Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Recap of my first 5 months practicing Ashtanga

Welcome, welcome, welcome!

After a little inner debate and some encouragement from Nobel (Yoga in the Dragon's Den) I decided to start a 'real' Ashtanga blog to deepen my yoga journey, post my humble opinion on certain topics in the Ashtanga-Blogosphere and, most importantly, to discuss and connect with you all! :)

I started journaling my experiences with Ashtanga on Tumblr but the website tends to make me write short posts and reblog waaay too many pictures. Also, people on there get kinda overwhelmed with long text posts so I believe blogger is more appropriate for what I have in mind.

What follows are all the posts I made about my Ashtanga practice so far. There are also a few pictures of me :) I don't expect you to read everything, it's more meant as a kind of archive for me so that I have everything from the very beginning collected on the same blog.

What you should know is that I am Swiss, so English is not my native language. Excuse any mistakes I make. I started practicing Ashtanga about 7 months ago and I am constantly flabbergasted by the intense and quick the transformation of my body and mind. I still consider myself a Baby-Ashtangi.

Kino MacGregor is a big inspiration for me and I hope I can attend her and Tim's workshop in Copenhagen this summer. Any of you going? I also plan on going to Mysore in Jan/Feb '14.

Currently I'm reading Yoga Mala and I have some issues with tight hips and sometimes tweaky knees. Let's see how this unfolds.



I asked one of my yoga teachers about his Ashtanga yoga class and he told me: ‘ah, this would be something you like, I think. It’s very sweaty and intense but this is definitely for you.’
On one hand I’m happy that he thinks I’m already capable of keeping up in this class and on the other hand I’m FUCKING NERVOUS to go there next Tuesday because I read about ashtanga yoga and it seems to be hardcore.
Do any of my followers have experience with it and want to share it?


I DID IT! Tonight I had my first Ashtanga Yoga class :) It was half as exhausting as I imagined it and I kept up quite well with all the regulars there. I’m so glad that I’m quite flexible and I only had to modify very few things.


Dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead dead in a good way!
My second ashtanga yoga class was tonight and I have already improved a little :)


In the beginning of the year I once mentioned that I’m planning on practicing Yoga every single day this year. It doesn’t matter if it’s only a few sun salutations or a 90 minute Ashtanga class.
Well, so far it’s going great! Some days I practiced in my room for 20-50 minutes, some days I only did some sun salutations in the morning and I visited my studio twice. One time it was a ‘normal’ Yoga class (1 hour) and the other time it was Ashtanga (1.5 hours) that left me feeling like I died and was being reborn in a long, vicious process (really, I was SO sore). I wish I could go to my studio more often but it’s quite expensive…


I feel like dying and puking at the same time. I can barely type. Today’s ashtanga class was SO exhausting.



Ashtanga yoga has made me realize so many things lately, especially tonight.
I have discovered what it actually feels like and means to be devoted to something.
My head and heart feel so absolutely clear and free after the practice and I am at peace with things that could usually annoy me.
It exposes thought patterns and I am learning how to understand them and how I can work on myself to change for the better, influencing all aspects of my life.
I know what I want to do in life and I have never felt so assured that my plans are the real thing.
The combination of the intellectual and the physical are very important to me. My media science studies and yoga make me thrive. I will work in these fields independently later. I’ve known that since some time, but now I am so sure that I will and can do it.
I will travel. If I have surplus money, I will spend it on that purpose.
That’s just a few things in my head right now, that deserve better words than the ones I just produced, but I needed to write them down.


So yesterday I had an immunization into my thigh muscle and it’s hurting like a mofo
It sucks because I was looking forward to today’s led ashtanga class so so so much and I actually have too much energy and have gained a lot of strength since last week but now I have to hold myself back in there and probably need to do many modifications :(


So yesterday’s ashtanga class didn’t go that bad because of my thigh. I told the teacher before and did a lot of modifications but I kept up with the flow and the asanas I could do well were amazing this time… the teacher even complimented how beautiful my reverse triangle pose was during the class :)
Today the mat I ordered arrived and I did a short 30 minute practice on it. It’s so great to have a mat that’s 2 meters long instead of 1.85 meters… I mean, I’m 1.73m (5’8”) and can work with the regular length but now I don’t have to keep in mind where on my mat I am anymore, especially when jumping through from downward facing dog into a seated cross-legged position.


