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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Just Beginning Or Returning After A Break?

We have an exciting offer for returning students who haven't been to the studio in awhile! 

We know how time can slip by, and if you've been wanting to come back now is the perfect time! So take advantage of this offer and read the following excerpt for tips on returning to your Bikram practice from "HotYogini" on Squidoo. There's also some great information if you are just beginning to try Bikram yoga for the first time.

 It's a full-on Mind-Body-Spirit challenge ...

It's gonna take you a while to acclimatize ... so here's what is going on ...

Whether you are athletically super-fit or you haven't lifted anything other than wine and cake for the last few years, you will probably experience some quite dynamic shifts in your mind-body connection.
hot yoga girl

This is likely to happen just in the first few classes (say 3-5) as you begin to adjust to the combination of a 90-minute challenging class held in a room heated to about body temperature.

And then further on, in your first 3 weeks as your body's systems acclimatize to this type of training.

So what will some of these changes be?

So here's a list of some of the things I've experienced when beginning/coming back after a break and talking to friends who "do the hot yoga thing" they've also experienced.
  • You may experience odd body symptoms - dizziness, sweat, cramp, light-headedness, headaches, blurry vision.
  • You may find your breathing and stamina is challenged in the first 1-3 classes.
  • You may discover tightness in areas where you didn't even know you had muscles (please don't ask ... lol!).

Typical symptoms and what to do about them - if anything

So here's my list of typical things experienced in "your first hot yoga class" or if you are a returning Bikram Yoga devotee ...

Could any of these be you?

Some typical side-effects of a Bikram Yoga class

Feeling out of breath

Pretty normal - most of us apparently only use about 1/3 of our potential lung capacity - so dramatically extending the use of your lung capability will take a few classes. If your teacher uses a very long pranayama breath timing, you'll notice it even more.

Fortunately, you improve rapidly, so keep it up!

Returnees: Remember to breathe deeply into the tummy as you used to and you'll sail through!

  • Lack of stamina/Can't make it through class

    This one probably applies more to the returnees than the first timers, though it can definitely afflict anyone!

    Like any exercise, you need to build up momentum - and this cannot be achieved in one class alone. First timers can get overwhelmed by how "hard" it seems but this quickly changes in the first 5-7 classes.

    Returnees have a harder time because they "know" what they used to do - and try to repeat it immediately after long break!

    So take it step-by-step and you'll feel after the 3rd or 4th class back everything is getting easier.

  • Dizziness

    Usually connected with breathing - most of us aren't used to breathing through our noses. Beginners might find themselves gasping for air through the mouth, though this is not good practice, as it stimulates a "panic breath".

    Some dizziness can also arise from the sudden elimination of waste from the body stirred up by the activation of the lymph system.And some dizziness can be from exiting some poses too quickly.

    Tip: Take the warm-up poses at a lower energy level, even "pacing yourself" and holding back energy reserves for later in class (despite what the instructor might be urging you to do!).

    Smelly sweat (but wait ... there's a very happy ending)

    This is also quite normal, but a bit disconcerting as it can even smell like urine (yuk!) and you wonder what the studio accidentally left on it's towels or mats. Have I put anyone off yet!!

    In fact, with your skin being such a huge elimination system, this might be another phenomenon related to the lymph system stimulation causing "waste" to be eliminated through the skin.

    Major upside: It passes quickly in the first 6 or so classes (though it CAN return if you have had a "big weekend" - too much wine or
    chocolate) after which you smell as sweetly as the day you were born ... well ... after your first bath anyway.

    AND ... people will literally stop you in the street to comment on your skin, your glow and ask you with a bit of a nudge and a wink, "So, what have YOU been doing?".

    A friend of mine even went home after her 4th class and had her husband ask her what the new makeup was that she was wearing (she wasn't wearing any). Now that's the kind of result a girl needs! 
  • Feeling out of breath
    Although I am not a qualified physician, I feel this must also be to do with rebalancing the body and your essential salts. I have taken electrolyte replacements (ask at your pharmacy or health shop) to help as I do get cramps when returning after a break. Do NOT use most sports drinks to rehydrate/replace salts as they are mostly sugared water with some added table
    salt and won't do it for you.

    Once again, cramps do go away pretty quickly. But do consider taking some minerals or other supplements to help - and definitely stay hydrated, avoid caffeinated tea & coffee for a few days.

  • Stiffness/Aches & pains

    Some don't feel anything after their FIRST class which is great ... BUT, beware the second or third class as this is where it can creep up on you.

    An easy solution: Keep up your Bikram Yoga. I promise you that most of the more uncomfortable aches and pains and stiffness go away very quickly - anywhere from the 3rd or 4th class, to 3-4 weeks (assuming you go at least 3 times/week).

    Remedy (and a very nurturing one at that): Apart from more yoga, which is the best solution, try luxuriating in an Epsom Salts bath. Put on some nice relaxing music, light some candles too ... invite a partner ...
  • Hunger/Thirst cravings

    As you body settles into a new routine, your appetite may change and you might get sudden major hunger cravings. Try to avoid cramming in some carbs, instead have a light pre-made salad on hand for these moments (especially if you are after some reduction in dress size *wink*).

    Those new to Bikram Yoga or Hot Yoga should be aware that you will need to increase your liquid intake. Though there are those who scorn exercising in the heat due to their beliefs about the replenishment of water, they probably don't realize you ARE allowed to drink in class (sips at a time is best).

    But remember to step up your water intake BEFORE class - drink a liter of water up to 45 mins before and you will not regret it. It can also really help relieve any cramping issues.

