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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tip of the Week: Yoga for Runners

Can yoga improve your running performance? We say YES! The strength and flexibility developed in yoga--namely in the core, quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors--can help you run more efficiently and stay injury-free. The following is an article by Baron Baptiste and Kathleen Finn Mendola called "Yoga for Runners" in Yoga Journal.

Although yoga and running lie on opposite ends of the exercise spectrum, the two need not be mutually exclusive.
During the course of an average mile run, your foot will strike the ground 1,000 times. The force of impact on each foot is about three to four times your weight. It's not surprising, then, to hear runners complain of bad backs and knees, tight hamstrings, and sore feet. 

The pain most runners feel is not from the running in and of itself, but from imbalances that running causes and exacerbates. If you bring your body into balance through the practice of yoga, you can run long and hard for years to come. Although yoga and running lie on opposite ends of the exercise spectrum, the two need not be mutually exclusive. In fact, running and yoga make a good marriage of strength and flexibility.
Striking a Balance
Runners who stick with running are most likely structurally balanced individuals who can handle the physical stresses of the workout with minimal discomfort. Yet, many runners don't survive the imbalances that running introduces. Often, they suffer from chronic pain and are sidelined by injury.
A typical runner experiences too much pounding, tightening, and shortening of the muscles and not enough restorative, elongating, and loosening work. Without opposing movements, the body will compensate to avoid injury by working around the instability. Compensation puts stress on muscles, joints, and the entire skeletal system.
If you're off balance, every step you take forces the muscles to work harder in compensation. Tight muscles get tighter and weak muscles get weaker. A tight muscle is brittle, hard, and inflexible. Because muscles act as the body's natural shock absorbers, ideally they should be soft, malleable, and supple, with some give. Brittle muscles, on the other hand, cause the joints to rub and grind, making them vulnerable to tears.
Muscle rigidity occurs because runners invariably train in a "sport specific" manner—they perform specific actions over and over again and their focus is on external technique. This repetitive sports training or any specific fitness conditioning results in a structurally out of shape and excessively tight body. 

Yoga's internal focus centers your attention on your own body's movements rather than on an external outcome. Runners can use yoga practice to balance strength, increase range of motion, and train the body and mind. Asanas move your body through gravitational dimensions while teaching you how to coordinate your breath with each subtle movement. The eventual result is that your body, mind, and breath are integrated in all actions. Through consistent and systematic asana conditioning, you can engage, strengthen, and place demands on all of your intrinsic muscle groups, which support and stabilize the skeletal system. This can offset the effects of the runner's one-dimensional workouts.
Body Wisdom
In addition to physically counteracting the strains of running, yoga teaches the cultivation of body wisdom and confidence. As you develop a greater understanding of the body and how it works, you become able to listen and respond to messages the body sends you. This is especially important in running, where the body produces a lot of endorphins. These "feel good" chemicals also double as nature's painkillers, which can mask pain and the onset of injury or illness. Without developed body intuition, it's easier to ignore the body's signals. 

Awareness translates to daily workouts, too. You learn through the practice of yoga that each day is distinct, much like each run. Your energy levels fluctuate daily, even hourly, thus it's important to have a sense of your reserves. The calmness you glean from yoga practice allows you to manage and economize your energy. You can learn to intuit where you are on a given day and what resources you have to give. Therefore, you don't power drive through every workout mindlessly but rather respect your body's limitations.
You can, however, maximize those varying energy levels by focusing on another nonkinetic aspect of yoga: relaxation. When you're able to bring your body into a state of repose, you become more effective at using and conserving strength. If you're in a contracted state—tight muscles, limited range of motion, chronic pain—your body requires more energy for all activities, running included. Relaxation allows you to burn energy at a more efficient level. The resulting increased vigor means a greater freedom of movement and ultimately, more enjoyment of all your physical activities. 

Tension is the athlete's downfall, and breath awareness is key to reducing it. Conscious breathing and Pranayama exercises, which soothe the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and relax the entire body, can be of great benefit to runners. 

