Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bikram Choudhury Gave an Inspirational and Comedic Lecture in Dallas, Tx

I saw Bikram Choudhury on Saturday in Dallas, Texas. Such an interesting man! There were over 400 people there, teachers, yogi's, fans, curious guests and everything inbetween! Bikram came out in a white Italian silk suit with a white fedora hat, which he didn't take off but for a second. He had some simple yet profound things to say, silly things to say and extremely important things to say. I am sure I missed some, his accent was hard to understand at some points, even so, he was amazing to go and I am so honored to have been able to meet him!

One of the early and most resonnating things Bikram said was "the most important thing in your life is what?" and everyone just sat there. Some said life, some said kids....Bikram says YOU. You are the most important thing in your life. This not meant to be self centered or pompus, rather, a statement that means you need to take care of you before you can be there for anyone else. Bikram is most important to Bikram, he takes care of himself so he can help others. If he didn't take care of himself or care about himself, he would not be able to help millions of other heal themselves.This might not be the way others would express the point of taking care of you to be around for others but regardless of how you say it, the goal is the same and I need to remind myself of this every day.

And of course there was lots of talk of the healing aspects of Bikram yoga, that we suffer for 90 minutes in the heat to feel wonderful and have a new body afterwards. It is so true. Every class is hard, every class is a challenge and yet, we all do it, and we all love it. It is the torture we do to ourselves that cleanses us and makes us new again. Bikram referenced a toilet and why people use toilets. It was so funny. He squatted down in Awkward pose, which does look vaguely like someone hovering over a toilet, and said Bikram yoga was like a toilet for the body. You take in crap all day and you sweat it out in 90 minutes to be pure and clean again. So funny and yet so true.

If Bikram is ever near you, I recommend going and seeing him, even if you do not practice Bikram yoga. He will entertain you and perhaps give you some insight into why thousands of people flock to Bikram yoga and why it is considered one of the hottest fitness regimes.

Alisa Mathews, Bishnu Charan Ghosh Cup 2008 Champion was there and demonstrated some of her amazing postures.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I Completed My Own Triathlon - Run Yoga Yoga

Yesterday I completed my own version of a triathlon, it was hard, amazing, exhausting and motivating. In the morning I ran the Dallas Tour Des Fleurs 10K around White Rock Lake. I then went and took the regular Bikram Yoga class and stayed for the Advanced class; that is basically 3 ½ hours of hot yoga! Run Yoga Yoga – That’s my tri.

Running the Tour Des Fleurs was fun, if running can even be described as fun. I didn’t really trained to run the race, not for any particular reason except I have been going to yoga more which leaves less time to run. I ran 2 ½ miles the day before to get ready and that seemed more difficult than it should considering I was about to run 6.2 the next day.

The starting area was a bit crazy, there were volunteers holding up time marker signs so people could line up according to their pace, I was in the last group “10:00 minutes and up”.  That’s ok I thought, you might not be fast but at least you got up and made it.

It was close to the start time and everyone started to scoot forward. As I stood there I overheard a group’s conversation. One of them men obviously was going to seminary school, he said to the group “God willing, we will end up right were we need to be.” Then he said, “The key is broad generalities.” This made me laugh a little because that is what makes fortunes and religious quote so accurate, they are broad generalities that can apply to many situations. Not that they aren’t true, but take this guys first quote, of course we will end up where we need to be! As I twittered his comment I saw the crowd moving forward faster…and then we were off to a slow job… then we were off and running!

I ran a fairly good pace for me; I was running about an 11:30 – 12:00 minute mile. I should explain though, I run intervals so I run 5 minutes and walk 1 minute, it averages to just under 12 minute miles. Not bad for a beginner.

As I rounded the last curve and saw the finish line, my only thought was “you can do this.” I repeated this to myself the last ¼ of a mile. As I ran towards the finish line and sprinted in, my chant got louder and faster…I ran as fast and as hard as I could, and then it was done. I had crossed the finish line! The time of the finish clock was 1:16:something and I estimated at least 2 minutes were from where I started to the start line so all in all, I ran just under 12 minute miles.

My shirt, shorts and socks were soaked with sweat. I took my shirt off and rung it out, sweat was still streaming down my body, no need to put THAT back on! I looked at my phone to check the time, I had just enough time to shower and head to yoga.

Bikram Yoga

My determination on if I have a good class is based several things: my ability to complete all the postures, my ability to be graceful and how I end the class. This class was a good class, I completed all the postures. For today, that is considered good.

I made it through all the postures and managed to maintain some sense of good posture through the standing series. Savasana was of course spectacular. The floor series was as good as good could have been expected. I mean really, I had just run 6.2 miles.

Two down, one more to go – Advanced Class

Bikram Advanced Class

The advanced class is noting to sneeze at. It is still in a heated room albeit slightly cooler than regular class, it is still over 100 degrees. The class goes through all 84 asana postures and in a much faster pace than regular class, plus, it is two hours or more. This after running 6.2 and taking regular class was a true struggle. I made it but it wasn’t exactly pretty.

