Hot Yoga & Skin Rashes?

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Julija asks:

I’m a 19 year old ballet student, and I find myself of normal flexibility for a dancer but my turnout is very poor. I know it depends a lot on my hip position, but I’m still hoping that there is something I can do about it. Can everyone get a perfect turnout?

Julija, I don’t know that much about dance. I know very little about dance. You are right in that people’s actual hip structure does have some limitation in their ability for lateral rotation and things like this. In terms of can somebody get a perfect turnout, I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s really true.

I’ve heard full frog position can be harmful for my knees, is it true?

Frog position, I don’t know who originally started teaching it. I first learned it in a Baron Baptiste-style yoga class. Not from Baron Baptiste himself, so I’m not sure he started that or who started teaching it, but I personally don’t like the pose. I’ve never been able to get into it without, same thing, just having my knees feel like they’re smashing into the floor.

If you don’t know what a frog pose is, it’s like doing the side splits but with your knees bent, and so your legs are going out to the side and your butt’s in the air and you look kind of like a frog. I find it to be a really awkward pose and puts a lot of pressure on the knee, and I don’t really find it to be a good groin and hip stretch, the way that a full box splits is, so I’m not a big fan. I don’t ever practice it, and I don’t ever teach it.

That said, there are smart teachers and really experienced teachers out there that use it, and so maybe I just need to prop up and use towels or something, but again, I’m not a big fan of that pose so I would say skip it.

In terms of poses for your hips, the one we always teach is something called blaster, which is absolutely fantastic. A pose called butterfly and those are all really great hip poses. And the whole series, which are a series of asymmetrical forward bends and twists that are from the Ashtanga yoga series, those are great for your hips as well.

The key thing to understand about your hips, more than other areas, is that there are so many different muscles and connective tissues involved that it just takes a bit longer. So you’re working on your hamstrings, you have a few muscles that you’re working on. When you’re working on your hips you literally have over a dozen, so it could just take longer, you need to hold poses longer and you need to be a little more patient. But the good news is that the changes are quite lasting, and it’s really quite noticeable in terms of your range of motion.

I wish I had a more definitive answer for you, but I would definitely recommend you keep stretching. I always focus less on structural limitations and more on physical potential, because I find very few people kind of hit a wall, in terms of their structural limitations.

Elaine asks:

I have been doing hot yoga now for approximately two years as a student. Now I have noticed that my skin is very dry. Can you tell me if this can be as a result of being in a hot room for prolonged periods of time?

Hot yoga, heated yoga, is usually a room about 38 to 42 degrees Celsius, somewhere around 100, 105 degrees Fahrenheit, and you sweat a lot. You sweat abnormally a lot, and that can be really, really powerful for cleansing, but for sure some people have skin reactions to it.

There’s other things that can happen, too, Elaine, that people don’t talk about that much, but what happens when you sweat a lot is you detoxify quite quickly, because your skin is your biggest detoxifying organ of your body. Your liver is the one everybody thinks of, but your skin is actually bigger and it’s huge for detoxification. This is why, for example, a smoker or a drinker, you can smell it on their skin. If you put their arm up to your nose and smell it, you can smell the alcohol on their skin. You can smell the tobacco, the nicotine, on their skin as well. You sweat it out.

So when you start sweating more, you can sweat out more toxins if you have a toxic accumulation, which most of us do, and for some people that can give you a reaction and that’s why some people will get different sort of eczema and different skin conditions and things like that.

All that said, it might not necessarily be that at all. It might just be that your skin reacts to heat, which some people do. I lived in the tropics for years, and some people, specifically people of Northern European decent would come and they’d really, really suffer with skin rashes and flaky skin and all kinds of things, probably just because they either hadn’t been used to it in their life or genetically their skin just couldn’t really handle that much sun and that much heat and humidity.

In terms of trusting your instincts, it sounds like you know what’s going on. One thing that can be really helpful is, topical stuff of course is great but also supplementing internally with really healthy fats can be a really great thing to use. And for skin and hair, what a lot of people use is coconut oil, virgin, cold-pressed coconut oil, and a tablespoon a day, let’s say somewhere around seven grams or something like that, can be really fantastic for providing your body with some really healthy fats that can get into your skin and get into your hair as well.

Rob asks:

How do I remedy nausea I’m experiencing from inverted poses hanging from the trapeze?

Nausea in yoga is an interesting thing. People will get nauseous doing deep backbends. They’ll get nauseous doing inverted poses, like headstands. Not usually in a handstand, for whatever reason, but in a headstand they might, and definitely on the yoga trapeze when people first start doing supported inversions on the yoga trapeze. Some people can feel nausea.

The thing I’ll tell you about nausea, it’s weird, it goes away. In the same way that if you go on a boat for the first time in a long time, you’ll get seasick, and in the same way if you go on a very windy drive in a car you’ll get car sick. The people who drive those roads every day or who go on those boats every day, they don’t get sick at all. Really what happens is, your body gets used to it.

Now all that said, in my experience, I’ve travelled a lot and been on lots of boats and lots of windy roads and it seems like for whatever reason, different people experience vertigo and nausea at different rates. I get sick very, very easily. I go on the simplest of circular motion, circus kind of fair ride, like literally horses going up and down in a circle and I get very, very sick. Other people, it seems like they can close their eyes and go on a rocking boat for three hours and wake up and just feel completely fine.

