RunningYogisWeb

Running Yogis

Starting Thursday August 27th at 6 p.m. Bikram Yoga Park Slope will be hosting “Running Yogis,” a group of dedicated runners and yogis led by Bikram Yoga Park Slope instructor, Natalie Phelps. We will be meeting at the Lefferts Avenue studio at 6pm and running for about an hour around Prospect Park and the surrounding neighborhoods returning to the studio in time to take the 8pm class. Please come and join us regardless of your pace or running experience.

Why running and yoga?

Yoga is a wonderful activity to increase balance and flexibility for runners and help prevent injuries. While running is a great cardiovascular activity, it can lead to repetitive stress injuries (such as runners knee, IT band syndrome, tight hamstrings) if not properly balanced with strength and flexibility training. The repetitive movements of running contract the muscles over and over again which can result in shortened muscle fibers, imbalances in the musculoskeletal system, and reduced range of motion in related joints. A regular yoga practice can help runners create length in those shortened muscle fibers and increase strength in underused muscle groups that cause musculoskeletal imbalance.  Yoga can also reduce stiffness from post workout lactic acid buildup and improve breathing.

A little about Natalie

Natalie has been practicing at our studios since January 2012 and joined the Bikram Yoga Park Slope team this May after attending the Fall 2014 Teacher Training in Thailand and traveling as a visiting teacher for 6 months. She has taught in studios all over the world but is happy to be back at her home studio in Brooklyn.

Natalie has been an avid long distance runner since her teenage years on the track and cross-country teams. She has run 8 full marathons, at least 16 half marathons and countless shorter individual races and relays. Natalie tried Bikram Yoga for the first time after running her first marathon as a way to stretch and strengthen her muscles after pounding the pavement for 26.2 miles and was instantly hooked. She is currently training for the Detroit marathon and would love to share her running experiences with the yoga community.

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Student Story: Soji

Seven years ago, I stepped into my first hot room.  Back then, if someone had told me my future, I might have responded with an eye roll.  Dear inquirer, one day you will greatly enjoy walking half-naked into an obscenely hot room to spend 90 minutes twisting, bending and dripping with sweat among strangers.  And one day, you will teach others to do the same.  An eye roll and some choice words.

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to explain the appeal of Bikram yoga.  I gave her the usual reasons: a great work out, an increase in strength and flexibility, an awesome form of stress relief, and so on.  And then, after a beat, I came clean.  I told her that the real reason that I keep coming back is that the lessons that I learn in class have made life better outside the studio.  In the hot room, lessons, like sweat, have a way of sneaking up on you and sticking.  Here are my favorite three:

1) You can do anything in the world if you learn to master your breath…

My first few yoga classes were humbling in part because they showed me that I didn’t know the first thing about breathing.  My lungs were the lazy guy at the office that does just enough work to not be fired.  They got enough oxygen into my body to keep me among the living but they were hardly standout performers.  Eventually though, I learned to use my breath during class for extra endurance in a posture, to steady my heart beat, or to access muscle flexibility.  Then one day I found my breath coming to my aid when I needed it.  I could use it to diffuse road rage on the BQE, rub out stage fright before a speaking engagement, steady my nerves during a difficult conversation, or focus my mind before the planning phase of a new project.  All due respect to the folks at Red Bull, but it’s breath mastery that really gives you wings.

2) Being a warrior isn’t about force but about balance…

Once I laid my mat down behind a trio of yogis that taught me something in the most beautiful way.  One of these yogis was a young guy with the build of a professional athlete.  In a past career, he might have been a football player or body builder.  We’ll call him “Ahnold”. Next to Ahnold was a petite woman who looked like she walked into the studio directly off the set of Cirque du Soleil.  Before class I watched her warm up by twisting her body into shapes that made me nauseous to behold.  We’ll call her “The Contortionist”.  The last of the trio was a middle aged woman with a lean but unremarkable build.