Why do it then? It is great for preparing yourself for the yoga competition. The yoga competition has 5 compulsory postures and two optional, advanced postures. It is up to the competitor to find the two optional postures, which is done through the advanced class. It is also just a wonderful way to expand ones practice and go beyond the basic Bikram Yoga postures.

A little more than half was through the class I was physically done. My mind had taken over and all kinds of things made me want to run from the room. My mouth felt hot, I felt like I just wanted to breathe in cool air for a moment. My skin itched, my head hurt, my joints were starting to crack, you name it, it bothered me. It was a true mental challenge to ignore all of that and stay in the room. I needed to stay so I could see all the postures, the last time I took the advanced class was well over a year ago so a refresher on the postures and what I might do for competition was greatly needed.

As class wound down and we went into final Savasana, I suddenly felt desperately hungry. I laid there as long as I could, allowing my body to soak in all it had done.

What an amazing sense of accomplishment. I had just run 6.2 mile, take 90 minutes of regular Bikram Yoga and 2 hours of Advanced Bikram Yoga. That is a true tri, that’s my tri.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I love my trainer, she makes me do exercises I hate doing

I didn't go to yoga today, today is my day to train with my gym trainer, Jessica.Up until recently I was going to the gym three times a week to train with Jessica to reduce my overall body fat percent. I started in January and have successfully trimmed my body fat to a reasonable amount. I would still be going three times a week if it weren't for the yoga competition coming up. So instead I allow myself one day to lift some weights and hang out with Jessica for an hour.

It's always fun training with Jessica, she is just as sarcastic as I am and we always have fun making each other laugh. We are the only two having fun and cracking up most of the time. Usually everyone in the gym is so serious. Give it up people! It is working out, not WORK, you are allowed to have fun and enjoy it. Now that is not to say I ENJOY all the things she makes me do. On the contrary, I very much dislike most of what she has me do, that is why I need her, so I actually DO the stuff.

She gave me a list of exercises to do several more times a week since I will only be going once a week. Have I done those? uh, no. I did part of them one day after I ran 3 miles. Do I feel bad about it? Uh, no. I have been to yoga for the last 5 days straight and the last two days have been great, be it, hard classes. So to me, I don't care where I get my toning and fat burning; it can happen in the gym or on the mat. I'm just glad I exercised at all today!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bikram Yoga: Standing Separate Leg Stretching

Even good Bikram yoga classes are HARD.

I’ve taken Bikram Yoga class for the last three days and can honestly say they were all 100% better than Saturday’s class. That is the funny thing about Bikram Yoga, some classes are good and some are bad. Sometimes you can do all the postures and sometimes you can’t. What I find ALWAYS the same, they are always hard. And if they are easy?! Well, that just means you didn’t try hard enough.

Today I tried hard and sweated my you-know-what off. It was a good class, hard class, painful class and wonderful class. The best part? Has to be water breaks and when they open the door because the room has gotten too hot. It is like heaven washing over you as the cool air rushes in and clashes with the hot air. Then they close the door and it is gone just as quickly as it blew in. Ugh, more postures. Ok, deep breath… can do it. That is my mantra most of class, almost every class. Today was no different.

There are many times through class when I just want to sit down. I’m tired. I had a long day at work and the stress of the day, things I didn’t do, need to do, etc creep into my mind. It’s mind over matter though so I just keep telling myself, “you can do it, it’s just X number of postures to water, or to Savasana, or whatever.” I felt fatigued but not physically drained when we got ready to do Dandayamana-Bibhaktapada-Paschimotthanasana (aka Standing Separate Leg Stretching). As I stood there on the left side of my mat, looking at myself in the mirror, watching sweat stream down my body all I could do is breath and tell myself just a few more postures and then you can lay down in Savasana, you can do it. And I did. I even made it through both sets of Triangle. Savasana never felt so good!

There are many health benefits to Standing Separate Leg Stretching, I particularly like the “good for psychotic depression.” It could be good for this because you are completely bent over and your head is touching the mat so all the blood is rushing to your head. Hard to have psychotic depressive thoughts when you brain is full of fresh blood. It is good for so much more, see below…

Health Benefits of Standing Separate Leg Stretching:
  • Good for psychotic depression, loss of memory, constipation, abdominal obesity
  • When chin is forward it increases circulation to the adrenal glands
  • Increases circulation to the brain
  • Pushing stomach in strengthens the diaphragm
  • Good for hyperacidity
  • Releases tension in lower back muscles

How to do Standing Separate Leg Stretching:

  • Stand with your feet together on the left side of your mat
  • Arms over head, hands in prayer
  • Move your right foot out about 3 feet and at the same time bring your arms down parallel with the floor
  • Bend your body down and grab your ankles with your hands
  • Pull your body down and touch your head to the floor

Photo is courtesy of Bikram Yoga Dallas

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Balancing Stick in Bikram Yoga Increases Blood Flow, Great for the Heart

Sometimes "bad" classes happen, the good news is there is always another class waiting to be great! 

