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EPISODE #66: How to Calm Nerves, Veg Diet Tricks + Stretching Tips

In this Episode, You’ll Learn:
* How healthy fats can make you thin
* Tips for protein supplement w/out sugar
* What to eat to calm your nervous system
* How to relieve neck pain with yoga

Text Version

Alexia says:

Q: I don’t drink coffee and I’m a vegetarian. My doctor suggested having spirulina powder mixed with orange juice, to help with

the iron absorption. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables every day and have whole grain pasta, whole grain rice and wheat. Any suggestions to improve my circulation and to lose a little fat I have on my hips and my glutes?

A: This is a great question. In terms of spirulina and orange juice, it’s true that citrus helps iron absorption, and orange juice specifically can be really, really helpful. Men usually don’t need to aid in iron absorption, women usually do. In terms of losing body fat and being a vegetarian, the biggest challenge with being a vegetarian, where you don’t eat meat but you eat milk and dairy products, the biggest challenge is trying to keep your glycemic load low.

So we take a look at the three macronutrients: We have fat, proteins and carbs. When you take away those animal proteins, what usually happens is you don’t replace them as much as you had before. So what happens is, either the fats or the carbs increase. And that’s just fine, but when we get too many carbs we run into all kinds of metabolic problems. Everything from insulin resistance to blood sugar dips and peaks throughout the day. So that’s the biggest thing you need to worry about.

A vegetarian diet, one of the reasons that people often gain weight is because they’re eating too many sugary foods, where they were eating animal proteins before. The only alternative here is to try to get lots of healthy vegetable protein, which would be things like nuts and seeds and sprouted legumes. And the other option is to increase your healthy fats, and a lot of people are scared of fat, but eating fat can really help you get thin, specifically saturated fats such as coconut oil. If you eat animal fats, ghee, like a nice organic, grass-fed ghee, it’s hard to find, is a good one. The other oil that’s very, very good is flaxseed oil. It’s anti-inflammatory, so that’s going to be very helpful for you.

Stella asks:

Q: Do you know any good protein supplement, without sugar, that’s hemp-based?

A: There’s a lot of good protein powders. Most of the hemp ones you can find that have low sugar. Hemp protein is pretty gross. That’s the only drawback. We use one called Sun Warrior Protein. It’s available up here on the website in our store. I like it a lot. It doesn’t have much flavor, it is a little bit gritty. It’s brown rice protein. The thing I like about rice is it’s hypoallergenic, which means very few people are allergic to it.
Almost all of the other proteins, whether it’s whey, whether it’s egg protein, definitely soy protein, they tend to solicit an allergenic response, especially over time. Rice tends not to do that. Now, all of these protein powders have a little bit of drawback, whether it’s a little bit of flavor or if you have too much it can give you some gas or bloating, but I like rice protein best.

But hemp protein, in terms of nutritional profile, is pretty good. I just don’t like the taste so much.

Willam asks:

Q: Do you have any powders which can calm the nervous system after doing back bending poses?

A: This is actually a good question. I don’t have any magic powders, but it’s a good question, because when you do deep backbends, when you do any kind of intense pose that involves stretching to your maximum, it’s very, very taxing on your nervous system. Not just on your body, but on your nervous system. Anytime you come out of a pose and you feel that kind of [sighs] feeling, a lot of times that’s your nervous system that’s very, very challenged. You’re going against your body’s stress reflex. You’re training your body to handle very stressful situations. It’s very healthy, but it can be very stressful as well, and it is actually a smart question to ask, ‘What can I do nutritionally to help my nervous system?’

There are three specific things we can talk about. First of all, saturated fat is very, very healing for your nervous system. Most people are scared of saturated fat, and that would be in the plant world, things like coconut oil, and in the animal world things like grass-fed, organic butter or ghee. And then the other fat which is very, very powerful, is anti-inflammatory and it’s also good for your nervous system is Omega-3 fats. I like flaxseed oil. It’s got to be fresh, in a dark bottle, in the refrigerator, it’s fantastic. You can use it in salad dressings, you can also take it medicinally, a tablespoon in the morning.

Third and final thing, B vitamins are very, very good for your nervous system, B12 in particular. We sell something called Liquid Energy B. Whether you use that or not, it’s kind of irrelevant, but B vitamins are very, very healthful for your nervous system as well.

