What’s the Secret to Deep Sleep?

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Melissa asks:

I have been having a lot of trouble with my hips and lower back. Also, whenever I am rotating my hips in a circular motion, I get a heavy and loud click that freaks me out a little bit. My balance is also off. I eat well, I’m 22. What would you suggest for me?

It’s a great question, Melissa. My hips also click. I can click my hips. It’s kind of like a double joint, like you’ll have in your fingers or your thumbs. I find that some people, not very many, but some people do have that in their hips as well. I don’t know if that’s what’s going on with you, but that’s what I found with myself and it freaked me out, too. I thought I dislocated my hip or something, but it was just kind of a double joint. Like in Trikonasana, like a triangle pose, I can kind of pop my hip. It was always there, before yoga, after yoga, but yoga is when I kind of discovered it.

Now, if you’re moving your leg in a circular motion and you’re hearing the click, that’s a little bit concerning. So I would, for sure, get it checked out, because even young people can start to have hip problems, especially if you have a history of doing dance or gymnastics or anything like that. So for sure, get it checked out. But it might be just fine, so I wouldn’t worry about it unless somebody tells you otherwise.

Henry asks:

What’s the magic of sleep? Sometimes I can`t fall asleep. What do I do to fall asleep?

It’s a great question, Henry. Sleep is so important. It’s something that I’m pretty terrible at myself. I’m always struggling to get enough sleep, just because I get really excited about all these things I do and I end up staying up really late. But the magic of sleep, really, is that it balances your hormones.

It’s interesting, I was just in the Philippines recently. I have a number of staff there, and one of my staff was telling me he’s been working the night shift recently, so he starts work at about eight p.m. and finishes at four a.m. He told me ever since he started working the night shift, he’s been gaining weight. And in Manila, there’s a whole bunch of, they call them BPOs, these overseas customer service and support staff for virtual companies like mine, and what’s happening is a lot of people are gaining weight. And the reason is not just because they eat junk food in the office, which they do, and eat junk food at 24 hour shops, which they do, but it also has to do with hormones, specifically Ghrelin and Leptin, which they control hunger in our gut and in our brain. And there’s lots and lots of research showing that sleep deprivation, irregular sleep patterns, can screw up basically the signals, the hunger signals, between your belling and your brain. So, that’s just one of the reasons. It can also lead to chronic fatigue syndrome, adrenal fatigue, all kinds of other things.

In terms of how to fall asleep, there’s a couple of things that are very, very effective. They’re a little bit difficult to put into practice, but they’re very effective. The first one is try not to eat at least three to five hours before bed. Very, very helpful to go to sleep with an empty stomach. Don’t drink any alcohol. Try not to drink anything with caffeine after noon, and ideally not at all.

And the third thing, is I practice some deep breathing. I teach something I call belly breathing. We have that with our Yoga Flexibility Kit. It’s also in our Breathe into Stillness audio program, and I’m sure we teach it somewhere else as well, which is really effective, very, very simple. Breathing in and out through your belly before bed, and you can do it supine, you can do it reclined. So that’s very helpful. Sometimes, probably three or four times a month, I end up using our Liquid Dream-V supplement, which is a pure Valerian root extract, so it’s the fresh root extract, so it’s quite effective. That really helps me, like if I’m jetlagged, if I just can’t get in a rhythm, if I’m too anxious. I’ll take that, and that really does help me get a good night’s sleep.

So, hopefully some of that will help, and the other thing that’s really important is getting your room all the way black. So you’ve got to kind of vampire your room, duck tape some boards on your windows and make it really, really black. Hotel-style blinds, the really thick ones, very, very helpful with aiding in your sleep.

Jennie asks:

I completed the first day of the gravity poses, but about half an hour after I finished, my back started to ache and now it’s really quite painful. It’s as though I stuck a spike directly through my back at solar plexus, it would contact my spine at the sore area.

