8 good reasons to give it a try

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

 
 

For years, my wife tried to get me to try yoga, and for years I would have nothing to do with it. I envisioned 20 something former gymnasts contorting themselves in a room filled with the sound Tablas and Sitars with the smoke of Jyoti burning in the corner. 

At the encouragement of a friend and realising a studio offering the Bikram method is located near our house, I decided to give the practice try. How bad could it be? I was only 50lbs overweight and it's only yoga.

And I did. Within weeks, my mood, my sleep, my food choices began to change. Now, I can't imagine my life without the series. Here's why:

1. Anybody can do it

Big. Small. Young. Old. I have seen every shape and size in a yoga class. There is no "mould" that you have to fit into in order to have a consistent and beneficial practice. Being in a room with different ages, weights and body types is refreshing. The series is safe for every "body".

2. Spinal Alignment is a Really Good Thing

The sequence of asanas is carefully constructed to align the spine. You find space between the vertebrates, and movement occurs in all 6 positions; spinal flexion, extension, lateral flexion (right and left), and lateral rotation (right and left).

This variation of movement lubricates the sponge-like spinal disks, relaxes tense muscles in the back, and improves range of motion in the spine. The posture begins to improve as the core strengthens (abs and paraspinal muscles), shoulders learn to relax, and tight hips release.

This yoga series brings the spine back to a healthy, natural, and neutral space, allowing the rest of the body to function at its best.

3. The Tourniquet Effect

The series is all about using postures to constrict the blood flow to different parts of your body and then releasing the constriction to allow oxygenated blood to rush back in. This is part of the science behind the benefits of the practice.

The body is heated up, increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood, and then the asanas do their work. Postures are held with intense contraction for 10-20 seconds, resulting in vasoconstriction (like a tourniquet). This is followed by deep relaxation, allowing time for recirculation and nourishment to the tissues.

The result is super happy cells and tissues!

4. It's a Lifelong Practice

Unlike trend fitness and activities which place excess stress on joints, this is a series that can be performed for a lifetime. A perfect balance between strength, balance, stamina, and flexibility, no single area of the body is allowed to become overworked. Although the practice is repetitive, no class is exactly the same.

The body makes micro-alterations with each class, finding ways to utilise the benefits of the practice for what it needs most. For example, if your hamstrings feel tight, the practice will benefit you by releasing the tension in the backs of the legs and posterior hips. If you are fatigued, attending class will stimulate your adrenals, leaving you feeling rejuvenated.

Learning to live in the moment teaches the body to have patience with itself, striving to find peace and healing no matter what you are struggling with, or how much further you can go in the pose on any given day.

5. It Feels so Good to Sweat

Plan ahead. Drink plenty of water, and don't eat 2 hours before your practice. This will help your body efficiently adapt to the heat of the room and pull necessary resources to the muscles and tissues that are working (rather than food digestion).

At the end of the day, it feels really good to sweat.

6. Thermoregulation Works

The room is hot 40 degrees with 40% humidity.

For someone who is naturally warm or going through menopause, this can be difficult at first. One of the main obstacles to a consistent practice is the ability to stay in the room. Once mastered, the thermoregulation begins to occur.

This is where your body adapts to the heat by using the endocrine, pulmonary, and integumentary (skin) system. The body becomes more efficient at cooling itself down, finding homoeostasis during exposure to the temperature, both internally and externally. Chemical changes in the blood (carbon dioxide excretion, regulation of sodium, potassium, chloride, and magnesium, and elimination of lactic acid) occur during this time, regulating your body on a cellular level.

It doesn't take long for the body to compensate. And once it does, the heat is no longer a concern. It begins to feel good to move your body in a warm, humid environment. Places that made you feel uncomfortably hot in the past are no longer an issue. Menopausal and postmenopausal women actually experience a relief in hot flashes and hormonal irregularities.

Overall, the body becomes a fine-tuned machine.

7. Moving Meditation

The consistency of the practice is comforting to me. The flow is always the same, so I don't have to worry about what is coming next. After about 20 classes, the sequence became a type of moving meditation.

The instruction is clear and concise, so there is no guessing or thinking about what your body should be doing. Simply listen to the words and watch your body move in the mirror. Over time it becomes comfortable, like satisfying a craving.

8. It Balances the Chakras

The sequence is 26 postures. Although there are no true inversions (which bothered me at first), it balances the chakras, starting with the root chakra and moving up to the crown chakra.

You start off finding your balance and stability in standing asanas, then move to the floor to strengthen the muscles of the back, and finally lengthen the spine in Rabbit by placing the top of the head on the mat towel, working on the thyroid, parathyroid, and pineal glands.

If you are an individual able to tune into this kind of energy within your body, you know what I'm talking about, if not don't worry about it. Balancing the chakras through proper sequencing and spinal alignment feels amazing!

 

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