Saturday, June 25, 2011

Is Bikram Yoga a Good Idea?

bikram yoga teacher training course
By Faye Martins

Bikram Yoga is a type of yoga in which 26 poses and two breathing exercises are done in a room heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, at 40 percent humidity. Developed in the early 1970s by Bikram Choudhury, Bikram Yoga has gained a lot of popularity in the past few years. Beginner’s classes run for exactly 90 minutes, and each class is performed in exactly the same way, every time. Bikram Yoga is often called “hot yoga.”

There are some definite pros and cons to this type of yoga. Some of the benefits include weight loss due to the large number of calories lost during each session. The profuse sweating that happens with each session helps to cleanse the body of toxins, and the warmth allows for more flexibility and deeper stretching.

Some other pros are that Bikram Yoga offers a great cardiovascular workout that is especially challenging during the first half of the class. Since each session will not vary at all, there can be a certain repetitive comfort to it. Bikram Yoga training is often less expensive than other flavors of yoga as well, because it has many attractive introductory offers.

Since some people don’t enjoy hot temperatures at all there is some controversy that has come out of this style of yoga, which includes the possible safety hazards of doing such strenuous exercise in a hot room. Some practitioners actually have spells of nausea, vomiting, and dizziness, which could be related to a sudden loss of potassium and other electrolytes. If one is taking medication for high blood pressure it would be wise to consult with your doctor prior to practicing yoga in a hot room. Additionally, there is also a component of competition with these classes, which is unheard of in other types of yoga.

Some other cons are that the classes can become quite monotonous as there is never any variation to look forward to, and the 26 poses are done three times through the 90 minutes. The series of poses have been copyrighted by Bikran Choudhury, so deviance from the series is strictly forbidden, and there is also a reputation for Bikram Yoga instructors to be rather draconian. There is little attention given to the upper body with these poses, and there is a lot of standing, especially during the first half of the class.

Bikram Yoga is one of the most controversial styles of yoga in practice. There are those who believe that it is simply unsafe and those who believe that it is more of a brand than something that will bring the body, mind and spirit together as one. Some believe it is a physical style that makes one pay for the sins of bad health. It is certainly not a style of yoga that’s for everyone, but it has a very devoted following. Many loyal practitioners mention how much it has personally done for them. Others mention how a hot asana practice removes toxins from the body.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Yoga Techniques for Spinal Stenosis


By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column that puts pressure on the spinal cord, or narrowing of the openings where spinal nerves leave the spinal column. The condition typically occurs with age, as a person’s spinal discs become drier and begin to shrink. Symptoms include numbness, cramping, or pain in the back, thighs, buttocks or calves, neck, shoulders, or arms.

Unfortunately, arm or leg weakness, and difficulty walking, are common with spinal stenosis. If left untreated, the condition can result in bone spurs and severe debilitation, including complete loss of mobility.

The best possible action for spinal stenosis is, of course, prevention: regular Yoga practice insures continued flexibility and strengthens core muscles, which help reduce pressure on the spine. However, if the condition has already occurred, there are several poses, which are very effective for addressing spinal stenosis.




Hatha Yoga postures (asanas) that lengthen the spine and relieve pressure on the nerves are recommended for pain relief. On the other hand, those asanas that compact the nerves, like backbends, are contraindicated. Some excellent Yoga poses for sufferers of back pain include:

• Mountain pose or Tadasana

• Staff pose or Dandasana

• Downward Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana

• Happy Baby pose or Ananda Balasana

• Bound Angle pose or Baddha Konasana

• Half Spinal Twist or Ardha Matsyendrasana

Additionally, any Yoga posture that is a form of an active back extension should reduce or eliminate pain. One example is: the Forward Bend (Uttanasana), which can be modified by a competent Yoga teacher.




Warming up the muscles properly is important for people with spinal stenosis. It must be remembered that rushing into exercise can aggravate the condition. Poses should be held for 60-90 seconds, and then the body should gently relax. Spending time in Shavasana, at the conclusion of each practice, is very important, to relax the muscles and allow the spinal column to settle into its increased length. For those following an Ayurvedic diet, pitta-stimulating foods should be avoided, with a condition such as spinal stenosis. These include spicy, pungent, sour, salty, hot, light, or oily foods, and some fruits and vegetables.

Yoga, as an intervention for spinal stenosis, is so effective that in February 2011, Dr. Anand Gandhi, a physician at the Laser Spine Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, published an article on “Yoga and the Aging Spine,” detailing the benefits of Yoga therapy for an aging spine as it “promotes a full range of motion, restores flexibility, and improves circulation.”

Given that surgery for spinal deterioration is the most common treatment for advanced cases, advocacy from a physician in a surgery clinic is praise, indeed. It must be understood that there are times when surgery is the only option. Yet, even in these cases, Yoga can be a good adjunct therapy, before or after, surgery.




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Sunday, June 12, 2011

Research About Breast Cancer and Yoga


By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Any claim regarding Yoga and specific ailments is subject to medical and scientific scrutiny. It is not enough to know that therapeutic Yoga works. Most of the motivation behind scientific research concerns why therapeutic Yoga works. Once again, the benefits of Yoga regarding cancer recovery are being carefully researched; but this time, two research groups from east and west are working together.

According to University of Texas MD Anderson Center’s new study about breast cancer and Yoga, the practice of this ancient healing art not only increases the quality of life for breast cancer survivors, but it also helps to balance hormones and fight fatigue in women undergoing radiation treatments. In findings to be presented to the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, in June 2011, researchers will attempt to establish the validity of claims that alternative and complementary medicine can benefit the health of cancer patients.

The clinical studies at MD Anderson – in conjunction with the help of Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (VYASA), a therapeutic Yoga research foundation and university in Bangalore, India, and a well-known organization in India – used a combination of asanas, breathing techniques, meditation, and other methods of relaxation, to create a therapy regimen.

Results included better physical health, improved functioning, and a greater acceptance of the experiences with breast cancer. The program also helped patients gradually transition from close medical supervision to more independent lives. While practicing Yoga, obviously makes breast cancer patients feels better, another study showed that results can last as long as 12 weeks after the exercise program ends.

There are several ways that Yoga benefits breast cancer patients:

• Allows the body to relax (different from sleep)
• Calms parasympathetic nervous system
• Drains stagnant lymphatic fluid
• Regulates glands and releases “good” hormones
• Decreases depression by as much as 50%, based on clinical studies
• Massages organs so that they work more effectively
• Aids in reduction of hot flashes
• Teaches control of the breath, reducing pain, and oxygenating blood
• Reduces fatigue and joint pain
• Improves quality of sleep
• Promotes meditation and visualization techniques

Although Restorative Yoga – a gentle Yoga that relaxes the entire body – is frequently chosen, many Hatha styles can be therapeutically modified to help women during or after treatment. In 2010, researchers at Rochester University Medical Center, tested the results of specific types of Yoga techniques for breast cancer.

These included gentle poses in sitting, standing, reclining, and transitional positions, as well as meditation and visualization. While these are effective, doctors advise against rigorous exercises, or Yoga, done in heated rooms.

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