But everybody can acclimate, and so the key thing is if you’re feeling a little bit nauseous doing forward bends, deep back bends, doing inversions and yoga poses or using the yoga trapeze, just take it really slow and give yourself a couple of days to acclimate and most people will find that they’ll get used to it very easily. Coming in and out of poses very, very slowly helps, because obviously you’re going to have a blood rush.

Ling asks:

Does it matter where you get the sun on your body? What particular parts of the body should be exposed to the sun? If I cover my face up and just expose my hands or feet, is that enough?

Ling’s asking this in reference to vitamin D deficiency, which a lot of people have right now, probably more so than ever in history just because we spend so much time indoors and because there’s people inhabiting parts of the world that probably they wouldn’t inhabit if we didn’t have such great artificial climate control.

In terms of getting sun, everybody’s got different recommendations. The real recommendation is go to the doctor, get a $50 blood test and see where your vitamin D levels are at, and if they’re low then figure out a way to try to get more sun. You can also supplement. There’s two different types of supplements. There’s vitamin D2, which comes from plants, and there’s vitamin D3, which comes from the animal world. It comes from a few different sources, but it’s usually a byproduct of the wool industry. It can be a byproduct of other industries. I don’t love that it comes from wool. I don’t love the wool industry at all. I don’t like any of these animal industries really, they’re all pretty, when you get down to it, a lot of them have some really bad practices.

But all that said, D3 is many times more effective than D2, in terms of increasing your vitamin D levels in your body, to the point where almost everything is switching over to vitamin D3 these days. For example, milk is commonly fortified with vitamin D2 and more and more it’s getting fortified with vitamin D3.

If your body’s covered up, is it enough to get it on your face? No, not really. For maximum exposure, you want to get your whole body exposed. And so ideally, people try to do some sun bathing, a real short period, like 15 minutes of sun depending on where you are. It really, really depends. If you live in the northern hemisphere, you might have to do 15 hours of sun bathing. If you live on the equator, when I’m in Thailand, literally I’ll go and lay out in the sun for seven minutes on my stomach, seven minutes on my back and I’m done, I’m literally done. And vitamin D levels, way up in the healthy level and this kind of thing without any supplementing.

But you’ll find most people, especially during winter times if you’re in a place where there’s winter season, a lot of people will get their vitamin D levels low, and vitamin D is very, very important for your absorption of calcium. A lot of people go crazy eating calcium-rich foods. The truth is, calcium is really abundant, and it’s all over the place. The problem usually isn’t you’re not eating enough calcium. Usually you’re lacking the other minerals calcium needs to be absorbed, like magnesium and like vitamin D in particular. So for bone density, for the strength of your bones, for a number of other things, vitamin D is actually not a vitamin, it’s a hormone, that’s a longer discussion, but it’s really, really crucial and important.

I live in San Jose, CA. So what time should I be in the sun to get enough Vitamin D and for how long?

San Jose and the entire California is actually very, very sunny, and so most people living in California actually have pretty good vitamin D levels. Now that’s not everybody. I was just recently talking to a relative in mine and his blood test, he was borderline low vitamin D, and he lives in Southern California where it’s almost impossible not to be in the sun every day. So it does depend on your work habits and when you’re outside.

But in a place like California, in San Jose obviously the sun isn’t quite as strong as in the South, but it’s still a pretty sunny place. There’s a lot, a lot of sunny days. But in a place like that, you might try 15 minutes a day laying out in your backyard and just see what happens. Again, the best thing to do is to get your blood tested, and depending on the pigment of your skin and your ethnic heritage, you’re going to absorb vitamin D at a much, much different rate than somebody else.

So there is no rule of thumb. You just need to check it out and see. Some people will never, ever have an issue. They tend to be active, they absorb vitamin D very well, but for a lot of people, more and more people, it is something that you need to take a look at. The good news is, it’s safe and easy to test for, and it’s safe and easy to supplement for.

Now, I do not recommend you go crazy with vitamin D supplements. I did this myself, specifically just to see what would happen. I do a lot of these weird experiments, just to see how these things affect my body. It’s kind of a weird obsession I have. But I took a lot, a lot of vitamin D, and I started getting weird responses, like night sweats and interrupted sleep and basically it was the indication that my hormones were getting out of whack, because vitamin D is a hormone.

And so you’ll see a lot of things on your internet recommending mega, mega, mega doses of vitamin D3. I don’t think that’s wise. A mega dose would be anything about 5,000 international units per day. Generally what people are talking about now is somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 IUs per day. None of that should really be done without testing, also, because these are fat-soluble vitamins. It has hormonal impacts, really.

And so you want to make sure you get tested, and again, it’s cheap, it’s simple, it’s easy and once you kind of get over that barrier of taking control of your own health, ordering your own blood test, once you get past that it’s pretty empowering and it’s pretty cool, just to check out your own blood test and supplement your nutrition based on what’s really going on, instead of based on what some crazy like me on the internet told you makes sense. Chia Seeds