Many runners know that improving VO2 Max—aerobic capacity—is vital for running and racing success. Runners with a high VO2 Max have the capacity to pump large amounts of oxygen-rich blood to working muscles. Maximum oxygen intake is a crucial physiological variable determining performance and endurance for runners. With pranayama  and asana conditioning, you can maximize the size of your pump and the quantity of fresh blood coursing through your body. A somewhat vigorous yoga practice can increase your oxygen capacity.
Pain Prevention
Even the most centered and relaxed runner can face injury—the bane of all athletes. Damage to a runner's body is often the result of overuse instead of collisions or falls. It all comes back to—you guessed it—balance, symmetry, and alignment. 

The body is the sum of its parts and impairment of one affects them all. A bad back is going to affect your ankles just as weak knees can throw off your hip alignment. For example, shin splints are the result of a seemingly minor misstep: an uneven distribution of weight that starts with the way the feet strike the ground. Each time the foot hits the pavement unevenly, a lateral torque travels up the leg, causing muscle chafing and pain up and down the tibia known as shin splints. 

Knee pain, too, is related to other parts of the body. If the ankles are weak or the hips are not aligned, that can put strain on the anterior ligaments in the knees. Meant to work like a train on a track, a knee thrown off balance is equivalent to a train derailing. Due to constant forward motion, hip flexor muscles shorten and tighten and can cause hyperextension in the lower back. This constantly arched position holds tension in the back and can hamper the fluidity of hamstring muscles as well. 

What does this mean for the runner with pain in his lower back? Or a painful heel condition? First of all, don't ignore your body's signals. Take a break when your body needs one. Learn to intuit when rest is appropriate. Secondly, start incorporating yoga postures into the warm-up and cool-down portions of your workout. Think of running as the linear part of your workout and yoga as its circular complement.
There's no need to be sidelined by injuries and discomfort brought on by your running program. Chronic injuries can eventually self-correct through a gentle yet consistent yoga practice. Remember, your body is on your side. It has an inherent intelligence to bring about a state of equilibrium no matter how many times your feet hit the pavement.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tip of the Week: Make Time Your Friend

How often have you had a stressful day that has negatively affected your practice? Or wished there were more hours in the day so you could even make it to class? The following is an excerpt from an interesting article by Deepak Chopra called "The Best Aging Secret: Make Time Your Friend".

 Bikram Yoga SLC student Sarah Nagel at the temple of Poseidon in Greece

Right now, you have an up-and-down relationship with time. Certain things cause time to be stressful and nerve-wracking. Other experiences make time carefree and joyous. When asked to explain relativity for the ordinary person, Einstein pointed out that time drags when you're at the dentist but flies by when you sit with someone you love. We think we're just using words when we say, "I'm on a deadline," "I'm running out of time," "There aren't enough hours in the day." But every cell in your body is participating in those experiences. If your deadline is crushing, if you're running out of time to save your mortgage, or if you go to bed with a dozen unfinished items on your agenda, those extreme pressures have made time your enemy.

It isn't time's fault. All the damaging effects of running out of time—high blood pressure, imbalanced hormones, digestive problems, insomnia, increased susceptibility to disease, increased likelihood of anxiety and depression disorders—reverse themselves when your relationship with time turns from bad to good. When you make time your friend, hundreds of billions of cells will silently thank you, because a healthy body must run on time. When you make time your friend, hundreds of billions of cells will silently thank you, because a healthy body must run on time. Unseen by you, hundreds of biological cycles are being coordinated inside your body. The most basic life rhythms, like breathing and your heartbeat, are actually clocks that bring dozens of other rhythms into sync with them. In a fascinating way, your body has learned how to master time even as you struggle with it.

