“Help, I’m a yoga teacher, and I can’t bend forward!”

pain Last April, I hurt my back. I had been spending hours and hours each week driving around Ohio teaching and my back started to hurt a little bit. So, I got some bodywork done by someone I didn’t know that well (and who didn’t understand my body that well) and went to class right after. During separate leg head to knee, I heard and felt something go “pop” in my back and then I couldn’t move. For the rest of class I just had to lie on the floor…hurting and scared.

I felt like the Def Leppard drummer who lost his arm (hopefully some of you are old enough to get that reference!). I really thought I wouldn’t be able to do yoga anymore. Maybe I wouldn’t even be able to teach yoga anymore…and I was days away from going to Norway to teach for a month!

I went back to yoga the next day. I won’t lie; it was so hard to go back in the room. I was in a lot of pain, I was upset and I was angry. For about three months, I could barely bend forward. Some days I would just sit on the floor during class and cry. I kept teaching (and made it to Norway), but I felt like I wasn’t doing a good job. I used to love demonstrating standing head to knee pose – but I could barely lift my foot off the floor!

After many months of struggle and trying everything on my own (no yoga, lots of yoga, Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, heat, ice, rest, etc.), I knew I had to find some help. I was really hesitant to trust anyone with my spine again. But, I did some research, and was able to find someone who understood my spine, and what I needed my body to be able to do. She diagnosed a problem with my sacro-iliac joint (the joint that connects your spine into your pelvis) and together we worked out a program of adjustments, massage and physical therapy to get it back in shape.

During this time, I had to modify a lot of my postures. I turned to one of my yoga mentors, Michele Pernetta, who has a great video on back pain in yoga (and one on knee pain if you are interested). It was incredibly frustrating to modify postures, particularly the ones I had already worked so hard for so many years to master. But, with every month, I was able to do more and more, and now, over a year later, its pretty much back to normal!

As Emmy says, “pain is a priceless gift”. I didn’t want to get an injury; I certainly didn’t want to be in pain for over a year. But, my injury taught me some amazing lessons. I am more patient with my practice and with myself. I pay more attention to my breath and alignment in postures (rather than worrying about how they look to others). And most importantly, I have a personal understanding of pain and injury - so I can help my students work through the same.

Remember, if you have an injury, always talk to a medical professional. Know that the staff at Bikram Yoga Cincinnati will work with you and support you however we can. Injuries happen to the best of us, but know that with patience and time, you can and you will get through it!

Love & light,
M

Confessions of an Imperfect Yogi

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The Real Me

You might think “Confessions of an Imperfect Yogi” is a strange title for a blog, especially for a yoga teacher and now studio owner (!), but it feels right to me.  I don’t know if there is such a thing as a perfect yogi, but I am quite sure I am not it.   I do love my yoga practice, but sometimes (OK, lots of times) I still have to drag myself to class. I try to eat healthy, but there are days when I am running on a steady diet of caffeine and sugar. I talk about not letting anything steal your peace, but I start cursing like a sailor when I get stuck in traffic…the list goes on and on.

The thing I struggle with the most is the idea that I am a yoga teacher, so I SHOULD be healthier, skinner, more patient, more kind; I SHOULD be able to do impossible yoga poses, and look good doing them; I SHOULD only eat organic, raw, sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, etc. etc… In other words, I SHOULD be “perfect”.

A few months back, Josie posted a Ted Talk video of Brene Brown, a researcher on vulnerability, courage and worthiness.  It was such a great video, that I ran out and got her book “Daring Greatly”.  In it, she has a lot to say about how perfectionism, instead of helping us, actually stands in the way of joy, success and “wholeheartedness”:

“Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving for excellence.  Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth.  Perfectionism is a defensive move.  It’s the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment and shame.  Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen.”

So, in an effort to be more “seen,” I wanted to share this video with all of you.

