Surviving Bikram yoga: Day 11

Yesterday was rough!  The studio was packed.  I’ve never seen so many people in there before.  As a result, it got super hot, super fast.  All of that body heat, plus the energy in the room made for an intense class!

My beloved Aimee was teaching last night and I practically wept with relief when she opened the door when we got to the floor series.  I’m starting to notice that the standing series is going by much more quickly for me.  Perhaps it is because I’m concentrating more on the postures, or maybe it’s because I’m learning how to shut off my mind in class and not think about how hot it is in the room.

I’m also starting to recognize and smile at some other yogis in the class now.  One thing I like about Aimee is that she makes a point to get each person’s name down before class.  This is good so I can learn people’s names too.  The last thing you want to do after class when you are sopping wet is try to corner someone to learn his or her name.

I’m also beginning to realize how my hair needs to be worn during class.  I’ve gone between a french braid, a ponytail braided, and a high messy bun.   The two braided options are not working for me.  Anytime I’ve got hair hanging, it finds a way to stick on my neck or my forehead.  It’s all about minimizing distractions.  So I’ll keep working on the high bun option. I can use a few little clippies during class and that helps to keep any strays tamed.

Last night, Aimee spent a lot of time talking about the locked knee concept in the postures.  In most of the dialogue, the instructor will say lock your knee.  Most people mistake that for pulling the knee back and locking it in a hyperextension. This is bad.  What it really means is that you want to pull your knee cap up and tighten your thigh.  Cori would love this for my PT.  It’s like all we worked on for a while last year.  This action has given me something to focus on in many of my standing leg postures.  I focus on my knee, pulling it up and look for the dimple above the joint.  If I start to loosen it and bend my knee, I refocus and tighten.  This is great for my neuromuscular issues.  Since I have really started focusing on this, I can tell a marked difference between my right and left leg.  My left leg, the gimpy one, gets weaker much faster and I notice that I break postures in the locked stance much more quickly.

Because the room was so hot yesterday, I really focused on my Dead Body posture, or Savasana.  This is the posture that you do at the end of most yoga classes where you lay on your back.  In Bikram, however, this is what you do after the standing postures and then in between each floor posture.  And of course, you do it at the end of class.

The pose is simple in theory.  You lay on your back with your legs out, heels touching, toes fall open to the sides.  Then, you have your arms by your sides with your palms up.  The first Savasana is two minutes long and this is where things are pretty serious.  You just worked your butt off in the standing postures and you flop down on the floor in gratitude.

This is also where things start to break down in the concentration department.  Most people fidget around, drink water, wipe sweat, itch, etc.  The idea is that you need to remain completely still.  Trying not to blink, letting sweat drip into your ears.  Resisting the urge to fix your hair.  It’s harder than it sounds.  Especially because you want to keep your eyes open and be present.  At the end of class, you can close your eyes, but this middle posture is really a concentration pose.

There is a reason for this pose in terms of your health and well-being.  When the body is still, the circulatory system is unobstructed and delivers oxygen, nutrients and white blood-cells to where it is needed. These materials are the building blocks of healing, which creates the therapeutic benefit of this pose. Specifically, this posture:
  • Returns cardiovascular circulation to normal
  • Slows heart rate, reduces blood pressure
  • Teaches complete relaxation
  • Stills and calms the mind
  • Allows the body to absorb the benefits of the standing series
  • Build the ability to access relaxation when necessary – in stressful situations, before bed, etc.

For someone who is always going a million miles an hour, this posture has proven to be very beneficial for me.

Surviving Bikram yoga: Day 10

I did it!  I’ve hit the recommended 10 days in the first month of practice.  In fact, I went back and counted and I did it in 14 days.  I’m really proud of myself.

Class was interesting last night.  It had been raining all day and as soon as I entered the studio, it was HOT.  Like humid hot.  I thought, oh jeez, Pong has gone off the deep end and put it up to 150 degrees and we are all going to boil.  I’m not even kidding!

There was a handful of new people, including a woman I recognized from my old studio.  She came in with full length yoga pants and I knew she was going to roast.

A few poses in, she leaves the room.  Why this only happens in Pong’s classes, I do not know!  So Pong goes out, has her come back in and just sit.  About 15 minutes later, the woman starts beating her chest with her hand and runs out again with Pong following her.  Thank goodness my beloved Aimee was in the room practicing, so she takes over while the woman is experiencing some sort of emergency for the rest of class.

