Welcome to this week's installment of Ask a Yoga Question. From now on, I'll be taking questions for the YBC Yoga Forum. Hop on over to ask your question!
Question 1 I really struggle with my upper body strength. I'm slowly building this so crow is off limits to me. Any other intermediate poses that I could work on that don't involve my upper body?
Answer 1 You're so wise not to force anything and let it come slowly as your practice grows. Good for you! Yes, there are quite a few poses you could work on that don't involve the upper body. Splits are always a good one, locust pose above (my nemesis!), and bridge or wheel poses would be great too. You could also play around with funky sequencing, like incorporating this core strengthening pose in the middle of your vinyasas before you step to downward facing down. Enjoy the journey!
Related A core strengthening sequence
Question 2 I have a very tight lower back and every time I'm in any backbend pose, I feel like I can't breathe. This, obviously, makes it very hard for me to practice these poses. How can I fix this?
Answer 2 I'm not sure the not being able to breathe part is stemming from a low back issue. It sounds like it might be a lack of flexibility in the armpit/shoulder area that is constricting the lungs - that used to happen to me. As for the low back, try visualizing the spine as an upside down letter U, rather than a V, and keep working on opening up the chest with a yin yoga practice or a heart opening practice.
Related 4 ways to improve your backbend.
Question 3 I'm trying to become a better yoga teacher for a club at my school. How do I get the class more interactive and interested? They always give up and find the whole situation embarrassing. I also need some pointers on how to explain the poses more understandably.
Answer 3 I think your best bet would be to attend more classes yourself. As a student taking classes without various teachers helps to determine what works best for you and your teaching style (and what doesn't). The same thing goes for explaining poses. I love taking other classes with different teachers because often they'll say something that really resonates with me.
Question 4 I am finally leaving (slowly but surely) the beginner stage in yoga and I've noticed myself getting into postures a tiny bit deeper than before and I have even started trying some gentle binds with a yogi at our gym. So, that made me think of how you started out, once a week, and then you started the see the benefits, moving on to doing it every day, etc. Which of your videos would you suggest trying now that I can feel better and less strained...by this I mean, my hamstrings are slightly looser and my hip flexors are as well, but still extremely tight? What did you start doing when you moved out of the beginner stage into the beginner intermediate stage? I'd love to hear some stories, see pictures, and watch your appropriate videos. Or perhaps this is me requesting a video for someone like me who can maybe put some basic binds in or do a few more postures like happy baby where I can work my back or other hamstring stretching postures.
Answer 4 Congrats, isn't it great to feel progress?! I would suggest the athletic yoga for legs video. It works the tight hamstrings but is more of a flow based class so the heart is pumping and the body is really working and gaining strength. You might also want to try working on individual poses like baby grasshopper and eight angle pose. Are you able to come into crow pose? That was the one pose for me that really felt like the stepping stone into more intermediate poses. From there, you can build and work your way into crow pose jumpbacks, which are fun to throw in the middle of your vinyasas. Give those a try and let me know how it goes! Enjoy the journey!
Question 5 Every time I try to get into wheel pose it's like my arms get locked and I'm not able to straighten them. The highest I can get is to the top of my head on the ground but from that point on I can't get any higher. My knees and feet are aligned all the time and my hips are high of the ground but for some reason my arms won't cooperate, do you have any advise?
Answer 5 Hi! Yep, this sounds to me like a lack of flexibility in the shoulder/armpit/chest area. I would recommend doing this shoulder stretch, the yin yoga practice (because it really opens up the chest), and my two chest videos. Just stick with it, keep practicing consistently and you'll get there.
Related How to improve flexibility
Question 6 I've been working on building my upper body strength over the past couple months but I feel like I'm at a standstill. I have just recently been able to go up (briefly) into crow pose, but I can feel my arms giving out after only a breath or two. Do you have any suggestions of poses to continue to build on that strength?
Answer 6 Crow pose in particular is, in my opinion, equal parts core strength and upper body strength. If you're not able to hold, ask yourself if you're leaning on your arms rather than using your core strength to lift your legs. The best thing I can recommend is going the pose on your butt so you can feel the core strength needed. Hold for as long as you can, take a break, and then do it a few more times. With consistent practice, you'll get there.
Related A shoulder sequence.