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Monday, November 24, 2014

Tip of the Week: Bikram Helps Your Ski Season

Ski season is finally here! The runs may be ready...but are you?  Keeping your Bikram yoga practice strong by practicing at least a few times a week will increase your strength, balance, coordination and concentration which will inevitably make your ski season all the better.

All of the balancing postures will train your body to recover from shifts in your center of gravity. Handling erratic conditions on the slopes is like dealing with erratic people: You need flexibility and balance to get you through intact. Work on focusing on your form and alignment during your Bikram practice, and you will improve your ability throughout the season.

Below are just some of the many benefits of some of these balancing postures:

Awkward Pose builds strength and endurance in addition to firming all muscles of thighs, calves & hips and makes hip joints flexible. Firms the upper arms. Increases blood circulation in the knees & ankle joints.

Eagle Pose helps firm calves, thighs, hips, abdomen, & upper arms. It also improves the flexibility of the hip, knee, and ankle joints.

Standing Head to Knee strengthens the tendons, biceps of the thigh muscles and hamstrings in the legs, in addition to the deltoid, trapezius, latissiumus dorsi, scapula, biceps & triceps.

Standing Bow Pose Firms abdominal wall & upper thighs, & tightens upper arms, hips & buttocks. Increases the size & elasticity of the rib cage & lungs. Improves flexibility & strength of lower spine & most of the body's muscles.

Balancing Stick perfects control & balance.
Firms hips, buttocks, upper thighs. Improves flexibility, strength & muscle tone of shoulders, upper arms, spine & hip joints.

builds strength endurance in the quads and glutes.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tip of the Week: Don't Hyperextend Your Neck

I have observed many yoga students who hyperextend their necks in poses like Cobra. In the case of backbends, many students have the habit of over-arching from the neck. They compress the backs of their necks, and often arch too much from the back of the skull (the occiput), at the atlas-occipital joint. (The atlas is another name for the first cervical vertebra.) This habit is common in those with tight thoracic spines. When the thoracic spine is stubborn, people sometimes overcompensate by overarching the more flexible cervical and/or the lumbar spines. In other words, when one link in the chain is tight, people tend to move more than they should from the links above and below it.

When instructing backbends, I encourage students to try to keep the back of the neck long. Rather than looking up in a pose like Cobra, I encourage those with the habit of neck hyperextension to keep their gaze forward, which tends to keep them from tipping the head back too much. It’s also useful to think of originating the movement in your neck from the middle of the thoracic spine and the lower cervical vertebrae (where the neck attaches to the back).

In twists, try not to lead with your head. In other words, the turn should come from the vertebrae all along your spine, with no twist whatsoever from the atlas-occipital joint. One instruction I give if students feel any tension in the neck is to turn the head ever so slightly (say 1 millimeter) in the opposite direction of the twist. What this accomplishes is to stop people from trying to twist the skull on C1, a motion those joints are not meant to do. Even more conservative, is to not let the chin turn any more than the chest, in other words the nose and chest point in the same direction. 

Beyond lessening the theoretical risk of a vertebral artery stroke, all the above advice will also tend to help avert yoga’s contributing to such musculoskeletal problems of the neck as arthritis and overstretching of spinal ligaments.

Excerpt from Yoga for Healthy Aging. The entire article can be found by clicking "here".

Monday, November 10, 2014

Tip of the Week: Confront Yourself

Look at your own eyes in the mirror. 

We hear this every time we take class, but why is it so important? There’s quite a bit going on by following this part of the dialogue, and it all boils down to confronting. Now this is not referring to the common definitions of confronting, which involve adversarial confrontation, or meeting face to face with someone or something, but rather some lessor known definitions of the word “confront.” 

Here are two that I dug up which are applicable to Bikram yoga. “To bring together for examination or comparison”.
This one is fairly obvious, and you could look at it a number of ways. We are all coming together in the room, or your mind, body and soul are coming together for examination or comparison. Pretty interesting way to look it. As we progress in our practice, we constantly exam or compare how we are doing to previous classes and only be confronting can we truly make meaningful improvements or changes. If you never saw how your postures look in the mirror, you wouldn’t have a very clear idea how to improve them.