This woman’s experience, along with others, reaffirms everything I’ve read about the importance of coming to class prepared.  You have to drink your 64 ounces of water before class and be doing that for several days before class if it’s your first time.  You have to stop eating three hours before class, but make sure that the last thing you eat is substantial and not fatty.  You have to wear clothing that is as skimpy as possible without sacrificing your own modesty levels.  You have to not be a hero because you are a superstar at the gym- sit down if things get intense.  These are the things I would pound into anyone who wants to try this out.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve done yoga before, hot or not.  Bikram is different.

After 10 classes, I can tell that my body is different.  The practice of Bikram makes it different.  As I’m going through class, I’m trying to become more aware of what is happening to my body, by my body, and in my body.  Since I have quasi-neuromuscular issues, this helps me to really make the connection in postures and get a deeper appreciation for what I’m being asked to do in class.

I hunted around and this is what I found Bikram yoga does for your body after you’ve been going for at least 10 classes:

  • Muscles are contracted and stretched at a cellular, biochemical level. Lipids and proteins reorganize optimally in such stretching, allowing for better circulation. Joint mobility and range of motion is increased, and strength is built by the use of gravity. Muscles and joints are balanced.  I’ve read that flexibility increases about 30% or more for most people.
  • Blood and calcium are brought to the bones. Working against gravity strengthens the bones. The organs of the immune system within the bones (red marrow) are boosted.
  • The lymph nodes are massaged, lymph is pumped throughout the body, and white blood cells are distributed throughout the body as the lymphatic system works more efficiently.
  • There is compression and extension to the thymus, spleen, appendix and intestines; lungs are stretched and flushed out by increased blood circulation. The endocrine glands are encouraged to secrete appropriate hormones, and the communication between hormones and various glands and systems of the body is perfected. Toxins and waste are eliminated through the organs of elimination.
  • The nerves are stimulated by compression and extension, improving communication within the systems of the body and supplying fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout. The brain is stimulated by improved circulation and by varying blood pressure.

I can’t believe I feel so great after two weeks.  Don’t get me wrong, I curse the day every time I get into certain postures because my legs are so weak but it’s a great mental challenge.

I ordered my headbands!  I chose the tie dye four pack, which was $14.  This is a great deal, since it also was with free shipping.  Normally, these things are $5 a piece in the store. I can’t wait to wear them!

Hbands-groovy-2

Surviving Bikram yoga: Day 9

I had an AMAZING class last night.  I’ve read that it takes about 10 classes to really get an appreciation for the postures in Bikram, plus the ability to get your body running like it’s supposed to internally.  That’s why they recommend newbies try to get 10 classes in during the first month of practice.  I’ll have mine in by today, so that’s a little over two weeks.  Not bad.

So what was so great about last night’s class?  I don’t know.  I just felt energized the entire time and was not ready for it to end.  Don’t get me wrong, I worked my butt off, but when it was time for the final pose I was a little sad.

There is a new visiting instructor at the studio and she taught for the first time last night.  Aimee, who is from Oregon, is energetic, a little hippyish, and a beautiful creature.  If the goddess Aphrodite was a brunette Bikram instructor, she would be Aimee.  Full of curves and softness, Aimee is powerful and feminine. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the strength of Pong and Becka’s slim bodies and they inspire me to be more athletic, but Aimee’s “got back”.    I couldn’t help but crush on her immediately.

Her dialogue was exactly what I’m used to, since it’s standard, but her cadence was a little different.  Sometimes that can make a difference in the energy in the room and I found that her pacing helped me to push a little further.

I really focused on my half moon pose, or Ardha-Chandrasana.  This is the second pose in the series after the initial breathing exercise.  I am terrible at this pose, but this is such an important posture.  It’s actually three postures, but the first and second really give me fits because my back is so inflexible.

02-HM

Well, it’s more like four postures in one because you have to your torso in literally, every direction it can go. Side to side, then back and front. The challenge with this pose is that when you go side to side, you have to push your hip out and really try to get a stretch, all the while keeping your shoulders straight and your arms up and tight.  When you go back, you have to push your hips forward, then drop your arms and head back.  Um, I can’t do that yet.  Then, when you go forward, you get your hands under your heels (attempting to get the elbows behind the legs) and then pull the head down.