I went to Bikram yoga class yesterday, not my best showing and I got there so early I had to sit on the front row! I am always puzzled as to what makes a good class and what makes a bad class. It seems like my mind thinks about this in class when I have a bad class. And I define a bad class by the inability for me to finish all the postures. For some reason yesterday was a bad day, I felt light headed and weak after the first 4-5 postures. Sitting out in the standing series is always bad for me, when I try and get back up I most always feel dizzy and the room seems to spin a bit.

I did fine through Head to Knee but felt weak during Standing Bow Pulling and sadly I sat out part of Standing Bow Pulling. I did manage to do both sets of Balancing Stick though I’m not sure how graceful I was. I suppose now is a good time to explain Balancing stick.

Balancing Stick or Tuladandasana is often called a mini heart attack so you don’t have a real one. It seems like such a simple posture and yet, when you are done, your heart is typically racing. So great for improving blood flow!

Health Benefits:
  • Increases blood flow all over body at the same time
  • With shoulders up and chest down, all arteries of the heart receive blood flow
  • Clears blockage in arteries, preventative for future   cardiac problems
  • Total spine stretch, relieves stress from the spine
  • Good for varicose veins
  • Builds strength in lower extremities
  • Works all muscles of the spine and lower extremities

How to do Balancing Stick:
  • Stand with your feet together
  • Raise your hands over your head, elbows locked
  • Clasp your hands together with pointing fingers sticking out
  • Lock the left knee
  • Step out with the right leg, lock the knee
  • At the same time, raise the left leg and drop to torso and arms
  • The leg, torso and arms should now be parallel
  • Your body should look like the letter “T”
  • Repeat on the other side

Usually by the time class gets to this posture, my shoulders are burning a little and my arms are certainly feeling a bit week. This makes the posture even more challenging because your arms are constantly working. It isn’t so much the balancing part that is hard for me, it is the lifting of the leg and the stretching out of the arms…and maintaining good form. And the pose is just 10 seconds!

I muddled through the rest of the standing series with less than stellar form. Savasana was my heaven for the day. Today I am going to Bikram yoga again, I plan to eat more before class and go in and be the yogi I know I can be. Give 100%, get 100% benefit.

Photo courtesy of Bikram Yoga Dallas.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Denver Walk September 13th helps National Psoriasis Foundation

National Psoriasis Foundation Announces First Walk in Denver

Denver residents are walking to help find a cure for for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, which currently affects approximately 112,000 Coloradans and millions of people worldwide.The walk is on September 13, 2009, at Washington Park, East Mississippi Avenue and South Franklin Street. Walk starts at 9:00 am and participants can walk a 1K or 5K.

Master of ceremonies and emcee for the event will be Jim Benemann, an Emmy-award winning journalist and local CBS news anchor. National sponsors of the event include Amgen Wyeth and Abbott.

Many myths and misconceptions surround psoriasis, and the need for awareness is great. Psoriasis, a noncontagious, chronic disease of the immune system, appears on the skin causing red, scaly patches. The patches can appear on any part of the body. Psoriasis can cause significant disability and is associated with other serious conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis may also develop psoriatic arthritis, which causes pain, stiffness and swelling in and around the joints. According to the National Institutes of Health, psoriasis affects as many as 7.5 million Americans.

The National Psoriasis Foundation is the voice for millions of Americans, and their families, who are affected by psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Our mission is to find a cure for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and to eliminate their devastating effects through research, advocacy and education. Visit to learn more.


Memory Walk® Raises Awareness and Dollars to Fight Alzheimer’s in Massachusetts

Walks take place across Massachusetts from September 12 – October 4, 2009

WATERTOWN, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk® helps bring awareness to the fatal disease that can strike as young as 35, but hits with devastating frequency for those over 65. The Alzheimer's Association Memory Walk gives everyone a way to fight back.

Massachusetts residents can join and walk from Sept 12 - Oct. 4, 2009. There are walks all over the country, if you are interested in participating, in Massachusetts or anywhere, click here for walk locations.

Some of the programs funded by Memory Walk include:
  • 24/7 Helpline – Experienced counselors assist people by telephone and online with all aspects of Alzheimer’s disease—from getting a diagnosis to finding support and services in the community.
  • Research – Each year grants are made for cutting edge research into causes, treatments and cures for Alzheimer’s.
  • Medic Alert + Safe Return – The emergency program operates 24 hours a day to assist in locating people with Alzheimer’s who have wandered and become lost.
  • Support Groups – Alzheimer’s support groups are sensitive and helpful resources for those with the disease and their families.
  • Advocacy – The Alzheimer's Association advocates at the local, state and federal level to promote quality care and increase federal research funding.
  • Care Consultation –Counselors work one-on-one with families facing challenges in managing the disease.
  • Family Education – The latest information on research, the importance of diagnosis and treatment, legal issues, care planning and safety issues is offered at numerous locations across the state.
Every 70 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s. More than 5 million Americans have the disease, including 120,000 in Massachusetts. These numbers will grow dramatically in the coming years as the baby boom generation ages. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease of the brain, affecting one in 10 people over 65, for which there is no known cure.