I really really really love my new tattoo (Deathly Hallows sign) but while it’s healing, it prevents me from doing a lot of poses in yoga, like chatarunga dandasana and some twists where you clasp your hands around the legs/back… I hope it heals quickly because I am in need of a half primary series Ashtanga practice :)



A few days ago a friend from another city visited me and my flatmates. Somehow, while chilling, the discussion got to how so many things in this world are like drugs, depending on how much you use them. So my one flatmate said: ‘well, you and J. (the 3rd inhabitant of our apartment) are the perfect example, you’re such exercise junkies with your yoga. You need it everyday to function!”
I was kinda taken aback… me, an exercise junkie? I just responded that I like getting my endorphins in a natural way but actually I was thinking: she clearly has absolutely NO idea why I practice yoga. Yoga is not an exercise. I don’t practice yoga for the ‘Hot Body’ and I definitely think if you don’t set out on a spiritual journey while practicing asanas you’re not really doing yoga. Obviously, yoga makes me feel good and improves my mood, that’s just a general effect of moving your body. But the root for my love for this practice lies so much deeper.
It has helped immensely in overcoming a serious mental illness (eating disorder), has made me calm and peaceful, open-minded and attentive. It has filled an empty void with a spirituality I would’ve never thought I’d be able to feel as an atheist. And most importantly, it has lit my inner fire: I am very ambitious nowadays, but in a structured way, not like before. I have the energy to pursue my plans and one of that is me going to be a yoga teacher one day.
This is why I practice yoga every day. I could not imagine living my life without it anymore, especially when I remember how troubled my mind and weak my body was before discovering yoga. Sometimes it’s a full Ashtanga primary series, sometimes an intense practice of a few of the asanas from primary series and sometimes, on rest days, a few sun salutations in the morning. Ashtanga has made me connect with my body on a level I haven’t known before and while practicing all that matters is that I am practicing and I know when not to push too hard to avoid injury.
My next big wish is to go to Mysore and practice at the shala with Sharath in about six months. I am already a bit scared of going to India on my own but there have been so many yogis before me who have successfully traveled there, I guess I should be fine.
If you read my whole post I love you and if you’ve ever been to Mysore, let me know. I’m eager to hear people’s experiences.
Namaste :)


Today I had my strongest home practice ever and it is because I am practicing so consistently. Ashtanga yoga is so purifying and fulfilling.
Practice and all is coming = truth.
Also, I could hold HANDstand for about 3 seconds without a wall for the first time ever :)


Today was so weird, I grew a third and a fourth leg! the public transport was having troubles so I had a whole odyssey to go home which ended with me walking through obscure paths around the boarder SWI/GER for an hour and I had to pee in the bushes because there was no toilet in sight haha.
Well, at home I did my usual Ashtanga Primary Series practice even though I was super tired. It was amazing, I could do my deepest Marichyasana A ever :) Then I took a really long bubble bath, cleaned up my room and changed the sheets on my bed.
Tomorrow, spring semester of uni starts and I’m ready!
Namaste :)


My yoga studio was closed for 2 weeks due to holidays and I did a lot of home-practice but today I can finally attend led Ashtanga Primary Series again. I missed the atmosphere of the studio so much and I’m looking forward to seeing my teacher again :)
Yesterday I attended an Iyengar beginner’s class with friends (yay, new yoga buddies!) and in the beginning I caught myself thinking: Oh, dear, this is such a slow class, I already feel impatient. But then I realized I shouldn’t think like that and take it as an opportunity to fine-tune my alignment, which I did. We also held poses like Virabhadrasana II for 12 breaths, which I’m not used to and this way my arms could benefit from gaining a little more strength.
Now I can’t wait for 7.15pm’s Primary Series :)