  • Emotional ups & downs

    This yoga is so fantastic for creating a beautiful, positive, happy state of mind -- for no reason at all - that it seems strange to discuss ups and downs.

    But there is no doubt that in your first few classes, or first few classes back, the rebalancing of the body can cause some emotional oddities.

    - Sudden busts of anger

    - Sudden sadness
    - Sudden euphoria (I like this one!)
  • What I have found to be a very helpful antidote is a nice large drink of water, or water dosed with electrolytes. I can't explain it (maybe it is just a need to be better hydrated), but it seems to help level out the emotional states.
  • Difficulty sleeping

    If you are at all like me, you cherish your sleep, and you would think that a highly cardio, 90-minute intense yoga "workout" would give you a blissful night's sleep.

    Normally yes, but some folks can end up tossing and turning a little due to the physical changes being made in the body; circulation system changes; maybe even some disturbance in sleep due to limbs aching from a good stretch.

    If this is you, then you might find a 10-minute quiet meditation just before bed (no TV!), or a stroll in fresh air if possible, will help relax your mind-body connection.

    Just instruct your unconscious mind to let everything relax with a bit of soothing self talk and you'll be sleeping peacefully through the night in no time.

  • Acute awareness of your surroundings

    Not so much a negative, but an unusual side-effect is a sharper awareness of "life". This CAN mean surprising reactions to events or people - where you might have gotten "plugged in" before, now you are not reacting, but observing. I personally think this is a good thing - but it can feel a bit weird at first!
  • Difficulty balancing

    This is both to do with straight up strength (of leg muscles, ankles etc), as well as the yoga reflecting for you any "imbalance" there may be in your life. So it can return under times of stress for example.

    Tip: Ignore this completely, make NO judgment whatsoever and get on with the yoga. Focus on breathing, restart whatever pose you fell out of and move on.

  • Headaches

    As long as you are well enough hydrated and drinking plenty before and after class, any headaches in your early days are likely to be just the body cleaning itself out.

    Beware though - you MAY be unknowingly holding tension - physical or emotional - in areas of your back, neck & shoulders that are creating undue stress in poses which plays out as a headache. Observe your poses carefully and work on relaxing muscles that are not directly used in the pose (Tip: I think it's all in the breath. But that's just me :-)).

  • Shaky or trembling muscles

    You might find that, during a pose, one or more of your muscles starts "twitching" or "trembling" or a type of spasmodic shake.

    It can feel as if you are weak or lacking in strength - when in fact this is a good indication that this is exactly when your muscles are actively retraining themselves!
  • It takes at least 10 seconds of holding a pose to gain 100% recruitment of all the muscle fibers - after which you are "trying to go somewhere you haven't been before" (I so love that phrase one of my best teachers uses!). At some point your muscles cannot hold the position they have been "fully recruited" for and release. Then as you consciously re-recruit them while continuing the pose, they will go spasmodically backwards and forwards between fully engaged then releasing - hey presto here's the trembling!

    So this is purely building your stamina and can come and go as you build your body's expectations of your own muscle power.

    So when I am shaking and trembling in a pose - I am very proud that something is changing!
  • Sore knees

    Sometimes, after your first few classes, you may experience some soreness in the knees. I believe it is important for this
    not to continue - fortunately it is easily cured!

    It probably is caused by standing with a straight (or "locked out" leg WITHOUT sufficient contraction of the thigh muscle groups (especially the quadriceps). So the knee joint itself is overly stressed and can become inflamed.

    Remember "Lock the knee" = "Clench your thigh muscles" and your knee soreness will quickly disappear.

  • Stomach acidity/Reflux

    Yes, I know, not the most pleasant topic - but if you've been enjoying a - shall we say - "rich diet", you can expect that with the amazing amount of internal organ and digestive system massage, that your stomach, elimination system and regulatory organs
    will respond!

    This sometimes manifests as a "clearing out" which might mean you burp a lot (yes, even in class - yuk!); get a slightly acid tummy sometimes; release gas ... anyway you get the drift.

    Stick with it, as just like the strong sweat smell, this disappears quite quickly with a regular practice.

    Even quicker if you work on cleaning your diet up too!
    Blurry vision

    Depending on how much you sweat, in your first few classes (new OR returning) the extra waste products finding their way into your sweat, giving you a good cleanse, *might* make your eyes sting a little and hence cause some inflammation & blurriness. Wipe the sweat away from your eyes if you really need to. Check that you ARE drinking enough as this is another warning sign of lack of good hydration.

    You can soothe your eyes after class by using an eye cleanser, or just by rinsing them a few times in water.

    Really the best cleanser is tears - so watch a sad movie or go out to a really good comedy club!

    Also check that in the "head-to-knee" poises you are NOT pushing eyeballs unduly against your kneecap or shin. It should be your forehead touching, but this can be tricky until your flexibility comes.

    Shoulder/Arm stiffness/soreness

    Most of us don't hold the weight of our own arms over our heads every day - so this is a real workout of the arms and shoulders.

    That is one of the reasons I love this yoga - your body is doing resistance training against itself - how cool is that?
 Don't be surprised then if you feel as if sometimes your arms are so weary that they won't stay up - or that during pranayama breathing your shoulders start to ache a little.

Again, I've found that this disappears after a few classes - might take half-a-dozen - but this is not many!

And ... a
wonderful side effect - you'll get beautifully sculpted and attractive "movie-star" looking arms!

Things to remember!

Take it easy on your first class - there's way too much to learn in one hit!

Allow yourself some time to integrate and your body to recover - go for an inspiring walk or a swim.

If you are returning from a break - don't push it! Even though you know what you used to do, it doesn't mean you should.