Can Yoga Wreck Your Body? (and other nonsense)

Dear Yoga Student,

After that last email I sent you about NOT reading the news,
(because it’s too negative focused) one of my students sent
me an email:

“Yeah, but Lucas… the New York Times has great articles
about yoga sometimes…”

And she sent me a link to an article about how yoga can
allegedly wreck your body. Strokes, degenerative spinal
conditions, paralysis… it’s really far out.

Can yoga wreck your body?

I don’t think so. Can you get hurt? Pull a hamstring? Fall
on your head? Tweak your elbows? Sure, anything physical
has a certain amount of risks.

But what are we supposed to do? Just sit on the couch?
Compared to lawn bowling, yoga is a high risk activity.
Compared to pretty much any other physical activity, it’s
extremely safe. Says me…

Stay bendy,

Yoga Inversion Therapy

p.s. Read the NY Times article here and tell me what you think
by posting your comments down below…

Do the Splits, Man!

Dear Yoga Student,

I’d like to talk to you full frontal and side
splits because I’ve been getting a bunch
of questions about them lately.

So here’s the scoop:

1. Frontal splits are pretty easy to learn in
2-8 weeks

2. Side splits are much more complicated and
some people’s bodies just don’t move that way

Frontal spits involve two big groups of muscles:
* Hamstrings (back the legs)
* Iliopsoas (top of the thigh and deep pelvis)

Here’s why frontal splits are easier: every time
you stretch your hamstrings or the tops of your
legs, you’re preparing for the frontal splits, so
almost everyone who stretches is accidentally
getting better at the frontal splits whether they
know it or not!

Side splits involves the same muscle groups as
frontal splits, but also your groin and glutes…
plus it’s just really awkward – and no other
stretches seem to have much of an effect…

… meaning to learn the side splits, you’ve got
to do the side splits. A lot!

So what do you do? Practice. Carefully.

In frontal splits, engage your thigh as strong as
you can on the front leg and use your hands to
slowly and carefully lower down.

Engaging your thigh allows the back of the leg
to release more and also protects you from
dropping down too quickly.

In the side splits, micro-bend your knees so
you don’t tweak them and use your hands on
the floor to support your body weight.

In both versions, you want to use your breath
as a guide. Start with 20 breaths/day and build
up from there, eventually to 5 minute holds
(5 minutes is the magic number).

A little soreness is good. Pain is bad. People hurt
themselves all the time trying to hurry into the
splits. It’s no use. Take your time, breathe deeply,
and honestly, you’ll be amazed at how quickly
you’ll progress…

… but don’t try any John Travolta stuff on the
dance floor until you’re feeling REALLY loose:)

No, seriously…

Stay bendy,

Sun Warrior Rice Protein

p.s. Note from a yoga teacher…
“I wanted to thank you for your so straight forward
emails full of insights!!! I completely changed my
practice to staying 3 minutes in postures and I have
experienced what I haven’t in 7 years!”
(Tataya, Yoga Teacher)

The Physics of Yoga Strength [interesting]

Dear Yoga Student,

If you’ve ever seen a buffed up yoga
teacher with giant biceps and budging

… you can be sure he or she did NOT get
that body-builder physique doing yoga

Here’s why:

Yoga builds FUNCTIONAL strength, not for show,
but for real life, real power. Ask any yoga teacher
and they’ll tell you a similar story where a buffed
up gym rat comes to class with biceps bigger
than the teacher’s legs…

… and yet he can’t hold a chaturanga (half
pushup) or side plank (side pushup) for more
than 3 seconds while the skinny guy next to him
can stick a handstand for 1 minute.

And here’s why this matters:

Yoga DOES build strength, but not in the way
you’d normally think of. Firstly, it builds dynamic
muscle balance as opposed to mass which is
extremely useful no matter what your goals.

Secondly, it builds greater range of motion, which
by definition, equals greater strength.

Here’s the formula:

((Mass x Velocity Squared)/2) = Kenetic Energy

A pitcher with a strong arm who has a
pathetic reach due to his tight shoulders
can’t hurl the ball as fast – and speed, you
see, is more important than mass.

A golfer who is build like a truck but whose
hips are locked up can’t compete with his
weaker yet bendy competitors.

Long tissues are strong and fast. Short tissues
can be slower and less forceful.

Stay bendy,

Sun Warrior Protein

p.s. For the record, there are LOTS of very smart,
very functional weight trainers and body builders…
lean muscle is one of the secret keys to fitness
when done right.

Has yoga made you stronger? Post your story

Don’t Smoke Your Joints!