Yesterday’s weekly led Ashtanga class was amazing. Instead of going through all the asanas, the teacher sometimes paused the practice to explain the right alignment in detail and we were all aware of our bad foot placement in the plank ->up dog ->down dog vinyasa all of a sudden. Whoops! He also made us squeeze blocks between the ankles HARD in some asanas so we would not lose mula and uddiyana bandha and really had to work with the upper thighs in an inward rotation. I have learned so much in this class and am SUPER sore today. Woah. I could only do a few sun salutations in the morning.
Oh, on Sunday I’m finally going to my first Mysore style class :)



So on Thursday I had the sudden urge to try the new yoga studio I’ve been considering for a while because it is an Ashtanga studio and I’ve never been to a Mysore style class before. I actually planned on going there this Sunday but when I realized I had the opportunity a little earlier I thought: Go for it!
I arrived and it was very quiet, the beginner’s class was just ending. I prepared myself for the following 1.5 hours and when it started, we were only three women and the teacher. She chanted the mantra (I don’t know it by heart yet) and then we started. It was amazing how different this practice was from the ones I do at home and the Led Class I’ve been to since mid-December. While following my own speed of breath I was still so focused and could try to really bring in my Bandhas, even though I still don’t know how Mula Bandha is supposed to work/is very weak (I guess).
I also realized I need to memorize the Drishtis and between which poses you do a Vinyasa. The teacher helped adjust a few things - I’ve been placing my angled leg in Janu Sirsana A wrong all the time. The fault luckily wasn’t very severe and I could adjust pretty easily.
The teacher also told me that I am very flexible - what? I wasn’t aware of that, because I am kindaflexible but I assumed this is because I’ve been stretching in one or another way almost every day since about 3 years. The teacher then reminded me that because of my flexibility I should be extra careful to avoid injury.
At the end of the class she sat with us and we could ask questions and I found out that she just opened the studio 2 weeks ago or so and before that there was no Ashtanga studio in my city! I also chatted a little with the other women and they were really lovely. In my other studio I usually don’t chat with the others because they’re always busy and I’m shy. Well, it was a total success and I’m going to another Mysore style class tomorrow :)


This morning I went to the 10am Mysore style class at my new Ashtanga studio. It was the first time I did Ashtanga in the morning and I definitely felt how this differs from a practice in the evening. I was a lot less flexible and also kind of weak, I had to Cobra out most of my Chatarunga Dandasanas.
I have thought about changing to the traditional practice in an early hour for some time now because it takes away a lot of the time in the evening when I could hang out with friends. But I think I should do the transition very slowly, very gradually. I was so afraid of injuring myself this morning! I even didn’t put my right leg into half lotus in Marichyasana B and D because I felt quite uncomfy when I tried to do it.
But for the rest of the day, the practice left me feeling lite and wide awake. I was so productive: I read a 30 page text for uni, washed and folded a lot of laundry, rearranged my whole closet, cleaned the bathroom and was very talkative at family dinner. Check out my peaceful yoga face from just after the practice above :)



It was different than anything ever before. I got up and had a cup of strong coffee and immediately headed to the studio. On my way there I already realized the coffee was a bad, bad idea because I get this weird sweat above my lips when the coffee is too strong and I was gonna sweat anyway. A tiny espresso would’ve been sufficient.
After placing the mat on the floor, chanting and the first Surya Namaskar A I was sure that the energy of the coffee was more of a disadvantage than anything else. My palms and soles of the feet were so sweaty, I barely had a grip on the mat. My face was a waterfall after all Surya Namaskar As+Bs.
Even though it was kind of a weird practice, I finally managed to push myself up on my own into full wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana) for the first time in ages. And then the teacher told me to bend back three times while standing, as far as I could. Next practice I shall call her after doing this and then she will help me drop back into full wheel :)



Today I finally felt mentally ready to go to an Ashtanga Mysore practice very early in the morning :) I got up at 6:15am (haven’t done that in AGES) and arrived at 7am. I took it very easily because my right knee still feels a bit uncomfy when I put it in half lotus or Padmasana. Also, on Tuesday’s evening led class I have hurt my left shoulder a little in Marichyasana B :( It made a kind of clicking noise but didn’t hurt…only after practice, when my body was colder again and the adrenaline level went down I realized what happened. I bought these huge plasters that cool the injury and help reduce inflammation which you can leave on for 12 hours. I hope it doesn’t take too long to heal. Until then I will just modify and do Chatarunga Dandasana on my knees to avoid too much pressure being put on the joint.
Still, the practice this morning was really lovely! During the sun salutations the sun rose above the roofs of my city and shone onto my face directly through the window. Wonderful!
Namaste :)



