Bend It Like Bikram – Hot Yoga

January 19, 2010

I have a friend who has invited me to go with her to yoga several times in the past, but each time either something else came up, or we ran into transportation problems and didn’t make the class in time. In other words, exercise fail. This weekend, I got another opportunity to go (grateful that she’s persistent!) and decided that no matter what, I would make this class.

So there I was, racing to the subway at 11am on a Saturday morning, happy that I actually made it, when she said, “Oh, you know it’s bikram yoga right?” Uhhh, now I do. Okay, no worries, I had a tank top, cropped pants, should be good to go. I had practiced yoga several times back in college and had an idea of what to expect, so I embraced this new challenge.

(photo credit: Yoga to the People)

The studio we went to was Yoga to the People, an organization dedicated to making yoga accessible to everyone, skipping past the high fees (which go as high as $25/class in some studios), and providing a place where anyone can practice. There are also locations in SF and Berkeley, for all the California people! Each class is $8, and mats and towels can be rented for an additional $2 each. The studio is really clean (think the location I went to just opened last year), and has changing rooms with showers. I was really glad I went with a seasoned pro, who showed me where take off my shoes before we went into the changing room, how I should place a towel over my mat so I don’t slip around, and how to strategically position ourselves closer to the door to catch any cool breezes.

The class lasted an intense 90 minutes, and I sweated through every single one of them. The room is heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit at 40% humidity, and one of the biggest challenges, one that sets bikram apart from “normal” yoga, is dealing with the external heat while actively contorting the body through various poses. Everyone is profusely dripping sweat, and as gross as that may initially sound, I really appreciated the sweat as a physical sign that we were really working and pushing our bodies. There are 26 poses in bikram yoga, and each class goes through the same routine, a but you can tweak each pose to increase the difficulty in future classes.

When it was all was over, I was drenched, but felt so accomplished, energized, and motivated. The heat helped with my swollen ankle, allowed me to stretch further than I could in a cold room, and the heat is good for skin to boot! “Like a cheap sauna!”, my friend said. Indeed, except one that kicks your ass.

Well, I was hooked on bikram, or “hot yoga” as it’s sometimes called. I went back the next day – the instructor advised newbies to do 2 or 3 days in a row to loosen any muscle soreness – and it was just as tough and equally sweaty. Hopefully in time, I’ll become more flexible, stronger, and be able to introduce others to bikram.

Some tips for brave souls who would like to try bikram: 1) bring a large towel to place over your mat to prevent slipperyness, 2) bring a small towel to wipe sweat with during class, 3) hydrate well prior to class but make sure to go to the bathroom beforehand because the teachers are strict about not letting students leave the room until class is over, 4) most girls wear bra tops and shorts, while guys go shirtless and wear trunks or shorts. this isn’t for fashion, but out of necessity of trying to stay as cool as possible, 5) bring a change of clothes after, 6) drink something with electrolytes after like SmartWater, or coconut milk, or maybe Gatorade (although that’s pretty heavy with sugar)

The 26 poses of bikram yoga


Drinking Rooibos Tea for Skin Issues

December 14, 2009

I’ve tried an infinite number of treatments for acne, from oral to topical, prescription and over-the-counter. Less is more, and the best solution is probably to leave my skin alone, but I’m always tempted by the promises that a new cream makes, such a sucker for good marketing. Lately though, I’ve been intrigued and researched into a more holistic approach to attacking some of my skin issues, and discovered a few things along the way.

Physical symptoms reflect unhealthiness of the body, whether it be be coughing from a cold, or in my case, breakouts from some sort of stress/junk food eating/hormonal imbalance. I do think that when a person doesn’t eat correctly, doesn’t exercise regularly (totally guilty), and is continuously under stress, the body buckles under the external forces and acts out.  So the solution is to be good to yourself, starting with diet and the food that we intake.

Recently, I stumbled upon a thread that hailed rooibos tea (from South Africa, also called “redbush tea”) as an effective liquid with lots of cleansing antioxidants to move toxins out of the body. More importantly, all ingredients are natural and rooibos is caffeine-free! A company called Republic of Tea produces a series of Be Well teas, with all sorts of tea mixes for different health issues. The one I was interested in was Get Gorgeous, but they also have Get Smart, Get Lost (for weight loss), Get Passionate (to increase the libido!), Get Focused, etc. You get the idea. After I read several pages of reviews with multiple people claiming benefits from drinking this tea, I ran across the street to GNC and picked up a can, which has 36 individual teabags.The instructions are to drink 3-4 teabags a day, and this is easier than it sounds. I drop two teabags into my thermos as my morning beverage in lieu of coffee (caffeine aggravates acne, so do dairy products!) and refill twice throughout the day, and have another mug-full at night before bed. Since it’s caffeine free, I don’t worry about insomnia! The taste is fine, I like tea so it tastes regular to me, but sometimes I add a little honey to sweeten.

