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…

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…

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….