This is me, competing at the 2013 Georgia Regional Yoga Competition.   The thing about this video is that I’ve never shared it before….never posted it on Facebook, never sent the link to my friends, nothing.  Why?  Because I didn’t think it was “perfect” enough to even consider sharing. When I watched this video the first time, almost all my thoughts were negative… my leg is too high in Standing Head to Knee…I almost fall out of Standing Bow Pulling…the headstand is not perfectly symmetrical….holy cow I look terrible in a leotard…and so on.


But, what I am trying to focus on now is the fact that I came in second place that day, the crowd goes wild at the end, and I should be so proud that I got up on a terrifying stage in an even more terrifying outfit and did the best I could with what I had that day, in that moment.  And it was pretty awesome.


So, with all that in mind, I have adopted a new mission statement.  One that I can turn to when all those “SHOULDs” get in my way, and one that I can hopefully instill for our yoga studio and yoga community. 

Here it is:

You don’t have to be perfect.

Be who you are.

Try your best.

Do what you can.

Love what you’ve got.

 

Can’t wait to see you all at the studio.

M

 

Hectic lives, busy schedules are why you need this

By Byron McCauley

I am a member of the sandwich generation.breathe-196x300


We are the more than 47 percent of Americans born to Baby Boomers. Most of us have been in the work force for more than 20 years, running small businesses and trying to make it in an ever changing world. I would submit that we are among the busiest generation ever. Why? Because we are juggling the aforementioned duties while raising kids and in some way caring for aging loved ones.


This can take its toll on anyone, but when you reach the age where aches and pains become more plentiful, when your brain sometimes defies you, and when your health indices may be getting worse, it becomes more important than ever to take care of your health.


Sixteen months ago, Bikram yoga became that place for me, quite by accident, when a friend asked me to try it out. One hundred and ten degrees for 90 minutes (are you kidding me?). All of us have our stories about how we came here. We were invited, we read about the health benefits. We saw the positive changes in a friend or family member and wanted to drink from that fountain, too.


For years, the treadmill was my friend in the winter, and I would lace up my Asics and hit the streets when it was warm. In Bikram, I found both – a wonderful aerobic workout and a challenging strength-building exercise at the same time.


Juggling the responsibilities of having a sick parent, three children and starting a new business, the 90 minutes I get to spend in the hot room becomes a saving grace, no matter what is going on during a particular day.  It truly does change the way you approach everyday life.


I would like to share four reasons why Bikram Yoga makes sense :

1.       Pranayama, or deep breathing, can help you feel grounded no matter what is going on. Sometimes when work is really stressful and I feel myself losing my composure, I take a moment to breathe deeply just as we do at the beginning of every class. These cleansing breaths clear my mind and help me better deal with the task at hand.

2.       Arthritis, high blood pressure and knee pain be damned. I came into Bikram nursing residual pain from sports injuries and probably the effects of simply growing older. The beauty of Bikram is that the 26 postures work every part of the body. For me, this translated into my knees growing stronger and, eventually, becoming pain free. The same can be said for the chronic pain in my shoulder, which disappeared after four months.

3.       Weight loss and body shaping. I have written before that weight loss is not the reason anyone should practice Bikram, but certainly it can be a nice unintended consequence. I coupled the practice with more healthy eating habits and saw strong results.

4.        The power of collective suffering, ahem satisfaction. Bikram Choudhury likes to call the hot room the torture chamber, and for good reason. It takes a strong will to fully participate in class and get the maximum benefits from each posture. Some days are more difficult than others – even more than a year into the practice. But every time we end class, the camaraderie we all share for having completed another class is hard to match. And it’s always cool to hear the stories of how my fellow yogis have improved their health with their practice.


To be sure, the sandwich generation has perhaps more to deal with than any before it. But, there is no reason we can’t be the healthiest moving forward.

@byronmccauley
@cincibikram

5 ways to maintain a healthy Bikram practice as you transition

ViaPinterest-300x200By Byron McCauley

Spring has finally sprung with its warm, itchy, leafy welcome.

It is a season of new beginnings and endings, especially for those who are leaving high school and preparing for college and for those leaving college and venturing out into the work force for the first time.


