Frequently Asked Questions
I love hearing from you, and I love it even more if I can help when you ask me a question, because there's nothing more frustrating than having a yoga question and not being able to find an answer you can trust, am I right? Anyway.
I've started hearing the same questions, so I thought I'd make a FAQ for reference. Here we go.
What yoga mat do you recommend?
There are a few I like for different purposes. If you're carrying a mat around to and from the studio, I'd pick the eKo lite mat by manduka or the divine mat by wellicious. If you're traveling on vacation and want a super thin sticky surface for yoga, I recommend the eKo superlite mat by manduka. If you want to park your mat on your floor at home and not move it at all, I recommend the black mat pro by manduka.
How should someone start a practice and how often should they do yoga?
Yoga is all about listening to your body. As long as you feel good, you can do yoga as often as you like. Some people feel good doing it three times a week, some people feel even better practicing six times a week. It's up to you.
I personally think nothing beats having a teacher in the room so I'd suggest going to your local yoga studio. If you prefer staying home, you can check out yoga videos online. If you're a beginner, just do a gentle practice.
In class, I cannot hold any of my balance poses - how do I develop my balance "muscles"?
Honestly, there is a lot that goes into a sturdy balancing pose. These balancing tips may help:
I really think the mind has a lot to do with it. If I'm feeling frazzled I won't be able to balance for the life of me.
Maintaining a drishti - this is the focal point where we're to gaze during a balancing pose
Making sure you're standing on firm ground - sometimes a yoga mat offers too much cushion for a good foundation. I recommend coming off the mat onto the studio floor.
Strengthen the little tiny muscles in the feet.
How to use a yoga strap in Forward Fold?
Do you squirm at the thought of having to do a bunch of forward folds in yoga class? They're uncomfortable and the hamstrings always feel like they're liable to snap at any second. If you're nodding along in agreement then you'll want to pay close attention and become friends with your nearest yoga strap (or tie/belt/rolled up towel).
Set up your alignment
Before you start using the strap, however, check in with the tilt of your pelvis and the angle of your low back. We want the low back to be flat, and to achieve this, we need to tilt the pelvis slightly forward. Doing that initiates length in the low back which will travel all the way up the spine so you'll avoid rounding too much and accidentally stretching the back rather than the hamstrings.
Use the yoga strap
Once the alignment of the spine and pelvis is in place, extend your legs and pick up the strap. Use two hands, and wrap the middle of the strap around the middle of the bottoms of your feet. Flex the toes and pull your upper body forward as you inch your hands closer to the feet. There will come a time (it might not be today) where you'll be able to grab your big toes or the sides of your feet and won't even need the strap. But until then, avoid these common mistakes and set yourself up for success. Happy stretching!
What are the things you would have appreciated being told before teaching your first class?
Aw, you'll be okay! Here are some things I would've appreciated being told before my first class:
- Plan a longer sequence than you think you need. Time flies when you're nervous.
- Don't rush. Along the same lines, force yourself to keep the students in the pose a breath or two more than you want to so you don't find yourself rushing through the sequence.
- It's ok to be quiet. You don't have to talk every second of the class.
- Invite feedback. At the end of class, let them know you appreciate their feedback as you're new and eager to learn what they love and where you can improve.
- Learn some names. Before the class starts, learn a few names if you can. Then, during class, offer assists or praise using their name. It means the world to people when you remember their names.
- Tell them when you'll be teaching next. At the end of the class, let them know when they can practice with you again. Building a following is great because you'll grow as an instructor, make more connections, and open more opportunities.
- Have fun. At the end of the day, you likely chose to teach yoga because you love yoga. Share the joy that yoga brings to you and you'll never go wrong.
I am afraid of handstand. Any tips for beginners?
I want to preface this by saying that every teacher you ask will likely give a different answer. In my opinion, there's a time and a place to work outside of your comfort zone, and you're sort of already doing that by just hanging out in headstand. Handstand takes a long time, and is a progression, in my opinion. The way I see it,jumping into headstand before you're 100% comfortable in your headstand and forearm stand is like learning to drive a stick-shift car when you've never even sat in the driver's seat before.
Your concerns are legitimate. I actually know of a teacher who broke her nose when she fell out of crow. And I don't say that to scare you, but to suggest that it might be best to take your time and work through the handstand progression. In my opinion, the progression starts with headstand.
I'd begin with working on it until you're feeling really comfortable in your headstand. Get really comfortable, not just in the full expression but when you play around. Doeagle legs and splits and just have fun with it. From there, move on to forearm stand. Work with that until you feel confident there. These two poses will build your upper body strength and core strength needed for handstand, and the "playing around" with the legs will help build your confidence for when your lower body is moving up into handstand.
So my advice is to move slowly, and take your time working your way up to handstand through the progression of other inversions first. When the teacher asks you to go against the wall and jump into handstand, you could go against the wall and work on your headstand or forearm stand instead. It's your yoga class and your yoga practice, so do what works for you. Good luck!