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EPISODE 70: Strong Headaches, Cellulite & Acne

In this Episode, You’ll Learn:
* Recommendations to relieve strong headaches
* Techniques for faster splits
* Eating cheese? The best choice…

Text Version

Dalila asks

Q: What positions are recommended to prevent or relieve strong headaches?

A: It’s a challenging thing. You’ll see a lot of people using yoga in a prescriptive or diagnostic way, meaning they’ll say, ‘If you have PMS, do these poses. If you have migraine headaches, do these poses.’ There’s a little bit of truth to that, but more than anything when you hear about diagnostic or prescriptive poses, there’s not really any science behind that. What I mean by that is, you’ll hear teachers in yoga classes saying that eagle pose is really good for female hormone balance or that a Janu Sirsasana pose, a one-legged forward bend, stimulates your liver. A lot of these things are just kind of hearsay and rumors that have been passed around for generations, some of them maybe for 100 years or more.

The reality is we don’t really know. Now of course, if you’re doing a forward bend and your heel is pressing into your liver, that’s going to massage your liver, but is that going to detox or cleanse your liver? I’m not really sure. In terms of prescriptive poses for headaches, that’s a difficult one. If we’re talking about headaches, the first thing to do is take a step back and let’s talk about diet. 80 percent of all your results are going to come from your diet anyway, so let’s start there and let’s take a look at water.

Water is the most important thing. And I know if you have headaches, you’re probably thinking, ‘Listen, I know the water thing. I’ve done the water thing.’ But there are two sides to the water coin. First of all, you need to drink plenty of water. You’re probably trying that already, Dalila. But the second part of it is you need to eat water. So we don’t just drink our water. We need to eat our water through water-dense foods. That would be our vegetables and our fruits and even fresh animal products, if you’re eating those. Those are very, very water-dense foods, and that water, in many cases, is loaded with micronutrients and minerals that make it more bioavailable and more easy to absorb in your body. About 80 percent of people are dehydrated and constipated, so it’s a huge, huge problem.

To couple that, people are generally taking diuretics, things like caffeine and nicotine and alcohol, things that excrete water. So even though they’re drinking liquids, even caffeinated teas, they’re urinating out a lot of those liquids and they’re not absorbing them. That’s why people are constipated. It’s the cause of most headaches. And so, hydration is a more challenging thing than you can imagine.

We have a formula called Total Hydration, which is an electrolyte add-in. It’s fantastic. I don’t talk about it enough, but all of our hot yoga students who sweat about a liter per class, they go crazy for this stuff because it’s so amazing for hydration.

Now if it’s not a hydration issue, there’s a bunch of other things you can look at as well. I’d start by looking at packaged and processed foods. Artificial sweeteners, aspartame can be a huge cause of headaches, even migraines. And then things like MSG and other processed, add-in ingredients can often have an allergic reaction. All that said, it might be something completely different, but those are hopefully a place to get you started.

In terms of yoga poses, breathing exercises can be very helpful, particularly deep breathing that slows down your breath. If you naturally take about 8 to 10 breaths per minute, with yoga breath you can get down to 4 or 3, eventually 2 and 1 breath per minute, and that can have a very powerful effect on calming your nervous system, and for many people, stress-related headaches, tension-related headaches can go away. I hope that’s helpful. I know I kind of took you around in a circle, but hopefully you got some good ideas there.

Ca asks

Q: How do you gradually stretch the hamstrings to either side in Flamenco pose? The weight of the leg pulls me over to one side.

A: So, Flamenco pose is one of our gravity yoga poses. It’s a deep stretch, passive stretch for your hamstrings. Let me show you what it looks like. So what Ca is asking about is she’s lying on her back and she’s taking either the foot or a strap around the foot, and when she’s opening up to the side her body is rolling to the side.

Now, that’s a very, very common thing. You have a couple of different options. One option is just let your body roll. The key thing is you’ve got to keep that grip, and by the grip I mean you’ve got to either holding the belt or holding the leg with your arm straight and your leg straight. If you keep that connection, even if you flop over to the side, the pose will still work. If you lose that connection, try using a prop instead. So a prop would be like a pillow or a block underneath that leg so you don’t tip too far. But stick with it. The nature of these is kind of awkward, especially in the third part of Flamenco pose, when you cross over. It really becomes awkward and you tend to kind of flop over to the side. But again, if you can keep that arm straight and that leg straight it can work out just fine.

Tambrisha asks

Q: Do you have any tips or techniques to get my splits down faster with as little pain as possible? Do you have any tips to keep on track with my goal?