Dear Yoga Student,

If you’ve ever mowed the lawn before, you know
how amazing grass is. You can stomp on it, cut it
almost all the way down to its roots, abuse it…

… and it grows back stronger and stronger all
the time.

In many ways your body’s muscles are the same
way. As you’re building strength and flexibility,
you are creating micro tears that heal longer and
stronger (hopefully) than before.

All good.

This is why you get sore, and I’m sure this is
not news to you… but what about your joints?

What about if you pop your arm straight 20
times in a row until your elbow is throbbing?

What if you do so many squats your knees
swell up like melons?

Do you elbows and knees get stronger? Almost
never. Muscle soreness is a sign of progress
(as long as you can still walk straight) but joint
pain is a sign of injury – or soon to be.

So when you practice, expect your quads to burn
and your hamstrings to get sore after a hard
session. That’s OK.

But do everything you can to keep your knees,
shoulders, elbows and lower back pain-free. Soreness
there is red flag… don’t smoke your joints!

Stay bendy,

Brown Rice Protein – Sun Warrior

p.s. In the next email, I’ll share with you some
very simple, extremely effective tips for joint
care in yoga… got a question? Post it down below…

Strength vs. Flexibility – Who Wins?

Dear Yoga Student,

Is it possible to be strong AND flexible?

Yes, but it takes effort. You see, strength and flexibility
are the yang and the yin of yoga. If you’re an avid
runner, for example, chances are good that your
hamstrings and calves are really tight and probably
your hips too.

Doesn’t HAVE to be this way, but generally it is.

Here’s why: we tend to over-emphasize yang exercises
(running, strength training, cycling) or perhaps the
opposite with too many yin exercises (deep stretching,

Balance is impossible, but it should be the aim.

Here’s why I bring this up: Yoga students often
ask if they should QUIT running or lifting or playing
sports to improve their yoga practice.

Personally, I think that’s crazy.

If you love yang sports, don’t ever give them up.
Physical activity is so powerful for your physical
AND mental health, I’d never restrict yourself (unless
you were getting injuries, of course) just because it
might make your yoga classes easier.

But yeah, it’s true. If you’re a body builder, you’re
really going to struggle with flexibility. No way around

Lifting weights is the ultimate yang practice and
you’d need to at least have a 2-to-1 match with
lifting-to-stretching to balance that out.

So… balance is the aim, you like yang activities,
so what do you do?


1. For every 60 minutes spent with yang practices,
spend 15 minutes doing deep stretches ideally
when your body is ultra warmed up.

2. Try to determine which area of your body is
getting stiffer from the yang practice (shoulders in
tennis, hamstrings from running, etc) and always
consciously over-emphasize stretching those

3. Make absolutely sure that you don’t lose flexibility.
Remember, unlike strength, flexibility doesn’t just
disappear on its own. Repetitive yang activities or
lack of activities are what reverse your flexibility so
you want to always keep it in check so you maintain
(or improve) your flexibility continuously.

Hope that’s helpful!

Stay bendy,

Yoga Protein for a Lean, Strong Body

p.s. If you’ve got questions or comments, you can post
‘em below…

Does Bad Alignment Cause Injuries?

Dear Yoga Student,

It’d be great if your back NEVER hurt, if your
knees never had twinges, and your shoulders
never ached…

… but if you’re actually using your body for yoga
or other activities, chances are that sometimes
you’ll get sore.

And sometimes, you’ll get injured.

Yoga teachers often blame injuries on bad alignment
or “pushing too hard,” but since you’ll never meet
any serious yoga student who hasn’t had a least a
couple injuries, I just call it “part of life…” to be
avoided, whenever possible.

Don’t get me wrong, you should always practice
safely, but it’s gotten to the point where some teachers
won’t even let you lie on the floor without perfectly
supporting your neck and putting fluffy pillows under
your legs.

That’s not yoga. That’s therapy. It has its place, but
it’s overkill for most able-bodied people the same way
it’s overkill to wear a helmet while walking down the

A perfect yoga practice doesn’t exist, perfect alignment
is a myth (our bodies are naturally imbalanced) and
it’s all a process.

So your lower back hurts after yoga class. Maybe
you did something wrong. Probably, it was just
something that needed to happen for you to better
understand your body and become aware.

So what do you do now?

Here are some questions and answers that might

Q: How do I know if I’m really injured or just sore?
A: Soreness will go away quickly (in days), injuries
will take weeks or months to heal.

NOTE: a solid 80% of true injuries start out as just
sore areas that are not looked after properly.

