This week's yoga questions:
Question 1: I consider myself a serious yogini, ive been practicing for 4 years now, 3 times a week and I love it! I feel great and energized even while tending to my children. Recently however, I developed upper back pain so I decided to check it out. An MRI imaging test revealed several herniated and buldging disks in the thoracic spine area. The dr was so surprised at the results as this is very uncommon for someone in the early 30s. He asked if I was ever involved in a terrible car accident or similar trauma. The only thing that I think it could be is the yoga. How disappointing! Especially when I believed yoga is great for the spine. It is devistating especially when I know I have great experienced teachers who put lots of emphasis on correct form. So my question to you is, in your experience have you heard of such an episode. Should I continue practicing? Will it become better? Or worse? As you understand im very skeptical about yoga now.
Another thing im always confused about is the correct breathing. I know that we lengthen in an inhale so do we hold the stomach in and then exhale and release the stomach or the reverse fill up the stomach on the inhale and then release on the exhale? I know that in shavasana we do belly breathing, but throughout the practice do we hold the stomach in on the inhale or not? Your expertise and advice would be greatly appreciated
Answer 1: Wow! I have heard of people having injuries from yoga, but it's usually a result of not listening to their bodies and pushing themselves to advanced poses when they're just not ready. I can't say for sure what caused your back pain or whether it will improve. I know it sounds sort of vague, but I think you just need to listen to your body. If it hurts when you do yoga, or immediately after, I'd probably take a break for a bit.
As for breathing, we inhale and expand the stomach, and as we exhale, we draw the navel in toward the spine. As for savasana, I always tell my students to let go of the breath and just breathe naturally. I hope that helps.
Question 2: Hi Candace, Thank you for your generosity with your teaching and all of the information that you share. Since you are in contact with/know so much about different companies that make yoga clothing I was wondering. it you could help me out. I have a larger bust size and have also had a mastectomy. I often can't find tops with good coverage. I need to wear a sports bra so am not really looking for my yoga top to give me support, but it does need to cover me up. It seems like so many tops today are more and more minimal, with spaghetti straps or racer backs. A t-shirt style is often what I wear but they're not always the prettiest. Do you have any recommendation for yoga tops with more coverage? Thank you so much!
Answer 2: Yoga tops are tough for me, too, and I'm super picky about the ones I wear because let's be honest, it's not easy to be in the moment when you've got a shirt that is riding up (or down)! I picked four tops that might work for you. The first is by Gaiam and is your basic tank but it offers thicker straps for more support, no racer back (yay!), and has a higher neckline. The second is by Alo, a great, lesser known yoga brand that makes high quality clothing. I thought it might work for you because it's got the thicker strap and then an added halter strap for even more coverage (plus it looks cool). Next up is Tail Activewear, which I haven't personally tried, but it looks like it would work for you because of the thicker straps and higher neckline. And lastly, another Alo top. I wasn't sure whether it'd work for you, but thought I'd put it in here just in case. It's basically a sports bra with a spaghetti strap shirt sewn onto it. Their gear is high quality, so I think the bra would be extremely supportive, and then the shirt just lays over it. I like that the bottom of the shirt is tight so it won't ride up, but again, it depends on that sports bra being really supportive. Hope one of those works for you!
Question 3: How should someone start doing yoga? (YouTube channel, book, website?) How many times of week should a beginner practice yoga?
Answer 3: There's really no right or wrong way to start a class. I would say to first attend a class for beginners. Check out this post on what to expect at your first yoga class. And as for how often you should practice, just listen to your body. Some people can handle five or six times a week, some people feel best doing it two or three times. Just go with how you feel.
Question 4: Hi Candace! I absolutely love your tips and videos, and they are so well done that I have started to do yoga again, yay! I have a question for you. I have problems with my knee (my meniscus tore) but since it doesn’t affect my day to day life I haven’t had surgery. What I find is that when I am going into a seated position on my knees, I can hold it for a short time but can’t for a longer period. My question is, to modify some seated poses (that are on the knees) should I lift my bum off my calves (which relieves some of the pressure on my knee), or instead should I move into a crossed leg seated position? I’ve been doing the first but have been finding I am very shaky just being on my knees and have been curling my toes to try and give myself more stability. Your insight on this would be appreciated!
Answer 4: Hmm, to be honest, the bottom line is that I don't know and I think you should ask a doctor or physical therapist. I would think that it might just be best to sit on a yoga block with your legs extended in front of you so there is no pressure on the knees and your knees aren't rotated, since I'm not sure the rotation of the knee is good for the meniscus tear. Sorry I can't give a more concrete answer - but I would just err on the side of caution until you have a chance to speak with someone with a medical background.