February 22, 2012

30 Days of Bikram Hot Yoga

When a new hot yoga studio opened in Billings, and I found out about it, I had to give it a try. I am not one to try something half way: if I am going to try, I am going to give 100 percent. I decided that I would try 30 days of 30 classes, but that meant that I needed to find 30 days with as few trips as possible, so that I could actually make it to a 90-minute class each day.

Most of you know that over the past few years I have begun to eat much healthier than the average American; I make my own juice for one or two meals each day, I typically have gluten at only one or two meals each week (one of them is always PIZZA), and I stick to organic foods as much as possible. Most of you also know that I am a pretty active person.

In March of 2010, I weighed just over 180lbs, but that is old news. I cut my weight down to 155lbs by eating right and riding plenty of miles on my bike, but I always fall short of my healthy ideals when I visit "home," Chicago, for Christmas. I returned to Montana around 160lbs with a resting heart rate into the 60's and a 96-97% SpO2, not that great. After 30 days of Bikram Hot Yoga, I cut my weight down to 152lbs, my resting heart rate is back to 52 b/m and my SpO2 is back at 99-100%. Those results are great, but I did not do Bikram to get in shape. Actually, I spent much less time skiing, hiking and cycling while on my 30 day challenge, that I got more fit was a great side benefit.

I did keep up with my traditional yoga practice during the 30 day challenge, and I am glad that I did.

Bikram has a 90 minute class in a room of, at least, 105° and 40% humidity. I cheated a number of times and monitored the temperature myself and all of the readings came back between 108° and 113° -- THAT IS HOT FOR ME. The classes do not change, the narrative is the same each class and the same 26 postures are repeated with virtually no variation between classes. Below is the list of postures and breathing exercises, I have listed the posture as well as my own progression in the posture over the 30 days:
  • Pranayama Series ~ Standing Deep Breathing…I found deep breathing in the room was challenging at first, but after a few classes I was used to the heat and humidity.
  • Ardha-Chandrasana ~ Half Moon Pose…This is a pose that I have never been overly strong in, and I still won't claim to be good at it, but now I find it easy to breath in the posture.
  • Pada-Hastasana ~ Hands To Feet Pose…I can't touch my toes, but after about 10 classes I found that I could really work deep into this posture and I can lock my face to my legs :)
  • Utkatasana ~ Awkward Pose…Okay, I am a skier, so I work this pose often and because of that I had little issue with this posture at all, but my second part of the posture looks great now (or I think so ;)
  • Garurasana ~ Eagle Pose…I have a solid Eagle pose, on the right side, but the left side still hangs up a bit on the left. (only because I seem to lose my balance when tucking my left leg behind the right)
  • Dandayamana-Janushirasana ~ Standing Head to Knee Pose…Tightest hamstrings in the world, but I found my standing leg strength improved as did my balance and concentration during the 30 days.
  • Dandayamana-Dhanurasana ~ Standing Bow Pulling Pose…This pose can be slacked on, but I charge into it, and therefore find it hard to "charge" and balance, but I keep getting better.
  • Tuladandasana ~ Balancing Stick…This is a pose that, in my head, I thought would be much harder than it is. After a few days I found that I could balance well, stretch both ways and make my body a "T."
  • Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Paschimotthanasana ~ Standing Separate Leg Stretching Pose…Yet again, tightest hamstrings in the world, but around day 20, I could touch my toes, and each day I can get deeper into the posture.
  • Trikanasana ~ Triangle Pose…I thought I had a good Triangle pose, until I was forced to not use my mat, and with extremely sweaty feet. The first 10-15 days I struggled with Triangle, but with time I found that I could work hard enough to bring back a good pose, and Bikram says we should be able to to that on ice.
  • Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Janushirasana ~ Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee Pose…Yet again tightest hamstrings in the world, but every few days I noticed my knees being bent less and less.
  • Tadasana ~ Tree Pose…I have been told that I have a perfect tree pose, I don't believe it, but I do have a very nice tree pose and I don't think that my tree pose changed much during the 30 days.
  • Padangustasana ~ Toe Stand Pose…Like tree pose, my open hips allow me to find success in this pose relatively easily, if my balance is on :)
  • Savasana ~ Corpse Pose…I found that after about 15 days I was able to truly relax during this first Savasana as I was in good enough shape to not have a racing heart for the two minute break, but the first few days I was desperately in need of the rest :)
  • Pavanamuktasana ~ Wind Removing Pose…Like tree pose, my open hips allow me to find success in this pose relatively easily.
  • Bhujangasana ~ Cobra Pose…For a man, my back is relatively loose, and I have always found Cobra pose to be easy.
  • Salabhasana ~ Locust Pose…Oh my elbows. Over the 30 days I found that I could get deep into Locust pose and that my elbows are starting to accept to pose.
  • Poorna-Salabhasana ~ Full Locust Pose…For a man my back is relatively flexible and strong, and I have always found Full Locust pose to be easy, but I found that I could get deeper into the pose than ever before.
  • Dhanurasana ~ Bow Pose…For a man my back is relatively flexible and strong, and I have always found Full Locust pose to be "easy," but I found that I could get deeper into the pose than ever before.
  • Supta-Vajrasana ~ Fixed Firm Pose…Guess what, after 25 days I found out that I can make it all the way back, but my knees are not completely together (yet).
  • Ardha-Kurmasana ~ Half Tortoise Pose…Another classic that I have found quite easy all along.
  • Ustrasana ~ Camel Pose…This is a pose that somedays your body loves, and others a flood of feelings overtakes you, and other than more stamina in the "hot room" I found little change.
  • Sasangasana ~ Rabbit Pose…This is a pose that I still feel I am doing wrong, even after asking about it in the posture clinic, but maybe it is just say for my body and I am trying to over think it.
  • Janushirasana ~ Head to Knee Pose…Yet again tightest hamstrings in the world, but every few days I noticed my knees being bent less and less.
  • Paschimotthanasana ~ Stretching Pose…Yet again tightest hamstrings in the world, but every few days I noticed my knees being bent less and less.
  • Ardha-Matsyendrasana ~ Spine Twisting Pose…This is a pose that I have noticed many do wrong, but I have been doing this pose for about 10 years, and find it incredibly powerful, thus I noticed little change in this pose over the 30 days.
  • Kapalbhati in Vajrasana ~ Blowing in Firm Pose…After 30 days, this is a breeze ;) (pun intended)
Bikram Yoga, like all other variations of Hatha Yoga that I have experienced, leaves you feeling more energized than when you began. When you add in that a typical person in a typical class will burn between 500-1000 calories it make for a great way to shed the pounds while you strengthen and detoxify your body.