Q: How do I know if I’m too sore to practice?
A: If 15 minutes into class, your sore area is still very
painful, you need to take rest, at least with any poses
targeting that area for 2-3 days and then try again.

Q: Is Hot Yoga OK if I’m injured?
A: Sometimes. The heat can be very therapeutic, but
the flipside is it can mask pain. You might feel awesome
in class, then you’ll get home and 1 hour later you’re walking
like Quasimodo. If that happens, skip the heat until you’re
back to 100%.

Q: My doctor told me to STOP doing yoga until I’m pain-
free… should I?
A: Your doctor’s goal is to stop pain. That’s his job.
So yes, if you do nothing, lie flat on a bed, and chill out,
the pain will go away the fastest—problem is that when
you try to use your body again, you’ll reinjure yourself
so quickly it’ll take your breath away.

To heal strong, you’ve got to continue practice, just very
slowly and carefully. Hope that helps…

Stay bendy,

The Ultimate Yoga Swing

p.s. If you’ve got a specific injury you need some
advice on, please post it below and I’ll see if
myself or someone I know can be of help

Yoga Breathing 102

Dear Yoga Student,

Ever wonder why people who sleep on their side
always sleep on their RIGHT side?

It’s because laying on your right side encourages
left nostril breathing, which activates the right side
of the brain and helps you relax.

Don’t believe me? Take a survey of everyone at
your work, and you’ll see it’s true.


Our goal today is to learn how to cool the body
(generally we’re talking about internal inflammation
from stress and lame food), relax the body, and
find some focus.

So let’s get started:


1 – Lie down on the floor, flat on your back,
arms at your sides, palms facing up.

2 – Take your right hand at put it over your
belly button. Relax completely.

3 – Inhale completely but don’t breathe into
your chest… instead let your abdomen fill up as
much as possible (this is difficult at first).

4 – Now exhale, allowing your belly to hollow
out completely.

5 – Once you’re comfortable with this motion
(chest stays still, belly fills like a balloon, then
empties completely), now we’ll count the breaths.

6 – Inhale to the count of 1-2-3-4 *PAUSE* at the
top. Now exhale to the count of 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1.
Again, inhale 1-2-3-4… *pause*… exhale 8-7-6-5-

Do 10 rounds and then rest.


1 – Lie down on the floor, flat on your back,
arms at your sides, palms facing up.

2 – Take your right hand at put it over your
belly button. Relax completely.

3 – Inhale completely don’t let your belly move,
instead your chest fills and rises up toward your
chin (this is usually easier than the previous

4 – Now exhale, allowing your chest to fall toward
the floor.

5 – Once you’re comfortable with this motion
(belly still, chest inflating and deflating), now we’ll
count the breaths.

6 – Inhale to the count of 1-2-3-4 *PAUSE* at the
top, chest bulging. Now exhale to the count of 8-7-

Again, inhale 1-2-3-4… *pause*… exhale 8-7-6-5-

Do 10 rounds and then rest.


A handful of scientists (and a boatload of yogis) have
studied this 1-to-2 ratio breathing pattern (here we
did 4 to 8… same ratio), and what they’ve discovered
is that by simply extending the exhale, it stimulates
that vagus nerve and immediately has acalming effective
on the body.

Is there more to learn?

Of course, but these two simple exercises take about
5 minutes to learn and you can do them anytime,
anywhere (as long as your boss doesn’t catch you lying
on the floor under your cubicle with your finger under
your nose… that would be a tough one to explain).

Stay bendy,

Yoga Practice Tools

p.s. Ideally, breathing is done on a empty stomach.
Right after you wake up or right before bed are ideal
times. 10 rounds of each practice will take you 10-15
minutes and you’ll feel the shift, energetically, right
away (at night, it’s great for knocking yourself out

Got Questions? Post them below.

Is Pranayama Dangerous? (yoga breathing)

Dear Yoga Student,

There are some really silly yoga myths floating
around, and a big one goes like this:

“Breathing exercises (pranayama) are for advanced
yoga students only and should never be practiced
without a teacher’s supervision or it can be very

Geez, the first time I heard that, I got really freaked
out. So I asked more questions:

“What EXACTLY happens?” And, that’s when it got
REALLY silly.

One teacher told me about a “friend of a friend” who
was doing pranayama against his teacher’s advice
and ended up in a psychiatric ward.

Another long-time student told me of a “student he knew”
who actually gave himself brain damage from breathing

And me? Well, yeah, I believed it.

Why would people make this stuff up? To this day, I still
don’t know why there’s all this hoopla and scare tactics
around breathing – but there is.

