Volunteer at Matthew 25 Ministries after class Saturday morning

By Byron McCauley

Small things done with great love will change the world.

–  Mother Teresa

One of the best things about our studio is the camaraderie we all share, whether it’s in the hot room or out in the community when we revel at running into one another – free of sweat and fully clothed.

This Saturday may mark one of those great bonding times. Chelsea has arranged for us to volunteer at Matthew 25 Ministries in Blue Ash, which sends food, water, clothes and medicine to the neediest people all over the world. During the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday, I got a chance to serve there for two hours, packing huge boxes with toiletries sealed in plastic bags. This included soaps, shampoo, deodorant and other personal items.

Our M25M assistant explained that these are the things our western society throws away; yet, in the short time we were there, our effort helped more than 16,000 people.

Amazing.

When I worked at Cintas, Matthew 25 service was almost expected. Cintas sent old but sturdy clothes to M25M to be packed on pallets and sent where they were needed most: Third World countries, victims of natural disasters, war zones and other catastrophes.

Its mission is based on the biblical book of Matthew in the 25th Chapter where it talks about providing food to the hungry, clean water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, shelter to the homeless and so on. It also educates the general public on the depth of the need that’s out there.

This year alone, M25M has helped more than 450,000 people, shipped 18 semi truckloads and delivered more than 7 million meals!

When you arrive Saturday morning, be prepared to leave better than when you came. This is simply the best volunteer-run organization I have ever been around. Volunteers like us are placed almost immediately on tasks that make an incredible difference in a small amount of time.

 

Email: byronmccauley0@gmail.com

Twitter: @byronmccauley

30-day Challenge: A month of practice will transform the way you think, feel and behave

By Byron McCauley

 Give me 30 days, and I will change your body. Give me 60 days and I will change your life.

–  Bikram Choudhury

The founder of Bikram Yoga surely was alluding to the positive impact practicing his unique form of hatha yoga can make on the legions of people who have discovered the practice. If you have spent any time in the hot room on a consistent basis you know that his words ring true. Yet, how many of us have pledged to practice Bikram for 30 consecutive days – or even three days a week – at 90 minutes a pop? It’s a huge commitment for sure, but imagine the benefits if we dedicated 30 days to change our bodies on the way to changing our lives.

Beginning Thursday, January 15 through Valentine’s Day, we get the opportunity to do just that when the Bikram Cincinnati studio participates in the Bikram 30-Day Challenge. Take the challenge by yourself and complete 30 days of yoga in a row, or can grab a friend and work together to complete 30 classes in 30 days. It doesn’t matter; just get in here!

I’m choosing the buddy option and doing the challenge with my old friend and new student, Joel. (For those of you who don’t know Joel, he bears a strong resemblance to the former wrestler, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, but I digress.) In truth, Joel is my safety net. I plan to personally practice 30 times in 30 days, even if I have to do a couple of two-a-day practices.  But together, we’ve got this.

Bikram Cincinnati Owner and Founder, Chelsea, is the driving force behind the 30-Day challenge. She believes in it strongly. “Whether you do it by yourself or with a buddy, either way you are challenging yourself to better health, physically and mentally to start 2015.”

For new students, this is a great time to take advantage of the $30 for 30 day package as well.

Since 2010, when the studio opened, we have had many 30-day challenges – all of them helping to build an awesome foundation for the year. And we can expect more of the same this month. I took my first challenge in October, with more than 60 others. I made it into the studio 19 times and saw some big-time results, both physically and mentally. Specifically, I slept better, I lost an inch in my waist and I was way more productive at work because of the clarity I experienced.  Over time, yogis have reported being liberated from taking medicines for chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes, building stamina, and toning and strengthening places that had eluded them for years.

Not only is the 30-day challenge a great way to make your practice a habit, you will really begin to see the benefits that our teachers talk about in class.

“Taking on the 30-day challenge will allow you to go beyond and find a place deeper within yourself than you might ever have,” Chelsea said. “It will be an amazing roller coaster with highs and lows, but most of all you will feel an amazing sense of accomplishment.  We all know how good we feel when we complete a single class. Add that up to 30 in a row and imagine the possibilities!”

Right on, Chelsea. I will see you guys in the hot room.

