Sunday, December 30, 2012

On to 2013

It's the end of 2012 - so time to look back - everybody does it, so why shouldn't I?

Since this is a blog about my journey in yoga, I'm not going to bother you with all the other stuff that happened in my life this past year, nor the good, nor the bad.

As for yoga, that has defenitely became a part of my life this year.
The first 6 months, I practised occasionally in the garden - sometimes accomponied by my biggest fan, my 3-year old daughter.

But since my wife and I decided to take a teacher training, more time goes into asana's. And with the start of this blog, more time goes into reading and thinking about yoga in a broad perspective.

I found another great blog - - with the advantage that it has regular new posts. That is the hardest part about maintaining a blog by yourself - how frequent can you post something that is potentially relevant....

I'm also thinking more about how big a part yoga can and will be in my life. Will it stick to daily practice of asana's, or do I want a more holistic approach and incoporate more of the first 2 limbs of yoga into my daily life (but no, I will not become a full time vegetarian, and no I will not start believing in a supreme being and the after life.....). In fact, taking those things out of the equation, I'm already doing a decent job in being yoga ... but I'll see how far this journey will take me.

I've started my second 40-day challenge on December 25th, and have been practising on a daily basis since then - mainly in the morning since I'm home for the holidays, and even twice a day from time to time, just because it feels good.

First thing on my 2013 to do list .... buy a larger size yoga mat - most mats are 183cm long. I'm 190cm tall, I just don't fit comfortobaly on them. Found a 210cm long mat on the web.... so hope to get it before the next class...

So on to 2013 and the rest of the teacher training...

Monday, December 24, 2012

Yoga bitch

I don't really enjoy reading books - I would love to and envy those who can really get completely consumed by a book when reading it. I guess it is the slow pace that has always limited me to reading educational books, or at least books with some level of science in them, like "sex, sleep, eat, drink, dream" from Jennifer Ackerman.

The only exceptions I can tell you were the books they made me read in school, and 3 "Dan Brown"- books. I read those in a limited amount of time, but since then.... I can not seem to finish another book.

My wife recently told me I should read this book - Yoga Bitch by Suzanne Morrison. She thought I would be able to relate to her and might enjoy the book as she describes her first steps into the field of yoga.
Until now, she has been right. I have been reading it on more than one occassion and have enjoyed every moment of it. I am now up to a point that I try to look for time to read it.... which for me is exceptional.

I also discovered a new interesting blog that I defenitely want to check out more in detail - happy tree pose about yoga and also food - happen to be two things I like....

Coming to think of it - in this festive season of abundant food consumption, I really start to long for things that scream "healthy" whereas I used to be looking forward to meat in gravy, mashed potatoes, high calorie desserts ..... maybe the yoga practise is starting to have an effect on me?

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Virus - "40-day challenge": 1 - 0

So a virus got me and took me out for a while. I wasn't feeling well, and decided to hit the bed - only to come out after 24 hrs of mainly sleep and an occasional run to the toilet.

Needless to say, no yoga for a few days  - virusses, although little buggers, seem to manage to suck out  all the energy that you have.

Just because I did not do any yoga, didn't mean I did not thing about it.
I have decided to re-start my daily routine once I feel up to it (should be any day now) and at least once a week to a full Prana Yoga Flow 1. Because I can not follow it at Alberto's studio every week - the 1h30-drive spoils it - he has recorded his instructions for the complete flow on a CD. So that is what I am planning to use at least once a week, the book and the CD to get me through the whole flow.

I will also work on my own sun salutation - the easy one for beginners - to be able to teach it next time.

And I have decided to look at other blogs about yoga.
A first one I really want to spend some time on is this one:

As a beginner, I consider myself the target audience - let's hope I'm right.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Me no speak no Sanskrito

One thing that I noticed in Saturday's training, is that both our teacher, but also some of the more experienced students like to refer to the different postures with their Sanskrit name.

