What is the appropriate amount of time to wait after eating, before practicing asana or meditation? And after practicing, before eating?
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.
Do you have to be a vegetarian?
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!
Are there any specific ages that should not participate in yoga practice?
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.
Do women that are menstruating need to take any precautions?
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.
What's the scoop for pregnant women?
From a doctors point of view, I've heard everything from, "don't do yoga asana" to "do whatever you want to do as long as it feels right." Clearly a responsible doctor would not want to give permission to partake in something he or she does not understand, which probably would lead to the conservative instruction to not partake. In my experience, I've seen over 50 pregnant women in class and have seen at least 10 go through most or all of the full term of their pregnancy while practicing asana in my class at least 3 times per week with very good results. Of course, pregnancy poses certain vulnerabilities and conditions that need to be assessed and addressed. The abdominal region needs to be protected from stress, strain and compression. So, I would avoid all poses that have you lay on your stomach. Similarly, as you get bigger avoid forward bends that compress the stomach region. To avoid this compression as you get bigger, spread your legs more and more, creating room for the stomach. Also avoid stomach exercises that strain the stomach region. I have been asked about inversions, and find no problem or negative effects with them, although some may need to be modified to avoid compression, such as halasana (plough pose), as well as the added pressure on the head, neck and spine because of the extra weight you are carrying. If something does not feel right, don't second guess yourself . Skip it or modify it. The larger you get the more you will need to modify most all poses to fit your size, needs and energy levels. After intuition, your breathing is your greatest ally. Make sure your breathing is calm and even at all times. If your breath is strained or becomes erratic, it is a sure sign that you are becoming stressed, which usually always attacks your most vulnerable link. In this case that would be your abdominal region. I do want to make it clear, I am not a doctor or an expert. I am only sharing my opinions and my experience. Please hear me, but don't listen to me, listen to yourself as well as get as many opinions as you can from anybody you respect!! Good luck & congratulations if you are pregnant!!
Do yoga and weightlifting work well together?
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.
Is it necessary to add cardio exercise to my yoga practice?
The yoga routines provided, for example, by my videos are enough to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. However, you may feel on an individual basis that you would like more cardio exercise, in which case I encourage you to seek out additional, non- or low-impact exercise. Personally, I find it helpful to add regular walks to my practice, taking long walks with my dogs and getting outside for some fresh air.
Is the stress weights put on bones better for women with osteoporosis, than simply the body weight used in yoga asana?
I don't think there is sufficient research done on this subject. At least, not that I'm aware of. My opinion at this point is no! I don't see how our body weight would be less potent or efficient than the dead weight of steel.
How often should I practice and how long should each practice be?
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 over 24 years 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 and try to do what you need according to how you feel!
What if I'm not flexible?
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! Amen!