On Twitter: @byronmccauley. Email byron@mccauleycommunications.com

 

 

A new year, new goals and Chelsea’s Thailand adventure

By Byron McCauley

Now that winter is here, things are heating up at Cincinnati Bikram Yoga. Actually, things are always pretty hot around here, but we welcome winter. The Hot Room offers a welcomed refuge from the bitter chill than can come in December and January.

If you recall last winter’s multiple days below freezing and record snowfall, you remember how good it felt to get into the studio as much as possible. If you’re a runner, you know how hard it can be to get out in sub-freezing temperatures – not to mention the hazardous traction. Last year, I mostly turned in my Asics for the winter and opted for barefooted Bikram. This winter, I hope to do a combination of both, incorporating lots of treadmill work as well.

Another sign of winter is the holiday season. Christmas with its merriment and gift-giving is right around the corner. You’ll see signs of the season around the studio soon.  This is a time to take inventory of the things we take for granted, the things that we want to improve upon and to set new challenges.

In November 2013, my friend, Alex, casually invited me to come to Bikram with her. Had this not happened, I would have continued to bypass the studio in my travels up and down Red Bank Road. However, that visit changed my life. I had run in four Flying Pig half marathons and countless road races in multiple states. Bikram wasn’t on my radar. But once bitten, I was hooked. I set a goal of trying to come at least three times a week, to not leave the room and to track the health benefits.

Today, more than a year later, I can say that I’m several pounds lighter, I am more flexible that I have ever been, and my the pain in my shoulders and knees that plagued me a year ago are now a distant memory. More important, I approach my daily life with a sense of well-being.

If you are a beginner reading this blog post, or a wily veteran who may be thinking about renewing your membership, my advice is to dive in. It can change the way you see yourself in mind, body and spirit.

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The 30-day challenge in October was a smashing success! We have more than 60 people participate, taking more than 100 classes. Look for a new challenge in January to kick off 2015 right. Look for sign-up materials in the studio soon.

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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS WITH CHELSEA

A few months back, our fearless leader, Chelsea Young, went missing from the studio for two weeks to travel to Thailand, where she spent two days at the Bikram Yoga Teacher Training. Chelsea returned to the studio in Cincinnati to teach with an unprecedented, fierce tenacity, pushing us to execute poses with better form and challenging us to press harder. I sat down with her recently for to talk about her trip.

Q.  Chelsea, why did you go to Thailand to training?

A.  As a teacher is always good to get back to the ‘source’ or to training to continue to learn from Bikram and get re-inspired on why we teach this yoga in the first place (because it works and because everyone can do it!) We get a chance to meet yogis from all over the world who will become part of this amazing Bikram yoga family.

Q.  We often joke about the humidity here when classes are crowded and it’s hot in July. How did your experience compare?

A. In Thailand it is extremely humid.  On top of that, try putting 350 people in a ballroom with the heat to 105+ degrees. I love it hot and humid but this was definitely a challenge!

Q.  What have you learned about yourself since you founded the practice in Cincinnati and when you took the teacher’s training?

A.  I continue to learn from our students as a teacher/practitioner and from other teachers we have in the studio. With so many different bodies that take class I continue to learn more and more about the postures and how they are a guide for us to help reclaim our health and mental strength. Always I come back to the body being the subject, not the posture itself because for me everyday my postures feel different some good, some not so good. I learn that this series of yoga is and will always be a life long practice ever changing with they way you live your life and that to me is beautiful.

Q.  What are the three things you learned there that you believe will help the Cincinnati practice now and in the future.

A.  Three things:

1. You only get 90 minutes to practice, so use the time you have in the Bikram room wisely.  Don’t waste your time and energy on negative thoughts, wiping, itching, fixing things etc. it is your time to spend time on your body and mind in a positive light.

2. Practice regularly to see benefits. At the studio, we can answer most of the questions we get from students by asking them two things: 1) How long have you been practicing this yoga? 2) How often do you practice?

Practice is something that takes time.  We didn’t destroy our body in one day, most of us took years to get to where we are and it will take time to un-do the damage, there is no magic pill.

3. You get out what you put into your practice.

These are tough love pointers – but that is how Bikram teaches, with tough love.

30-Day Challenge inspired, motivated us all

And on the 31st day, they took this group shot that happened to coincide with Halloween.