It happened during the teaching of the sun salutations, and again at the end of the training. Someone had a question about the "fish" posture - what is the best way to approach this posture and is there weight on your head when the posture is complete. There was a bit of discussion on how to approach the posture, until one of the more advanced yogi said - oh yes, and you come out of the "halasana" when you enter the "matyasana" (=fish pose)..... people need to start talking in a language that rookie yogi like myself understand and can relate to.

In my point of view, if you start teaching yoga to people who are not experienced, addressing the postures with their Sanskrit name can be a turn-off. New yogi will already be challenged by all the bending and breathing, no need to throw in a new language that they can not relate to whatsoever. I think it is better to define the posture with a name in their mother tongue, to take away one hurdle already when memorising a series like the Prana Yoga Flow.  Maybe it is something to throw into the group next training...

I started today with 4 sun salutations - all my muscles were aching from yesterday's training, so a morning stretch seemed ok in my mind.
The first one was terrible, but by the 4th I regained my flexibility and it all felt good again.

The good thing is, this was the 5th day in my 40 day challenge - still going strong!

Of bandas and sphincters

Yoga practise yesterday was tough. We did not spend a lot of time on the philosophical part (the theory). Someone new had joined the group - a women who started the teacher training two years ago but was not able to finish the whole course for private reasons. She has been going to Alberto's classes every Tuesday to practise the complete flow -- yep, she's defenitely more experienced than me.

We started with teaching our home made sun salutation to one of the others - a few times. Than 4 'volunteers' taught their sun salutation to the whole group.The group teaching resultated in a total of 45 minutes of cobra's, upward facing dogs, downward facing dogs and all the variants you can think of..... I had the feeling that everybody wanted to make their sun salutation quite challenging.... Helloow!!! , there are also yoga rookies in the room. So much for empathy.

For some reason, the heating in the room was not really on my side either. It was so hot in there it felt a bit like bikram yoga (where the studio is always at 40°C).

After a short break, we continued with the entire series of the Prana Yoga Flow - another 6 sun salutations and then the 32 postures......

At posture number 28, the new girl suddenly asks - how tight do we need to keep our banda's at this stage of the flow (she even called them by name)?
Are you kidding me???? My yoga mat looks like a leopard with all the drops of sweat that have managed to avoid getting sucked in my shirt or pants, and we were supposed to keep our banda's tight? I don't know if I should classify this as 'total madness' and if people who manage to do this deserve my 'utter respect' but I left my banda's already after the beginning of the 4th sun salutation of this series -  I'm glad that I still can put effort in my sphincters.....

I defenitely have a long way to go...

Friday, December 14, 2012

40 days challenge - game on!

Namasté ;-)

So today is my 3rd day of the 40 consecutive days you are supposed to do yoga to be "hooked on yoga" as in, you need your daily yoga exercise or something is not feeling right. I've decided to take on the challenge, and if it is not true, I'm going to write a letter - to that yoga magazine that is. I know this sounds very un-yoga like, but hey, I've always said I'm aiming to be a Western yogi.... nuff said.

Given the time of year, there are some challenges ahead to make the 40 days full - I will need to do morning yoga on December 25th for sure, as most likely the family party will include a) alcohol b) too much food as in "I need to lay down now or...." and c) might last till late in the evening. A sun salutation after having a few alcoholic beverages / too much food might be an interesting experience, but I think I will pass on this one.
Same goes for New Year's Eve - morning yoga on the 31st, probably late evening yoga on the 1st....

I have a feeling if I can get past those festive days without skipping my daily routine, I will be fine for the 40 day challenge.

The sessions tend to get longer after each training-saturday - it started with 3 sun salutations. Last time we added 3 extra poses and tomorrow, most likely another 3 will be added.... I practise the whole series as far as we have learned, just to get it in my brain. I will need to take this into account further on in the teacher training...need to schedule more time to yoga.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow - I have made my sun salutation exercise, I've practised a decent amount and I'm curious again for the "theoretic" part of the training....

More to come, in the next post.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Yoga for beginners, by beginners ;-)

Our first challenge in yoga class - build your own sun salutation based on the sun salutation B of Prana Yoga Flow.

