Our new place has too much of an echo for filming video with real time sound, so instead, we ventured out into our 'hood to take some yoga pics for this post. Please continue to send your yoga questions by commenting below, or submitting them here.
Question 1: Hi Candace, I have a yoga teacher type question. I know you have mentioned before using essential oils when you teach yoga, sometimes during savasana. Do you mention that you may be doing this at the beginning of class, or advertise it in your course descriptions? I ask because I like rubbing some oil between my palms and walking around the room during savasana. I had a student tell me after class that it triggered her asthma. I felt really awful, but am glad she spoke up and helped me realize I need to take that into consideration (allergies, asthma, etc). I have also had many compliments and thanks from students for using essential oils, so I don't want discontinue it completely. How do you address that? Thanks!
Answer 1: Yep, I let people know at the beginning of class. I tell them what scent (here's my favorite) I'll be using (because I switch it up all the time), and let them know how I'll be using it. I then say that if, for whatever reason, they don't want the scent near their face to just let me know when I get to them. It has worked out fine so far - some people love it and some people just don't want it for whatever reason, but I personally think it adds something special to a class. :)
Question 2: I need your advice on how to choose a yoga studio here in Arizona that best suits my needs and abilities. I go to a gym for Zumba but their yoga classes are absolutely horrible for my needs. Sadly, the only woman who was trained doesn't seem to be able to come anymore. The other yoga "teachers" are not trained so we don't even start with breathing in seated pose. I find that it's more of a stretch workout than a yoga practice and I just don't want to waste my time when I could be pursuing other options. What do you recommend? Are there certain things I should look out for that would or would not be good at a yoga studio? I looked into two so far and the prices are steep along with my monthly gym membership. PS I just purchased your Sweat DVD because I know that is the PERFECT place to start with my practice since I can't rely on my gym anymore.
Answer 2: Sorry to hear your gym is letting you down! I do think the stretching ("yoga") classes could still be beneficial because while you may not be getting much of a yoga class, it should still help you physically (I mean, provided the instructor is watching out for the safety of the students). Plus, it'd help to save money, as yoga studios can be pricey. Don't forget, I have a YouTube channel and the videos are 15 and 30 minutes long (with one full 60 min class) if you are up for practicing at home. But of course, nothing beats having a teacher in the same room. If you're set on finding a yoga studio, here are a few things that I'd look for:
1. A variety of classes: I personally like to have options. Meditation, restorative/gentle and power at the very least. Other great options are heated yoga, Mysore yoga, and any kind of vinyasa flow. Having lots of options is a perk because it means you can really branch out and challenge yourself to try new things. Plus, it ensures that no matter how you feel on any given day, you'll always have an option that'll work for you.
2. A variety of instructors: I also like to have a number of teachers to choose from because honestly, not every type of instruction will speak to you. And it's great to challenge yourself and take classes from instructors whose style you don't care for, but it's even better when you're able to find someone you really love. Related: the worst instructor I ever had.
3. A packed schedule: It's just easier to plan your day when you know you have a bunch of classes to choose from. It also may help to ensure that you'll always be able to find a smaller class, if you feel like you need that extra attention.
4. Workshops: For me, as an instructor, I prefer going to studios that invite other instructors to come give workshops. Workshops are longer than your typical class and focus on a theme or one specific thing. Like if you are interested in going deeper into arm balances, or learning more about meditation, there should be workshops that offer these opportunities. Related: Any Los Angeles people out there should check out my next workshop.
5. Facilities: This doesn't matter so much to me because I generally take a class and then go right home to shower and change, but if you're going to the studio and then planning on going out and about afterwards, you might want to check the changing area and shower area just to be sure they meet your needs.
6. Sense of community: Some studios offer a little cafe, or mini boutique. Some offer free tea after class, or will host little gatherings throughout the year that really have nothing much to do about yoga - they're just cultivating a little sense of community. This is a big selling point for me, mostly because I love my yoga peeps, and it's great to meet other likeminded people. :)
7. Ample parking: There's nothing worse than rushing to class only to find there's no where to park. Ample parking is key!
And a word on pricing: First, check groupon for a deal on yoga in your area. I scored a 10 class pass for $30 bucks in Los Angeles which is basically unheard of! Also, many studios offer specials for newbies. I've seen some do a week for $25, or your first class free, etc. Make sure to ask, and if they don't offer one, ask to speak with the manager. These yoga studios are expensive, and how do you know you'll like it if you have to drop a hundred or so on a whole month?! The worst they can say is no, right? Best of luck, and thank you for ordering my DVD. I hope you love it.
Question 3: Hi Candace, I don't know if this qualifies as a yoga question, but maybe you could help me with some thinking.. After today's ashtanga practice we had some tea and were talking about how hard it is to get people to try out yoga as an exercise. Here in Sweden, it seems quite popular to go to gyms and to do Cross-Fit and so on. Those of us who practice yoga think it's a great practice for both both and mind. Our teacher claimed that in the US yoga is mainstream and that about 10% of the population is doing yoga. In Sweden, the yoga people could be counted easily. I often try to get people interested in trying yoga, when we talk training and health and so on, but the reaction I often get is, "Oh, I could never do that!" This has made me think that people have a "wrong" image of yoga. When we see yogis in magazines, blogs, youtube and so on, they are often very athletic, super flexible and very acrobatic. I understand people's reactions when they see these yogis and think, "That's not for me." I try to explain that you don't have to be very flexible to start with yoga, but you will get more flexible, and stronger with practice. Few people listen. Personally, I am nothing like these yogis. I started my practice as an overweight, middle age male, who couldn't touch the floor without bending my knees. Six months later, i can touch the floor with straight legs, and my body is definitely stronger and more flexible than when I started my practice. This is the image of yoga i would like to spread to my fellow countrymen, that yoga is a journey, and the asanas are only part of it. It might even be that the asanas are not even the most important part of yoga, though that's what we focus on in the west.
