MSU Spartans Football Coach Ron Burton on Development of the Athlete | “Coaching the Coach” | Bikram Yoga

bikram yoga student spartans football coach ron burton Michigan state university

Just over three years ago, Michigan State University Assistant Football Coach Ron Burton started practicing Bikram Yoga with us.  Since then, he has been telling every coach and athlete he knows about this practice, encouraging them to come to class, and bringing his kids to class whenever they are in town.

They call each other “coach”, so if you ever hear Ann say that in class, you know who she is talking to!  🙂

Here you can read a short interview between Coach Burton and “Coach Chrapkiewicz”!  🙂


Can you tell us about your background professionally, as an athlete and a coach?

I grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and earned a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina, where I graduated with a B.A. in 1987.  I then played linebacker in the National Football League for 4 years (1987-1990). I played for the Dallas Cowboys, Arizona Cardinals, and Los Angeles Raiders.  Following that I went to graduate school, and became a graduate assistant in football at North Carolina from 1991-93.

I have been a college football assistant coach for 26 years – now going into my 7th season at Michigan State University.  (You can read more about Coach Burton on his MSU profile here.)

What is your experience with yoga practice in general?

My yoga experience started with a few times during the spring in college, then a few times during my off-seasons in my professional football career.  While living in Colorado, I would search for workouts from our cable networks. So I rediscovered yoga in my basement believe it or not, and started following some of the 20-, 30-, and 60- minute yoga workouts.  

I just kept remembering how great I felt physically and mentally after a session.  I was refreshed, my body increased its fluidity and limberness, and the clarity of my mind and focus was always increased. 

We had been living in East Lansing for a few years, when Golf Coach Victor Whipp told me about Bikram Yoga.  I came to Bikram Yoga Capital Area for the first time in May of 2016 and have been coming as much as I can since then.  More frequently in the off-season, but during season whenever I can, too.

How does Bikram Yoga relate to teaching and coaching?

I am just a novice in Bikram Yoga, but I view it as a fundamental.  It is a necessary foundation that helps improve the physical and mental side of any sport or hobby.

The class connects with “we” …. I get to be coached by someone else in a hobby or sport that I know nothing about. 

This yoga forces you to listen fully in the moment, to understand what you are hearing, and then respond. It forces you to focus. Each time in class, I’m learning something new to further improve one of the 26 postures.  I learn how to adjust each posture with precise movements – all  according to my ability in the moment.

As a coach, you are constantly trying to improve your way of getting your point across.   The instructors here speak with clarity, and effective tone of voice.  They respond to and troubleshoot questions.  And they do it without being in a hurry, or loud.  And yet it is so effective.

This improves me as a coach because I get to see, hear, and understand a different way of teaching and getting a point across.  Coach Ann Chrapkiewicz has been a great example for me as a coach.  Not just talk…action!

How does Bikram Yoga contribute to athletic development?

Bikram Yoga definitely contributes to the development of an athlete, regardless of sport!  With a consistent practice, it contributes to mental development – it improves focus, clarity, discipline, and listening skills.  Physically, it improves range of motion at the arms, hips, core, and spine. It feels like it is rinsing the body of toxins.

It’s a lifetime journey!

Here is a video of Coach Burton and the whole class practicing the backward bending portion of Half Moon Pose:

What are some of the benefits that you have personally experienced with Bikram Yoga?

For me personally, the benefits have been numerous.  My focus and clarity have improved, as has my patience.  My stress level has definitely been reduced. My listening skills are better.  Physically, I have an overall better understanding of my body’s weaknesses and strength.  My posture is better, my flexibility has improved, and my breathing is so much better.

I have had numerous athletic injuries in the past – torn pectoral muscles, sprained ankles, pulled groin, broken fingers and thumb, torn ACL, meniscus tear, and multiple neck strains.  The way that Bikram Yoga includes modifications of depth in all of the postures helps you have a starting point.  So even with all of these injuries I can start each posture correctly.  And then when I try the same postures from class to class, I can see improvement in those injured or weak areas.

During the football season, I LOVE Friday morning Bikram Yoga to end my work week, and Sunday morning class before church to start my work week.  My goal this year is to add Wednesday evening class to my schedule.

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year has been to become more consistent in attendance at Bikram Yoga Capital Area.  Why? Simply because I LOVE IT!

I get to be “a COACH being Coached….. “

THANK YOU, COACH CHRAPKIEWICZ!


 

Yoga is Better than Surgery, Part 1 | Athletics, Injuries, and Knee Recovery | Briona Jones |

bikram hot yoga east lansing michigan

Meet Briona Jones, 29, doctoral candidate in English at Michigan State University and former Division I basketball player.

Briona’s story is so moving and her reflections so articulate, we decided to share them in multiple blog posts!  Here is Part I, which focuses mostly on the physical benefits Briona has created with her practice.


Childhood

I was born with rickets, so as a child I was able to walk, but I wasn’t able to run.  I was also prone to dislocation of my knees. Corrective surgery is usually needed for those types of situations, but my legs got better without it.  My mom would take me out in the sun a lot and gave me vitamins.

