An online yoga practice is great for a busy schedule, new practitioners not yet comfortable with a studio setting, and anyone looking to try something new, but nothing beats having a teacher to answer your questions and help you grow your practice. Students learn more when they can ask questions! A couple weeks ago we asked the Instagram followers of @ybcevents and @namaslayytt what questions you have about your yoga practice, whether it be about a specific pose, strength building, a plateau in flexibility, modifications or yogic philosophy, our Namaslay® YTT teachers want to help! Read on to see your most asked questions answered, and if the responses spark any other inquiries, drop them in the comments!
Here are a few tips from me:
Why can't I kick up into handstand? I can hold L at the wall for days, and lift one leg at a time - but when it comes to facing the wall and finding lift, I'm stuck! Help?
Candace: Sounds like it might be fear-based. If you can do the L at the wall while FACING the wall, try taking one leg up to the sky and look between your thumbs. Push the ground away to protract your shoulders (imagine feeling the sensation of a 'rounding' in your upper back). As you find your sense of balance here, bring the other leg in, bending your knee towards your chest. This leg will act as an anchor, so you don't flip over. Keep pushing the ground away, keep looking between your hands, and spread the toes of the lifted leg to help find that upward energy. Or better, come take an arm balance workshop with me.
Any advice for getting your own website and marketing materials up? I'm struggling to learn website building, and if it's not perfect, I'm afraid to share!
Candace: Don't be afraid to share. The first version of anything you do will be crap, and it ought to be - who cares?! Put it up and just go for it. As you grow and learn, you'll figure out what you like and what you don't like and you can tweak it to make it just right. All my first YouTube videos are garbage. My first podcast sucks. The first version of anything always has a learning curve, so do what you can with the tools you have, and be proud that you're even doing it at all! Most people don't even get to that space, so pressing Publish is an accomplishment in and of itself.
Candace: Both of these poses are total body strength and flexibility poses, so there's so much you can do to prep for both. Both require major hamstring opening, so working on that is crucial. Both require a solid about of upper body strength so things like holding downward dog, doing dive bomber push ups, planks, and the like will be really helpful. Both require significant transverse abdominis core strength, so moving through an entire yoga class with focus and awareness to the low core, drawing it inward and upward, can be really helpful. Or, come to an arm balance workshop. :)
We asked Strength and Conditioning Coach, Dan Tavino:
How can I strengthen my abductors and lengthen my adductors? I have tight inner thighs.
Dan: Wide stance squats are a nice wait to work inner thighs. I also like the wall sits with a yoga block in between my legs, by squeezing the block you are really targeting the adductors. For my abductors, I do banded lateral steps almost every day. The resistance band is a nice way to work on the lateral step. Banded clamshells are another way to work abductors.
What muscles should I engage in bridge pose? (Glutes engaged or softened?)
Dan: Glutes engaged! When at the top of the bridge pose, your glutes should be firm to the touch. Keep the ribs tucked as well and squeeze your core.
Besides deadlift, what can I do to strengthen my hamstrings?
Dan: If you're a member at a gym, use their hamstring machine. You will have a pad under your calf and work to curl your legs. If not, grab some sliders place them under your feet. Then set up into a glute bridge and try to slide your feet as close to your butt as you can. These are really great.
If you need any more help, feel free to reach out.
We asked Yoga Inclusivity Queen, Jen Mehall:
In lizard pose, should I keep my front foot flat on the ground, or is it ok to come to the knife edge of the foot?
Jen: I love lizard! Both variations are good. I don't like to use the word correct as I believe we should move anyway that makes our bodies feel good as long as it doesn't cause injury. When moving into lizard pose, you do want to "heel toe" the front foot out to the side a little. Three variations I like are: 1. Keeping my knee on the ground and my foot flat as I allow my hips to sink down into the pose. 2. Keeping my knee on the ground and coming on to the knife edge of my foot and using my hand just above my knee to open my hips just a bit more. 3. Variation 1 & 2 but with my back knee off of the floor.
My grandmother is extremely limited in mobility. She can't get to the floor. Any tips for her to practice yoga?
Jen: Without knowing all of the details of the reasons for limited mobility, I highly recommend chair yoga or using the wall. This will limit the moving up and down on the mat and will allow her to gain some mobility first, then move it to the mat.
How do you determine whether or not it's ok to use a hands-on assist with a new student?
Jen: I always allow the hands on assist to be the student’s call, whether they are a new or experienced student. You can directly ask students or use some indicator on their mat (such as the card Candace recently mentioned in her post).
What's your favorite opening sequence?
Ashley: I always like to start with seated 3 part breath, gentle twists and side bends (like in this practice with Candace), and then the rest depends on where the class is headed. If my pique pose is a heart opener, we’ll move into cat/cow, work on some shoulder opening like threading the needle, and hit some low lunges. If it’s more of a strength building, arm balancing class, I’d incorporate some hollow body rocks or dead bugs and some nice hamstring stretches.
I'm struggling with expectation as a teacher (from my students, studio owners, my own standards). Any advice?
Ashley: I’ve definitely felt that. I just try to remember it’s never about me. I can’t wear anyone’s expectations or insecurities as my own, and when I find myself struggling with my own ideas of how I should be, I remind myself I am only human. I’m learning and growing and doing the best I can with what I have (we all are). All anyone can ask is for honesty and your best in the moment. Sometimes your best changes, and that’s ok. If something consistently doesn’t feel right, or is stealing your peace, maybe ask yourself how it’s serving you. Are you grasping for something that could be interfering with your ability to accept something that fits you better?
If you could give a brand new yoga teacher one piece of advice, what would it be?
Ashley: Remain a student. When I first started teaching, though I heard it 1,000 times at Namaslay® YTT, I let my personal practice slip on the to-do list. I got burnt out quickly with teaching tons of classes each week and not taking time for myself. You’re a better teacher when you’re learning, feeding your own fire for your practice, and taking care of yourself.
I hope this was helpful to new yogis and yoga teachers! If you have any other questions, drop them in the comments, and we’ll do our best to answer. Or better yet, come to Namaslay® YTT in Tennessee next month or Santorini in April to learn from us in person!