If you belong to one of these groups or know someone who belongs to one of these groups, this Cincinnati Bikram Yoga blog is for you. Why? Because as you transition, it may become more difficult to maintain your Bikram practice. But, do it you must. And, we can help.


Here are five ways to maintain a healthy Bikram Yoga practice during your transition.

  1. Keep your routines as close to normal as possible. Many of you have had a schedule all year, which included a set time dedicated to Bikram. Now you’re looking for a job or planning the next phase of your education career. The best thing you can do for yourself is set the intention to attend class no matter where you are. You may have to change from evening classes to early-morning classes, but the more you plan the better off you will be.
  2. Keep a yoga journal to remind you of your progress. You can track what poses give you the most difficulty, celebrate triumphs, note your moods before and after, or just use your journal as a benchmark.
  3. Find a Bikram buddy. Cincinnati Bikram Yoga can help you find a great studio near where you live if you’re leaving town and help you link up with a community of like-minded people. And we will welcome you back home each time you return. And if you are moving to the area find a friend to motivate you and join our community. Finally, if you are staying in town, get in here.
  4. Call your mother, and drink plenty of fluids. So, calling Mom part may or may not help you (unless she reminds you to go to Bikram), but keeping hydrated during the coming hot months is a key to having a great class once you’re here. This blog post from August offers some great tips for maintaining hydration, including explaining why coconut water ranks up there with traditional sports drinks.
  5. Finally, don’t let the stress of a new job or being a college freshman detract you for your health and wellness goals. This may sound similar to No. 1, but this is pretty important. As I wrote back in the fall, Bikram Yoga is really designed to promote whole body wellness. I confessed that I now use it as my sole fitness regimen. It might be the only time you get to dedicate 90 minutes totally to yourself, so why not rest in that reward?

Namaste.

Twitter:

@CinciBikram

@byronmccauley

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Eating and drinking well before class can make a huge difference

By Byron McCauley

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The Avo Smash is is a fan favorite at
Manhattan’s BlueStone Lane Coffee.

For energy to power through 90 minutes in the Hot Room, we all know that we need to make sure our bodies are ready for class. When we are not ready, we may find  ourselves wanting to run out of class before it’s over.

Food and hydration are two keys to success.

I selected the humble avocado, or “alligator pear” as it is sometimes known, because it is that rare fruit that is creamy and delicious. It also contains more potassium than a banana, and a surprising 4 grams of protein. You can eat it right out of its skin, blend it in a smoothie or pair it with turkey in your sandwich. Any way you slice it, it is one of the foods that can really give you that extra boost of energy if (or when) you hit the wall.

What’s more, all that potassium is our friend — especially when we practice. We are using literally every muscle in our body. This key mineral that helps the body maintain fluid levels, regulates the transfer of nutrients into cells, and helps us manage muscle energy exertion.

Sure, the beautiful banana is the fruit that gets all the attention when it comes to potassium, but the homely avocado is a beast with 1,166 mg vs. 805 for the banana.

Personally, I try not to eat within two hours of class, as I have been  instructed, but I have found that the right amount of nutrient intake can mean the difference between a difficult class and a less difficult class. (Note, I did not say “easy.”)

While eating is super important, let’s not overlook hydration, especially during the cold-weather season. In summer, it’s a given that we will drink more because of the obvious fluid we lose, but when it’s cold, it can seem less important. It’s not.

Our teachers say we should drink at least 2 to 3 liters of water throughout the day to guard against dehydration and then replenish what we lose in class (1 to 3 pounds). That way, during class, we can take small sips during breaks and between postures as needed.

Stay well!

Next blog: Power recipes for Bikram yogis

@byronmccauley on Twitter 


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Postures in floor series can hold many positive medicinal effects

By Byron McCauley

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Dead Body Pose begins the process
of learning how to relax.

