This is the first post of Jana Petersen’s column on health and wellness. She will be drawing from topical articles, trends and deals to post about various activities and ways to keep healthy in the Borderstan area. You can email her at [email protected]
From Jana Petersen
Yoga mats and coffee cups have historically begged the question: is yoga the latest manifestation of “bobo” culture, or do people invest for the purported benefits? For a while, I had been pretty convinced of the former – and had even questioned whether people carrying yoga mats were actually going to yoga, or whether they were using the mats to roll (pun intended) with the trend.
While I can’t speak for everyone carrying around a yoga mat, I can confidently say that the benefits from Bikram yoga are worth the time, money and 95+ degree heated studio.
Bikram yoga (and yoga overall) had been on the peripheral extracurricular track for me; it was a welcomed break from running, but had never warranted the investment in a monthly membership (#iwishiwerepaidmore), Lululemon merchandise or the use of yoga pants for anything outside of post-binge Thanksgiving day. After some convincing from friends and boss (more to come on that one), I purchased a 10-week trial pass at Bikram Dupont. I could stand a break from running and could probably benefit from the stretches.
The 95+ degree studio didn’t feel like a big deal — until the morning of my first class. Between compulsive trips to refill my Nalgene and preemptive self-mockery, I had covered all of the worst-case scenarios (or so I thought) in my head: Fainting, losing my balance, uncontrollably sweating…
What I had not prepared myself for was the sight of my boss — the same man who had purported the benefits of Bikram yoga was now sitting on a mat in front of me, shirtless and in biker shorts. I was mortified and I could see he was eating his words; the months of “You have to try to Bikram!” had backfired, big time. I (and he) had (wrongly) assumed there would be more than one Bikram studio in Dupont.
All of this said, I’m now months into the “standing tree pose” and the benefits continue to outweigh any initial insecurities, hesitancy and humiliation. Although it’s hard to quantify and articulate exactly the benefits of Bikram — so much is dependent on how hard you push yourself and your body type — there are a few pronounced medical benefits (see below).
What is Bikram Yoga?
Bikram is the practice of 26 postures and two breathing exercises performed in a heated environment, named after Bikram Choudhury (who knew!). The heated environment helps to loosen muscles, eliminate toxins and improve circulation; the flow of postures within Bikram is aimed to systematically work every part of the body (veins, internal organs, ligaments and muscles).
Benefits of Bikram Yoga
- Yoga — especially Bikram yoga — loosens the muscles, releasing lactic acid that builds up with muscle use and can cause stiffness, tension, pain and fatigue.
- Yoga increases the range of motion in joints, resulting in sense of ease and fluidity throughout the body.
- Yoga stretches the body’s soft tissues, including ligaments and tendons.
- Yoga can help posture; the series of poses requires lower-abdominal and core strength, which increases likelihood of “sitting and standing tall.”
- Yoga de-stresses; deep breathing exercises help calm the mind and focus on the “here and now.”
Bikram and Other Types of Yoga
Bikram is the only practice of “hot yoga.” There are a slew of other kinds – but the most popular are Hatha (often called the foundation of other yoga styles, focused on posture, breathing and meditation) and Vinyasa (more focused on strength, power and tone.)
Where to Practice Bikram?
- Bikram Yoga Dupont (Connecticut Avenue and R street)
- Hours vary; see schedule here
Borderstanis, where are your favorite Bikram (and other) studios to practice?