A: Okay, so Tambrisha is working on the splits. The frontal splits is like this. Frontal splits is a pose that you can learn surprisingly quickly. Even if you’re stiff, you can learn this quickly. We have a couple of major muscle groups. We have our iliopsoas, which crosses the front of your back leg, the top of your back leg, and then we have our hamstrings on our front leg. There’s other stuff involved, too, but those are your big muscle groups.

And you can get down pretty quickly into the full splits. This looks like a much, much deeper pose than it is. A lot of people can get this in about six weeks. Now, you might not get it that quickly, you might not get it that comfortably, meaning you might have to practice for five minutes just to get down like I did there, but a lot of people can learn this very quickly. That’s the frontal splits.

The side splits is a whole other story, sometimes called the box splits. When you bring your legs out to the side, that is a very, very deep stretch. Some people anatomically are never going to get there, just to be real with you. Most people can, but it’s a big, big stretch and that’s going to take a while. Whether you’re working on the frontal splits or the side splits, I want you to work up to five-minute holds and I want you to try using something called PNF, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. It’s a big, long word, big vocab words for me, a yoga teacher, but basically what it is, is it comes from sports science.

What they found is that flexibility is the result of two things. First of all, it’s our connective tissues, our muscles, our fascia, our tendons and our ligaments, the actual length and elasticity of them. That’s the obvious part. The second thing is our nervous system. So, our nervous system gets trained to relax or to tense up, and when we talk about the stretching reflex, that’s when your body resists stretching. When people say, “I hate stretching, it makes me feel crazy,” they often have a very, very strong stretch reflex.

Now, your stretch reflex is strongest in your heart center and your groin. These are just survival of the species instincts that we have. Imagine if you were very, very scared, your immediate response would be to cover your heart and cover your groin. Again, this is survival of the species. So, whenever we’re trying to do deep back bending or whenever we’re trying to do the splits, which completely exposes our groin, we’re working against our natural nervous system.

Now, we’re sitting at home on a yoga mat. It’s perfectly safe. But our nervous system doesn’t know that. And so this PNF stretching helps to do that. We have a whole video on it. Just check out our YouTube channel, It’s called PNF Splits.

But essentially, what you do is you engage your quadriceps really, really strong and then you relax. Engage really, really strong and then relax. Now, I like to engage for 20 seconds and then release for a full minute. Engage for 20 seconds and then release for a full minute. It’s a nervous system trick that turns off that stretching response and allows you to go deeper and deeper. Now again, it’s just one side of that two-sided coin. Flexibility is both a structural thing; it’s also the nervous system thing. The nervous system thing is a big, big deal in the splits. It’s a very big deal, and that’s why PNF stretching is particularly helpful for the splits. I don’t teach it in all poses, but in the splits it’s very, very helpful. So give that a try.

Jenny asks

Q: How come I feel shaky in the yoga studio but not at home? Is it my balance?

A: I don’t really know, Jenny. Shaking or trembling or wiggling is very natural, especially in balancing poses. Sometimes it goes away, sometimes it doesn’t. There are standing poses I’ve been doing for 10 years and I still wobble and wiggle. Keep in mind that balance, by nature, is a wiggle process. If you watch anybody doing an asymmetrical balance, let’s say they’re balancing on one leg, look down at their foot and you’ll see these little micro-adjustment, micro-movements. That is functional strength, and that is essentially what balance is. There’s never rigidity. It’s always these micro-movements.

And so if you’re feeling trembling, a lot of that is your body and your nervous system learning how to coordinate that functional strength to create balance. One of the beautiful things about yoga is that it creates functional strength. Functional, meaning it’s actually useful, it actually works, it serves a purpose, you can lift your own body weight, you can move your body and other objects in a normal manner. A lot of the strength that people build at the gym, such a bicep curls, is not functional at all. How often have you picked up anything like this? Almost never. But how often have you squatted down and lift something up? It’s a very functional movement that we build in yoga.

In order to do that, functional strength is never bulky strength. It’s always very, very subtle and involves a coordination of a number of different muscle groups. So that trembling, a lot of times, is your body figuring out what muscles it needs to fire to balance on that one leg or that one arm or something similar. So, I wouldn’t worry about it. Trembling is normal. Keep practicing.

Henna asks

Q: How to get rid of cellulite? I’m doing Ashtanga 5 times a week. Should I start lifting weights or do some cardio? I read that there is a connection between cellulite and omega-3. Should I be eating more omega-3? I’m a vegetarian.

