Question 1: Whenever I do uttasana, camel pose, I rotate my shoulders backwards; which makes the pose really uncomfortable and my arms hurt a lot. I am not sure if I'm doing it right, and I'd like to know if we are supposed to rotate the shoulders in this pose. Could you please give some instructions on how to do this pose properly?
Answer 1: Camel pose is a tricky pose and super intense for a lot of people. Often, people think that backbends like camel pose really work the back, and while that's not exactly untrue, they're actually a major front body stretch - so we feel it intensely in the hip flexors, chest, and shoulders especially. With the shoulders, we want to have an external rotation. To find the external rotation, let your arms hang by your sides with the palms facing toward one another. Leading from your thumbs, turn the palms away from you. This is external rotation. Once you do this, bring the hands down to cup the feet, as shown above. The tendency is to collapse the weight in the shoulders and let the chest sink. This can cause some pain, so check to see if you're doing that, and if you are, lift the chest, and think about the body making the capital letter D. I hope that's helpful.
Related: How to modify camel pose.
Question 2: My boyfriend and I attend a yoga class together every week and I was thinking of getting him something related to his practice for our upcoming anniversary. Any good gift suggestions for a yogi guy? Thanks!
Answer 2: I love that you guys attend class together! That is awesome!! Here are some tried and true yoga items that might work.
Yogitoes Towel, $64 - Does he sweat a lot in class? If so, this is a fantastic choice. A little pricey, but high quality. The bottom has sticky nodes so there is no sliding around. Just pour a little water directly on the mat where the hands and feet are and he won't be sliding around at all.
Hell Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something like Transcendence, $9 - If he likes reading, this was a fascinating book about the world of yoga and competitive yoga. Part expose on Bikram, part memoir. I couldn't put it down.
Manduka yoga mat, $48 - One of my favorite mats (review here). It's really well made and high quality.
Yoga strap, $13 - If he's a typical guy, he's likely has some tightness
Takeya glass water bottle, $20 -
Yoga Crow Swerve Short, $59 -
Cork yoga block, $18 -
Question 3: I am a huge fan of your blog, I really appreciate the time and effort that you put into your posts and videos!! It is great for beginners like me!!! Thank you. I was wondering if you have done in the past or if you plan on doing a "bedtime yoga" video or some sort of "bedtime yoga" flowchart? I've been trying to find a decent YouTube video however I couldn't find one that I liked! Thank you!
Answer 3: Ask and you shall receive, me friend! You can see how you like my yoga for better sleep video and give these three yoga poses for sleep a try as well. But in case those don't do the trick, I've put together four poses that I love before bed up above. They all promote relaxation and intend to release tension in the body, which is ideal right before climbing into bed.
Question 4: Almost a month ago, I pulled my hamstring (I think?) muscle practicing splits, when I went to lower my yoga blocks and slipped too far into the pose. The muscle is healed now, after lots of ice and epsom salt baths, but one leg feels much tighter now in certain poses, like one-legged downward dog and standing splits/balancing poses. Is that normal? Will I get the flexibility back? It wasn't a severe injury at all, I wasn't even in pain when I got out of the pose originally or walked around. And these were never very challenging for me to do before. Should I keep doing those poses to regain flexibility, or does this mean I should be avoiding those poses altogether? It's been a long time since the initial injury, so I'm not sure which to do at this point. Thank you!
Answer 4: Sorry to hear that! Something similar happen to me last year. It was a hamstring issue as well, and my left leg was so much tighter than my right no matter how much stretching or warming up I did. I can't say what you should or shouldn't do, because I don't know the degree of the injury and I have to say here that I'm not a doctor (which you know, but ya know, gotta protect myself) but here's what helped me. I continued to practice, but I stopped pushing myself to extent that I felt the tightness in the hamstring. For example, I avoided deep hamstring work like splits, but I still practiced vinyasa which incorporates a lot of downward dogs and forward folds. I just took a few weeks (probably six or so?) and backed the heck off. My downward dogs looked like my husband's downward facing dog poses, my forward folds had bent knees, and I just focused on letting it be without trying to change it. It did go away within a few weeks, and I have found that as long as I stay really mindful and don't jump into splits or sugar canes without warming up I am fine.
Question 5: Hi! So I know you get a lot of questions on this topic but nothing previously answered is exactly what I was looking for. I've started practising yoga daily a little more than a week ago (mostly the motivation and inspiration come from you, btw). In the last 1-2 days I have this subtle and irritating pain in my middle and lower back - not so much pain even, but more an uncomfortable feeling. I thought it might have come from sitting all day in front of a computer, but I've also noticed a pain in lower back when I do poses like cobra.
Of course I took to the internet and found some articles about how yoga can actually harm you if you do it wrong, so now I'm a little scared. Am I doing something wrong and damaging my back? Or is it just the built up tension?
I have some previous experience with yoga from online videos, but I haven't been using those this time as I find them somewhat restricting. Was that a bad idea?
Answer 5: I can't say whether the pains you're feeling are related to the yoga or sitting for long periods of time, and I can't say what exactly is causing it, but the low back in cobra pose pain you're describing is a red flag that something's not quite right.
Remember those old school curly phone cords? They were really tight when they were brand new, and if you bent them, you'd immediately see a pointy kink. This is not what we want to do with the spine. Instead, think about taking that phone cord in your hands and make it into a letter U shape or an upside down letter U. This is what we want to do when we do any kind of backbend with our spine. (I hope this makes sense, maybe you think I'm totally nuts with this phone cord business!)
Anyway, the reason behind all this is that we want to avoid any kind of compression in the spine which will cause discomfort and may cause injury.
I know the internet articles you're talking about (was there a NY Times article you read? That one was the worst!). It's good to read those, to hear people's perspective, but don't be scared off. As long as you are being totally mindful, and not trying to push yourself past your limit, or compete with anyone else, you should be totally fine. Yoga, besides the poses and breathing and all that, is so much about learning about who you are, and what you can do, and listening to your body, because it will tell you when it's had enough and needs a break.
Question 6: Hi! I’m practicing to do yoga head stand for a while now but I’m unable to do it. I can do normal head stand with my palms on the floor but not my forearm. Do you think is it a good idea to try to change the pose from a standard to a yoga head stand? If so could you show me a video of it? Thanks!:)
Answer 6: Hi! Well, first of all both tripod headstand (the one you're doing now) and supported headstand (the forearm one) are seen in yoga, so there's really no real "need" to switch it up, but it might be fun to learn, right? I made a video for you below, and hopefully that will help. If you want a closer look, check out this pose breakdown of supported headstand. Let me know how that goes!
Related: More videos - subscribe to my yoga youtube channel.