Summer has already shown to be a hot one throughout the country. A few weeks ago it felt like 105 degrees in Manhattan. As I cruised down I-95 last weekend here in South Florida it was “95 on 95”. It is tough to get a good workout outdoors in the summer, so my wife suggested I try Bikram Yoga as a way to escape the heat… funny Alicia, you got me.
I have never been to a yoga class before; for the sole reason that flexibility is not something I was blessed with. In fact, cursed would more adequately describe my ability to touch my extremities. Fact is I have never been to an organized class of any kind before and have always been very comfortable pushing myself to my limits.
So, on a beautiful sunny morning, one month ago I attended my first practice & committed to the 30 Day Challenge. Those of you that follow my blog know that I often challenge people to make a change. Replace a bad habit with a good habit. So in an effort to combat hypocrisy, I put my name on the board.
The first practice is intimidating. The heat upon entering the studio is initially overwhelming and it is hard to visualize the next 90 minutes being pleasant. I picked a spot in the corner and laid quietly on my mat, contemplating my predicament. Fortunately, Hot Yoga Downtown is a new studio and there were others with a similar interest in the location of the exits… strategizing.
The Yoga class is a sequence of 26 asanas (poses) and 2 breathing exercises selected and developed from Hatha Yoga. They never change and a practitioner can spend a lifetime attempting to master them.
We start with breathing exercise, easy enough right? Amazingly, most of us never give much thought to the 86,000 breaths we take a day. We tend to breathe shallow and from the chest. The Yoga class starts and ends with breathing and throughout you inhale, exhale through your nose. As your pulse increases the natural tendency is to gasp with mouth wide open. By breathing deep and inhaling long you calm yourself down. This breath control is very important and deeply rooted in overall health. A number of diseases cannot exist in a well oxidized body, including cancer. As an athlete the ability to slow down your heart rate is very advantageous.
The first 50 minutes are standing and consist of a number of very deep stretches focusing on your core. Spine curves forward, back and side to side. I have always ignored my torso and the benefits of a strong foundation were instantly apparent. Within 30 days I no longer find bending down a task. Gone are the groans that typically accompany grabbing the dog dish or getting out of bed. Also gone are the creaks and pops usually reverberating throughout my body. I am literally opening up the joints and allowing synovial fluid to penetrate… kind of like oiling a rusty bike chain one link at a time.
Throughout Standing poses fainting & nausea are a reminder that it is really, really hot. Our studio promises 105 degree heat at 40% humidity. The owners of Hot Yoga Downtown, Meredith & Frankie promise they add oxygen to the mix… I can only imagine a room full of yogi’s passed out without it.
The majority of Standing poses are a lot of fun. Balancing on one foot and moving your pounds around is a true test of “bull-dog” determination. It also give you the opportunity to gaze at your physical appearance in the mirror in these stances. Self-Evaluation is a big part of being healthy and a little vanity can go a long way towards motivation. I dig my shoulders in the mirror but could do without the stomach pooch; a reminder of the work that needs to be done.
Finally, the class moves to the mats for another 40 minutes on the ground. As relaxing as lying down might seem, it is not. The floor series again works on core strength and flexibility. It is on your back where you are introduced to your new friend, Savasana pose which means corpse pose… aptly named in my opinion. The balance between exertion and relaxation is apparent in Savasana and reinforces the entire practice of Yoga. It is an all-encompassing discipline; providing the yogi with a Ying & Yang sensation.
The final Savasana is when the exhilaration and natural high occur. Like a long flight the transition is forgotten and the destination is reveled. As the body begins to cool and the heart rate slows the endorphins start to do their thing; releasing the high that generally is reserved after long endurance events like marathon running. At my studio a cold towel is placed on your wrist with a hint of lavender; now I am really relaxed… I never thought a 200 pound man could be so seduced by the smell of a towel.
Another lasting impression is the very real social aspect that an organized class provides. With the advent of social media it is becoming a rare event when actual human to human contact occurs. There is a connection, an energy that is shared when humans share in a common endeaveour, especially if some suffering is involved. The smiles shared at the Yoga class are sincere; that only comes from like-minded individuals pursuing a singular goal.
My 30 Day Challenge is complete today.
I honestly feel that Bikram Yoga will serve as a corner piece in my overall quest for health. It is fundamentally sound in all respects. It provides a very well thought out succession of exercises that develop both states of being; physical & mental. Simply put, it makes me feel good. It is a discipline, and a little discipline is a good thing. It is not easy and during the 90 minutes self-doubt is rampant… but it always leaves me wanting a little more…
Thank you Meredith, Frankie, Jodi & Dave for the introduction to a new life experience.
Hot Yoga Downtown, Palm Beach Gardens Florida http://hotyogadowntownfl.com/
Ian & Alicia Welch
Plant Based Solutions