I started playing basketball in middle school (around 2002), and in 2006 I had a bad knee dislocation at a basketball tournament – my knee cap went to the back of my leg!  I had surgery the following year and it went well.

College Athletics, Surgery, and Recovery

I played Division I basketball in college at Kennesaw State University.  I ended up developing “jumpers knee”, which is a type of tendonitis of the knee.  It caused a sharp pain anytime I jumped, ran, or stopped abruptly. I could not run without sharp pain.

I had an MRI in 2011, which revealed three holes in the cartilage layer below my knee cap.  The surgery I ended up having involved Platelet Plasma Recovery, the injection of fetal cartilage, and realignment of my kneecap!

Even with surgery and physical therapy, my leg never went back to its full capacity of being a leg.  

At physical therapy, they ask you to rate your pain on a level of 1 to 10.  Well, in 2011 and 2012, I had a pain level of 15 on a frequent basis. The swelling did eventually go down, and I continued to run, until 2015.  But I would say my knee never totally recovered.

bikram hot yoga michiganPain and My Quality of Life

Cooking most of my meals is a really important part of my life.  

This might seem simple, but in order to cook a meal, you have to stand, right?  

From 2011 until I started Bikram Yoga in 2017, my knee would swell at least 4 or 5 times a week while I was cooking dinner.  The pain level would be between a 7 and a 9, and I would always need to sit down and ice my knee, just to finish preparing a meal.

I never, ever expected that the pain in my body would dissipate.  It just seemed like it was always going to be that way.

Journey to Michigan State University

I came to Michigan State in 2015 to enroll in the doctoral program in the Department of English.

I remember that when I was working out and running, I would still have intense swelling in my knee.  My previous normal running distance would be five miles, easily, but at this point I could barely run two miles.  I was frustrated, so I stopped running. My physical therapists here suggested that I try biking.

In September 2017, I had an MRI; it confirmed that I had arthritis and tendonitis.

I tried going to physical therapy here at MSU, but it was $15 a session, and they wanted me to come 3 times per week.  I really could not afford that, the recovery was not going to be fast enough, and overall I just was not satisfied with the care.  It seemed to me like it was going to end up in me having to have surgery again!

Bikram Yoga Showed Up

In the fall of 2017, it was time for me to write my proposal and study for exams, and it was the most unstructured part of my life.  It was a time where I was able to set my own schedule, and I knew I wanted a more holistic way of tending to my needs and my health.  I had been meditating, but I was looking for more.

I live directly behind BYCA, and one day in October, after I left my physical therapist, I thought, “I am just gonna come to Bikram”.  Although I had heard of Bikram Yoga before, I had no idea of the kind of healing possibility it would have!

It’s a one hundred percent healing venture.

I practiced on and off for the first two months and then started practicing consistently in December 2017.

Physical Therapy & Respiratory Benefits

In physical therapy, they always ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10.  Prior to Bikram Yoga I had pain levels of 7 to 9 most of the time.

Once I started doing Bikram Yoga consistently, I had swelling only 2 to 3 times in the first four months!  As of April 2018, I might occasionally have a level 2 pain. And that was it.

Then, in December 2018, after only a year of practice, I could play basketball every week with no pain.  It is amazing!

It seems like what physical therapy is trying to do is similar to Bikram Yoga.  Since practicing yoga regularly, I have felt the contraction of the knees and thighs, and noticed how my quadriceps have developed without any weights.  

I should also point out that I am asthmatic.  During my first few Bikram Yoga classes, I couldn’t breathe well.  But by four or five classes in, I was able to breathe and keep up with the group.

And before that – throughout my life – I had worked out a lot!


Stay tuned for many more aspects of Briona’s healing experiences… Part II, coming soon! 

How to Get Kids on a Therapeutic Yoga Path

youth kids free yoga bikram hot yoga

At BYCA we have a very strong youth program, with many youth attending weekly now for several years!  You can read about some of our long-term regular youth practitioners here.

At the same time, we have a lot of parents who would like their kids to take up yoga, but who feel stuck.  Lately I had a few people ask me directly ,”How do I get my kids to do yoga?”

Framing “Yoga” Differently

In over 15 years of practice, I have found that the answer lies almost entirely found in how the parent views yoga, how the parent speaks about yoga, and how the parent uses yoga.   Is yoga framed as a hobby, leisure activity, or exercise class?  Or is it used and spoken about as a primary source of physical and mental health care?

As with everything else, our behaviors and priorities are passed on.  Here are some questions to help us see what examples are being set, what mindsets and priorities are being passed on:

Where do you go first for the following issues:

  • mild to moderate depression
  • digestive disorders
  • musculoskeletal pain
  • hormonal or menstrual discomforts
  • anxiety
  • chronic or acute injuries
  • blood sugar imbalances, prediabetes, or diabetes
  • emotional or mood instability
  • autoimmune disorders
  • asthma
  • obsessive tendencies
  • panic attacks

Is yoga your first line of defense (or perhaps offense?!) against chronic issues…with biomedicine used as a later – or last – resort?

Is biomedicine your first line of defense?

Do you use yoga mostly as a side activity, something you do casually to de-stress, something you dabble in because it is supposed to be good for you?

