Bikram Yoga–Mental Benefits

Good morning! 3 days ago I activated a Groupon for 30 days of unlimited yoga at Bikram Yoga Green Valley. My sister and I have decided to go every day for all 30 days, and I’ve been excited to write about the benefits of Bikram yoga since last year. Thinking about trying Bikram? Here’s my two cents about what to expect:

Bikram yoga will basically reset your body. It will beat you into submission. It will teach you to find comfort in the discomfort. When you walk in on your first day, it feels WAY too hot and humid and it smells like feet. Expect that. Come prepared with ice cold water, a yoga mat, a big beach towel, and an extra towel to sit on in the car on the drive home. You will come out of there completely soaked. To combat that disgusting smell of old sweat, I’ve turned to the advice of paramedics who deal with the smell of rotting flesh and open wounds on a regular basis: Vick’s Vapor Rub under the nose. Slather it all around your nostrils and above your upper lip. The menthol is suffocating, but TRUST ME, it’s much better than the smell of a carpet that has been soaking up sweat from the bodies of hundreds of people every day. You’ll look like you have snot all over your face, but you’ll thank me.

What should you wear? As close to nothing as possible. The class is similar to spending 90 minutes in a sauna, but you have to move around. Baggy t-shirts and long yoga pants will feel like they’re choking you within 15 minutes. So, my choice of attire consists of a compression sports bra (a brightly colored one will lift your spirits when you feel like you’re gonna die in there):

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and some tight, short, hot yoga shorts:

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Ok, I know you’re probably thinking you’ll feel really naked in so little clothing, but there’s more benefit to it than comfort. When you walk into the room, you’ll have to pick a spot to set up your mat and towel. It seems that a lot of folks like to stay close to the back and the doors for an easy escape. Unfortunately, most bikram yoga instructors won’t let you leave the room during class. So, tell your insecurities to shut up for a minute and march yourself to the front of the room (1st or 2nd row). Be sure to pick a spot where you can see yourself in the mirror and don’t get directly in front of anyone behind you. The next 90 minutes are a therapy session for your body insecurities.

So there you are, barely clothed and face-to-face with your reflection for an hour and a half. This probably seems like a really unpleasant prospect if you don’t love your body. You probably cringe at any extra pounds hanging around your belly and thighs and are aware of every perceived imperfection in your skin. Fortunately, Bikram yoga will help change that. I find that it’s very therapeutic to be forced to spend yoga time learning to appreciate the hard work your body is capable of and seeing what you ACTUALLY look like. During the next 30 days, as you push yourself to go deeper into each of the 26 postures, you will be amazed at what your body is capable of. Chances are good that by day 3 you will have found new appreciation for the body you’ve been blessed with. As you face your reflection more, you’ll also start to realize that the mental image you have of yourself is probably a lot worse than what you actually look like. You look good!

In addition to the self-esteem benefit of Bikram yoga, you will reap other mental benefits as well. Dragging yourself to a class that ends up being a minimum 2 hour long ordeal (including shower, getting there and back, etc.) will strengthen your willpower. I could talk on this point for hours, but let me just explain a little bit. Taking 2 hours out of your day for yoga is probably a BIG sacrifice of time and effort for you. You get there and it’s miserably hot, humid, and uncomfortable. It’s probably crowded too. Some days you feel like you’re going to pass out or throw up. Some days emotions get released and you just want to lay on the floor and cry. Other days you have so many thoughts going through your mind that your heart starts racing and you begin to feel sick. With time, as you keep coming back, you will overcome all of this. You will learn to control your mind a bit better. You will be able to quiet your noisy thoughts, steady your breathing, push your muscles deeper, and let yourself take a break. In class, as you begin to appreciate how strong you are becoming, you will be able to smile and pray silent prayers of gratitude. I believe that self-control is a gift- one of the fruits of the Spirit-  and you can find you have it through Bikam.

