EPISODE 19
Pregnancy, Hamstring Stretches & Epilepsy

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Fariba asks:

Could you please tell me which poses are good for Epilepsy?

This is a really interesting question, Fariba. We get a lot of questions like this. You know, which one pose is going to help with migraine headaches? Which one pose is going to help with insomnia? And the truth is, yoga doesn’t really work like that. There are some poses that are particularly good for your back or particularly good for your hamstrings or particularly good for relaxation, but in terms of something like epilepsy, which is a neurological thing, it’s possible that a holistic regular yoga practice could be really helpful for you. It’s also possible that it might not be. So, there’s no real one answer here.

For sure, work with your doctor. I don’t know if you’re on medications, but talk to your doctor about that. This is not something that there would be a direct correlation between yoga and epilepsy, at least nothing that I’ve ever seen. Now, just coincidentally, I’ve had two grand mal seizures in my life, so I definitely know where you’re coming from and know your concern. Again, I’ve never found any evidence, no scientific studies connecting yoga for epilepsy, but of course yoga health and your neurological health are all connected, so there’s a very good chance it will be helpful. But, I’d always default to a good neurologist and a good doctor here, because that’s going to be more helpful, probably, here than yoga teacher.

Jenny asks:

After my body combat class (body combat is a high intensity group fitness class by a company called Less Mills, they’re now in most gyms all over the world) I went for yoga stretching. I can’t do balancing poses and I felt shaking. I can’t do full crow pose, only one legged crow. My body is stiff. Is it possible I did too many cardio classes?

After a body combat, which is a really, really intense group fitness class, Jenny, it’s totally normal that you can’t do these yoga poses. It’s a different kind of thing. Yoga is very much an internal practice, and even a lot of the really strong poses take just as much mental focus as they do physical exertion. So, after a body combat class, you’re pretty spent. A better test would be before the class or after doing a yoga class, so don’t worry about it. It’s normal.

Not only that, you’ll find certain days will be easier than others. And after an hour-long group fitness class, you’re going to be pretty tired, so don’t beat yourself up about it and do what’s good for you. Is it possible to do too much cardio? Yes. Is it possible to do too much yoga? Yes. You can overdo it with everything, but if you like body combat, if you like Les Mills, if you like group fitness, don’t stop doing that because that’s a great way to spend your time, if it’s something you find benefits from.

Norm asks:

Do you have any suggestions on how to make the YOGABODY Protein taste better?

So, we sell something I call YOGA Protein. It’s actually from Sun Warrior. It’s a brown rice protein. It’s very, very bland. I find it tastes nice with whatever, but I’m kind of a weird person and I eat sprouts and all kinds of gross other health food. So, some people find it really bland. It doesn’t have a strong flavor, so it doesn’t taste gamey like some whey proteins and it doesn’t taste like sand or anything like that, or like mealy like a pea protein would. It’s just very, very bland, as you can imagine. It comes from rice.

So, the key thing to do with it, Norm, is to try to mix it with something that’s going to make it more palatable. The simplest thing is a banana. Banana and ice is a really good way to go. I also find that if you dilute it heavily, the flavor becomes almost non-existent. Meaning, if you add a couple of scoops to like a full liter of water, it almost tastes like nothing. When you make it really thick, that’s when it becomes a little bit chalky.

So, I hope that’s helpful. Again, I usually just add it to a lot of water, and I find it tastes like nothing. A little bit of water, or a lot of water and a little bit of lemon is what I like, and it has almost no taste at all. That’s the way I like to use YOGABODY Protein.

Also I am having problems doing The Noodle pose, this pose makes me sick to my stomach having my head upside down. I don’t know if I can start out with a smaller chair to lie on, or maybe just start out lying on some pillows instead of a chair. What are your recommendations?