Here's a guide to the simple things you may often overlook when you neglect to make time the ally of your body.
  • Keep regular hours. Eat and sleep on a regular schedule.
  • Avoid drastic changes in diet and activity.
  • Set up an orderly work environment. Reduce distractions.
  • Rest quietly once to twice during the day to let our body retune itself.
  • Take yourself out of stressful situations sooner rather than later.
  • Take your time; don't rush.
  • Make decisions when they arise. Don't procrastinate or get distracted.
  • Pay attention to what is directly in front of you. Focus on one thing at a time.
  • Don't multitask. Dividing your attention leads to confusion and weakened focus.
  • Protect yourself. Avoid the temptation to plunge into high-risk situations.
  • Stay within your comfort zone.
  • Put your house and finances in order.
  • Address underlying anxiety.
  • Release underlying anger. Learn to do this without losing control or hurting others.
  • Renounce violence in thought and word.
  • Become more resilient emotionally.
  • Eliminate chaotic influences at work and in your primary relationship.
  • Live as if you have all the time in the world.

Your ultimate goal, living as if you have all the time in the world, is functional immortality. It happens to be how every cell in your body is already living. Immortality comes naturally; giving in to time requires effort. As mundane as these points may seem, especially those early on in the list, they can be used to shift your awareness. It's not the mechanical doing that makes a difference but settling into life's rhythm naturally and with ease.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Tip of the Week: Let Go of the Ego

For many of us high-achieving perfectionist Bikram yogis, we want to do each posture to its fullest extent to push ourselves and prove to ourselves that we can do it. And while it's good to want the best, sometimes it's good to take a step back and ask ourselves if perhaps we need to work on the basics of the first part of a pose before continuing on to the next part. A good Bikram teacher is always going to remind us — “form before depth” — getting the initial part of a pose solid and stable before moving deeper into the posture.

From blogger Yoga Peach: Let go of your ego on the mat and in your daily life. Skip the “E” and just let it GO. Stop thinking about what you can’t do on the mat, remove expectations and judgments throughout your practice, and let go of the ego that sometimes pushes us too hard.  I know, I know…when it comes to my personal fitness expectations I’m still working on that last one. Sometimes I need to remind myself not to push past my physical limits. Our own judgments and criticisms of ourselves so often hold us back from our full potential. Leaving your shoes and ego at the door in yoga (and everything else) is mandatory for success.

One never “masters” yoga and mastery has little to do with how impressive your postures appear or how many difficult and fancy postures you can do. Mastering yoga is a process of overcoming your obstacles and limitations through dedicated practice, and experiencing exploration, growth, progress and transformation.  Go back to the basics and take what you learn on the mat from even the most simple class and apply it off the mat in daily life.

It is all about surrendering the ego. If we learn to open up a dialogue with our own bodies, listening to what they need on a moment to moment basis, then we can avoid slipping into the competition trap, or worrying about doing each pose perfectly. The fact is, some days are better than others. We’re never going to reach the same level of depth every single day, so listen to your own body, ignore the person on the mat next to you and surrender the need for perfection. It’s a journey, not a destination.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Tip of the Week: 3rd Part of Awkward Pose

It's finally time for the 3rd part of Awkward Pose! This part is very good for the knees, your coordination and your balance. For great tips on the 1st part click here, and for the 2nd part click here.

For the third part of the posture: Keep your arms at shoulder height. Stand on your toes a little and squeeze your knees and inner thighs together. Squeeze them SO TIGHTLY like you have an expensive diamond between your knees that you don't want to drop. Keep your spine straight as if your back was pressed up against a wall.  Now  slide down the imaginary wall slowly to a count of ten, coming down until the hips prop just above the heels but not resting on the heels. Fingers are in line with your shoulders. Relax your shoulders. Push your knees down and forward so that if there was a ball on top of your thighs it would roll off.  The spine stays straight by engaging the abs, keeping a strong focus, and keeping the arms active. The momentum of the spine is moving continuously upward and your hips stay off your heels. As you come back up again, come up as slowly as possible to the count of ten. The slower you go, the more benefit you receive. This improves circulation to the hip joint. 

And as Bikram says, "No exercise in the world is more effective for shaping legs."

Friday, May 3, 2013

May Newsletter

Bikram Yoga Sugarhouse                    

Bikram Yoga Sugarhouse


Happiness Is a Choice 
"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions."
~ Dalai Lama

Fall Yoga 

Congratulations to Our 30-Day Challenger Edson Ramirez, on a very successful completion!

