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 Bikram Yoga?

Whitney Bikram Yoga

Instead of asking “Why Bikram yoga?” or even “Why yoga?” – it’s important to first ask why do anything at all that makes you feel better?

Yes, a lot of people feel great with their exercise routine of running, jumping, swimming or lifting weight and following their raw, paleo or vegan diet lifestyles. They should keep doing that. However, as someone who has experienced all sorts of exercises and the injuries that come with them, Bikram yoga helped me the most.

I graduated with a degree in exercise prescription. During my work and studies, I was introduced to a variety of exercises and therapy programs. After years in the health industry, I learned about Bikram yoga and its benefits. Eventually, I made the decision to become a Bikram yoga instructor with the goal of combining my knowledge of the exercise world with yoga and providing my students with the best possible solutions throughout their healing journeys.

Here are five things that I really enjoy about the Bikram yoga practice:

    1. The Bikram yoga routine:

As an instructor for over 10 years and a practitioner for over 12 years, I have learned that the Bikram practice increases the practitioner’s self-awareness, physical and mental strength and brings a new level of determination. Consistency is undeniably important to maintain your routine, and Bikram’s class is definitely a precise sequence. The beginner sequence always follows the same 26 postures and two breathing exercises, which allow us to deepen our practice and understand how each posture works, and how it impacts us. If we start to modify a posture instead of taking the time to do it more slowly, we can lose the therapeutic effect.

    1. The heat in the Bikram yoga practice

If there’s one thing Bikram is known for, it is that it’s hot and sometimes really hot. The heat sometimes scares people, but it is the heat that allows people to move more easily into postures. The temperatures also helps detoxify the body.

    1. The accessibility of the Bikram yoga practice

Bikram yoga is a practice accessible to everyone. Anyone who passes me on the street — the athlete, the elderly, the emotionally or physically broken soul, the young student or skateboarder — all of these people would be able to do Bikram’s beginning yoga series. For example, athletes may push themselves to their limits, but for someone with a bad back or bad knees this will be a very different process. The goal is to stay committed. It is a practice that everyone can work with. It stimulates the organs and the flow of oxygenated blood throughout your whole body.

    1. Bikram yoga as a stress reliever

Bikram Choudhury scientifically designed the introductory sequence to provide a complete workout through the balancing and strengthening of every system in the body, which should prevent illnesses and injuries. The series of postures combines elements of concentration, patience, determination and self-control, which lead to increased mental clarity and reduces stress. A regular practice of Bikram yoga also improves body posture and spine alignment. It relieves back pains and headaches, strengthens muscles, reduces symptoms of chronic diseases, gives better self-confidence, improves body image, improves flexibility, balance and strength and gives a general feeling of wellness and peace. Taking the time to do yoga will rejuvenate you.

    1. The role of Bikram yoga in one’s life

One thing that attracted me the most to Bikram was that it is pure. There are no distractions; it’s just you and your mat. When Bikram becomes your practice, you have it for life. Life is not easy and often, we are faced with difficult challenges that take away our energy, focus and ambitions. We feel as though we are on the edge, but it is in these moments that Bikram yoga provides you with the stability, clarity and motivation to start over and stay strong.

Bikram yoga works. It’s the way the series was designed … its systematic and perfect for me — and might just be for you too.

 

Author, Whitney Rydingsvard McCormick

Directer / Owner of Bikram Yoga U-District, Seattle

Is therapeutic hatha yoga a cure for diabetes?

Recently we have had a lot of students commenting on how Bikram yoga has helped manage or control diabetes, prevent and heal the ravages of the complications caused by the disease, and improve their overall quality of life. It is well known that regular practice of yoga can help reduce levels of stress, enhance mobility, balance blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, improve circulation, and enhance the function and efficiency of neurological and endocrine organs, all of which greatly benefit a diabetic student. We wanted to delve a bit deeper into the topic, exploring more specifically how the postures therapeutically improve the condition of diabetes. In our research, we found this testimonial, by Julian Goldstein, dedicated Bikram yoga practitioner, and in his own words, she gives a wonderful response to this ‘how’ (question). We have taken the testimonial from www.bikramyoga.com, the international Bikram yoga website, where you can find other articles and declarations of how Bikram yoga has helped manage and cure a wide range of diseases and disorders. As always, we recommend you discuss any treatment plan with your doctor or medical practitioner. Enjoy xx

