Thanks for submitting your yoga questions! Here are this week's questions:
Question 1: So, I really want to know about how to create your own yoga sequence. I took a yoga class and I want to piece things from various videos (such as yours) with things from my class. But how do you find a way to put what you feel benefits you most together for a sequence?
Answer 1: This is a great idea and such a great way to grow your personal practice! Check out these guidelines on how to create your own yoga sequence. Then, ensure that the pieces you're putting together complement each other. For example, I wouldn't pair a series of deep back bending with a series of deep forward folding because it's just a lot of stress on the spine. Instead, I would choose one theme or focus. If your focus is back bending, then think about what poses you need to warm up the spine before beginning the back bends. Be really mindful and always listen to your body. I hope that's helpful!
Question 2: Hi! I'm in my early 40s and a beginner in hartha yoga. I'm glad I found the YBC Facebook page and most grateful for all the tips, videos and easy-to-follow explaination. Well, my problem is I'm mostly more flexible on one side of the body than the other. Two weeks ago, I was trying to bend my body over my leg (seated position) and trying to touch my chin on my my knee. I made it for my left leg. Thinking I could do the same on my right, I bent and tried several times (I breathed!). It took longer but I made it, too. The next day, while trying to do a forward bend while standing, I felt pain from above my right knee on the back of my upper thigh. I think I've over stretched the hamstring. I do not think it is serious as I could walk with ease most times or even slow jog. But I'm getting worried the pain might stay for a long time and this could hamper future practices. What should I do in the meantime?
Answer 2: It's not uncommon that one side of the body is more flexible than the other. This usually has to do with what we do when we're not exercises. For example, maybe you always cross the right leg over the left, or when you're driving, maybe you always sit leaning on the right side rather than sitting evenly. Pay attention to how you sit and stand, and where you distribute the weight. This may help.
In the meantime, just be really mindful when you stretch. Breathe, and instead of thinking about your chin getting to your knee, think about trying to feel your stomach on your thighs when you fold forward. This sensation of the stomach on the legs helps bring the stretch in the hamstrings. When we think about getting our chins to our knees, the stretch often goes to the back people people tend to round their back. The beauty of yoga is that it is an ongoing journey. There is never an end point, so savor every breath in your forward fold and listen to your body, making sure to back off when it tells you it's had enough. Hope that's helpful.
Question 3: Hey Candace! So I have been practicing yoga for the past six months, and I'm finally starting to see progress in my practice. One pose I simply cannot master, as simple as it is, is lizard. When I transition from a low lunge, and place my hands onto the floor beside my leg, I get an uncomfortable sensation in the leg that is at a 90 degree angle and no stretch in my hips. I have tried dropping down to my elbows to deepen the stretch, but I am always hindered by the other leg. I can't exactly pinpoint to part of my leg that is bothering me, but I can never fully stretch in the pose because of this constraint. Do you have an suggestions for variations of the pose, or other stretches to help me get into this pose? Thank you!
Answer 3: Well without knowing what part of the leg it is that's bothering you, it's difficult for me to give a solid answer, but let's try. First things first, though, haha, lizard (at least for me) is not simple! In fact, it is downright difficult for me. You should've seen me trying to take this picture - I was like, "HURRY UP! TAKE THE PICTURE! I NEED TO COME OUT OF THIS!" That pose is no joke and really sets me off! So don't worry so much about "mastering" the pose. Instead, think about the journey instead. What it's going to take to "get there" and how much work you'll put in and all the practices you'll do in the meantime. Ok, with that being said, let's get down to it.
I would suggest using a pair of quality yoga blocks. Turn them so they're as high as you need them to be and put your hands on them (not your elbows as shown here). If you feel comfortable here, you can turn the blocks so they're at their lowest point. And if you still feel comfortable, you can try moving down to your elbows. The blocks will give you a little height, potentially making it easier for you to reach the "ground" comfortably without any sensation in the legs.
Related: More ways to use yoga blocks.
Question 4: I've recently gotten into yoga and have been following your blog for great information and ongoing inspiration! I absolutely love your yoga pose breakdowns and both hand/foot diagrams (like How to Avoid Wrist Pain).
My question how to do with chaturanga. I find when I do this pose, I have a tendency to shift my weight along the outer edges of my hands as I lower down. When I try to "firmly plug" my hands and press the mats according to your helpful diagram, I feel like my arms/elbows want to go outward instead of stay at my sides and/or my back collapses. I should note that I'm both working on my upper body/shoulder strength and flexibility. Any insights as to what I might be doing incorrectly and advice on how I can fix this?
Answer 4: First of all, thank you so much for your kind words about my blog. I'm so glad it's helpful to you.
I think the fact that you're so tuned in to what you are doing in chaturanga is such a good thing. It will certainly help prevent injury, and it means that you're really in the moment, which is what yoga is all about. So good for you!