Truth is, no single posture in Bikram Yoga takes precedence over another. Bikram Choudhury developed the practice to work in unison – all 26 poses – so that those who practice it can gain optimum health benefits. However, as in many things we do every day, we tend to migrate to the things that are most comfortable. Right now I have fallen in love with the floor postures which represent the final 11 postures of the class.


After the standing series, I imagine the sound of my heart is like the sound of a freight train’s wheels rumbling over a railroad crossing — bah dump bumpbah dump bump … bah dump bump. The floor beckons to support the heaviness of my legs and arms that have been otherwise pummeled by Awkward Pose, Eagle Pose, and my personal tormentor – Standing Head to Knee.

Let me talk about all the health benefits of the floor poses for a moment. While standing poses really work on the muscles and joints, floor poses have a greater impact on what can ail you internally.

The rightly named Wind Removing Pose massages the colon and helps prevent constipation and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  

The Cobra improves the operation of the large and small intestines. The Half Tortoise Pose is one of my favorites because I used to suffer from lower back pain and shoulder pain. While it provides an awesome moment of relaxation, the pose is massaging our heart, increasing blood circulation to our lungs and is great for those who suffer from diabetes and anemia.

As cold and allergy season looms and the days grow longer and darker, Rabbit Pose may be a savior. It’s another favorite of mine because of the terrific back stretch, but it can also help with colds, sinus issues and depression.

The more I explore the health benefits of yoga, from strengthening the spine to helping with digestion to correcting to increasing blood flow to major organs, the more I want to know and the more I appreciate it. But the truth be told, I think the primary reason I look forward to the floor is because we get to take the much-needed “break” that Savasana (Dead Body Pose) promises.

Dead Body is the tie that binds all the floor postures in the hot room.

It is one of the most important parts of Bikram Yoga because this marks the beginning of how we learn how to relax. By the time Savasana happens, we should not be thinking about work, kids, the mortgage or what we are going to have for lunch or dinner. We should only be focused on our breath, though I sometimes I confess I’m counting how many animals I see in the clouds on the ceiling.

It took me a while before I could fully embrace the benefits of Savasana.  I’m a purpose-driven personality who is working on my ability to truly relax. So I had to learn to suppress those little voices in my head with their senseless distractions.

During the floor exercises, Savasana is interspersed throughout all the poses. So when Poorna Salabhasana (Full Locust Pose) sends my heart back to freight train mode, Savana rescues me. When Camel Pose makes me lightheaded, Savasana becomes my best friend.

Finally, the class ends with the longest expression of Savasana – our reward for dedicating 90 minutes to ourselves. That’s when our teachers encourage us to stay on the floor and let our bodies begin to regenerate after the rigor of Bikram Yoga. And that moment – the very end – is most welcome part of the class.

 

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Yoga, in truth, can suffice as sole fitness regimen

By Byron McCauley

Bikram Choudhury introduced Bikram Yoga to the West decades ago as a total health and wellness practice.
Bikram Choudhury introduced Bikram Yoga to the West decades ago as a total health and wellness practice

Madonna has been a fashion and music trendsetter for more three decades, so when she announced her fitness regimen consisted of only yoga, it was a pretty big deal.  Previously, she had intense dance training for two hours a session. In an environment where personal training, running, Pilates, weight-training and dozens of other exercise regimens proliferate, to me yoga seemed like the 99-pound weakling of the bunch.

My sports were football and basketball, which required lots of weightlifting, cardio, and some stretching. I’ve done two-a-day football practices in 95-degree heat, and I’ve run dozens of road races, including three half-marathons. I have hiked steep terrain. My sports choices were “tough and challenging” and only served to reinforce my prejudice against yoga.


The first yoga experience I had was in front of my TV with a videocassette tape featuring the great Rodney Yee out of San Francisco. It was then that I learned how wrong I was. The poses were hard and I sweated like a race horse. Years later, my friend, Alex, would introduce me to the Cincinnati Bikram Studio. If I wasn’t a believer before, I am a believer now.

Yoga is not a weakling.