It is not as challenging as it sounds - in the book, each posture of sun salutation B has a number of variants that can be used to add some challenges or just do some slight modifications.

I really got energized by the idea of creating something ourselves, so I scanned in the pages with the variants of Alberto's book (sorry for the copyright infringement Alberto, but I won't publish my creation). I went into presentation mode, started creating a 4 page powerpoint slideshow. Some cutting and pasting of the images, followed by what to do in my own words and tadaa, my first sun salutation was a fact. That it was a powerpoint presentation on my laptop made me feel a bit more in my comfort zone, but that should not be an issue.

I specifically looked for those variants that I consider to be usefull and manageable for beginners - like me.
Some rotation out of the "awkward chair pose", both to left and right, to make my spine more flexible.
A variant on one foot in the forward bend - to open the pelvis which will come in handy for other postures.
And, the part that I am most proud of as a rookie,  I have included a posture in between the upward facing dog and the downward facing dog, where it is easier to create a long back  - go down on your knees, sit on your heels, bring your belly as close as you can to your upper legs and stretch your arms as far as you can. I've asked my wife to check if it made my back straight when going into downward facing dog.... and it did.... I had a sense of victory, being able to create yoga for beginners, as a beginner. (maybe I should start including pictures instead of trying to explain the whole thing - pictures speak louder than words right?)

Now it is just a matter of practising it for the rest of the week.... and the good thing is, I'm back in my yoga zone where I want to practise every night.... game on!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

"I'm not in the mood for yoga"-virus

Oh dear - where I almost did yoga on a daily basis in the first two weeks, the last two weeks were terrible when it comes to practice.

The first week was still OK - but then I caught a cold or something last Friday and ended up on the couch under a pile of blankets.... and then in bed long before my usual bed time. It was only a one day thing, I started feeling better by the end of Saturday, even gave it a shot to do a few sun salutations.... but I felt I was stretching it (not only my muscles).

Sunday was a day without exercise, and on Monday, I had to fly to the US for work and stayed there for 3 days returning on Thursday morning.
The intention to take my yoga mat with me was there, but it did not fit in my small suitcase. I abandonned the idea quite quickly. I did take my yoga outfit and the exercise book.... just in case.
Monday evening US time, I went to the gym to do some cardio training. Back in my room, I stretched and started a sun salutation. I moved into cobra and downward facing dog - but the shear sight of the carpet in the hotel room made me stop. Too little room and a dodgy carpet resulted in no yoga in the US.

Then, back home - Thursday was all about re-adjusting to CET. And for Friday and Saturday, I can only conclude I have caught a new virus - the much feared "I'm not in the mood for yoga"-virus.

I once read in a yoga magazine that if you do yoga for 40 days in a row, it becomes part of your daily routine and you will feel energized to practice every day.
I'm not there yet - nor am I going to make it my New Year's resolution to get to the 40 days starting on Jan 1st.

No, I'm starting the 40 day challenge right..... tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I will also work on the exercise that we need to make, to make our own sun salutation and possibly teach it the next lesson. I've already scanned in the book we work from, and will be photoshopping my own sun salutation tomorrow afternoon... and then, I will get started again... I hope.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Abstinence - no thank you....

I've been looking at the first 2 of the 8 limbs of yoga again... and again...

Respect, love, no violence.... values that have been copy - pasted in each religion - no need to argue. They should be a standard in everyone's life.

But then .... the whole "sense control" thing - why? Why is sexual abstinence always a critical success factor to show a certain devotion?

I believe the whole abstinence thing was designed for men who aspire a certain respect not loose their credibility in the years their hormones are having a party - or during the afterparty in their 40's. Would you believe a priest that had his share of the community (if you know what I mean)? Maybe this is linked to the whole karma thing again....

It's a good thing my objective is to be more of a Western-yogi - focussing on the 3rd limb of yoga, the asanas (body postures). Which doesn't mean that the first 2 limbs don't matter to me - most of it is already integrated in my life - but I'll skip the whole abstinence part - thank you very much.

And I'm sure it will not be the only part I am skipping....