The exact thing that you described used to happen to me. I think it happens because the strength just isn't there yet. I would continue to incorporate some yoga for upper body strength, and in the meantime, practice chaturanga on your knees. When you do this, the hips will need to come forward so they're in line with your body and then, as you slowly lower down, focus on plugging the hands in and keeping the collarbones broad. It certainly isn't easy, but this modification may help until the strength is developed.
Related: Common mistakes in sun salutations.
Question 5: In a number of yoga classes I've attended and also in a few of your videos, I've been instructed to roll front to back, and eventually, up to a seated position. For some reason, I seem to struggle with this a great deal, especially if starting with my knees pulled into my chest. It's like I'm stuck and can't get any momentum. Is there anything I can do to help with this? Thanks!
Answer 5: Yeah this can be tough, especially starting with the knees in toward the chest. There are two ways to do the rocking and rolling. First, is to use the momentum of your legs to swing yourself backward and then forward to seated. This is more just a warm up for the spine.
The second way it to try not to move your legs and engage the core (especially the lower abs) and rock and roll your way up. It's definitely challenging, but it's a great way to build the core strength, and you can always modify by using your legs until the core strength is there.
Question 6: Hi Candace, i love the way you teach yoga- particularly the very small precautions you explain while performing a posture. They just helped me to perform the basic beginner postures.
I have a chronic neck (c3-c4) and upper back pain that developed in school and it just got worse from my hours of desk work. I need some good postures where I can increase strength in my trapezius muscle (complete upper, lower and middle fibres of it), my right shoulder blade is just moving outward because of it and as a result I have more pain. Because of this I can't distribute my weight evenly when performing asanas like adho mukha svanasana (downward dog).
Initially i have started strengthening my hips and the lower back, and now I feel my tight muscles got relaxed a little. I want you to guide me in toning up and strengthening my trapezius muscles and the core strength in distributing the weight evenly on hands.
Expecting some help from you.
love and thank you :)
Answer 6: Sorry to hear you are dealing with such pain! That sounds rough. I would definitely see a doctor about the neck pain, if you haven't already. Neck pain can be so tricky, and so finicky, that it's important to really be sure you're not going to cause any further injury, which is why I would suggest talking with a doctor.
I was going to say that my best suggestion for building the trapezius muscle is to go from downward facing dog to plank pose, ripping through the spine in one even, fluid movement. However, because you mentioned that you are already having trouble with downward facing dog, I would really urge you to see a doctor just to make sure the neck is okay enough to be doing yoga.
Once you get the okay from the doctor, you can try the above poses in one fluid movement to build the traps. For the core, I would suggest incorporating this pose, and side plank into your practice. All the best!
Question 7: I really struggle with standing balance poses and I want to improve. What can I do to help develop my balance and prevent my feet from cramping?
Answer 7: Check out this post about how to balance better in yoga. This discusses the key thing in all yoga postures, but especially the standing balancing poses which is the foundation. If your feet are cramping, then there's an issue with the "foundation" of the pose.
So think of each pose like you're building a house with your body. The foundation of that house, which are the feet in the case of standing poses, needs to be solid and secure. Developing the little muscles in the feet can help make that foundation more stable. In the question below, I talk about how to develop those muscles in the feet for plantar fasciitis, but those same tactics can be used for better balancing.
Additionally, think about the toes throughout your yoga practice (not just during the balancing poses). Check in with where you're distributing the weight, and if the toes are spread out evenly. When you come into low lunge, for example, make sure the toes of the back leg are plugged into the mat. This stretches the bottom of the foot, which is just another way to develop the feet.
Keep practicing and try not to get discouraged. You'll get there! :)
Question 8: Hi Candace..love your yoga page. Especially liked the post on what your yoga students should know. You sound like a very real and straightforward person. Can you recommend any poses that would help give relief from/improve my ongoing and extremely limiting plantar fasciitis? I have been a nurse for 32 years and think being on my feet has nurtured this irritating condition along very nicely thankyou very much!
Will you ever come over to australia to do a retreat?
Answer 8: Nurses do not have it easy, and I really feel for you because dealing with plantar fasciitis on top of such a demanding job must be tough. So plantar fasciitis, for anyone who doesn't know, is an inflammation of the fascia that runs from the heel to the toes, and can be really painful. I have a couple of ideas for things that may help.
First, try the yoga video for feet I created a few summers ago. Pointing and flexing the feet, spreading the toes as shown above in the picture, these are all ways to get the blood flowing and help loosen the fascia.
With plantar fasciitis, I think it's also important to develop the little muscles in the feet as much as you can, which is tough because we stuff our feet into socks and shoes and don't give them much of an opportunity to strengthen. One thing you could try is wearing toe socks around the house. When the toes are spread, the feet have to use muscles they're not used to using, thus enabling them to strengthen and support the body better.
As for Australia, I would love to come for a retreat! I know I have a few other readers there, so perhaps one day soon I can put something together. If you like, let me know whereabouts in Australia you are (and any other Australians who are reading), and who knows - maybe we can figure something out! Until then, everyone is welcome to my Ibiza and Greece yoga retreats this October!