Woman in tree pose

Try this tip to improve balance in yoga poses

Many yoga students, including me, struggle with standing balancing poses like tree pose, or vrksasana.  In this post, we’ll look at the primary muscle that stabilizes your pelvis when you’re standing on one leg, which is called the gluteus medius. Understanding how your gluteus medius works, how to activate it, and how to develop your…

Woman in seated forward bend

Should you flex your feet in seated forward bends?

Students often ask me in seated forward folds like pascimottanasana, “Should I flex my feet or not?” The short answer is that there’s not one right answer. But flexing or pointing your feet will make a difference, because everything in your body is tied together. There’s no one part that moves in isolation from the rest.  Lengthening…

Woman in warrior 2

Should you square your hips in warrior two?

In warrior (virabhadrasana) two, you may have heard the cue to square your hips toward the side of the mat, but is that necessary? Is it a good idea? Is it even possible? In this post, I’ll look at the anatomy of the hips to answer those questions.  Joint positions Let’s start with the positions…

Woman practicing boat pose

Should you keep your spine straight in navasana?

Should you practice boat pose or navasana with an extended spine, or is it okay to let your back round a little bit?  Yoga teachers commonly teach navasana with cues like “Straighten your spine,” or “Lift your chest and pull your shoulders back,” but is that always the best way to practice it?  You may…

Pulse oximeter measuring oxygen saturation

Does deep breathing increase blood oxygenation?

I’ve often heard yoga teachers say things like, “We only use a small percentage of our lungs when we’re breathing normally,” or “We don’t use our full lung capacity, and if we could breathe more deeply, we could bring more oxygen into the bloodstream.” But are those things true?  Well, it is true that if…

How many calories do you burn practicing yoga?

Probably not as many as you think.  Does that really matter?  Maybe not as much as you think. Students occasionally ask me “How many calories do you burn practicing yoga?” I often assume that what’s underlying the question is another question, “Will I lose weight practicing yoga?” but that’s really a different question, which I’ll…

Tree pose at pond

Scapulohumeral rhythm: what happens when you lift your arms overhead?

What happens when you lift your arms overhead? Lifting your arm is a pretty common movement—think shampooing your hair or reaching for a can on a high shelf. It’s also common in yoga practice, from the first movement of a sun salutation to downward facing dog and handstand. Unfortunately, there are some widespread misconceptions in…

Pull ups and yoga

Pull ups and yoga: An important movement most yogis miss out on

Pull ups and yoga: Are you missing out? If you only practice yoga, you’re probably missing out on an important type of movement that can help you find more balanced strength and stability in your shoulders—upper body pulling exercises. While yoga helps develop upper body pressing strength–with poses like down dog, handstand and arm balances–it does…

Up dog on bridge

How does stretching make you more flexible?

How does stretching make you more flexible? Intuitively, it seems that it must have something to do with your muscles—that they must lengthen or that the tissue must become more pliable over time. Yet, as we’ve seen, the evidence doesn’t bear that out. Stretching makes muscle tissue more pliable in the short term, but those…

Headstand on beach

Do yoga inversions help drain lymph?

Do yoga inversions help drain lymph? Basically, yes. In the same way that inversions, such as headstand and shoulder stand, help return blood to your heart, turning upside down can assist lymph drainage from your legs. However, it isn’t necessary to invert to keep lymph moving. Your body has other means to accomplish the same…