And on the 31st day, they took this group shot that happened to coincide with Halloween.

By Byron McCauley

Let’s face it.

Bikram Yoga is challenging. Ninety minutes in a hot room. Twenty-six postures. Your body and mind eager to betray you at the first chance.

Big-time marathoners have told me Bikram can be more challenging than marathon running. Fully grown, rough-hewn men have told me they have come to the studio, made a U-turn in the parking lot, and headed back down Red Bank Road because, well, Bikram would have kicked their butts that day.

But this blog is about being victorious and finishing strong. Sixty-five of you did just that in October, completing the 30-day Bikram Cincinnati Challenge. Collectively, you completed more than 100 hours of classes in the hot room.  Don’t believe me? Look at all the stickers of cartoon Minions, Fairies, Sheriff Woodys, and stars on the wall. I wish I could show you a time-lapse video to show how it filled up as the month progressed.

Cincinnati Bikram Owner Chelsea Young told me one of the purposes for the challenge was to help us get into great habits for the winter season. The hot room is where you want to be on, say, on December 13, when it’s 25 degrees with snow flurries on top of a thin coating of ice.

“I was so excited when I came back from Thailand to see all those stickers,” Chelsea said. “And then as the days moved on, the competition was fierce. You guys were inspiring one another! That will go a long way as we gear up for the next 30-day challenge in January.”

All told, yogis on more than 30 teams completed the challenge.  And that’s not counting those who came 10 or 20 days. Powerful stuff.

Insert shameless plug here: I want to say thanks to my “Delta Blues” teammate, Maria, for pulling us through.  We chose that name because, clearly, we are very hip – and also because we both have lived in Memphis, Land of the Delta Blues.

I would be remiss not to mention one particular overachiever, former student of the month Phil (AKA “Coverboy”). Phil, along with his better half, finished the challenge so quickly that he enacted the “Phone a Friend” rule, joined another team and helped them complete the challenge.

Way to make the rest of us feel great about ourselves, Phil.

As Chelsea mentioned earlier, we get to do it all over again in January. For new students, this is a great time to take advantage of the $30 for 30 day package to see your mind and body will respond to 30 days of practice.  I’m all in.

 

 

 

 

Postures in floor series can hold many positive medicinal effects

By Byron McCauley

Dead Body Pose

Dead Body Pose begins the process of learning how to relax.

Truth is, no single posture in Bikram Yoga takes precedence over another. Bikram Choudhury developed the practice to work in unison – all 26 poses – so that those who practice it can gain optimum health benefits. However, as in many things we do every day, we tend to migrate to the things that are most comfortable. Right now I have fallen in love with the floor postures which represent the final 11 postures of the class.

After the standing series, I imagine the sound of my heart is like the sound of a freight train’s wheels rumbling over a railroad crossing — bah dump bumpbah dump bump … bah dump bump. The floor beckons to support the heaviness of my legs and arms that have been otherwise pummeled by Awkward Pose, Eagle Pose, and my personal tormentor – Standing Head to Knee.

Let me talk about all the health benefits of the floor poses for a moment. While standing poses really work on the muscles and joints, floor poses have a greater impact on what can ail you internally.

The rightly named Wind Removing Pose massages the colon and helps prevent constipation and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  (Ask Chelsea talk about how well this pose works on Baby Ella!)

The Cobra improves the operation of the large and small intestines. The Half Tortoise Pose is one of my favorites because I used to suffer from lower back pain and shoulder pain. While it provides an awesome moment of relaxation, the pose is massaging our heart, increasing blood circulation to our lungs and is great for those who suffer from diabetes and anemia.

As cold and allergy season looms and the days grow longer and darker, Rabbit Pose may be a savior. It’s another favorite of mine because of the terrific back stretch, but it can also help with colds, sinus issues and depression.

The more I explore the health benefits of yoga, from strengthening the spine to helping with digestion to correcting to increasing blood flow to major organs, the more I want to know and the more I appreciate it. But the truth be told, I think the primary reason I look forward to the floor is because we get to take the much-needed “break” that Savasana (Dead Body Pose) promises.

Dead Body is the tie that binds all the floor postures in the hot room.

