How Bikram yoga helps overcome eating disorder

My name is Molly and about 2 years ago I dared myself to take my first Bikram yoga class. See, I had been struggling with an eating disorder for over 10 years, and at 92 lbs my body gave out. I lost complete control of myself and I no longer could function in my daily life. I was sad, I was scared and I was so fragile. After being recommended for an out patient treatment program I fell even deeper into my sickness. I was starving my self daily and any calorie I did intake I purged. I was practically daring death to come find me. I knew that recovery scared me and that I would fight it tooth and nail if it wasn’t on my own terms. at my own pace, and done in the most natural way, so I made a deal. I made a deal with my mother that I would recover on my own, I would find and support my own team of doctors who would teach me nutrition, help me explore my real issues and take my weekly vitals to make sure I wasn’t slipping. I was dedicated to being better and although it was unbelievably hard I finally reached a point when my primary care physician told me I could start to be a bit more physically active. No running or spinning, and no beating my self against a machine, I just had to find something to make my body strong and feel better again. And so, by chance, I found Bikram Yoga. After 90 minutes I was high. I was hooked. Bikram Yoga helped me to find peace with in my self, appreciation of my body, and the ability to smell, taste, feel and love again (all things I had lost). With this new found peace I found so much. In a year in a half I was in love with a fellow yogi, so much in so we bought a house and a puppy and play with her each day. My life was finally full because I had found my spiritual self through this practice. But that’s not it.

After a few months of yoga, I went for my first bone density scan. My doctor gave me the bad news. At 25 I had osteoporosis in my spine and hips. I was devastated, but driven to keep pushing my self to become a better version of myself, even if it was just a heir’s breath. A year after hearing the news of my diagnosis, and staring at little old ladies who were hunched in pain, I went for my second dexi-scan. My doctor warned me, “Molly, bone density takes a long time to build, we are looking for no movement, it will take years for your bones to re-grow.” With anxiety, I waited for my results.

“Ok, Molly, so I have some news for you.” Beth was about to run down all of my test results, including my dexi-scan.”Your cholesterol, is the lowest I have ever seen, 95, I credit that to your hard work and yoga, your estrogen is over 50, when I met you it was under 20, that of a 90 year old and the grand finally, your bone density. You have had an 11 percent increase in your spine and a 5 percent increase in your hips. Be very proud, your hard work is paying off.” This yoga is saving my life. I will never be hunched over and I will have opportunities to have babies with the man that I love. Bikram’s yoga has taught me that health is a life style and it is one that is to be embraced in what you eat, what you do, and how you behave through out the day. I thank both of you for all of your inspiration!

My dream is to help other people like me. To use nutrition and Bikram yoga to help struggling women and men to adopt a life style that is fulfilling inside and out. I am strong because of all of the hard work I have done inside of 90 minutes and I want to share my strength with others. Thank you for bringing this yoga to me, for saving my life, and helping me realize my dream

Why Backward Bending is Good for the Spine

Understanding why and how back-bending is beneficial for the spine is a challenge for many yoga students. For many, back-bending is an emotionally charged, challenging and often uncomfortable part of practice. However despite its discomforts back-bending can be one of the most therapeutic parts of a yoga practice.

Think of all the time you spend bending forward in a day, from enjoying a coffee with a newspaper, to driving, to typing at a computer, cleaning or lounging with a friend. The reality is, we spend most of our day in an unsupported forward bend.

Internally, forward bending causes the front of vertebrae move closer together, forcing the inter-vertebral disks and spinal nerves back. Prolonged poor posture can:

  • cause or aggravate back and neck pain
  • constrict blood-flow and put pressure on vital organs and glands preventing them from functioning properly
  • has been shown to have negative effects on self-esteem and mood in studies

Ironically, when most people experience back pain or discomfort their first reaction is to bend forward, not knowing it is the cause of their discomfort. In reality back-bending is what is needed to counter-act the impact of continuous forward bending. This impulse is not easy to unlearn.

First it is important to recognize that back-bending is a natural range of motion for the spine. “Think of monkeys or children climbing in a tree who reach backward for a branch, the spine bends backward,” says Jeff Weisman a Toronto based Bikram Yoga teacher.

As you bend backwards you compress the posterior part of your spinal column, pushing your disks away from the spinal nerves and decompress the front of the vertebrae. This effectively counteracts the damage of hours spent forward bending.

Those concerned and intimidated by back-bending should rest assured that the controlled environment and proper progression of the Bikram Yoga series allows for back-bends to be preformed safely. For those with limitations and injuries, remember to speak to your instructor, move slowly and listen to your body.

Physical Benefits

  • Stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and prepares the body for action.
  • Helps counteract damage of bad posture.
  • Relieves back pain, bronchial distress, scoliotic deformities, tennis elbow, frozen shoulder.
  • Realigns the spine.
  • Promotes proper kidney function.
  • Helps with digestive function, eliminating constipation and flatulence.

Energetic Benefits

  • Stimulates all the chackras, primarily creating opening in the fourth (heart) chackra.

Emotional Benefits

  • Helps to break through insecurity and fear.
  • Relieves stress and tedium.
  • Opening the lower back helps to free you from insecurity and taking yourself too seriously.
  • Helps to build confidence and self-esteem in children.

Tips from the Pros

Drop the head back as far as it goes. The head and arms do not need to stay together. – Bikram Choudhury

Allow your exhale to lower you into your maximum depth, allow your inhale to lift you up and forward. – Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, Dr. H. David Coulter

“Lift your breastbone up as you go into backward bend, instead of jamming only the lower waistband spine.
You HAVE to have your elbows pressing IN, not bowing out before you go down.

Also, LIFT the throat, shoulders and armpits before you drop down.

Then you lift UP, OUT and OVER your waistband spine so you do not get that crimping feeling.” – Mary Jarvis for All Back-bending Heals the Spine

Do not contract the gluteal muscles until you reach your maximum expression then tighten – Rajishree Choudhury (for more read this article)

The standing back-bend is regulated by locked knees – Craig Villani

 

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