Flexibility Tips, Caffeine & Yoga Breaks

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Mikayla asks:

Do I need to become a vegetarian to be flexible? I over-stretch far too often and by the next day my muscles become swollen and I am as flexible as when I started.

There’s two questions there. The first one, do you need to become a vegetarian to be flexible? No. A lot of yoga students find that animal-based proteins, they take longer to digest. That’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing, but a lot of yoga students end up becoming vegetarian. One of the reasons they do it, aside from the moral and ethical stuff, is they like to practice with an empty stomach, and plant-based foods tend to digest more quickly. So a lot more issues to think about than just that, if you’re considering it. But that’s one of the reasons you do not need to become vegetarian. I have colleagues who eat lots of meat and they are very flexible as well. In my experience, a lot of people find it’s helpful.

Okay, let’s talk about the over-stretching thing. Over-stretch, next day muscles are swollen and I’m just as flexible as when I started. So first of all, you shouldn’t be looking for results the next day. It’s not really the way it works with flexibility. You should see steady results. So for sure every month, and maybe every week, but the next day not necessarily, and especially if you’re getting sore, you might actually feel a little bit stiffer than when you started and that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not doing things correctly. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not making progress. You may be doing both of those. So keep that in mind.

In terms of stretching too much, you say your muscles are swollen. You shouldn’t be getting swollen. If you’re doing new types of stretches, you will get really sore at first and that’s normal, but if you’re continually getting really, really sore, you might be pushing things too hard, so take it easy.

Stephny-Ann asks:

I need advice on how to do the splits in a few weeks, so what can I do to get my legs flexible?

Stephny, it’s not going to happen. You’re not going to get the splits in a few weeks. That is unless you’re pretty flexible already. You don’t need to be super flexible. If we’re talking about the frontal splits and if you have decent flexibility already, you might be able to learn that in a few weeks. I find that if people have decent hamstring flexibility and psoas flexibility, some people can learn it in about four to six weeks. But for most people, it’s going to take longer, and if you’re talking about the box splits, the side splits, that’s a tough one. Some people that might just never happen for, and for most people that’s a pretty long process. That’s a really deep stretch. So I wouldn’t try to push yourself into a box.

I’m wondering if you’re doing gymnastics or dance or something like that. We get a lot of questions, similar kind of thing, people working for dance or gymnastic auditions or trials or whatever it is and they want to get flexible really, really quickly. I’m all for getting results in the minimum time, but I don’t like that idea of deadlines and performing with flexibility. Everyone I know who’s had to do that, whether that was yoga teachers doing demos or much more often are gymnasts and dancers and things. The long-term results can be really, really tough on your body, the long-term effects, that is. So take it easy Stephny-Ann, and I don’t know that I would focus on trying to get those in just a couple of weeks.

Amal asks:

Is it okay to take YOGABODY Stretch supplements at 6 am? And why do you recommend 10 am and 3 pm the most effective time to take them?

Yes, it’s fine to take at 6 am. I usually tell people not to take them after 3 pm because sometimes it can disrupt sleep. I usually recommend people take with food or just after food. 10 am and 3 pm are the times that I throw out there, but it’s a great question. There’s not that much rhyme or reason. That’s just what works for a lot of people. If 6 am and noon works for you, do that.

Natalia asks:

Is only caffeine in coffee bad for is it just caffeine in general? What about teas?

Coffee tends to have the highest caffeine, if you’re going to compare the caffeine content of Yerba Mate or green tea or black tea or orange pekoe or whatever kind of tea you’re looking at. Coffee tends to be the most potent and has the most caffeine.

And the truth is, a little bit of caffeine is not a big deal, and even if somebody is having just one coffee a day it’s probably not a big deal, but most coffee drinkers, that increases over time. There’s some incredibly balanced people who I will always be envious of, who are just so moderate in everything they do, and it’s amazing. They literally drink one small coffee a day or they’ll have a cup of tea in the morning and that’s it. If that’s you, I wouldn’t worry too much about the caffeine thing.

Most people’s caffeine intake, because caffeine stops having the same effect, they have more and more and more. So somebody starts off with a cup of coffee a day and within five years they’re having a cup of coffee at three in the afternoon and they’re having three in the morning and that kind of thing.

Tea can be just as detrimental, especially because you tend to drink a ton of it, or at least I do. I’ll have an entire pot of tea myself, which is why I tend to always drink non-caffeinated teas. I like Rooibos tea, I like honey bush tea, they taste like black teas but they’re not. I drink a lot of peppermint tea, a lot of ginger tea, a lot of Nettle tea and all of those are great, too.