And unless you’re doing five minute breath retention
practices near toxic waste dumps, I don’t think you
should pay any attention.

Here’s why:

I know hundreds of teachers and thousands of students,
and it didn’t take me long to figure out that those freaky
stories were totally bogus.

Scuba divers get into trouble with breathing – not yoga
students. Drug addicts free-basing cocaine get brain
damage – NOT someone doing “unsupervised” breathing
at home.

I mean really, what’s next? Do we need someone to teach
us how to chew our food too?

Yoga is powerful, and breathing can be even more so,
but come on! Brain damage? Let’s not get carried away.
If someone is stupid enough to do breathing exercises
that are so extreme that they’re dangerous, you gotta
think that maybe the brain damage was already there;)

Enough yoga lore… I want to talk about the Vagus

The Vagus Nerve stretches from your brain stem all
the way down to your abdomen and is involved in
heart rate, gastrointestinal peristalsis (poo), and

Here’s the interesting part:

Deep breathing stimulates the Vagus Nerve which
“turns on” the parasympathetic nervous systems to
slow your heart rate, relieve stress, and heal your

This is why your significant other tells you to “breathe
deeply” when you’re freaking out (me? never!). And
this is why someone hyperventilating is given a brown
bag… to force those deep, slow breaths. The Vagus Nerve
gets stimulated, the body got into “rest and digest”
mode, and life is chilled out again.

There are hundreds of pranayama exercises available,
and they’re fun and challenging to learn, but most people
really struggle with the patterns and counts.

So if you’ve got a breathing practice, great. If you don’t,
you can still get the same benefits just by doing simple
deep breathing at home… totally unsupervised.

Go nuts. Breathe!

Stay bendy,


p.s. With all breathing practices, trust your body, take
it easy, and use common sense (don’t hyper ventilate
yourself in a closet full of paint thinner, for example).
All for now…

80/20 Principle & Yoga Stretching

Dear Friend,

I’m going to teach you something that completely
changed my yoga practice and my life.

Here it is: “80% of yoga poses and stretches are
a complete waste of time!”

Here’s how it works: there is a principal called
the “80/20 rule” that basically says 80% of your
progress (in anything) comes from 20% of your

So 20% of your yoga poses and stretches will almost
always deliver 80% of your results…

… and the rest (meaning the majority) are really not
very productive at all. Sad, but true.

Most of us waste a lot of time practicing postures that
don’t do much, if anything, and this is why I spend more
time practicing on my own than I do in classes.

Here’s why this matters:

“If you dump the 80% of stretches that are only
generating 20% of your flexibility results (and focus
only on the 20%)… you’ll get bendy 16x faster.

I’m not going to get into the math here, but trust me,
the results are 16x faster!

When I first learned this, I’d been doing 50+ postures
per day for years, and figured my way MUST be the
right way.

I was dead wrong.

The 80/20 principal is a law of nature. If you practice
smart, you move ahead 16x faster. Practice wrong and
you’ll wallow around with a stiff, sluggish body for ages.

This is why I developed the Gravity Poses for flexibility
in my YOGABODY Handbook. These poses ALL fall into the
20% of postures that deliver 80% of the results (or more).

And here’s something even weirder. The 80/20 rule applies
to everything, not just yoga… but that’s more than I can go
into here… check out the book below.

Stay bendy,


p.s. Note from a YOGABODY student:

“Hello, I really want to thank you for this great stretching
, my boyfriend who never had done Bikram before could
enjoy this without any stiffness after…”
- Anne-Li, Bikram Yoga Student

Merideth’s Rawvioli with Pesto and Marinara

Raw Ravioli

As with all recipes, the first and most important ingredient is Love! Planning should include a trip through the pantry, a visit to the greenmarket (or your own garden, should you be so fortunate), and a stop at the grocer (preferably, a locally-owned health food store) for anything you don’t have on hand.

Meal preparation should not be another source of stress! Feel free to experiment with what’s available now. The pesto recipe is large enough to have leftovers; you can freeze pesto in a jar with olive oil poured in a thin layer on top and enjoy a taste of July when it’s cold out, or share it with friends and family.

I like to take a serving of the complete dish back to the greenmarket, and share the finished product with those who grew my food; without them, I couldn’t live in the city. I use all organic ingredients, but realize they’re not available to all. Do your best.