Do you have any ideas or suggestions on how to get people to rethink their idea of yoga and get on the mat and start their journey? How did yoga get mainstream in the US? Thanks for listening. Namaste.
Answer 3: I hear what you're saying. I am so glad that yoga has helped you so much and spoken to you. I have felt the same way - where yoga has brought me so much good, has changed my life so much that I want to tell everyone they should try it out. I have a lot of friends who said the same thing when I tried to talk them into coming to a class, and eventually I realized that people simply like what they like. There are some people who are love Cross-fit so much that they're not going to want to try anything else. And one day, if my friends ever decide to try yoga, I'll be there to help them or take them to their first class if they want. :) We have to just let people find their own path, you know?
That being said, however, you can show your friends the above picture! :) Or, send them the post I did on what to do if you're not flexible enough for yoga.
As for yoga being mainstream in the US... well, I don't know if the 10% statistic is true. I do know that the USA is absolutely huge. There are certainly towns in the US that don't have yoga studios. But in the places I have lived (Connecticut, Florida, and now Los Angeles), I can tell you that there are yoga studios on nearly every street corner. There are all types of classes offered - Bikram, ashtanga, restorative, heated power yoga, core power yoga, vinyasa flow, hip hop yoga, yoga dance parties, baby and me yoga, acroyoga, partner yoga, silent yoga - I mean, every type of yoga can you think of is offered. And maybe people have started going to class because they have so many studios to choose from and there are so many cool to choose from.
Another thing to remember is that yoga in the USA is a business, just like any other. It is marketed to us all the time. I could name probably fifteen different yoga clothing brands off the top of my head. And fifteen other yoga props brands. We're being sold a lifestyle with these fancy clothes and special mats and state of the art props that promise to take our practice to the next level. People want to look good and feel good, and the companies marketing this lifestyle know that. So if we buy the awesome yoga pants maybe we'll go to class more, right?! Haha.
Question 4: What is your favorite yoga mat? Or, which mat do you recommend to yogis that practice hot yoga and need sturdy mats for balance poses? I currently have a lulu one that I love, but I slip a lot in the hot classes.
Answer 4: Hi! If you really love your lulu mat, stay with that and maybe just get a hot yoga towel to go over it (or, who are we kidding, you can just an oversized beach towel). It shouldn't hinder your balancing because they're not super thick, they just absorb the sweat so you don't slide.
Question 5: Hello! My question is about hip-opening. I seem to be quite tight on my left side, particularly in poses like child's pose, lizard, wind-relieving pose, etc - anything where my hip joint is compressed. I feel a very tight pinching that makes me unable to fully relax. I find myself trying to sink into the posture and then having to come back out because I catch myself holding my breath or it is actually hurting. I have tried many different supposed hip-openers and it's working wonders on my right side, but my left side seems to be "stuck" for lack of a better word. Are there any exercises you recommend that might help push the left side along? I realize you're not able to give medical advice, but do you think that a visit to a chiropractor would help, or would it just be a waste of time and money?
Answer 5: I can't really say about the chiropractor just because I don't have much experience with one. Some people love them and some people don't feel a difference. One thing you said stuck out to me though, and that's that you mentioned the left side feels "stuck". I can't say for sure, but that, combined with the pinching sensation you described actually sounds to me like it is bone compression. This means that ones of the bones in your hip joint is shaped differently, not allowing the full range of motion in the joint. When I was learning about bone compression in my training my teacher said that it feels different from a tight muscle. Like you know if you sit with your legs out and your hamstrings are tight and it's just uncomfortable to reach your knees but you know if you were super warmed up you could probably go another two inches or so closer to your feet? Bone compression feels like you just STOP, like there is no room for movement at all once you've hit your furthest point. Is that what it feels like for you? If it is bone compression, then unfortunately there isn't much we can do about the shape of our bones, but at least you know what it is! Your best bet, in my opinion, would be to continue to practice the poses are usual, and just be where you are and let that be enough.
Question 6: Despite enjoying both Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 poses in my yoga practice, it really, really seems to strain and hurt my groin muscles (or perhaps my hip flexors?). It's not painful, and I put my knee doesn't so I don't get all shaky and too weak in that area of my hips/groin. Also, I do try to squeeze my thighs together as my teacher says, but that doesn't seem to help either. Do you have any suggestions on how to be more flexible in this pose so I can still move deeper without getting that tired out and shaky feeling in my groin?
Answer 6: This is interesting. So the groin is the inner thigh, and the hip flexors are at the very top of the thigh by the hip bone. If you're feeling shaky in the front leg when you're in warriors, that is normal. It shouldn't hurt, but shakiness just means that the body is working really hard, and the only thing I would say is to listen to your body. If it's too intense, just make your knee a more obtuse angle so you're not as deep. Check out this post where warrior 2 is explained. Now, if it's the groin we're talking about and it's a strain like you mentioned at the beginning of the question - and it's uncomfortable, then start with your foundation. Make sure your weight is evenly distributed on all four corners of both feel. Really press into the outer edge of the back foot so that it doesn't lift up off the mat at all. Then, visualize a suction coming from the arches of your feet. This subtle movement may help a bit. Then, visualize your feet being magnetized toward each other. The feet don't move, but it's almost as if they're attracted to one another and want to move together. That should help lift the pelvic floor and take some pressure off the groins. I hope that helps!