Not flexible?

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Lori asks:

I underwent spinal fusion surgery for my cervical spine two years ago, but I am still experiencing pain. My orthopedic surgeon said it was all right to do any activities, including headstands. Do you know if the Yoga Trapeze is safe and effective for post-surgical spine fusion patients?

Lori, this is a really, really complex question, and for sure I would go back to your orthopedic surgeon and see what’s going on. In terms of doing headstands, doing a headstand is much more invasive, in terms of what it’s going to do to your cervical spine. Doing a passive inversion, at least in theory, should be safer, but again, surgery is a big deal, and so don’t mess around. Definitely check with your orthopedic surgeon. There’s a good chance that it’s going to be okay, if you practice carefully.

Heidi asks:

I have a couple of questions about the Flamenco pose. (If you’re not familiar with Flamenco pose, it’s a supine pose, a pose you do on your back, and it’s part of the Gravity Yoga Series.)

In the third part of the pose, where you’re bringing the leg across the body, is your back/shoulder blades supposed to be on the floor?

So in the third part of the pose, you have your leg up in the air and you cross it across your body. It’s kind of awkward, to be honest. So the answer is, Heidi, your right hip or — I’m sorry, the hip of the extended leg and the shoulder will often roll up off the ground. That’s okay, don’t worry about. Just keep your arm and your legs both straight. From there, everything else will work out with time.

In the second part of the pose, where the leg goes out to the side, I feel a stretch on the inside of the thigh. Is this normal?

Yes, that’s totally normal. When you go out to the side, you’ll feel a big stretch in your groin. It’s normal, you’re doing it right, so just keep stretching.

Lesli asks:

There is a man in my class who says his knees have been annoying him since he took up yoga about 6 months ago. We both wonder if it has anything to do with his age or yoga. He is a 53 year old ex-builder, never done yoga before, now gradually built up to doing 4 sessions per week, a mix of all styles.

So, Lesli, the answer is I don’t know, but yoga can heal your knees, but yoga can also harm your knees. It really can. Just like any activity, if you do it wrong, including typing on your computer, you can definitely tweak some things. The most important thing is, if this guy’s a friend of yours, is just tell him to talk to his teacher, get some advice and see what’s going on. Almost all injuries in yoga, I say this all the time, are re-injuries, meaning you’ve got a little bit of a twinge, you ignored it, you keep pushing through and then you get a serious injury.

It is normal to have some twinges in your knees when you’re practicing, but you’ve just got to be really careful. Almost anyone who’s new to yoga, at some point, is going to feel a little funny twinge in their wrists, in their elbows, in their knees and there’s not necessarily anything bad going on there, but you do want to check it out, make sure your alignment’s correct and some standing poses and things, to make sure that you’re not doing more harm than good.

Dolly asks:

I am now 32 and I’ve never been flexible. I have gone through about 5 rounds of your Flexibility program. Here is my main issue. I can kind of feel improvements, but I am nowhere near the pictures. Is this common? Does it take months or years for someone who started stiff to look and feel like a naturally flexible? Or is there a true problem with me?

It’s a great question, Dolly. Everybody’s different. Some people have what I call muscle memory, and it’s not actually unique to me, but people call it muscle memory. So for example, someone who was a cheerleader in high school, someone who was a gymnast, someone who was a dancer, a lot of times they have muscle memory, to the point where they can make massive changes very, very quickly.

And then there’s people like me, who I never had any muscle memory whatsoever. Never was flexible, I was always still my whole life. So for people like me, and it sounds like people like you, Dolly, it will take a little bit longer. In terms of what your body will look like, everybody’s is different. I mean, every advanced yoga practitioner I know has a tough spot. So, some really advanced teachers still have trouble getting into a full Lotus pose or still struggle with their backbends or still have locked up shoulders or whatever it is.

So there’s always going to be tough things, and there’s no real point in comparing yourself to anyone else. Just compare yourself to yourself and kind of look at your own progress. And that’s what it’s really about, just the self-growth and this personal progression.

Julie asks:

I only started taking YOGABODY Stretch about 2 weeks ago. (YOGABODY Stretch is our nutritional supplement, specifically for yoga students.) To be honest, I haven’t felt more flexible and I have been trying the exercises. I have also found out I have a headache when I stopped taking it for several days. The headache went away. I do not suffer from any sulphur allergies or any allergies at all.
Any suggestions would be appreciated.

So this is an interesting question, Julie. A lot of times, when you change your dietary stuff, especially with mineral supplements. Also with vitamins, but specifically with mineral supplements. You can get some different things happening, like your sleep might be slightly disrupted, your bowels might be slightly disrupted. Headaches are a lot less common and almost always tied to some kind of hydration issue. So I would just make sure that you’re getting enough water and things like this. It’s also possible that it’s not related. I don’t know that, but when you stop taking it, to get headaches, is definitely not a common reaction.

But, all that said, everybody’s body is different. So anyway, it sounds like you’ve been doing this about two weeks. That’s a good start, but you can’t expect massive changes in two weeks. But, what I would say is by four weeks you’re going to start noticing some really big changes, but you’ve really got to do those stretches every day. Five days a week, 15 minutes a day and meet or beat your whole time. It’s really, really crucial. A lot of people try to do the same thing they were doing before and they expect to get different results. You’ve got to do something different. You’ve got to commit to those stretches. Your nutrition is vital.

When you combine all those things, within a month, you should see results. I know we want results faster. Some people do, some people within seven or eight days or two weeks, like you said, Julie, but most people, it takes at least a month to notice some really big changes. So, don’t get frustrated. Keep stretching, make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, Julie, and I hope the headaches go away.