Keep your questions coming in - I don't have all the answers, but I am happy to share what I know. Here are this week's questions.
Question 1: I am interested in starting yoga. I am heavy right now and working on healthy eating and exercise. I have a lower back problem....sciatica. Is there a simpler start to yoga...poses to start out with?
Answer 1: Hi! Welcome to the yoga journey - you're going to love it. I have a video with yoga tips for absolutely beginners that might be helpful, as it talks through some yoga pose basics, and offers tips for how beginners can modify. Or you might like to try this gentle yoga sequence. Depending upon how heavy you are (see question 3 for more), and whether you have any mobility or joint issues, you might like to try the chair yoga sequence (and part two here). You can also try these three poses for sciatica and see if they help.
Question 2: Hi hi! So i'm getting super into yoga and I was wondering if you had any good books to recommend. I'm trying to find a way to connect more to the heart and origin of yoga! Like Hinduism or Buddhism. I want to connect but not off of the typical books! Hopefully that all makes sense! Hope to hear from you soon! You've helped me so much with yoga!
Answer 2: Hey, that's great that you're getting really into yoga! Yoga isn't a religion or a part of Buddhism or Hinduism (though it originated in India, so many yogis were also Hindu). Anyway, if you're looking for more of the spiritual aspect of yoga, I'd suggest these: 1. Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar. Iyengar is known for attention to alignment, so it's a nice book to have because it you'll learn the proper alignment, but it also talks about the background and philosophy of yoga as well. 2. Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swandi Satchidananda. This book is what a lot of yoga teacher trainings are based off of. It provides a complete guide to yoga, but also explores a more spiritual side of the yoga teachings. 3. Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness by Erich Schiffmann. This book discusses the subtleties of the yoga practice in a way that's easy to understand and apply. 4. Bhagavad-Gita This is an ancient text that I think might be exactly what you're looking for. It's considered one of the greatest spiritual texts of all time, and is the core text for Hinduism. Hope you enjoy!
Question 3: I am an obese individual. Someone who is wanting to step into the Yoga arena, I have visited places here in Utah to talk about a more specialized yoga regimen for someone in my situation. Being my size has some mobility issues. The instructors I have spoken to here just tell me to join a class and do what I can and it will be fine. I found that to be dismissive of the true mobility limitations that I have. There is a place in Portland, Oregon called Fat Yoga which totally addresses the mobility issues and embraces them and has exercises around them. Is this something you have in your library of videos? I saw the custom yoga DVD option but honestly if you have the same opinion as the instructors I have spoken to here....I will have to look elsewhere. Thank you for your consideration!
Answer 3: I really appreciate you writing in and bringing light to a situation I didn't realize was happening. As a yoga instructor I was taught to try to be very inclusive by telling people to do the best they can. Often times people are needlessly nervous about their first yoga class, so a "do the best you can" is sort of like saying, "relax, it'll be fine." But it's different when someone is working with an injury, health condition or, like you described, a true mobility issue. When this happens, you're right - it's dismissive. So I'm glad you brought this up so I can be mindful should this ever come up. Ok, to address your question - I do not currently have a video that talks about mobility issues, but I am planning to make one for the future. Check out question 1 above for more tips- the chair pose sequence might be good for you. In the meantime, here are some things to consider that may be helpful:
-Let's address the challenges heavy people are working with (this is good to understand whether you're a yoga instructor or a heavy person just starting to get in tune with his/her own body because identifying how the body works will help help us figure out how to modify the yoga poses in ways that work for a larger body). First, a bigger belly means the center point of gravity will be different, so balance may be challenged. It may also be difficult to cross the legs, or interlace the fingers behind the back. The excess weight in the stomach means the pelvis will be constantly tilting back, so the overweight person may have neck and upper back issues from always leaning forward. Keeping those issues in mind, we can go forward.
-The general rule of thumb is to modify the poses to accommodate the extra size. Take a wide leg child's pose (shown above) and keep the key points outlined in the photo in mind. In savasana, a cushion under the knees and under the head will be helpful. The exception for modifying to accommodate the weight is in forward fold. If you take a wider stance in forward fold to accommodate the belly, you'll come into a different type of stretch that isn't lengthening the hamstrings the same was as forward fold, so instead of thinking about how far you can bend over, focus and visualize lengthening the spine. This will help bring the body in alignment. Also, be mindful not to hyperextend the knees in forward fold. Keep a micro bend in the knees, and breathe deeply and fully.
-Sun salutations require quite a bite of movement, so it might be best to focus on individual poses first. However, if you do want to try them, just be mindful of the transitions in sun salutations. When you step from downward facing dog to the front of the mat, try coming down onto one knee and then working the other foot forward. Then, press into the standing foot and rock gently forward to lift up off the knee and onto the other foot.
I hope these tips are helpful!
Question 4: My brother is a golf pro who has NEVER tried yoga in his life. Recently he was asking me which yoga poses he should try to improve his game. Frankly I was a little shocked, but very excited that he is interested in adding yoga into his routine. I'm sure there are other golfers who could benefit too. Thanks!!
Answer 4: Funny, a few weeks ago I created a custom yoga dvd for a guy looking to improve his golf game, so the ideas are fresh on my mind! Golfers need flexibility in their shoulders, torso and hips for a good swing. This video sequence for strength and flexibility addresses some of this issues, as well as these 3 poses to open the chest. The pics above will be helpful, too.