As class went on, I watched Ahnold go in and out of the poses that require a lot of muscle strength, e.g. Awkward Pose, with ease but grow frustrated and angry during the asanas that develop flexibility like Standing Bow.  The Contortionist’s standing back bend was the most beautiful that I had ever seen but her legs wobbled during the second part of Awkward like a baby giraffe first learning to walk.  The last yogi, however, was inspiring to watch from start to finish.  She came in and out of the most difficult of postures like a pro.  When she landed a full split in Standing Bow, she looked at herself in the mirror and winked.  She was kicking ass and having fun.  And it was because unlike Ahnold or The Contortionist she had equal parts strength and flexibility.  She was a warrior.

I left class that day thinking about all the places in my life where I might be favoring one thing at the expense of another—work vs play, wake vs sleep, etc.—and how the unbalance was preventing me from being a warrior.

3) The things that are the most uncomfortable are exactly what you need…

An early yoga instructor once noticed an unhealthy and uncourageous habit of mine during class.  He called me out immediately and said something that I’ve never forgotten: You can chase the pain in your life or you can let it chase you. We all have an instinctive reaction to retreat from discomfort.  That instinct keeps us protected in the short term but it also lets that discomfort live to fight us another day.  Showing up to class every day and coming face to face with the points of resistance in my body has slowly built up a skill and a tolerance that I find myself able to tap into outside the studio.  Crossing paths with challenges or difficult situations is now a much different experience for me.  I’m better able to welcome the challenge in, offer it a cup of tea and listen to what it wants to say.  Nine times out of ten once it is heard, it lets itself be dealt with and quietly exits stage left.

In a few weeks, I head out to Bikram’s “torture chamber” for the spring 2015 Bikram Yoga Teacher Training.  I can’t wait for all the new lessons to stick.

By the way, that friend of mine—she now has a membership at her local studio.

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Introducing Kangen Water

Have you discovered the water and technology being used by the most forward thinking, heath aware people in the world?

Introducing Kangen Water. It’s better than any other water or drink. It goes deeply into the fluid surrounding the cells and bathes and feeds those cells thus giving them more hydration that allows for quicker recovery, increased stamina and extended energy. A far more superior approach to healthy athletics and rapid reduction of lactic acid rather than the sugar, unhealthy alternatives. Beat that, Gatorade.

Here’s what you need to know:

• Kangen Water has been used in Japanese Hospitals for 40 years

• Kangen Water hydrates 4 to 6 times more effectively than other drinks

• Kangen Water can help flush built up toxins and impurities from the body

• Kangen Water can help our planet and environment by stopping plastic bottle waste

• Kangen Water can lead to an increase in energy, improved digestion and better sleep

“A person cannot eat enough fruits and vegetables in a day to come anywhere near the antioxidant power of one glass of Kangen Water.”
–Dr. Horst Filtzer, MD, Vascular Surgeon, Educated at Harvard University

Next time you come into our studio, try Kangen Water for yourself! Also, check out this incredible story about how Kangen Water changed the lives of one particular athlete.

And, if you have questions about hydration, connect with us on Twitter or Facebook to find out more!

Cheers to your health!

KarliBackbend

Cultivating A Home Practice

As a busy New Yorker, it can be challenging to make it to the studio as frequently as you might like. We asked Karli, one of our Bikram Yoga Park Slope teachers, for some tips on how to bring your yoga experience into a home setting so that you can realize the benefits you’ve grown to enjoy. Here is what she has to say: 

Like most worthwhile disciplines, a home practice is a tough thing to cultivate. In theory, it is the most convenient way to fit your yoga into your day without the commute to the studio, or the cost of a class. This theory is similar to the one we tell ourselves about hemming our own jeans, or painting our own walls and making our dream DIY Pinterest projects. To some, these things come easily, to others, actually getting around to it is a pipe dream.

It is worth the reminder that the most important part of your home practice is steadiness. Not your designer yoga clothes, not your essential oils, not even your favorite playlist. You showing up consistently for even two minutes to sit with your breathing is the most important part of your home practice.

Consider this quote from Sri Dharma Mittra:

In dealing with meditation, it is always worth mentioning that you don’t have to be sitting to practice, but you have to be steady in one thing. For example, I have a student who came to my class every Saturday for over ten years, but every Saturday without fail. That is the very definition of steadiness. So, to meditate is more about steadiness than it is about how you sit or the quality of your concentration, or anything else. Let’s say you remember G-d once a day even for just one second, but every day. That is concentration. This steadiness in concentration brings fruits (results). It’s not that you concentrate on G-d for one whole day, and then you forget about Him – no, that’s not concentration. The secret is to have firm regular concentration on one thing.