It could be the tea, or it could be the huge amounts of water I’m ingesting daily now relative to before, but I have found that the tea works to calm my skin down. I’m also starting a new (simple!) skin regimen so that’s in the mix also, but I’m not stopping this tea anytime soon! Hoping that a greener diet and drinking this tea and more water in general can encourage clearer skin! I ordered 3 more cans from GNC when they had a sale last week, but these are also available directly from Republic of Tea in bulk. Also, I’m sure any rooibos tea would work and have the same cleansing qualities, but I like this one since it also has chamomile, orange peel, and burdock root.

Just checked GNC and they’re having a 1-day sale today, 25% off plus free shipping!!!! *Checks out with three more cans*

Another easy cleansing tip to detox – drink water with lemon! Lemon has amazing antiseptic qualities that filter out toxins in your system and balances out acidity with its alkalizing ability. I squeeze half a fresh lemon’s worth of juice into a glass of hot water in the morning, and also ask for lemons at restaurants to drink with a meal. When mixed with hot water, lemon is said to calm upset stomachs and aid digestion, along with other detoxifying benefits. Drink up!

The Bar Method: Small Moves for Big Changes

October 10, 2009

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During senior year of college, my roommate and I started going to Dailey Method classes in Piedmont as a way to shape up before spring break. We averaged 3 classes a week for a month and I was amazed at the difference it made! Our laziness and lack of funds overcame our ability to continue past the new student introductory month, but I have continued to boast of the results I got from the few classes we were able to squeeze in. Approximately 10 lbs lighter and more toned than I’ve ever really been, it was the best workout I’ve ever tried.

barmethodposeNow that I’ve relocated to LA, the Westside and South Bay are actually quite littered with a few Bar Method studios–all inconveniently too far from me to attend regularly. After putting off making the trek for a year now, a Pasadena studio finally opened up this summer, offering the perfect stop for post-work days! I’ve been going for 2 weeks now and it’s been such a great way to end the day after sitting in front of a computer all day. The Pasadena studio is gorgeous and large enough for classes of 20 to comfortably fit. It’s conveniently located in the heart of Old Town Pasadena where you can park in the public parking lot on Delacey Avenue for free, grab lunch or dinner, or even do some shopping after class. I love that they stock their bathroom with Aveda products (including eye make up remover!) for the convenience of stopping by before work if I ever get up early enough for 6AM classes. What I’ve really loved most about it so far are the instructors–all sweet, helpful, and energetic girls! One of the girls is even a Cal alum! I’ve yet to take any classes with co-owners Kate and Liz, but am looking forward to soon.

barmethodSo what exactly is the Bar Method and why does it work? Each 1 hour class consists of interval stretching, toning, and strengthening exercises and poses. The instructors throw in use of free weights, resistance belts, exercise balls, and foam pads for some moves as well. The focus of the bar method is to both burn fat and elongate muscles–a perfect combo for looking leaner. I’ve heard that it’s supposed to help sculpt a dancer’s body and the use of the ballet barre for stretching and back exercises offers a fun twist to other types of workouts I’ve tried. Who wouldn’t want to look as lean and graceful as a ballerina? With a regime of controlled, repetitive sets, it’s amazing how sore each class has left me because I somehow manage to work every muscle group while I’m there. What’s great is that there are many suggested variations to making each set more difficult depending on how much you want to challenge yourself. According to Burr Leonard, Bar Method founder, this is an “exercise that holds a long term fascination.”

Each studio offers a $100 new student introductory package, which includes unlimited visits for the first month! If you’re interested in trying out one class, there is also the option of paying $10 for the first class and upgrading to the $100 package later. With a schedule as busy as mine, I’m glad that there are later evening classes that I can catch on my way home and multiple weekend classes to start my Saturday and Sunday mornings off with.

Am looking forward to keeping this up and seeing some more changes! For now, it’s so rewarding to know I can barely walk up the stairs in my house after only an hour of getting my butt kicked in class. This is a pricier alternative to a gym membership, but for someone who needs motivation to stay in shape, I couldn’t have found anything better.