Learning to use self control is like strengthening a muscle. By coming to class every day and getting through it with a spirit of joy and gratitude, your improved willpower will come through in other areas in your life. Personally, I have found that it is a lot easier to eat a healthy diet when I know I have to go to Bikram. I don’t want to go to class feeling full, bloated, or gassy. I especially don’t want to eat foods that will make me feel sick when I know I will be in that hot room wearing nearly nothing. Class holds me accountable. Aside from making healthier food choices, other areas of my life have improved as well. I have a bad habit of picking at my cuticles until they bleed (gross, I know). When I practice Bikram yoga, though, I take better care of my hands because I know that sweating all over my cracked fingers will make them sting. I think the humidity in there helps to moisturize my hands so they heal faster, too. Bikram teaches patience. Being patient with my body as I’m working to get better at the postures helps me to be patient outside of class, too. I bet you’ll experience similar benefits!

As a Christian, I find that Bikram yoga makes me stronger spiritually. Going to class heals my body, and by making healthy choices, I am honoring God. I am showing Him that the body He has graced me with is good, and I want to be good to it. Choosing to exercise my body daily is an act of obedience. At the end of the day I know I can offer up this choice, along with the healthy food choices I’ve made, to the Lord as a acts of worship and indicators of gratitude. Does that make sense? Through prayer in class and healing choices outside of class, I am thanking God for building in me a Spirit of self-control. I am thanking Him for the body and the strength that allow me to get through each day with vitality to do His will.

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Color Run

Yesterday I ran the best race EVER! The color run is a 5k race in which everyone wears white and ends up colorful from head to toe at the end!

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This is our team before the race! We called ourselves team “That’s what she said!” On the front of our shirts, we had TWSS jokes related to running. Cute, huh? Colby came to take pictures of us.

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Ahh… nice and clean- pristine!

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I wore the bandana to keep my hair from staining. It was a choice between that and oiling it up with olive oil. Had I known, I would have oiled up my armpits. Today I have one stained pink and the other purple Surprised smile At every kilometer of the race, volunteers covered us with colorful powder. This is me after four blasts of color.

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Our whole team looked really awesome!

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As if this wasn’t colorful enough, we had a color festival at the finish line to cover up all the white spots we had left.

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Thoroughly colored! And SO happy!! I felt like a little kid again Smile I can’t wait to run this race again next year. I was reluctant to clean up, but getting dusted off by a leaf blower was good times! 

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Look! My shirt was almost completely clean after a quick blow. That’s what she said! 3.1 miles of running worked up an appetite, so Colby and I went out for a tasty breakfast afterward. I was craving Maple Tree Cafe. They have delicious scrambles and gooey apple fritters- very indulgent! I looked a little dirty and homeless at the diner, but I wore my traces of color like a badge of honor. Maybe some people were looking funny at me, but I couldn’t take my eyes off this great breakfast:

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mmmmmm… this southwestern scramble probably had three times as many calories as I burned during the race, but it was perfect: spicy, cheesy, and melty with crispy hash browns. What a great day!

Date Night!

I love sleeping in on weekends, but I hate feeling like half the day is wasted. It was a beautiful day in Las Vegas! Colby and I took advantage of the nice weather at the last minute by going out for a sunset hike on the East Anthem Trail. It’s an easy walk uphill with a beautiful view of the strip from the top. I think the trail goes on for at least 10 miles, but I’ve never gone more than a couple miles in. Nice desert landscape, right?

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The temp dropped about 10 degrees when the sun went down, so we headed to Starbucks to warm up. I usually get a skinny caramel macchiato  at SB, but I decided to try the skinny mocha this time to satisfy my chocolate craving. Colby loves Arnold Palmers (iced tea + lemonade), so he enjoyed the passion iced tea lemonade I suggested. We headed over to Barnes and Noble to enjoy the rest of our date night reading books. Isn’t the SB Valentine’s day cup adorable?

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I got cozy with a stack of diet and nutrition books.

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Meanwhile, Colby sat down to learn some history. We’re so different!