Tony asks:

Q: In Ashtanga, where you have your legs four feet apart and bend, the object being to get your head to the floor, I’m 56, I do all your gravity poses, can I get there? Is there anything else I can do?

A: He’s talking about Prasarita Padottanasana, which is when we have our legs wide like this and you’re trying to bring your head down to the floor. The truth is, Tony, everybody’s body is a little bit different, and even when some people are very flexible their head won’t touch the floor, and some people when they’re not that flexible, they just have a very long torso, like me, I have a pretty long torso, your head with touch the floor.

It sounds like you’re doing a lot of things right. You’re practicing Ashtanga, you’re doing gravity yoga poses. I would just keep sticking with it. It sounds like you’re doing great. At 56 that’s awesome. I hope I’m still practicing that strong at 56.

Tanya asks:

Q: The gravity poses are recommended to do 15 minutes per day, 5 days per week. If you have a particular tight area, should you focus on that area?

A: The answer is, yes. So if you find that your main struggle is in your hips, then focus on your hips. Meaning, if you have a normal yoga practice or a running practice or a Cross-Fit practice or whatever you’re doing and you’re getting stuck in your hips, just do the hip poses. That’s great. You can do those every day until you see the progress.

Q: When I’m stretching my hamstrings, I can’t reach my feet, so I use a towel. Is there anything I can do or is this okay?

A: The pose she’s referring to is we teach these supine poses, where we take a hold of our foot like this, and if you can’t reach we take a belt. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the belt. In all of the yoga poses, when you can’t quite get there, the goal is to get a good approximation, and that’s when we use props. Specifically, props are really useful for these passive gravity poses. So go for the prop, don’t worry.

Q: In Blaster pose, should the back leg be straight, or is it okay for the knee to rest on the ground?

A: Blaster pose is one of the best hip-opening poses I know. It looks like this. Our back knee is down, our front leg is extended, with the ankle in front of the knee, and we relax down into the pose like this. Now the question is, should the back knee be down. Yes, always put the back knee down and relax it completely.

In a dynamic class, you might practice a Crescent Lunge pose, where your knee is up off the ground, but it’s a very different practice. In this passive posture, you want to make sure that your knee’s down on the ground.

Neil asks:

Q: When I roll my head around, I have a gravely sound in my neck. What would you recommend?

A: There’s a couple different things. Some people just get air trapped in their joints and it pops, and it doesn’t mean anything. There are also other things that can be happening, like a chunk of your spinal process clicking or ticking. I’d for sure get it checked out, especially neck. You just don’t want to mess around with it. You can get into some real trouble. So get it checked out, make sure you’re doing okay. If you are doing okay, do some very safe neck-strengthening poses, like a handstand at the wall, with your legs up. It’s very, very powerful for strengthening this part of your body. You’ll find you have more muscular strength, and a lot of times that can correct the imbalance. For a lot of back problems, really, really functional strength postures, body weight practices, can be very, very helpful, including for your neck.

Maria asks:

Q: Does yoga help you losing weight?

A: This is a great question. Yoga can help you lose weight. It doesn’t work on a caloric level. It works on a hormonal level. So everyone’s out there counting calories, and everyone is out there trying to burn 1,000 calories in an hour with hot yoga, whatever it is. Trying to exercise to burn calories is really pointless. You might as well just eat less and not do the exercise. It’s just a really silly thing. It’s a math equation that doesn’t work, and the whole diet industry paradigm, the fact that it doesn’t work is proof positive that counting calories is a total failure. The best dieticians in the world can’t even accurately calculate their own caloric needs. So forget about calories.

What you need to do is balance your hormones, so that your body is craving the appropriate amount of food, to maintain a healthy weight. This is how yoga works. It works on a hormonal level, and one of the key things it does is it lowers your cortisol, which is your stress response, which will immediately remove water retention, it will immediately turn up your immune system when that cortisol goes down. It also affects two other very important hormones, which are leptin and insulin. Leptin is the hormone that signals your brain to eat more food and store fat or to eat les and burn fat. Insulin is the fat storage hormone. It’s the hormone that actually enables the mechanism of fat storage in the body.

By doing yoga, your body becomes more receptive to these two fat hormones. It’s very, very unique. Now, other exercises do this as well, but yoga is particularly effective at working at the hormonal level, and that’s because it’s a mind/body practice and that’s how it works. So everybody at the gym who’s running on a machine, they’re doing this caloric game, which doesn’t really work out. In yoga, we’re doing this hormonal game, which I’ve found and I’ve seen to be much more effective. Hope that’s helpful. Hope that’s not too confusing.

