Two of my readers, Jen and Regina, had some yoga questions for me. I punted them to Hilda, who has trained in yoga, is a yoga teacher and a yoga studio manager at the Yoga Connection.
Jen’s first question:
I work out hard all week with weights, treadmill and high-impact Zumba. I’d love to find a yoga class that was just gentle stretching. Do you recommend a particular kind?
Yin Yoga is the perfect counter practice to the workout you’re doing during the week.
Yin Yoga is a type of yoga practice based in concepts of Taoist Yoga. It emphasizes the connective tissues of the hips, thighs, pelvis and lower spin. It is characterized by the relaxed practice of floor asanas for three to five minutes at a time. Yin Yoga provides the space needed to practice mindfulness by connecting with the breath move inward and reconnect with our center.
Jen’s second question:
I love Bikram Yoga because it helps get the deep stretching in my neck/shoulders that I haven’t found anywhere else, which really helps an old whiplash injury. Unfortunately, Bikram aggravates a knee injury terribly. Is there any class that might work my neck but not tweak my knew like Bikram does?
“Honor your body” is the phrase you’ll hear most often as I guide students through their gentle and Yin practice. I encourage students to do the asanas that work for their body on that day.
Regardless of what class you choose to take–gentle, Yin, Bikram, Vinyasa–ask yourself why you’re pushing so hard. Maybe you don’t need to find a new class; maybe you just need to adopt a new approach to your practice.
It may be helpful for you to have a basic knowledge of the roots of yoga for you at this stage. Patanjali, the author of the Yoga Sutras, defines an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga. The eight limbs consist of Yamas, and its complement, Niyamas. Together they represent a series of “right living” or ethical rules within yoga. These are a form of do’s and don’ts, and the Yamas represent one of the don’ts on the list. The first Yama is known as Ahimsa, translated as nonviolence. First and foremost, we have to learn how to be nonviolent toward ourselves. And this then, is why you may need to adopt a new approach to your practice, rather than finding another form of yoga.
Like Jen, I too have a longtime neck injury. Mine is herniation @C5-6. Not bad enough to need surgery, but bad enough that I’ve experienced pretty bad atrophy of the muscle on the left side of my neck/upper torso. Add an old military knee injury or two and I think I have similar physical limitations as Jen, except that I am completely out of shape. I don’t work out, and I am desperately trying to quit smoking.
I would like to find a yoga class that will teach me the very basics (I am a complete yoga novice) of stretching in a safe way and help me to become more focused on my physical well-being.
Might be time to try Yoga Therapy. Several yoga journals describe yoga therapy as somewhere between a doctor’s visit and a stretching class. Therapists work in small groups or private sessions, addressing specific health problems and adapting poses accordingly. You can then take the adaptations and use them in any class. You may ask your personal physician to recommend a yoga therapist. If the physician doesn’t have such a recommendation, stop by your neighborhood yoga studio for the studio director, to discuss where you can find a yoga therapist.
Hilda is willing to take more questions if anyone has them. You can either comment in this post or send an e-mail to Ann and she will get the questions to Hilda.
Just a reminder that Hilda is not a doctor and any content in the questions she answered are not medical advice, directly or indirectly. You should consult your doctor before beginning any exercise program.