I am half way through one of the toughest things I have ever set out to do.... the Bikram yoga 30 day challenge. What this is for those of you who have never heard of it, it is completing 30 Bikram yoga classes within 30 days.
Bikram yoga is a series of 26 yoga postures and two breathing exercises completed for 90 minutes in a heated room. Bikam yoga promises to change your body, mind and eventually your life. The heat warms your muscles, allowing for a deeper safer stretch, and assists your body to get rid of toxins.
To get through a Bikram Yoga class you need concentration, determination, patience, faith and self control, all of which improve through practice leading to increased mental clarity and increased resistance to the negative effects of stress.
The idea of the challenge is to experience the benefits of consistent and regular yoga practice by completing a class a day for the whole 30 days. If you miss a class you can still complete the challenge by doing a make up classes i.e. doing 2 classes in one day within that 30 day period.
Now half way through the Bikram challenge, so far I have learnt a couple of things (mainly of what not to do) like no matter how low in energy you feel having a chocolate bar on the way to class isn’t going to help you out :-(
What else... wearing a red is probably not going to be such a good look when you also turn a shade of red as you end up looking like you are wearing a full body suit.
And also I discovered coffee and Bikram yoga don’t go well together at all (not sure what was I thinking here). If you have a coffee before a Bikram yoga class it is extremely hard to switch your mind off. It becomes near impossible to follow the teacher when he says “don’t think -just do”... when your mind is going ten to the dozen thinking about everything from how hot the room must be, to going over what you did that day, and wondering when the fans are going to be turned back on, thinking about what are going to have for dinner that night, even to what shapes you can make in the wood grain ceiling..
Half way through and I have a growing collection of what not to do when completing a Bikram yoga challenge. So after I struggled through my 14th class last night I thought it was time to remind myself of what I should be doing, and all the things that had been recommended at the start of the challenge. I decided to write them down to hopefully help anyone out there who is doing a 30 day Bikram challenge and also to remind myself of what I should be doing and thinking about as I make my way through the remaining 16 days.
Firstly it’s good to remember that this yoga is meant to be practiced every day. The challenge is a way for you to see how well Bikram yoga works when you commit to doing it daily without a pause. You may get lots of people telling you that you are mad or giving you all sorts of reasons for pulling out. What we were told at the beginning of the challenge is to remember this is a series of beginners style yoga poses in a warm room designed to heal joints and muscles and restore all systems in the body to healthy working order. It is not dangerous or even that weird. And it actually becomes easier to practice daily than to practice once a week. So tell your friends, family, and co-workers about it!
You will not have much time for them during your Bikram challenge and you might have to leave work early on occasion to make it to class. If they know you are doing the Bikram yoga challenge and why you are doing it, they will hopefully be much more understanding and supportive.
Next realise that the Bikram yoga challenge is not so much a physical challenge as a mental challenge. Perhaps the biggest challenge is actually getting to class. We were told to make the only decision not whether or not to do a class but what time to go to class -to just get in the room and put a mat down day after day without judgement and watch the process.
Its reassuring to know that some days your practice will be stronger than others. There will be days where it feels more physically challenging, on those days remember there will also be days where you feel energized and strong through the 90 minutes. Again you need to just get into the room and watch the process.
Try to take a class every day and not to plan to do doubles -only do these if you have to. Doing a double class or knowing you have one to do to catch up does add unnecessary anxiety and stress to it, while the point of doing a Challenge is actually the opposite: de-stressing and adding stability to your life.
During the Bikram Challenge support yourself with food, water and adequate sleep. Even before the challenge starts, stock up for your increased need of water, electrolytes, protein, vitamins, and food in general. You will have less time for quick trips to the supermarket once your Bikram challenge starts, so buy as much of what you'll need beforehand. Your body needs good nutrition to transform itself! Water... the more hydrated you are before class the better your class will be. We were told that dizziness in class, general tiredness and even inflexibility have at least some of their roots in dehydration. Coffee, caffeinated teas and alcohol will undo the good effects of water. (I must of missed this one)
We were also told that when you sweat you lose not only water but important minerals for your body. Not everyone needs an electrolyte or mineral replacement but through the challenge it is something to be aware of. If you experience cramping or feel that you are drinking lots of water but feeling very tired this may be what you need. You can buy electrolyte mixes at health food shops or your yoga studio. Bananas, fresh vegetable juices, coconut water will also help you stay hydrated.
Another tip is to try and make Bikram yoga classes at different times of day. If you haven't tried morning Bikram classes -give them a go. If you have to commit until at least 8pm every night to yoga there is a good chance that work or social commitments are going to interrupt your flow at some stage. Give yourself some time every now and then by getting in some early morning yoga, it is a really great way to start the day.
Plan your outfits and laundry day! Doing a Bikram Yoga Challenge means extra laundry. Before you start, figure out how many yoga outfits and yoga towels you have. I personally find having 4-5 outfits means you are not running around before class trying to find something to wear only to discover all your gear is still in the wash.
And finally my favourite tip of all... reward yourself along the way. Treat yourself... a warm bath or massage never goes astray. So now I feel allot better equipped to finish the last 16 days of the Bikram challenge. Will let you know how I get on.
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