Question 1: When breathing in yoga it is important to breathe deeply filling the 3 parts of the lungs, however in some postures where I need to keep the core engaged how am I supposed to breathe? Do I relax the lower belly and let the bottom of my lungs fill, like in the 3 part breath? Thanks!
Answer 1: Great question! When engaging the core, imagine there's a gentle magnetic, in and upward pull between your navel and your spine. You don't need to be clenching the entire stomach so much so that it's difficult to breathe, just a gentle "magnetic pull" between the navel and spine. The gentle quality of this contraction should allow enough space for the three part breath. Sometimes if I overthink it, it's difficult, so I usually try to visualize my rib cage expanding and that helps. Hope that answers your question.
Related How to breathe better.
Question 2: Hi there! I've started doing meditation and I want to learn more about yoga. The only thing that keeps me away from the idea of doing yoga is my scoliosis. I'm now 23 and i had an operation when i was 7. Although I'm okay now, but I can't do most of the moves of yoga (as i researched online). I just want to support my healing in my soul that i do through meditation with also doing yoga. I'd be very happy to hear your suggestions. Thanks
Answer 2: I would just start slow. Focus on what you are able to do, rather than what you aren't. You know your body best, so give yourself permission to skip poses that aren't accessible to you yet and move on to something you can do. I recommend starting with something like my restorative yoga and meditation video - that might really resonate with you because of the incorporation of the meditation. The poses are all quite gentle, but again, you know your body best so do what works for you.
Question 3: I have been practicing yoga for a few months now, mainly just working through the ashtanga primary series. I started with pretty tight legs and hips but now I feel relatively comfortable and can achieve most of the standing poses except parivrtta trikonasana. For whatever reason I just can't get anywhere near to getting my hand on the floor for this pose - even with my would-be supporting hand on the inside of my forward foot. I wonder if you have any advice for improving flexibility in order to enable this pose?
Answer 3: This is a tough pose! Revolved triangle or parivrtta trikonasana really needs the front hamstring in particular to be very open. I suggest giving it a try with a block as shown above (turn your block to the highest height if needed), and also keep focusing on opening up the legs in your practice.
Question 4: I am a plus-sized woman looking to get (more) into yoga. I've been self-teaching/practicing on my own. I've recently purchased some props to help me - yoga strap and blocks. Any advice on how to strengthen myself or what type of cardio/strength training I should combine to strengthen my yoga practice? Sequencing? Any guidance that you could provide would be greatly appreciated.
Answer 4: Awesome, good for you! If I were you, I'd just work on developing a well rounded practice but start slow. Start with yin and vinyasa for beginners. Then work your way up to power yoga for the core and yoga for back strengthening and chest opening.
Cardio training or added strength training is totally up to you - I personally enjoy it but many yoga people I know focus exclusively on their yoga practice. So that part is up to you depending on what your goals are and, most importantly, what you feel happy doing.
A few posts I've written in the past may help: How to create a yoga sequence, how to use yoga straps, how to use yoga blocks. And, just for fun, how to create a home yoga practice space, and a meditation space.
Related 7 essentials for new students
Question 5: I have a great deal of difficultly doing wheel pose, although I was able to do this pose many years ago. While my arms and triceps are quite strong, I can not seem to lift the crown of my head off the floor, unless someone helps by letting me brace my hands against their ankles. Any suggestions?
Answer 5: This likely has to do with the flexibility and openness in the shoulder/armpit area. Open the area with poses like gomukasana with a yoga strap and bow pose. And every day, even if you're at work or something, this chair yoga pose (third picture down) is fantastic for opening up that area.
Related 3 yoga poses to open the chest.
Question 6: I have MS and I was wondering if you had any tips on how to do yoga while also staying as cool as possible - my doctor told me that even the slightest rise in my core temp could make my symptoms worse.
Answer 6: I'd recommend something really gentle like a yin yoga practice. This is a super slow, relaxing practice that helps to stretch and relieve tension. It isn't at all vigorous so no need to worry about a raised heart rate.
Related Yoga Nidra is a fantastic guided meditation for pain and stress management.
Question 7: I have bow legs and when I am in floor Bow pose, my knees are really far apart. It causes quite a bit of discomfort to try to bring my knees together. When I stand in Mountain pose (or standing, generally) my knees cannot touch and I cannot force them together. I haven't been corrected in classes, but any photos I see online shows people's knees a lot closer together. What is the correct way?
Answer 7: The alignment for mountain pose or tadasana is to have the weight evenly distributed among all four corners of the feet, the big toe mounds touching, heels slightly apart, knees over ankles, hips over knees, tailbone slightly tucked, chin parallel to the ground and the hands naturally are slightly in front of the body.
Bow legs, from my understanding, have to do with the shape of the bones, and therefore it may not be possible for your knees to be directly over your ankles. Due to the bone structure, your knees may go out to the side naturally. That's okay. The beauty of yoga is that there really isn't a "perfect" pose. I mean, even if you look at mine above it sort of looks like I might be collapsing a bit in my left (our right) ankle. Everyone's got something they're dealing with, so check the alignment of poses you aren't sure about and just try your best. If it gives you pain like in bow pose, avoid it or ask your teacher how you might be able to modify.
Question 8: I get crippling cramp particularly in my feet and toes - I'm very tall, around 6'1 and wondered if you had any health or yoga recommendations to help reduce the cramp I get?
Answer 8: We for sure need to give our feet a little more love because, after all, they support us all day long. It's tough being them because they're stuffed in shoes all day and the little tiny muscles are often underdeveloped and can cause us pain. So I recommend trying a yoga sequence for the feet, and throughout the day check in with where your weight is distributed on the feet.
Related Yoga for plantar fasciitis.
Question 9: Several months ago I was diagnosed with bursitis and a weak rotator cuff on my right shoulder. I went to physical therapy, and now I am done with it. I have continued on with my home exercises as instructed by my therapist. A big issue has been both times I have tried yoga since finishing my therapy, and my shoulder hurts. One thing I learned is- down dog hurts it, and it's one of my favorite poses! How can I practice safely? I miss my regular practice, and want to return to the mat but don't want to continue hurting myself.
Answer 9: I'll tell you a secret. When I first started practicing yoga consistently, my upper back would be sore for days from holding so many downward dogs. It's a lot on the body, and even more so when you're dealing with a weak side or injury like you've got.
Provided your doctor has cleared you for yoga, I suggest you try the following to make sure your alignment is good. Sit on your shins and put your arms out in front of you, parallel to the floor. Rotate your arms until your elbows are pointing down toward the mat and your palms are facing up. Then, rotate just the hands until the palms are facing down to the mat. Your elbows should still be pointing toward the mat. Now bring your hands on the mat for downward facing dog. Have you been doing it this way all along? If not, then this may help. If so, then I suggest either doing shorter downward dogs during your practice, or coming onto all fours instead of downward dogs for a few weeks until the injury is fully healed and your strength is back up.
Question 10: The question I have is actually for my mom. I would love for her to come to more of my classes, but she says whenever she does downward facing dog, she ends up with a headache for the rest of the day. She does not have glaucoma or high blood pressure, so I am not sure what is causing this, or how to prevent it. Any ideas?
Answer 10: I'm curious if she practices regularly because this is something I commonly hear from people who don't practice regularly. I don't know for sure what causes this but I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that yoga, particularly downward facing down and other inversions, gets the lymph flowing. Similar to how many people feel ill after a massage (which also moves the lymph around), I think it might be the release of the toxins, since toxins are stored in the lymph. Of course, it could be something else, and she might want to see a doctor about it, but that's my opinion.