A: First of all, if you’re a vegetarian, I want you to do two very important things. These are absolutely crucial. You need to take a B12 supplement every day. We sell one called Liquid Energy B. It’s methylcobalamin. It’s a really easy to absorb form. You put it under your tongue, it has a cinnamon flavor, it tastes great. You don’t need to buy ours. If you want to, that’s great. You can buy someone else’s if you prefer, but you need to take that every day. That’s good for your nervous system as well.

The second thing you need to take is, like you said, omega-3 fats, particularly if you’re on a vegetarian diet. You need to be taking, I like chia seeds. Those are my favorite. You can also take flaxseeds. There’s a number of different options. If you’re not a vegetarian, you could take fish oil or small coldwater fish, those are a good option. You need to get those omega-3s every day.

In terms of cellulite, cellulite can be connected to omega-3. It’s not a direct correlation, but they’re talking about inflammation. So, inflammation in the body can lead to fat storage, can lead to cellulite. Cellulite is not a real thing. Cellulite is not a different type of fat. There are different types of fat in your body. There’s white fat and there’s brown fat and there’s visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. But cellulite is not a different thing. It’s just body fat. It’s just body fat that’s suddenly visible, for a number of different reasons, usually because there’s just an excess amount of it.

And so people tend to think that cellulite is forever or it can never go away. That’s just not true. My young son, for example, was born with cellulite all over his legs and his back, like most little babies are, and his cellulite is now gone. What happened to it? It was metabolized, just like you can metabolize any body fat. So, the key to changing your body fat composition from one of a high body fat percentage to a lower body fat percentage is to put your body in a fat-burning state, as opposed to a sugar-burning state, where most of us live.

Sugar-burning state is you wake up in the morning and you have a bowl of Cheerios with a bowl of skim milk. Your body is starting the day with lots and lots of sugar. No good. What we want to do is get in a fat-burning state. In order to do that, you need to restrict the amount of carbohydrates in your diet. Don’t count calories; count carbs. If you’re looking to change your body fat composition, aim for less than 150 grams of carbs per day. Forget about all the other stuff. Eat freely. Don’t restrict yourself. But keep control over those carbohydrates. 150 grams or less, and you’ll find that your body starts to metabolize fat and you start to switch from a sugar-burning creature into a fat-burning creature in the food you eat but also in your own body composition. And that will help shift that cellulite, more than anything else.

Q: Second question: The only dairy I use is cheese, and I really love it. How unhealthy is cheese compared to milk and what is the best choice of eating cheese?

A: The good thing about cheese is it’s fermented, meaning some bacteria have eaten more of the lactose, some of the sugars. The sugars in milk, we don’t want at all. The sugars are allergenic and they’re problematic. We’ve got too much sugar anyway. So it’s great that those bacteria have eaten it. It also tends to predigest some of the proteins, which make them less allergenic. It’s also really high in fat, which is good. A lot of modern dairy products they strip out the fat. There’s this fat-free movement, it’s a whole lot of rubbish, but people buy into it and the dairy industry’s really happy to take out that fat that’s very good for you and sell it to the cosmetics industry and then sell you this super-allergenic, fat-free dairy product. So, the best part about dairy is actually the fat. Cheese tends to be high in fat, and that’s a good thing.

The bad thing with cheese is the same bad thing with all dairy products, is there’s some very serious allergens in the cheese, and particularly if it’s commercial cheese there might also be hormones and antibiotics and pesticides and law of biomagnification states that there will be a whole bunch more petrochemical residues in those animal foods than there would be in similar, comparable plant foods.

In any case, what we’re looking at there is basically lactose and casein. Lactose is a sugar that has a lot of allergies for people, and casein is a protein that has a lot of allergic responses for people. We basically have whey and casein are the main proteins in milk. Whey tends to not cause allergic reactions, which is why they use it in a lot of protein powders. Casein is one of the most allergenic, inflammatory, carcinogenic foods on the planet. It’s horrible. It’s very, very allergenic, and it’s a big, big problem. And so this is one of the reasons that milk is not that great.

But at the same time, you have to choose your battles wisely. Everybody’s got some foods they like that perhaps are not amazing for them, but if you’re doing a lot of things right, doing a couple of things not so right is perfectly fine. So, Henna, if you love the cheese, I would say go for it. Try to find artisanal cheese. Try to find grass-fed and grass-finished cheese. There’s so much talk these days about grass-fed animal foods. The reality is, there’s very, very little of it available. Even a lot of pasture-raised animals are actually corn finished. And even a lot of the big brands who say grass-fed, grass-finished, a lot of new information is coming out that it’s just not true.

