Hectic lives, busy schedules are why you need this

By Byron McCauley

I am a member of the sandwich generation.http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/07/yoga-taught-me-how-to-breathe-kris-lord/

We are the more than 47 percent of Americans born to Baby Boomers. Most of us have been in the work force for more than 20 years, running small businesses and trying to make it in an ever changing world. I would submit that we are among the busiest generation ever. Why? Because we are juggling the aforementioned duties while raising kids and in some way caring for aging loved ones.

This can take its toll on anyone, but when you reach the age where aches and pains become more plentiful, when your brain sometimes defies you, and when your health indices may be getting worse, it becomes more important than ever to take care of your health.

Sixteen months ago, Bikram yoga became that place for me, quite by accident, when a friend asked me to try it out. One hundred and ten degrees for 90 minutes (are you kidding me?). All of us have our stories about how we came here. We were invited, we read about the health benefits. We saw the positive changes in a friend or family member and wanted to drink from that fountain, too.

For years, the treadmill was my friend in the winter, and I would lace up my Asics and hit the streets when it was warm. In Bikram, I found both – a wonderful aerobic workout and a challenging strength-building exercise at the same time.

Juggling the responsibilities of having a sick parent, three children and starting a new business, the 90 minutes I get to spend in the hot room becomes a saving grace, no matter what is going on during a particular day.  It truly does change the way you approach everyday life.

I would like to share four reasons why Bikram Yoga makes sense :

1.       Pranayama, or deep breathing, can help you feel grounded no matter what is going on. Sometimes when work is really stressful and I feel myself losing my composure, I take a moment to breathe deeply just as we do at the beginning of every class. These cleansing breaths clear my mind and help me better deal with the task at hand.

2.       Arthritis, high blood pressure and knee pain be damned. I came into Bikram nursing residual pain from sports injuries and probably the effects of simply growing older. The beauty of Bikram is that the 26 postures work every part of the body. For me, this translated into my knees growing stronger and, eventually, becoming pain free. The same can be said for the chronic pain in my shoulder, which disappeared after four months.

3.       Weight loss and body shaping. I have written before that weight loss is not the reason anyone should practice Bikram, but certainly it can be a nice unintended consequence. I coupled the practice with more healthy eating habits and saw strong results.

4.        The power of collective suffering, ahem satisfaction. Bikram Choudhury likes to call the hot room the torture chamber, and for good reason. It takes a strong will to fully participate in class and get the maximum benefits from each posture. Some days are more difficult than others – even more than a year into the practice. But every time we end class, the camaraderie we all share for having completed another class is hard to match. And it’s always cool to hear the stories of how my fellow yogis have improved their health with their practice.

To be sure, the sandwich generation has perhaps more to deal with than any before it. But, there is no reason we can’t be the healthiest moving forward.

 @byronmccauley
@cincibikram

5 ways to maintain a healthy Bikram practice as you transition

ViaPinterestBy Byron McCauley

Spring has finally sprung with its warm, itchy, leafy welcome.

It is a season of new beginnings and endings, especially for those who are leaving high school and preparing for college and for those leaving college and venturing out into the work force for the first time.

If you belong to one of these groups or know someone who belongs to one of these groups, this Cincinnati Bikram Yoga blog is for you. Why? Because as you transition, it may become more difficult to maintain your Bikram practice. But, do it you must. And, we can help.

Here are five ways to maintain a healthy Bikram Yoga practice during your transition.