Household and Personal Culture of Healing

Whatever your answers to the above questions are, they perpetuate a certain framework of choices, thoughts, and behaviors that fall under the category of “culture”.   They teach the next generation how yoga is to be understood and used.

In summary: Your household and/or personal culture around yoga, healing, biomedicine, and medications is powerful!

Are you saying I shouldn’t go to the doctor when I am sick?

Absolutely not!  You do not need to discard the very helpful aspects of biomedicine in order to put yoga first for the list of chronic health problems above (and more). 

What is important is that you experience for yourself that there is a particular role for biomedicine to play, in certain situations.  And that there is a much larger-than-expected role for a medical/therapeutic yoga practice to play.

With the great majority of chronic, non-life-threatening health issues, you could say (to yourself or to your child or grandchild): “Before taking medication, let’s try Bikram Yoga 3 times a week for 2 months and see what happens.  It works on these issues for most people, without negative side effects.  And it comes with a bunch of other positive side effects, too.”

How to Get Kids to Brush Their Teeth

Forrest, age 12, has been practicing weekly (at the Thursday evening Youth Class) for the past 3 years. 

In our household, yoga is put in the same category that brushing teeth is in.  It was not framed as a choice any more than brushing his teeth was a choice.  It is not a hobby or “mom’s thing”, it is our main method of preventive medicine – and even healing assistance for many acute issues as well.  He often doesn’t want to go to class, but we go.  And so many good things are happening as a result.

Do you make teeth-brushing optional for your kids?  Or required?  If you require it, what is (or what was) the logic you used to explain why teeth-brushing was something you simply had to do twice a day?

I know that some parents have a hard time with the thought of “making” their kids do yoga.  But if you are someone who “made” your kids brush your teeth, and someone who experiences the therapeutic nature of this yoga practice….you are 95% of the way there!  The last 5% of the puzzle is completing a shift in language and communication.

The most straightforward way to communicate about this yoga practice is to use similar language as you would use when talking about brushing your teeth.  Simply.  Without scolding or negativity.  Just that this is something we do in this house.  This is a part of growing up in a human body and how we take care of it.

And Eventually…..

…your kids will feel it for themselves.  Just like brushing teeth!

You see, once you brush your teeth regularly enough, YOU WANT TO DO IT.  You know how it feels when you don’t, and you know how it feels when you do.  It is simply a matter of training someone into their own understanding and experience of the difference.

On a recent weekend, Forrest’s lower back and neck were feeling noticeably sore when he woke up.  It was 6:45 am on a Sunday (the perfect opportunity to sleep in!), and I was getting ready to teach the 8:00 am class.  He said, “Mom, I want to sleep in, but I was wondering if going to yoga would help my back.”

I responded gently, “Almost definitely….it is worth a try.”  (Although internally I was extremely excited that he was considering it on his own!!!)

He ended up practicing 3 days in a row…because HE WANTED TO.

My heart overflows everytime someone’s mind has made this shift.


If you are interested in attending our Youth Yoga class on Thursday evenings, check out the events page for details, and feel free to contact us with any questions.

Thank you to all of our BYCA members for all of your support of humans of all ages and bodies!!  It is a great joy to be with you all and watch the healing process unfold.

Herding Cats, Billy Ocean, and Rollercoasters: Why I keep coming back to Bikram Yoga

bikram yoga east lansing michigan

Meet Melissa, 40, of Williamston, Michigan!  Melissa started practicing with us at Bikram Yoga Capital Area in March of 2014 and to date has practiced over 725 classes!  Melissa wrote this super thoughtful blog as part of 2017’s Spring Yoga Buddy Challenge.  I am so grateful for Melissa’s insights, her quiet strength and presence at the yoga school, her patience with my backlog of stories needing to be shared (!), and her wonderful writing.  


Hi!  I’m Melissa and this is my first ever attempt at a blog, so in true yoga fashion, I ask for no judgment  🙂  !!!

I’m very much a visual person so I plan to use analogies to help bring you into the inner workings of my brain.  (Good luck while you’re in there!)  I’ve been practicing Bikram yoga for a little over three years and am completing my second Yoga Buddy Challenge.  In order to complete this buddy challenge, the last piece for me was to write a blog (what we won’t do for a free t-shirt!!).

Herding Cats

When trying to figure out what to write, one of my yoga buddies (who was also one of my instructors) suggested that I write about something I have thought about in class.  Sounds like a trick to me!  The ultimate goal is to think about nothing in class, just focus on the instructions and my breathing.

So what did I think about in class that night?  Yep, what I’m going to write about.  My ideas were all over the place, how would I choose just one thing?

Then I realized, my scattered thoughts are the perfect topic!  Envision trying to wrangle up a herd of cats.  That’s what it feels like when I’m supposed to keep my thoughts in check and only focus on the words and my breathing.  Cats are all over the place!

Here’s a little more about my experience with Bikram and herding cats.

When I started Bikram yoga my thoughts during class were very different than they are now.  While I do love yoga, I’m not a fan of heat or sweating non-stop for 90 minutes.  For me, the initial months of practice were all about survival mode.  I couldn’t believe that I allowed myself to be submitted to this torture and would bet my life that I could smell burning flesh.  How was this even legal? 

