Yoga Essentials: The Core Revisited

In the yoga room, we are continually being told to “suck your stomach in”. What does that actually mean and why is it so important? Do you REALLY know?

We ran a Core workshop 6 months and it was hugely popular.

  • If you think you have a “weak core”…
  • If you suffer from lower back pain …
  • If you aren’t even sure what your core is ….
  • If you are very new to Bikram and want to start the RIGHT way…
  • If you want to delve deeper into your postures….

This is the workshop for you!

Brookvale Teacher and National Yoga Champion, Kash Bazil has a special passion for working with the core Kash Bioand teaching her students how to learn to engage this area.

“From my personal experience, once I nailed the core, it changed my whole practice.” 

Kash will start the morning with a one hour workshop on the core. This will be followed by a 90 minute Bikram class targeting how to focus on your core in each of your postures to immediately consolidate and apply the workshop knowledge.

 

Don’t miss this fantastic opportunity!  Book here now.

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The Story of My first 31 Day Challenge

When I did my first Bikram Challenge in 2006 I had been doing Bikram yoga for 5 years, coming a couple of times a week. I didn’t see myself as a sporty person, I certainly wasn’t a bendy person, I was just an ordinary, not very brave, mother of a 6 month old girl who wanted to get fit, toned and strong again and handle my new job (motherhood!).  I had no plans to do Bikram yoga every day for 31 days. But I am very very glad I did!  I wrote this at the time and unearthed it on my PC last week. So here’s how it happened and the story of my challenge…

Why I did a Challenge

The day before I started this challenge, I wouldn’t have believed I could have

Just before the Challenge

Just before the Challenge

done it.  Not only because of the logistics of physically getting to class every day (in fact that would be an excuse not a reason), but because I couldn’t imagine how I would cope with being in that hot room every day, every single day, not one break, for an entire month.

But when Jodie asked if I’d do the official challenge the school was running later in the year, I had to say yes, because she was giving me NO EXCUSES.  Jodie accepts nothing less than your best!  And so the seed was sown. Then that same day I mentioned it to a friend and she suggested I start the challenge that very day rather than waiting, I thought well, I’ve already done the 6am, I’m one class down.  The hardest thing in life is making a decision.

Once I’d committed to doing it, that was it, I was DOING IT.  There was no going back, there were no excuses, I was going to go every day for 31 days.  The first few days were pretty tough, not in the classroom but in my head.  I found it difficult to sleep, I think I was anxious about what I’d taken on. I was doing yoga postures in my sleep, and unfortunately it wasn’t savasana! 

I had no expectations about what to expect from the challenge.  I suppose secretly I hoped that I would lose weight and that my standing bow would be almost the standing splits.  Well anyway, I lost weight…..

I just went every day, there was no time to not look forward to going, like I did when I was going 2-3 times a week.  There was no option.  I couldn’t say, oh, I’m too tired, too busy, too lazy.  So that was good because it took the daily decision out of going.  In some ways it made the act of going to practice easier because I didn’t have to think about it.  And when I was in the class, the classes were definitely better, more consistently focused and stronger.

I saw some changes immediately.  My balancing poses for instance.   My balance just got better.  Interestingly in the last 3 -4 days of the challenge it all went pear-shaped.  Have no expectations.

Pranayama was better, I didn’t hate it anymore, it really felt like set up for class.

The Shock of Trying to do Things the Right Way!

Other things took a while.  I’ve never kept my heels together properly in the spine-strengthening series. And fortunately (in hindsight), Jodie pointed out this to me in no uncertain terms on day 2 –

“Why are your heels not together?” I think she said.  I think I apologized!

So now I had a focus and oh, man was that tough.  To keep my heels together for me, with my hips and legs the way they were, felt like trying to rotate them so that my knee-caps faced the ceiling, but without the pain.  It just felt weird.  But I persevered, despite the humiliation of no longer being able to soar like an aeroplane or curve my spine like a cobra. Like anyone’s looking at me!

Cobra was the biggest shock.  If I genuinely kept my heels together, I could barely get anything off the ground anymore, let alone my floating rib.  So for a few days, there I was on the floor barely moving, and then one day, I think Kaz was teaching and she got me to move my hands down a little, it suddenly clicked into place.  It was like my legs and hips went “Oh, you want me to do THIS!!” and I came up to where I used to be able to go, and my legs felt strong and powerful and my heels were still together!  YEAH!!

