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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tip of the Week: How to do Toe Stand

Below is a great graphic from yogabycandace showing some helpful tips on Toe Stand. 

Today we're looking at Toe Stand, a humbling pose that really tests balance. I find the trick is to avoid resting all your weight on the grounded leg's calf muscle. Instead, press into the standing foot until you feel a lift in the body as if you could just effortlessly rise to stand from the toe stand position. 

A few tips: It's important that you only go into toe stand when you're ready. You'll know you're ready when the lifted leg's knee is comfortably in line with the standing leg or close to it (rather than feeling pulled forward out of alignment with the standing leg). I'd also say to avoid this pose if you have knee issues.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tip of the Week: How to Get a Flat Stomach with Bikram Yoga

It's no big surprise that the most popular post on our blog is "How to Get a Flat Stomach with Bikram Yoga". We thought it would be worth re-posting as this is a good read!

The belly is a prized area of the body for many men and women. When fat appears for various reasons, people are often led to exercise as a means to get rid of it.

Spot reduction of problem areas doesn't exist; if you only perform exercises that strengthen certain anatomical areas, you won't reduce abdominal fat. You need to eat healthy foods and perform regular aerobic exercise to lose all-over body fat. Performing the entire Bikram series will offer the overall health benefits this style of yoga provides with consistent practice, including a toned midsection.

One question that we often get from both new and old students alike is “Where are the abdominals in Bikram yoga?” It’s going to be different for each person and you certainly have to exert the effort and do the proper form to work the core (in any exercise – even crunches!). Regardless of the posture you perform, you should always engage your abdominals! What you’ll find is that Bikram is a nearly 90 minute ab workout!
  • Pranayama: in breathing, the stomach should be sucked in on both the inhale and the exhale; core strength is used to push the air out of the lungs and keeping the stomach in on the inhale helps the lungs work harder to fill, increasing your lung capacity.
  • Half moon: Half Moon pose strengthens all of the core muscles located in the abdomen and the sides of the torso and releases energy from the spine to prepare you for the rest of the Bikram series. Half Moon pose is the first pose of the Bikram series and is particularly beneficial for strengthening the abs. The first part of the pose prepares you for the backbend in the second half, which mimics the gut-busting reverse crunch, one of the top exercises used to tone the belly. With regular practice as part of a whole-body workout, expect the Half Moon to tighten your lower abs, waistline, buttocks and thighs.
  • Awkward: four times in this posture (in parts 1 and 3), the dialogue says something to the effect of “suck it in.” When you’re sucking it in that hard and trying to keep a straight spine, you can’t help but do some work in the abdominal muscles!
  • Eagle: twice here the “suck it in” revisits. Right before you sit and at the end of the posture.
  • Standing Head to Knee: another forward bend so definitely suck the stomach in before rounding down to grab your foot. Another benefit – the tighter you suck your stomach in, the easier it feels to tighten up your glute muscles and leg muscles.
  • Standing Bow: opens the diaphragm and lungs to improve circulation. When you properly engage your abs, this ordinarily difficult pose becomes easier; however, it may take several tries before you can balance successfully. When practiced regularly, this pose firms the abdominal walls, helping tone the upper and lower abdominals as part of a full-body workout.
  • Balancing Stick: every single muscle should be contracted in this posture, including the abdominal muscles!
  • Standing Separate Leg Stretching and Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee are both forward bends so suck the stomach to the spine as you go into them and then challenge yourself to keep it held in the whole time. The constant trying to keep it in is a great ab workout.
  • Triangle: trims the waistline as you use your abs and constantly lift from the lower belly.
  • Toe Stand: forward bend! Suck it in!
  • The Situp: need I say more? Ok, keeping the heels on the floor helps the situp work more of the lower abdominals as well
  • Spine Strengthening Postures: We tend to let our bellies relax in most of these and focus on our spine. But a strong spine must be balanced with a strong core. Cobra, Locust, Full-Locust, and Bow are just the poses to tone your entire midsection. And remember that a "tight body is a light body". The more you tighten your core, the easier it will be to lift off the ground.
  • Half-Tortoise: Oh yah, this is where it’s at. The whole way into and out of this posture, when you’re slowly lowering your body down or slowly bringing it back up with a straight spine, the core muscles should be working HARD.
  • Rabbit: the extra dialogue in this one definitely calls for sucking it in and depressing the abdominal wall (also another forward bend).
  • Separate Leg with Stretching: a forward bend where you curve your spine; sucking the stomach in on this one really helps you get your head closer to your stomach (more compression = more medical benefit!).
  • Spine Twisting: the more you suck your stomach in, the easier it will be to twist.
  • Blowing in Firm: the dialogue clearly states that this one is good for the abdominal muscles. You should even feel a little cramping in the abs as you do this one from using them to quickly blow the air out of the lungs.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tip of the Week: Having a Hard Time With the Heat?

The following from Well+GoodNYC sheds some light on why you might have more of an issue with the heat than your Bikram-obsessed BFF.

Since hot workouts have become more and more popular, we’ve noticed a phenomenon: Some devotees point and tuck perfectly as sweat rolls gracefully down their smiling faces, while some of us wave the sweat-drenched towel of surrender on what’s usually a light 5K run as soon as the heat sets in.

So we asked Canyon Ranch exercise physiologist Jeffrey Dolgan (based in Miami, where they know heat!) for his expert take on why some fitness buffs can’t take the heat, and what to do if you’re one of them. Here’s what he had to say:

1. Your body fat—and height—could be making you melt during a workout. There are several anatomical and physiological differences in people that allow some to deal with heat better than others,” says Dolgan. The first is body surface area. The more you have, the better you’ll be able to dissipate heat through your skin. Evolution takes this into account. “Alaskan Eskimos are generally vertically-challenged and wide-framed (to conserve heat), whereas Egyptians are tall and lanky (to help dissipate heat),” he explains. So, being short will hurt you here, as will having a higher body fat percentage, or too much “insulation.”

Drink water...lots of it!
2. Gender (unfairly) matters. Men have more numerous and larger pores, so they’re able to sweat more, making it easier to handle heat (ugh!).
3. Consider your cardio capability. “A person with a fitter respiratory system can breath more effectively and has a more responsive perspiratory system, making it easier to remove heat from the body,” says Dolgan.
4. Dehydration. The body’s ability to cool down is drastically impacted by dehydration, so keep your coconut water close.
5. Get fit at normal temperatures first, then hit the heat. “Going from not exercising to trying to run in 98-degree weather with high humidity is like living at sea-level and then expecting to be able to breathe comfortably at the top of Mt. Everest,” says Dolgan.  

You might be able train your body for workouts in higher temps by scaling back on what you know you can do in more moderate ones. (You may have to train your pride a bit, too.)
And every Bikram instructor will tell you the same thing: The more you work out in the heat, the more acclimated your body will become. If you can tough it out for a bit, you’ll breathe easier soon enough. —Lisa Elaine Held