I still remember my first class.  I knew I wasn’t supposed to leave the room so I thought I could escape the heat by laying down.  Wrong!  It was like that movie, The Fog, and I could just feel the heat rolling over my body like fog.

There was no escape!  Somehow I managed to make it back for another class where I tried to trick myself into thinking I was on a tropical beach somewhere.  The problem with that is, I didn’t have my umbrella drink or a cool pool to jump in to cool me down.

bikram yoga balancing stick tuladandasanaLooking for Distractions

As I went to more and more classes, I continued to try different techniques to distract me and get me through the class.  I LOVED distractions.  They helped make the 90 minutes move a little faster.

I would find myself in awe of those that did not have the “typical yoga body”,  yet had the confidence to wear barely anything. (To give you a visual, a typical yoga body stereotype could be: someone who is long, lean, flexible, probably a vegan and/or health nut, etc.)  Here I was trying to hide my curves in a tank and leggings, as I surely didn’t have the kind of body one would flaunt!  I wonder what gave them the confidence?

I also really loved when I had people with tattoos near me.  It provided me actual art to look at and gave me the opportunity to wonder what the story behind the tattoo was.  The list of distractions goes on.

For various reasons, it took me almost a year before I started to make Bikram part of my almost daily routine.  (My goal is every day, but I average about four times per week.)

And the benefits start clicking…

I’ve made Bikram sound SO enticing so far, how on Earth did I start going on a regular basis?  Honestly, I don’t remember having a “light bulb moment” where everything just clicked.  It was more like the clicking of a roller coaster climbing towards the top of the hill.  Once I actually started to put more focus on the words and tried to quiet my mind, little by little “things” just started to make sense.

The environment and the community are so encouraging, welcoming, supportive and non-judgemental.  Click.

It didn’t take me too long to realize that I too could shed the tank and the leggings.  Nobody cared what I looked like, they were focused on themselves.  Click.

My migraines had dramatically decreased.  Click.

My allergies seemed to be better.  Click.

I felt better in general.  Click.

I was less stressed.  Click.

My posture was better.  Click.

My thoughts outside of yoga were changing.  I was becoming less critical and more patient and carefree.  Click.

I realized that Bikram could be an escape from the outside world.  No cell phones in the studio meant two hours where the outside world could not reach me.  Click. Click. Click!!

By this time, I’m heading down that first thrilling hill of the roller coaster!  I wasn’t exactly sure what I had gotten myself into, but knew that Bikram had made a lot of positive changes in my life.  I wasn’t ready to hop off the roller coaster just yet, so I decided to invest in a year unlimited package and see what happened.

yoga buddy challenge accessible

Still Happily Riding the Roller Coaster

After two years of regular practice, you’d think that I’d have this mental focus thing down. HA!  As you know, roller coasters have their ups, downs and plateaus.  I realize and accept my body has limitations and those limitations can and will vary.  Naturally this also means my practice will be different from day to day.   Some days I feel like I rocked it out, some days I feel like I got rocked and others I feel like I did just enough to “pass”.

What I started to realize is that the teachers are right. (I know, shocking, right!)  The practice is 99% mental and 1% physical.

On the days that I feel like I rocked it out, my focus was like a laser.  The other two types of classes….. cats!  Trying to either herd a little or a lot of cats!!

Changing Thought Itself…sometimes with the help of Billy Ocean

As you may recall, I mentioned earlier my thoughts during class have changed (i.e. they have not been eliminated).  Most of the time, it’s no longer survival mode thoughts.  I rarely think I smell burning flesh.  Admittedly, there are still some classes where I look around to see who I might need to douse with water and hope it’s not myself that is on fire!

The majority of the time I now recognize when the negative thoughts are trying to creep in, and my focus turns to what I’m going to do about it.

Do I really need a break?  Can I put more effort into a posture?

On occasion I will sing a Billy Ocean song to my negative thoughts.  Of course I have to adjust the lyrics a bit.

Let me sing it to you…  I said hey (hey) you (you), get outta of my mind (get out of my mind), get into my car…

Essentially, I was singing to my negative thoughts (yes, complete with back-up vocals) and telling them to drive away.  (I’m sure it’s not what the writer had in mind for the song!)  Then I almost immediately think, wait a minute, I’m supposed to be focused on the teacher’s words, not singing in my head (even if is with good intentions).  Focus Melissa, focus!

bikram yoga standing bow pulling east lansing michiganDefining Determination

So, the question is, how does one herd the cats and keep out all of the mind’s chatter?  That is the million dollar question!

Words like determination and perseverance come to mind.  Those are actions that everyone is capable of, if they put their mind to it.  HA!  Get it? What is it in people that makes them capable of having such focus on a consistent basis to make them determined or to persevere?  I think of my practices where I feel like I rocked it out and wonder, “What happened on those days?”

Some of my most intense classes are when I had hot yoga guy in my mirror (you can determine what you visualize: hot yoga-guy or hot-yoga guy).  I had no choice but to focus on myself in the mirror or risk the chances of making eye contact.  Awkward!

