Juice Cleansing & Sore Back

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Steve asks:

I have been listening (twice in a row) to some of your teleclasses with people such as: Angela Stokes – truly inspirational, Kimberly Johnson – truly fascinating, The hot yoga guru – truly entertaining (you and driving!), James Colquhoun & Laurentine ten Bosch – Fantastic. I was inspired and have taken action in an attempt to do a home 5 day juice cleanse, but I get hungry so quickly. I’m in a physical job but still would like to do 5 days of only juice. Any suggestions for beating the hunger, or maybe in my situation, I need more??

Steve, that’s a really common challenge, especially if you’re doing a physical job, like if you’re doing construction or if you have to be on your feet all day for film or TV production. It’s going to be really challenging. What a lot of people do, is they get away. So, that’s why we run detox retreats, detoxification retreats in Thailand in other places, or if you can just do it over a weekend. So, even a 3 day cleanse over the weekend, like if you start on a Friday afternoon and then you go all the way through a Monday morning. That can be a really effective way to do it.

A lot of people get really caught up in the daze, meaning they want to do a cleanse, and they’re worried they can’t do 7 days or they can’t do 14 days or they can’t even do 5 days. Even a Monday cleanse is really great, and I’ll often do a 24 hour fast, and I’ll do that from Sunday night until Monday night. So, I’ll have my last meal on a Sunday at like 5 p.m., and then I won’t have another meal until Monday at 5 p.m. Even a 24 hour fast like that can be really, really beneficial.

So, I wouldn’t over think it. I would choose something that’s simple and obtainable, and maybe start off with doing weekends, start off with doing a 1 day and build up from there.

When you were chatting with Kimberly you talked about hinging the spine in drop backs, back bends… not really a back bend. I use my yoga trapeze and this hinging is what I’m doing and I feel the big bend at L3 L4 and its too much. I believe my upper back is too tight and not contributing to the bend. So I’m wondering what I can do to loosen my thoracic spine so to achieve an all inclusive back bend? What exercises and/or stretches could I do? (My goal is to be able to do drop backs from mountain pose, as you do in your videos, without straining my lower back – and then standing back up again.)

This is a great question, and it’s a common challenge for everybody, and for sure, Steve, your back is going to hinge right at the L4 L5. That’s why it’s the most common area of injury, because it is the hinge. It is the area. In order to get deeper in a backbend, we need to do lots of things, but most of us need to open up the front of our legs to free up our pelvis, and we do need to find more space in our thoracic and our cervical spine, up high in our back. And the way to do that, is just to keep stretching. If you feel like that when you’re on the trapeze, see if you can adjust your bum a little bit so that you can hang a little bit more, and I’d also recommend extending your hands above your head when you’re in the backbend and don’t grab your ankles or anything, but stretch your body long and lean and just hang there. And I think you’ll find that you’ll find some length that way.

Kai asks:

I’ve been doing gravity poses regularly for about 2 1/2 years now and have experienced great increases in flexibility as well as lessening of pain in problems areas like my lower back. I recently strained my right knee, most likely due to overuse from running, cycling, and yoga. I am able to bend my knee backward to stretch out my hamstring but cannot twist to the side as in forward bent with the right foot in to the thigh or when trying to do lotus pose. This has especially affected my gravity routines since I cannot do the Butterfly pose for the hip stretch and I cannot do many Ashtanga poses that twist the knee. Are there any other stretches you can recommend to replace these targeting the hip/lower back?

The bad news is no. If your knees are kind of wonky right now, you just want to back off and be really, really careful and stay away from any of that lateral rotation in your knee. Now, the one thing I will say, is that a lot of times people think that they’ve done a lot worse things to their knees and sometimes they just need a break. Most knee injuries, just like every injury, are actually re-injuries. So, something gets hurt, instead of backing off and taking it easier, you keep pushing through, pushing through, pushing through, and again, we don’t want to ever burn our joints. You don’t want to fry your joints.

And when that happens, it can lead to a real serious injury. Your knees are no exception, nothing to mess around with. So, just take it real slow. Make sure you’re still stretching, but just be really gentle. I’d be really careful if you’re feeling any kind of pain or twinge in your knee, and don’t hesitate to go get checked out with a doctor if it lingers, because again, just don’t want to mess with your joints.

I read one of your responses to a question about the Lightning Bolt and if I remember correctly, you stated that the stretch should not be felt in the lower back. This is where I feel it strongest and while it is a little sore during the stretch and a bit more sore afterward, I feel great after resting a minute or two and this stretch has helped with my lower back pain immensely. I do use a pillow under my buttocks/lower back since I am not flexible enough to do it without pain in the knees but wanted to make sure it is ok to keep going if I have “good” pain in my lower back during and immediately following 5 minutes in the stretch.

Okay, so in Lightning Bolt, you don’t want to feel a sharp pain in your lower back. If you do, you’ve gone too far. So, in Lightning Bolt, just stay seated up if you’re feeling a sharp pinch in your lower back. It might feel good. It’s still not the idea here. We want to really open up the fronts of your legs, specifically your iliopsoas muscles. And if you go back too fast too soon, if you recline down onto your back, your lower back will go into a very sharp arch and you can put undue pressure there on your lower back, which you don’t want to do.

So, take it easy. Everyone’s always in a rush to go too deep in this pose and hold it too long. If you’re feeling weird stuff in your knees or weird stuff in your lower back, just back off. Use a pillow under your bum, if you need to. You can sit there for a really long time, but you’ve got to be careful with your back, careful with your knees. The same kind of recurring theme this week.

The Twisting stretch has been the most difficult for me over the last 2 years. I do it at least 3 times a week for 5 minutes each session and have not experienced the gains I have with the other stretches. Toward the end of the 5 minutes, the muscles start to relax but I am always really tight at first. I have an un-fused sacral joint at the bottom of my lumbar which has resulted in lower back pain and a few instances of scoliosis in my life which I have been told by chiropractors has resulted in some scar tissue but I am able to manage pain and alignment with regular yoga and stretching. Is it ok to use a light weight in the outstretched hand to give me some additional leverage for the stretch?

This is a great question. This is exactly what I was going to recommend. One thing that works very well are sandbags. There’s a very good likelihood that you don’t have sandbags in your house. If you do, amazing, use sandbags. But if you don’t, you can use something like a sandbag. A water bottle, like a rubber water bottle can use. Another option might be a bag of rice, if you have a big bag of rice, or a big bag of potting soil from the garden, something like that, as long as it doesn’t get all over you.

But, what you do, is when you’re in that twisting position, you could use it, yes, in your extended hand, or you could also put it on top of your knees to help your knees rotate, or you could do both. And it helps if you have a partner to help you get into this, but that’s actually a really, really great idea and a good modification for that pose. Really, really simple to help you in that twister pose, and I hope that gives you some good ideas.