It is one of the most important parts of Bikram Yoga because this marks the beginning of how we learn how to relax. By the time Savasana happens, we should not be thinking about work, kids, the mortgage or what we are going to have for lunch or dinner. We should only be focused on our breath, though I sometimes I confess I’m counting how many animals I see in the clouds on the ceiling.

It took me a while before I could fully embrace the benefits of Savasana.  I’m a purpose-driven personality who is working on my ability to truly relax. So I had to learn to suppress those little voices in my head with their senseless distractions.

During the floor exercises, Savasana is interspersed throughout all the poses. So when Poorna Salabhasana (Full Locust Pose) sends my heart back to freight train mode, Savana rescues me. When Camel Pose makes me lightheaded, Savasana becomes my best friend.

Finally, the class ends with the longest expression of Savasana – our reward for dedicating 90 minutes to ourselves. That’s when Chelsea and the staff encourage us to stay on the floor and let our bodies begin to regenerate after the rigor of Bikram Yoga. And that moment – the very end – is most welcome part of the class.

Yoga, in truth, can suffice as sole fitness regimen

By Byron McCauley

Bikram Choudhury introduced Bikram Yoga to the West decades ago as a total health and wellness practice.

Bikram Choudhury introduced Bikram Yoga to the West decades ago as a total health and wellness practice.

Madonna has been a fashion and music trendsetter for more three decades, so when she announced her fitness regimen consisted of only yoga, it was a pretty big deal.  Previously, she had intense dance training for two hours a session. In an environment where personal training, running, Pilates, weight-training and dozens of other exercise regimens proliferate, to me yoga seemed like the 99-pound weakling of the bunch.

My sports were football and basketball, which required lots of weightlifting, cardio, and some stretching. I’ve done two-a-day football practices in 95-degree heat, and I’ve run dozens of road races, including three half-marathons. I have hiked steep terrain. My sports choices were “tough and challenging” and only served to reinforce my prejudice against yoga.

The first yoga experience I had was in front of my TV with a videocassette tape featuring the great Rodney Yee out of San Francisco. It was then that I learned how wrong I was. The poses were hard and I sweated like a race horse. Years later, my friend, Alex, would introduce me to the Cincinnati Bikram Studio. If I wasn’t a believer before, I am a believer now.

Yoga is not a weakling.

My first day in the hot room was in November 2013. I managed to stay in the room for the full 90 minutes, but just barely. The 26 poses were foreign to me, and they were brutal. Since then, I have become accustomed to the rigors of Bikram. After every class, I feel like I have run a 10-K race, yet the work out experienced in the Bikram Yoga studio is probably more intense.

Clinically, Bikram Yoga was designed to impact every part of the body and the internal organs. That is precisely why Founder Bikram Choudhury developed the 26 poses. According to Choudhury, “Bikram yoga works 100 percent of the entire body from the inside out. The series of stretches and compressions exercise your muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, organs, nerves and glands. Upon release of a posture, fresh oxygenated blood travels through and rejuvenates the vessels and tissues that were being compressed.”

A classmate, whose occupation required tremendous physical discipline and years of practice, told me that Bikram Yoga is the hardest thing she has ever done in her life. There was a time such a statement would have sounded as preposterous as Madonna proclaiming yoga as her sole form of exercise.

Instead, I agree wholeheartedly. I think it’s important for yogis to supplement their practice with any other physical activity they choose; in fact, Bikram has helped me shave 90 seconds off my mile run pace. But from a pure fitness standpoint, if I had to choose just one method of physical fitness, it would be Bikram Yoga, hands down.

And I’m no weakling.

With Dog Days upon us, don’t forget to hydrate before class

By Byron McCauley

If you are like me, you’ve stumbled Photo by betsyweber via Flickrinto Bikram Yoga class after a busy day at the office with your water, mat and towel in hand ready for 90 minutes of bliss. Then, around the time to shift to floor exercises you hit the wall. Your mind is writing a big, fat check that your body can’t cash. You may feel lightheaded, hotter than usual and maybe even a bit disoriented. The culprit can be a lack of hydration. At least, that’s usually my problem.

As we move into the final leg of the dog days of summer — the hottest and most humid days of the season – it’s important to drink plenty of water before coming to class. With high temperatures and humidity that makes the air feel as heavy as pea soup, the hot room seems to feel even hotter. And, dehydration can occur more frequently. Scientists tell us that dehydration happens when a person has lost 2 percent of his or her body weight in fluid.