Other classes where I rocked it, I honestly don’t know why!  The stars had aligned, it was a perfect storm, everything just seemed to be firing on all cylinders… whatever analogy you would like to insert.

Really, I think this is part of the reason that I continue to come back to class.  Will I have another rockin’ class today??  There’s a mystery/puzzle about it that intrigues me.

I can see the overall positive impact Bikram has had for me (and for others), but I don’t particularly love spending 90 minutes sweating my butt off.  I would much rather sleep in, take my dogs for a walk, catch a movie… you name it and I’d probably be up for it if it keeps me out of the hot room.  Yet, I keep coming back and have worked it into my weekly routine.  I even try to get all of my family and friends to come to class.  I encourage them to try to get past the “survival” stage so they can experience all of the positive that Bikram has in store for them!

Amazing Yoga Questions

I could probably think of a million other random thoughts that I have or have had (i.e. Why is Bikram not covered by health insurance? If everyone practiced yoga, would we have world peace? How is it that the mind, which is not even a physical thing, can have so much control over a person?  If the goal is to focus on the teacher’s words, why is it so routine?  I know why the sequence itself is routine, but why always start with the right side?  We know what’s coming next, so it’s easier to go on auto-pilot.  Why not help us out and switch it up and start with the left side now and then?  Will we ever have animals in class?  Music?) …but I don’t want my first blog to turn into my first novel!

To start to wrap it up, what I have learned so far is it’s hard work to try to keep the mind in check, even for a brief moment in time.  I don’t have the key on how to master laser beam focus (or how to wrangle a lot of cats).

What I do know is in my three years of Bikram classes, a lot of positive changes have happened to me both mentally and physically, even with classes where I was on auto-pilot or they were just plain bad.  Why wouldn’t I keep coming back to try to figure out how to have more classes where I rocked it out?  I can’t imagine how I would feel if the majority of my classes were that intense (Holy smokes, my flesh might actually catch on fire)!Bikram Yoga full locust East Lansing Michigan

How I Got into This in the First Place

In closing, I never explained how I even went to my first Bikram class.  I was always curious what happened in hot yoga classes, but was nervous about the heat and assumed I didn’t have the right body for it (even though I had been doing some form of yoga for over 10 years and should have known better than to stereotype!).  It was one of those “non-typical” yoga bodied people that I noticed coming out of the studio one day.  I figured if he can do it, I can do it and went to my first class shortly thereafter.

My point in saying this and for writing this blog, is you never know what kind of an impact you may have on a person.  That person will never know that by him simply walking out of the studio gave me enough courage to give it a try.  If my experiences – as a person who doesn’t love 90 minutes of sweat, heat, and torture (j/k, not kidding) yet finds herself back there almost every day – can intrigue someone else to give it a try and potentially change his/her life in a positive way, why not?

People can use some positive in their lives!  I encourage everyone to give it a try!  The most you have to lose is 90 minutes in a day and some sweat, but what you stand to gain is all within your control!

Hope to see you in class!


You never know whose life will turn around when they start practicing Bikram Yoga!  Feel free to share the goodness and healing with anyone who might need a little boost.

Guest Teacher Highlight: Mike Morris

Bikram Yoga Guest teacher original hot yoga

by Mike Morris

Special Guest Teacher Mike Morris visits Bikram Yoga Capital Area

I was 43, singing songs and playing guitar in bars, and living with pain in my neck and low back.  I had attributed it to a lot of long drives, heavy gear and a less-than-healthy lifestyle.  I also thought the pain was a normal part of getting older.  When I went to play at a local radio station, I was given a six month membership to Bikram Yoga Portsmouth (New Hampshire).  It took me six months to walk in and take my first class.  It was hot, and hard.  It felt like a good workout, and the bike shorts I was wearing felt like they weighed 10 pounds after class.

I had been practicing for a year or so when the studio director suggested that I go to the yoga training.  “I’m too old,” I said, though secretly I really wanted to give it a try.

The Worldwide Bikram Yoga Community

I trained in Las Vegas in 2009.  The first person I met was Erik, a 20-something heavy metal drummer from Sweden.  My roommate was Bob, a 60-year-old waiter from Massachusetts.  There was a 19-year old massage therapist from Australia, and an “age unknown” healer from China who communicated mostly in smiles.

All of us had, like you, walked in to our first class, and the yoga had brought us all together.  I’ve probably taught some 4000 yoga classes since then.  I still have the first pair of proper yoga shorts I ever bought, though the elastic has long since worn out of them.  My back and neck feel good, and I don’t mind the New Hampshire winters as much as I used to, though I still like to complain about them.

bikram yoga original hot yoga backbend ardha chandrasana

I’m still making music.  I’ve also become a husband, father and yoga teacher.  And like you, I’m still a yoga student.  I still force myself into posture every now and then.  I’m much better at noticing it.

