By Byron McCauley
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.