Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bikram yoga...are ya with me?

I picked up a new hobby a few days ago- Bikram yoga!  The neat thing about being temporarily assigned away from home is that I get to try out activities that aren't otherwise available. And this hot yoga seemed the perfect thing, now that our 3 weeks in the field had rather acclimated us to the heat!

My friend Jenny and I attend hot yoga classes with The Union Bikram yoga franchise here in San Antonio.  We tried the introductory class and liked it so much that we bought passes for 10 more days of classes.  And then we convinced more friends to join us!

Here are some benefits I've noticed over the past 3 days already:
  • Sleep, that is far more restorative than usual (this is HUGE with me!)
  • Less anxiety
  • Reduced joint pain
  • Improved skin clarity
I couldn't find any scientific evidence that Bikram yoga is superior to other forms of yoga, but for me and my exercise proclivities, Bikram is a good match.

I like that these classes, for 90 minutes at a time, enable others to experience my everyday level of sweatiness.  I should probably wear floaties or a lifevest to class, but the instructors are so tolerant!  And that's what yoga at The Union is all about.

The class consists of a 26 + 2 regimen:  26 postures or "asanas" and 2 breathing exercises, each repeated twice.   I love that the instructor follows a Bikram script and speaks for the duration of the class without performing the postures themselves.  This allows me to focus on the words and directions as opposed to craning my neck to watch a demonstrated pose.  They do circle the students and provide very helpful feedback.  I found them to be encouraging without the sycophantism that plagues other types of group exercise.

It's amazing how fast the 90 minutes in the "torture chamber" fly by!  I spend the whole time focused on surviving the 105F heat and so the physical challenge of the postures pales in comparison.  The Bikram Asanas!

I find that I am somewhat sore the day after, less than if I'd been lifting heavily.  It's a soreness that's well-dispersed over my body.  After just a few classes, though, I have less SI joint pain and I feel my posture has improved in my thoracic spine.  Or maybe I just now have an increased body awareness?

I paid for a special offer of $20 for 10 days of consecutive classes.  I'm on day 3.  I may skip a few sessions over Labor Day weekend but I'll after-action the 10 days for you for sure :)

The classes are about 50/50 male/female.  I wear a sports bra and spandex shorts like most of the other female participants.  Other gals wear tank tops, yoga pants, etc.  The men in class wear spandex or swim-type shorts.  I think a few even are there in their boxers, hey, whatever, it's yoga, no room for judgie jerks there and no one's focused on anyone else.

Yes, it's hot in there.  But it's safe.  It's challenging.  It's fun.  And you can do it!

I don't know that this is going to improve my running but I do appreciate any activity that mitigates pain and purportedly improves flexibility.  Any thoughts on yoga as an adjunct to other forms of exercise?