Diabetes kills more than 350,000 Americans every year, while slowly ravaging the bodies of its surviving victims. This year alone approximately 700,000 Americans will fall victim to their diabetic onset. For 90 percent of the roughly 14 million people who are Type II diabetics, the onset will have occurred in the prime of their lives. Diabetes causes complications such as blindness, kidney failure, stroke, heart disease, hypertension and circulatory disorders leading to amputation of toes, feet and legs — ultimately causing premature death.

But are diabetes victims or perpetrators living lifestyles that beg for this malady to manifest itself? Having diabetes for over 28 years has given me some insight. But not until I discovered how to reverse this chronic disease did it become clear that I was not a victim of diabetes, but rather a casualty of my own lack of knowledge of how to care for my physical system properly.

You might ask, “Didn’t you go to the doctor and have regular physical checkups?” Certainly, I did. Sadly, it’s not until something specific arises, a manifest symptom or negative test result, that medical science steps in. Our doctors are the best in the world when it comes to treating trauma, and curing and preventing infectious disease. Chronic diseases like diabetes, however, have everyone stumped. Our doctors are able to keep us alive only with insulin and anti-diabetic medications. Continued long-term use of these medicines, unfortunately, creates complications of their own. But what if there was a way not only to reverse diabetes, but prevent its manifestation as well?

There is a Way to Reverse Diabetes I tripped over a treatment quite by accident after having suffered a herniated disc in my lower back. Three doctors proclaimed, “Surgery!” This is a risky alternative in any case, but even more so because of my diabetes. Then I heard that regular practice of hatha yoga may help my back problem.

Of far greater benefit, I soon learned, was that performing the yoga postures daily for five months eliminated my need to take insulin or any other anti-diabetic medications! I had required 75 units of insulin daily. Insulin kept me alive, but not healthy. Hatha yoga put me back on the road to good health.

This method is a therapeutic form developed by Bikram Choudhury, a yoga master from India and my teacher. His method consists primarily of two pranayamas (breathing exercises) and 26 asanas (postures). How can yoga reverse diabetes? Isn’t it just another form of exercise? Well, yes–and no. All diabetics know that daily aerobic exercise helps control blood sugar and improve circulation (poor circulation is a major complication of diabetes). Though the exact mechanics are not precisely known, exercise reduces the amount of insulin required to maintain normal blood sugar levels. For some adult onset diabetics, proper diet and exercise are all that’s required to regulate normal blood sugar. But for the vast majority, oral medication or insulin injection is necessary to maintain life. Many who at first can control blood sugar with diet and exercise find that, in later years, they also require medication.

What does hatha yoga offer that ordinary exercise doesn’t? Certain postures have a therapeutic effect upon various organs and glands. Those postures that benefit the pancreas and its functions are of the greatest interest to diabetics and pre-diabetics. It is the correct application of these postures that can reverse diabetes.

Among these are the backward bending postures such as the Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon pose), Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Salabhasana (Locust Pose), Poorna Salabhasana (Full Locust Pose), Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) and Ustrasana (Camel Pose). These postures bring stimulation to the pancreas, as they exercise the erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, obliques, deep intertransversarii and posterior abdominal wall. Also, most of these postures cause the internal viscera to stretch, bringing stimulation to the pancreas and other glands and organs that otherwise receive no stimulation.

Other postures such as Dandayamana-Bibbaktapada Pashimotthanasana (Standing Separate Leg Head-to-Knee Pose), Ardha Kurmasana (Half Tortoise Pose), Sasangasana (Rabbit Pose) and Janushirasana with Pashimotthanasana (Head-to-Knee with Stretching Pose) provide stimulation and rejuvenation to the cells of the pancreas and other endocrine glands by way of compression. Compression of these glands, followed by relaxation, causes an increased volume of highly oxygenated blood to reach the cells, bringing nourishment that rejuvenates atrophied cells.

