News Got a Yen for Yoga?, Bellingham Herald,  March, 2003

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Sunday March 9, 2003

Hold that Pose

Got a yen for yoga?


HOT TREND: Bikram Yoga instructor Fred Currin (center right) joins the class in a humid downtown studio. RACHEL E. BAYNE HERALD

Kie Relyea, The Bellingham Herald

You've decided this is the year to hit the yoga mat.

Don't twist yourself into a pretzel.

Take a deep breath. Exhale.

Yoga, which took root in India some 5,000 years ago, derives from the Sanskrit word "yuj," which roughly translates to union of mind, body and soul. You may be familiar with hatha yoga, a system of exercise - postures that stretch and strengthen the body - breathing and meditation.

As in other parts of the country, yoga has gained a strong following in Whatcom County.


Angie Azarra does the bow



BIKRAM YOGA

Bikram Yoga is arguably the hottest trend going in the yoga world right now - and not just because it's practiced in a humid room with temperatures ranging from 100 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

Created by former weightlifter Bikram Choudhury, the style that bears his name is a sequence of 26 postures, each done twice.

That's it. Each class, every class, the same 26 postures over 90 minutes in a routine that works your body from head to toe.

But that repetition is not the main hallmark of Bikram, nor the fact that the technique is copyrighted, down to the instructions teachers give in each class.

It's the heat. It's like exercising in a sauna.

Such warmth relaxes muscles, tendons and ligaments and helps prevent injury while detoxifying the body through sweat, proponents say.

"To melt metal, you heat it. To make a stiff body move, you heat it," says Currin, who also helps run the front desk for Bikram Yoga: A Yoga College of India on Railroad Avenue, which Karis and Troy McFadden opened last March. Hundreds of other Bikram studios have popped up in the United States in the past five years.

You must be careful your first time in Bikram. The heat will make you dizzy and lightheaded.

"We encourage people to take it slow. Drink some water. Sit down. Lie down. Watch," says Marney Sullivan, a 31-year-old instructor and manager of the studio.

Her advice proves helpful when I try a recent class. After the opening breathing sequence, Sullivan directs the roomful of men and women of various body sizes and ages to stand with our feet together, arms raised over our heads, hands clasped with index fingers pointing to the ceiling.

Easy enough - at first.

Then she tells us to bend directly to the right, keeping the front of our bodies facing the mirror that runs the length of the room. At the same time, use our right hands to pull on the left. Bump our hips to the left while reaching with our fingertips to the right.

"Hands are glued together, down to the base of the palm," she says.

Hold it. Hold it.

My left side feels like it's stretched to the limit. My thighs are groaning. So are my arms. Then, there's the matter of making sure I breathe correctly.

After mere seconds that actually feel like forever, Sullivan releases us from the pose.

We next try it to the left. Then bend back toward the wall behind us.

I find myself wondering if anything could weigh more than my arms.

Yes. My butt. Which soon feels heavy as a boulder as I attempt the Awkward Pose.

Think squat with your arms held straight out, parallel to the floor. That's the easy part.

Think getting on your tippy toes, then squatting. That's the second part.

Think getting on your tippy toes, put your knees together until they touch, squat, then keep going until your butt is resting on your heel. That's the third part.

I do what I can.

All the postures build on each other to the most difficult of them all - Camel Pose.

Stand on your knees. Use your hands to support your lower back. Bend backward - chest to ceiling while attempting to look for the wall behind you.

If you can, put your hands on your heels until your body forms a "C."

I stop at the part where my hands support my back while the advanced students go for the full pose.

Immediately, my thighs are quaking. The edges of my vision began to fuzz. I pull myself back up, take a breath and try again.

"That's the one people want to vomit after. It's the deepest back bend we do. It's maximum compression to your spine," Sullivan explains later. The pose helps offset what she describes as our tendency to spend our days with our backs rounded forward.

If Bikram sounds hard, it is.

But I walk away feeling jazzed and rejuvenated. A day later, I notice that the recurring soreness in my left hip has disappeared.

©2003 Bellingham Herald
This article is exerpted from an article that appears in full at www.bellinghamherald.com
Reach Kie Relyea at 715-2234 or krelyea@bellinghamherald.com.

 


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