I’m a newbie when it comes to bikram. However I can already see some major benefits of those odd form of exercise and meditation.
But back up a bit. Before bikram yoga, I found myself in physical therapy for the 3rd time in 3 years. This third time was like an sign to me – I had to find a permanent maintenance solution. Every time something I put in too many hours at work I ended up injuring my neck again and ending up in physical therapy. Coupled with the fact that I was lifting kettle bells to build core strength, I strained my neck and shoulder muscles by doing work they were not equipped to handle.
Physical therapy is an amazing gift. I always found it nothing short of a miracle that they knew what to do to lift months of stress and strain and injury from my muscles. Physical therapy also has a way of retraining your mind. By forcing my muscles to relax and let go (instead of allowing them to keep tensing up every time I felt stress), my mind had to let go of the stress as well because it had no where to send it.
But as soon as the program was over, I slowly returned to my old muscle habits.
I questioned out my physical therapist almost every time I was there about what I could do to continue the benefits of physical therapy but didn’t really get a great answer. You were supposed to get better, finish the program, and stay better by strength training.
But strength training was not enough. Either that or I never went to physical therapy long enough. I tried to tell my therapists that heat, stimulation, manipulation and stretching were all necessary precursors to strength training, as it multiplied the benefits of the strength training.
So I made a mental list of physical therapy elements which included 5 things: heat, stimulation, manipulation, stretching and strength training. I needed to find a way to incorporate these things into my daily life.
I started doing yoga again, berrating myself for neglecting this awesome tool of fitness and relaxation. Seriously, if you think yoga is just some kind of meditation or pansy workout, you have no idea what you’re in for. You have no clue. Yoga is the most amazing workout I’ve ever had, and that includes Biggest Loser Boot camp type workout videos (I’ve never been personally trained by Biggest Loser Trainer – I’m sure that’s an entirely different matter).
A friend invited me to Bikram Yoga Camp Hill one day and I went, always eager to try new forms of yoga. During the 90 minute class in a room of 105 degrees with 26 intense poses, I was dizzy and nauseated. I wasn’t sure if everyone else felt that way but even the deep breathing at the beginning made the room spin. (In the weeks since, I’ve figured out that the combination of my hypoglycemia and high metabolism was not a good combination with such a comprehensive workout. I fuel up with a protein drink and a banana before I go, and I’m experimenting with what to drink during the workout to give me strength).
I got home around 7:30, fell asleep on the couch, and woke up only to take a quick shower and go to bed.
I have hypoglycemia, so the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is eat or I feel nauseated and/or weak within 5-10 minutes. The next morning though, I woke up feeling very rested and totally forgot about eating breakfast. It was a beautiful Saturday and I had a few plans to enjoy the weekend but it was a relaxed day. I was doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, etc when I realized two hours had passed and I had forgotten about breakfast. This was definitely a new thing for me.
So i continued to go to Bikram Yoga and then got a month unlimited package as a Christmas gift from my husband, who knew I loved it and who also loved the fact that it seemed to make me feel better.
The first week I did two classes. This week was my second week of completing 3 classes in one week. That’s not a lot, but I can totally see the difference already in muscle tone.
It was after one of my classes last week that I was thinking about physical therapy again and my long list of possible things to try (massage therapy, muscle training, getting an electric stimulation machine), to try to garner my “5 elements of physical therapy” as a life long habit.
Then I realized I had all 5 in one single activity: bikram yoga.
Heat. Heck, yeah.
Stimulation. The increased blood flow and heat are a good combination.
Manipulation. Yoga is the only way I know of that can safely manipulate your own spine. I’ve benefited from it for years. When I keep it up, my neck feels almost 100% great – when I forget, I end up in physical therapy.
Stretching. A given.
Strength training. For sure.
Prior to bikram I had been setting up expensive appointments for massage therapy, talking about buying a stimulation machine, wondering what workout to do on a regular basis, and just feeling very overwhelmed and knowing I could not afford it all. Getting all of these benefits in one activity? Oh yeah.
I am new to bikram yoga but the benefits I’ve seen after only a couple of weeks are enough to make me want to continue 3, 4 or 5 times a week. I’ll stick to 3 for now and see if I can master that in my schedule but going for a 30 day challenge? Maybe so!
Yoga is the only workout I know of that builds your muscles up without also tearing them down at the same time. I can build strength like my therapist told me to without straining or injuring my neck. I am stretching my muscles and warming them up at the same time, and the results are magical.
So here are 10 things Bikram Yoga is doing for me:
1. Balancing my blood sugar.
2. Building muscle tone, including core and ab strength
3. Slowly increasing my mental control and patience – this part will be a long battle but I’m seeing some results
4. Empowering me with physical strength
5. Increasing my flexibility – never thought this was important until I experienced using muscles in my body I didn’t know I had.
6. Flushing out toxins – something we all need. This affects weight, blood sugar, and so many other health issues
7. Helping me avoid bugs. Not spiders and creepy crawlers, but sickness. Although that would be nice, too.
8. Providing ongoing physical therapy for my neck
9. Strengthening my lungs
10. Strengthening my cardiovascular system
“Give me 30 days, and I’ll change your body. Give me 60 days, and I”ll change your life.” Bikram Choudhury