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! 

When will I be able to DO the posture?

by Ann Chrapkiewicz

An important yoga-related question occurs commonly with regards to Fixed Firm Posture:

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I hear something like: “When am I going to be able to do the posture?”

I smile in response: “What are you talking about?  You are already doing it.  I have seen you do it several times a week for the past 5 months.”

“But I am terrible at it.  When am I going to be good at it?”

The question I must ask in return:

What do you mean by “doing” a posture?  Or being good at it? And what is the purpose of the posture?dude in fixed firm yoga on the river 2016

Let us say that you are thirsty for a drink of water.  Very thirsty.  As in you just ran a mile unexpectedly on a hot, sunny day.  You have been breathing hard and were not hydrated beforehand.  You arrive at a fountain of fresh, clean water, and a friend of yours is even standing there, holding out a large glass of this water that he has just filled for you.

This angel of a friend says to you, “You look so thirsty.  I got this water ready for you and even squeezed a little bit of lemon in it.”

What do you do?  Take the water, right?  Drink it blissfully and in complete appreciation for the water, the fountain, and the friend.  And maybe even ask for a second glass.  You feel every drop of it soothing your dry mouth and thirsty body.  Heaven.  You drink the water to relieve your thirst.  Plain and simple.  


You do not think about whether you are drinking it as well as someone else drinks a glass of water.


But am I good enough?

Well, you know you are good enough to drink the water when you are thirsty, right?  How “good” you are probably doesn’t even cross your mind.  You just fulfill the need.

We can apply the same simplicity to therapeutic yoga postures, especially the difficult ones.

Let us say that you have tight ankles, old foot injuries, bad knees, tight quadriceps, or poor leg circulation.  

A lifetime – or even just a few years – of misuse, while not intentional on your part, has resulted in poor mobility, slowed healing, stiffness, or pain.  Not to mention disillusionment with your own body, and lack of faith in its ability to feel better with the passage of time.  It just seems to get worse each year, little by little.

So you arrive in a Bikram Yoga class, perhaps at the urging of a friend.  And maybe you even come back 100 times, just to get the smallest taste of the immense benefits that are available.  Each day, you do the deep breathing, the standing warm-up postures, and the spine strengthening series.  Not too bad, you think.  I feel so good when I am done with class, my panic attacks have virtually disappeared, my depression is nearly gone, my cholesterol has dropped, and my blood sugar is balancing….this is definitely good for me.

But then you get up from the floor to do Fixed Firm Posture.

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All of a sudden, the thoughts come pouring out like a waterfall: “I cannot do this posture!  When am I going to be able to DO this posture?  Why can other people do it better than I can?  Why do I suck at this?  I am not good at yoga.”

These thoughts repeat themselves for the entire 20 seconds of the first set.  Finally, the teacher says it is time to change, and you turn around and flop down on the floor, partially defeated and partially relieved that it is over.  “Oh, god,” you think. “I have to do it again.”  Hell.

Heaven or Hell?  You choose.

Now what you might not realize – or perhaps might know but often forget – is that Fixed Firm Posture is, for most sets of legs, that metaphorical fresh drink of water at the end of the hot sweaty mile you ran.  

Your friend (Ms. Yoga) knows that your legs are weary, stiff, and damaged, and she has prepared you – through the first 80 minutes of the class – for the maximum benefit of Fixed Firm Posture.  She has designated about a minute of your day to help you find relief, improve circulation, and generally help your legs to function better.  She offers this to you joyfully and with calm persistence and faith that the posture will help in some way.

But instead of accepting the glass of water from Ms. Yoga and drinking it joyfully, your mind says, “Oh jeez.  I am not good at drinking water…I cannot do it as gracefully as the other people around me.  Is this over yet?  I really can’t stand this but I will go through the motions.  Ugh.  I guess.”  Little to no appreciation happening, no relaxation, and very little awareness of the breathing for those 20 seconds.  Just mental torture!

And it doesn’t just happen in Fixed Firm Posture.  It can happen in any posture, and it can transfer from one posture to another, as time passes in our practice and old injuries or weaknesses come to the surface.

Instead of seeing a posture for what it is – a tool for healing – the mind can turn it into a thing to be achieved.  The mind can basically ruin the whole thing – not just one posture but the whole class.  Just by choosing a certain set of thoughts.  We generate dread and tension when relief and healing is being offered.

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Drink the water.  Savor every drop.

Although our beloved yoga method is intensely physical, 99% of the most wonderful lessons and benefits are mental.  And this example is one of the many great shifts that can happen.  The reality is that fixed firm posture is here to help you heal your legs.  It regulates the circulation of blood and lymph.  It removes scar tissue.  And it is known as one of the best postures for the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

If you dread it or if you see it as something you need to accomplish, you can create all the suffering and mental hell you want.  You might even leave the yoga class with a negative comment for social media about how this was supposed to be a beginners’ class, but clearly it was not because you couldn’t do some of the postures.  

But if you consciously approach it as your friend and appreciate it for what it is, you can learn to relax while you do it….and maybe even enjoy it.  Here’s to Fixed Firm Posture.  

 

By “doing” a posture, all we mean is an honest, correct, open-minded attempt, repeated consistently.  Without thought of the outcome, without comparison.

The purpose of doing a posture in a therapeutic lineage is healing, not the achievement of some particular depth of expression.

 

 

*none of the individuals pictured in this post whined or complained about Fixed Firm Posture during the making of this post.