Question 1: Hi Candace! Thank you so much for all your posts! They have been very helpful and I have definitely learned a lot from them. So here is my problem. I have never really done much hand stand or head stand poses because I have too much difficulty with them. But recently I have been wanting to learn to do the forearm stand. Do you have suggestions how to start and learn to do the forearm stand? Thank you very much!
Answer 1: I personally think it's best to work with headstand first and then move to forearm stand and finally to headstand. I find it easier, to be honest, because while most of the weight is in the arms and upper body, the head makes sort of a tripod and offers an extra aid to the balancing act. :) That being said, I am a huge believer in listening to your body so long as you stay mindful. If you want to play around with forearm stand, just try it against a wall. Place your elbows directly under your shoulders, kick up, and see what happens. The graphic above may be helpful.
Remember that forearm stand requires a ton of upper body strength, so working on that will be helpful. I have a yoga video for upper body strength and these three essential poses for arms will help build upper body strength as well (especially the third pose).
Related: This graphic will be helpful for forearm stand as well.
Question 2: I just love your yoga videos. I just happened to stumble upon then on youtube. Can you tell me more about your training? I am seriously considering becoming a yoga instructor. There is just so many different styles and it can be difficult on pinpointing which direction to walk in.
Answer 2: There are a ton of different styles, that is for sure. Check out my post on how to choose a yoga teacher training. My yoga study was in Thailand and I trained in Ashtanga Yoga, which is a pretty physical practice. I feel my ashtanga training gave me a solid foundation for teaching, but I'm not married to that branch of yoga. I love practicing and teaching other types as well. I'd suggest doing a training in something that you feel would offer a good core education and then you can branch off and explore other styles as your personal practice and your teaching experience/confidence grows. Among others, I trained with Mark Ansari, a direct student of Patthabhi Jois. I believe he's taken a break from teacher training because he and his wife just welcomed a new baby into their family, but there are lots of fantastic instructors out there, you just have to search. The training was incredibly intense and definitely one of the hardest things I've ever done, but also the most rewarding. Best of luck to you!!
Question 3: I lived through two abusive relationships in the past, both of which I went for therapy for and generally feel recovered from. I am happier than I have been in ages, have a relationship in which I am very happy and am both loved and supported, and am finally settling into a peaceful and successful life. However, sometimes during savasana random memories will resurface from these relationship traumas - either just the idea of them or actual flashbacks. Why is this happening and what can I do in my yoga practice to help me process these resurfacing trauma?
Answer 3: I am so glad to hear therapy has been helpful and you're in a better space now. Savasana, and certain aspects of yoga class in general (dim lights, soft voice, (hands-on assists/adjustments), certain poses (like happy baby pose)) can be real triggers for people who have experienced major trauma. These things can trigger intense emotions or flashbacks, and from my experience and in talking with other teachers, the best thing to do would be to identify what triggers the resurfacing trauma and find a way around it. For example, perhaps it's the dim lights, or the actual pose itself. If you think about it, savasana is quite a vulnerable pose. You're laying there, in a room full of strangers, with your eyes closed in a dark room. Perhaps play around with taking savasana on your side with your knees pulled in toward your chest, or maybe use a bolster under your legs and back as seen in this restorative yoga graphic just to change it up. If it's the lights that are actually the trigger, see if maybe keeping your eyes open helps, or perhaps ask the instructor to leave the lights on (other students can always put an eye pillow over their eyes for darkness, if they'd like). I personally like working through things, though, and it sounds like that's what you'd like to do. The reason I suggest avoiding what's triggering the flashbacks is because I think that the yoga class isn't the best place to experiment working through trauma just because it's probably best to have someone there you trust for emotional support and to help process what's going on. You may want to consult with a therapist just for their expert opinion, and also look into yoga for PTSD. Even though you feel like you've worked through it, just getting the opinion from a yoga instructor who has worked with people with PTSD might be beneficial.
Question 4: I have been doing yoga daily for about a month now, mixing it up between classes and your videos and I have seen a lot of improvement in my flexibility, but when I am in downward dog I keep my knees bent intending to straighten but it just hasn't worked! Is this okay? Am I still getting the same benefits of downward dog if my knees are bent? Do you have any suggestions on exercises I can do to help straighten my legs? Thanks!