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Let's talk about..... Karma

I knew that sooner or later the word "karma" would pop up ... and yes, on the second Saturday training, there it was.... "karma".

A story on how some kid had stole a bike and saw his bike stolen a few weeks later was enough to throw in karma as a yogi-explanation for the events. Simple as that.

I wonder if anyone ever did some decent statistics on how many bad things versus good things happen in people's lifes (on average). There is probably a certain factor to take into account with each event - the birth of a child most likely outranks driving to work without traffic jams. Maybe there is a recalculation formula or table on the internet somewhere, who knows. And in the end, should Karma be neutral again at the end of your life - and in this life, or how many lives do you need to take into account? Is there a timing between events? If something good happens to you, do you need to start living in fear as something bad is about to happen. Or can you just have all the luck all of the time and then die.... ?

Maybe I should have thrown in these questions once the topic was mentioned. But in that perspective, something has changed.... years ago, I would have loved these kind of topics to start a discussion, to throw in the opposite perspective just to get things going, to stir things up just for the fun of it .... and now, I just let it go.... I wonder if that is because I am getting older, or is it the yoga effect on me to "live and let live"?

In the end, our yoga teacher challenged us with an exercise on this matter. He said - "go walk around in a shopping mall, looking angry or scared for an hour.... and then walk around for another hour, looking happy, smiling, open .... and see for yourself how different the effect is on other people".

I'm sure there will be places in the world where you blend in perfectly with the crowd in the first hour, and end up in a straitjacket after the second hour... but he probably is right, what you reap is what you sow.... that's Karma for you!

Sunday, November 25, 2012


So yesterday was the second training day of my yoga teacher training.

The theoretic part focussed on the 8 limbs of yoga - just for reference, this link will give you some more info on them.

There were some nice discussions in the group, when discussing Yama and Niyama (that is how far we got, only the first 2 limbs).

It started with the whole "do no harm" as expressed in "ahimsa" - first part of Yama -- suddenly the discussion moved towards vegetarism and veganism, as you don't want to do harm to any living things. I can see that with killing animals to eat them, but milking a cow? And a few minutes later, I was assured (indirectly) that yogi are not really into veganism either - a story on how someone was invited to share a meal, and there was only on bottle of yoghurt.... so they do milk cows!!!

Anyway, I have nothing against vegetarians, it would be the way to go to save the world as the return on investment to create meat is not in nature's favour.
Could I become a vegatarian - I probably could.
Do I want to become a vegetarian? Nope, not on my to do list at the moment. I'm sticking to my chicken and fish, don't eat a lot of pig or cow. But I have no intention to become a full time vegetarian -- and certainly not one of those "vegetarians" that do eat fish from time to time.... there is no such thing as a part time vegetarian, is there? Why can't people just say that they don't eat meat, occasionally some fish, without throwing in the word vegetarian? Or is it OK to customize something trendy in a way that it suits you so it makes you feel like you are on trend?

I that case,  I will from now on consider myself a "breakfast vegetarian" (I always start the day with muesli and milk).

I'm still digesting the rest of the theory, so will come back on that in a next post....

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Bad yogi :-(

It's been 12 days since the start of my yoga teacher training.

I practiced my  3 versions of the sun salutation nearly every day.

Not Sunday after the first day of the training - my muscles were still in shock, especially my back and my bottom. The trick to getting more flexible and bendy is to make your muscles longer, so I was told. So it is not about stretching your back, it's about increasing the length of you muscles at the back of your legs and your bum. It's a bit the opposite of what power trainers and body builders do - they want to shorten their muscles so they look bigger. Coming to think of it, that is probably why they walk around with their arms wide - I thought they had something in their armpits, but it just all the muscles getting shorter (and too short to keep your arms down when you walk, so it seems).

So physically I'm doing OK. I'm happy with the amount of time I spend practicing and start to know  the exercises by heart. I hear you thinking - it's only 3 sun salutations, how difficult can that be?
I admit, A and B were pretty easy (and in line with what I had learned out of my pile of yoga books I used to practice), but the one with all the mini vanyasa (which are then repeated 3 times) still gets me puzzled from time to time. Knowing that there are still 32 postures to complete the entire flow, I'm convinced I will need to keep practicing on a daily basis.

