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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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

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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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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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