Diabetes appears to be primarily a deficiency of the pancreas. Yet our body’s internal feedback system is so complex that, when modern allopathic medicine prescribes a drug for one problem, it causes a myriad of other complications, some worse than the original symptoms. Hatha yoga is a body balancing system. Its therapeutic application utilizes the body’s power to generate its own medicines that have no negative side effects. Therapeutic hatha yoga may be considered as complementary medicine, adjunctive to modern allopathic medicine.

Since stress further complicates diabetes, the calmative effects of performing hatha yoga and the specific practice of Savasana (Dead Body Pose) at correct intervals also contributes to the reversal of this so-called chronic, incurable disease. And when certain other postures, such as Trikanasana (Triangle Pose), or Tuladandasana (Balancing Stick Pose) are applied in the therapeutic manner, aerobic conditioning occurs, eliminating the need for other exercise forms as therapy. Since hatha yoga improves flexibility and overall muscle tone, however, most everyone finds their overall athleticism improved. Additionally, age is no barrier. Though many diabetics find it difficult, if not almost impossible, to maintain a regular exercise regimen as they grow older, they are still able to maintain an effective therapeutic hatha yoga regimen.

The application of therapeutic hatha yoga to reverse “incurable” disease is relatively unknown in the West, but that is changing. Dr. Deepak Chopra, the famous endocrinologist and author of Quantum Healing, combines Western medical technology with ayurvedic medicine. A significant part of his patients’ treatment includes this form of yoga. Dr. Dean Ornish, who is famous for his radical techniques for reversing heart disease, states, “Increasing evidence indicates that medications to lower blood pressure and cholesterol prevent or reverse heart disease in only a small percentage of people. These drugs sometimes make people worse.” Therapeutic hatha yoga, diet and meditation form the major part of his treatment.

If heart disease can be “reversed,” “cured,” “controlled,” “managed without medications,” etc., then why not diabetes? Dr. Phulgenda Sinha, director of the Institute of Yoga in Patna, India, and Washington D.C., and author of Yogic Cures for Chronic Diseases, states, “The yogic treatment restores the normal functioning of the pancreas and other glands of the endocrinal system. When these glands begin to function properly, the individual is fully cured of the diabetic disorders and his health is restored to normal level.” Is a cure for diabetes too much to hope for? Diabetes is an age-old disease that has been treated successfully in the Eastern world by methods we in the West are just beginning to try, let alone understand. Amazing as it may seem, therapeutic hatha yoga has been shown to:

  1. Control diabetes at significantly reduced insulin levels for Type I diabetics;
  2. Control diabetes without any external medication for Type II diabetics;
  3. Prevent and heal the ravages of the complications caused by diabetes with the body’s own medicine.

Further, Recommend Reading: 

Bose, Buddha,
Key to the Kingdom of Health, Calcutta, India, Statesman Press, 1938.

Chopra, Deepak, M.D.,
Quantum Healing: Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine, New York, Bantam Books, 1989

Choudhury, Bikram,
Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class, New York, Putnam Publishing Group, 1978

Funderburk, James, Ph.D.,
Science Studies Yoga, A Review of Physiological Data, Glenview, IL, Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science & Philosophy of USA, 1977

Jain, Suresh C., et al.,
“A Study of response pattern of non-insulin dependent diabetics to yoga therapy,” Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, 1993, 19, 69–74

Mishra, S.K.,
“Diabetes mellitus in Indian medicine and its management by yoga,” Excerpta Medica ICS, 1979, 454, 373-378

Monro, Robin, et al.,
“Yoga Therapy for NIDDM: A controlled trial,” Complementary Medical Research, 1992, 6/1, 66-68

Ornish, Dean, M.D.,
Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease, New York, Ballantine Books.

Sinha, Phulgenda,
Yogic Cure for Common Diseases, New Delhi, India, Orient Paperbacks, 1976.