A few years ago, I was going to the park with our youngest daughter, who was 3 at the time.  She had bought herself a kite, and was excited to try it out for the first time.  When we got there, there was no wind.  Nothing.  “I don’t think we can fly a kite today, Lily,” I said.  “Maybe we should wait for a windier day.  “Daddy,” she said back, “we can try.”  That was a good yoga lesson.  Walk through the door, and give it a good, honest try.  Show up, and keep doing it, and the yoga will give you tools towards building a strong body, a clear mind and a full heart.

This yoga is challenging every time we step into the hot room.  It is also beautiful, inspiring, empowering and, most of all, healing.  Take as many classes as you can, one at a time.  Ask questions of your teachers.  Share your story.  Work hard, and breathe soft.

I’m excited to be visiting you next week.  See you soon.  We’ll try together.

Bikram Yoga Guest teacher original hot yogaTriangle Pose in Summertime
Mike playing music at a New Hampshire Farmers’ Market


You will find Mike teaching – and maybe even singing! – at BYCA over the 2017 holidays as follows:

Sunday, December 24: 8:00 am

Tuesday, December 26: 9:00 am

Thursday, December 28: 9:00 am

Saturday, December 30: 8:00 am

Big Girls Bend: My (Ongoing) Journey as a Fat Yogi

by Marini Lee, Ph.D.


I’ve been practicing bikram yoga for almost 12 years now. According to the Western world (and my recovering internal body critic), I should look differently. I should be thin by now!!!! Shouldn’t I?

Well, I’m not.

First of all, being and/or getting “thin” is not (nor should be) the goal of yoga. Yoga means “union.” It is my understanding that this union is about optimal health – mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically.

So let me tell you what I have experienced as a result of practicing this healing yoga.

MENTAL CLARITY

That monkey mind is a TRIP!

Yoga has helped me to quiet the chatter in my mind, even if for only 90 minutes at a time. Those 90 minutes are usually the most mentally calm 90 minutes of my day!

Sometimes my mind is racing so much with what I “should” or “need” or “didn’t” or “must” do next, right now, always, that I even have to catch myself in class and say, “Where are you now?” That happens less – much less than it used to -, but one of the aspects of this practice where I have experienced the most growth, is in my mental clarity, inside and outside of the studio. Inside of the studio, I pretty much know that I’m not going to die from the heat or from any of the postures.

I can focus and concentrate because I know I am strong. I know I am a work in progress. I know all I have to do is try. I am enough.

I’m still working on transferring that mental strength outside of the class, but I’m getting there.

ardha chandrasana half moon bikram yoga bigger bodies

EMOTIONAL STABILITY

The emotional self is the roller coaster the monkey (mind) LOVES to ride! Besides the increased mental focus I have experienced over the years, I am also extremely proud and really in awe of the emotional stability I have cultivated and am continually learning to cultivate. Again, while I am a work in progress, I am much less apt to “go off the deep end” emotionally when things go awry – and also when things are great.

There are times, in poses, particularly back bends when a rush of emotion will come over me, but as I breathe into it and “simply” allow the emotion to run its course, it becomes less powerful in its ability to overwhelm me. I’m not even sure how the practice does this, but I think it must have something to do with the heat.

It’s really hard to be sad or even elated when you are trying to balance on one foot with the other stretched high in the air.

There’s really no space for emotional instability in the hot room, and I’m actually grateful for that.  Because then I can focus my energy on healing.

bikram yoga original hot yoga fat big plus size locust pose

SPIRITUAL RENEWAL

Many people erroneously equate yoga with a religion. To me, religion is the box you put God in to make sense of your/our purpose and existence. Again, from my understanding that yoga is about union, you can’t put the practice into such a box. I do believe the practice can make you better at your particular box, but it is not a box itself. Some may use it as a way to and through their respective boxes, but if anyone is worshipping sweating in a room for 90 minutes, you’ve got a bigger problem than we have room to discuss in this blog.

So, while I don’t feel that yoga is a religion, I do feel like this practice has made me a better Christian. I am MUCH more patient with myself and others.

I no longer cringe on the inside (or smirk on the outside) when a newbie talks during class or sets up in “my spot” or mouth breathes or moves during a balancing posture. I am more compassionate with myself and others. Especially now that I am experiencing difficulties in postures because of my size, I am much more empathetic to beginners who are challenged (and intimidated) physically by some of the postures.

I have learned to forgive myself for not being perfect. I have learned to seek peace instead of being right (i.e. focusing on the breath, effort and balance as opposed to striving to make the postures look pretty).

 

AND FINALLY….PHYSICAL WELL-BEING

Now, don’t get me wrong. Despite not having the perfect bikram body and in fact being the biggest I have been since I started, there have been many positive physical manifestations of my years of practice (and buckets of sweat). My half moon is SWEET! My backbends are EXCELLENT! I can do Standing Head to Knee pose AND KICK OUT!

When I visited a studio in Texas, a teacher asked me to model Standing Bow Pulling Pose because he said, “Your spine is ready for this. You just need the confidence to match.” I may be the heaviest I have ever been as a yogi, but I am also the strongest and most flexible I have ever been.

Now, there are plenty of poses in which I am not as proficient as I would like to be (and/or have been in the past with a smaller body), but I am proud that I approach each class, each posture as if I CAN and/or WILL, someday. That’s that mental game again.

