look more advanced after 12 years of daily practice. But just doing it and holding it for 5 breaths is not enough.

How to balance:

Many years I thought I must balance with the standing leg. Yet I even read that the knee should be locked. These days I lock the knee.

Utthita hasta padangusthasana: I bring the hip forward and pull the leg backwards with my hand. If the force is the same, the body remains stable.

In addition I breathe evenly and deeply.

My bandhas are engaged and I gaze sidewards (not down to the floor).

It’s possible to exercise how to balance. This is also a skill that can make life safer especially when growing older. Many people fall when they get older. They cannot balance anymore. Then they often break bones and injure themselves. Fear arises. The danger of falling can limit a life. It’s just another reason to practice balancing asanas. Practicing yoga is worth every minute.

Utthita hasta padangusthasana was another pose that I couldn’t perform due to my injured SI joint and the consequences that followed. I learned from a video with Stu Girling that he had the same issues. He recommended to learn to lift the leg higher first before bowing forward to the shin bone. For me it was not more possible to bow forward. I’m astonished and glad that I could do the pose today. Miracles happen.

I’m always astonished how demanding even the standing asanas are. But that’s Ashtanga yoga. It gives us a lot to bite on.

My next posts will be about stretching, because that’s what we do when we practice yoga.

Utthita parsvottanasana

Utthita parsvottanasana is possible again without pain. This is relatively new. I exercised variations during the last two years. I put my hands on the floor to support the upper body. I couldn’t hang forward. I also moved from downdog in this position. These were the main variations that I exercised.

I had to be creative and I had to find positions that were similar to the original pose during the last years. Number one rule was that the performance of an asana shouldn’t inflame my back pain. Even though I came to the conclusion that there was no physical damage anymore I had to take care. My pain became chronic, the pain system was out of order. That doesn’t mean that one cannot experience pain. Pain can be experienced also when there is no physical cause anymore. The mind can create pain as a precaution. I had to redo this malfunctioning of my brain.

When I have (or want) to modify an asana I usually wonder what sort of asana it is. I want to practice close to the original Ashtanga yoga series, but I also adjust it to my needs. In the above case it’s a forward bending asana. The position of the arms open the shoulders and the upper body.

Often easier variations of an asana exist, but also more difficult ones. It’s the task to find asanas that are doable but have almost the same effect like the original asana.

I often look for asanas that count as exercises. They shall help me to learn a challenging asana. In the above case I stretched my straight arms behind my back and moved them over the head forward. This had a leverage effect. Yet I also remember that I overstretched my hamstrings that way once. One should always practice with care. It’s nonsense to force the body in asanas that are not yet possible. Patience is a skill that one can learn. Yet it’s also true, if nothing can be felt, nothing moves. To learn how to learn is the true challenge. Where are the limits and how can I push them is an important question.

The further the legs are apart from each other the easier the pose gets.

Yesterday I saw a movie on Instagram: 2 guys forced a rather stiff man into upavistha konasana A. It’s explored scientifically what makes sense when stretching the body and what makes no sense. To force someone into a pose is so dangerous with not much result. This all has nothing to do with yoga, but with ignorance, unhealthy ambition and aggression. The ignorance of HOW to stretch correctly or more generally spoken, HOW to learn asanas is one of the main critics I have these days. Instead of learning how to stretch effectively , the community refers to a tradition of the last century. The tradition has changed already (not for the better), yet not the ignorance. That’s why the learning process is so slow in the Ashtanga yoga community. People don’t learn asanas because how they are taught to exercise these asanas is not effective. To be precise: To stay in an asana for 5 breaths only is not long enough. I’ll write more about this topic.

Utthita parsvottanasana is usually the last pose of the standing asanas if one practices the first series and many of the asanas of the second series, too. This makes sense as the practice would last too long otherwise The standing asanas have still seven more asanas. Some must be practiced on the right side and the left side. This is time-consuming. I used to practice 2 and a half hours. The output didn’t correspond to the effort I had put into that practice. At home I can do better. Hopefully. I shall see. It’s an experiment.

The next asanas are interesting ones. I’ll write about it in my next post. I practice them these days as I alter first series and second series. I limit my practice to 90 minutes.