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I really enjoyed Jillian Michael’s’ Master your Metabolism. It features a great overview of various hormones involved in metabolism, including insulin, thyroid hormones, leptin, ghrelin, cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and others. The book focuses on ridding your diet of processed foods and replacing them with foods from 10 “power nutrient” groups. They include:

  1. Legumes (peas and beans)
  2. Alliums (onions, leeks, shallots)
  3. Berries
  4. Meat and eggs (this group also includes fatty fish like salmon)
  5. Colorful fruits and vegetables
  6. Cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower)
  7. Dark green, leafy veggies
  8. Nuts and seeds
  9. Organic, low-fat dairy
  10. Whole grains

I’m glad I already like all these foods! Micheals offers the following tips to get your metabolism right:

  • Eat every four hours. Eat three meals and a snack daily, nothing after 9 p.m., and no carbs before bed.
  • Eat until you are full, not stuffed.
  • Include protein, carbs, and fat with every meal and snack. (30%, 30%, 40% ideally)

She also emphasized the importance of getting enough sleep and exercising HARD for only 4-5 hours a week. Jillian Michaels is a beast! It would be awesome to be in as great of shape as she is. Hopefully pushing myself in my morning workouts will finally earn me six-pack abs this year!

I’m usually not a big fan of following diet book meal plans, so I skipped past the recipe section and moved onto the next book, The New Sonoma Diet. I love that the premise of this diet book is learning to truly enjoy your food. I agree that mindful eating is key to maintaining a healthy weight. Some of the “power foods” emphasized in the Sonoma Diet plan overlapped with the 10 Jillian suggested.

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The Sonoma Diet sounds awesome! It even advocates drinking a glass of wine with dinner to truly enjoy the meal! Score! I’m all for picking a diet/meal plan you can live with. Deprivation will only lead to overeating forbidden foods in the end.

I actually bought The New Sonoma Diet book after seeing some of the delicious recipes listed in the book. I can’t wait to make some of them!

What are some foods you like to include in your meals frequently? What genre of books do you prefer reading?

New Kicks

Yesterday’s errands were a huge pain in the ass. I ended up buying an expensive air filter for my car with the oil change, wasn’t able to use my fro-yo Groupon because Golden Spoon is stingy, and I had to drive all over town. Boo-hoo… But one of my errands was a great success!

A few months ago I ran a 5k and placed 3rd for my age group. I have NO idea how that’s even possible since I’m such a slow runner, unless I was one of only 3 runners in my age group… In any case, I won a $25 gift certificate to Performance Footwear in Las Vegas. I decided to cash in yesterday.

The store was full of all kinds of running shoes, but I wasn’t able to browse. As soon as I came in, the owner had me get on the treadmill for gait analysis. I was feeling very self conscious about my barefoot plod, but it was cool to see the video recording in slow motion. He showed me that my left leg is shorter than my right, that I have slight pronation, and defined arches. Overall, he said my stride is even and good! Although I’m not a runner, he said I could be because my form is good. I was pleasantly surprised, especially since my husband always tells me how terrible my running style is ;)

Next, I found out the fronts of my feet are much wider than my heels. Even though my right foot is a size 7 and 1/2 and my left is 7, I have to wear size 8’s because of the width issue. Wow! And I always thought I was just a size 8 with issues finding a good pair of high heels.

The owner pulled 3 different shoes from the back room and helped me get them on. With a different shoe on each foot, I walked around the store until I could feel which one felt better. I narrowed it down to these:

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They are Brooks Ravenna 2’s. I’ve never had a pair of Brooks before, but I hear they are a great running shoe! On the treadmill video recording, they appeared to correct my pronation a bit and produced adequate arch support. I can’t wait to try them out!

I must say, I have never had a sales person take such aggressive command of a shopping trip- I basically had no choice but to buy the pair of shoes he said were best! I don’t know how I feel about that, but I DO like that they only ended up costing me $70. If I don’t like the way they feel on my runs or in bootcamp, I can return them in the next 10 days. I highly recommend getting this kind of specialized gait analysis to match your feet to a perfect pair of shoes! I would have had no idea.

As an added bonus, I learned a special way to tie my shoes! The traditional method puts too much pressure on the front of the ankle, causing numbness in runners’ toes. If you make this special loop, you’ll remove some of that pressure and still have a snugly fitting shoe:

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I tested my new shoes out a bootcamp this morning! They felt fabulous, but the true test will be running Pitman wash!