Question 1: When I try crow pose with my knees on my triceps, my knees hurt my triceps. Is it wrong to have my knees braced against the outside of my arms instead?
Answer 1: Ah, the painful tricep condition! I know it well! This generally happens when we rest our knees on the arms rather than use the core to lift our legs and hold them. Try engaging the core more and see if that helps. Over time, once the core strength has developed and you start using it more in this pose, you'll find this pain will go away. I wouldn't put the knees on the outside of the arms, but instead, would work on strengthening the core more with something like my 30 minute yoga video for core and hamstrings, or a follow a core sequence.
Question 2: Hi! I'm fairly new to yoga. I suffered from a car accident in January. My Grand Cherokee kept my 2 year old and I safe and without a scratch. I praise the Lord everyday for making it through that accident. We were flipped upside down. The airbags didn't inflate and I've had neck and back trouble. After x-rays and 2 MRIs my doctor okayed yoga. I have a disk in my mid back that bulges moderately but not terribly. My neck is getting better every day. My challenge for you and myself: what are several yoga poses that I can work on to gain strength and regain control of my body and balance? I just need a few good tips and pointers on how to start building my body back up and not allowing my back to keep me down. I want to focus on strength and flexibility in order to get back to being in control of my body and not relying on medicine. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I will adapt and overcome! I'm looking forward to this journey! I'm trying to clear my mind and focus on what I can do...not what I think I'm limited to. I'm already fairly flexible and have been stretching and doing squats everyday. Thanks for any advice you can give on poses to try! Of course my inner self wants to jump right into head stands...but I know that could put strain exactly where it's not needed! :-)
Answer 2: Wow, what an incredible story. I'm so glad you are on the mend! I'm glad you've seen a doctor who has given you the go ahead for yoga. I think it's great to focus on what you can do, rather than what you can't, but I do think it's important to know what to avoid. I would recommend you avoid anything that puts pressure on the neck and head, like headstand, fish pose, and anything where the head is turning. If your back is okay, then twists should be fine, but just avoid turning the head to look out over the shoulder while doing them.
As for what you can do - the yoga poses for balance and strength sequence (just don't do number six) would be a good place to start for balance and flexibility. I just went through this 15 minute yoga video for strength, and I think everything in it would work for you. And this core strengthening sequence would be beneficial as well. Chair pose, pictured above, is a good starting point for strength building as well. Enjoy!
Related: What we can learn from suffering.
Question 3: I am really wanting to master head/handstands but I have terrible balance and don't really like the feeling of being upside down. Are there some tips you can give to help me into them?
Answer 3: There are two parts to every yoga pose, and headstands and handstands are no exception. There's the physical part - gaining the strength to do the poses - and the mental part - overcoming any fear or anxiety we have about the pose. It's all normal, and all part of the process.
Both inversions require major core and upper body strength. So it may not be so much about your balance, but about the development of strength. I would suggest working on core with this yoga sequence, and this seriously intense ab exercise (do this one a number of times with a brief rest in between).
Try incorporating this upper body yoga sequence to build strength in the shoulders and arms. From there, check out the supported headstand graphic and make sure you're doing all the right things. Remember, you can always do it against a wall!
As for the mental side of it, there are a couple things you can do. First, figure out exactly what it is that you don't like. Are you scared of falling over? Scared of breaking your neck? What's the worry? Once you identify that, you'll be able to work on eliminating the fear. Hope that helps!
Question 4: When I sit in Cobbler's Pose (Baddha Konasana) my knees are very far from the floor. I have no knee issues (i.e. pain) but I can't get my knees to relax closer to the floor. I do hip opening stretches/exercises but after 10 years I'm thinking it's just the way my body is designed. Any suggestions?
Answer 4: I have two thoughts on this. First, getting the knees toward the ground requires openness in the inner thighs and groin area. How are you with a wide leg seated forward fold? Can you sit in it with you pelvis tilted forward and a flat back (pictured above) or does your low back tend to round and your pelvis tilt back? If the latter is the case then I think your best bet would be to practice opening up the inner thighs.
However, if that's not a problem for you, then it may be compression in the hip joints. Simply put, the shape of the bones may not be allowing enough movement for the femur to get the knees down. In that case, it just is what it is, and there's nothing you can do (or should be worried about - it's no problem, it's just how the body has been formed).
Question 5: I am having some sharp wrist pain when I am in plank position. This does not happen with down dog, only when I trasnsition into plank. I have seen wrist protectors for yoga practice. What would you recommend?
Answer 5: The thing about wrist protectors, in my personal opinion, is that they seem like a bandaid. It doesn't address the root cause. Since you don't have wrist pain in other postures, perhaps maybe the weight distribution is off. Check out this post on how to avoid wrist pain in yoga. That explains the weight distribution and I think that may be the cause of the issue. Be sure, as well, that you aren't putting all of the weight in the hands. Engage the core, the legs, and entire body to help evenly distribute the weight. Hope that helps!