July has been an absolute whirlwind for me. Work is keeping me as busy as I've been all year (not a bad problem to have in a down-ish economy, to be sure), which definitely cuts into my personal time, which in turn cuts into my exercise AND blog/interwebz time. Ugh. But, I'm still here! Hope you have all been having a great summer; maybe you've gotten to take a few days off or perhaps even gone on vacation!
Over the last couple of weeks, I've been spending a lot of time down at my firm's office on the Gulf Coast for work. Since I was here for an extended time, I took the opportunity to try out a bikram ("hot yoga") studio, Bikram Yoga Mobile. They offer a month of unlimited classes for new students for the set price of $45 -- a great deal. A lot of studios offer this type of package to get you addicted quickly, so if you are interested in trying out a studio in your area, be sure to ask if they have a new student discount.
I've done a couple of bikram classes before in Birmingham (not continuously, which I've now learned is important); just visiting with KTP when she went to her regular studio. On these first visits -- all of which were "BR" (or, before I started "seriously" running with a training plan and goals), I was blown away at how difficult, intense and athletic the class was. I'm not sure I caught on to bikram in these initial visits to have much of an informed opinion, other than knowing it was an incredible workout that I wanted to try out again at some point.
While we have an awesome yoga studio for vinyasa and yin yoga where I live in Auburn, I found that we don't have a bikram studio. While you can theoretically do bikram's 26 asanas (postures) anywhere, a dedicated bikram facility is required for a traditional class, as this form of yoga is generally practiced in a room heated at least to 105°F with a humidity of 40%.
Let me tell you -- bikram yoga is no joke, physically or mentally. When I walked in the studio a few minutes before class began, it was already heated. I felt like I was on the verge of breaking a sweat before we even got moving! Then, after a series of specific breathing exercises, we dove right in. Ten minutes in, I assure you that I was literally dripping with sweat and stayed that way for the entirety of the 90-minute class.
The asanas worked my entire body: all the way from the top of head to the bottom of my feet. Further, in each of the postures, the position of every body part was very specific, down to whether my toe was pointed or flexed, and the direction in which my gaze should be focused.
Speaking of focus, I did my very best to focus my attention (and intentions) in the present, and not think of work issues, personal matters, my to-do list or anything else outside of class. In fact, I tried to focus on the exact posture we were doing, as opposed to thinking about the ones I had just done (and critiquing what I could have done better) and what was coming up.
Honestly, I felt very different in this class than I did when I tried bikram BR ("before running"). In my opinion, I've built up through running more of three important things (clarification -- "more for me," at least): (1) hip strength; (2) core strength; and (3) mental toughness (maybe from being solo on long runs?)
All that said, I still felt as if I could use some additional and/or improved hip flexibility, leg flexibility and foot/ankle/achilles strength. Hopefully the combo of yoga, core work and running will get me there.
After the class, I felt absolutely amazing (I am quite certain I neither looked nor smelled this way, LOL). Tired, but in a different way. I felt very calm. Definitely centered. Ready to do it again. Since I can't make this a regular habit at home, I am going to try to work in a bikram class anytime I am in a city where I can get to a local studio, especially on work travel. I'm down in Mobile enough to make it happen here.
From hunting and pecking around the web, I've also found that a LOT of runners also seem to be doing bikram yoga; see here and here. I really liked this piece from Bikram Yoga Richmond's website, and leave you with their Top 10 Reasons Why Runners Love Bikram Yoga as some food for thought:
1.You build lung capacity! From the first breathing exercise to the final posture, your lungs are stretched beyond their normal elasticity. You will find you are taking bigger and deeper breaths than you ever have before.
2.You sweat! For 90 minutes, you are exercising in a 105 degree room. Be prepared to sweat and detox. 90% of your body is made up of water. It’s important to flush toxins and rehydrate with fresh water to keep your body healthy and happy.
3.Improved cardiovascular activity! 90 minutes of Bikram yoga is equal to 90 minutes of jogging, as far as your cardiovascular system goes.
4.You can practice with an injury! Many runners find that at some point in their running career an injury surfaces. While you may have to break from running, you can always practice Bikram Yoga. It’s a great alternative when you can’t run, not to mention a quick way to get your body back in to shape.
5.Yoga heals old injuries! Injuries can remain dormant in your body for a life time. Whether you recognize it or not, old injuries affect your performance. Yoga works through the tourniquet effect of compression and release. As you practice yoga, circulation reaches these parts of your body and works like a pressure washer to clean out scar tissue and damage that has been done, restoring your body to it’s natural state.
6.You become bullet proof! It is true that Bikram Yoga is as mentally challenging as it is physically. The more you practice, the more you find you become bullet proof, stress proof, and heart attack proof. Nothing will be able to steal your peace.
7.Yoga makes you alkaline! Practicing yoga creates an environment in your body that makes you much more immune to sickness and disease. Your doctor will love you!
8.Yoga encourages healthy habits! The more you practice yoga, the more you find yourself making better choices for yourself. This includes lifestyle, diet and nutrition, and overall decision making.
9.You will have a better spine than you did when you were a kid! In Bikram Yoga, the natural body’s range of motion is restored and you will find your body starting to do things you haven’t done since you were 10!
10.Yoga is a path to self-realization! As humans our potential is limitless. We are 100% responsible for our experience on this planet! Acceptance of this is liberating and can bring infinite happiness and success to your life.