These winter blues get me every year! I don’t feel like leaving my house to go and practice at a studio, so I've been following a lot of yoga DVDs. Lately, I find that my knees are really starting to kill. I don’t have an instructor to turn to, so I’m wondering if maybe you can help.
Ann Arbor, MI
I know what you mean about the weather. It’s easy to get down and out, but be proud of yourself for continuing a practice instead of staying in your bed with hot cocoa! I’m sorry to hear about your knees; often the cold will exacerbate joint problems. Chances are, yours might be an easy fix. Often times when people practice at home, they forget about alignment. Check your knees in poses like utkatasana (chair pose) or virabhadrasana I & II (warriors 1 & 2). Be mindful of hyperextension. Keep your legs bent at a 90-degree angle so that your knee is directly above your ankle. There are very few exceptions to this rule. (Anjaneyasana, or crescent moon lunge, is one pose where it’s okay for your knee to go beyond your toes.)
If pain persists, purchase two tennis balls. Spend time massaging the outer areas of your knees. Strengthen your quadriceps and surrounding muscles to alleviate some overall discomfort. Find ways to modify your poses — if you are on all fours in cat/cow poses for a while, roll your mat under your knees to provide extra cushioning. Tailor your at-home practice for your idiosyncrasies!
I commute 43 minutes to and from work every day. I have a job that requires me to sit for long hours in front of a computer. My lower back aches, and now my eyes are starting to hurt as well.
Superior Township, MI
You are not alone. Fortunately, yoga can help! For your tired eyes at work, spend two minutes each hour away from your computer. First, look up. Then look right, left, and down. Lastly, look to the upper right corner and to the upper left corner of your eyes. Hold each gaze for approximately five breaths.
Carve out 20 minutes each day to help with your low-back concerns. Repeat the following sequence daily for 10 days, and you should notice a dramatic change immediately:
1. Lie on your back with both legs extended. Draw your right knee in to your right shoulder. Hug your knee. Hold it here for 10 full breaths. Switch sides, holding the left knee for another 10 breaths.
2. Bend your legs at the knees, place the soles of your feet firmly on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Place your palms adjacent to your hips. Engage your glutes and your core by pulling your belly button toward your spine. As you inhale, lift your pelvic area as high as you can. Hold it here for 5 breaths, working your way up each day until you can stay for 10 breaths. As you exhale, relax and release while coming back down, and melt your low back into the ground.
3. Draw both of your knees to your chest. Hug your knees and sway gently from side to side. This will offer your low-back a nice massage.
4. Repeat the first 3 steps for 10 minutes in the morning, and also 10 minutes in the evening.
I have been practicing yoga pretty regularly for the past three and a half years. Now I’d like to teach yoga myself. I’m wondering if you have any suggestions for finding a good teacher’s training program.
Thanks in advance,
Ann Arbor, MI
Congratulations on embarking on the yogic path for over three years now! There are many things to consider when you’re thinking about becoming a teacher. First, decide whether you want to teach as a profession or a hobby. There is an important distinction between the two. If you are planning on teaching as a hobby for friends or family, you can easily find a teacher’s training program in the area. If you are looking to work professionally, seek out a well-accredited training program that is registered with Yoga Alliance (YA), the largest nonprofit association representing yoga teachers, schools, and studios in the U.S. Ensure that the program meets the minimum training standards established by YA because most hiring studios and fitness facilities require you to have a certification. Many teacher training programs are led by instructors who hold no official certification, but have been practicing for a long time. Unfortunately, this will impact whether you get a paid job.
Also, seek out a program with an emphasis on a style you like. If your focus is on alignment, proper form, and the use of props, Iyengar yoga may be for you. For discipline and routine using only your body and breath, Ashtanga yoga might suit your needs. Power yoga and Vinyasa flow classes offer a more contemporary approach where anything from listening to pop music to drinking wine is acceptable. With many forms to choose from, narrow your options down to match your specialty. In the meantime, familiarize yourself with basic anatomy. Many students have injuries, so learn how certain poses can impact or benefit them. As you evolve your yoga practice, stay on the mat, and journal the changes you experience, so that later you can stay relatable to your newbie students.
All the best!
Roshani Adhikary is a certified yoga instructor teaching in the Ann Arbor/Saline area. Have a query for Roshani? Submit it here.
By Roshani Adhikary
Athletes work their whole lives to realize their one dream of winning gold. They often see their hard work wither away as a competitor skates right past them, only to win by a fraction of a second. Nothing has taught me the value of a millisecond more than the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
By Roshani Adhikary
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