Main thought of this post:

First I analyse the asana. Is it a back bending, twist, balancing, inversion forward bending asana?

Then I wonder if I need extra exercises to learn an asana. Or I realize that I have to step back because the original asana hurts too much. There are also asanas that don’t challenge me enough. Then I might add a more challenging one.

When I know my goal I search for appropriate asanas and vinyasas and exercise those for the coming weeks.

After a month I check if it made sense to do these variations or extra asanas. If yes, I keep doing them, if not I look for a change.

Practicing at home allows to be creative. It deepens the understanding of the asanas.

Prasarita padottanasana A, B, C and D

These four asanas are also interesting. We bend forward. It’s experience how far the legs shall be apart from each other in order to allow the head to touch the floor. Especially difficult is prasarita padottanasna C. The folded hands shall touch the floor. I gave up. To bring the hands to the floor was not sooooo important for me. When I went to yoga classes a yoga teacher usually came and pressed my hands to the floor. This was possible. Yet to bring them down on my own seemed impossible.

Last month I joined a yoga challenge on Instagram. The asana in the first row was one of the challenging asanas. I realized at once that this exercise would improve prasarita padottanasana C. Gravity alone doesn’t improve my flexibility. I need resitance in order to stretch my body.

I always add the exercise in the first row these days. I got hope to being able to bring my hands on the floor on my own one day . This extra exercise interrupts the flow. That’s why I often practice this exercise before I start with these forward bending asanas. Nevertheless between all the standing asanas comes now a sitting asana. I repeat this exercise 3 times and I hold it for about 8 breaths. Each time I can get deeper. When I finally exercise prasarita padottanasana C I realize that I can move my arms closer to the floor.

Practicing alone at home means freedom. Being on my own allows me to explore the asanas. I can add extra asanas and I can omit asanas. My goal is to practice effectively.

Work smarter than harder, I used to think. This is also true for the yoga practice. I lost enough time with ineffective training and exercises. To repeat the same asanas day in day out without any progress makes no sense.

Next variation: Parivrtta parsva konasana


We’re still at the standing asanas of the first Ashtanga yoga serie. Parivrtta parsva konasana is a deep twist. In addition it’s a balancing asana. It’s not a very demanding balancing asana, but the twist is rather advanced. This pose invites to cheat. It’s important to get the shoulder behind the knee. Then there is resistance and this allows to twist deeply. If the arm is not behind the knee it’s difficult to twist. An opportunity is missed then. But to get the shoulder behind the knee is the first challenge. The legs are engaged. They are the foundation of this asana.

In the original asana the outer rim of the foot of the stretched leg is on the floor. For me it feels better to have the ball of the foot on the floor. It’s easier to get into this asana and it’s easier to stay there. Important is to twist.

With this variation I practice another variation. I started all the variation beause I could avoid pain in the back that way. I’m not yet ready to get back to the origin asanas.

I need several breaths to get into this pose. I’m attentive these days. It’s still new that my back improved so dramatically. I don’t want to risk another inflammation. I’m grateful that I could get back to an intensive yoga practice.

There are some nice variations of this asana. The Ashtanga yoga series has a lot of asanas. It’s impossible to add variations to every asanas. To practice 90 minutes to 1 hour is enough.

Late I was on the mat today. The practice was intensive, I sweated. I’m so glad that I didn’t omit the practice because it was so late already. I’m still too weak to do all the vinyasas. It’s coming. Every day I become a bit stronger.

Top 10 tips by Joey Miles


Stu Girling interviewed Joey Miles on YouTube. Joey Miles is an Ashtanga yoga practitioner and teacher. He shared his top 10 tips. I liked them all, # 7 is my favorite tip.

Here they are, the top 10 tips by Joey Miles:

Tip # 1: Right ambiance and attitude

Accept what is. Every day is different. Lately I started especially relaxed with not much effort. This made it easier to begin. To have a clean warm place is recommended.

Tip # 2: Listen to your breathing

Yes, yes, yes. Deep breathing can be exercised also in daily life.

Tip # 3: The movement follows the breathing

To check this is a very good tip. The breathing guides through the practice.