So, this is a tough thing. It’s a common thing to feel dizziness, to feel nauseousness and perhaps to even feel sick to your stomach like you’re feeling, Norm. I just say take it easy. All of the modifications you suggested sound like great ideas. You’ll find that, for whatever reason, your body will get over it really quickly. These poses that will just make you sick, very quickly, will feel great. And so, I’d just keep working with it. Work with modifications. You might want to work on lying off the edge of a bed, just very carefully with your upper body really slowly and carefully. But all of those suggestions you brought up, Norm, sound like great ideas. So, keep stretching.

Esther asks:

I have super tight hips and I’m doing your gravity stretches and guess what? I’m in the splits now, as predicted. (That’s great!) But, my external rotation hasn’t seemed to change. I’m holding The Butterfly for about 5 minutes a day, but still my knees are miles off the floor. Should I be doing it for longer? Are there any other Asanas I can use to make more impact?

Okay, so Butterfly pose, really simple pose. You bring your feet together in front of you, your knees stick out at the side and it’s just a passive hip pose. So, this is a great pose, Esther, for your hips. I would really focus on the Blaster pose. It’s a stronger pose. And it’s a different pose; they’re not identical. But, it’s a stronger pose, and make sure you’re holding that one. Get up to 5 minute holds on each side for that one, and you’ll find you get that external rotation coming from that pose as well.

I’ve just found that I’m pregnant, which is great. I’m a vegan and use supplements. Is there anything else I should be adding? What would you recommend I aim to snack on instead?

So, this is a super, super complicated question, and a very controversial question and there’s lots of different things to consider. The main thing I’d recommend, Esther, is start meeting with multiple doctors and multiple healthcare providers. I know people who are very strict vegans who have been able to stay vegan their entire pregnancy, given birth to very healthy weight children, very strong, healthy children. Not a single problem, not a single one of their doctors recommend they change their diet. And I know other people who suffer from anemia and they suffer from other challenges like blood pressure challenges and things like this.

So, it’s really, really important that you get a professional opinion, and ideally from people who are not vegans, because the vegan community tends to be very dogmatic, and I say that coming from the inside, and it’s very true. They can be very dogmatic and sometimes they’ll tell you what they want you to hear, as opposed to what you need to hear. And it’s not just your life anymore. There’s another life in there, which you know much better than me.

So, it’s really, really important. When my wife was pregnant with my son, who’s now a year old, it was the first thing we did. We went to the pediatrician. We have a really great natural OB/GYN and we said here’s what my wife’s eating. My wife’s a vegetarian. She does eat dairy and eggs, and he said don’t change a thing. Your diet’s great, your iron’s great, everything was fine. So, she continued to eat that way throughout her pregnancy, but I think it’s a real moment of truth. You’ve got to get honest. If you need to change your diet, I think your child becomes number one.

So for sure, get some trusted dieticians and get some nurtitionalists, and make sure they’re people who are not necessarily dogmatic in their views, meaning people’s main objective is health and they don’t have other objectives, like proselytizing veganism or any of these things, which have so many benefits. But again, there’s a time and a place for everything, and the health of a child is really probably paramount importance.

Cindy asks:

I have been taking YOGABODY Stretch for a year and half and still having trouble with tight hamstrings. Can you help?

Yes, Cindy, taking YOGABODY Stretch is great nutrition. You’ve got to do your stretches. So, the key thing is to do 15 minutes of stretches a day to supplement whatever you’re doing, whether that’s yoga, whether that’s running, whatever it is. The key thing, we talk about this all the time, is to meet or beat your hold times. That means if you held, let’s say Ragdoll, which is a great hamstring pose, for three minutes a day, tomorrow you want to hold it for 3 minutes and 5 seconds. That little steady progression adds up so fast. Literally, in a month, you’ll see massive, massive changes.

You’ve got to meet or beat your hold time, Cindy. Use a timer. If you need one, we sell these yoga timers in the store. You don’t need that one particularly, but I like it because it’s kind of waterproof, it’s tough and I can just leave it with my yoga mat, but use whatever works for you. But definitely focus on your stretches every day or 5 days a week, 15 minutes a day, and you’ll find really big results.

