Here is my SECOND year of experience with Bikram Yoga that I wrote down in February 2014. This makes a nice sequel to my last week’s blog post, where I shared the first year of experience.
Today is Presidents Day 2014, two years after I started the Bikram Yoga. It seems like a good time to reflect on my progress with Bikram Yoga.
Experimenting for Regaining Control of Breath
At the beginning of my second year, I started experimenting and also talked to various teachers about my desire to keep control of my breath and conserve energy to perfect my poses. Most of the teachers discouraged skipping an asana, emphasizing that that asana are designed with certain flow in mind. Best suggestion, I thought, came from Rosa. She advised to do the first sets as easy as I needed to and then give my all in the second sets.
I started this technique with almost skipping the first sets. Then slowly I started to do the firsts sets lightly to build endurance and maintain form. I would then give my all in the second set, reminding myself that I could always skip the first set of the following asana if I needed to regain control of my breath. I felt better and better with this method.
Reintroducing Strength Training
One downside I found for doing Bikram only was that after a year I started to feel that my strength was waning. I did not feel as confident in simple things like lifting my laptop brief case, which is about 30lbs. In April 2013, Kimberly and I restarted working out with our trainer Saleem for one day every week. Initially, I would do three times Bikram and one time Saleem every week. For the last few months, I have settled into twice Bikram and one time Saleem. With Saleem’s workouts, my strength is definitely back. With Birkram twice a week, I am able to maintain the flexibility and balance.
Visit to the Egoscue Clinic – Crooked Body Fixers
Another thing I was quite encouraged by was improvements in my knee pain through Bikram. So, I decided to see if I could really get them to be 100% cured. For that I decided to visit with the local Egoscue Clinic. Kristen Thor, the therapist there, showed me that my knees were misaligned in that they were pronated, i.e., faced outwards. Although, knees were my major concern why I went to her, she also showed me that the reason my right shoulders kept getting stiff whenever I worked out with heavy weights is that my upper body was misaligned in that my right shoulder was rotated forward. That, she said, was also the reason why my right wrist would hurt when I would put weight on it, for example, when I did pushups. She was clearly able to demonstrate these issues.
As she worked through those issues, I also told her about my awkwardness with the Awkward Pose (Utkat Aasna) or even weighted squats. For that she showed me that my upper back lacked flexibility and did not have the proper curvature. This made it difficult for me to balance when I did the Awkward Pose or the squats. For years, Saleem and my sons have been telling me to stick my butt out while squatting, which was hard to do, according to Kristen, if my upper back did not provide me the counter balance when I was sticking my butt out.
Finally, I talked to her about how it felt difficult and my back used to get really tired when I was doing the Standing Head to Knee Pose (Dandyamana Janusheer Aasna). For that, she told me that my hips were not open and flexible enough.
So, over a period of about seven months, I worked with her. I started to feel improvements with my posture in general, my Saleem workouts, and the Bikram poses. Knees got even better. Finally, she gave me routines to do before doing my Saleem and Bikram sessions. Pre-Saleem exercises are to warm up my shoulders before the workout. Pre-Bikram e-cises are to open my hips and upper body before the class.
My knees pain is mostly gone. I can comfortably do weighted lunges, weighted squats, and single leg jump ropes. I have not really felt any significant pain in months. Although, based on memories, I still often hesitate before I do knee straining exercises, as I have been conscious of the knees for years now.
The Joe Dillon Difference
Oh yeah another thing. During our May 2013 Vistage meeting, I met our Vistage speaker Joe Dillon. He was a 69 year old in-your-face kind of guy, who has coached Olympic swimmers and thousands of other people. He got me thinking that it was possible to change my body composition, with the right nutrition. You mean I could dramatically reduce my body fat percent by simply changing what I eat? With the information I got from him and his book and videos, I dramatically changed my eating habits. With Joe Dillon’s protein shakes and Full Strength protein shakes, I added about my body weight equivalent in grams of proteins every day to my intake. I eliminated most raw sugar and flour based products from my meals and started to do a better job for sugar management. I also added to my diet fish oil (Omega-3 Ultra from X-tendlife.com), Flax Seed Oil and a better quality of daily vitamins and supplements (from Premium Daily vitamins from X-tendlife.com).
Since June 2013, when I started the program my weight has decreased only by about four to six pounds, but body fat percent has decreased from 25% to 18%. That means I have added about 7 lbs of muscles and lost about 12 lbs of fat. And, my belly fat is down by 3 inches! I like the trend.
Wow, I Can Touch My Head to My Knee and Hold!
With all these factors and as my endurance built up at Bikram, I started to do the first set more and more deeply. And, I made significant progress on some harder poses. While all of the poses can be done better and at a deeper level, by now, I can reach closer to the final expression of most poses. In the Standing Head to Knee pose, I can now touch head to knee as the final expression for the three counts, though not very gracefully. My knees get a little wobbly. I can almost do Toe Stands with hands in prayer position, but not always for the complete time. My awkward poses are fairly deep and decent, and am able to rise much more slowly in the third part. I can see my complete foot over my head in the Standing Bow. I am able to touch my head against knees in the rabbit pose. My Triangle pose is nice and deep and stable.
And, at times, if the room is not too hot, or my body is feeling up to it, I even attempt the first sets with all I got.
No More Lipitor
Oh yeah. I did two blood works to test my Cholesterol over the last seven months, WITHOUT taking Lipitor. In August, my LDL was 135, so I added Red Rice Yeast to my supplements and in January it was 124. My primary care physician said that with these types of results I can safely stay off Lipitor. Yeah! That is another big goal accomplished. Check.
So, today on Presidents Day, February 17, 2014, on my second anniversary of Bikram Yoga, where to from here:
- All the poses can of course be done better. I would like to keep working on improving the poses and my teachers to keep critiquing me for the finer points of my postures. Twice a week seems like good maintenance discipline. At some point, I may want to do another 30-day challenge to see if I can get another step improvement. At this time, I am doing too much other stuff to do any more than twice a week.
- I have already raised my goal for body composition – Six Pack at Sixty! For that I would need to get to 12% body fat percent by my birthday. I have another six months until my 60th birthday. I may need to add another couple of days’ worth of workout a week, even just aerobics or walks with weights to create the needed caloric deficit, to get to the body fat target. And, I have to make sure I am providing my body enough protein to build the needed lean mass. Saleem has also recommended for me to do some Abs and Core workout during the week on my own.
- I would like to get an X-ray done of my knees to see if there is any cartilage that is worn out and not yet rebuilt. Then I could more precisely focus on getting that to 100%.
- Continue to do Egoscue a couple of times a week in addition to the pre-Saleem and pre-Bikram sessions. Also, work in at least one set of Egoscue Tower e-cises a week for alignment. Getting Tower in has been the hardest part for last couple of months.
- Ringing in my ear has not abated. I only feel it when I focus on it. I need a solution for that. Don’t have any solution yet, other than getting a hearing aid, which the Audiologist said, sometimes fixes it.