Bikram vs. Gravity Yoga

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Jeff asks:

I currently am a runner as well as a weightlifter. Is it possible to see noticeable improvements in flexibility if I keep up a 5 day/week strength training and 3 day/week running schedule?

Do I need to cut back on the weightlifting or weight lift at a different time than my stretching routine?

Well, here’s the deal, Jeff. We’re always doing things that are yin and then yang, and so a yang practice would be strength training. A yin practice would be flexibility question. People will get this question a lot. Should I quit lifting? Should I quit running? Should I do these things? My answer is, don’t quit anything you love. So, if you love running and you love lifting and you like how that feels and the benefits you get, definitely don’t quit.

If you’re trying to become very, very flexible and bendy, weight lifting and extensive strength training is going to make it challenging. It’s not impossible, but it’s going to make it challenging. In many cases, if you’re training really hard for strength training, running, lifting weights, what you’re probably going to try to do is maintain your current level of flexibility. That might be the most realistic goal.

If you did want to improve your flexibility dramatically, you’d probably need to spend more time stretching than you would do lifting and running, but again, I’d only recommend that if that’s really what you’re looking for. If you love these activities, don’t quit.

CJ asks:

In The Hangman pose, you say “Reach your arms up the wall with your hands wider than your shoulders.” When I reach my arms up, do I lift my head and chest?

If you don’t know Hangman, it’s one of our main gravity yoga poses for opening the shoulders. It’s really powerful. What you do is, you lay on the floor with your head right next to the wall, on your belly, and then from that position you reach your hands up the wall, like a down dog arms, and stretch your arms out. The answer is yes, CJ, your head and your shoulders and your chest will lift up off the wall. If you’re really flexible, your chest might start to drop down towards the ground, but your head will hang, so relax your head and neck, and your shoulders will hang loose as well. Just relax here.

For The Wide Dog pose, is it necessary to be looking at the belly button for the entire duration? What if my arms are not strong enough to hold the posture for three minutes? What do I do?

Hold the posture for as long as you can. If three minutes is your max, work from there. You’ll build up very quickly. You don’t need to worry so much about looking towards your navel. Just make sure your head and neck are completely relaxed.

Christine asks:

I am currently a bikram yoga student. How are the poses in the Yoga handbook different from the bikram series?

If you’re not familiar with bikram, it’s a set of 26 yoga poses and two breathingexercises and it’s done in a heated room. It’s one of the classic hot yoga series, and it’s a great series. In terms of the Yoga Body Handbook, we don’t do any standard bikram poses. It’s quite a different practice. It’s meant as a supplemental practice to help you increase your flexibility, so they’re all different. All the poses are different, Christine.

Madina asks:

My husband has a torn meniscus, and he started taking Fleximine, which is YOGABODY Stretch, based on your suggestions. I remember you once wrote that far infrared patches might be helpful. And I wonder if these could help him heal? Can youtell me where you bought yours?

In terms of a torn meniscus, far infra red heat might be helpful. For sure, check with your doctor. You don’t want to mess around with your knees. I’ll put a link to the far infra red pad that I have. It’s really handy. You just plug it in, and it heats very, very deeply into your body, which is what I like a lot about it. Again, I’ll put a note to it in the class notes so you can find it, if you’re looking for it. I got mine from The Healthy Back Institute.

Emily asks:

In one of your recent emails you mentioned that there is basically yoga everything (clothes, music, names, etc.) What is really important to have when getting into yoga?

Emily, this is a great question. Nothing is really important. The most important thing is that you do your practice. If you can practice on the floor without a mat, you’re good to go. Most people do need a yoga mat, so I would say pretty much a yoga mat is the most essential thing. It’s really easy to get caught up in thinking you need all kinds of yoga schwag, and you’ll see people going into yoga classes with just so much gear that they look like a rock climber, and it’s totally not necessary. They say B. K. S. Iyengar practiced for most of his life on a hard cement floor. I don’t think I would like that, but it does work. You can practice on a rug, you can practice on a carpet, but generally a simple yoga mat, it will cost you $20 and you’re good to go. Hope that’s helpful. Gravity Yoga DVD