Benefits of the side to side and back bends:

  • Firms and trims the waistline, hips, abdomen, buttocks, and thighs.
  • Improves and strengthens every muscle in the central part of the body, especially the abdomen.
  • Increases flexibility of the spine, corrects bad posture, promotes proper kidney function, and helps to cure enlargement of the liver and spleen, dyspepsia, and constipation.
  • Increases flexibility and strength of the rectus abdominis, latisimus dorsi, oblique, deltoid, and trapezius muscles.

Benefits of the forward folding pose:

  • Firms and trims the waistline, hips, abdomen, buttocks, and thighs.
  • Increases the flexibility of the spine as well as the glutes, hamstrings, calves.
  • Greatly improves blood circulation to the legs and brain, and strengthens the rectus abdominis, gluteus maximus, oblique, deltoid and trapezius muscles.

These are all pretty intense poses and a great way to get your spine limbered up for class.  It’s amazing how each person in the room has a different ability level with this posture.  I have a long way to go with it myself.  Part of the challenge I experience is that I’m trying so hard to push my body to stretch that I sometimes forget to keep breathing.

In other news, I found some of my yoga headbands online for a great price.  Time to place an order!

Surviving Bikram yoga: Days 7 and 8

I was so busy this weekend, I didn’t have time to post about days 7 and 8!

Thursday night was a struggle for all, but I felt really strong.  It wasn’t that the room was that hot, but it seemed difficult for me.  I had a little bit of a headache too.  I think it may be due to the fact that it was my second week of practice and my body wasn’t used to being strained so frequently.  I’m hoping that if I am hitting some sort of physiological wall, things will improve soon and my body will get on board.  I don’t feel like I’m overtraining.

I wasn’t able to go on Friday because I was in Richmond all day for a work engagement, so that was a bummer.  I felt, especially after driving over three hours in a tiny Chevy Spark, like my back was about to snap in half.  I wish they had late classes on Friday nights.  I could have used the heat!

Kevin was out of town Friday night, so I went to bed really early (like 9pm) and got up nice and early for the 8am class.  I was happy to be up at 7am the next morning and ready for the 8am class.  I like to get there 30 minutes early and the sun was coming in through the front studio windows.  It was very peaceful.  I always think I’m going to be alone and then a ton of people show up with five minutes to spare.  It was a busy class, great energy, and I felt very accomplished afterwards.  I have some new yoga shorts I got from Marshall’s and it makes such a difference not having a ton of wet fabric on your legs when you practice!  Pong was great that morning and gave us some good tips on alignment.  I like her a lot.

One pose I was really focusing on in these two classes was the Balancing Stick pose, or Tuladandasana.  This seems like an easy pose, but it’s not!

Tuladandasana

 

This is one of the most invigorating postures in Bikram yoga because it’s supposed to simulate a heart attack because you have your chest parallel to the floor.  It’s only held for 10 seconds.  The key with this pose is to stretch forward with your arms and at the same time, point your back toe and stretch your leg back to the back wall.  The entire time you have to keep your abs tight and your entire body horizontal.   It’s quite challenging and great for balance work!

Sunday was another step class at the gym.  I felt really tired but my legs were strong in class.  I rolled my ankle twice, which scared me. I really need to get new shoes.  I re-laced them tighter and that helped.

This week, I plan to up my practice by one day, so I’ll be going five days this week.

Surviving Bikram yoga: Day 6

I almost didn’t make it to yoga last night!  Traffic was crazy.  I made it in with about 5 minutes to spare.  As a result, I really didn’t get in my zone before class started.  I literally was panicking because I knew that if I missed it, I would only get in three days of practice this week and that was unacceptable.

In my rush to get in the studio, I put my hair in a low braid.  Bad idea.  I had hairs all over my face once I got sweaty.  I have to either pull it back and braid the ponytail, pull it in to a bun, or french braid it.  It’s amazing how something distracting like hair sticking on your face can interrupt your concentration.

Class went well last night!  It was hot again and it really felt like my legs were weak last night.  You have good and bad days on the mat- it must have been a bad day for me.  I could tell especially in the triangle pose because my feet were slipping all over, despite my efforts to squeeze my thighs really tight in the posture.  I also had issues in my one leg balancing postures.  I actually laid down in one of the floor poses because I felt so weak.  Who knows?