The Alzheimer's Association, the world leader in Alzheimer’s disease research and support, is a voluntary health organization dedicated to finding preventions, treatments and eventually a cure. The organization’s mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research, to provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Duane Reade Sponsors NY Komen Race for Cure, Increases Awareness

New Yorkers Help Duane Reade Increase Support of the 19th Annual Komen New York City Race For The Cure(R)

NEW YORK, Sept. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Duane Reade Holdings Inc., the largest drug store in metropolitan New York, today announced that, as the Local Presenting Sponsor of the 2009 Komen New York City Race For The Cure, the Company, its customers and its foundation, The Duane Reade Charitable Foundation, have raised $330,000 to increase awareness of breast cancer and to assist in the effort to find a cure. This marks the third year that Duane Reade has proudly sponsored this momentous event, with each successive year showing substantial increases in funds raised.

Duane Reade sold special $1 paper ribbon pinups to benefit the Greater New York City Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure(R) in its 252 stores throughout the New York metropolitan area during the month of August. The promotion raised $200,000, almost doubling last year's donation of $109,000. This will be combined with a contribution of $130,000 from Duane Reade's Charitable Foundation to support the efforts of Komen Greater New York City and the annual Race. The money raised through the Race will be used to help underwrite New York area community-based breast health programs and national peer reviewed research.

"Duane Reade is part of the fabric of life in New York City, and is proud to be the Local Presenting Sponsor of such an important New York City tradition, the Komen New York City Race for the Cure" said John Lederer, CEO of Duane Reade. "We'd like to thank the New York Metro community - our customers - and Duane Reade employees for helping us raise $330,000 toward finding a cure for breast cancer. By nearly doubling their donation dollars this year, New Yorkers have proven yet again the greatness of this city and its ability to come together for a cause."

"We are very grateful to have the generous support of Duane Reade during these difficult economic times," said Dara P. Richardson-Heron, MD, CEO of Komen Greater New York City. "Breast cancer never takes a holiday and we need to do more than ever right now to support our community. We appreciate Duane Reade's commitment to helping us run breast cancer out of town this year. The Company's pinup program will allow us to fund even more local breast health education, screening and treatment programs next year, which is so necessary in light of budget cuts to the State's Cancer Services Program."

The 19th annual Komen New York City Race for The Cure will be held on Sunday, September 13th in Central Park at 9:00 a.m. The event is the signature fundraiser for Komen Greater New York City. Race registration is open at

The Duane Reade Charitable Foundation was formed in March 2007 and is committed to supporting charitable organizations that promote health and wellness in New York's communities.

A portion of the budget is also reserved to support programs that address local community needs.

For more information, visit the Komen Greater NYC website, or call 212-293 CURE.
Duane Reade
    Diane Zappas

SOURCE Duane Reade Inc.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bikram Yoga Standing Bow Pulling Pose

Balancing series in Bikram Yoga Improves Flexibility, Circulation, Strength and Balance.

Standing Bow Pulling Pose, or Dandayamana-Dhanurasana, is the second posture in the Bikram Yoga balancing series. I see why it gets the name too, when done to the extreme, the body really does look like a bow.

Every posture in the Bikram Yoga series has medical benefits and this one is no exception. It is wonderful for increasing the circulation to the heart and lungs and improves a number of things in the body. If you haven’t tried Bikram Yoga or this posture in other yoga, you are really missing out on some great health benefits.


Standing Bow Pulling Pose: 
  • Stand with your feet together. 
  • Hold your hand out, palm up, reach behind you and grab your ankle.
  • Raise your other arm straight in the air.
  • Stretch up and then forward while stretching your leg upwards.
  • Your standing leg knee should be locked.

    Things to remember:
    • If you start to fall, stretch your leg upward more.
    • Your upper body and arm should be in alignment.
    • Chin should be on shoulder.
    • Upper body should be parallel to the floor.
    • As long as you try the posture the correct way, you are getting the benefit.

    • Increases circulation to the heart and lungs
    • Improves elasticity of the spine
    • Creates marriage between strength and balance
    • Activates digestive system

    My pose from my first competition, not quite as good as Joseph, photo above

    Click here to get more information on Bikram Yoga poses.

    Photo courtesy of Bikram Yoga Dallas

    Wednesday, September 9, 2009

    Bikram Yoga: Standing Head to Knee, Humbling to Many

    Standing Head to Knee Requires Lots of Determination and Patience and Even then it can be a Humbling Posture

    The 6:30 pm Bikram class yesterday was not nearly as crowded as the class on Free Yoga Day, for that I was thankful. I was pleased to see the lady from Free Yoga Day that wasn't able to actually attend class, she came in a bit late and had already taken one yoga class down the street and had walked around the lake! She and her husband came back though and they made it through class, though I asked them afterwards how they liked it and hte husband looked a little drained and mumbled "it was hard." I hope they come back.