My first day in the hot room was in November 2013. I managed to stay in the room for the full 90 minutes, but just barely. The 26 poses were foreign to me, and they were brutal. Since then, I have become accustomed to the rigors of Bikram. After every class, I feel like I have run a 10-K race, yet the work out experienced in the Bikram Yoga studio is probably more intense.

Clinically, Bikram Yoga was designed to impact every part of the body and the internal organs. That is precisely why Founder Bikram Choudhury developed the 26 poses. According to Choudhury, “Bikram yoga works 100 percent of the entire body from the inside out. The series of stretches and compressions exercise your muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, organs, nerves and glands. Upon release of a posture, fresh oxygenated blood travels through and rejuvenates the vessels and tissues that were being compressed.”


A classmate, whose occupation required tremendous physical discipline and years of practice, told me that Bikram Yoga is the hardest thing she has ever done in her life. There was a time such a statement would have sounded as preposterous as Madonna proclaiming yoga as her sole form of exercise.


Instead, I agree wholeheartedly. I think it’s important for yogis to supplement their practice with any other physical activity they choose; in fact, Bikram has helped me shave 90 seconds off my mile run pace. But from a pure fitness standpoint, if I had to choose just one method of physical fitness, it would be Bikram Yoga, hands down.

And I’m no weakling.


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With Dog Days upon us, don’t forget to hydrate before class

By Byron McCauley

If you are like me, you’ve stumbled 3757086136_b50864e8da-300x199into Bikram Yoga class after a busy day at the office with your water, mat and towel in hand ready for 90 minutes of bliss. Then, around the time to shift to floor exercises you hit the wall. Your mind is writing a big, fat check that your body can’t cash. You may feel lightheaded, hotter than usual and maybe even a bit disoriented. The culprit can be a lack of hydration. At least, that’s usually my problem.


As we move into the final leg of the dog days of summer — the hottest and most humid days of the season – it’s important to drink plenty of water before coming to class. With high temperatures and humidity that makes the air feel as heavy as pea soup, the hot room seems to feel even hotter. And, dehydration can occur more frequently. Scientists tell us that dehydration happens when a person has lost 2 percent of his or her body weight in fluid.

You might have had refreshing glasses of iced tea or coffee or other sugary drinks during the day thinking you are OK. However, caffeinated and sugary drinks do little for you when it comes to hydration. In fact, sugary drinks take longer for the body to absorb, which makes the body work harder.

In a Bikram Yoga Class, we can lose 1 to 3 pounds of fluids. As a general rule, we should be drinking at least a quart of water about two hours before class and replacing those fluids after class to prevent dehydration.


While water remains the No. 1 means of hydration, sports drinks like Powerade and Gatorade have proven to be effective in helping to replenish fluids lost during strenuous exercise. Coconut water contains naturally occurring electrolytes, is high in potassium, and you can find it on sale in the studio fridge. You can also dissolve a pack of Ultima Replenisher into your water to replace electrolytes. You can find them for sale in the corner of the studio as well.

Summer heat zaps more of our energy than any other time of the year – even before we come into the hot room. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you get the hydration you need, so you can have the best experience possible for your 90 minute yoga practice.

 

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Relaxing Outside the Hot Room

163707126_5a45ee6dc4_z-210x300Sometimes there is nothing better than finishing a stressful day inside a Bikram hot room. Taking ninety minutes to check out and tune in to your instructor’s voice can be just the thing to disconnect and relax. But there are so many minutes of the day when we can’t be in the hot room! What then?

We spend a lot of our time hunched over a desk, staring at a screen, or talking on a phone. We are sitting, maybe not eating right and all the while worrying about big and little things that make up being a member of society. It can all add up to a stressed out, tensed up and nervy individual. So when you can’t be in the room where our worries dissolve into a puddle of sweat, rest assured that there’s plenty you can do.

Greatist.com has published a fantastic article with “40 Ways to Relax in 5 Minutes or Less,” but let me give you a few right here so you can start right away! Once you find your zen, head over and read the full article.

