6 Yoga Questions Answered by Hot Yoga Midwest

By ALIVE Staff
In Culture

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If you’re anything like us, you have always wanted to ask your fitness instructor class a series of questions, but didn’t know how to broach the subject. Well, we’re here to help. This week, we teamed up with Hot Yoga Midwest owner Jessica Rask to answer all the yoga questions we’ve been dying to ask.

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What if I only have 30 minutes to work out?
Move! It is so often that I hear, ​”​I only have ten minutes,” but these are minutes you can move. In actuality, we often have more time to move than we think. I, myself, have been victim to thinking I was too busy or too tired or too anything to move. If you move in the times you normally wouldn’t—do some stretches or walk in place while watching TV, for example—those minutes can add up. Basically, whether you have 30 minute or ​just ​five, you need to move.

What are the best stretches to do every day?
Every day? I can think of 26 postures and two breathing exercises that should be done every day. However, if you can’t make it to a 60- or 90-minute All-Levels Class that we teach at our school, you should do backbends. We forward bend all day long—it’s what we do as humans! It is so important to stretch the digestive organs, the lungs, the heart and—most importantly!—the spine the opposite way.

Should I go to a class before or after work? Does time of day matter?
There are different benefits to a yoga class at different times of the day. ​W​e have a fiercely loyal group of 6am yogis. In the morning, especially that early, you will notice your physical challenges more, but it is also the time that will change the body the quickest. At night, it is harder to teach as most students have more trouble clearing their minds. After work, everything that happened that day will follow you into class.

The class we teach is both Hatha and Raja yoga. Hatha Yoga is the physical branch—creating geometric shapes with your body in space. This is what most people in the West call “yoga.” Raja Yoga is the mental branch. For example, “Can I​ quiet ​my mind in a difficult or challenging situation?” While the classes we teach encompass both branches for beginners, even if you don’t know it, early morning yoga is “harder” physically and evening yoga is “harder” mentally. Yoga, however, is about balance. The longer and more often you practice, the less this will matter as the body and mind connect more completely.

Do you judge people for not being able to do the poses?
Not in any way!​ There is a beginning to every yoga posture, never an end. So, actually, there is no such thing as “not being able to do a pose.” A good yoga teacher would always recognize this.

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As a student, how can I tell the difference between pain and discomfort?
Pain is normally sharp and relentless. Discomfort is normally a feeling that can be tolerated, just not ​enjoyed​. You should never feel pain in a yoga posture. When you practice with an acute injury, you should go to a point of slight pressure, never pain. In my own case, when practicing in acute pain with herniated discs in my cervical spine, this involved simply moving my eyes rather than my head as there was no moment when I was ​not experiencing​ pain.

A yoga posture should never be forced. This is a very important concept—one that differentiates ​Hatha ​yoga ​ from many other physical activities​. There is no ​”​push and push and push. “​ There is no “kill yourself.” Challenge yourself? Yes.​ But “no pain, no gain” should not exist in a yoga class. Yoga in the West has lost the concept of “wait,” as my own teacher Mary Jarvis says. Everyone wants the ​posture in the ​picture on Instagram, but the work that can go into some of these postures takes repetition over time (repetition as in, hundreds of times a year over multiple years!). When practiced that way, there should never be pain in a posture.

What’s your advice to yoga students?
Most importantly—with a proper teacher—you can always practice yoga! I have practiced and taught next to men and women with less than four limbs, men and women in wheelchairs, a man who literally could not speak and ​could​ barely use his arms, pregnant women, a student with two broken hands, a student with a full leg cast, multiple students with MS and RA, etc. So very often I hear, “I can’t practice right now because…” This can be hard because while one type of expert may say, “Absolutely you cannot do that right now, ” I am an expert at saying, “Yes you can!” All you need for yoga is a spine. It doesn’t even need to be a healthy spine!

If you can get into our school, we can give you movements that will help continue the movement of the cerebral spinal fluid and blood throughout the body. Broken foot? You have another one ​​and two arms (and a spine). Just show up—that’s always the hardest part. Whether or not you are able to do anything after walking into the door is less important.

Another great line from my teacher:”The only bad class you will ever have is the one that happens without you in it because you were on your couch instead of in the room. Once you are in class, it is a great one no matter what you can do while you’re in it.”

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