Have you tried Bikram Yoga?

Following is a guest post written by Kelsey Duke (my daughter) who is a Bikram yoga proponent.  Her experience makes me strongly consider going back to Bikram yoga!

I find myself in the hot room for the first time in over six months, after half a year of inconsistent workouts and trips to the gym. I recently started a new job that requires long hours, happy hours, and fancy dinners that drag on for hours. When I walk in, the heat hits me as soon as I walk in but my brain has been here before, instantly it seeks to shut off the panic mechanism, “you’re okay, this is what you need.”

I lay my mat down strategically in the middle of the room since I’m not new but I’m not entirely ready for this. When class begins with breathing exercises I notice that my breath has become more shallow, my stomach looser and my knees wobbly. “Oh no,” I think to myself. Then “just breathe, you made it to class just do what you can,” a mantra echoed by the yoga teacher.


Then an amazing thing happens, muscle memory. My postures come back, with more balance than before and almost the same depth. My mind is already trained to focus on breathing, listen to the teacher’s constant stream of instruction, and focus my attention and thus all my energy on myself.

When I started this class I thought it would be a good supplement to my workouts, a nice stretch, another way to burn calories. But as I leave with my wet towel and heavy mat, I’m reminded why I need to practice Bikram Yoga more. My mind is clear, my face is radiant, my energy is new and positive thoughts come easily.

For the first time in months my entire being is calm. The worrisome cycle of thoughts, the restless legs, the rash decisions are gone, replaced with a natural, easy peace. “This is why I love it,” I think to myself, “this is how I come to know peace.”

A Bikram Start to the Day

This morning I was both excited and apprehensive about going to a Bikram yoga class.  While I’ve been practicing yoga fairly regularly, I haven’t been to a Bikram class in a long time.  I practiced Bikram yoga for 3 months in early 2011 and I found it very hard; and so needless to say, I was a little nervous!

But, it was great!  I really enjoyed it.  I was able to do, and hold the postures.  My breathing was comfortable and easy, and most importantly, I was able to stay focused.  I’m sure the whole experience was easier for me because I have been doing yoga and I’ve learned to breathe correctly.

I don’t think I’ll practice Bikram yoga on a regular basis, but it was fun and invigorating today and I feel very proud of myself for doing it!

Is Yoga “real exercise”? — You Bet it is!

I had a wonderful yoga class today, and wanted to try to express some feelings, but other than say, wow, yoga feels sooo wonderful, I turned to my daughter who has been practicing longer  and asked her to write a guest post about her experiences with yoga.  Enjoy!

Pulling is the object of stretching

by Kelsey Duke

If you aren’t practicing yoga regularly then you are probably just like I was. Hear me out:

I started running when I was fairly young, about 6 or 7,  which isn’t to say I was health conscious at an early age, just that I was born to health conscious parents who back then were probably considered “exercise freaks.” Running became my favorite and only form of exercise outside of team sports. Running was so ingrained in my routine that I could not fathom burning calories any other way. If I wasn’t running, it wasn’t exercise. Period.

As I got a little older I realized that running, though it was great for my mental health and wellness, wasn’t changing my body the way I wanted it to. At the end of college I found myself about 20 pounds overweight (or more, but I feared the scale that would give me an accurate measurement) and unhappy with my body. Not to mention running had become a chore for me. I wanted to  go running like I wanted to take a 5 hour final exam; I didn’t.

While I was sitting around beating myself up about not wanting to run, something I’d always taken pleasure in, I decided to try hot yoga. Not because I thought it would be a good form of exercise (because as a runner I thought yoga was in the same category as sitting down for an hour)  but because I was bored and it was only $20 for a whole week. What I expected was some relaxing stretching, maybe a nap, what I got was the biggest ass kicking. And the funniest thing was yoga was a totally zen ass kicking. No grunting, no yelling, no loud music. So by the end of it my body was completely exhausted but my mind was calm, awake and alert. This is the real benefit of yoga.

Bikram Yoga is a form of hot yoga that reaches all the major muscles, joints, and organs of the body in a 90 minute class. The heat provides exercise for the largest organ of all, the epidermis (or the skin). While you sweat out toxins you use muscle strength and to go deeper and deeper into each posture, thereby gaining muscle and flexibility while improving balance. The heat also provides a mental challenge similar to that you experience while running. You have to force yourself to focus on the work out, not let your body be talked out of it and attempt to calm your mind.

Yoga not only can improve your body but it can improve your mind-body connection. This is the hardest thing to sell people on because if you’ve never been in tune with your body, it’s hard to imagine what that feels like. But as a reformed runner (I can run for fun again! what a treat!) and still a relatively new yogi, I can tell you the mind-body connection is worth the effort and will improve every aspect of your life.

All’s well at Bikram Yoga

I’m still at Bikram Yoga, and I can say at the 3 month mark it is coming together. I am feeling good and actually enjoying the practice. Man, it is hard! I think it is equally hard mentally as it is physically. No, it is probably harder mentally! Keeping your mind from drifting ahead, from telling you that you can’t do something, from making deals, “ok if you do this triangle pose once you don’t have to do it a second time”, that’s the real hard part! Practicing 3 times a week is key, probably more would be even better, but that is unrealistic for me. I know that when I only show up 1 or 2 times a week it was hard to get a handle on the practice, but 3 times is just about right, for now.

The start of the year, time for New Year’s Resolutions….

I went to the gym today and reluctantly got on the scale. The only time I get on the scale is when I go to the gym as I don’t have a scale at home. About two years ago, I got angry at my scale (or more accurately at myself) and threw the scale away. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised. While I ate WAY too much candy, cake and cookies over Christmas, I’ve been pretty good this week, and I weigh 2 pounds less than I thought! So my resolution for my weight is to lose 2 more pounds. Let’s set a goal of losing those 2 pounds by the end of January. I wasn’t sure if my yoga practice was resulting in any weight loss, I guess it is!

Speaking of yoga, I have been really enjoying Bikram yoga . The heat of the room doesn’t bother me anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I still sweat like crazy, but the heat is no longer a hindrance. I enjoy the consistency of the practice, the 26 postures. And after the first 13 of the standing series, I am very glad to do the next 13 on the mat! I still struggle with the triangle pose.

Today I did a weight workout for the first time in a few weeks. I lowered my weights, reduced the number of sets, and rested between sets and I felt good. My exercise resolution is to practice yoga 2-3 days a week and go to they gym for weights and cardio 2 times a week. Once the weather gets nice again, I might lower that to weights once a week and running twice a week.

Now for nutrition. While I’m not vegan or even a vegetarian, I am going to incorporate more vegan fare into my diet. I am going to eat more rice, beans and vegetables and less meat. Why? well not only to lower then maintain my weight, but also to lower my cholesterol and maintain my health. Who knows what the health care system will look like in the future, I’m going to do everything I can to remain healthy! I also resolve to take my calcium, and juice plus, drink more water and to be aware of what I am eating so I know when I am full, and stop when I am full! I’m not going to stop eating cakes, candies, cookies and ice cream, but I am going to eat less!

Now for some non-exercise/nutrition related resolutions:
Take my kids on a family vacation
Call, visit or write (as in a real letter and send through the US Mail) 2 different people each week
Save more money for the future
Continue to grow my media buying business
And one or two others that I am not sharing here!

Wish me luck and let me know your resolutions. We can support each other through 2011