It began to occur to me that perhaps a lot of my physical “problems” were linked to this little quirky thing, that maybe wasn’t so little after all. That just keeping my heels together would start to fix my continually pulled hamstring, my squint hips, my sore shoulder and neck.

How Things started to Change

Over the 31 days, I gradually began to feel muscles in the legs working to help me, and supporting my back as it used its huge muscles to raise my torso up.

Despite practicing for 5 years, I’d always hated, feared the belly-down series.  I felt like a lead weight.  Now in my challenge, I really did feel like I had Denise’s helium balloons lifting me up.  I could breathe in the postures, I wasn’t just holding on, waiting for that beautiful word “change”.

The dialogue became more important to me, because I really was there with a purpose.  I had 31 days to change my world!  And when I listened, I learnt so much.  Often in the past I realized I’d switched off, because I knew what I was doing (allegedly!) and just put myself through the paces, but I’m learning loads by learning to listen.  Here’s a few things I need to remember:

  • In back bending poses, lift your heart up to the ceiling and imagine your shoulder blades are being wrapped around your spine.  Think of stretching the front of your body, don’t just focus on the bend in your back.
  • In Locust pose, Alex reminded us that single leg lifts are warm-ups for the double leg lift pose.  If you can get one leg that high, there’s no reason you can’t get both up. That’s the theory anyway!
  • I’ve really started to watch my hips in poses like Eagle, Tree and standing separate Leg stretching (coming down), to make sure my hips are aligned. In fact also Standing head to knee.
  • Standing and floor Bow I realized that I didn’t really really kick back.  I heard “equal and opposite” but I was thinking more about the arm than the leg because I used to not think about the arm at all.  So I started kicking back and felt much more balanced and grounded in the earth, rather than flailing slightly above it!

Some Notes from my Challenge Diary

Day 2 “Class was strange – I was obsessed with my horrible doughy stomach – has it always looked that bad?….Felt intensely aware that I have 29 more classes to get through. Not a great thought!”

Day 5 “still feeling really tired, despite 12 hours in bed! Going to increase magnesium. I nevertheless had a lovely class with very good focus…”

Day 6 “Today for the first time I feel quite confident about the challenge. I think I’ve settled into it a bit and believe it is possible.”

Day 7 “Today I actually feel normal – better than, I feel great!”

Day 8 “I’m sleeping fine now.”

Day 11 “I noticed today that when I stand my head tips slightly to the left.”

Day 13  ”Tonight’s class was HOT. I mean I got through it and possibly my aches make my stamina less, but mentally, I found it really hard. Definitely hardest since start. My neck and shoulder was really aching this morning. I resorted to denkorub and was overjoyed with the improvement but in class I felt it aching, especially after half tortoise.”

Day 14  “Stiffest class yet…I was so stiff though, which was weird considering I was in a class only 12 hours before….I’ve felt very energized all day too.  Probably best yet. ”

Day 16  “I don’t feel like I’m much better in the poses, but I feel more able to focus on the poses and me, my body, in them – rather than just getting through the class.”

Day 17 “I have had a great day energy wise.  I feel bouncy and light and have been busy and inspired.”

Day 18 ”My body feels like it’s turned a corner.”

Day 19 “I feel completely comfortable with yoga everyday now. In fact I enjoy it and look forward to challenging my body and mind.  I think I’ll miss it when it’s over!”

Day 22 “My upper back, around my scapula, was aching a week ago, in fact on and off during the entire challenge.  Now it’s OK.  The shoulder/neck pain I always got after half tortoise, camel and rabbit – NO MORE!”

Day 25  ”I occasionally get this peace come over me in class…it’s the 90 minute meditation Bikram talks about.  It’s not easy.  I can’t try and do it; in fact, it’s the opposite.  I have to try and let go.  Don’t think just do. Don’t analyse, listen to the dialogue.”

Day 27 “Two in one day!  The thought of it was much worse than the reality. 6.00 was fine, so NOT hot.  Tonight however was sweltering and although therefore much harder, so much more satisfying.  My energy wasn’t great…but I didn’t pull my shoulder and I feel great now.”