I think I did not mention on here that I’m currently, slowly but steadily, transitioning into being a vegetarian, right? So after reading a lot about (Ashtanga) Yoga philosophy and knowing the principle of the eight limbs of Yoga I have decided to try to enhance my practice of the first Yama, Ahimsa (non-violence) by becoming a vegetarian.
It really struck me when I purchased a scientific magazine about animals, their brain functions, intelligence, emotions, etc. Also, the photographs in there were amazing, you could see the soul of each animal through their eyes! I have always thought of mankind being just another form of animal that has developed in another way than most but I grew up in a society where eating meat was really normal and belonged on a plate. I didn’t even hear about vegetarianism until I was 12.
I was never a passionate meat eater: I started crying as a kid when I had to eat pork or beef, I only liked chicken and hated fish with a passion. It stayed like that except that from the age of about 18 I sometimes liked to have fish or beef in a fresh Asian noodle soup. And somehow I really love bacon, but only when it’s fried sooo crusty that it’s completely hard.
I haven’t told my friends nor family that I am doing this, because I am doing the transition very slowly so my body can adapt. Therefore I will have a little meat at family dinners (roughly once a week) and me and my flatmates don’t cook with meat a lot. Every meal I can decide on my own what to eat, I eat vegetarian.
The dairy products and the eggs I eat are usually organic. I don’t think I will become vegan because first: I LOVE CHEEEEEEESE, ALL KINDS and second: it would be too complicated to fit it into my life. I would constantly have to check if I get in enough minerals and would have to plan out my meals. Having struggled with ED in the past for a few years I think I could not bear having such a huge part of my life revolving around food ever again.
And last but not least, I just fucking love animals :)


I startet Ashtanga mid-december of 2012. This means I’ve been practicing it for only three months. But I can already really feel the changes in my body and mind. I love this practice (even though I’m currently curing a should injury).



Today my Ashtanga studio celebrated the spring equinox with the tradition of doing 108 sun salutations and eating brunch together.
I was a little unsure about the 108 sun salutations but obviously if you needed a break you could stand in Samastitihi or rest in child’s pose while the rest of the group was carrying on and resume as soon as you felt ready. I did take a few breaks and did the Chatarungas on my knees because my shoulder feels fine again but I didn’t want to risk anything. I guess I did about 90 sun salutations in total..? The energy in the room was really intense and you could actually feel Prana! Savasana was a whole other experience for itself :)
Anyways, brunch was amazing. I finally got to talk with a few of the other yogis while eating delicious food. The was lots of fruit, but almost everything was homemade: bread, some black bean paste, almond butter, guacamole, various special jams, walnut-banana-oat-paste and vegan cheesecake and brownies. I never had vegan brownies before so I tried them of course (I love chocolate!) and they were really good. Must get the recipe somehow :)
If you have nothing special to do today, go ahead and give the 108 sun salutations a try!