Last night, I really focused on working on my eagle pose, or Garurasana.  It looks like this:

eagle-pose

 

In this pose, the arms and legs wrap around each other like ropes.  You swing one arm under the other, then cross the elbows and wrists.  Then, you wrap your leg on the same side over the other and pull your foot behind your calf.  The idea is to squat down, but keep your back straight.  In the most ideal situation, your fingertips should be low on your face and your elbows pulled down.  I can get my hands about eye level and I don’t have any problems with my legs.

While this pose seems easy, it’s actually quite challenging because you are sort of leaning back, but you are drawing everything into the front into one line.  So you are pulling your knees to center and your arms to center.

Benefits of this posture:

  • Warms up all the major joints in the body – ankles, knees, hips, elbows, wrists and shoulders
  • Brings fresh blood to the reproductive organs and kidneys
  • Firms calves, thighs, hips, abdomen and upper arms
  • Strengthens the upper body – the latissimus dorsi, trapezius and deltoid muscles
  • Improves balance

According to Bikram, this is the only posture that opens up the 14 major joint systems in the body.  Because it is a compression posture, your body will welcome the blood flow when you un-pretzel yourself.  It’s supposed to feel a little awkward.

As a side note, this is the fourth posture in the 26 series.  After this posture is called “Party Time” in Bikram yoga because it’s the first time where you are allowed to wipe with a towel and drink water.  After that, you can do either at your leisure, but only in between postures and you have to be discreet about it.

 

 

Surviving Bikram yoga: Day 5

After two days of no yoga, I was READY to go back last night!  My back was so sore and I could feel the crunchies coming back in my shoulders.

When I arrived at the studio, the 5pm class was letting out.  Everyone was commenting on how the room felt especially hot and they looked like they really had a hard workout.  As I entered the room, I could feel it was hotter.  The owner mentioned beforehand that sometimes when it’s rainy outside, it will make the studio more humid and that makes it feel hotter.

It was a rather full room, but not packed.  There were some new people and Pong, the instructor, directed them to the back row so they could watch others in front for pose help.  I’m really working on the first breathing exercise this week.  It is a standing, deep breathing pose called Pranayama.  The first time I did it, I was thinking, what in the world is this all about?  I understood from the instructor that it was to invigorate you for class and stretch your lungs, but I was curious to find out more online.

It is difficult to find a good photo of pranayama breathing, since it’s a technique not a posture.  You can do it sitting I guess too.  In Bikram, it’s done standing.  I found this photo and it shows the two parts of the breathing technique…

bikram-pranayama-breathing-posture1

As you can see, it looks a little weird.  Basically, you start on the left breathing in and at the same time, you lift up your arms by your ears.  This is a surprisingly stressful activity on the shoulders and arms if you are weak in this area.  I can’t get my arms up with my elbows by my ears yet because I’m not that flexible in my upper back.  Then, you breathe out with a forceful AAAAAH open mouth sound, and push your head back with your hands clasped under the chin.  At the same time, you touch your elbows out in the front.

Then, you just repeat, breathing in, arms up, breathing out AAAAAH arms down and elbows together.  Head up and back to the front.  It makes people a little dizzy at first because they aren’t used to deep breathing.  It’s pretty challenging because you can’t arch your back or scrunch your shoulders up.

Here’s what I found for the benefits of the activity:

It is supposed to be good for the lungs and respiratory system (prevents shortness of breath, bronchitis etc.)
It helps lung reach their maximum expansion capacity
It increases circulation of oygenated blood throughout the body
It loosens frozen/tight shoulders
It relieves irritability and relaxes the mind

I can see that some people just go through the motions with this posture, but it’s actually very important to start your practice rested, oxygenated, and aware.  I know for me personally, I am a pretty shallow breather normally, so this activity has forced me to be conscious about taking deep breaths and expanding my belly.

