Hot for Bikram Yoga
Practicing in heated room popular
- By April Mitchell Nading Special to The Courier & Press
- Posted May 28, 2012 at midnight
I’m inverted in separate leg stretch at Yoga 101, pulling on my heels, reaching the crown of my head to my yoga mat, when a huge drop of sweat falls from my stomach into my eye. Or was it from my thigh? I can’t really tell because my entire body is dripping with sweat. My arms. My legs. My chin. My eyelids.
At this moment, I’m not looking very pretty. But I’m feeling pretty tough. Sweating through 90 minutes of stretching, pulling, bending, flexing and cardiovascular activity has made me a new woman and turned numerous other Tri-Staters into hot yoga converts. Hot yoga is yoga practiced in a hot room with high humidity.
“Hot yoga is very challenging,” said Mick Conati, 42, from Evansville. “I’ve lost close to 40 (now it’s up to 60) pounds since I started practicing regularly and next week I expect to get off my blood pressure medicine.”
Conati said he’s dabbled with hot yoga off and on for the past couple of years, but a few months ago began practicing about five times a week. Coupled with a diet that includes no preservatives or prepared foods, the results have been great.
“Hot yoga has actually made the dieting a lot easier,” Conati said. “I don’t know how to explain it, but I’m more conscious of what I’m eating and more aware of what my body is doing. I’m not as hungry, either.”
Conati actually has science to back him up.
“Patients who are long-term hot yoga practitioners are generally at or near their ideal body weight,” said Eric Mitz, a chiropractor with Hamilton Clinic. “They’re much less likely to be on any chronic medications and the patients who start yoga after seeking my care for pain or injury generally have quicker recovery times and improved long-term function.”
Introduced to the United States by Bikram Choudury in the early 1970s, hot yoga now has hundreds of studios dedicated to it and numerous other studios offer hot classes as part of their schedules.
In Evansville, Yoga 101′s entire schedule is comprised of heated classes. Tri-State Athletic Club recently remodeled its facility to offer hot classes to members.
According to the Bikram website, the yoga practiced in a heated room with high humidity systematically works every part of the body, to give all the internal organs, all the veins, all the ligaments and all the muscles everything they need to maintain optimum health and maximum function.
Heated to around 105 degrees, the studio is affectionately referred to by Bikram as a “torture chamber.” Others call it “life altering.”
“It is a life-altering experience because once you start it and you make progress, it’s something you don’t want to give up,” said Bonnie Minnette, 57, of New Harmony, Ind. “It’s not the same as working out in a gym or jogging or cycling. It’s better.
“Hot yoga has made me become more aware of my posture. I don’t have sciatic problems anymore and it’s made me more aware of what I eat, so I’ve cut back on some of what I was eating.”
Minnette, who began practicing hot yoga last August, admits struggling with the heat in the beginning, but she says every drop of sweat has been worth it.
“It makes you feel good. People tell me I look like I’ve lost weight and tell me I look good. My husband even noticed how toned my legs are since I started practicing.”
But weight loss is just one of the many benefits of a regular yoga practice. Mitz says there are neuroemotional benefits that accompany the strength, endurance, balance and flexibility.
“One of the more interesting benefits of yoga for my chronic pain patients is the near immediate reduction in the anxiety and depression that accompany their conditions,” Mitz said. “There are reproducible and predictable neurochemical changes that occur during a yoga class — likely due to the focused breathing, concentration and physical exertion — that yield lower reported levels of stress and a greater sense of well-being.”
It’s that “greater sense of well-being” that keeps people coming back. Regular practitioners are quick to note the obvious physical benefits of hot yoga and say the psychological portion is equally challenging.
“For me, the hardest part was the concentration,” said Conati. “I wanted to muscle through the poses and the instructors would remind me to concentrate and find a focal point and once I started letting go of all the ‘gunk’ in my head I could really get into the poses.”
“It helps me be more of who I am if that makes sense,” said Minnette. “It’s making me more me. I’ve got more energy and I feel so relaxed when I leave there and it’s built my self-confidence. It’s a freeing thing really. It’s just a real good thing.”
WHERE TO GO
Yoga 101: 2800 Lincoln Ave.,
Tri-State Athletic Club:
555 Tennis Lane, 812-479-3111,
What to bring: Yoga mat, cold water, towel