Tya asks:

If you ever have a moment, I would love to hear your thoughts about Alkaloids and “rotating your greens”.

So, rotating your greens would mean eating a more bio-diverse diet. This is a really great idea. If you take a look at what most people eat, they eat about the same 12 foods over and over and over, all week long. The big ones are wheat, corn, rice, beef, chicken, eggs, milk. These are the big foods that people just seem to eat over and over and over, and biodiversity is so, so important.

So, should you rotate your greens? Absolutely. Eat as many different kinds of greens as you can. You know, all different kinds of lettuces, all different kinds of collards and shards and things in the cruciferous vegetable family, for sure. The more biodiversity in the diet, probably the better. It also gives your body a chance to tell you what it likes, and you’ll find that certain times your body will really crave bizarre, dark green vegetables like collard or mustard greens or beet root tops. And then at other times, it won’t at all and you’ll crave other things.

But, it’s really important to put those foods in front of your body so it can react appropriately. When all we put in front of our body are processed foods or packaged foods or less-than-nutritious foods, our body tends to react to those, because that’s the only thing at hand. So, biodiversity is a really great idea. It’s a great question. Thanks for asking it.

Sue asks:

With the hamstring stretches (she’s referring to the YOGABODY Handbook Gravity Series that we teach) when going out to the side for 5 minutes, do you go as far as possible and then relax. Or, is it important to keep the other hip on the floor and relax from there?

So, the answer is yes. You go as far as possible and then relax. Your other hip will generally roll up. It depends on how flexible you are. The key thing is don’t worry about it. Make sure your leg is straight, Sue, and make sure your arm is straight. That allows you to relax as much as possible and just hang there. If your hips roll up, that’s fine. If you feel a little crooked or lopsided, that’s fine. Just hang with it.

Mikko asks:

I am a 50 years old man. I have been trained very hard in different type of sports for 25 years, also living quite a stressful lifestyle. Last autumn, my body stopped me. I have been to almost 10 special doctors, blood testing, magnetic photos, and nothing. The main thing is that my hands and legs are cold, feel pain, running is painful. Can you give me a tip on what helps? What is the main conclusion to my problem?

Mikko, this is way beyond my expertise, and this is not something I’d even feel comfortable recommending anything for. The only thing that I can tell you is that in the 15 years that I’ve been really, really studying health and nutrition intensely, trying to find out the secrets, the one thing that I know for sure is that nothing will kill you as fast as stress. And in almost all of our lives, the bad foods we eat, the alcohol, all these kinds of really, really negative things we do, they don’t even shake a stick at the stress in our lives.

So, again, I don’t feel comfortable recommending anything. The only thing I know is that you mentioned you have a stressful lifestyle. I would take a real close look at that, because stress can manifest in every possible kind of body ailment, sickness, chronic disease you can imagine, and nothing will kill you faster than stress. It’s something that I really struggle with a lot, is managing stress, and I think almost everybody does.

So, if I were to recommend a place to start, I’d start there, and I wouldn’t be looking for something as concrete, necessarily, especially if 10 doctors can’t find it. I would really kind of turn the needle towards yourself and take a look at that lifestyle. I don’t have any great solutions for that at the moment, but it’s definitely something to think about. Hope that helps, please keep us posted. Let us know if you do discover something that’s working for you.

Joey asks:

What stretching can I do to eliminate knee pain?

This is a really tricky one. The first thing about knees, is you’ve got to always be really, really careful. Yoga can be so great for knees. I know hundreds of students who’ve healed their knees through yoga. I also know a handful of students and teachers who’ve blown their knees doing yoga, so you’ve got to be really careful.

In order to eliminate knee pain, one of the better yoga series for strengthening and stabilizing the knee are the hot yoga series. So, like absolute hot yoga, like my group teaches, Bikram yoga, Moksha yoga, Barkan hot yoga. These are all really great practices for strengthening the knee. In fact, of any of the yoga practices, those series in particular have such strong standing poses, they’re probably the best.