In other news, it was a crazy night at the studio last night.  Like I mentioned before, the room felt a lot hotter.  About five poses in, people really started to struggle and some started to take breaks on the mat.  One woman, who was new in the back, really was not into it.  Pong kept encouraging people to lay down and not leave the room unless it is an emergency.  You really do have to suffer through a few classes before your body gets used to the heat.  The woman was pretty antsy, shifting around and sitting and pacing.  When Pong told her to try laying down again, she said I can’t lay down it makes it hotter!  So Pong reminded her that heat rises so it would be good for her to be as close to the floor as possible.  There was no winning with this woman.  She all of a sudden exclaims, you’re trapping me!  You’re trapping me in here!  And runs out.  Needless to say, I was shocked.  I’ve never seen an outburst like this in a yoga class before.  I’ve seen people quietly leave, never to return but this was loud!  Then, the woman’s friends all start in and they leave.  Soon enough, the room has turned into a mess of people hysterical about the heat.  I’ve never seen a room’s vibe go so crazy before.

It started to freak me out because it was hot!  I had to remind myself to center, acknowledge that it is hot, let it go, and calm down.  I literally had to slow my breathing, shut my eyes, and calm down.  What the heck, people!  Then Pong came back in, informed us that part of the discipline of hot yoga is learning to be uncomfortable and getting through the mental block of a hot room.  And, also it’s not a good idea to start a fast when you start hot yoga.  Duh.

Drama aside, the class moved on and I actually did end up sitting out of two postures back to back.  I really had lost my concentration with the outburst and it was hard to get back in the groove after that.

It will be good to be back on the mat tonight.  Hopefully, this time….drama free.

Recipe of the week: “I can eat that” bean-free chili

After my depressing post, I had quite a few people ask me if I really gained 4 pounds from the food I’m allergic to.  Yes, I can be dramatic, but this was no lie!  When I weighed myself this morning, I lost 3 pounds overnight.  Yep,  it’s official.  I have some serious food allergies.  I think it may be due to the fact that I started up the hot yoga in earnest recently.  It’s like my body is super sensitive to the good things and bad things I eat.

So after my meltdown with Mr. Hall, he promised to make me something I could eat for dinner this week and on days we are short on cooking time.  I love chili, but we usually make ours heavy on the beans.  I’ve read that people who have grain sensitivities often also have legume sensitivities, so I asked for a chili recipe without beans.  I found one online that seemed super tasty and different for both of our palates.

I’ve been trolling primal and paleo eating blogs, although I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m strictly going down that path.  I am getting some good recipe ideas from these blogs and that’s about it for now.  Like I mentioned before, I like to keep my options open.

This blog had a bunch of chili recipes that were all grain, dairy, and legume free.  At least I think they were from the ones I saw.  Anyway, there was one that caught my eye because it had bacon and sausage in it.  Instead of the ground beef and pork sausage, we opted for ground turkey and turkey sausage.  It was delicious!

Ingredients:
1 large carrot diced
1 green bell pepper chopped
1 yellow bell pepper chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 yellow onion finly chopped
1 cup mushrooms chopped
2 tomotoes diced
4 cloves garlic minced
4 celery stocks chopped
4 fresh jalapenos chopped finely
1 large can beef broth (we used an organic brand)
1 large can diced tomotoes
1 large crushed tomotoes
1 large can tomato paste
1 lb smoked sausage links (we used a spicy smoked turkey sausage)
2 lbs lean ground beef (we used ground turkey)
10 Thick cut slices of bacon
1 tbsp paprika
3 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp ground pepper
2 tsp cumin

Instructions: Chop carrot, bell peppers, mushrooms, jalapenos, celery, onion and add to crock pot. Mince garlic cloves and add to crock pot. Dice tomotoes and add to crock pot. Cut sausage into bite size slices and place in large skillet, heat on medium until skin has browned and add to crock pot. Place bacon in skillet and cook on medium until crispy. Remove bacon from skillet set aside on a paper towel. Drain most of bacon grease from skillet before adding ground beef. Add ground beef to skillet, cook on high until beef has browned. Add browned ground beef to crock pot (drain grease). Return to bacon and cut into small pieces and add to crock pot. Add beef broth, can of diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and spices to crock pot. Stir ingredients together. Turn crock pot on low and let sit for 6-8 hours.

chili overview (2)

As you can see, it has a ton of veggies in it but the meat products really make it like a stew.  It simmers down and becomes reduced in size and less chunky.  We have a big crock pot as you can see, but there was so much in this recipe, Mr. Hall actually ended up dividing it up into a smaller crockpot and this one.  We ate some immediately and put the rest into containers to freeze.

THE VERDICT:  delicious!  Heavy on the tomato flavor so we may add more spices next time.  Didn’t miss the beans at all.  Filling and flavorful.