Day 28 “Ugh. Had been expecting a good class but was worst in challenge.  Lay out of 3 sets.  Was just so not coping, it was weird. I expected after 28 days – Well the lesson is to have NO expectations.  It is all a journey!  I felt fantastic for the rest of the day of course.”

Day 29 “My balance wasn’t great tonight. Perhaps standing in the middle of the room – too much pressure to perform! Also, now I’m near the end of the challenge.  I feel more like I did when I went 2 days/week.  I know my postures have changed, but mentally I’m a bit back to normal.”

Day 30 “I’ve really learnt that, just because I’d done yoga every day for 31 days, it won’t make my practice any better than the person next to me, than the day before, it makes me understand ME more.  That’s all.  It’s the same leg you’re balancing on as the night before, so why is it stronger/weaker than then?  It’s the MIND.”

11 July 06

After the Challenge

Day 31 LAST DAY “So I walked out at the end of the class and just wanted to cry.  I never expected this emotion. It was like complete relief, combined with disbelief that I’d done it.  And pride.  But I felt like a shell.  Like I’d been holding it all together for 31 days, and now I could just LET GO. Which is I suppose, the thing I always want to be able to do.  So Bikram fixed that?! I sat in the corner outside and sobbed quietly.  I really wanted to sob loudly, but I waited till I was in the car to do that!

Gosh I felt different.  I think it was elation.  I felt this absolute sense of achievement, there was no question I’d done something I never thought I could do.  I felt calm, satisfied – peaceful.  I’d reached my goal!

In my diary there is a lot of talk about the pains I was suffering.  There was always something bothering me, but they all worked their way out, as long as I was aware in my practice.  Sometimes it was a pain from using a part of my body I hadn’t used much, so more of an ache.  Sometimes it was a genuine pain, but I really had to address what I was doing with my body in my practice to cause it, because I know it’s not the postures themselves causing the pain, it’s the way I use my body.  So for instance, in pranayama, I would raise my shoulders, not just my torso, and ended up with aching shoulders.  So for a while, I just didn’t bring my elbows up as high, while I retrained my body how to relax my shoulders and lift my whole body up more.

Today

Looking back I realise that doing this challenge changed everything about the yoga for me. I honestly never thought I could do Bikram Yoga every day, and I certainly never thought I could become a Bikram Yoga Teacher, although in my deepest heart, I realise that I really really wanted to. The challenge changed me to the point where, 3 years later I felt brave enough to see my heart and follow my heart. In November 2010 I qualified as a Bikram Yoga Teacher.  This yoga has really and truly changed things about me I didn’t know you could change.

Ten years on, I’m now 47 and my yoga practice has continued to grow and change me – physically, emotionally. I don’t practice every day, but I do make sure I practice 3 – 4 times every week. As I’ve got older it feels even more important for my overall health (back, hips, especially I feel if I don’t practice) and I can honestly say that I feel better now than I did when I was 28. No doubt! However cliched it sounds, we say it because it’s true – I am SO grateful that I have found this yoga. I don’t believe there is anything quite like it.

Kim MacKechnie

May 2016

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Why We fall out of Standing Bow Pulling

jodie in bow shaved headThis posture probably more than any other, divides Bikram yogis. Some love it – “my favourite posture!”  – while others find it a constant struggle simply to balance.

And there’s the word. Balance.The first thing I’d say about standing bow is to forget about the balance. The balance is the result of form, balance does not enable form.

So, here’s some magic tips about form to get the most out of this posture:

  • The first thing you do in this posture is grab your foot at the ankle. If you are newer to Bikram this can be tricky, be patient and keep trying. As your shoulder flexibility improves and your hips open through the 26 postures, you’ll get there.
  • Make sure you GRAB, don’t just hold the ankle. Grip on for dear life. Because when you work out the kick, you’ll need to hold on or you’ll lose the foot!
  • Now bring your arm up in front of you, chin close to the shoulder to stretch the arm up. This energises your entire spine ready for the posture.

So now you are ready. One more thing – knees together for alignment and balance. And don’t forget always the locked knee is your foundation.

Bow is really very simple. You have to kick back and stretch forward. Mastering these two aspects will transform this posture. Everything else comes from your honest attention to these 2 actions.