Okay, I see what she’s saying. If she put a finger or a thumb right under her ribcage, she’d feel pain right there. What could you recommend, something to help stretch this out. Okay, so first of all, whenever you start doing any kind of new stretches, different stretches, and sometimes just randomly, you will get sore. So don’t get too upset here, Jennie, it might be no problem at all. In fact, sometimes it’s just a perfectly normal sign that you’re stretching, you’re getting to a new area, but for sure back off. It sounds like you have quite a pain, so do back off. Give yourself a couple days, rest at least and take it easy. Any yoga student will tell you, even after a decade of practice, you’ll still wakeup days and you’ll feel sore, and that’s normal.

Now, what you don’t want to do is have chronic pain. You don’t want to have impaired mobility, and you don’t want to have injuries. So do be careful. The key thing is, when you’re doing the gravity poses, make sure in the back bends specifically, like Lightning Bolt specifically, maybe try not laying back. I’m wondering if maybe you laid back too soon. That one can put a lot of pressure on your lower back, if you lay back too soon.

Is there an alternate exercise for Noodle Pose? (Noodle Pose, for those of you listening, is a passive back bend we do over a chair or sometimes we do over a box or we do over a big fitness ball.) I just can’t do it for long. After about 15 seconds, my back pinches and I spend the rest of the time in Ragdoll stretching it out.

Okay, so, yeah, so here’s what I suggest doing. If you’re doing it on a chair, you’ve got to add a ton of pillows to the chair, like try adding like four pillows to the chair, and that should really help. You can also try a fitness ball, just make sure you have a really, really big fitness ball, and I think you’ll find that very helpful.

Melissa asks:

I want to learn how to do the splits, but I’m not flexible at all. What do you recommend, besides taking YOGABODY Stretch? I’m 18, how often should I take them?

In terms of taking YOGABODY Stretch supplements, most people take them daily. Some people take them three times a week, but most people take them daily, anywhere from 4 to 6 capsules daily. But, if you’re trying to learn the splits, you’ve got to do the splits. You’ve got to practice it. So, the splits is a tough one, because your body protects your groin with a stretching reflex, so your heart and your groin are the two areas that your body naturally twitches and protects.

If you imagine you got startled on a dark street in a big city, immediately what would you do? You’d cover your heart and your legs would close. It’s your body protecting your vital organs and your organs of reproduction. It’s a really natural, instinctive motion. So anytime we do a deep backbend or we do the splits, we’re going against our body’s sympathetic nervous system response, so it takes a bit of time.

So, what you want to work up to, is as quickly as possible, get up to five-minute holds on either side, doing the frontal splits, and five-minute holds doing the full side box splits, it’s sometimes called. And when you’re first starting, it might be two minutes, but you can work up to five very quickly. Don’t push, don’t wiggle, don’t bounce, just spend five minutes a day there.

The splits is a pose that’s very good to practice. There’s other poses that lead up to the frontal splits. Any kind of forward bend, any kind of asymmetrical forward bend, is very, very good for leading up to the frontal splits. The side splits is a pose that’s not very well prepped by other poses, so you’ve just got to practice it.

Steve asks:

How do I make progress in straightening the elbows in Full Wheel Pose? I admit, my elbows are rather bent when attempting the pose. What are some tips to getting them straight?

So Full Wheel Pose is like a Bridge Pose that kids will call it Bridge Pose from gymnastics when you’re on your back and you lift up in a backbend. In terms of getting your arms straight, that’s one of the indicators that you have a pretty good backbend, is when you get your arms all the way straight.

The key thing, Steve, is to spend more time there, and what I always teach people is to get out of your lower back. So when you do a Full Wheel, an Urdhva Dhanurasana Pose, the stretch is going to naturally pinch right in your lower back, because that’s where the hinge is. That’s the most mobile part of your back, and so L4, L5, S1, right at the base of your spine there, people tend to get pinching.

