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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Half Moon Pose - Bikram Yoga

I am the type of person that likes structure and organization, some of my closest friends think I am a bit OCD when it comes to these type of things, maybe they are right but I think my need for uniformity helps me in my Bikram Yoga practice.  I’ve practiced Bikram Yoga in many studio’s throughout the United States, including the studio in Honolulu and they all possess their own personality. Some heat the room to the stated 105 degrees, some have carpet, some have wood floors, some have lines on the floor and some do not, some are more strict with the dialog, others are more conversational, one I went to even let people skip ahead so they could leave early; that might have been the strangest one yet. I think I like my studio the best but of course, I have practiced there more and it was the first studio I have went. 

My first day at the studio I was greeted by an exceptionally friendly lady named Christina. She explained the class and helped me set my mat out. The mat goes halfway over the line and you space yourself so you can see yourself in the mirror. There is no talking in the room, everyone just sits or lays down and some people stretch before class starts.  I didn’t really know what to expect, I had never taken Bikram Yoga and no one recommended it to me, I happened upon it because I saw the sign on my way to work and I found a coupon in a neighborhood magazine.  I had worked out in a gym in Austin, Texas and had decided I didn’t want to do that anymore but I needed some sort of exercise and Bikram Yoga was my choice.

It was hot and the humidity made it really hard to stay in the room. There is a fight or flight reaction that kicks in when you are breathing hot air. It can make you feel like you are not breathing at all, causing somewhat of an anxiety attack. This is perfectly natural and the goal for the first class is just to stay in the room. I am sure I was told that but I do not remember. All I remember is thinking, “I’m limber, no problem.” Oh, wow, was I wrong!

The first pose is Half Moon Pose, which really is more like four poses in one because you have to your torso in literally, every direction it can go. Half Moon Pose starts with your hands tightly clasped together above your head with your elbows locked, arms close to the ears.  You then tilt your upper half to the right, keeping the shoulders in line, like you were between two panes of glass. Now the other side. Now you let your head fall and then your arms and you bend backwards as far as you can, then go deeper. Raise up and bend all the way forward, grab your ankles and touch your head to your shins, with your knees locked. See? Four poses in one.

It sort of reminds me of a paperclip, when you bend it back and forth, side to side, it eventually breaks in two! And that is how I felt the first time I did this pose. When I was in a young child I could do backbends and touch my toes from behind with no problem so doing this pose seemed like it would be easy. What I didn’t realize is after 20+ years of doing zero stretching and sitting at work, my back has become so Unlimber it barely goes backwards and forwards just seems to remind it how much it hated the other way! And oh, how lucky, we don’t just do it once but twice!

Don’t despair though, it gets easier and it is so good for the spine. To do the pose correctly, you really are working several areas, the stomach, butt, hips, thighs, arms and spine. And boy can you feel it the next day. Rather than lament on how terrible the soreness is, I like to appreciate the areas that are sore and remember that with each yoga class, those are the spots that are getting more tone, healing or getting more flexible.  If done correctly, not perfectly, but correctly for your body, you will feel energized and find your spine has increased flexibility. You will also notice more toning in the stomach, buttocks, hips and thighs.

Give 100% effort, get 100% benefit. Each day is new; you should never feel bad that from day to day your practice might seem different. Your body will tell you what it needs, as long as you give it your best effort, you are doing it correctly.

If you have never tried Bikram Yoga, find a studio near you and see if they are participating in Yoga Month and giving a free week or day of yoga. If you are in Dallas, I will be at the Bikram Yoga Dallas studio on September 7th for Luke’s Locker sponsored Free Yoga Day taking class in the morning and hanging around at the studio in the afternoon.  Please come by and say hi!

Photo courtesy of Bikram Yoga Dallas

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