Full Lotus

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Ethan asks:

I find when I rest right back my lower back and stretching too hard, I cannot hold it for longer than a few seconds. Is there anything I can do to change this or another pose I can use until my flexibility is good enough to hold that pose?

Backbends can be really frustrating. I think Ethan’s doing a Noodle passive gravity pose here. Pretty much any backbend, passive or active, can get really intense like that, Ethan, and it’s a really common thing to have to come out right away. The key thing is just to be where you’re at. So if where you’re at is a five-second hold, then you’re at a five-second hold and you just need to build and grow from there. You can do it really quickly, as long as you’re consistent.

So I wouldn’t get too caught up in how long you can be. Just be with where you are now and start to grow from there. And whenever you’re doing backbends, you want to make sure there’s no pinching in your lower back, that’s a key thing. I always talk about getting out of your lower back, trying to take the stretch into the tilt of your pelvis so you feel it in the tops of your legs and into your upper back and your middle back and shoulders.

And so, wherever you are now, Ethan, be there and work from that point and you’ll find you’ll progress more quickly than comparing yourself to a different ideal.

Loretta asks:

I’m a chronic fatigue sufferer. I was previously very fit and active, now I’ve been completely inactive for 18 months in this bout and after 8 years with no exercise after this first bout. I was wondering if your program can help me get some flexibility back. I’m not sure how much you know about chronic fatigue syndrome, but any advice you can give would be so much appreciated.

Loretta, I don’t know a ton about chronic fatigue. I do have a number of students who have found that yoga is helpful, but it’s really anecdotal in my world. It’s just anecdotal stuff. I don’t know for sure that it will be helpful. In terms of getting your flexibility back, for sure there’s a lot of things you can do.

One of the challenges, if you’re chronic fatigue or even people who are overweight or just overly tired, insomniacs, sometimes it can just be really hard to motivate to do your stretches, even if you’re doing passive stretches where you’re just on the floor. It can be really hard, and so overcoming that initial inertia can be the biggest hurdle. A lot of times in yoga class, teachers will say getting started is the hardest part or coming to class is the hardest part, and there’s really some truth to that.

So, what I would suggest, Loretta, what I found is really helpful for people, is try to put yourself in an environment where it’s really fun to practice yoga. And so, for some people that means playing really fun music. For other people, that means inviting some friends over. For a lot of people, it means going to a public class, and I love home practice. I encourage everybody to encourage a home practice. I think it’s one of the true gifts of yoga. But at the same time, there’s real power and energy that you get from a group. So, I’d consider something like that. I hope it’s helpful. Please keep us updated. I’d love to hear how yoga is or is not helping your chronic fatigue.

Jim asks:

Most people think breakfast is essential. Ever heard of fasting on alternate days? Well, it benefits me. My mental faculties are sharper, and I can train better aerobically.

Yeah, so intermittent fasting is what Jim is referring to. It’s something that probably would happen pretty normally in nature. Intermittent fasting is sort of short periods of fasting, not to a famine state in your body, but skipping meals. And you’re right, it can be really beneficial, and it can be really helpful.

Now, the one caveat I will say, is that if you’re trying to lose weight, skipping meals can be a real disaster. And the reason I say that is because it can really throw off your metabolism and your hormone balance in your body, especially related to your blood sugar levels. So for somebody who’s struggling with their weight, in so many cases they really need to balance their blood sugar throughout the day, and by skipping a meal you can kind of topple your blood sugar through the floor. Then when you do go to eat, there’s a real natural tendency to eat sugary, starchy foods and to start this rollercoaster cycle of blood sugar and then insulin pushes it down, then you have excess fat storage hormone in your body.

So for sure, Jim, intermittent fasting can be really effective. I do the same. There’s at least one day a week I will not eat anything until three or four, sometimes even five or six in the afternoon. But it’s really important, I think, that you do that without feeling hunger pains, without feeling dizzy or lightheaded. And if you’re able to do that, it means that you’re in a pretty good blood sugar health arena. You’re in a place where your body can balance itself naturally. And then you’re right, there are some real benefits. There are studies that show that human growth hormones release and a lot of interesting things happen in your body when it’s empty. And so, skipping meals, as a practice, might be something interesting to try.

Again, the one caveat being if you’re trying to lose weight, I found it to be counterproductive for most people that I work with. Much better idea is to eat regularly, keep your blood sugar balanced until you get those blood sugar levels stabilized and your insulin sensitivity back up. That’s when it’s easy to skip meals. So, if you’re skipping meals and it feels like you’re skipping a meal, I would suggest stay away.

Liron asks:

What’s the difference between The Blaster and the Splits, apart from the front knee being bent?

So the Blaster is a passive hip-opening pose that we teach in the Gravity Yoga Series, and the Splits is really a different version, where you straighten out the front leg. So in the Blaster, it’s a deep lunge and you’re going down into your hip, and the Splits is, well, it’s the Splits, with both of your legs straight.