The same can be applied to your yoga practice (considered by some to be a “moving meditation”). Steadiness is key. You do not have to put unreasonable pressure on yourself to practice seven days per week. Choose a consistent routine that fits easily within your schedule be it five times per week, once per week, once per month. What matters is the regularity of practice, whatever “regular” is to you.

Whether you are a home practice warrior with beautifully draped tapestries and flowing Zen fountains, or if your mat just barely fits snugly in the space between your bed and your dresser, the practice is the same. You are showing up to be with yourself and to enrich your life mentally and physically, regardless of the setting.

Sometimes we need a little extra motivation; this is where triggers might be helpful. Aromatherapy is a lovely way to settle your mind and your nervous system and prepare you for practice. As an alternative to essential plant oils, try infused herbal oils. According to internationally renowned herbalist, Susun Weed, “Infused herbal oils use a small amount of plant material; essential oils require tons of plant material [read: unsustainable]. Infused herbal oils are safe to use internally or externally; essential oils are poisonous internally, and problematic externally.” Best to embrace natural scent therapies such as growing live aromatic plants, or using dried aromatic herbs.

Music or soothing sounds from nature could be another way to create a vibe of focus and being present. If you have a go-to favorite playlist or Pandora station, or a favorite recording from nature, save them! Listen to them only during your home practice so that you’re excited for your next time spent on your mat. This habit will also train your mind that when your specific sound current begins, it is time for focus and mindful breathing or movement. I find that I end up dancing to the music instead of moving with my breath, so keep an eye on your pace to make sure it is yours, not your favorite band’s.

If you have one space dedicated to your practice, plants are a nice addition because they work symbiotically with your own breath as they purify the air. Also, the soft green tones are relaxing to the eyes all too often strained by back-lit computer screens.

Running late? A five-minute meditative breathing break or a quick asana warm-up can reset you as effectively as turning off your phone for a few minutes will reboot the operating system. The quality of your practice will change day to day, and it’s the days when it seems least likely to get on your mat that you probably need it the most.

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Teacher of the month: Peter Finlon

BYPS teacher Peter Finlon shares about his practice and why he keeps coming back for more.

I started practicing on New Years Day in 2009, which makes 6.5 years of practice.  I was (poorly) recovering from a surgery and unable to go to the gym, and a coworker recommended that I try Bikram.  I was frustrated and desperate at that point, bought one month unlimited, and honestly had very low expectations for myself. I was surprised to notice a dramatic change in my mobility, stamina, ability to sleep, and mood. I ended up going nearly every day that month, and started a 30 day challange immediately thereafter.  In fall 2010, I completed teacher training.

The biggest changes occured in the muscular adhesions that resulted from improper wound healing, and the emotional issues connected to the places in which I was physically stuck.  I started out barely able to lift my arms over my head for half moon and completely incapable of keeping them straight!  Illness, injury, and immobility can have an immense psychological impact, and I know that first hand.  My body felt broken and alien.  Doing something athletic to address and and even reverse physical limitations in a fun and supportive environment made me feel strong again.  This experience lead me to become a massage therapist, a teacher, and recently, to finish my degree and pursue a career in public health. 

I keep coming back because my body is in constant flux and the practice helps keep me aware of that.  Especially living in New York, it is easy to be overwhelmed with outside stimuli and that can take focus away from what is going on physically, mentally, emotionally with myself.  Bikram yoga guarantees that for 90 minutes, I have no escape, no “out”, no distractions, no choice but to tune in.

My advice to new yogis ties into the above.  Don’t be afraid to tune in!  It is normal to try to create special personal rituals and distractions to avoid being with yourself and the practice for 90 minutes.  We all try to escape at some point.  Go to that scary place in which you don’t have that extra sweat-wiper towel, the cell phone,  that different version of triangle that makes you feel stronger and more capable, or that mental to-do list in savasana that keeps your mind busy.  If we get rid of these road blocks and directly face whatever is scaring us in the room, we’re building useful neural pathways that will allow us to do the same when faced with fears and challenges outside of the hot room.