  1. Keep your routines as close to normal as possible. Many of you have had a schedule all year, which included a set time dedicated to Bikram. Now you’re looking for a job or planning the next phase of your education career. The best thing you can do for yourself is set the intention to attend class no matter where you are. You may have to change from evening classes to early-morning classes, but the more you plan the better off you will be.
  2. Keep a yoga journal to remind you of your progress. You can track what poses give you the most difficulty, celebrate triumphs, note your moods before and after, or just use your journal as a benchmark.
  3. Find a Bikram buddy. Cincinnati Bikram Yoga can help you find a great studio near where you live if you’re leaving town and help you link up with a community of like-minded people. And we will welcome you back home each time you return. And if you are moving to the area find a friend to motivate you and join our community. Finally, if you are staying in town, get in here.
  4. Call your mother, and drink plenty of fluids. So, calling Mom part may or may not help you (unless she reminds you to go to Bikram), but keeping hydrated during the coming hot months is a key to having a great class once you’re here. This blog post from August offers some great tips for maintaining hydration, including explaining why coconut water ranks up there with traditional sports drinks.
  5. Finally, don’t let the stress of a new job or being a college freshman detract you for your health and wellness goals. This may sound similar to No. 1, but this is pretty important. As I wrote back in the fall, Bikram Yoga is really designed to promote whole body wellness. I confessed that I now use it as my sole fitness regimen. It might be the only time you get to dedicate 90 minutes totally to yourself, so why not rest in that reward?

Namaste.

Twitter:

@CinciBikram

@byronmccauley

Facebook: BikramYogaCincinnati

A final chilly weather recipe to welcome Spring

By Byron McCauley

Dear Yogis,

When we last checked in I was espobikram recipeusing the pleasure of avocados as a super yoga power food.

We also teased that the next blog would be about power food for yogis. Because we are so forward-thinking, Chelsea asked those of you on Facebook to submit your favorite “cold weather” recipe. Yes, it’s now spring and even though I’m seeing daffodils peek through the dirt, in these parts we are expecting at least 10 more days of highs in the 50s and lows in the 30s.

So here’s one last recipe before we dive into spring full bore.

It’s from Cathy, and it’s delish!

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Soup

Cook an onion and some garlic unitl soft, Add 1 chopped sweet potato and a roasted red pepper. Cook 5 minutes.  Add approximately 30 ounces of chicken stock, three cans of black beans, three cans of diced tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of chili powder, two tablespoons of cumin and a dash of red pepper flakes.

Cook until  potatoes are soft. Add some fresh cilantro & serve with sour cream or avocado slices.

Cathy, what a great recipe, I’m really glad you added avocado.

See you guys next week when we get back to Bikram poses and their healing effects.

 

Eating and drinking well before class can make a huge difference

The Avo Smash is is a fan favorite at Manhattan's BlueStone Lane Coffee.

The Avo Smash is is a fan favorite at Manhattan’s BlueStone Lane Coffee.

By Byron McCauley

For energy to power through 90 minutes in the Hot Room, we all know that we need to make sure our bodies are ready for class. When we are not ready, we may find  ourselves wanting to run out of class before it’s over.

Food and hydration are two keys to success.

I selected the humble avocado, or “alligator pear” as it is sometimes known, because it is that rare fruit that is creamy and delicious. It also contains more potassium than a banana, and a surprising 4 grams of protein. You can eat it right out of its skin, blend it in a smoothie or pair it with turkey in your sandwich. Any way you slice it, it is one of the foods that can really give you that extra boost of energy if (or when) you hit the wall.

What’s more, all that potassium is our friend — especially when we practice. We are using literally every muscle in our body. This key mineral that helps the body maintain fluid levels, regulates the transfer of nutrients into cells, and helps us manage muscle energy exertion.

Sure, the beautiful banana is the fruit that gets all the attention when it comes to potassium, but the homely avocado is a beast with 1,166 mg vs. 805 for the banana.

Personally, I try not to eat within two hours of class, as I have been  instructed, but I have found that the right amount of nutrient intake can mean the difference between a difficult class and a less difficult class. (Note, I did not say “easy.”)

While eating is super important, let’s not overlook hydration, especially during the cold-weather season. In summer, it’s a given that we will drink more because of the obvious fluid we lose, but when it’s cold, it can seem less important. It’s not.

Chelsea tells us we should drink at least 2 to 3 liters of water throughout the day to guard against dehydration and then replenish what we lose in class (1 to 3 pounds). That way, during class, we can take small sips during breaks and between postures as needed.

For more on hydration, read this post in our archives. Stay well!

Next blog: Power recipes for Bikram yogis

@byronmccauley on Twitter

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.