Coffee & Yoga Stretching?

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Robert asks:

I do gravity poses and strength poses, weights and machines, but not at the same time. Is there not a style of yoga that does both? There must be. My thought would be to incorporate that style of yoga with martial arts/tai chi training.

So the question Robert has is, is there a style of yoga that incorporates yin and yang or strength and flexibility poses. The answer is yes. People teach classes now called Yin Yang Yoga. There are deep-stretching classes at the end of an athletic practice. And a really well-rounded practice, such as an Ashtanga Primary Series, is a really good strength and flexibility practice. It’s just not that accessible for a beginning student or even a lot of intermediate students. It’s a pretty challenging series.

But for sure there are series. I would look into something like an Ashtanga Vinyasa Primary Series, and you might look for yin and yang style classes, which are starting to become a little more popular, where half the class will be very athletic and half the class will be very, very passive and deep stretching in nature.

Mary asks:

I do your gravity yoga poses. I have problems with very tight IT Bands (stabilizers on the outside of the knees). What should I do to address that?

Your IT band is a chunk of connective tissue that runs along the outside of your kneecap. A lot of people get IT band syndrome. They get inflammation and pain. Usually, it’s on the outside of their knee. This can happen from all kinds of things, everything from bad shoes to irregular running surfaces to tension and all kinds of other things.

There are stretches you can do for your IT bands. It’s not so much that you want to stretch them out. You just want to move through a range of motion. The simplest one is done with kind of a roller on the ground, where you slide your leg over a roller. But really, a lot of yoga poses can help to warm up your IT bands.

With something like this, I would consider going to see somebody, like a sports therapist, a physio, a chiropractor. You might be doing something funny, whether it’s bad shoes or bad posture or something. That could lead to something really serious. It’s a pretty common thing.

People will do something called McConnell taping, where they tape their knee to help with their IT bands. It’s kind of controversial. A lot of people say it doesn’t do anything. Other people report it does do something. It’s the same reason you see people sometimes wearing knee braces and things like that. Sometimes that’s due to knee injuries, but sometimes it’s IT band irritation. In any case, I would suggest you go see somebody.

In terms of tight IT bands, there’s a number of different poses that can help with that. All of your hip-opening poses, kind of indirectly, help your IT band, and there’s some real specific roller poses. I’ll see if we can post a YouTube link to some of these stretches. They’re really, really simple. More than anything, they’re warm-ups more than stretches, but they’re very good to do.

Samir asks:

I’m trying really hard to give up dairy and the mucus-filled food products, but if I have chicken will that be okay? How does that affect my flexibility?

Samir, chicken is not a very mucus-forming food, and so compared to dairy it’s not very mucus forming at all. So I wouldn’t worry too much about it. One thing that I think is kind of lame about chicken is that it’s such a commercial food. It’s closer to a food product in many cases, than it is a wild food product.

So if you have access to other fowl, if you’re eating meat, anything besides chicken will often be more nutrient-dense. Chicken are usually just fed grain, like all other big cattle. So if you can get access to other kinds of game fowl, especially wild fowl or anything else, it’s going to be a better choice. But yeah, in terms of mucus forming, you should be just fine with chicken.

Facebook Question:

I’m reading Benjamin Lorr’s book, Hell Bent. It’s about bikram yoga, hot yoga and yoga competitions. Lucas, is this the kind of backbend you’re talking about, walking your chest between your feet? What is considered a normal, healthy back bend?

This is an interesting question. In the book, I haven’t read it, but apparently he’s talking about extreme backbends where people go up in an Urdhva Dhanurasana, a full wheel pose, and then walk their hands all the way until their head is between their ankles. It’s a very, very deep back bending. Then the question becomes, what is a normal, healthy mobility and what is contortion or hyper-extension?

There’s different opinions on this, but in terms of backbends, let’s just talk about backbends, for me, normal, healthy mobility, something you would find in anybody who has functional strength, functional mobility and functional range of motion, to me is being able to do Urdhva Dhanurasana, which is a full wheel backbend pose, with straight arms. Everything after that is kind of a bonus, but if you can’t do it with straight arms, in my opinion, you’ve lost some range of motion. When I talk about looking at functional strength and functional flexibility, that’s looking at people who have jobs where they use their body in some kind of normal way, not doing repetitive tasks like using a jackhammer, but people who are using their body in an athletic kind of way, whether it’s somebody who works out in nature or someone who has a construction job that’s not repetitive motion.

I like to look at people who have functional strength and flexibility practices, like even basic gymnasts, parkour or yoga students or these kinds of things. A full wheel Urdhva Dhanurasana with straight arms, is a pretty reasonable measure of range of motion in your spine, and that doesn’t need to be a super-deep backbend, but just the straight arms is a good gauge for me.

Greg asks:

What’s the impact of coffee on your bowels? Clearly it helps get you going, but is there a short-term or long-term downside? There’s lots of things that will make you go to the bathroom. If you think coffee is good, try chewing tobacco. That will blow your mind. There’s lots of different things that will work.

In terms of coffee, the affects are really short lived. So if you haven’t had coffee in a really long time, yeah, it can be a great diuretic, get you going to the bathroom. It dehydrates you, so very, very quickly it stops being effective. Also, it just stops working, just like the caffeine stops working. The diuretic affects stops working and just becomes normal, and then anytime you miss your coffee, you’re constipated. Not to mention the fact that it tends to dehydrate you, which tends to constipate you.

So just like the energy affects of coffee, how they dwindle, the diuretic affects dwindle very, very quickly as well. I would recommend something much more natural. I like things like a chia seed or flaxseed shake in the morning. Shake is a fancy work for two scoops with some water, and that works really, really well.

But there’s lots of things that will get you going. If you’re in a bind and you’re on the road and travelling or something and you’re constipated, for sure, having a cup of coffee might stimulate your bowels. Having some chewing tobacco will do the trick, too, although I wouldn’t recommend that either. Quit Coffee