You might have had refreshing glasses of iced tea or coffee or other sugary drinks during the day thinking you are OK. However, caffeinated and sugary drinks do little for you when it comes to hydration. In fact, sugary drinks take longer for the body to absorb, which makes the body work harder.

In a Bikram Yoga Class, we can lose 1 to 3 pounds of fluids. As a general rule, we should be drinking at least a quart of water about two hours before class and replacing those fluids after class to prevent dehydration.

While water remains the No. 1 means of hydration, sports drinks like Powerade and Gatorade have proven to be effective in helping to replenish fluids lost during strenuous exercise. Coconut water contains naturally occurring electrolytes, is high in potassium, and you can find it on sale in the studio fridge. You can also dissolve a pack of Ultima Replenisher into your water to replace electrolytes. You can find them for sale in the corner of the studio as well.

Summer heat zaps more of our energy than any other time of the year – even before we come into the hot room. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you get the hydration you need, so you can have the best experience possible for your 90 minute yoga practice.

Rest, Relax & Enjoy food again! Thanks Team J+A!

Rest, Relax & Enjoy Food! Those are my three take away’s  from this July’s Whole Food Detox with Team J+A.

The number one reason I joined this detox was to rid myself of caffeine, could I do it even? Yes, yes I did and what it taught me was my body needed rest and my body was finally able to feel ‘tired’. I was constantly on the go since my baby girl was born last November and as soon as she was born I remember asking my Mom to bring me the biggest, best coffee she could get a hold of! So eight months with 30+ ounces of coffee a day I was a little nervous to go without. I prepped and surprising enough no headaches, no withdrawals but actual body awareness happened. My body was able to tell me to rest, both midafternoon most days and at a respectable time at night. I felt refreshed, renewed and motivated to see how I would feel after 14 days. I’m not sure I missed the caffeine but I missed the ritual for sure. Hot water, lemon and ginger were the new staple and I loved it! The food also pumped me up to get back into creative food mode. There are so many great recipes out there with WHOLE foods and all it takes is a quick search on google or Team J+A’s recipe list to get inspired. Are you bogged down in a haze of caffeine and don’t know it? I would definitely recommend Team J+A’s restart Whole Food Detox. In just 14 days I have been re-inspired and re-gained creativity in the kitchen. I also was able to realize my body needed rest and relaxation in order to re-boot, not caffeine.

Please ask me about the program, it is something I love to come back to a couple of times a year to allow the body to rest and restart.

-Chelsea

14-Day Detox helped me reset my life

By Byron McCauley

A few days after my 49th birthday, Chelsea casually mentioned that she was about to do the Team J+A 14-day Whole Food detox to help her get back on track after returning from vacation. “It would be great to have a buddy to do it with,” she said.

Months earlier, I had launched a new business, and – like many of us – running on fumes. I practice yoga. I run. I eat right – or so I thought. Yet, my stubborn gut persisted, I drank too much coffee, I didn’t get enough sleep and I worked too much.

So, we began.

Our initial call with Jody and Ashley felt a little like fraternity rush in college. We were all excited, but those of us who were Detox rookies did not know what to expect.  Immediately, there was support and confidence-building. We all had goals, whether it was weight-loss, getting more energy, or desiring to simply eat better. It became much more for me. I had convinced myself that I ate well and that the exercise I was getting was sufficient. It was not. The Detox helped me bridge my relationship with “self”—not just food. I journaled about my feelings about food, my experiences with the Detox, and about how my relationship with food has ruled my life.

Having grown up in the South, my past eating was corrupted by a diet of fried and buttery-rich foods. As a busy Dad of three, it had become much too easy to shovel fast-food drive-through into my kids because time is so limited. This Detox made me plan better. I shopped for groceries with a purpose and cooked days in advance – with all this new food!

Here I was eating tons of delicious kale, spinach, organic eggs scrambled in coconut oil, leeks, beets, and drinking and cooking with almond and coconut milk.  I made tons of vegetables and brown rice and lentils and beans. I incorporated herbs and spices – many of which I had always passed over in the grocery store. I sipped Yerba Mate instead of inhaling four-plus cups of Starbucks every day. I went to bed earlier and awoke rested.