Taking It To The Next Level

Bikram Sugarhouse currently has FIVE students attending teacher training. All have completed three of the nine weeks required. 

We're thrilled to see our students taking their practice to the next level, as we continue to send yoga bliss to all of our students.   

Keep With The Times
Have you checked our facebook page lately?
You don't have to wait for our newsletter to come around, all Bikram Yoga SLC's important announcements, latest news, useful links and photos are posted FIRST to facebook. Don't miss out on our special events and  offerings posted there first. Oh, and don't forget to "like" us, we like having friends! 

Newer, bigger, better.  
Swing by Bikram Yoga SLC's (future) new home on 1924 South 1100 East, presently undergoing some exciting updates and remodeling. Come watch the progress over the next few months! Further details and photos of the transition will be posted to our facebook page

Struggling With a Particular Posture?
Want to go a little deeper on a posture? Hold it for longer? Feel like something just isn't right? Check out our Wednesday Tip of the Week, as well as other great insights on how to improve your posture our blog:

Follow our photo-feed on Instagram: bikramyogaslc !

Get Inspired
Bikram Yoga SLC is now sharing valuable yoga tips, inspiring clips, as well as coverage of our recent happenings on Yelp, Pinterest, Foursquare, and City Search

So Fresh
Even with the new floor, it's good to freshen your mat by purchasing a spray bottle of cleaning solution in the Bikram Sugarhouse lobby. Cost is $7 and you can carry the solution with you and spray right after each class. Hang your mat to dry and you're ready to practice with a fresh mat the next day. 

Forget Something?

We have a very impressive collection of shoes, jackets, jewelry and water bottles we would love to reunite with their rightful owners! Please check our lost and found to reclaim your stuff, you have about 2 months before we donate them to local thrift stores.
Settle Up, Please!
Thanks to those of you who have paid your balances, but we still have a lot due. If you have an outstanding balance with Bikram Sugarhouse, we ask that you please settle up, so we can continue providing the best Bikram Yoga experience to you. Simply come see us at the front desk.
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Bikram Yoga Salt Lake City
1140 Wilmington Ave.
SLC Utah 84106
(801) 488-4681

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Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Kudos? Let us know here!
Bikram Yoga Salt Lake City
1140 E Willmington Ave
SLC,  Utah   84106


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Tip of the Week: 2nd Part of Awkward Pose

Awkward Pose...the pose that really lives up to its name! Last week we discussed the first part of Awkward Pose. You can read about it by clicking here. Today we will be going over the second part.

Keeping your arms up in the same position from the first part, continue to keep your triceps engaged and your elbows locked with your fingers together pointing straight towards the front mirror. Your feet are still shoulder-width apart perpendicular to the front mirror.

In the second part pretend you are a "Bikram Ballerina" as if there is a string going down the center of your body and someone is pulling the string straight from the top of your head. Stare into the mirror with laser beam focus and don't move your eyes or you could lose your balance.

Come up as high as possible onto your toes. Watch the alignment of your ankles, they should be straight and not shooting out or in from the alignment of your legs. Concentrate mostly on the first and second toes of each foot pressing into the floor. Below is a photo of Bikram Choudhury in the second part of Awkward Pose. Look how high he comes up on his toes!

Sit your hips all the way into the chair, but don't go below the chair. Rotate your pelvis under you to get rid of the "duck butt" and to keep your back perfectly straight.

Shaking, burning and discomfort is a good thing. It means you are burning calories and building muscles. From famous Bikram yogi Emmy Cleaves: “Whenever there is shaking, there is always a threatened nerve. It’s NEVER an impulse saying, “If you keep going there could be trouble.” Shaking is not bad, it is your body creating new neural passageways and learning to strengthen and hold.” 

If your upper body is leaning forward, this means you must come up higher on the toes. Don’t be scared to come as high as possible on the toes. Remember that Bikram often says this posture should one day be done just on the big toe.

Come up from the second part slowly to build more strength in the legs. Before you know it, your legs will be toned and shaped like nobody's business!

*Check back next week for the third part of Awkward Pose.