The Thing I love most about Bikram Yoga

I’m Evie and I’m now 23 years old.

34559160_10215457397366269_4580146295456399360_nMy parents had been doing Bikram yoga for yonks and I never thought twice about going with them (lame!). They always talked about it around the dinner table, cracking in-jokes about their class and the teachers. Once I finished high school, turned 19 and matured a little, I swallowed my pride and went along to a class with mum. Four years later and I’ve been coming pretty regularly ever since. Now every Monday Mum, Dad and I get into our yogi gear, hop in the car and go along together to our 5.30pm class – and it’s my favourite part of the day!

Originally I started because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about and find out who this ‘Jodie’ was. The first class was definitely a struggle. I prepared by drinking my entire weight in water and asking Mum and Dad a million questions like “What if I faint!?”. Their only response was “You can lie down for the entire class if you want – just breathe and make sure you stay in the room”. Which I did, and to this day I still sometimes have to say this to myself before going into the room.

I love Bikram yoga because of the amazing benefits I can see and feel it has on my body and mind. I’ve dabbled in many types of yoga since my first class four years ago, and yet I always come back to Bikram. The heat allows me to really open up and helps my flexibility. It also makes me sweat buckets which makes me feel like I’m getting a really good workout. But the biggest reason I come back is for my mind.

I’m a bit of a worry-wart. I get stressed and anxious about everything. Going through a double-degree at uni my mind was constantly running at a million miles per hour. It would take me houuurssss to get to sleep at night. I would lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, my mind running through all the things I had done that day, all the things that needed to be done tomorrow, and all the things that could potentially need to be done in the future. After only a week at Bikram, there was a noticeable difference in my sleeping. I was finally able to close my eyes, switch off and think about absolutely nothing. I learnt how to do this whilst in class, during the hour and a half where I’m focusing so much on the heat, getting through the postures and listening to the dialogue, that there’s no room in my brain to be thinking about anything else!

Bikram has had such an impact on my life in so many ways. But if there’s one thing I want to thank all the teachers at Bikram for, it would be helping me truly relax and improve my mental health. I would be completely lost (and extremely stressed out) without it.

Evie Sumpter0

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How Bikram Yoga helped me get through the HSC

We chatted to Sally Bird, a regular at Bikram Brookvale.

When did you start doing Bikram?
It was 8 years ago when I was 17 years old in Byron Bay, Australia.

And why did you first come?
I started practising Bikram yoga during my HSC. I was living out of home, working full time and studying most classes distance education to try to juggle it all. I’m extremely high energy and that turned into extreme anxiety quite easily with all the pressures, dead lines and fears of failure. Regular yoga always frustrated me. It never calmed me down because I was too in my mind and always thinking. Bikram yoga was intense enough that even when I was exhausted to the point where I forgot how hard outside the room was and just concentrated on trying not to die during class. It taught me to survive discomfort and to rest when I wanted to quit. Not leaving the room was a struggle for years but I learnt after time that if I stayed my mind would learn to cope and my body would follow suit. It definitely reduced my anxiety. As I learnt (and continue to learn) that I cannot control the heat but I can control my mind’s reaction to the heat I grow more confident in myself and my abilities, inside and outside of the room.

Do you do other sports/ exercise?
Yes, I run and I also do a little bit of jujitsu and Thai boxing.

Does yoga help with those?
I can confidently say I can land a head kick on a 6ft gentlemen with ease thanks to my flexibility aided by Bikram yoga.

You frequently practice more than once a day. What do you get from that?
I’m results driven and curious really. I just want to see what will happen and if I can do it. I practiced four classes yesterday, morning and afternoon doubles. That was mostly because it was a Monday and every Monday after a big weekend I remember my first ever Bikram yoga teacher, Norma, giving me a hard time in front of the entire class when I was 18 and half drunk from the night before in a 6am saying “for everyone jagger bomb you had last night Sally I want you to practice one extra class this week!” Now I don’t know what you did when you were freshly 18, but I personally used to indulge in a solid 5-10 jagger bombs on a Friday night and dance until the lights came on in the club at 3am. Only once did I made the mistake of going to her 6am class after a night out just because I was still awake and lived around the corner from the studio and thought it would be a fun idea. #facepalm

What do you like about the Brookvale studio?
Oh where to begin. I love the Brookvale studio! I’ve practiced in London, Bali, LA, all over Sydney and in Byron and hands down Brookvale is the stand out. I had heard all about “the mother ship” from other studios and was over the moon when I met Jodie and all the beautiful instructors at this studio. I was thinking just the other day in class this is the one studio where I don’t have a favourite teacher. Normally I kind of end up aiming to attend the classes with teachers whose practice I gravitate towards but every single teacher at this studio offers something slightly different, they all care so much and make every single class worth it.

What changes do you see in yourself when you practice yoga regularly?
I notice I tone up quickly when I’m consistent and my flexibility improves dramatically. The cardio is also super impressive, I notice how much easier my runs become. I work away for at least 6 months of the year though so my practice is a bit of a yo-yo.

Overall, what’s the best thing about Bikram yoga for you?
The way I feel after a class. Getting there is hard some days, when I’m tired or angry, but I always feel sooo much better after a class.0

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Why Locking the Knee is so important in Bikram Yoga

How many times in class do you hear the teacher shouting  “Lock the Knee, lock the knee, lock the kStanding-Head-to-Knee-2.jpgnee!!”?