But I hear you say, kicking is HARD. Yes it is! Probably 90% of people in the room are not kicking, they are holding their foot and hoping they don’t fall out. When you get the hang of the kick, everything else truly starts to fall into place.

Second Problem? Falling out. Don’t be scared to fall out trying. Again, the goal is not to balance, the goal is to kick so your foot comes over the top of your head and your body is parallel to the floor, stretching your fingers forward as much as possible . When you fall out, you learn. If you are scared to fall out, you’ll stay in the same position for EVER.

Check that your weight stays evenly over your standing foot. Bring your body down so that your abdomen and chest are parallel to the floor, to encourage the kick and raise the heart rate. Getting your body down also encourages the weight to be evenly distributed rather than back in the heel.

Don’t just point at yourself in the mirror, charge your body forward towards it like you want to touch that mirror. If you are charging enough and kicking enough, you won’t fall out. In fact, you could balance there forever! How?

You have to try very hard to concentrate on kicking and stretching. Nothing else. Look at your standing knee to keep it locked and forget about balance. Building concentration is just as hard as building balance, and probably much more valuable in life, but we very rarely hear somebody say, “I need to learn to concentrate more.”  All balancing postures are about your concentration.

Think of this posture as a backbend/spine twist combo, that gives you a sense of what you are trying to achieve.

And always remember, as long as you are trying your best, you are getting your maximum benefit from the posture!

Some Benefits of Standing Bow Pulling

  • A very comprehensive Posture improves the strength of all major muscles
  • Stimulates the cardiovascular system
  • Increases your spine flexibility
  • Increases blood circulation to heart and lungs
  • Stretches your hip flexors
  • Opens shoulder joints
  • Reduces abdominal fat

Now head in the hot room and give it a go!

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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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A Chat with with an old friend

Recently our teacher Dave unexpectedly crossed paths with an old surfing mate.  The conversation really stuck with him. He wrote it down and asked that we share it …..

Dave: So how long have we known each other?

Kev:Since we were 15!

Dave: Yes, that’s 37 years.  We surfed, rode skateboards, played footy, chased chicks and did all that fun stuff.

Kev:Good times

Dave: So what happened?

Kev: Well for me, I got married to a pastry chef, got fat, over time I couldn’t do those things that kept me young.

Dave:What do you mean?

Kev: With the weight I slowed down.  I’ve got pills now for high BP.  I can’t sit on a surfboard any more because of my arthritis in my hips.  And would you believe it,  I’ve got the onset of diabetes.

Dave: Geez, you used to be one of the best surfers around.

Kev: How about you, Dave?  What’s happening with you these days?

Dave: Well, I took a turn for the worse a few years ago.  Got a chronic back problem, nearly put me completely out of action. Couldn’t do much at all.

Kev: You seem fine now.  Did you have a back op?

Dave: No, no op. I was really determined not to.  My wife took me to a Bikram hot yoga class. Man, I thought I had a problem with my back. After half an hour I realised I had a problem with everything! Thought I would die in that first class.

Kev: Is that the crazy yoga you told me to try a few years ago?

Dave:Yeh!

Kev: I couldn’t do it, it was too hot.  I couldn’t even do half the class.

Dave: Ha ha.  Same. But I went back for another crack. I thought, surely I couldn’t be in that bad shape.  But I was wrong.

Kev: I’d never go back. It’s just too hot.  I can’t do anything.

Dave: But you see, that’s just it.  I stuck it out for a while and slowly improved. Now I’m surfing again, feeling great and have more vitality and bounce than my kids!

Kev: But the heat!!

Dave: Yeh, I know.  It’s hard. But what would you prefer as Bikram would say – “a slow poison death” for the rest of your days or make the effort to get in there and maybe suffer a little bit.  Improve your life, get off the pills and medication. It really works. Hope to see you in the water soon mate, there’s plenty of waves out there. ”

Kev never did try again.  He moved away from the coast, despite the surf being his greatest passion.

So if you’re out there mate, please remember this.

“It’s never too late, it’s never too bad and you’re never too old or too sick to start from scratch once again.”

Note from Ed:  Dave is very understated about his back problem.  Read his bio for the full story on his medical history.