    My class was good, I mustered through all the postures with a small amount of grace. The studio had my birthday wrong in the system so they all thought it was my birthday, which was fantastic because when someone has a birthday, we sing happy birthday during the second set of Triangle, making it a wee bit shorter time. We love birthdays. Rather than corrected the instructor in the middle of class, I played along, heck, it got us a shorter Triangle! And I get another birthday song in 10 days, super cool.

    I'm on a mission to take class as much as possible between now and November 8th. The Texas Asana Yoga Championships are being held in Houston, Texas this year on November 8th and I plan on competing.  I've competed the last two years and really like the focus it brings to my practice since I know I am going to be showing off my abilities. I don't compete to win first or second place, there are far better yogi's, I compete to challenge myself and to expose others to yoga. So few people actually get to see what yoga is all about and this is a great time to share what I love.

    The competition is comprise of five complusory postures and two advanced, optional postures. The first posture is Standing Head to Knee or Dandayamana-Janushirasana.I'll go over the other postures in future posts.

    My first competition Standing Head to Knee

    Benefits of Standing Head to Knee:
    • Helps build concentration, determination and patience
    • Very good for the cardiovascular system
    • Improves balance

    How do to Standing Head to Knee:
    • Stand with feet together
    • Lock out your right knee
    • Raise your left leg, cup your hands under the foot
    • Raise your left leg so it is perpenticular to the floor
    • If you can balance there, drop your elbows down to the calves
    • If you can still balance, put your head on your knee
    • Repeat on other side
    Second competition Standing Head to Knee

    I often do well through "dropping my elbows to my calves" but the head to knee part always makes me lose my balance. There is a trick to it, besides have uber determination. The hip of the lifted leg tends to poke out as you lift the leg, the idea is to keep the leg paralle and push the hip forward to even out the hips, this balances you better to be able to drop the head. Very hard. And even if you get your head all the way still have to come up with grace and ease and come out of the posture with as much purpose as you went into it. I love this though, I like to stand with my foot cupped in my hand and watch my standing leg not move. Somehow the fact that I stare at my leg makes my leg want to move, requiring even more determination. It is so amazing what the mind and body can do when they work together, you really can stand there with the knee locked, and the leg not moving. But your mind has to be in agreement with the leg.

    Photo of Joseph Encinia Courtesy of Bikram Yoga Dallas

    Monday, September 7, 2009

    Best Thing about Eagle Pose in Bikram Yoga

    Sometimes I think the best thing about Eagle Pose or Garurasana, is it is the last pose before the water break.

    Imagine twisting your body like a pretzel stick and that is what Eagle Pose or Garurasana looks like. And who doesn’t like pretzels? Because of how you twist the arms and legs, it improves the flexibility of the 12 major joints in the body.

    Health Benefits:
    • Flushes out the kidneys
    • Brings blood to the sexual organs
    • Improves sexual vitality
    • Improves flexibility of the 12 major joints in the body
    How to do the posture:
    • Stand with feet together
    • Twist right arm under left and clasp hands together
    • Pull elbows down so fingers are below the nose
    • Squat down like you are sitting in a chair
    • Lift the right leg up and over the left, wrapping your right foot around your calf
    • All 5 toes of the right foot should be visible
    • Align the body so the elbows and knees are in one line
    • Repeat on other side

    This pose is like a yen yang thing for me. I like it because it is fairly easy for me, for some reason I have always been able to twist my legs so my feet wrap around. And yet, it is hard for me BECAUSE it is so easy for me. I have to sit more and wrap harder or pull my elbows down even more. It is even harder to do the posture with less effort and only sit part of the way down, then all you are doing is straining the muscles to keep you in an unnatural position. You might as well go all the way and at least get the full benefit!

    Give 100%, get 100% benefit.
    Photo couresty of Bikram Yoga Dallas

    Bikram Yoga Free Yoga Day - Labor Day 2009

    Karen and me before class, Bikram is in the back!

    I just finished Bikram Yoga with 58 other people at Bikram Yoga Dallas as part of 
    Free Yoga Day in the Dallas/FTW area.

    I got to the studio early to make sure I got a good spot, I suspected today was going to be busy but I had no idea the room would be SO packed. I was debating where to put my map when Sherri, one of the instructors was getting up from taking the earlier class and commented to me that seasoned yogi's should be on the front row. "Come on Carolyn, come up to the front row," she says to me. Sure I think, does that mean I am a seasoned yogi? But I haven't been practicing because I have been training for a marathon and century ride. What if I can't do all the poses? Goodness gracious, a million negative thoughts went through my mind in a millisecond. After that had passed, I cheerfully moved my mat to the front row.

