Meet or Beat Your Hold Time

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Samir asks:

Your idea of “meet or beat your hold time,” when it comes to the daily stretches in your program, most of your poses say to hold the stretches for about 2-5 minutes. How long do you end up holding the stretch once you get to five minutes? Do you continuously hold for five minutes from then on, or do you encourage longer holds?

This is a great question, Samir. Five minutes, for whatever reason, I’ve found to be kind of the magic length of time for holding a pose. It probably has something to do with your nervous system, it probably has something to do with how long it takes your body to fully relax. But five minutes is kind of the magic time.

In terms of holding longer, yeah, sometimes, some poses, yes. Other poses, I find there’s not a whole lot more benefit to holding longer, which is kind of strange. So an idea of poses that I do hold longer would be deep hip stretches, like Blaster. If I’m working on the full side splits, if you can, working up to a 10 minute-plus hold, that’s pretty brutal, but that can be really helpful.

But in general, for most poses, if you’re working at the five-minute hold range or above, you’re going to see tremendous, tremendous breakthroughs really quickly.

Sandy asks:

Can I mount the Yoga Trapeze® on a wall and use it similarly to an Iyengar rope wall? I’ve tried a similar device hanging from a ceiling and got motion sick from the slight swinging motion, I’m very sensitive. I would like to use this mostly as a pelvic swing and perhaps some other stretches.

Sandy, you could certainly mount the Yoga Trapeze® on an Iyengar-style wall. For those of you listening who haven’t seen an Iyengar wall, they’re made in different ways, but a lot of times it will be a wooden wall with a lot of different hooks and you can mount different ropes and straps and things to assist you in some postures. It’s a pretty fun device. There’s not that many of them around, primarily just because they’re a little bit complex to set up.

But if you have access to an Iyengar rope wall, you could certainly mount the trapeze from there. A lot of the poses we teach won’t work exactly as we teach them on the wall, but you’ll be able to modify and do a lot of other things, using the Trapeze, that I think you’ll find just as, if not more, beneficial. So short answer is yes, just keep in mind you will have to modify things, because it will be a little bit different.

Ken asks:

I eat a Vegan Diet, Gluten Free and I don’t drink any coffee, tea, or anything with caffeine in it. I am still the most inflexible person in Yoga studios, amongst men and women. I’ve tried almost every possible avenue for flexibility and it just seems like my body doesn’t want to open up. Any ideas?

Well, it sounds like you’re eating some really great food and taking care of your body and all that stuff, so that side of things sounds like it’s sorted. My big question would return to what we talked about in the beginning and what I always return to, is are you doing supplemental stretching exercises.

So you’ll go to a yoga studio, you’ll do a 60 or 90-minute class and your progression, in terms of your flexibility, will be very, very small, unless you supplement your practice outside of class. I like to teach gravity yoga poses, there’s other practices as well, but I find them really effective, these long-hold, passive poses, and you’ve got to meet or beat your hold time. So let’s say you’re blocked in your hamstrings and you’re working on Ragdoll pose and you can do a three-minute hold, then tomorrow you do three minutes and five seconds, the next day three minutes and ten seconds and you work up until you’re doing five minute-plus holds, and I’ve never seen that not work.

What I have seen happen is people really have a hard time doing self-practice, and they have a hard time committing. And so they keep going to the yoga studio, keep going to their yoga class, love their yoga studio, love the yoga class, but they’re just not seeing benefits. It’s really, really common. So I’d love to hear more about what you’re doing. Are you doing at-home practice? Are you doing it at least five days a week? Are you timing your poses, and are you meeting and beating your hold times every day?

Lucretia asks:

In Lightning Bolt, I can lie on my back with my bum on the floor between my feet, just that. I notice my knees automatically come up off the floor. What’s your advice for this?

Lucretia, you’re going too far, too fast. Lightning Bolt, for those listening, is a gravity yoga pose we teach, where you sit between your heels and eventually you’ll lay back. If your knees are coming up off the ground, you’re going back too quickly, it’s a real common thing. I always warn people not to do this. It can be really dangerous on your knees. Don’t go back too quickly. Just sit your bum on the ground, spend a lot of time there.

Once you’re up to five minute-plus holds, just with your bum on the ground between your ankles, you can slowly start to lower back, but do not be in a rush. It should happen very, very naturally, without any pain or twinging in your knees, and definitely without your knees lifting up off the ground.

For The Blaster pose, my back knee hurts doing this pose. Do you recommend I use a towel or a cushion?

