Sat | May 27, 2017

I love my yoga hot!

Published:Wednesday | April 29, 2015 | 4:00 AMSuzette Shaw Reid

I completed my WhatsApp message to my girlfriend and smiled to myself as she tried to convince me for the umpteenth time that I should try Bikram yoga. She would tirelessly speak about how amazing she felt since she started classes eight months ago, and would email images of the most recent pose she was able to do and hold.

However, I did not share her enthusiasm as I envisioned myself being drenched in puddles of sweat, and holding unfamiliar poses in a hot, humid room waiting to pass out. I was still not convinced hot yoga was for me. In the past, I had tried other types of yoga, but the thought of the heat was always able to push me back to my comfort zone.

A few weeks ago, Bikram Jamaica advertised a yoga class called a Posture Clinic, which is done without heat and it was then I decided to try it.

Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual Hindu practice or discipline, which includes breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures called asanas. The most popular ones are Hatha yoga and Raja yoga.

Bikram Yoga - sometimes called hot yoga (although not all hot yoga is part of Bikram) - has 26 signature yoga asanas and breathing (pranayama) exercises.

Yoga is widely practised for health and relaxation; however, the benefits from hot yoga include reducing stress levels, detoxification, feeling of well-being, both physically and mentally, and weight loss.

According to Yolande Lloyd-Small, owner of Bikram Yoga Jamaica and a lawyer by profession, "I have observed that persons return to Bikram yoga because they have found something that makes them feel incredible, in addition to the host of other benefits. Bikram yoga is extremely effective at increasing overall vitality and health, because of the detoxification that takes place during the sweating."

 

BIKRAM YOGA

 

Bikram Yoga is done in a heated room of 105?F or 42?C. The heat allows students to go deeper with their stretches, which, as a result, reduces injury.

Even though we can exist without food and water for days, we can only go minutes without air. Therefore, breathing is vital and Bikram's focus on this integral technique is to be applauded, albeit it is taken for granted. Pranayama is the extension and control of one's breath. The correct technique of breathing can help bring more oxygen to the blood and brain, thus feeling more energised. Unfortunately, many of us are shallow breathers, and when we do not fully utilise the lungs to help keep them cleared out, we do an injustice to ourselves.

The art of meditation may sound challenging. However, the busiest persons can enrich their life, indulging in this activity for even a few minutes out of their day. The simplest way to meditate is to sit quietly for 40 minutes while maintaining a good posture with your eyes closed. Using your mind, you watch your breathing. Naturally, your mind will wander, and for every time it does, you gently bring your awareness back to the breath. It is important that you maintain your posture during the time frame you allotted to meditate.

As with everything in life, the best way to yield the most benefits from doing an activity is to prepare for it. Hydrating yourself is essential prior to attending a hot yoga class. You should ensure you drink several litres of water throughout the day, in addition to eating your last meal at least two hours before the class.

Being conscious of your own health is very important. So if you are having an off day, suffer from high or low blood pressure, or suspect you are pregnant, do not do the class.

Unlike a gym, where the environment can be competitive, there is absolutely no ego in a yoga class. The participants focus on themselves and pay no attention to their neighbour.

As the instructors will repeatedly say to you, "If you lose your balance while holding a pose, it is human. However, to go back to the pose makes you a potential yogi."

For me, this is also one of the greatest lessons in life: If at first you don't succeed, try again.

My experience during the first class was not the best. However, the next morning, I felt on top of the world. I could not quite put my finger on what could have contributed to this exhilarating feeling, but I wanted more.

I then decided to try Bikram's introductory week challenge with heat. Needless to say, I was petrified at first. However, I was guided by one of my philosophies, which says "comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there".

So, coupled with my girlfriend's coaxing, my fear of the heat soon disappeared and I dived right in. Seven days after signing up for another set of classes, I saw improvements in the way I felt, my skin and how my clothes fit.

To the delight of Yolande and my girlfriend, I can now honestly say, "I love my yoga hot!"

yourhealth@gleanerjm.com