    One thing that happens when there are new students, and a lot of them, they tend to not know what to do and place there mat in a place where they can't see themselves. I noticed this and the increased number of people that were coming in so I helped a few people move their mats so they could see better. Plus, since so many people were coming in, we all had to squish together more to get everyone to fit.

    Ok, so class hasn't started yet and I am already drenched in sweat! Great I think, today is going to be a big water day. I got get another bottle of water, just to be safe. And yea, Karen is teaching class. Karen is one of the owners, along with her husband, David, of Bikram Yoga Dallas and she is an awesome teacher. We start the class with a brief overview for the new yogi's and of course, the statement of staying in the room is the only goal gets a little chuckle. But that is true for new yogi's, staying in the room is all you need to do for the first class. Getting use to the heat and humidity can be very difficult and many people can't clear their minds and let go enough to stay in the room.

    We lost three girls at the first water break after "eagle pose". I think everyone else stayed in the room. There were 59 yogi's all doing the same postures and giving 100%, it was quite amazing. And even with all the heat, humidity and extra people, people were trying all the postures, very few times were people sitting out, which is really impressive.

    Being in the front and not wanting to disappoint Karen made me try even harder today. I know, it is about me and that statement didn't say I didn't want to disappoint myself. But I wasn't planning on being disappointed, my goal was to stay in the room and do the best I could, I didn't really want to be on the front row! I haven't been practicing consistently so my postures are not as polished as they once were. Today though, I pushed myself to a full 100% if not more and did all the postures. Today might be the first day to a renewed practice.

    While I was in the room today, I was thinking about the meditation contest from NamasteBookClub, trying to think about not thinking. From time to time my mind would wander and then I would hear Karen or see someone else and my mind would refocus, almost like when my eyes get blurring and refocus. My mind was blury and then sometime would make it very clear and I would be in the moment again, thinking. I think that is meditation, being in the moment but having the mind a little cloudy. I'm going to try that later today.

    Karen and I AFTER class, all sweaty! 
     (I'm the one on the left.)

    Sunday, September 6, 2009

    The Yoga Community is Like a Family

    I have met some wonderful people and found great resources over the last 30 days; that is about when I started my twitter account and decided to start this blog, Bike Run Yoga. Bike Run Yoga gave me the perfect reason to seek out other yogi's online and connect with people from all over the world. One of the great resources I found was NamasteBookClub on twitter. This group is a combination of yogi's with varying types of practice, skill and expertise and they come together once a week to chat online about a book or a specific topic.

    Today was my first day to join the online chat. I hadn't read the book but that didn't matter, many people in the chat either hadn't been able to read the sections previously given or haven't been able to locate the book. That was fine, it was a very free flowing conversation that went from targeted conversation to more abstract thoughts. One person made a comment from the book about the idea of you are already what you are suppose to be and your practice is about opening your mind to see the real you.This got the chat going.

    As I mentioned in the chat, I liked this idea. Practicing yoga tends to make me more patient and compassionate. Based on thought process in the book, Yoga in America, I am ALREADY patient and compassionate, I just need to remove the obstacles in my mind. This is great news since I was told not too long ago that I was not compassionate and I have always been told I wasn't very patient. I am particularly pleased to know I am already these things and practicing yoga will help bring these things to more clarity. Wonderful! I love practicing yoga!

    Most people in the chat agreed in some form or fashion with the concept from the book. Many gave accounts of there own and that was extremely interesting to read about. I liked the ability to "listen" and respond and not feel silly saying I really had no idea what they were talking about. I consider myself a very novice yogi and sometimes can feel intimidated around veteran yogi's that have been practicing for years and are fully into the spiritual side of yoga.  Not the case in this chat, everyone was very nice and it felt like a very welcoming environment. I "listened" or read what others were saying for a bit and decided I really needed to read the book, participating in a book chat when you don't know anything about the book is not the best use of ones time. 

    During the chat they also made two announcements, the NamasteBookClub blog was moving to to provide better resources and features and there is a new meditation contest for twitter. I had to admit on the chat, I have never meditated and am not even really sure how to do it correctly. Sitting and NOT thinking seems like a very hard task. Even in yoga when I am suppose to be concentrating about the moment and being present in class, focusing just on to do list for the day is going through my head, or the things I forgot to do at work, or the comments someone made during the day, or a passing thought of an old memory and boom...then I hear the instructor and bring my mind back to class. Rarely though am I 100% in class, something I must work on daily. So meditation where you don't think seems virtually impossible but I'm willing to try.

    To be more prepared for next week, I am off to to buy the current book. Tomorrow I will practice meditation in between enjoying Labor Day and Free Yoga Day at Bikram Yoga. Can't wait till next Sunday for the next NamasteBookClub Chat.

    Bikram Yoga Awkward Pose Sure is Awkard...and Hard!

    When I tell people I practice yoga as part of my athletic regime, some people look at me funny, they think yoga is easy and not a workout – those people have never practiced Bikram Yoga. Bikram Yoga is SUCH a workout! I know it is because I practice 4-5 times a week and after each 90 minute class, I am drenched. Actually it doesn’t need to be the end of class, heck, before the first water break I am soaked! It is a cardio workout and a strength workout all in one.