So, I’d recommend you starting there. Just do be careful in the heat, and always be really careful and respectful of your knees. I had one student who told me she went to the doctor and her doctor said you need an operation, told her to back off on the yoga. She told her doctor basically to shove it and she started going to two classes a day. This kind of thing is — I understand the mentality and I’ve certainly been there, but you just don’t want to mess with your knees. You’ve got them forever, and it can go really, really badly.

So, if your doctor tells you to be careful, be careful, and don’t screw around with your knees. Your doctor might give you some really bad advice about some things, but when it comes to knees, they really do know what they’re talking about and you don’t want to have knee problems for the rest of your life. So, trust your doctor, take a look at hot yoga practices, let us know how it goes.

Tony asks:

I have a 13 year old boy. He’s an elite soccer player. His biggest problem is growth spurts. Weak abductors, has restrictive movement around his pelvis and hip area. I have taken him to a really good chiro here, and he’s performed Active Release Therapy, as well as Acupuncture, and I can’t believe how well he has responded, but I do need to know more. Could you please assist me with what products I should purchase for him, as well as pin pointed exercises for him?

Tony, this is a great question. It’s definitely beyond my level of expertise. I don’t work with people as young as 13 for deep stretching. I’m not convinced that it’s the smartest thing to do, and I’m not an expert in elite sports or sports therapy, in any way. So, I don’t think I’m the right guy for you. I know that’s not the answer you wanted to hear, but it sounds like you’re doing a lot of great things, like mind/body practices, using acupuncture, looking at the nervous system connection. Those all sound like really great ideas, but again, this is not something that I could really give you any really great advice on, unfortunately, but I do wish you all the best and keep us posted if you do find something that works.

Elena asks:

You often say that it’s important during exercise to meet or beat our hold times to see improvement. I do the hamstring stretches a lot, and during The Ragdoll I do manage to meet the 5 minute slot every day, but with my chest not so close to my knees as yours. How intense should the stretch feel? Obviously it should not be painful, but should it be a relatively relaxed stretch or am I allowed to push myself a little farther?

Elena, don’t push yourself at all. It shouldn’t feel like anything, necessarily. Some days it will be really intense, your legs will be wobbling. Other days, you might feel just fine. The key thing is to not do anything. The relaxation, the surrender, is where you’ll really find the biggest gains. So don’t be too concerned. Don’t push, just relax. You’re doing the right thing.

Joan asks:

I am 65, have lots of different ailments, what could I do for sciatica, which is hurting me most at the moment.

Joan, we’ve talked a little bit about sciatica in the past. Do check out the previous episodes. Sciatica is a tricky one. Yoga can be so helpful. Unfortunately, it can also be hurtful. It really depends. So, sciatica is an inflamed nerve condition. Your sciatic nerve is this massive nerve that runs down the back of your leg. When your sciatic nerve is inflamed, it can cause lower back pain, it can cause tingling sensations in your leg. It can be really annoying, and I’ve had it just on a few brief occasions, I’ve been very fortunate that way, but there’s a couple of things I can recommend for you.

First of all, pay really close attention to your body. Your yoga practice should be helping, not hurting. What that means, is the next day, you should feel a relief from your pain, as opposed to an increase in your pain. When you’re doing symmetrical, separate leg forward bends, that would be if you stepped your feet about a meter apart, if your toes were pointed forward and you’re folding forward, the common idea here, the common teaching in yoga is that you turn your feet slightly inwards and that helps protect your sciatic nerve. I’d also encourage you to really engage your quads so you do a nice controlled forward bend.

But more than anything, I’d try to work one on one with a teacher, even if that means just asking questions after class, and pay really close attention. Keep a practice journal, so you know how you’re doing. Yoga can be very helpful, it can also be harmful. You don’t want to keep inflaming that sciatic nerve, and so you just want to take it day by day. Try different classes, try different intensities and see what works for you. I wish there was an A to Z guide on how to get rid of sciatica. There’s not. It’s very, very finicky. It will come and go, sometimes it will.

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