Okay, so I told you I’m going to write a detailed post about last night’s practice and here it is.
At first I wasn’t sure if I should practice at all because the rule for ladies holiday is to not practice for 3 days. But I really, really needed this. My mind and body were yearning for this led Ashtanga class so much because my day was really exhausting. One part was spent sat on the most uncomfy office chair you could imagine and 2 hours were spent intensely cleaning and scrubbing the kitchen because it was getting kinda disgusting. I felt tense in my shoulders and whole back.
So I thought: ‘What the heck, I don’t feel tired or hyper-emotional because of my period, I’ll just go!’ Why is it advised to take a break anyway? I mean, I understand the sense behind skipping inversions, but not the point of no practice at all. Is it because the body is ‘impure’ at the time? Or overly sensitive? (Please tell me if you happen to know the justification.) I actually strongly believe practicing through ladies holiday makes you feel better.
In my case, last night’s practice was one of the best I’ve ever had!
  • I could fold and bend super deeply however I pleased! My alignment in all forward folds has improved lots and in Karna Pidasana my knees touched the floor so easily!
  • My ‘jump-throughs’ have improved to the point where I hop with crossed legs on the tops of my feet, then sit and slide my feet forward. Next step: Hop, slide and THEN sit.
  • My shoulder stand was super tall!
  • I touched my head on the floor in Prasarita Padottanasana D for the first time in my life :)
And now, let’s talk about Savasana, final relaxation: it was quite the experience. I don’t even really know what happened there but my mind was racing, it just didn’t settle. I am used to a calm mind in Savasana lately so I tried to figure out why it was different this time. And then I somehow realized that I was open and receptive for so many feelings at once! My capacity for love and compassion in that moment seemed infinite. I felt Prana, I felt pure bliss! Suddenly I noticed how my eyes had gone a little watery from the overwhelming emotions bundled in my subtle body for a few breaths.
I love Ashtanga yoga so much. So. Much.



After practicing Ashtanga for roughly 4 months I have less cellulite than when I was 14 (I’m 22 now).



It’s really astonishing just HOW much the food you eat affects your yoga practice. This is not new to me, but the way yesterday’s food and today’s primary series are related to each other is a good example.
Yesterday I was kinda hungover and lazy because I went to a goa/progressive party on Friday night where I danced for about 2.5 hours… those of you who go to this kind of parties know how intense the dancing can get! That’s why on Saturday I spent all day watching Breaking Bad in bed and I ate pizza, a bag of chips and lots of Maltesers. The only healthy thing I ate was a greek salad for breakfast. I LOVED being lazy and eating that stuff.
But today, after having slept 10! hours, I did my home practice and boy, it was EXHAUSTING. My body felt like a stiff, weak mess. I had to leave out vinyasas between sides in the seated postures and was even afraid to put my legs in half-lotus (I didn’t, I really am careful to avoid injuries). Still, I managed to do every pose, sometimes heavily modified but inside I was struggling. I am so glad I did all of it though, even if it was a mess. Also, my breath was so bad. Always in a different rhythm and sometimes I had to gasp for air with an open mouth. Oh, dear.
It really seems that being sluggish and eating all that lovely ‘crap’ has taken its toll on today’s practice.
Well, today I definitely am eating normal food again :)


Little update on life :)
Yesterday I went to my Ashtanga studio and practiced primary series up to Navasana in Mysore style. My body had been feeling super stiff and prone to injuries for a week and I was planning to practice very gently. I also had a heavy headache but I managed to get through all the poses except for headstand because my teacher suggested I shouldn’t do it. She wanted me to drop back into full wheel for the first time ever but I told her I didn’t feel ready because of my headache and dizziness. Next time, then.
Today I went to the Power Yoga class from the university-sport-program because my favourite teacher from my other studio was leading the class. His voice is so soothing and the class has the perfect amount of hard and fun stuff in it and I don’t feel exhausted afterwards.
Tomorrow night I’m playing the LotR drinking game with my friends, that will certainly be fun :)


This is how I feel on the inside right now!
Today I went to a workshop at my Ashtanga studio that was focussing on backbends. In the morning we did a regular Mysore style practice and in the afternoon we did primary series up to Navasana and then added a few poses from the 2nd series and many of its backbends. So that means I basically practiced Ashtanga twice today, in total 3 hours. I didn’t know I’d be doing twice as much as what I’m used to in that workshop, because when I practice, I always only practice up to Navasana! I only started doing Ashtanga in December ‘12… well, I am super exhausted now, but the workshop was great and offered another opportunity to chat with fellow Ashtangis :)