Again, caffeine actually has some interesting properties and even perhaps you could call them benefits, but it’s just one of these things that for most people, they end up abusing it over time and it leads to that nervous system fry and dehydration. Those are the two big things that make it kind of detrimental to yoga.

Is it okay to drink soda?

Natalia, soda is probably the worst thing you could drink. Diet soda, I would argue, is even worse than regular soda. I would drink coffee every day instead of soda. It’s one of the worst foods on the planet. Everything about it, from the high fructose corn syrup to the flavorings to the sugars to the artificial flavorings, it’s really horrible. I don’t think you could get worse.

If there was one food, one category of food they could just yank out of the food chain, if we could do sugar, that’s sort of a staple, but if we were to take a food product and we just had to yank one of them out of the food chain, sodas would probably be it. I bet there would be an average weight loss of 10 percent across the globe. It’s a disaster. Sodas are a disaster. Drink coffees over sodas every day of the week. Sodas are horrible.

What would be the advisable time space between my morning yoga (takes around 45 minutes) and stretching?

This is great. So if you’re doing gravity yoga to supplement your yoga practice, you’re doing 45 minutes of yoga and you want to do some deep stretching, the best time to do it, Natalie, is right after. Right after that 45 minutes, take 15 minutes and do your deep, targeted gravity pose stretching. You’ll get the best results, because your body is so warm. If you do it then, you take 15 minutes a day, you’re going to see big, big results. Great question.

Kai asks:

Do you ever take “breaks” and don’t do yoga, stretching or exercise? If so, how often do you take these breaks and for how long?

Kai, when I was younger, meaning like two years ago, I never, ever took breaks. My teachers would tell me to take Saturdays off, I never did that. These days, I’m a little bit better at taking breaks, but I mostly just always practice. I think the longest I’ve ever gone is five days without doing yoga, but that almost never happens. I love my yoga practice, and so I do it a lot. I don’t recommend taking breaks, unless there’s some reason to, like unless you have an injury or something like that. But even then, I still recommend doing gentle yoga, doing breathing practices, just to keep yourself in the habit.

But you need to enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it and if it feels like a chore, you’re doing something wrong, which is really the gist of it. And I find a lot of people really, really suffer with their fitness program or their meditation program or whatever it is they’re doing to keep their mind and their body in shape, they hate it. All you have to do is go by any gym and you just see the looks on peoples’ faces. They’re just miserable. And the same thing can happen in yoga. It doesn’t happen as much, but for some people it does and they just feel their yoga practice is a chore. If you’re not on accident practicing a lot, you’re probably doing something wrong, because it should be fun, it should be enjoyable, should be something you love to do and taking a day off is almost like a sacrifice.

Lauren asks:

I have a lot of muscle pain and spasms. I take a magnesium supplement. I have cut out on vegetables related to thyroid issues, I also take medication. Can you advise me anything pain relief?

Cutting out vegetables, I know for some thyroid conditions you have to do that. I’m guessing you have to cut out cruciferous vegetables, is what I’m guessing, Lauren, if you can confirm and post down in the comments below. That can be really, really challenging. As soon as you can, work with your doctor 100 percent, but as soon as you can, try to get those vegetables back in because the most bio-available forms of magnesium are from dark green, leafy vegetables, and those are going to be the best form. If you’re taking magnesium, take a magnesium citrate or another good magnesium supplement. I don’t know, people usually take around 800 mgs, if they’re supplementing, a day.

Magnesium is a very, very common deficiency. Some people believe much more important to take magnesium than it is to take calcium. Calcium is extremely abundant in our food supply. So is magnesium, but people don’t tend to eat magnesium foods, which are mostly green, leafy vegetables and things like this. And so in terms of pain relief, if you’re having muscle pain and muscle spasms, Lauren, you’re asking the right questions. It sounds like it could be related to some kind of mineral deficiency.

And so for sure I’d go get checked out for that. I’d be reluctant to recommend anything, because it could be so many different things, like a magnesium deficiency, a potassium deficiency, all of these things can lead to muscle pain and spasms. But then again, so can hormonal imbalances and things like this. So for sure, go get it checked out. Make sure you’re eating a lot of water-based foods, and if and when it’s possible, I’d try to get your magnesium and all your other minerals from whole plant foods, as much as possible, and using supplements, what they’re made for, is to supplement, not to take the place of the foods that you’re eating.