    Awkward pose is the second pose of the series, it is done really in three parts and each has its own difficulty level and to me, doing it twice just adds to the challenge. Keep in mind, at this point in the class, there has only been one breathing exercise and really only two other postures. Even so, most of the time, my posture has slumped a bit and I have to remember to stand up straight. So I stand up straight, space my feet 6 inches apart and extend my arms straight out, elbows locked. The first part of the pose requires the arms to be extended and then you basically sit down as if you were in a chair. This part of the pose always makes me think of girls going to the bathroom in public places when they “hover.” This pose is good practice for that!

    The second part of the pose requires the same basic movement while balanced on the toes, very hard! When I first started practicing, I could barely sit down at all. There is a burning sensation that happens in the thighs that makes the legs shake, I think the instructors secretly like this. After practicing for about 4 years, I am now able to sit more into the posture but no where near as close as Joseph Encina, the yogi in the photo and the 2009 US Yoga Champion.

    The last part of the posture is done with the knees together, sitting all the way down, still with the arms extended out so your legs and arms are parallel. This in itself may not seem difficult but after doing the first two parts of the posture this is extremely difficult. Probably the most difficult part is getting up! Getting up means rising slowing and as straight up as possible, like your back is against a wall. Ah, and just when you feel you are done, well, now it is time to do it again!

    I have grown to love this pose a little more since I took up biking and running. Biking and running tend to make my muscles tight and my body out of alignment. Awkward pose helps in biking and running because it helps with flexibility of the hips, relieves joint and muscular pain and increases circulation to the knees and ankles. If I have been biking or running and feel stiff, taking Bikram Yoga really helps bring everything back the flexibility.

    Come try Bikram Yoga for yourself and see how it can help you. September is Yoga Month and many studios are offering a free week of yoga. Check the Yoga Month website for a free week coupon.  Or several studios are offering a free day of yoga on September 7th.  If you are in the Dallas, Texas area, please come to the Bikram Yoga Dallas studio on the 7th.  I will be there taking class, come by and say hi!
    Photo courtesy of Bikram Yoga Dallas

    Friday, September 4, 2009

    I can't wait to see Bikram Choudhury in Dallas!

    I am so excited to be seeing Bikram Choudhury in person on September 26th in Dallas. I have heard so many things about him, good and bad, so I am sure this will be a very exciting and thought provoking talk.  There was a recent article about Bikram and his controversial desire to patent his style of hot yoga, I hope he talks about this issue in his talk on the 26th. Patenting his yoga, his desire to have yoga in the Olympics, and his recent franchising of Bikram Yoga all in some way impact my future ability to enjoy this great form of yoga.

    As a Bikram yogi for only 4 years, I consider myself a novice at best and am eager to learn all I can. Several years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to go to a retreat in Austin, Texas at The Crossings to see Rajashree Choudhury, Bikram’s wife. It was an amazing few days, Rajashree taught class, critiqued poses, gave alignment advice and gave a nice talk about Bikram Yoga. It was so inspiring! To be taught by a champion and expert Bikram yogi, wow! I left the weekend wanting to take teacher training and open a studio in Austin some day.

    I hope that feeling is the same when I see Bikram. Learning from my instructors at Bikram Yoga Dallas is wonderful and I certainly have learned a great deal from them but to hear from the man himself, well, that is just priceless. If you want to see him for yourself, you can come! Bikram will be in Dallas, Texas on September 26, 2009 at the McFarlin Auditorium on the SMU campus. Tickets are available through their website, click here for more details.

    If you can’t make it, look for details of his talk on this blog afterwards. I have a feeling I will be inspired to share his great teachings immediately after! (That or run to my closest studio to take class.) Namaste

    What I learned about Hands to Feet Pose at Bikram Yoga

    In yesterday’s post I included Hands to Feet Pose as part of Half Moon Pose; those of you familiar with Bikram Yoga might have been snickering. It’s ok, I don’t claim to be the most knowledgeable about Bikram Yoga, I just love it and am share it with others. So forgive me!

    I’m on a tiny vacation at a magic convention so no yoga today. Yes, that’s right, a magic convention. I am a semi-retired magic assistant, yoga pairs well with this profession for sure! Yesterday I was in Austin, Texas performing the Stocks of Zanzibar; you can see picks by clicking here.

    Yoga has really helped me be more flexible, which has definitely helped me in my hobby, if you will, as a magician’s assistant. For reasons I can’t share, being able to bend your body in sometimes odd and certainly seemingly impossible ways bodes well for magician’s assistants.

    Bending the body in a way that seems impossible is what Hands to Feet Pose is often seen as when I explain it to other people. I usually get, “huh, let me see if I can do that.” And then you watch people try and bend over, some can bend over and touch their fingers to the ground, some can’t, but rarely do you find someone that can lock their knees, clasp their ankles and put their chest and face to their legs.  If you can do it, that is amazing, congratulations. I can only do it after practicing yoga for a consistent amount of time.

