Question: Are there any specific ages that should not participate in a yoga practice?
Answer: No. Although, there are more appropriate ways to practice depending on age and mental & physical ability. For example, for very young people (kids), yoga might be turned into games to help maintain their interest. For older people (seniors), the physical practices may be modified to fit their abilities, as well as their specific needs.
Question: What if I’m not that flexible?
Answer: I know it might be hard to believe due to our assumptions about yoga because of the few images we’ve glimpsed at (like that guy on that TV show “That’s Incredible” who tied himself up in a knot and stuffed his body into a box for the duration of the show). Yet, you know what happens when we assume. But yoga really has nothing to do with being flexible. Then why do all the poses seem designed to create flexibility? This is an important point! The poses really are not created to promote flexibility. They are created to heal or maintain the health and vitality of the places they expose. Yes, if you are carrying a lot of tension in an area a pose exposes, the tension will release, and your range of motion will increase. Yet, if there is no tension in the area, there is no need to release any, and the pose’s job is now to maintain its tension free status as well as create stimulation, which facilitates circulation which promotes oxygenation which is a prerequisite for regeneration as well as flushing out toxicity.
Remember, the goal is to maintain vitality, not to create flexibility. After all, too much flexibility creates a state of instability and that’s not healthy. Just like we have different faces and personalities, we have different hips and different length hamstrings. We are not all supposed to get our head to our legs in forward bends. We all need to find our own place in each pose. That way the pose becomes ours. We are not supposed to look the same in every pose. The beauty of the human race is the differences among us all. It would be boring if everybody looked the same in every pose. Let’s flourish in our differences. Plus, I don’t believe there is any proof that looser people are healthier or happier, so what’s the point? Isn’t the goal Health and Happiness? So, no, you don’t need to be flexible. All you need is the time to breathe and move!
Question: Do you have to be a vegetarian?
Answer: No, but if being a vegetarian is important to you, go for it. Personally, I like to call myself a selectarian. In other words, I consciously select the food I eat, which is different than unconscious eating, which is eating due to old habit patterns without questioning its health effects & potency. The Dalai Lama, who is considered in Tibetan culture to be a great Yogi, eats meat, and others don’t. What works for you? Experiment!
Question: How often should I practice and how long should each practice be?
Answer: These are personal questions with personal answers. Yet, obviously the more you practice, the more you benefit. The practice needs to happen with wisdom. Becoming extreme will definitely not benefit you. Practicing often does not mean practicing aggressively. The practice will need to be modified according to your energy level and level of fatigue. Maybe practicing a little every day is your thing, maybe practicing strongly just 3 times a week is most optimal for you. One thing I’ve learned of practicing yoga asana, I need to listen very carefully to what I’m feeling in order to know what I’m needing, and what I’m needing changes all the time! One word of advice, if I may. Try not to do what you did and try not to do what you wish you could do, rather try to do what you need according to how you feel!
Question: Is it necessary to add cardio exercise to my yoga practice?
Answer: Yoga routines can vary in style and energy level. If the yoga routine is a high energy style, chances are you are receiving a good cardio routine. However, if your yoga class is more slow moving in nature, you might want to consider adding more cardio. Many professional trainers recommend 2-3 30 minutes of cardio per week. However, this is an individual matter, and a rule of thumb is it never hurts to add more cardio to your routine in which case I encourage you to seek out additional, non- or low-impact exercise. Personally, I find it helpful to add regular bike rides and walks to my practice.
Question: Do yoga and weightlifting work well together?
Answer: I don’t think it’s a marriage made in heaven, so to speak, but I don’t see why they can’t coexist together if practiced consciously. The thing is, it’s really hard to practice asana fully and maybe even correctly if the muscles are too fatigued from a weight lifting work out. So, I recommend not stressing your muscles to the point of total fatigue and maybe using lighter weights.
Question: What is the appropriate amount of time to wait after eating, before practicing asana or meditation? And after practicing, before eating?
Answer: Meat: 2-3 hours. Carbs, starches: 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 hours. Fruits and Veggies: 1/2 – 1 hour. The issue is the stomach should be empty. Food in the stomach can reduce range of motion and reduce energy level, which can adversely effect your strength & stamina as well as your ability to concentrate. Now you know the issues, knowing the expediency of your own digestive system, you can make your own decisions. After practicing, before eating: I’m not sure. I’ve heard 1/2 hour, which makes sense to me.
Question: Do women that are menstruating need to take any precautions?
Answer: Yes. No. Maybe. There are different points of view. Some yoga traditions say not to practice asanas (poses) at all during the full cycle of menstruation. Others say that asana practice is OK, just that one should refrain from any inverted postures (head stand, shoulder stand, plough, etc….) One of the issues seems to be the flow of toxic matter (discarded blood) down and out of the body, and not changing the direction of that flow. Although, I know women who disregard all of these precautions and swear they are fine.So, again, after experimentation and using your rational & intuitive capacities, make your own decision. Some of the issues here may be linked to a time when women were not allowed to practice yoga. Also, I have not heard that the menstrual cycle affects any other aspect of yoga practice outside of asana.