Pattypan squash and Himalayan (or Celtic) salt for the pasta. For the pesto: 2 oz. pine nuts, alkaline water (to soak the nuts), 1 large bunch basil, 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, ½ to ¾ c. extra virgin olive oil, 2 large cloves (or 3 if they’re smaller) fresh garlic (use more if it isn’t so fresh), 6-8 pitted calamata olives, Himalayan salt, 2 T. nutritional yeast (optional, omit if you have candida overgrowth).

For the marinara: ½ – ¾ c. sundried tomatoes, alkaline water (to soak tomatoes), large handful cherry tomatoes (or 1 roma), 1 small red pepper, 1 sprig basil (from the above bunch), 1 clove fresh garlic. 1T. extra virgin olive oil, Himalayan salt. For the filling: 1 c. hazelnuts, alkaline water (for soaking the nuts), 1 large red pepper, nutritional yeast OR some strong Rejuvelac, Himalayan salt. For the Rawmano cheese (optional), 2 T. hulled sesame seeds, 2 T. nutritional yeast, Himalayan salt, 1 T. pine nuts (not soaked).


The night before, soak (in separate containers) the pine nuts and sundried tomatoes in alkaline water. If using Rejuvelac, soak the hazelnuts in Rejuvelac; if not, use alkaline water. Slice the unpeeled pattypan squash very thin on a mandoline. Keep small slices (both ends of the squash) in matched pairs. Salt squash slices (composting the 1st end slice and the top of the squash) and massage.

This squash is quite tender, so the salt massage is not as vigorous as you’d use to prepare kale or even spinach. I place a salted slice in the palm of my hand and squeeze gently with the other palm on top. For all the center slices, I use the ball of my thumb to squeeze the squash, avoiding the center (where the seeds are) to keep the slices from shredding (this makes holes in the middle of the pasta).

It takes longer, but it’s worth the effort. Massage over a strainer in a bowl, then place all the squash in 1 or two stacks, and give the whole stack a firm squeeze. Drink the collected squash water. Wrap the slices in plastic and refrigerate (if the weather’s very hot, chill the soaking nuts).

To make the filling: Seed and cut up the pepper, add to VitaMix. Drain and rinse hazelnuts. Add 1 T. (or more, to taste) nutritional yeast and ½ t. (or more) salt. Add nuts, cover VitaMix, and blend to thick, creamy pink paste. If the VitaMix starts getting too warm (we want to blend it, not cook it), chill the container before finishing blending. Adjust seasoning to taste. Chill.

To make the pesto: Drain and rinse pine nuts. Remember to remove a sprig of basil from the bunch for the marinara. Peel garlic. Remove large stems from basil, and bottom of stems from parsley, compost stems. Place in VitaMix enough oil to cover bottom of container, basil, salt, olives, garlic, nutritional yeast, and parsley, in that order. Place cover on VitaMix, start at low speed, adding remainder of oil. Use the auger to push top ingredients in, adding oil if necessary, and change the speed if you need to. Taste for seasoning (I sometimes add a little New Mexico chile powder if the garlic is too mild) and texture. Remove to glass (or plastic) container with a little room at the top, smooth, and add a very thin layer of oil before refrigerating.

To make the marinara: Remove sundried tomatoes from soak water (do not discard), and add to VitaMix. Add seeded, cut pepper, garlic clove, cherry tomatoes (or cut up plum tomato), basil, oil, salt, and 1 T. tomato soak water. Cover VitaMix, and blend, starting at low speed, increasing speed for a smooth consistency. If too thick, add more of the tomato water. When smooth, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Chill.

To make the Rawmano cheese: Use a clean spice mill (coffee grinder). Grind sesame seeds, salt, and nutritional yeast (omit yeast if you can’t eat it) for 15-20 seconds, pulsing switch. Add pine nuts and grind 3 seconds at a time. Be careful; you’re not making nut butter! Remove to container and refrigerate.

Assembly: Pair up the small slices of squash pasta. Place about ½ t. filling on half the slices, top each with another slice, press to seal. With all the larger slices, place ¾ to 2 t. filling on each slice (use more if it’s a big squash, less if it’s small), fold over, and run a finger along the edge to seal. Arrange artfully on serving plates (I like to make flower shapes or sunbursts). You can apply the sauces with squeeze bottles, pastry bags, or plastic zipper bags with a tiny corner cut out (stripes, squiggles, dots, or anything you like), or simply spoon a little of each sauce on top. Immediately before serving, top with Rawmano cheese.

Enjoy this party dish in great company (it may win over your stubborn relatives or vegetable-averse friends)!

Love, health, and peace,

Merideth (YOGABODY friend in NYC)

p.s. If you’ve got a great vegan recipe you’d like to share, please email