And so, your goal is to get out of your lower back. to do that, you’ve got to find more movement, more flexion in your middle and your upper back, your thoracic and cervical spine, and to do that you’ve got to get your arms involved. So when you’re in the backbend, first of all, stay there longer. Second of all, the whole time, just think, get out of my lower back, get out of my lower back, get out of my lower back. So you push down into your heels and you drive the weight into the palms of your hands.

And what I always recommend for first starting off, is 3 sets of 30 breaths each, so 3 sets, 30 breaths each. If you do that for a month, you’ll see some fantastic results. Most people, they don’t spend long enough time there. They go up for 5 seconds and they drop down. Nothing really happened. They just got uncomfortable. So, I hope that’s helpful.

Carey asks:

I seem to have to ‘unwind’ really carefully from some poses, like Noodle. I know that some types of yoga focus on transitioning from pose to pose. Is this something you can help me learn to do more smoothly?

This is a great question, Carey. A lot of our gravity poses, when you come out of them, you’ll look really ugly. There’s no way around it. Like Hangman, for example, when you come off the wall, most people moan and groan. Or Blaster Pose, or like you said, Noodle Pose, you kind of have to fall on the floor. It’s very hard to get out of them. The best thing is if you have someone else around, that’s the easiest. If someone else can give you a hand and support your weight, you can put your hands in theirs. That’s the best way. Other than that, I don’t have any great recommendations. It is kind of an ugly transition.

Malakiel asks:

Yoga Water-E, as explained, is a salt from the lake in Utah. The minerals are inorganic not organic minerals, as found in plants, which makes them harder to absorb by the body. So what makes the Yoga Water-E better? Is it true that the consumption of these minerals in organic state from plants would be better because of their absorption rate for your health?

So I don’t have an answer, in terms of what’s better. I don’t know that there’s any data on that. So, Yoga Water-E, which is our electrolyte formula, it comes from salt flats in Utah, not actually the salt lake, but there’s salt flats. The key thing about it is that it’s electrolyte-balanced in a natural state. So it’s something that you would find in nature. Most of the salts and the saline drinks and the rehydration fluids have been made with bleached process, stripped down, iodized salt. So it’s very different than a natural salt you’d find in nature. It doesn’t really have the ratio of electrolytes that we’re looking for.

I find it much, much more effective than any other sports drink, and I find it much more effective than adding just a sea salt to my water as well. This is the one formula that I don’t talk about enough, but as soon as people start using it, they get absolutely crazy hooked on it, especially people who sweat a lot, like hot yoga students, runners and athletes. It’s fantastic for hydration.

Lisette asks:

A sudden change or cut back on rice, and to combine it with stress at work, has led me to gastrointestinal problems. Do you have any tips? What products or supplements do you recommend and how?

Okay, so cutting back on rice should not give you any gastrointestinal problems, unless that rice is buffering something else that you eat. One thing that’s interesting about rice is it’s hypoallergenic, which means almost no one is allergic to it, which is really rare with all the big cash crops, like wheat and corn and soy and rice. Rice is the only one that’s not super allergenic. All the others are very, very allergenic.

So, stopping eating rice is very unlikely that’s giving you problems, but that rice might have been buffering other things you’ve been eating, maybe highly acidic foods or processed foods or who knows what else. And so that’s the only thing I can think of.

In terms of what I’d recommend, I’d actually recommend you’d do a little bit of experimenting. We call it elimination diet, where you try giving up hyper allergens in your diet for a period of 10 days, and then reintroduce them, to see if they’re causing the problem. So things that are really common allergens in your diet are things like wheat, things like glutton and wheat, corn and soy, those are some of the biggest ones, and dairy is another really, really big one. So dairy, soy and wheat and corn. If you try giving those up for 10 days and then introduce them slowly and see how your body reacts.

I’d try to use this as a time to gain some insight into your digestion. It sounds like something is going on. I don’t think it’s the rice. I think the rice was maybe buffering your stomach from something else that was the culprit.

Kiran asks:

I’ve been learning splits for 3 months, and it’s horribly painful and still not getting anywhere. I can’t see any remarkable difference yet. I just want to know, are there any tips or secrets that you have?