If you are thinking about trying a 30 day juice fast, consider a thirty day Bikram challenge at the same time. If you are looking to loose weight, reduce stress, improve balance, improve stamina, improve mental clarity, improve focus, improve strength…the list really goes on and on...give Bikram Yoga a try.

What might be the best part of a 30 day challenge is that you, to be successful, must schedule and prioritize those 90 minutes each day to step on the mat. When you finish your thirty days I believe that you will have created two hours each day that you can make about you, your body and your health. I, being young and single, have few "responsibilities," so I might not "understand" the pressures of being a parent or spouse, but I do understand the need of our body to find time to care for itself, and I believe that making the time for yoga can make a huge impact on your life.

My future plans...I would love to be able to continue to practice Bikram Yoga regularly, but as I spend around 120 days each year away from home it is not possible to practice continually. It looks like I will do a few 30 day challenges each year, and continue my current traditional yoga practice with plenty of cycling, hiking and climbing mixed in. Maybe it is my frugality, but I can't see spending $130/month to only be able to attend class half of the days. (Most of you know that I am gone most of May, all of June, all of July, half of August, half of November, most of December, and a mixture of other "short" trips the other six months of the year)

Lastly I want to say on a big THANKS to Lea and Julie who are great people and ever encouraging instructors of Bikram Yoga. I suggest that anyone, regardless of age/shape/health, give Bikram Yoga a try at a studio near you; if you are in Billings go spend some time at Bikram Yoga Billings.


p.s. Remember you can hurt yourself practicing yoga...go at your own pace, listen to your body and leave your ego at the door.

p.p.s. For those that don't know me...I have a very bad case of tall straight white guy syndrome (TSWGS), so when I use words like "open," "easy," and "deeper" that is within the range of a normal guy who suffers from TSWGS.

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