Yoga Brain

For the last month, R. and I have been exercising a lot. A lot. And well. It’s the first time since the marathon — hell, it’s the first time since longer ago than that — that I’ve really felt in some kind of decent shape, in an all-around sense: I’ve lost a few nagging pounds that I couldn’t drop, things have stopped wobbling and/or pooching quite as much as they were, I’m starting to see actual muscular definition again, and best of all, nothing hurts. No joint aches, no extremity pain, and only enough muscle soreness to let me know I’ve done something.

We’ve basically alternated days at the gym (which mostly means, for me, time on the elliptical machine) with days of yogalates class. Yogalates, as you might guess, is a blend of yoga and pilates that’s extremely intensive, combining pilates’s focus on core strength with yoga’s investments in flexibility and balance. The classes we go to are taught in a heated room, are an hour long, and move through a varying cycle of exercises and poses that work each muscle group in sequence (not to mention getting your heart rate up and making you sweat like a goat). I walked out after the first eight or so classes I took feeling not unlike cooked spaghetti, completely wrung out and happy though utterly unable to maintain a line of thought for more than a few seconds. It was awesome.

It remains awesome, though (happily for my productivity) less brain-scrambling than it was at the outset. I’m thinking pretty hard these days about how I’m going to maintain this kind of exercise schedule when I get back to Claremont, and particularly to teaching, which has a tendency to eat into every bit of personal time I attempt to reserve for myself. And, in particular, I’m pondering how I’m going to keep something yogalates-like included in my regimen.

There’s a Bikram yoga studio just a few blocks from my condo, and I’m seriously considering going there to check it out when I get home. But I’m got certain kinds of anxieties about Bikram, anxieties that I could stand to have dispelled before I go forward with this. Mostly these concerns have to do with the heat: while the studio I’m now attending is heated, class temperatures generally fall somewhere between 80 and 90 degrees, I think, and I can definitely tell the difference between hotter days and less hot days, and between hotter areas of the room and less hot spots. Generally speaking, hotter = more mashed-potatolike feeling at end of class. So this is why I’m concerned: the Bikram place near me says that its studio is heated to 100 degrees, and that’s a hefty number more degrees. Will there be nausea? Danger of passing out? Brain-deadness?

I’d appreciate any advice. I’m asking in no small part because I need to stop thinking about this already so I can get back to work…

9 thoughts on “Yoga Brain

  1. I’ve always been skeptical about yoga, and the more I hear people I generally trust describe its benefits, the more my skepticism grows in direct proportion to the increasingly undeniable knowledge that I’d probably enjoy it.

    I’m intrigued by yogapilates, because I’ve always contrasted the ostensible ineffectiveness of yoga (= doesn’t burn too many calories) with the effectiveness of pilates (= if it works for Madonna…).

    I know someone who does Bikram yoga every morning at six. She swears that it gives her energy and mental clarity throughout the day.

  2. Thanks, Krista — I’ve been watching Mel’s challenge, which is one of the things that’s inspired me to think more seriously about Bikram than I have before. I’ll definitely ask her a question or two!

  3. I’ve been to the Bikram studio in Claremont and they’re a good bunch. Very low-key, not too peppy, and just the right amount of serious about what they’re doing. Their studio is not the hottest Bikram I’ve been to (Dupont Circle DC gets that honor) and it’s not the best all-around one (Highland in Denver) but it’s right up there. Bikram’s not for everyone, but it is, for me, both a cardio and a yoga-style workout in one–a complete package–and because of the sweating it’s very cleansing etc. My recommendation to friends trying Bikram is to do it three times. The first time you’re figuring out what the deal is, the second you’re starting to get it, and the third you can really evaluate whether it’s for you. The trick if you stick with it is to manage your eating schedule (Bikram can’t happen after meals), your water intake throughout the day, and, well, your laundry.

  4. I just wrote a piece for you at my blog about managing the heat. But I know you can totally handle it — you’re already used to exercising in a warm room, and you trained for the marathon.

  5. The heat can be a little overwhelming at first. I practice Bikram and take class about four or five times a week. It has done wonders for me. I will say though that in the first month, some people do experience some nausea, dizziness, etc. It took me two months to really get used to the heat and even now some classes are worse than others. If you hydrate properly and stay within your limits, you get used to it. I’ve never seen anyone pass out in my studio and it has gotten up to 110 before. I often find the ability to stand the heat depends more on the humidity and the number of people in the room with you. The ability to deal with the heat also has a lot to do with diet and how much and what you eat before class. I usually try and stop eating about four hours before class except for an orange about an hour before class. Hope it is helpful.

  6. Thanks, everybody — and thanks particularly to Mel for a great post on her blog. This is all really helpful, and really encouraging.

    What’s also encouraging is that my yogalates studio was up around 94 today, with AWFUL humidity (it’s 60% outside right now, and about the same in the studio), and I had once of the best classes yet. So I’m definitely going to give the Bikram place a shot…

  7. I wish you luck with the Bikram.

    Though it’s a style of yoga that doesn’t suit everybody, from what I’ve read on your blog, I’m sure you will be able to handle the heat, and excel at Bikram.

  8. If you’ve run a marathon you can bend it like Bikram – and anyone who has the discipline to train for a 26.2 mile run will enjoy Bikram’s structured approach to yoga.

    http://www.bikramfinder.com will dispel fears about heat (see the “health benefits” section) and provide encouragement from former marathoners (in the “testimonials” section.)

    Give hot yoga a try – because it’s later than you think. Bikram say: “Never too late, never too old, never too bad and never too sick to do yoga and start from scratch again.”

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