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Emmy Cleaves on Bikram Yoga

By Emmy CleavesEmmy Cleaves

Bikram Yoga, sometimes also called “hot yoga,” is a system of a set 26 yoga posture sequence practiced in a room heated to 100+ degrees and lasting 90 minutes.

Bikram Choudhury, under his guru’s guidance and using modern medical measurement techniques, researched and arrived at this specific sequence of postures. The individual asanas are classical hatha yoga. Each classical yoga posture has a specific anatomical, neurological, physiological and psychological effect on the human body. The intelligence of any posture sequence determines the overall benefit of the practice.

Bikram introduced his unique style of yoga in the United States in 1971. During the first 20 years this style was taught only in his Beverly Hills studio, mainly to movie stars and athletes. Bikram was finally persuaded to start a teacher-training program, which opened up the system to national and international exposure. As of 2004 there are hundreds of Bikram Yoga studios throughout the world. In recognition of the unique nature of this posture sequence, the U.S. Trademark Office has issued a Trade Mark registration for Bikram Yoga.

In my 31 years of observation, I have seen that most people taking their first BikramYoga class are suffering from bad body mechanics and postural dysfunction. Each human body has a specific design template. Muscles work in pairs in order for the body to execute any movement or even to maintain an upright posture against the forces of gravity. Any imbalance in the dynamic tension between the posterior or erector muscles and the anterior or flexor muscles will compromise the vertical loading on the weight bearing joints. This creates unnatural wear and tear and ultimately disease and pain.

The first 45 minutes of the Bikram Yoga System consists of standing poses devoted to re-establishing musculo-skeletal balance. If done with sufficient intensity, they create an aerobic benefit as well.

The second half of the class consists of floor postures that address “the great information super highway” – your spine and it’s correct alignment. Most people recognize their spinal problems during their first Bikram Yoga class.

My first Bikram Yoga class was in 1973. For 20 years prior to it, I had taken various yoga classes that had not done much to improve the flexibility of my rather stiff body. I had also suffered a brain aneurysm. A life-threatening event of this nature shatters ones faith and trust in ones body. During my very first Bikram class I immediately recognized the power of the corrective training effect in the systematic and repetitious nature of the practice.

Since 1973 I have continuously practiced and taught Bikram Yoga. It has restored my mental and physical strength and the confidence in my ability to lead a productive life. It has given me the suppleness I had previously considered unattainable. My 31 years of practice have given me glowing health and age has had no effect on my body’s weight, suppleness or energy levels. There are very few things that can disturb the serenity of my spirit and calmness of my mind.

People ask me if I ever get tired of doing the same posture flow. My answer is that the practice is never the same because I am continuously being changed by the practice. The daily practice challenges you on many levels. Concentration and attention are quickly sharpened. Character issues of patience and perseverance come up each time. The practice offers a chance to explore deeper levels of Self and develop awareness of the emotions and thoughts that the postures evoke.

For example, backward bending often initially evokes fear, but you find the courage and strength to do it. As you become an observer of the deeper and sometimes buried manifestations of Self, you come to understand yourself more clearly. You start seeing which reactions to challenges are automatic and habitual and that you can change them. The asana is a path to Self-awareness. The physical becomes spiritual.

One of the most common questions of beginners is “why the heat?” On the simplest level it is because warm muscles are more pliable. The heat also expedites the flow of blood to all the organs of the body, facilitating the reactions that the postures are designed to create. Heat will help the body destroy viruses and bacteria. It strengthens the immune system. There are many cultures in which sweating is part of the healing process. Think of a Bikram class as a sweat lodge experience.

Bikram yoga is physically accessible to people of all ages and conditions. The postures require only normal range of motion available to all, from children to the very aged, provided you are being taught by a certified, qualified Bikram teacher. Beware, however, of the teacher who claims to teach Bikram Yoga but who has altered the strict Bikram regime. By changing the routine the beneficial effects are destroyed; such alterations are much like the difference between a genuine Rolex watch and a $ 20.00 knock-off.

Bishnu Ghosh, Bikram’s guru, said that the root of all chronic illnesses can be traced to stress. He also said that the human body is self-energizing and self-healing and that yoga is the key to this kingdom of health.

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