    When I do Bikram Yoga, I don’t watch others so I have no idea if other people do this pose correctly or not, I just assume they all are doing exactly what the instructor is saying. I recalled this feeling recently when I found a YouTube video of Bikram Yoga Dallas and this pose was part of the taping. I watched and was amazed; many people couldn’t lock their knees, clasp their ankles and put their face and chest to their legs. Let me explain, I was amazed only because I thought everyone did this pose the way the dialog says, I had no idea people struggled with it like I do! It was a bit of a revelation. The whole time I have been practicing I just assumed everyone else could do it and I was the only one that couldn’t. It made me laugh a little that I could be so silly.

    This is a hard pose, stretching the back of the legs happens first and for me, this can be very uncomfortable, like your ligaments are being pulled from the knees. This is so good though for the trimming and toning the legs, buttocks and hips. As you stretch down to get yourself closer to your legs, you stretch the spine, increasing flexibility all over. You also have to suck in and tighten your stomach to really bend and reach, this helps flatten the stomach. Totally bent in half, with no gap, light or air, that is what they say in class and that is the goal.

    If you want to try it yourself, come to a Bikram Yoga. Most studios are participating in some free yoga event in celebration of Yoga Month. Bikram Yoga Dallas is offering free yoga on September 7th at 7:30 am, 9:30 pm, 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm. I’ll be at the 9:30 class, come by and say hi!

    Photo courtesy of Bikram Yoga Dallas

    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

    Wednesday, September 2, 2009

    Standing Deep Breathing: Bikram Yoga

    Bikram Yoga is a structured series of 26 postures (asanas) and 2 breathing exercises (pranayamas) completed in a specific sequence each time. The room is heated to approximately 105 degrees with humidity around 40 – 50%. Is it hot? Yes! And oh, how great it is too for your muscles! The heat can be hard to take at first, once you allow yourself to take it all in, you notice the heat helps the muscles to prevent injuries.  Bikram Yoga is suitable for all ages and all levels of skill. Whether you have never taken yoga or are a seasoned yogi, you will find benefits practicing Bikram Yoga.

    The first posture is really a breathing exercise, Standing Deep Breathing. The breathing exercise is done by clasping your hands together under the chin, inhaling as you extend your arms up and exhaling as you bend your head back and the arms come together at the elbows. This exercise is done in a very methodical and consistent manner, giving the students plenty of time to work on the posture and focus on breathing. In my own practice I find it to be difficult to clear my mind enough to breathe consistently and pay attention to the instructor. Part of yoga is to clear your mind and focus on the task at hand, letting go of the other forces. This is perhaps the hardest part about Bikram Yoga for me, my mind seems to always be jumping from thought to thought and this leads me to a very sporadic practice.

    Standing Deep Breathing has many health benefits. The repetitive expansion and contraction is good for the lungs and respiratory system. The consistent and deep breathing, which expands and contracts the lungs, help the lungs reach maximum capacity. This exercise is very good for those with asthma and helps increase overall body circulation. For myself, I have noticed I have the ability to calm my breath during other workout programs and even at work just by incorporating the deep and slow breathing of Standing Deep Breathing.

    All of that from just one exercise! Just think what doing the 26 postures and ending breathing exercise would do for you! Stay tuned all of September for a review of each posture.

    Try it yourself: You have wonderful opportunity to try Bikram Yoga for FREE on September 7th. Check your local Bikram studio for details. Namaste

    If you want to come meet me, I’ll be at the Bikram Yoga Dallas studio on September 7th, taking the morning class and hanging out for the afternoon classes. Come say hi! 

    photo courtesy of Bikram Yoga Dallas

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Celebrate Yoga - September is National Yoga Month

    I've been practicing Bikram Yoga for about 4 years now and absolutely love it. I happened upon it  by chance, or maybe it was fate, either way, Bikram Yoga has helped me enjoy fitness, become more centered and pushed my body to do things I never thought possible. In celebration on National Yoga Month, I will be blogging each day in September about Bikram Yoga, each pose and my experiences. Please come back each day to learn more about this wonderful yoga and why it is all the rage.

    To start off the month, I would like to share a few great ways you can get involved in Yoga Month. There are wonderful things going on everywhere so if you don't live in these cities, just Google Yoga Month or Free Yoga and get involved! You can get a free week of yoga through this group

    Yoga Warriors Against Cancer: September 12th in Charlotte, NC

    Bikram Comes to Dallas: If you ever wondered about Bikram Yoga, come see the man himself September 26th in Dallas

    Free Day of Yoga: Enjoy yoga for free in the Dallas FTW area on September 7th

    Global Mala Yoga for Peace: September 20th, Los Angeles - free!

    Evolve Music and Yoga Festival: September 4-6, NJ

    Yoga Aid: September 13th and 14th
    New Bag Styles