What I learned from a week of Bikram Yoga

Bikram yoga

Bikram yogaA 105 degree room with 45% humidity on a balmy Monday June morning at 6:30am is not exactly my idea of a good time. (Is it anyone's idea of a good time?!)

You know me. I'm not opposed to early mornings, in fact I love 'em. It's just the heat. Oh the heat. And 100+ degree temperatures to boot.

Tho I dare not complain about the heat living in New Hampshire as our warm, sunny days are few and far between, sandwiched between months of the white stuff.

Yet there I was on my yoga mat with my yoga towel ready to gather my sweat before it bounced onto my neighbour's mat.

This was day one of a week's worth of Bikram yoga. Many moons ago I won a Portsmouth Bikram Yoga Gift Certificate at Jessica Todd's one year celebration. Finally, the time had come to join some good friends of mine on the yoga mat.

But before all this could happen, I had a) find my yoga mat and b) dust it off. Needless to say, it had been quite a while since I could call myself a yogi.

Once I found my mat, (in the back of my car, go figure!) I began thinking about what I had signed up for. While I may currently be a closet yogi, I've spent many hours on the mat. In 2007, every Sunday morning I made it to the 9am class at the Portsmouth Bikram Yoga studio so I knew  precisely what I was in for.

Yes, I knew all about the 26 poses and two breathing exercises. Yup, I was familiar with how rote the teachers are, leading the class through the poses. Yes, I remembered the heat (and that smell.)

More importantly, I remembered breathing deeper because of yoga. I remembered feeling so limber and flexible. I remembered walking out of the studio, stinking to high heaven, but feeling so strong in my body.

Which is why at 6:20am, I was ready to flirt with those feelings again. One of the hardest things to do in yoga (or life) is to just show up. I knew once I got my butt to that Monday am class, I'd be at the 6:30am class the rest of the week.

At the start of class on Monday, I thought  "Deep breaths Johanna. You are here. Stay present."

At the start of class on Tuesday, I thought "One day at a time."

At the start of class on Wednesday, I thought "This is going to be the longest 90 mins of my life."

Thursday I went running.

At the start of class on Friday, I thought "I'm so proud of myself. And I'm so syked to get back out running again!"

Here's the three things I learned from doing a week of Bikram Yoga.

YogaRunning1. Yoga does a body well. Yoga does a runner's body great.

Poses like  half moon pose, camel pose or fixed firm pose helped me get into and stretch out my quads and hips. Doing those poses twice in a steamy hot studio really helped me get into those tight areas and stretch them out. I do stretch after I run, but let's be honest. I'm usually stretching with my leg up on the kitchen counter while drinking some water and making breakfast with the other hand.

I could also feel myself using muscles that I don't normally engage when running. Yoga helps with balance, stability, strengthening my core and strength.

All the twisting, the bending and this, that and the other (think Eagle Pose) stretched out parts of my body I didn't even realize were tight. The kinks were worked out, knots slipped, er, dripped away and my range of motion increased.

2. It's not about the physical poses, but about exercising your mental muscles.

It's hella hard to hold some of those poses and not for the reasons you think. If you've never done yoga, you might assume that once you reach a physical limit, you just can't go anymore. Or that you can physically only hold a pose for a certain amount of time and that's it.

My yoga practice isn't hampered by my physical limitations, but by the six inches between my ears.

It's rarely my body saying stop. It's my mind that says  "what the hell are you doing? This is insane. It's too hot/sweaty/smelly/gross and I'm too tired/exhausted/bored to continue so you should just quit."

And when I ignore my brain, this is what I hear:

"OMGOMGOMGOMG. What the hell are you doing? This sucks. Stop. It. Right. Now. STOPITRIGHNOW."

Doing yoga builds a tenacity that will pay off in a road race, board meeting or dealing with a difficult person.

3. I missed running.

I did I did. I missed running. Wahoo!

While I did go running one day during the week, come Friday, I missed running. And that made me happy. When I started this week of Bikram yoga, I was excited to take a break from running and do something different.  While I wasn't surprised how much I enjoyed the yoga, I was surprised at how much I missed running.

My body craved running.

I enjoyed my week of yoga and flirting with those feelings of being limber, supple, sweaty and stinky. I will absolutely continue to date yoga, but I'm 100% married to running.

What about you? Do you have a strong yoga practice? Come on over here and tell me.