Mentally, I monitoring myself to see change in my behaviour or my overall feeling.
At first I would say I feel more relaxed. Relaxed might not be the right word, I don't stress out that easily anymore - I get better at handling (last minute) change. And I'm not getting annoyed quickly either. Forget relaxed, I'm more in a state of acceptance - accept and deal with change. That sounds yogi like, doesn't it?

Until Tuesday evening - it had been a long day at work, and just after 11 PM I took off on a 1 hour drive home. In order not to fall asleep, I put on some music.... LOUD. Linkin Park and Jay-Z, Blink 182, Korn, Ozzy.... songs with a lot of rage in them. I started feeling the same "rage" I had when I was young, you know, the Grunge period in the early 90's - Pearl Jam, Nirvana, .... I started singing along. That kept me awake and it felt good, good to let it all out..... but then it struck me. This is not very yoga like, is it? Yogi always seem so calm, so in peace, .... as if they only know "rage" from wikipedia. I felt like a bad yogi...

So now I wonder, what will the effect of yoga be on this dormant "rage" I have inside of me? Or can that still be a part of me, even when I get my yoga teacher degree?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

First lesson - part 2

After the theory, it is time to get moving.

We start with a number of sun salutations - 3 main variants with little tweaks to make them more challenging if you want, followed by 32 postures that flow from one into the other.
I knew I was not really in shape, but even at a slow pace I start feeling warmer and the first drops of sweat are there... yes, I defenitely need to get into exercise more.

"Never compare yourself to others" - it doesn't matter how deep someone else can bend, you have to focus on yourself and try to slowly stretch yourself.
I never question this rule - knowing I'm not the fittest or most flexible of this group, and taking into account my limited yoga experience, comparison would only make me unhappy (trying to avoid the word depressed!). It's a good thing that there are no mirrors in the room like in aerobics classes - guess that is done on purpose as well.

The flow ends with a mindfullness exercise - a body scan - where you have to focus on each part of your body starting at your toes, going through your legs, body and finally ending at the top of your head. The focus on yourself should block out other thoughts - or as they put it here - if an other thought appears, you have to accept it, and then let it go and focus again on your body in the here and now.... so in my language - no other thoughts allowed, no "I'm getting hungry", no "I could do with a nap now", no nothing....
I hear the first snorring in the room - at least someone is totally relaxed and without thoughts.

A quick break and than we start with the focus on the first part of the flow. Sun salutation A1 with mini vinyasa - it's a good thing that I have a book with pictures in front of me. Still, part of the exercise is to "teach" to other people in the room. 3 of them think it is a great idea that I would be the "teacher" for this.... oh dear, maybe it did not sink in that I HAVE NO EXPERIENCE. I'm ok with presenting, have to do that professionally from time to time, but I need to be familiar with the matter.... having done the sun salutation once is not enough to familiarize me with it.
But, I take on the challenge, and take them throught the sun salutation, with the book in front of me.
It was not as bad as I feared, and one of the yogi complimented me on my voice, that it is nice to listen to.... I hate my voice, but like the compliment.

The first day comes to an end... next lesson in 2 weeks.... but by then, I need to know the 3 sun salutations by heart.... Game on!

Monday, November 19, 2012

The program begins....

Saturday November 10th - a 90 minute drive brings me all the way to Bruges - a trip I will do at least 9 more times in the coming year.

The yoga room is light and spatious, in an old building with wooden floors. I'm not the first to arrive (normally I am the first to arrive as I rather be too soon than a bit too late). Some people seem to have taken their usual spot in the room with their yoga mat. They probably have been here more often...

I'm happy to see that the group is mixed - in most cases, men are a minority.... why would that be?  - hold that thought - I have a theory... but later...