So the big difference, Liron, sorry I pronounced your name wrong, Liron, the big difference is that Blaster is very much a hip pose. It does involve your hamstrings, but it’s very much a hip opener, and the Splits gets more into your hamstrings. Of course, the back of your leg, the stretch is very similar. It’s mostly the top of your leg, quads and your psoas, your iliopsoas muscles on that back leg.

But the front leg, it is different. In the Blaster, you’re going much more deeper into the muscles that support your hip. And in the Splits, it gets more isolated. It’s a much more targeted stretch towards your hamstring group of muscles.

Yassel asks:

: I need to get into Full Lotus as soon as it is possible, and I would be glad for any advice you can give me. I like the gravity poses approach. I’m willing to try anything to get there.

So, this is a tricky one, getting into Full Lotus. The reason it’s tricky is because it can be a pose that’s potentially really dangerous for your knees. A lot of knee injuries happen in yoga, doing some variation of a Lotus. Half Lotus standing into a forward bend, seated Lotus held too long, you name it, but a lot of it is that bent knee with rotation. So you’ve got to be really, really careful. That’s the first thing I’d say.

Second thing is, the Full Lotus, because there’s so many things involved, including ankle flexibility, mobility of your hips and your knee, as well as other strange things like the flexibility of your calves. It’s a strange pose, and so the thing that I would recommend is the best way to do this is if you can start sitting in a cross-legged position as much as possible. You do not need to sit in Lotus. In fact, if you’re new to Lotus, it’s not a good idea to sit in it for a long time. But you can sit in Half Lotus variations on either side.

The way to do this is if you sit at a chair some portion of the day, if you have an office job it’s easy, if you don’t, I bet you sit at a computer for a certain portion of the day. Sit in a chair with no arms on the sides. I have an office chair and I take the arms off the sides, and I do that so I can cross my legs on my chair. And that’s when you’re really going to start to see some big breakthroughs, when you change your posture.

When you go to countries where people sit on the floor, like in Southeast Asia, where I spend a lot of time, most people can do Full Lotus no problem. They never have to stretch. They can just do it, because it’s natural range of motion. So a lot of the stretching that we do can really be aided just by getting back to normal, natural range of motion, like sitting on your chair, instead of sitting in a seated position with your feet dangling down.

So that would be the best advice I can give you. Then work on poses like Blaster and Butterfly from the Gravity Yoga Series, and just give it some time, give it some time.

Heidi asks:

I badly injured my right knee a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, even the sitting up version of Lightning bolt puts a very uncomfortable strain on my knee. Is there any adjustment I can make as an alternative pose that will help open up the front of my body?

So first of all, Heidi, make sure you get that knee checked out, because you might have done a permanent injury that’s not going to get better. On the other hand, it might be just fine. It might just be a little bit weak at the moment. In terms of Lightning Bolt, don’t do anything until you get it checked out. Again, with knees, I always tell people to get them checked out just because you don’t want to mess with your joints. And if you’re feeling some pain in some natural range of motion poses, it doesn’t make sense, and especially if it was a couple years ago. I would go get it checked out, just to be sure, just to be sure.

In any case, there are variations. The way you’d modify Lightning Bolt, Heidi, is you put a big pillow under your bum so you’re not going as deep into it, and that can be a really safe stretch, again, assuming you don’t have meniscus issues or anything like that. So just make sure you know what you’re dealing with, with your knee, and even though it might be functional for all your daily activities, if every time you try to do something like a yoga or running or something, if you’re feeling it, it could be that you’ve got something in there that needs taking care of, or at least to make sure.

Scott asks:

What do you recommend for somebody that tore a calf muscle? They put a sock on it and I am on crutches. I was told just below the calf, where it connects to the lower calf. What do you recommend?

Wow, that sounds really, really painful, Scott. I don’t know how you did that. So, in terms of what do I recommend, I don’t have any recommendations. I mean, you’re going to have to wait until that calf heals, and then as soon as you get that sock removed and you’re off the crutches, you just want to start doing your own rehab. And I’m sure they’ll send you to some kind of physio or somebody who will work with you to get the movement back in there. I would just really take it slow and make sure you’re moving as you’re healing.

And so, make sure you’re with somebody, whether it’s a physio or a sports therapist, somebody who really understands your goals. And a lot of times, the physio or the therapist goals are to get you back to normalcy, which to them means being able to walk around. And so, I think it’s really important that you get clear about what you want. So if you want to be able to do whatever athletics, exercises you do, or if you want to get back into yoga or get into yoga and do deep stretching, make sure you articulate those things, because it’s very, very different.

A lot of medical doctors and the allopathic medical approach is to relive pain. That’s what it is. It’s stop the pain, and they’re really effective at that, but a lot of people get in a situation where let’s say a dancer tears her hamstring and she doesn’t want to just not be in pain. She wants to dance again, and she wants to dance at her previous capacity, plus some. And so, the approach for healing for that is quite different than just trying to get out of pain. The get out of pain protocol is relatively easy. The stay out of pain, heal strong or heal stronger than before is a bit more complex and also a bit interesting. In many cases, it’s totally doable. It’s just not something that people often think about. I loved the question, Scott, thanks for asking. Hope you found that useful. YOGABODY Stretch