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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