I love Ashtanga yoga but I know to be authorized/certified as a teacher I have to visit Mysore many, many times. I will certainly do this, but first I want to be certified as a ‘regular’ hatha yoga teacher because it seems like being a yoga teacher is what is right for me in my life.
When I think about how I have to wait until April 2014 to start my yoga teacher training I feel so impatient… I would love to start right now, because the energy in me is almost unbearable and my desire to be a person that can actually teach people yoga, in other words: spread the message of yoga, is so huuuuuge. Infinite!
I have a friend with a depression so I suggested she could try yoga because it heals the soul as much as the body but she has so little money, she can’t afford it. I am now going to try and teach her the basics but I feel so inadequate about doing this job without a professional training… I mean, I have read so much about the philosophical and spiritual aspects of the practice and am memorizing all the things you need to know about proper alignment but still.
I feel like I am destined to bring the joy and beauty of the practice to other people. Does that sound weird? Fanatic? I don’t care…


After 4 months I have finally charged my camera battery… which means I might take some photos of me doing backbends and stuff so I can see how I progress in the duration of a few weeks/months :) The self-timer on my webcam is about 3 seconds!
Anyways, today I attended a led Ashtanga class where I did the full primary series for the first time ever, in my whole life! I am actually currently stuck at Marichyasana D (ever since I started Ashtanga, haha!) and you’re not allowed to go further than Navasana in this stage, but today my teacher said I am allowed to try all the poses. I could keep up pretty well, of course with many modifications, but it was so nice to get to know all the fun that’s waiting for me after I am able to do Marichyasana D on my own :) My teacher also said it seems like I can do it in about 2-3 weeks. That’d be so nice.
I hope you’re all having a nice day,




Today I had a serious hangover. I wasn’t even considering practicing half primary series, just doing some gentle yoga for half an hour or so… but when I started the sun salutations I suddenly felt like doing Ashtanga so I did primary series up to Navasana :)
Upside: I JUMPED THROUGH! For the first time, ever! WHAT!?! I burst out smiling and yay-ing in the middle of my practice after I tried it for the first time and it just happened. It wasn’t perfect, far from it! But I jumped through and wow… I’m amazed.
Downside: I fell over in headstand! To some this might not be bad because it is a difficult posture, but I’ve never fallen over in headstand before (I learned it as a child and never lost the ability to simply do one) :/ I guess it was my hangover that interrupted my balance ^__^


Do you see Marichyasana D and Navasana? That’s where I am in my asana practice. Mari D is such a humbling posture. I want to be able to intertwine my limbs to form this pretty pretzel but my body shows me my current boundaries every single time. The only thing I can do is respecting them and keep on cultivating a regular practice.
Tonight I tried not to fixate my mind on Marichyasana D too much but instead tried to breathe like I never did before, making the inhalation and exhalation equal in length, keeping the breath steady and in count. I also tried to engage Mula Bandha all the time, because I’m very forgetful about it. My Uddiyana Bandha is a lot more developed.
Tonight’s practice was really nice.


It’s 3.45 am and I just finished reading Sacred Fire by Kino MacGregor in one sitting. Her story is really moving and she offers such a vast insight into the spiritual path of Ashtanga Yoga. Her writing style is also very beautiful and easily readable. 10/10


Today, with the assistance from my teacher, my fingers could touch, even kinda lock for the first time in Marichyasana D (on the second side only because my left knee felt a little irritated so I modified on the first side).
This is a bit of a breakthrough, really! I might not get into the posture on my own just yet but the feeling of being in it clarified so many things for me that I could never properly understand from studying it (videos, texts, anatomy, etc.).
What was also surprising today is that after it happened, my teacher gave me the next posture, Bhujapidasana. I was so not expecting it because I though I will learn it when I get Mari D on my own.
I haven’t even figured out what today’s physical breakthrough means on the internal level. What does it say about my spiritual and mental growth? Is it growth? Did something in me change prior to today’s practice?
Right now while I’m writing the answer seems to come to me.
This week I changed my focus from simply doing asanas and trying to breathe to really breathe. I also try to remember Mula Bandha as often as possible. I also realized after half a year of Ashtanga practice, it might be time to practice 4 days a week instead of only 3.
Today my body felt stiff and tense and I haven’t slept enough the past 2 nights and I really didn’t feel like I could practice. But I had packed my yoga clothes in the morning so I just went after a long internal battle whether I should practice or just go home and sleep. Afterwards my body and mind felt loads better.
I think there is some internal transformation going on.

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