Wilbur asks:

Q: Can you maintain a natural, uninhibited state of mind while socializing, without drinking alcohol? Are there any alternatives?

A: This is an interesting question. You’re out with friends and everybody’s drinking and you want to be relaxed, but you don’t want to drink. What do you do? There’s no really good answer to this. I think in some cases, have a glass of wine or other clean alcohol. There’s dirty alcohols and there’s clean alcohols. A red wine is a fairly clean alcohol. There’s sulfates and other things in there. Of all your other alcohols, the other cleanest alcohol is actually vodka. Vodka is quite clean. A very dirty alcohol would be like a beer. There’s a lot of micro-toxins. And on the spirit side of things, a very dirty alcohol is a whiskey.
So if you’re trying to keep your body clean, probably nothing is the best option, but a red wine or your clear spirits, specifically a vodka. What Wilbur is asking for is an alternative. One alternative might be some relaxing teas. Now, this is as lame as it sounds, but I really like them, things like Valerian tea, things like Chamomile tea, even poppy flower tea, that can be really relaxing. So give that a try. I think it’s a good question.

Sandra asks:

Q: Last week you wrote about jump throughs from Down Dog to Seated. When you have time, could you give me a couple of tips on doing jump throughs?

A: Jump throughs, there’s two different ways to do it. One is with straight legs and one is with bent legs. The bent leg one looks easier. In terms of muscles, it actually takes more muscles to bend your legs. Let me show you what they both look like. So we’re in a Down Dog position. The one where I bend my legs looks easier. Watch how little I jump. Now that looks easier, but it actually takes more muscular strength. The actual easier way, from a muscular perspective, is with straight legs, and that looks like this.

Now the only thing about that second version is that second version takes a great deal of flexibility in your shoulders and your hamstrings. Now the best way to practice this, Maria, is to hop very, very lightly and focus on moving your feet as far forward as you can. The key thing is, in your practice, try to do this about 20 times a day, so transitioning between poses, and slowly but surely you can build from there. Check out my YouTube channel, you’re probably on it right now, it’s and look for jump backs/jump throughs. You’ll see a couple more in-detail tutorials.

Balom asks:

Q: What should I drink before and after I do yoga?

A: Drink water. Green juice is also a good option. Water and green juice. Don’t drink sugary beverages, don’t drink anything else. Water and green juice, if you really need something. If you need to eat something, the best would be some flaxseed oil, like we talked about earlier, like a tablespoon of flaxseed oil. That will calm your stomach, satiate your hunger but it won’t make you feel sick.

Pamela asks:

Q: I want to start learning yoga. However, I can’t get down on the floor, due to very bad knees. Could you suggest a program to get me started on something?

A: This is a great question, Pamela. I would start going and working with a local teacher. You’d be surprised. Most classes, at least 50, if not 75 percent of the class, is standing. In standing poses, you don’t have to put your knees down on the ground, and a lot of the standing poses are quite safe for your knees. So I’d suggest, go to a local class, work with a local teacher and see if you can’t find a solution there.

Kayla asks:

Q: Will your Flexibility Kit help me with me with the splits, even if I’m not flat on the ground yet?

A: We have a couple different types of poses in yoga. We have poses that you have to do the pose to learn the pose, and then we have poses that are cumulative, meaning other postures lead up to them. The cool thing about frontal splits is that lots of poses lead up to them.

So if I’m doing a Janu Sirsasana, this is preparing me for the splits. Every single type of forward bend, the supine forward bend, they’re all preparing you for the splits. Now the one type of splits that poses don’t really prepare you for is the box splits, where you put your legs out to the side. That one you have to practice all on its own.

It sounds like, Kayla, you’re working on the frontal splits. If you are, every hamstring pose that you do, every psoas pose that you do will be helpful, and you can learn the frontal splits without even practicing the splits. But at the same time, the frontal splits is a good one to practice. And the way you want to do it, is you want to make sure you get some blocks and support yourself really, really strongly up on the blocks like this and take your time, and you want to hold here for about five minutes. You want to work up to a five-minute hold, on both the right and the left side. And if the splits is your goal, do it every day, five minutes right side, five minutes left side, and you’ll get there quickly.

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