Answer 4: Yep, this is totally fine. As you can see above, as long as the intention to straighten is there, and you're really (gently) pushing the heels down toward the mat, you're absolutely getting the benefits. Developing flexibility (especially in the hamstrings) can be a long journey, but just stick with it. I might even suggest taking a photo of your downward dog today, and then again every three weeks. You should definitely see improvements so long as you are consistently practicing in between.
For specific poses to help lengthen the hamstrings, I would do foreword folds like rag doll pose and when you're feeling very open and want to take it a bit further, you can try ardha baddha paschimottanasana.
Related: 6 ways to improve flexibility.
Question 5: Whenever I get try to get into pigeon pose, my leg just cannot straighten for some reason because my knee feels as though it will move out of place! I've been practicing for a while now and I just can't seem to get it straight, do you know any tips to help straighten it?
Answer 5: Consider using a yoga block as shown in this post on how to use yoga blocks. The block will give you a little extra room and bring your hips into alignment (they should be even) and that may alleviate the sensation in the knee.As you practice the pose more you'll gain flexibility and more range of motion and eventually will full expression of the pose will come.
Question 6: I'm a self-imposed cardio junkie and have been dealing with a lot of injuries, aches, pains, and general fatigue all day every day. For whatever reason lately I've felt a pull to stop cardio for awhile a lieu of incorporating more yoga in to my life to gain strength, connection, and allow my body to heal. I'm ashamed to admit, though, that this transition to stop cardio brings about anxieties of become "out of shape". I look at you and other yoga goddesses who obviously contradict my anxieties. You are gorgeous, strong, and move with such an admirable grace. I sense your self-awareness in every move you make and want nothing more to develop that connection with myself.
Do you do yoga exclusively or supplement with other forms of working out? (lifting weights, running, etc). I really trust your advice because I know you have a lot of anatomical knowledge to support your spiritual methodology and would love to learn what "works for you".
Thank you so much for inspiring me to make this positive change for myself. Sending lots of love!
Answer 6: Good for you for taking a break from cardio. From what you're describing, it sounds like maybe your body is suffering from overtraining so it's great you're listening to those signs and slowing it down. It's probably the best thing you could do yourself.
I appreciate your kind words about my practice and what you see in videos, but I have to be honest. I was a little crazy about working out. I had the same anxieties you're describing about getting out of shape. If I couldn't get a work out in on a busy day or two, it would ruin my whole day. It's ridiculous, actually, because I obviously know that one or two days of not working out isn't going to ruin all the work I've put in, but I just couldn't shake that feeling. My husband, who is really into the science behind working out, has sent me article after article talking about how there are so many factors that go into being "in shape" including eating well, regular exercise, quality sleep, and eliminating stress. It's almost as if the regular exercise isn't the most important of the four, you know? Anyway, what I am trying to say is that I'm not special. I don't have anything figured out. I certainly have insecurities just as much as the next person. But I'm working on it. :)
Anyway, to answer your question, I don't solely do yoga. I certainly know a lot of people who do and who are physically fit (read this pose about whether yoga is enough), but ever since I started working in a gym at 16 I've enjoyed working out. For most of my life I've worked out with light - medium weights 4-5 times per week and done cardio 4-5 times per week (30-45 min) as well. This summer I switched it up to a more regimented schedule of heavy lifting and cut cardio down to 20-30 mins of sprints (15 - 20 second sprints and 40-45 second rest). I did this because I wanted to gain strength. After about 8 weeks, I was pleased with the upper body strength and core strength I have gained...and, if I'm being honest, the little butt lift (thank you, squats), but I was bulking in my legs and my pants weren't fitting as well. So now I've decided I will take out the heavy leg days and go down to lighter weight and more reps. I'll also bump my cardio back up just because I kind of miss my longer runs.
As for yoga, it honestly depends on my schedule. Some months I'm able to fit it in 3-4 times a week, some months I can do 5-6 times a week. Sometimes I'll do 20 minutes and sometimes I'll do an hour and a half. It depends on where I am (I travel a lot), and how I'm feeling. The best advice I can give is to listen to your body, and really take care of yourself. Try different things and see where you can find a balance and a place where you can feel good, because that's what's most important.