For sure, you can do that. It’s a weird thing in yoga. For whatever reason, when you first start practicing or start practicing a new pose, you’ll find that you’ll get pain in your knees and even your elbows and even parts of your spinal process, and then it just goes away. And I don’t really know what happens, it’s just kind of strange. You see old picture of Iyengar practicing on the concrete floor, and it’s not that he had some kind of nerves of steel or anything like that. It just kind of goes away. I don’t know why, I can’t explain it, there’s nothing physiologically that really changes. But in the short term, for sure use a towel, like you can fold up a towel, or you can use a pillow. Pillows are great options.

In Wide Dog, it also causes a lot of stiffness in my neck during the stretch. Is there something I’m not doing right?

What I would suggest, in Wide Dog pose, is relax your head completely. If you’re feeling stiffness in your neck, make sure you’re just relaxing your head and neck all the way. You might be over-stretching your neck.

Aurora asks:

I have been taking YOGABODY Stretch for about a month now, and I’ve noticed TONS of improvement in my hamstrings. Since my hamstrings have healed, I’ve noticed that the tightness seems to have moved to the hip flexors. That really makes it impossible to do the splits still. Are there any poses I should be doing to help this?

We talk a lot about the splits. The frontal splits are a pose that lots of poses build up to. Almost every forward bend, even some backbends are helpful for frontal splits. The side splits is not a pose that many poses build up to well. There are preparatory poses, but they don’t build up too well.

In both cases, practicing the full pose is one of the best ways to learn it. So, Aurora, I would start working on, whether you’re doing frontal splits or side splits, start working on that pose specifically, every single day, and start off with a one or two-minute hold and work your way up to five minutes eventually, and that’s really the best way to grow in that pose, specifically.

Lots and lots of other poses, you can do them all day long and you really get frustrated, because they’re more demonstrative, in terms of flexibility, rather than developmental in terms of flexibility. The splits is not one of them. It’s not demonstrative, it’s very developmental as well.

Danny asks:

I read one osteoporosis treatment is to use anti-gravity exercises, such as walking stairs. Are there any good yoga asanas for osteoporosis ?

For sure, check with your doctor. Everybody’s different. Some people are at a place where they need to be really, really careful with whatever they do. In many cases, people need some safe impact exercises. People do things like rebounders, which are small trampolines.

And yoga, in some practices, in some cases, can be helpful for bone density, but everybody’s got a different take on this and there is a lot of controversy, really depends on where you’re at in terms of your stage. So for sure, check with your doctor.

In terms of yoga asanas specifically, there’s a lot of this going around in the yoga community, where people try to use single yoga asanas as diagnosis treatment for certain problems. So you have sleeping problems, do this yoga asana, or you have this whatever, bone problem, try this yoga asana. It’s rarely that cut and dry. So if anything, there might be a style of yoga and a yoga class in particular, with some light impact, that was safe, that could be helpful. But again, for sure, check with your doctor.

Tracy asks:

I am more an Ayurvedic person, so maybe there’s something that would perhaps best suit a kapha-vata person such as myself?

I’m not sure what this is in reference to. I assume it’s in terms of diet and flexibility. Ayurvedic medicine is the ancient Indian medicine, just like there’s ancient Chinese medicine, there’s ancient Indian medicine. It’s a pretty fascinating system. What Tracy’s referring to, kapha-vata, there’s constitutions, three main constitutional types in Ayurvedic medicine, Kapha, Pitta and Vata, describing different energies in our body. We tend to be a mix and we tend to change throughout our lives as well, but some people are very, very dominant in one area.

Kapha is slow, sluggish energy, tends to be people with larger bones and people tend to be – there’s a whole bunch of different traits we could talk about, and Vata is kind of the opposite, someone with small bones and somebody who has kind of frenetic energy.

And so in terms of how you would approach yoga, I’m definitely not an Ayurvedic expert, so I’m probably not the best person to ask. I do find that people can learn a lot about their yoga practice by studying Ayerveda and by learning about their constitution. And the biggest thing they can learn is which practices they’re going to be most suited for.

So, the very, very athletic practices, you’ll find that the most successful students, they often tend to be people with a really strong Pitta constitution, Ashtanga yoga students things like this. And Kapha, people with a very, very predominate Kapha constitution often gravitate towards more spiritual practices, and this is an over-simplification and it’s borderline stereotype, but it is pretty interesting.

If you take a look deeper, you can learn a lot about your body, your energetic tendencies, and perhaps which style of yoga would be more appropriate for you, or most appropriate for you. Again, I’m not the person to ask specifically, but I do think that’s a valid question and a good line of inquiry. I’ve definitely learned a lot by just my casual studies of Ayerveda as well. Chia Seeds