Taking Flexibility To The Max
At Bikram Yoga Participants Come Prepared To Sweat
The Capital Times :: SAVVY :: 1F
Thursday, January 2, 2003
By Debra Carr-Elsing The Capital Times
Yellow walls with bright, blue archways and windows trimmed in green. Put it all together, and a happy, light-hearted feeling is conveyed to visitors at the new yoga studio on Madison's west side.
Located at 3527 University Ave., Bikram Yoga Madison features a Mediterranean-inspired decor that's uplifting and inviting - and almost as "hot" as the heated room, where class participants come prepared to sweat.
"Infrared heating panels in the ceiling keep our practice room at 100 to 105 degrees," says owner Marit Sathrum, who opened the yoga studio 2 months ago.
"The hot temperature accelerates the body's detoxification process and increases flexibility, allowing you to go deeper into the stretches and yoga postures without becoming injured."
Originally from southern Minnesota, Sathrum has practiced yoga for nine years. She recently moved here from California, where she received her Bikram Yoga teaching certificate in 1997 from the Yoga College of India in Los Angeles. "In the last five years, popularity of all forms of yoga has grown," says Sathrum, who used to be an investment banker with fallen arches. She credits yoga for her improved posture, increased stamina and muscle tone, weight loss and "inner glow."
"I no longer have problems with my feet, and I've gained about half an inch in height because - before yoga - I had no back or abdomen strength, which is required for good posture."
Sathrum's studio is the city's only facility dedicated solely to the Bikram style of hatha yoga. On Madison's east side, however, The Perfect Knot Yoga & Massage Center, 211 S. Paterson St., includes Bikram with its practice of other yoga forms.
"Together, we're a Bikram Yoga community," Sathrum says. In fact, all of her certified Bikram Yoga instructors also teach classes at The Perfect Knot, which is owned by Carla Rauschenbush.
It was in the '70s that Bikram Choudhury, a weightlifter from India, brought his yoga approach to the United States. He franchised his style of yoga, and there are now more than 650 affiliated Bikram Yoga studios worldwide.
One of the teachers at Bikram Yoga Madison - Darlene Vander Hoop - has practiced Bikram Yoga for 20 years. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison department of dance therapy, she studied with Choudhury and left the world of dance performance for yoga.
"Bikram Yoga makes you feel so healthy because it works on all the systems of the body - from the bone marrow to the skin - compressing and extending the organs in a sequential way," Vander Hoop says.
Each posture stretches and prepares specific muscles and ligaments for the next posture. Put it all together, and the series of postures is designed to stimulate the organs, glands and nerves, moving fresh oxygenated blood throughout the body.
It's not just about pumping up your muscles and getting an adrenalin high, Vander Hoop says. The effects of Bikram Yoga are much deeper and more profound, carrying into other aspects of your life.
"When you go out into the world, you find that you're strong, more focused and open-hearted," she says. "It makes you more adaptable and compassionate and less inclined to blow up."
Other Bikram Yoga class participants agree with that assessment, including:
Denise Steele, a Madison hair stylist: "Bikram is like a comfort. It changes your life, and it's the only thing that releases tension in my shoulders after working all day."
Nicole Mundwiler, a recent graduate from the UW-Madison School of Social Work: "Bikram Yoga got me through exam week, and I love how it makes my muscles feel. I'm very energized, but I'm also sleeping like a baby nowadays."
Tracy Theobald, a state registered massage therapist: "I love Bikram because it enables me to work - to do a lot of deep tissue massage without getting sore muscles myself."
Mike Bein, a recreational bicyclist from Madison: "I'm used to intense exercise, but I'm still finding Bikram Yoga to be very intense. You sweat your way through class - which isn't necessarily fun - but you feel great afterwards."
A graduate of the UW, Carrie McDowell did years of competitive gymnastics and other athletics before becoming a certified Bikram Yoga instructor earlier this year. "Everything that I thought I was doing good for my body was actually throwing me off balance and giving me more aches and pains," she says.
"Bikram Yoga is the first activity that I feel isn't doing me damage."
In a way, Sathrum's new yoga studio is her "Field of Dreams."
"You just open your doors, and people come," she says. "Bikram Yoga sells itself."
Since mid-October, more than 550 people have taken a class at Bikram Yoga Madison, which has a 3,000-square-foot studio. Its bright and cheery decor extends into six dressing rooms.
"During winter months, people sometimes get seasonal affective disorder, and I wanted a place where they could come and feel uplifted," Sathrum says.
So she shied away from Asian themes and demure wall colors.
"Bikram yoga is invigorating, and it's for everyone," Vander Hoop says.
"Athletes love it because it's challenging, and they struggle alongside people who are out of shape."
It's an experience, she adds, that leaves everyone -- from triathlon athletes to ballerinas -- energized from the inside out.
For more information, check out these Web sites: www.bikramyogamadison.com