Since it is the first lesson, the introduction round is a given. Most yogi are from Bruges, there is one from Brussels, one from Antwerp and one from Hasselt, a 2 hour drive from Bruges.... respect!
And off course, part of the introduction is how long you have been doing yoga. I remember in Holland, where I did the 2 weekends, people liked to show off experience  - Belgians are more down to earth in that respect.... I hear 14 years (and already followed a different teacher training), 4 years, 10 years, 7 years .... but also 1 year and a few months. My 2 weekends and some bending-over-my-books-at-home-from-time-to-time makes me by far the leasts experienced of the bunch - but I look at it on the bright side - no previous experience with a certain style means no boundaries (right?).

The 5 hour lessons will always consist of a bit of theory (at least the first 4 lessons), the complete yoga flow (3 sun salutations + variants and 32 postures + mindfullness exercise to end) and then looking at a part of the flow in more depth, including how to teach and how to correct postures.

The first theoretic lesson is about the holistic yoga anatomy - the different bodies (huh?) from the human being.
There's the physical body - my cup of tea - but also the energetic body - I can see that - the emotional body - so far so good. When we move onto the spiritual body, the body of blessedness and the "self" I start to struggle. No need to throw in the rebirth and the afterlife.... you've already lost me. For the first time I wonder - what am I doing here....

I don't believe in life after death - I think it is a great concept that comforts people in the worst moments, but that is how far it goes for me. And for things that are not scientifically proven, I have to experience them before I believe them.... so, I decide to take a step out of my comfort zone (being the pure physical aspect, the body I can see and touch) and to open up to the energetic body part of the theory - the objective of the physical postures of yoga is to open up the energy current in the body and get energy flowing freely. I think I can handle that..... Good for me!

Tomorrow - part 2 of the first lesson

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How it began...

Why did I start with yoga?

Good question. It looks trendy in this day and age, but then again, I'm not a trendsetter, not even an early adapter in most cases - I don't own any I-things (no Ipod, Ipad, ....I whatever). ... so being trendy is most likely not it.
I guess I just wanted to experience what all the fuzz is about. People who are into yoga are generally very positive about it. It relaxes them, it has changed their life, it brings them joy and happiness.

And, be honest, everybody is looking for happiness - the ultimate quest in life.

I wanted to experience what the effects of yoga - in my case I'm referring to the postures - could have on me.  So that already triggers a first question - can the physical part of yoga already increase my happiness or do I need to open up to a holistic approach and allow the spiritual side to become part of me as well?

Yoga clubs, although very common in cities, have not reached the rural area where I live unfortunately. So I started yoga at home with a number of books, and try to follow the postures as described in them. I could see myself gaining flexibility, but had a hard time bringing myself to the yoga mat every day. And off course I wondered, am I doing it right?

My wife and I went on 2 yoga weekends over the past 2 years. This is where we met Alberto. Alberto has practiced all different kinds of yoga for over 30 years - and finally created his own type of yoga, Prana Yoga Flow.

Every time I took one of his yoga sessions, I felt good - tired but happy. It's a pity that his yoga classes are a 90 minute drive from where I live, otherwise I would join them on a weekly basis.

So my wife and I decided to join his yoga teacher training (part 1). Some couples go salsa dancing (been there, done that) but we think that going through the yoga teacher training together would be a great way to spend quality time together. We can help each other out and compare how we both go through this experience.... my wife is more driven by emotions whereas I am driven by ratio.... this could become very interesting in many ways.

Next blogpost - the first training day....

This blog....

Dear reader,

I started this blog to share my journey in the world of yoga.
I began a yoga teacher training a week ago, and want to register my learnings,  what it does to me and if it changes me over the next coming year.

Just to manage your expectations:
  • I'm an engineer by education - please don't expect well written blogposts but I'll try not to make it look like a detailed report of an experiment either
  • I'm very rational about things - yoga for me at this moment is bending my body in all the different ways you can think of. The whole spiritual part of yoga is at this moment not my cup of tea. Apparently, this is a very Western approach to yoga.
So if you are ok with that, I hope that you will enjoy my posts over the next coming year. If you want to share something, feel free to do so in the comment section.

Happy reading.