“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.

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@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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