Most important, I was finally able hit reset on a body and mind that had been driving in cruise control for way too long.  I almost forgot to mention that I lost nine pounds and two inches in my waist. Somehow, that feels secondary.

Team J+A has an upcoming program in August. The program starts on August 17th and you can secure your seat in the program today at www.wholedetox.co. As a Bikram Yoga Cincinnati student, J+A offers 15% off.

Enter: AUGUSTBYC during checkout. If you have any hesitation – we encourage you to jump right in. J+A offers a money back guarantee, so if by day 7, you’re not satisfied with the program (and you’ve put in the work), J+A will refund your investment. It’s a win-win. And let’s be real, it’s truly life changing, so in the long run, $247 is a steal.

Student of the month: Sally

Sally SOMAugust’s student of the month is Sally!  Please make sure to give her a big congrats in the studio.  You are sure to see her bright and early and always with a big smile on her face.

Sally describes her journey with Bikram yoga in her very own words:

My history with exercise has involved more traditional sports, soccer, running marathons and weight training.  The toll on my knees resulted in having to stop running and for the past 8 years I really wasn’t very active.  I had replaced running with walking but felt like something was still missing.  Last summer, I began exploring several different types of yoga and found them relaxing and rejuvenating, but still not “intense”enough.  Well that changed last fall, when my dear friends, Cathi Lowry and Sharon Plummer, told me about Bikram Yoga.  They felt that it would be a yoga that I would “enjoy.”  I, like many first time students, entered the studio wearing a sleeved t-shirt, long pants, with my mat, towel and 1 small water bottle without ice  to “enjoy” the class.  As I signed in, I politely let Chelsea know that I would need to leave about 10 minutes early.  I laugh now, because Chelsea smiled and responded in kind, that it was a 90 minute practice and my challenge began before I even entered the studio, when she asked, “Can you commit for the entire time, today?”  Silly me, I said “yes”.  I next remember, how my breath was taken away when I walked into the studio.  My first class, and for several months, my challenges were learning how to breathe, keep my arms out in space during the standing series and get through the class without sitting down for 50% of the class.  In spite of all these challenges, I was hooked but I was suspicious that something was being pumped into the air, that made everyone, including me come back.  During these early months, when I would get home, I could barely walk through the door, and my husband would ask, “Are you okay?” or “Are you sure this yoga is for you?”.
Over time, my endurance increased and I was able to move through all the poses without a break . I recall how great I felt the first time I could sustain my arm position throughout the standing series.  Before Bikram Yoga, my blood pressure had been creeping up and nearing the level of needing medication.  Within two months after starting my practice, I noticed  my blood pressure returned to a healthier level.  In January 2014, I noticed changes in my practice in the studio and myself outside the studio.  Co-workers began asking me what I was doing, because I looked different.  I hadn’t really lost weight, but body parts were shifting (in a good way) and my clothes were fitting better.  My husband, Marty commented that I was calmer in general, so he was happy to have me commit to the monthly payment schedule!!  When I reflected, I noticed that I was now breathing deeper and slower during stressful moments and was more mindful of being present and focused throughout the day. In the studio, I am now scantily clad during my practice in large part due to the non judgmental environment but also because it is just so dang hot!
As many teachers have pointed out the postures we dislike the most, are the ones we need the most.  Initially, my goal was to master the bow pulling pose, I was able to make progress because I could “push through” but then I realized what I really needed was to learn to “let go”  and be present in the pose in order to move deeper.  This was especially true for backward bend or camel pose.   I am no where near mastery of either, but I am moving forward (or backward in this case).
My growth has been supported by the amazing teachers and community at ‘our’ studio.  I am grateful to all of the teachers that take time to help me with specific feedback during classes, as well as answering my questions outside of class time. After attending for only 8 months, I am impressed with how in sync, Chelsea and Morgan are with my normal practice and check in when it appears something is off kilter!  The dedication to all the teachers own practices is a constant motivation. The positive attitude and friendliness of other students has helped me get through tough classes and days.  I feel fortunate to get to practice with my best friends, but also with new friends. I am happy to say, I am glad I committed for the entire 90 minutes that first day and each day since.