Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Incorporating Yoga (in any form) Into Your Exercise/Training Schedule

"There are two things you must do every day in order to live a happy life: sweat and laugh," offers Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, founder and owner of Golden Gate Yoga in Los Angeles. 

A friend of mine posted this on their Facebook wall not too long ago, and I just loved that quote.  Two of my favorite things to do!

If you practice hot yoga, you're guaranteed to check at least one of these off your list just by walking in the door.   Now while I do not practice hot yoga or Bikram every day, the lingering effects of a practice can last up to 3 days for me depending on outside circumstances.  Having said that though, most days I do some form of yoga even if its just for 10 minutes or so in my living room while listening to the news or whatever else happens to be playing on the television.  I love the way it makes my back feel, my shoulders, and just the stretch in the back of my legs.

Running and yoga have become fast friends. I read that of the 7,255,000 runners in the United Sates, 36 percent also practice yoga—one of the highest rates of crossover activity, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers' Association's most recent participation study.

The same study shows that from 2008 to 2009, yoga grew 13.2 percent, and currently boasts 20 million participants, 76 percent of them women. In particular, hot yoga is hot. Try turning up the temp on your yoga practice to boost self-confidence, increase flexibility and prepare your body in mid-summer heat (next year).  Or now since its still hot as hell ... :O)

I didn't start hot yoga until after the Chicago Marathon last year, but it was due to one person in my Saturday group that I finally asked how she was managing the heat so well that she told me she was Bikram girl.  I call her a Bikram snob, because she scoffs at anything but Bikram, but she convinced me and suggested that I wait until after I was done with Chicago as it could upset my body and possibly mess me up.  :O)

I waited just a couple of weeks, did some research, talked with others that I knew that practiced and thats how I ended up at Your Body Center first.

Hot yoga is an evolution of Bikram yoga, a series of 26 postures called asanas practiced in a 105-degree/40% humidity (or hotter depending on the studio/instructor) room. While Bikram kicked off the hot yoga trend, its popularity has spawned many different options, including other styles of yoga performed in rooms heated to a slightly lower temperature.  While I have gone to Bikram studios, I prefer the 90 min class I take at YBC.  They do the majority of the 26 poses, but also throw in some pilates/extra core towards the end.  Depending on the instructor, you may get more or less of the 26 poses and more/less of pilates/extra core.  I also prefer YBC over Bikram because of cost (Bikram studios are much more expensive) and Bikram can be quite militant in its approach (locking doors, not allowing you to drink water when you need to, etc.)

I also found in my research that proponents claim the heat helps in a myriad of ways. Lisa Sullivan, national leader for Core Power's hot yoga teacher training program says, "Your body warms up so you can be more flexible without injury." Sullivan explains that the high temps help to release toxins through heavy sweating.

The heat also makes simple movements more challenging. "It took me three classes to not feel completely exhausted," says Sullivan, "but after the fourth, I felt an amazing yoga high."

Many believe that the heat forces you to focus intently in order to maintain regular breathing and balance. And, if you practice Bikram, the precision of completing the same exact postures in the same exact sequence cultivates mental discipline.  I completely agree with this.  I like going to the same instructor because I know the sequence, she does the majority of the 26 poses and in the proper order, where you warm up, you start to raise the difficulty until the time you are doing the most difficult and heart rate raising poses, so forth and so on.  The bad thing about this is that I know the ones that prove to be the most difficult for me, and I know when they are coming.  But on the flip side I also know that I just need to 'make it through this' and I am home free.  :O)

"The mind will give out before the body," says Sullivan. Much of the mind over matter mastery hot yoga develops is essential for runners. When your breathing is short and your heart is racing, it's easier to give up. Learning to stick with your movements in the yoga studio will give you the confidence to keep going when you're struggling through a tough training run or race.  This could not be more true.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been out there running in this heat (even though it is way worse than even that 110deg room) and thought, eh, this is nothing.  It really was true when the warmer temps first started rearing its ugly head.  My mistake I think was taking those 3 months off from hot yoga, therefore I lost some of the acclimation I had built up to the insufferable heat.

And as someone with clearly an addictive personality, the addictive quality many hot yogis feel toward their practice mirrors that of runners, because of how it makes them feel: strong and empowered. Personally I didn't start with the confidence that I'd make it through the class, but the more I showed up, practiced, accepted the self I saw in the mirror, the more confident I became.

The physical benefits of hot yoga echo those of other yoga traditions—strength, flexibility, alignment, improved posture and injury prevention.

As I stated and as I have found in online research and in just talking to other runners who practice hot yoga, it definitely physically prepare your body to run in warm weather. When seasons change, runners often notice a decline in performance. 

Whether you're gearing up for a seasonal change or training for a race in a warm climate, hot yoga can help you prepare. "Bikram yoga teaches your body and mind how to deal with the heat," says Hadfield, who notes that it will take four to eight weeks of regular practice to properly acclimate.

Training in high temps may even increase your speed if you're currently running in chillier conditions. Scientists at the University of Oregon's Human Physiology Department discovered that cyclists who trained in a 104-degree room performed anywhere from 4 to 8 percent better when tested in a cool room, while the control group did not improve at all.

Additionally, the heat flushes more blood through the body's system, encouraging detoxing through heavy sweating combined with postures that stimulate internal organs. This is one reason new participants feel less than well after their initial classes. It's also why hydration is key before, during and after class.  I generally will drink as much water as I can the day I know I am going to practice, and just like in it being extremely important to hydrate a lot after a massage, the same theory applies here.  I remember the first couple of classes that I took, I did indeed feel sick for a few days afterwards, and just recently a blogger/tweeter that I follow went to her first class and she was 'sick' for three days.  Flu like symptoms...and she admitted hydration was her downfall.

Because hot yoga can be highly taxing, it's crucial to stay in tune with your body.   During class, take breaks if you feel lightheaded.   After class, drink plenty of water, and abstain from tough workouts until you feel recovered.

The only other type of 'hot yoga' I have found that I like a lot is Power Vinyasa.  Some of the other types I have tried are just too 'flowy' for me.  Maybe it was the instructor but when every class is different sequences of poses, it throws me for a loopy loop, I get frustrated, and end up hating the class.  Thats why I like Bikram or a Bikram styled practice.  Same thing.  Different day.  What can I say, I love routine.

Hot yoga (in any form) isn't for everyone. If you have a health condition, you should consult your doctor first.

If you giggle rather than cringe when you lose your balance, you're in the right place.  So many times on certain poses, or just on certain days where I am a bit off balance for some reason, I totally laugh at myself.  Sometimes I will even fall to the ground (toe stand is a good example of when this happens!)

No matter how you do it, you can't go wrong laughing and sweating every day.

Do you do yoga in any form?  What cross training do you do?  Do you think its important or are you just like I use to be?  Running on the brain, no time to do anything else!  Ever try hot yoga or Bikram? 


Its a new day! 

Besides everyone knows out of those 6 fitness blogs, mine is definitely the better choice!

And while you are at it add CBS Local to your list of sites to read each day!  Great source of news!  I would think that every major city has a site within their site!

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