Tip # 4: Think of the foundation

This tip helps to perform the asanas.

Tip # 5: Think of the stabilization, be conscious of the center of your body

This tip also helps to perform the asanas with ease. That is if one body part moves out of the center, another body part has to compensate this movement. Coming down from headstand with straight legs is a good example.

Tip # 6: Be conscious of the 6 directions (up and down, forward and backward, left and right)

Also this tip stabilizes the pose.

Tip # 7: Go back to ease. Relax the face the hands and the feet

This is my absolute favorite tip. To be relaxed in an asana is the final goal. One must be relaxed in order to communicate to the body that it’s safe to stretch. Breathing evenly and a smile on the face tells the nervous system that all is OK.

Tip # 8: Practice at the same time and the same place

Better a practice in the evening than no practice at all. Of course if it’s possible to practice every day at the same place and at the same time makes it easier. Building routines is a key to success.

Tip # 9: Not everything must be understood

The teacher has spoken.

Tip # 10: Do savasana for a long time.

For every 30 minutes asana practice, stay 5 minutes in savasana. That is if one practices 90 minutes, it’s recommended to stay in savasana for 15 minutes.

To focus every other week on one of these tips will improve every practice. The tips are very fundamental. They are collected by someone who has an advanced practice.

Becoming modest


Utthita parsva konasana: The next asana that I could either give up or alter was utthita parsva konasana. The picture shows the version that I practice by now. This asana a side stretch. To hold the asana the legs have to develop strength. Also when it looks as if it’s an easy asana, I don’t relax in that pose. All asanas are active ones. There are muscles that are engaged, ohters relax.

There are a lot of variations of this asana.

  • In Bikram yoga only the finger tips touch the floor. This makes sure that the legs do the work.

  • Sometimes the hand is put next to the foot inside, sometimes ouside.

I couldn’t predict which asana would be painful, which not. Sometimes I thought that back bending asana were possible and forward bending asanas would hurt. The other day it was the opposite. This description was a clue that my pain was chronic and that there was probably no injury anymore that could cause the pain. The pain system malfunctioned. That is the pain is real. The cause is gone, the pain remained. I had to tell my perfect body again and again that all is OK. That’s why I had to avoid any pain to convince my nerve system. I had to become modest.

The words of an orthopedist were always in my mind: Don’t give it up.

He added that most people who have back pain are couch potatoes. He didn’t use this word, but it’s clear it’s more likely to develop back pain if one doesn’t move. Weak muscles are often a cause for imbalance in the body and therefore pain.

I remember a conversation in a cafe with two yoginis. We laughed. One yogini said that it’s not guaranteed that the we get better at the asana also when we practice daily. Sometimes we might lose the ability to perform asanas. This entertained us. Theoretically we knew that this is true, yet we all believed in our own progress.

That this valley in which I am or was would last so long wasn’t predictable. In the meantime I see it as a wake-up call. In the beginning it’s surely necessary to go to a yoga class. One must learn the basics. Feed-back from a teacher is necessary. Nevertheless as soon as possible a home practice should be developed, too.

It’s still in the morning here. I’m ready for my yoga practice. Yet today I expect two craftsmen. I have to postpone my practice. It’s so difficult here to get any craftsmen that when they offer an appointment one has to accept it.I can’t wait to step on the mat.

Utthita trikonasana and parivrtta trikonasana

I remember. During the last two years I couldn’t get into trikonasana either. Of course I could omit another two asanas. But what else should I omit. I had to avoid poses and movements that inflamed my SI joint again. This was the most important rule. What to do?

To get into the poses from standing position was impossible. So I had to found another way to get to trikonasana. It was possible to get from down dog to trikonasana. I stepped with the right leg forward, put my hand on the foot and lifted the upper body so that the front faced the wall. Then I switched sides.

Today I could reach the final position from standing. This is such a huge step forward.

I realize that utthita trikonasana is not as straight as it used to be, but I don’t care. Pictures are a very intensive learning tool They tell the truth. Asanas feel differently as they look like.