And so, as you can see, this blog (and journey) really isn’t about being fat at all.

No one IS fat. I have fat on my body. Period. More than you probably, but I am the happiest I have ever been and that is because I realized (a long time ago), that this practice, this life, is SO much more than the physical.

I pray that any yogi, with fat or not, has the opportunity to experience the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical freedom I have since I became a yogi many many moons ago.

NAMASTE


Marini Lee, Ph.D., age 39, is a native of Richmond, CA.  She is a Teacher Educator at Michigan State University’s College of Education.  Over the past 12 years she has practiced Bikram Yoga in Ann Arbor (both studios); El Cerrito, CA; New Orleans; Denver; Atlanta; Allen, TX; Charleston, SC; Toledo, OH; Detroit; and now East Lansing, Michigan.  Her passions are learning, teaching, and community healing.

Marini recently became an adoptive mom, and on this she says: “I’m still in awe and shock that I am responsible for the well-being of another human being.  This is the most spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, economically challenging – and yet the most important – experience of my life thus far.”

Healing Asthma, Sciatica, Wrist Sprains, …. and Growing Almost an inch!

Meet Sarah Cook, 34, of St. John’s, Michigan.  Sarah started practicing Bikram Yoga with us in the spring of 2014, upon a recommendation from her sister.  As of this writing, Sarah has practiced exactly 365 classes!  Sarah has had some exciting updates recently, but her whole history of benefits is very diverse, and quite exciting!

Year 1:

“Before I started yoga, I had gotten a bone bruise (near-fracture) close to my knee, and after 4 weeks on crutches, I was supposed to do physical therapy.  Instead, with permission of my specialist, I practiced Bikram Yoga 3 times a week for 6 weeks.  After that, the specialist said I was completely healed, I did not need any physical therapy, and she would not need to see me anymore.

“In my first year of yoga I lost 30 pounds….and I have kept it off! I used to gain about 5 pounds every winter, but now it doesn’t stick with me anymore.

“I had several previous wrist sprains and injuries and had so much pain I could not use scissors.  Within a few months of practicing, I could use scissors again and the pain was gone.

Year 2:

“My need for asthma medication was drastically reduced.  Before Bikram Yoga I was taking a daily inhaler at 220 mcg every day – sometimes twice a day.  As of Spring 2017 I was taking half of that dose, and I only needed it an average of once a week!

“My sciatica also went away.  My dad walks with a cane because of similar issues, and it was starting to develop in me.  Before yoga I could hardly carry my toddler for a minute without intense pain.  After practicing regularly, I was able to carry her an entire mile without pain.”


Bikram Yoga Full Locust
Sarah Cook in Full Locust Pose, November 2016

Year 3:

“I recently went through a Candida overgrowth and hormone imbalance.  I treated it with a massive change in my diet, and that was very difficult.  I had a lot of anxiety and depression as a result of making these changes so quickly.  Practicing Bikram Yoga not only helped my hormones balance out quicker, but it made it possible for me to take a complete break from the stress and cost of meal planning and preparation.

“Despite my asthma, my lung capacity has always been slightly above average (111% before yoga).  But now, 3 years into yoga, it has increased to 116%.”

September 2017:

“As an adult I have always been 5 foot 3 and 3/4.  At my check-up last week I was 5 foot 4 and 1/2 inch.  At my check-up this month, the nurses looked at my chart and could not figure out what was going on!”


All we are doing is the not-at-all-secret secret of a regular Bikram Yoga practice.  Feel free to share the goodness and healing with anyone who might need a little boost.

Healing Chronic Back Pain and Reversing Chronic Kidney Disease

Meet John, who started practicing Bikram Yoga with us in December 2013, at age 68.  Just prior to beginning Bikram Yoga, he was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease.

Against the advice of his physician, he started coming to class 4-5 times per week.

In only 3 months of this new routine, his health dramatically improved.  Here are the official numbers from his diagnostic tests:


BEFORE (Fall 2013):

1) resting blood pressure (with medication): 135/85
2) resting heart rate: mid 90s
3) fasting glucose: above normal range


AFTER (April 2014):

1) resting blood pressure: 115/68
2) resting heart rate: high 60s
3) non-fasting glucose: normal
4) chronic kidney disease: COMPLETELY GONE!!!


Click here for Info on 5 FREE CLASSES FOR MEN, May 1 -31.

We realize these numbers seem too good to be true – John even says so himself.

back pain yoga aging

3 years later

Although John has a very skeptical side to his personality, he has come to see that the yoga just works.  Things that previously seemed impossible happened – in his own body.

Advice his teachers gave him helped in ways he could not have predicted.

He admits that even though he heard Ann tell him to suck his stomach in during all of the postures, over and over, during every class….it was 3 years into his practice that he finally started doing it!

And within one month of doing so, his chronic back pain of almost 40 years went away.  He is now waking up in the morning without back pain and can walk without stooping over.

Click Here for info on 5 FREE CLASSES FOR MEN, May 1 -31.

For those who would like a little visual to see the changes in his health, here you go.  We look forward to welcoming you, your loved ones, your friends, or your patients into our practice.