Okay, so this is another question about the splits. The key thing here, Kiran, is to meet or beat your hold time. That means if today you held it for two minutes on both sides, tomorrow hold it for 2 minutes and 5 seconds and build from there. The other thing is, you just have to relax, and especially in the splits. Your legs are big, strong muscles. They can resist for minutes and minutes no problem. You’ve got to tell yourself to relax, but if you meet or beat your hold time and you keep at it, you should notice big gains very, very quickly, very, very quickly. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get all the way to the floor in a day, but even during a 3-minute hold, you should notice yourself dropping down significantly.

Stuart asks:

Do you know anything about exercises to get rid of sciatica? It’s quite disabling, especially if I try to avoid pain. It’s a little worrying, because ignoring pain might lead to a longer injury.

Yeah, you don’t want to ignore the pain, Stuart. So sciatica is a nerve flare up condition, really, really common and really troubling because there’s no clear cause, often, and there’s no clear cure often. Yoga can make it better, yoga can make it worse. Running often makes it worse. It just depends. There’s no real rules. It comes and goes. It’s kind of like a mystery ailment.

The one thing I can tell you is try to fire up your legs especially strong when you’re doing forward bends. So maybe stay away from passive poses for a while and try to do more stronger, dynamic poses. So make your legs really, really strong, so especially the front of your legs, your quadriceps, in any kind of forward bend, and definitely pay attention to which poses cause flare ups and which poses help. Definitely do not push through the pain, because you could make it a lot worse, and sciatic pain can radiate all the way down in your foot and all the way up your back and can get quite severe.

You might also think about taking some anti-inflammatory foods. The most common ones I always recommend are Omega-3s. You can get them from flax or chia seeds, or if you’re a fish eater, cold-water fish, preferably small fish like sardines. And the other thing, I like to use B vitamins. B vitamins are great for your nervous system. They’re essential for nervous system health. I always say one called Liquid Energy B that I’m partial to. I like the way it tastes, and it’s liquid and absorbs into your tongue.

Caroline asks:

I’m an acrobat and I need a lot of energy and good food. I’m a vegan and take some hemp protein every day, but it’s hard to keep the body strong and flexible. I do the gravity poses every day. Do you have any tip for me to practice?

Yeah, so if you’re eating a plant-based diet, a vegan diet where you don’t have any animal products in your diet, there’s a couple of things that I always tell people. And the key thing is, you need to be eating either legumes or nuts and seeds in pretty serious quantity every day, or you’re going to run into some challenges.

And the challenges you’re going to run into is you’re just going to have too much carbohydrates in your system. You’re going to have too much sugars, and that leads to all kinds of other problems long term. In the short term, it won’t be a big deal, but long term it can be really problematic. And so, for a lot of people, they’re not used to eating nuts and seeds or they’re not used to the prep time and the cooking of legumes, but those are really, in the vegan plant-based world, those are really the most dense sources of protein that we have.

And so, you need to focus on including those in your diet on a really regular basis, finding which ones work for you, which ones work with your digestion, what kind of preparation you need to do to make those palatable and delicious for you. But for sure, Caroline, I’d work on incorporating more nuts and seeds, and you can play with soaking them, making them into nut cheeses and nut milks and all these kinds of things. And more legumes, the legumes that work for you. The less starchy the legumes, the better.

Peter asks:

I just got the Yoga trapeze set up and upon trying the first basic inversion, I’m getting right sacroiliac pain. Is this normal?

No, Peter, you don’t want to get sacroiliac pain. So what I do is, just come up a little, take it slower and don’t go so quickly. You definitely don’t want to feel pain. You want to feel relaxed. There’s a lot of different variations. You might want to play with adjusting your seat in the trapeze, so that the seat is a bit wider so that the seat of the trapeze is closer to your thoracic spine and less on your lumbar and sacroiliac area. But you definitely don’t want to feel pinching in this back bend or in any back bend.