[ Q ] I noticed one pose that I would really like to learn how to do and in one of your pictures you are doing it. In the heading on your main page there is a picture of you doing what I would describe as a partial handstand and a partial backbend. I have looked on a few yoga websites and I haven't been able to find it so I hope you can help.
A: That pose is also a favorite of mine. The pose itself is called Pincha Mayurasana or Peacock feather and can be turned into a balancing back bend once that pose is mastered.
It takes a lot of arm/shoulder strength and awareness to maintain this posture. It can be helpful to practice up against a wall at first to get a feel for how the pose works. The secret is to keep lifting up through the shoulders and upper back while pushing down into the floor firmly with the arms. This will give you more lightness; helping you to maintain balance and alignment. The arms should be parallel to each other shoulder width apart; fingers spread hands and forearms pressing firmly into the floor.
The elbows and forearms should be at a right angle. If you have trouble drawing the elbows together and keeping the arms parallel you can use a strap around the arms (near the upper elbow at shoulder width) or use a block between the elbows on the floor to press against. Keep in mind props should only be used for occasional assistance and should not be relied on in the long term.
Here is a link with a more detailed description.
[ Q ] How can I integrate Yoga and Weightlifting? I love what my current yoga practice does to my body, but I would also like to have a little bit more bulk. Ideally, I would prefer to adapt my yoga practice in a manner that will let me avoid weights all together, and instead focus on a more intense and longer practice. Do you have any ideas or advice on how I can accomplish this?
A: Yoga can certainly replace
strength training, depending on the type of Yoga you practice. Ashtanga and Power Yoga are two types of vigorous Yoga known to greatly improve strength and tone.
| Ashtnaga & Power Yoga
Ashtanga is a dynamic fast paced yoga that focuses on a series of sequences (six in all). You must first complete one series before moving on to the next. The series gets harder as you progress and due to its difficult nature most people stick to the first and second series. The emphasis in Ashtanga is on Vinyasa- the way the postures are connected through breath and movement. Power Yoga Is often a spin off of Ashtanga yoga.
During your practice you will find numerous opportunities to move and/or support your own bodyweight, which is a great way to build muscle. Yoga makes your muscles strong, flexible and gives you a functional strength.
People often get mentally and physically lazy in yoga because they think they aren't doing exercise. It is important to stay focused, engage the muscles and work dynamically at all times. This awareness will also ensure proper alignment and help avoid injury. The most important thing is that Yoga will make you a stronger person on the inside as well.
Here are a few pointers that may help you in adapting your current practice to get the results you are looking for:
- If yoga is your sole exercise, five times a week for about 1-1.5 hours would be ideal.
- The suns salutations are a good all round conditioning exercise; it is helpful to start every session with 5-10 as a good all over warm up.
- For endurance try to hold the postures for a longer amount of time working up to ten breaths if possible. I find that anything less is just not long enough to get the muscles really engaged.
- Do balancing poses on areas where you want to develop muscles. Standing balances are good to develop lower body strength while arm balances are good for working on the upper body (some postures combine both.) All balances are good for improving core strength and mental focus.
- Learn about the Bandhas and how to incorporate them into your asana practice as well as doing them as a practice on their own. This will strengthen your inner core and give you more awareness and control throughout the body and in the postures.
What Are Bandhas?
There are three bandhas - Mula Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha and Jhalandara Bandha. Each bandha is a lock, meaning a closing off of part of the interior body. These locks are used in various pranayama and asana practices to tone, cleanse and energize the interior body and organs. When all three bandhas are activated at the same time, it is called Maha Bandha, the great lock.
- Practice in a Vinyasa style (linking the movements with a flow) like Ashtanga or Power Yoga for a good cardiovascular workout.
- Don't forget the importance of a good diet. One of the reasons yogis do not develop large obvious muscles is because their main aim is not to gain muscle therefore they do not cater their diet to 'bodybuilding.'
[ Q ] Is there a way to know if a place that teaches yoga is credible? Is there an association of accredited teachers?
A: Yoga alliance (
www.yogaalliance.org) has an accreditation scheme. You can search their site for a registered teacher in your area.
- How long they have been practicing for.
- What their primary style is.
- Who their teachers were.
- What their qualifications and teaching experience is.
- If they have public liability insurance!
From their website:
Basically a person has to prove that they have done a course through one of the teachers already registered with the alliance. After which the applicant can also register enabling them to use the yoga alliance symbol as well as putting the letters R.Y.T (registered Yoga Teacher) after their name.
Unfortunately it is possible to teach without the right qualifications and experience. Yoga can be considered a fairly intangible art so people can get away with a lot of things.
There are also associations for the different styles of yoga that allow the teachers to display the trademarks in the studios (Iyengar, Bikram etc.) Once a teacher has either done a course or a completed a set amount of teaching hours (and sometimes both) they can become a recognized teacher in that specific style.
Word of mouth is always a great way to find a good teacher.
Never be afraid to ask a teacher:
And if you are really worried:
[ Q ] Can you recommend a good Yoga video/DVD for me?
A: There is no straightforward answer to this question as it is going to depend on your current ability and your future goals. Everybody starts and continues Yoga for a different reason so this is a decision best left to you.
There are so many Yoga products out there these days that it is hard not to get overwhelmed. The best suggestion I can make is to browse the shelves at the local studio or bookstore and see what jumps out at you. Take a quiet pause, think about what you desire in a tape and see what you are naturally drawn to. More often than not you will be attracted to exactly what you need for that time.
(Keep in mind this doesn't just apply to buying a Yoga video!)
At the end of the day though, nothing can replace a good yoga class with a well-trained teacher.
[ Q ] I find my wrists get sore in arm balances. Is this common? What can I do to prevent it?
A: Many people suffer from sore wrists in yoga; this is usually due to incorrect alignment and misuse of the hands. What happens frequently is that we roll back on our wrists taking the brunt of our weight into the heel of our hands. It is important in such a situation to bring the weight forward slightly to make use of the whole hand, making a solid foundation, which we can then build on.
Spread the fingers; push down through the fingertips and base of the palm (behind the knuckles) as well as the heel of the hand. Think of your hands as suction caps, all the main parts need to connect to the floor to create the maximum amount of strength and grip. Push down into and away from the floor, this will make the pose lighter and take some of the strain off the wrists. Also try lifting up and out off the shoulders more.
Wrist pain can also be associated with a weakness in the area. Doing postures like downward dog and plank pose can help strengthen the wrists. Generally however, whenever your hand is on the floor you should put the above principles into practice.
If you are still experiencing pain after this, ask your teacher to help you incorporate some props into those poses to make them more manageable for you.
[ Q ] Is it OK to practice Yoga everyday?
A: In most traditions Yoga is practiced six times a week, so yes it is ok to do yoga everyday. A daily practice can be beneficial for numerous reasons.
Firstly it will bring balance to the external body and create harmony in the inner body. When the muscles and surrounding tissues are lengthened and relaxed during a yoga session it encourages the blood to flow. This attracts more oxygen to the area helping muscles to heal and grow, making them more effective for your next workout and less sore in everyday life.
The mental clarity and focus gained from a regular practice can help you deal with the stress of day-to-day life (and who doesn't need that!)
Practice does not always have to be to full capacity, just listen to what your body needs. Some mornings you may desire an energizing practice to get you going for the day, while in the evening perhaps you need a more restorative practice to calm yourself down and to unwind from the day's events and frustrations.
Yoga can also be used as therapy, incorporating asana throughout the day to ease discomfort, lift your spirits or to center yourself is a useful habit to establish.