Smell Some Flowers: Stop and smell ’em. Certain odors can really change our mood, and it’s hard to feel angry or upset with a nose full of roses. Keep a fresh jar of your favorite flowers near your workspace. [Maybe even a tiny bouquet, like the one pictured at the beginning!]

Sip Green Tea: Instead of turning purple with rage, get green with a cup of herbal tea. Green tea is a source of L-Theanine, a chemical that helps relieve anger. Boil the water, pour it out, and take a soothing sip — there’s probably still a minute to spare.

Try Progressive Relaxation: Anxious? Just squeeze, release, and repeat. Progressive relaxation involves tensing the muscles in one body part at a time to achieve a state of calm. The method (also used by actors) is a great way to help fall asleep.

Rub Your Feet Over a Golf Ball: Leave the clubs at home and just bring the ball. You can get an impromptu relaxing foot massage by rubbing your feet back and forth over a golf ball.

Find the Sun: Here comes the sun — and some stress relief. If it’s a sunny day, head outside for an easy way to lift your spirits. Bright light can be an effective treatment for people who suffer from depression, and can even cheer up otherwise healthy folks.

Stretch: Standing up for a quick stretch can relieve muscle tension and help us relax during a stressful workday. Why not try a shoulder roll-out or a chest-opening stretch right from the desk chair?

There are plenty more suggestions in the full article but this should get you started. Try some of these to get through your day and then head straight over to the studio for ninety minutes of concentrated “YOU” time in the hot room!

 

Posted by Liz Alfano


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Hot Room Etiquette

Observing_Etiquette-300x181Bikram yoga is quite different from any other yoga practice out there. It certainly doesn’t take more than about 4 postures in your first class to realize that! For the yogi coming in and expecting a lulling experience, or the first timer who expects a tai chi class…things can get pretty scary pretty quickly. And the sad news is that one person’s bad day can easily turn into five people’s bad day in a hot room. Here’s how to avoid creating a bad day.

 

  1. Remember to arrive on time and wipe your feet before entering the room. It’s hot, and we’re all going to be sweating buckets, so a clean body and clean feet are essential! While everyone wants you to wear an effective deodorant, perfume and cologne are too much stimulus in a hot room.
  2. Follow the instructions! Your practice will be guided for you by a highly trained yogi. There’s no need to work ahead or anticipate any posture. Listen carefully, even during your 500th class, to what the instructor is saying so the group can move together.
  3. Remember that what you see yourself doing in the mirror, your classmates may see you doing. When you are moving in “out of posture” ways, it creates a visual disturbance for your fellow yogis, some of whom may be channeling their most fierce determination in a pose. Of course we all fall out of postures and lose balance or strength, and those movements are unavoidable.
  4. Wiping sweat…this is such a difficult one. Because while I aspire to perspire with grace and ease, I just can’t concentrate when my nose is filling with sweat during Standing Head to Knee. It’s beyond my current capability! What I try to do, however, is wipe that sweat just before savasana or during everyone else’s sit-up. Which takes us to number:
  5. Water breaks. After the first “party time” you’re on your own. And just like the sweat wiping, the water drinking should be done outside of postures.
  6. Leave the room quietly. All of us sometimes have other commitments which prevent us from taking a long final savasana, however there are always people in the room who do want to remain in the stillness. When you’re leaving, remember that the flopping sound of your mat is heard by everyone, so do try to be as quiet as possible.

Bikram yoga really is a moving meditation. It’s as physically challenging as anything else you’ll ever do and it’s as quieting as any peaceful meditation. The energy and stillness that you bring to the room is shared with others so always try to offer the most open, most positive and most peaceful energy that you can. Your stillness and strength may very well be the boost that a neighbor needs for their own practice. And if all else fails, and you’re stuck in class that just feels off, take advantage of the moment to work on your own ability to let it all go and settle into a peacefully disconnected meditation that’s just for you.

Posted by Liz Alfano

 

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