I have a love/hate relationship with Bikram yoga. I love keeping up my practice, the peaceful sleeps and the alignment of body and mind. Then at times, especially during the really challenging postures which my body needs the most, I loathe being stuck in the stuffy, sweltering studio and wonder why I’m putting myself through this again. This abhorrence never lasts long, as the endorphins kick in and a feeling of immense, elated calm ensues – I’m won over again.
I’m very lucky that we have a seriously good studio here in Dunedin, New Zealand, which is welcoming, encouraging and unpretentious. I’ve practiced in a few other studios around New Zealand and Europe and I feel as though I’m more focused and poised here than anywhere else. The instructors at our studio are highly supportive and always willing to impart their knowledge about which postures benefit the various parts of the body and assist the students in fine tuning their practice. They also like to really challenge the students, much to our advantage – it’s the hottest, sweatiest studio I’ve ever been in and it puts us all in a determined, unified mindset, ready to stretch as far as we can and stay in the postures for the duration. This camaraderie is like nowhere else I’ve been. It’s little wonder we do so well in competitions, often taking out the top prizes in national competitions.
One thing that I’m attempting to overcome since I began practicing a few years ago (very sporadically, I must add) is feeling faint during the standing series. I have really low blood pressure and have often felt uncontrollably weak, where I begin seeing stars and am forced to sit down and avoid the next posture. It has long been a source of frustration but I’ve found a few ways to counteract this, which I’ll outline below.
Nutrition plays a huge part in practicing Bikram yoga and I’ve learnt that I need to be super energised to be on my game. Smaller meals throughout the day containing whole grains and protein, such as a chickpea and quinoa salad are key. I always have a high potassium snack a few hours before the class, which usually consists of a banana or a kefir bananarama shake. As I’m a hungry lass with a speedy metabolism, I often need to have another wee snack on my way out the door, which won’t interfere with my practice. A few dates dipped in a smidgen of peanut butter or tahini does the trick.
Hydration is also critical, as the 90 minute class is in tropical heat and sweating is the name of the game. A great deal of water needs to be consumed throughout the day and caffeinated drinks restricted in the afternoon. Coconut water is the bees knees for the Bikram yogi. It’s a natural isotonic drink which naturally replenishes the body with sodium, potassium and magnesium after excessive sweating. Himalayan rock salt also works wonders. In much the same way as coconut water, it restores the body with crucial electrolytes and is packed with over 80 minerals and trace elements including iodine, calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, silica and selenium. Sprinkle some over lunch or swallow a few crystals about an hour before class.
After the class, I’m often ravenous by the time I get home. My darling Beau usually has a hearty meal cooking on the stove, which I try my best not to wolf down. I head to bed, inspired, rejuvenated and enthused about the next day. Bikram yoga is highly enriching and I encourage you all to give it a whirl.
* This is the first post in the new lifestyle section of my blog. Stay tuned for more interesting topics and healthy tips for living life to the full.