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Question 1: Is it wrong to not want to be challenged by my yoga practice? I have severe depression and there are days when everything is a challenge to me. Yoga has helped me greatly in the past, but the experience of not being able to keep up or feeling pain in an asana that's supposed to feel good will bring on a flood of negative thoughts that I can't just shut off or will away or smile through. This has happened more than once when I've tried to challenge myself with more difficult practices, and it's discouraging enough to keep me off the mat for months at a time (which I realize is a "me" problem and not the fault of the instructor). Could you maybe talk a little about what "finding your edge" means to you, and how someone might go about finding their own edge in a healthy way?
Answer 1: It is definitely not wrong to not want to be challenged by the yoga practice. Sometimes just making it though the day is a challenge enough and the yoga practice can offer an escape from the harsh reality of whatever it is we are dealing with. Severe depression is something I am very familiar with because it runs in my family. I would suggest seeking the help of a therapist if you aren't already, and use yoga to complement to your treatment plan. Something restorative, gentle, maybe a heart opening practice if you have the energy. I would suggest letting go of thinking too much during the practice. Under think your practice. No evaluations or shoulds or what ifs or am I doing this rights. Just breath and movement (or stillness if it's yin), and let whatever bubbles up, bubble up. Jot down what comes up, and maybe bring the journal to therapy if you want to discuss.
Everyone's edge is different. Some of the most bendy yogis I know who can wrap themselves up into any pretzel pose you can imagine have the most difficult time sitting still for five minutes in meditation. That might be their 'edge'. "The edge" doesn't necessarily mean pushing oneself in an athletic practice. Rather, "the edge", at least in my opinion, is that sweet spot between the known and the unknown. To me, it means testing my limits, and depending on the day, that might mean staying in meditation for an eleventh minute when I want to stop at ten, or spending just a few more minutes practicing my handstand when I really just want to get into savasana. But mostly, to me, it means honoring how we're feeling and doing what we know is inherently best for ourselves. If this means spending a few weeks or months, or heck, even years doing gentle, feel-good yoga and not wanting to "challenge" yourself, as you say, then I think that's what you should do, provided you are in a good space to make that decision.
Question 2: I know that it will sound silly and obvious, but what does "always work within a free-pain range" mean?
Answer 2: This isn't silly! :) It just means making sure that when you're practicing, you aren't experiencing any pain. You might feel discomfort from tightness or weak muscles, but there's never to be a sensation of physical pain during the practice.
Question 3:. Another silly question: how can I follow your videos? Is it recommended to watch the video first and then do the sequence? What do you think?
Answer 3: If your first language is something other than English, or you are a total beginner, I would suggest watching the videos first just so you know what's coming up. Otherwise, I think just pressing play and practicing should work out okay.
Question 4: I suffer from tight hips, a result of my desk job. So I love pigeon pose, except for one small problem: it almost feels like the skin on my inner thigh of my forward/bent leg is stretching. It definitely isn't the feeling of the muscles stretching--this is located on the surface and can be very uncomfortable. Has anyone else experienced this? Is there a way to adjust the pose so I still get that great stretch through my hips and glutes, without placing strain on this area of skin?
Answer 4: I 100% know what you're talking about. I do think it is caused from tight muscles, but I know the feeling that you're describing, and I think that you could try one of two things. First, place a folded blanket under both knees. Sometimes I feel the skin just pulls against the mat weird and this may help. The other thing you can try is adjusting the angle of the front knee. Go for a smaller angle and see if that helps.
Question 5: I have been practicing yoga for about 2 years on/off and I my focus is currently on hip openers and low back stretches. I have been incorporating supta gomukhasana into my routine and have noticed that whenever I am in the pose my legs go numb. As soon as I release the pose it starts to subside. It's not always uncomfortable, but sometimes it can be. I was wondering if that is a "normal" thing that could happen (since the legs are essentially being squeezed together) and if not, is there a way to prevent it? Thanks so much!
Answer 5: It's definitely a normal thing because of the compression, and in teacher training my teacher always just told us to ignore it - that part of yoga was learning to bring mind over matter, and that since it's not dangerous, that we just have to let go and flick the switch off in our brains about it. :)
Related How to do supta gomukhasana
Question 6: I am unable to enjoy happy baby pose because my hips (legs? don't even know) are not very flexible and I cannot reach my feet without my lower back coming off the ground. a good 5 inches are lifted off the ground and a teacher once told me not to do happy baby unless my entire back is prone. I also don't particularly enjoy the modification of holding lower down on my calf etc in order to get the straight back. Just doesn't do anything for me or my body. Is that the only modification? Any tips on how I can work my lower back down onto the ground over time, or will that be injury producing? Forget headstand, my most intense yogi jealousy pangs when I see others blissed out in happy baby. I want in!!!
Answer 6: I can't imagine why you want in, I find it so painful! I kid, I kid. I do have really tight hips though, and I definitely do not love this pose, but everyone should be invited to the happy baby party, so let's think for a sec. I 100% hear you when you say you don't feel anything in the modification. I don't either. I would suggest, aside from incorporating more hip openers into your practice, to try the following:
1. Take a yoga strap and bring it around the middle of the arch of the right foot.
2. Extend your left leg down to the ground.
3. Hold the strap with the right hand as close to your right leg as you can, and pull the knee in toward your armpit.
4. Rejoice! You are now in one leg happy baby pose.
I think that having the left leg extended will prevent your low back from coming up, and this way you still will feel major benefit but your alignment will be in check. Breathe a couple poses there and then switch sides. Hope that helps!
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