So, unfortunately, it’s kind of an ideal world. There’s not that much of it really available. But take a look and see what you can find, and for sure, any animal except a cow, the cheese is better. Cows are these weird perversion, it’s kind of like a poodle, in terms of animal agriculture. Anything else is better. Sheep’s cheese, goat cheese, any other animal you can imagine, even like donkey and things like that, anything is better than a cow.

Edward asks

Q: Does using the YOGABODY Flexibility Kit get rid of dark bags under your eyes and acne?

A: This is a great question and a really interesting question. I’m prone to dark bags, so I’ve done a lot of research about this in the past. Dark bags under your eyes can be a sign of a number of different things, Candida, fungal infections, adrenal fatigue, elevated blood sugar levels, metabolic disorders, and then on a very simple level, you might have eaten too much sugar, too much alcohol, not slept enough, all the common things.

There’s also a very, very clear ethnic tie-in. Some people, some ethnic groups, will just be really prone to it and some people won’t. It is kind of like a canary in a coal mine. If you’re finding you have darker circles than usual, if you’re finding they’re abnormally dark and puffy, it might be a sign that something’s going on, hormonal, blood sugar, your adrenals, all sorts of things. So for sure, take a look at it. Yoga could help if it’s stress-related. If it’s not stress-related, probably you’re going to want to look at diet and lifestyle choices.

In terms of the acne, this is an interesting question as well. Acne tends to be an allergic reaction or it tends to be a hormonal imbalance. If you imagine your typical teenager, their hormones are raging and they get acne flare ups. Ironically, those kids are often eating very poorly as well, and if it were managed properly a lot of times they can treat their acne naturally, but getting their hormones more in balance through food and lifestyle things.

The other thing is allergens, and allergens are a big, big deal. Dairy is a huge, huge cause of acne. Also, unhealthy fats, processed seed oils, plant fats like soy, canola, sunflower, safflower, all those crap oils that look like motor oil in a grocery store, those are horrible for your skin. I’ll give you two examples that illustrate this very clearly. The first example is fast food restaurants and flight attendants. Both of them, the workers in fast food restaurants and flight attendants tend to have horrible skin, because they’re eating very, very poor-quality fats. It’s not so much that fat is bad for you. Fat is actually fantastic for you. But the type of fat that they’re eating tends to be soy, corn, canola oil, deep-fried potatoes. In airplane food it’s very, very similar. Everything is cooked in the cheapest possible oils, and that gets integrated on a molecular level and you can get acne from that.

Another example is the cosmetic counter at any shopping mall department store. Your clerks working there will have terrible skin, terrible skin almost always, and that’s again, result of very poor-quality fats. They’re often dairy fats that have been taken out of milk products and they’re cooked and processed and they’re turned into trans fat so they last forever, but they’re very terrible for your skin. There’s other color and other chemical additives that can have allergic reactions. And so those are the two examples I always give. Look at the people using all these crazy, extreme skincare products. Look at the people eating the worst of the worst type of fats and you can start to get an idea.

Now, the traditional treatment from a dermatologist are horrible. It would be things like tetracycline and topical creams. They do almost nothing. You almost always want to treat from the inside out. Using an antibiotic is kind of moot. It’s not really the issue. It’s rarely the issue. You might get some temporary, topical benefits, but in terms of treating the underlying issue it’s not going to work. You’re going to need to balance your hormones and get rid of allergenic foods. So, getting rid of dairy, getting rid of wheat, cleaning up your diet, eating healthy fats and anti-inflammatory fats like omega-3s and making sure your skincare products are very, very clean and organic and natural. I hope that’s helpful for you.

Jefferey asks

Q: Can you use the YOGABODY Flexibility Kit at different times throughout the day? Or is better to follow a routine?

A: Jefferey, anytime you do yoga is fantastic. I do find that people who follow a routine tend to be more diligent and they tend to follow through, but if that’s not you, if you can do it whenever you can do it, don’t beat yourself up about it. Do your yoga and that’s fantastic.

Q: Will yoga help me build pectoral muscles?

A: For guys, your pecs are your chest muscles. Yoga is not great at building pec muscles, neither is any kind of functional strength practice, like gymnastics or martial arts. If you think of somebody like Bruce Lee, for example, in most of his karate shots he has his shirt off. He’s a very, very lean, skinny guy. He has incredible strength, incredible speed. Functional strength tends to have very lean, small muscles. Yoga is no exception. If you’re trying to bulk up, I have no judgment about that. If you want to bulk up, yoga is probably not the place to go. You probably want to do resistance training and work with free weights, on a bench press or something like that. Again, I’m not the guy to ask. But I am the guy to tell you that yoga is probably not going to help, in terms of that.

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