Got a yoga question? Ask it on the YBC Yoga Forum!
Question 1: Hi Candace! I've noticed how you gracefully float forward from down dog to forward fold in your videos. I really struggle with this transition. Even when I concentrate on engaging the core, my forward hop is pretty clumsy. Do you have any advice for how to improve my flow from down dog to forward fold? Thanks so much!
Answer 1: Hey! So I have a few tips. First, how's your step forward from downward dog to the top of the mat? The video above may help leaning how to engage the core, because it's really a core movement rather than a drag-the-leg-to-the-front movement (which is a common mistake I see often). When you're comfortable with that, move on to the jump forward.
The trick here is to prepare the shoulder girdle by making the arms very strong. You can see above that before I jump, I bring my shoulders over my wrists. Eventually as muscle memory comes into play, there'll be no need to do this but by doing this my body becomes aware of what it feels like to have the wrists and shoulders in one line. I know I need to jump hard enough so that I get the shoulders over the wrists. When I do that, the pelvis will hopefully come that far as well. At that point we might even be able to pause to the body is in the backwards and upside down shape of the letter L. From there, we'll aim to engage the core even more to bring the feet down to the front of the mat (and the more we engage the slower we'll be able to bring the legs down). Actually, the more we engage the core, the slower everything becomes and we'll get more of a float than a jump I hope the video above helps.
Question 2: What Yoga related books would you recommend for a beginner middle aged male Yogi?
Answer 2: Take a look at this yoga book reading list. To start out, I would recommend Yoga Anatomy, The Heart of Yoga: Developing a personal practice, The Key Muscles of Yoga, and then you might want to go into something a bit more deeper like The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring yoga’s ethical practice.
Question 3: I am 7 months pregnant and have been practicing yoga for a couple years, so I would say I am beginner/intermediate. At the moment I mostly do spine stretches and mobility and sun salutations, plus some tips I learned at my prenatal yoga class and I am always very carefull to listen to my body while doing yoga. I am very inspired by inversions and back bends, and was wondering what postures I can do while pregnant to slowly prepare for those and open my heart, strenghten my arms. Pigeon? Bridge?
Answer 3: I want to start off by saying that I don't have any formal education in prenatal yoga so I would highly recommend speaking with a prenatal instructor. That being said, I do know some basics. It definitely depends on what kind of yoga poses you did before you were pregnant. I wouldn't recommend beginning a rigorous yoga practice to prepare for inversions and backbends while you're pregnant if you're a beginner. However, if you had a strong practice beforehand, you could likely still do some of the prep poses you used to do before. Whether or not you take the steps to backbends and inversions is a personal choice and no matter who you ask, you'll get a different response as to what's safe and what's not. (The amazing Briohny Smith was doing scorpion pose at 7 months!)
No matter where you are in your practice, you could certainly do bridge pose up until a certain point in your pregnancy (this varies for people, so listen to your body).
Ultimately we want to watch out for stretching the abdominals too much if it's new for you, so I wouldn't recommend camel pose.
As an aside, I feel like this is the worst answer in the history of the world, so let me just end by saying your best bet is to go to a prenatal yoga class and ask the instructor who will likely be able to take what you've told her about your previous practice and help explain what would be best for your body.
Question 4: During class when the pace starts to really progress and the instructor is saying, "inhale, exhale" really close together I start to feel dizzy from almost hyperventilating. Is it okay to modify breathing or is there a benefit to keeping up with the speed of the breathing that the instructor is giving?
Answer 4: This is such a great question. Because our lungs are different sizes (and in various conditions!), I think it's best to just breathe fully and deeply and forget about whether or not you're in the exact cadence of the yoga instructor. The rule of thumb for nearly all yoga poses (especially sun salutations) is any time the body is opening up or expanding (halfway lift, 3 leg dog), take an inhale. Any time the body is closing or folding together (forward fold, jumping back to chaturanga), exhale. Other than that, just breathe at your own pace but fully and deeply.
Related: Yoga for better breathing.