Locking the Knee is possibly one of the most misunderstood principles in Bikram Yoga.  In this blog, we’ll unlock (no pun intended) some of the myths by explaining why locking the knee is so important.

First let’s clear one thing up.  What it is NOT. Locking the knee is NOT jamming your knee back as far as you can and trying to balance on it.

Physically, when you “lock your knee” in a balancing posture in Bikram Yoga, you are contracting your quadriceps muscles in the front of your leg, and therefore releasing the hamstring sending the message via the nervous system for it to stretch.

In the beginning this may feel uncomfortable, even painful because the nerves are not used to the stretch and will send pain messages to the brain.  Our first impulse is to pull back, to avoid pain at all costs. However, if you want to improve stretch tolerance i.e. get more flexible, you may need to take the stretch to a point of pain. “Pain kills the pain”.  This is not to say that you should be in tears, gritting your teeth and holding your breath but if you don’t take a stretch to a point of pain, you are not likely overloading your nervous system well enough to improve stretch tolerance, to get more flexible!

A key principle in Bikram Yoga is that you are trying to overload the nervous system to increase your stretch tolerance. That is how you become more flexible, decrease the risk of injury and relax your nervous system so that it is less sensitive and therefore your body will stretch.

Put simply, the only way to improve your flexibility is to improve the function of your nervous system.  You’ll notice that when you are concentrating on locking the knee, you are less likely to fall out of the pose.  Why, because you ARE concentrating!

What does Locking the knee look like?

You know you are locking your knee when you see your kneecap raise and muscles bunched above the knee, this indicates that the qkneeuadriceps muscles are being contracted.

There are 4 muscles in the quadricep femoris muscle group in the front of your leg. The one that is hardest to “turn on” is the vastus medialis obliquus (VMO) on the inside of the leg just above the knee.  Its job is to extend the length of the thigh and to stabilize the patella (knee cap) so your knee tracks correctly.

The VMO muscle is a common centre of weakness in many people because it will not become fully strengthened unless the leg is regularly extended fully.  It becomes more fully activated when the knee is at a greater angle, especially when the leg is completely extended.

As we age, the VMO muscle is the first muscle that we will start to lose.  As it weakens this can bring problems with the knee, surrounding structure and cause chronic aching pain.

The good news…

Locking the knee is a highly effective way of building your VMO strength while also building density as you are standing and weight loading at the same time. And, you are completely normal if you find locking the knee very hard.  It is hard.  That is why you must CONCENTRATE to try to do it.  This is how concentration improves your physical health!

The struggle in your mind as you try to keep the knee locked instills discipline. Learning discipline in the room helps us apply discipline in our lives.  Ultimately, how we apply ourselves to the job of locking the knee is a metaphor to how we apply ourselves to the job of living.

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7 Reasons why Yoga is a Great Gift for Dads!

In honour of Fathers’ Day and all the dads out there, here’s 7 reasons why yoga is great for ALL Dads!

 

  1. Doing Yoga regularly gives you more TIME

We all know that Yoga is designed to improve your joint mobility and your flexibility, but it also gives you way more energy, and sharpens focus and concentration, so dad will be EVEN more productive at work, so he can spend less hours there and more time with you, his loving family!

  1. Yoga gives you Energy

When you do yoga regularly, you don’t need energy drinks, coffee or sugar, or anything else. (Although you might still like them anyway!) You can keep up with the kids, in fact you might even beat them!

  1. Yoga is great for your back

After 40, more people suffer with back pain than don’t. Yoga is one of the most effective ways to improve back pain. So dad can easily put on the socks you bought him for Fathers day!

  1. Yoga reduces stress

Stress is the number one cause of illness in Australia.

Stress is not what happens to you, it’s how you react to what happens to you. Yoga provides you with a toolset to deal with what happens to you and so reduce stress levels, whatever the situation.

  1. Yoga doesn’t need skills

You don’t need to be “good” at bikram yoga to benefit from it. It’s designed for beginners. You just need to turn up, put your toes on the line and try and you’ll come out the other end of 90 minutes feeling like you’ve had an incredible workout.

  1. Age is irrelevant

Yoga is quite unique activity in that it’s something you get better at as you get older! Bikram Yoga appeals to all ages and both sexes. At Brookvale, we have people in their 70s in the room doing their yoga beside teenagers.  Everyone is welcome, everyone can feel comfortable and we love it that way!

  1. Yoga is perfect for Dads who bodies are worn and torn from years of sport

Maybe dad was an ace footy player in his day and now his knees are shot, he played cricket obsessively and he’s living with chronic back pain or his time as a secret agent took a toll on his body. 🙂

Whatever, yoga is perfect for the dad who thinks he can’t do much anymore. Bikram is specifically designed to help to relieve chronic pain plus give you a cardio workout and help flexibility. A one stop body workshop!!2

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7 Tips for your first Bikram Yoga class from a new student

The truth about your first ever Bikram class!adjusted IMG_0983

We get new students coming to try out Bikram Yoga every day, and many curious phone calls and emails.  We know it’s a big deal, your first class, so we thought we’d share with you a blog from one of our brand new students. Bethany took her first class last week, so she really is fresh out of the box!

After months of being stubborn and making poor excuses, the need to include some sort of yoga practice into my training became more and more apparent as the winter months progresses. I heard a lot of tales about Bikram before I managed to pluck up the courage to take a class.... read more

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