Friends and long-time readers know I’ve had a love / hate obsession with Bikram Yoga for the past five years. You may have heard me shout from a rooftop how it cleared up the sciatic pain that came from both pregnancies and wouldn’t go away the second time around.
90 minutes of intense yoga in 105 degree heat with 40% humidity might sound like torture to some. And well… it is. But this type of torture has done remarkable things for my health, my body, and my once-very-distractable-brain.
I didn’t blog about it this, because I wasn’t certain I’d go through with it… but in April, I began a 30-Day Bikram Yoga Challenge at my local studio.
It had been a very long time since I’d practiced yoga, so in many ways it felt like starting over… especially adjusting to the heat! During my first class of the challenge, my mind kept bringing up all the negatives…
“Ooh, not as flexible as you were before, are you?”
“Wow – did the heat always make you feel this dizzy in the backward bends?”
“Seriously? That’s as close as your forehead can get to touching your knee?”
Talk about being low on the motivational scale. More thinking like that, and I’d be ready to grab my mat and towel and head to the nearest ice cream drive thru! So I made sure that I paid much closer attention to the positives… how good my balance was, how productive my sweat was – I could actually feel my body detoxing, and just knowing that if I needed to sit out during Triangle or just lie on my mat for a few minutes… well, I was coming back tomorrow to try again.
Then, a breakthrough. On my 7th consecutive day, I was able to a posture called Toe Stand on my previously weaker leg for the first time ever.
Yes, there’s a photo… but only because the Go Green, Get Fit challenge (more on that in a minute) asked for one.
Getting into this posture is actually easier than you’d think. Balancing your body weight on about four toes is while waiting for your photographer son to take pictures of the cat enjoying the sunshine… is no picnic. But it still reflects one of my first big accomplishments.
So, did I complete the challenge?
While family and work commitments didn’t always allow me to attend consecutively, I’m proud to say I DID complete 30 classes in a little over 40 days. Other than the supreme sense of accomplishment, in a world where nothing ever feels “done” (writing, laundry, answering emails, dishes, editing, summer baseball…), I actually FINISHED something. Yes, I’ve continued to practice yoga, but I set a goal, reached the goal, and crossed it off my list. I don’t know about you, but that feels good!
There were other mental benefits, too. It takes focus to hold a pose while sweat is drip, drip, dripping off your elbow like a leaky faucet. It takes determination to attempt Balancing Stick after your instructor called it the mini-heart attack pose.
What about the physical benefits? It should be no surprise that sweating your booty off for 90 minutes a day will do wonders for your waistline. We don’t have a scale, so I can’t tell you how many pounds I lost, but my waist and hips are far more trim than they were when I started. And my arms and legs are leaner, stronger, and more flexible.
I’m not sure if the yoga changes your appetite, but all I crave before and after class is a smoothie and a salad. I should have started a sugar detox at the same time, but another plus of such an extreme workout is that you can burn 600 to 1,000 calories in a 90-minute session of Bikram yoga. So it’s like a free pass for chickpea cookies or a frozen yogurt.
Another incredible benefit has been the improvement to my skin. The morning puffy face is a thing of the past, and I rarely have dark circles under my eyes anymore. Not only is better circulation good for your skin, the detoxing really cleans up acne and large pores. It has also changed my skin tone – not just on my face but all over.
And what’s next?
My personal challenge wrapped up right before summer break. I’ve been telling myself since then that I’d just try to go here and there while the kids are home, then start back more regularly in the fall. But something interesting happened with some of my green blogging friends.
They’ve started a Go Green Get Fit movement, and it has grown to include 30+ brilliant bloggers, kicking off today. I simply had to join them, and I hope you will too. It doesn’t have to be torturous yoga… it can be whatever your personal fitness interest or goal is.
Here are the details…
Eco Mom Alliance has so kindly agreed to host the Go Green Get Fit Challenge, with big help from my friend Erin of Healthy Home Magazine. Today, June 18, 2012 launches our 12 week health and wellness series where these remarkable women will share our goals, successes, ups & downs, and probably have a virtual happy / pity party somewhere along the way.
If you’re up for the challenge, please join us and share your goals. And if you’re even the tiniest bit interested in Bikram Yoga, I’d love to have someone to share stories with!