Julian Goldstein, B.S., M.S., CYT, and member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists, was a certified yoga therapist who had taught therapeutic hatha yoga to diabetics at the Yoga College of India in Encino, California. He published a support group newsletter for diabetics called Diabetic Backtalk and was the author of the book Diabetic Always — Insulin no More! Or Any Other Darn Pills! He was also the founder of the non-profit Diabetes Alternatives Foundation.

 

5 Do’s and Don’ts for your first meditation

Benefits of Meditation

We receive many benefits from our hatha yoga practice – one of which is the ‘physical preparation of the body for meditation’. That is to say, through the asanas or postures, our bodies become stronger and more flexible, allowing the muscles to relax. As our body becomes more supple, we can sit comfortably and for longer periods of meditation. Combine this with the breathing techniques taught in the yoga class, where we learn how to still our minds, our meditation experience is further aided or enhanced.

There are many parallels between the benefits of hatha yoga and meditation – increased mood, decrease in tension-related pain, improved energy levels, emotional stability, developed intuition, greater ability to focus and concentrate, and better stress-management are just a few. The benefits do come through consistency of practice, it’s not an overnight fix. Yet those who have combined the two practices and continue to do so, say they have never felt better or more at peace.

You may have heard about the benefits of meditation, you may already have a morning meditation practice at home. There are classes, events and often groups in the local community you can join to begin your meditation practice. No matter how or where you meditate, here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep you inspired and maintaining a daily practice.

Dos

Do ease your mind by knowing what to expect. Expect thoughts. Many beginners believe that meditation is the absence of thoughts, when in fact that isn’t the goal at all. What we will come to experience are pauses in our thoughts, known as “the gap,” where you can let go, sink down, and connect with your essence. The gap manifests in different ways for different people. If, outside of meditation, you experience peace, synchronicity, coincidences, creativity, abundance, or joy then you are spending time in the gap.

Also, know that experiences in meditation provide exactly what you need. Some people feel physical sensations, see colors or have emotional swells. You might even fall asleep during meditation, which is your body’s warning sign that perhaps you need to get to bed earlier.

Do find a quiet space. In your home this means a place you can go to be alone without interruptions. If you’re going to a guided meditation or a group session, this might mean sitting in a place where you aren’t distracted by things like cold breezes, noises, or sitting somewhere physically uncomfortable.

Do have a timer. If you’re on your own, make sure you have a timer to signal the end of your meditation. The Insight Timer app is designed for meditation and chimes gently at the designated time. Startling out of a meditative state to an oven timer or peeking at your watch every few minutes may not give you the peace you need. If a timer isn’t available to you, you can certainly open your eyes to check the time once in a while if you don’t find it disruptive to your practice.

Do avoid interruptions. Turn off your cell phone and your home phone. Pick a time when there are the least number of people home, especially children. Tell your family or roommates what you’re doing—and why—and give them the information they need to avoid interrupting you. For example: “When the door to my office is closed in the morning that means I’m meditating. It helps me to have a peaceful day. If you open the door and see me sitting with my eyes closed, please don’t talk to me.”

Do stay seated. Your body equates the position of lying down with sleep. To help your body to recognize that meditation and sleep are different, you should find a comfortable seated position for meditating. Use pillows and blankets or lean against a wall if that helps your comfort level. If you have a physical limitation that makes seated meditation impossible, meditate in whatever position works for you.

Don’ts

Don’t judge your experience. You are always given exactly what you need in each meditation. One day you may feel a total stress release and the next day you might feel irritation or disappointment. Instead of judging your meditation, practice gratitude for the experience you got and be curious as to why things may have been different.

Don’t worry if you get interrupted. Releasing control of outcome is a big part of the meditation process. When you expect to have a quiet and uninterrupted meditation and instead you get a UPS delivery and two phone calls, don’t sweat it. You’re learning to go with the flow. Next time you might want to unplug the phone or put a note on your door. But for this time, be glad you got a chance to practice how to get back into the meditative mindset multiple times in one sitting. This probably isn’t what you wanted, but it was perhaps just what you needed.