It could be good to step the feet further apart from each other when I practice parvritta trikonasana. The arm that reaches to the floor would be more parallel to the floor then. For me the trikonasanas have a symmetric shape. The arms should be in line.

I don’t know what happened. Everything bettered. It’s almost like a miracle. Perhaps the body and the mind needed time. To step back was important. But I had no choice.

There are variations for trikonasana. The arm that points to the ceiling could be moved forward i.e.. Tiny changes often make a huge difference.

I had to be rather creative in order to adjust the practice to my needs. It helped me to understand the asanas. I learned variations.

Hasta Padangusthasana and Pada Hastasana

The four series of Ashtanga yoga are my favorite series. Despite all critics that I might express these days, Ashtanga yoga is my main practice. I ‘only’ adjust it to my needs. A home practice allows these adjustments.

There are two main challenges when practicing this style of yoga. Of course it’s the asana itself. Yet it’s also the vinyasa, that is how to get into an asana and how to connect them. Sometimes there are easier alternatives, sometimes not.

Hasta padangusthasana and pada hastasana are the first asanas of the standing sequence after the sun salutations. Also in the last years when I had issues with my SI joint, I was able to bend forward. I was able to touch the floor with my flat hands. In order to get into the asana without pain, I put my hands on my hips to support this movement.

This simple forward bending asana is so basic and so good. It shall allow to put on one’s shoes also when old. This gives independence. Extra blood is transported to the face. This might improve the eyesight. The extra blood that is transported to the head gives a fresh appearance.

There are many inversions. Hasta padangusthasana is one of my favorite as it can be performed everywhere. It refreshes me. Tiredness flies away after deep breathing in that position.

Engaging the bandhas helps to get deeper into that pose.

These days I add an asana. It’s a twist. It prepares the body for the next asanas, that is trikonasana.

The splits

These are some of the exercises that I integrated in my Ashtanga yoga practice. The splits are key asanas. It can take a very long time to learn them. Yesterday I saw a YouTube video of a young man. It took him 18 months to do the splits. He exercised daily. Nothing can be forced. The risk to injure oneself is always there. Injuries can mean, that the journey to the splits will last much much longer. Injuries are frustrating.

I’m curious what is possible.

A new beginning

This is a new beginning

My yoga mat.

My yoga mat.

More than 12 years my yoga blog was hosted by blogger. It’s a blogger website that belongs to Google and it’s free. I loved the simplicity of this page, yet Squarespace is also simple. Using my own website for my blog is surely a more elegant solution.

I bought a domain name that is similar to the name I used on blogger. I learned not to use a hyphen in a name. It’s too complicated to remember. Unfortunately the ending .com was taken already, so I decided to go for the ending .net. It’s easy to remember, too.

In 2006 my first post showed my yoga mat in my little yoga room that was also the living room. The yoga mat is the same. The place changed as we moved to another flat. When I started yoga I practiced mainly at home. The yoga community exploded during the last decade. Yoga studios opened at every corner. In the meantime there are even several Ashtanga yoga studios in Munich. For about 2 years I practiced daily in one of the studios. It was as if I went to work. I love to look back. I managed it to get up before sunrise even. At 6 am I was often one of the first students in the yoga room. At 6 am I started my yoga practice with the sun salutations, and at 9 am I was ready for the day.

An injury forced me to reflect on my practice. It was not sure if I could go on with yoga at all. My back hurt too much, not only when I practiced yoga. I could scarcely sit. At night I woke up when I turned around. This pain made it impossible to go to a yoga class. But my back got better and in the meantime I can practice again without pain. The healing lasted more than 2 years. I didn’t give up my yoga practice, but I practiced not very often. Between the practices were sometimes long breaks. The consequences: I got weak and I lost also a bit of my flexibility. I lost many asanas. The good news is that I win them back bit by bit, asana by asana.

Sometimes I want to go to a yoga class. The energy in a group is different. It was always a joy to meet like-minded people. But then something stops me. There are so many students in a yoga class, that there is no room for individuality anymore. Everybody has to do the same in order to avoid chaos. My age and my back injury require a more adjusted practice. That’s why the above place will be my main yoga place. I’m back where I started decades ago. I practice at home.

The journey can go on.