“Face without flinching or avoiding.”

I like this definition, because it’s exactly what we’re doing in the room. In life, we all have situations we avoid or draw back from, whether it’s your own body or another person, a job situation, credit card bills, whatever. In the hot room, we confront ourselves without flinching or avoiding, or at least that’s what we are striving to do. 

I had various physical problems before I started doing Bikram, long since handled. I was able to address them because I would go in the room everyday and face myself in the mirror. By confronting myself, I was able to handle these problems, and it became very simple. For years I had simply avoided things and didn’t confront, and this made everything very complicated. Only by confronting myself, did things get simple and finally resolve.

By Bikram Infinity

Monday, November 3, 2014

Tip of the Week: What to Eat Before Class

Do you know what works best in your body before class? What you should eat in order to boost your energy while still feeling nice and light in the belly? I’ve come to realize that many people really don’t know what – if anything – they should eat before practice. If you fall into this category, ask yourself the following:

Should I Eat At All?

Not everyone needs to eat before class. In fact – for many of us – we’ll get more out of our practice on an empty belly. The question of whether to eat may depend on the time of day. If you’ve been awake for only an hour or so, it’s best to hold off on the food. Food in your belly during class will drain you of energy. This is because you’re body must focus first and foremost on digestion. That pretty much puts a stop to reaching any new limits with your postures, and you may even make yourself feel quite ill. For the same reason, regardless of the time of day, I’d generally cease eating at least 90 minutes before class. There are some exceptions, and I’ll get to that.

If you’ve eaten a large meal on the day in question, I’d leave a good 3 hours before practicing and avoid ‘eyes-bigger-than-stomach’ snacking until after class (if at all!) This may be difficult to adapt to initially, but I promise that you will ultimately feel much better for holding out, and your body will thank you for leaving your system free to focus on going the extra mile in class.

But What If I Just Can’t Get By With an Empty Belly?

Those of you who ‘love food and live to eat’ as opposed to ‘eat to live’ may need to eat something small, even if it’s quite close to class. This is mainly for morning classes. Not sure if you fall into this category? If you wake up ravenous most days, seem to digest most foods within an hour or two, and generally have a good idea of what your next few meals will entail, then I’m talking about you.

But even if this is not you, three hours is still a little too long if you haven’t laid a good foundation. For example – if you ate dinner quite early, went to bed hungry, and then didn’t eat more than a light breakfast and a salad for lunch, you may find it pretty tough to hold out through 6pm class until late dinnertime. If you’re not sure whether you need to eat, think back to your last 3 meals. Were they a ‘solid’ meal or just a light snack? If you’ve eaten 3 solid meals within the past 16-24 hours, you should be okay to hold out. If you’ve been skipping meals or grazing, I’d suggest eating something light around 90 minutes before class.

So Which Foods Are Best If I AM Eating Before Class?

We all have different ‘types’ when it comes to which foods work best. To put it very simply, some people function, feel and look their best on a (good quality) high protein/high fat diet while others do better on carbohydrates. I’m definitely a protein person. When I eat predominantly protein and fat, with most of my carbs from vegetables, I’m like a well-oiled machine, and I stay in good shape. If I eat a high-carb diet (even if it’s ‘healthy’) I start feeling and looking awful. But my Mum is exactly the opposite. Long story short – what you should eat before class, and indeed in general, is a very individual matter. The best approach is to eat a light meal with both protein/fat and carbohydrate represented. For example:

  • A soft-boiled egg with a little spinach and feta
  • Some natural plain yogurt with half a banana
If you choose carbs alone (fruit, cereal, salad) you may find you feel great initially and then you slump. Choose protein without carbs and you it’s likely you’ll experience a heavy feeling in your gut which will slow you down during class. Combine both and you have a recipe for success.

I hope I’ve given you the knowledge to start to figure out what the best approach is for you. In the meantime, why not record what you do or do not eat before your next three classes, and track your response. Pay attention to the way your stomach feels, your physical energy, and your mental focus. A 'tick' in all three areas is usually a sign that you're doing things right.

Read the entire article on foodforyoga by clicking "here".