Don’t compare your experience to others. As they say, “comparison is the thief of joy.” If you ask others about their experiences, you run the risk of comparing it with yours. Meditation is different for each person. Some will see colors, experience profound thoughts, and have physical sensations, while others will feel distracted and fall asleep. None of this has anything to do with your meditation, so avoid comparisons. In fact, don’t even compare this meditation to your own prior experiences. Trust that you will always get what you need from every session.

 

Remember that these are just guidelines to help you get started. Once you get into a routine with your meditations, you’ll be able to figure out what works best for your personal practice.

 

Enjoy xx

What happens to my body when I do Bikram Yoga?

In the Bikram yoga room, we can clearly see how our body is moving on the outside via the aid of the mirrors. But have you ever thought or asked yourself, ‘what is happening on the inside of my body as I move through the practice’? That’s what this blog post will address! Here’s an in-depth list of what’s happening on the inside during your 90minutes in the hot room!

  • Muscles are contracted, developing strength at a cellular and biochemical level. When the muscles increase in strength, they become balanced. This then returns the skeleton to its original balanced position. We all loose this through age, bad posture, injury or sports.
  • Lipids and proteins are re-organised optimally in stretching, promoting better circulation.
  • Joint mobility is increased, reducing the risk of arthritis, aches and pains.
  • Blood and calcium are brought to the bones; by working against gravity they become strengthened, without additional weight and stress.
  • Lymph nodes are massaged, pumping lymph into the body and helping the lymphatic system to work more efficiently.
  • Organs of the immune system are boosted.
  • Circulation to the nervous system is improved.
  • Endocrine glands are encouraged to secrete appropriate hormones.
  • Communication of hormones amongst various glands and systems of the body are enhanced.
  • The thymus gland, spleen, appendix and intestines are massaged through compression and extension.
  • Toxins are flushed out and waste excreted.
  • Lungs, heart and arteries are flushed out by increased blood circulation.
  • The brain is stimulated by increased circulation and varying blood pressure.
  • Nerves are stimulated by compression and extension, supplying fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients to the body.
  • Strength develops as the body’s own resistance is used against gravity.

Does this give you some inspiration to come in and stretch your body? See you in the hot room soon!

Hard men are softies for Bikram Yoga

The old-world macho view that “yoga is for girls”, or at the very least, only for blokes who are a “bit spiritual”, is history. Over the past months, we have seen an increase in the number of male practitioners inside the yoga room! The longer-running male students are enjoying the support in numbers, the women are enjoying the view, and the teachers are very proud! It’s been a slow process to up the male quota of students, but finally, men are starting to see the benefits of a regular yoga practice.

Admittedly feedback from this new younger population of male students is they aren’t in class to align the chakras, but rather, the draw card in to the practice has been to improve their flexibility, help back pain and heal injury, as well as to lose a few of the extra kilos accumulated over the Christmas season.

We asked one of these new recruits about his experience and he said, “It’s definitely not about lying around on a mat. It’s an intense physical workout. I’m a footy player and there’s a lot of weights involved in training plus intense, competitive action. In the past i’ve tended to neglect the flexibility aspect, which I now realise is very important to my game.” When men see the benefits of yoga, such as greater physical mobility, that’s when they persevere with it.

Dense muscle is notoriously inflexible but the benefits from yoga-style stretching are measurable. We did some research and found out the English rugby team now includes time ‘on-the-mat’ as a regular part of their training program, at the insistence of their Head of Performance Coach Mark Bitcon. He is quoted as saying, “We test various physiological aspects of our players, and one is range of flexibility. Through their yoga practice, we have seen as much as an extra couple of centimetres in areas like the hamstring. Any marginal improvement in an area like that can be very useful. We’re interested in prolonging careers.”

It must be said, although the stretching we do inside the yoga room appears to be purely physical, there’s also a flow on effect to the mind and emotions of students. Students – both men and women alike – are learning to concentrate, focus, relax and be calmer in their moods. Through their practice, they are perfecting their optimal state of health and balance in body and mind. While this may not interest our male practitioners (initially), it’s something both unavoidable and beneficial, just don’t tell them that.

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