Article by Leeanne Ekland, covering the wellness beat and giving us the scoop on Bikram Yoga.
After writing my first article about my experience with Bikram Yoga I had to take a break because I was hit with the worst sinus and chest cold of my life. It held on tight for about six weeks, wrapping its nasty tendrils around me, leaving me worn out and hung out to dry. I have never been stopped in my tracks the way I was with this thing, but I knew I’d come out the other side. And I knew I would get back into the hot room eventually.
One thing I have noticed about my health since I was forced to take a break from Bikram yoga was that the allergies I had been dealing with for a number of years have started bothering me again. I often feel like my chest needs clearing and I’m always wiping my nose. Being an ex-smoker certainly doesn’t help. Without going into the gory details my point here is that I miss one very important aspect of Bikram yoga that has helped me battle against the annoying symptoms that go along with seasonal and environmental allergies.
Every Bikram yoga class starts with Pranayama breathing. The main purpose of this warm up exercise is to condition the lungs and get the blood flowing in preparation for the class. I have never broken a sweat so quickly standing still. It is amazing that after just five minutes, the sweat is dripping and the body feels wide awake and ready. No five minute sprint could ever do that.
Whenever I get a cold it affects my lungs. It was only after I had to take a break from my classes that I noticed how much stronger my lungs actually were after doing Bikram yoga for only about six months. It’s now been two months away and I am starting to feel the familiar heaviness in my chest. The chest cold I’m getting over certainly brought back that feeling tenfold, but I know that when I go back to regular practice, my lung capacity will improve and I will soon be able to expand my lungs to their full capacity. It really is one of the best feelings in the world to take in a full deep breath and to feel the air move right down to the bottom of my lungs again.
Don’t be Shallow
For the first month or so into my practice of Bikram yoga I coughed quite a bit during Pranayama. This is normal, especially for those who are allergy sufferers, but it didn’t take long before I was able to keep the six count inhalation and exhalation pace required. It also didn’t take long to realize that I am a chronic shallow breather along with a lot of people.
Women are especially prone to shallow breathing. If you really think about it we are conditioned to breathe from the chest only. We are told to stand up straight and stick the chest out and suck the stomach in! We certainly wouldn’t want to expand our bellies to make us look fat! How shallow is that? Ironically, the Pranayama posture insists on standing this way too. The difference is the breathing is controlled in the throat allowing the ribcage to expand and the lungs to inflate completely. Holding the stomach in assists this process and improves core strength and balance during inhalation and as the head is tilted back during the exhalation.
Working at Bikram Yoga: I’m Still not Perfect
The most important thing to keep in mind when practicing Pranayama breathing, and all the postures really, is to give 100% effort but to stay within the limitations of your body. Yoga affords us the opportunity to learn how to listen to the body and to respect what it says. And so every class I remind myself to listen as I still forget!
Even if I can’t do the all the poses yet, as long as I am breathing correctly and to the best of my ability, I am doing yoga.
See You in the Hot Room
If you’re just starting your Bikram yoga practice remember to stay hydrated my friend, learn to embrace the heat, and breathe! It will get better. I’m excited to say that I will be attending my second class back in the next day or so.
I hope to see you in the hot room!
Leeanne Ekland is a stay-at-home mom of one, who’s on a mission to rediscover love, wellness, and neighbourhood happenings, and to have a ton of fun. She’s blogging about her experiences at leeanneekland.com. Having started the parenting experience much later than most, she offers a unique perspective on the challenges and all that is amazing about being a new mom over 40. At least – she does when she’s not napping, which is something she does often.