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…

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…

Do yoga inversions reverse the flow of blood?

Do yoga inversions reverse the flow of blood? Although yoga teachers sometimes say this, the answer is no. The blood in your body only flows in one direction. From your heart’s left ventricle, it’s pumped through a network of arteries to the capillary beds that surround the cells of your body. That’s where your cells take…

The glutes and hip pain in yoga

“Don’t contract your glutes.” I’ve heard this instruction many times from yoga teachers, especially during backbending poses, but it’s always puzzled me. The gluteus maximus – the large muscle of your buttocks — is the prime mover in actions that require hip extension against gravity, such as climbing stairs or standing up from a squat….

Yoga anatomy video: Knee alignment in Warrior II

Just put up a video clip from my first knee workshop last Tuesday at the Shala, about preventing patellofemoral pain in Warrior II. If you missed last Tuesday, I’ll be doing two more workshops about the knee. This Tuesday, February 4, we’ll go over repetitive stress injuries and what happens when you hyperextend your knee….