Before Bikram Yoga
(Fall 2013)
After 3 months of practicing 4-5 days per week
(April 2014)
300 classes later
Early 2017
resting blood pressure (with medication): 135/85resting blood pressure: 115/68benefits maintained!
resting heart rate: mid 90sresting heart rate: high 60s
fasting glucose: above normalnon-fasting glucose: normal range
chronic back pain of 40 yearsback pain completely gone

Practicing Yoga with Linux!

Setting Up Triangle - Trikonasa - Bikram Yoga

–BYCA Guest Blog Post–

The author is a scientist, musician, and occasional computer programmer based in Lansing, MI.

He is a founding member of “Los Tres Yogamigos”, BYCA’s premiere yoga buddy challenge team.

Kapalbhati Home Practice Bikram Yoga Computer Program

I suffered from chronic back pain for fifteen years. Episodic attempts at cultivating a yoga (or Pilates, or Alexander technique, or self-medication) practice would temporarily ease this pain, but it was not until I moved to Lansing and had the opportunity to practice the 26+2 sequence daily at Bikram Yoga Capital Area (BYCA) that I was able to make the (hopefully somewhat permanent) changes to the structure of my spine that were necessary for me to sit comfortably and live without chronic pain.

Life is taking me away from mid-Michigan however, and I am currently preparing myself for a future of solitary practice punctuated by occasional trips to the nearest Ghosh-lineage yoga studio (which will be many miles away from my future home). Ultimately, I would like to build up the discipline to practice a 26+2 or equivalent routine alone and in total silence. But in the meantime, I have been supplementing my daily 26+2 practice at BYCA by practicing selected asanas at home using customizable audio instructions.

These instructions are generated from a Python script that I wrote, and have recently released with an open source license. The script is admittedly primitive and uses a text-to-speech tool that is not particularly aesthetically pleasing, but it is, after all, only a temporary solution. If you are a Linux user, and you think that you might find this tool to be useful for your home asana practice, then read on!”

Introducing psetcounter: a primitive open source python script for creating customized audio instructions for home yoga practice

Instructions:

First of all, the script has been tested with Python 2.7.13 and Ubuntu 17.04, although it should run on any Linux system with Python and sdf-say libraries installed. The script can be downloaded here:

https://github.com/danielsadowsky/psetcounter

In addition to the script file, psetcounter.py, the github repository also contains a sound file, bell.wav, which may be downloaded as well. If the psetcounter.py script is run from a directory that also contains bell.wav, the script will play a bell sound instead of instructing the user to relax in savasana with a computerized voice. Once the script is downloaded, it would probably be best to take a look at the customizable parameters which are listed in the help message. This can be done by opening a Terminal window, changing the directory to the location of the downloaded script file, and executing the following command:

python psetcounter.py -h

The script can then be used to generate audio instructions for a set of asanas with each of several parameters customized by including the appropriate arguments. For example, to hear audio instructions for a set of 4 asanas, each held for 20 seconds and followed by 10 seconds of savasana, the following command can be executed:

python psetcounter.py -n 4 -l 20 -b 10

Audio instructions for multiple sets with varying parameters can also be executed sequentially at the command line by stringing them together with a semi-colon. In doing this, it is important to suppress the valediction in non-terminal sets of asanas using the “-v” flag. For example, for a set of two asanas, each held for 10 seconds, followed by a second set of two asanas, each held for 20 seconds, the following command can be used:

python psetcounter.py -n 2 -l 10 -b 5 -v; python psetcounter.py -n 2 -l 20 -b 5 -i 3

Good luck, and please send feedback and suggestions directly to the github page above!

USA Yoga Participant Bio – Lauren Anastos

by Lauren Anastos

Running and Bikram Yoga

Almost four years ago, while long-distance training, I pulled a hamstring.  I continued to run on it and completed a marathon in Charlevoix in June 2013.

I struggled throughout the race due to the pain in my hamstring.  Also, despite my training, around mile 14 I had trouble breathing and needed to use an inhaler.  At the end of the race, the pain in my hamstring was so bad that I couldn’t bend my knee.  I had trouble walking over the next week both due to my leg as well as generalized soreness.

Six weeks after the race, my hamstring still hadn’t healed.  I still couldn’t flex my leg despite taking time to rest.  I also tried spinning, walking, stretching, and strength training, without any luck.  …

That’s when I found Bikram Yoga.

Within one week of practicing Bikram Yoga, the pain from my training and racing was 100% gone, and within one month, my mobility was completely restored!

Lauren in Bow Posture Variation – preparation for full backbending – BYCA – May 2017

I maintained a regular Bikram Yoga practice from 2013-2015. I felt so good that in July 2015 I started training for the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.

I did the same race training as I had in 2013, but this time I made sure I practiced Bikram Yoga 2-3 times per week.  The results were amazing!!

I didn’t even feel tired until mile 25, and my breathing was smooth the entire time.  When I was done running, I didn’t feel any pain.

I walked two miles after the marathon to catch a cab, and I was fine.  The next day, I woke up and was amazed by the quick recovery – I could walk around just fine.

I was back for my yoga practice 3 days after the race, with a smile on my face!