When my boyfriend first suggested we do a 30-day Bikram yoga challenge, I thought he was nuts. But the idea started to grow on me. Despite being a vegetarian and living a fairly active lifestyle, I’m obese. I liked the thought of dramatically to changing my body in a month and perhaps being able to reverse the weight gaining trend. So I embarked on the challenge, taking it one day at a time. I can honestly say it’s been amazing.
There are a few lessons I want to share with anyone considering the challenge. A 30-day Bikram yoga challenge does take physical and mental commitment, but the benefits are remarkable.
1) Yoga is medicine: Before beginning my Bikram yoga challenge, I would wake up with every morning with foot pain. After 5 days, all the pain was totally gone (I had been experiencing this pain for months). Then there is the dramatically boosted immune system; mid-challenge the office cold started spreading like wildfire. Several people were sick with it for weeks. I felt it coming on, but decided to keep up with my challenge. The cold lasted for 24 hours! Never in my life have I had a serious sore throat, head + body aches, then recovered so fast.
Then there is my favorite outcome: Yoga is making me look younger. I’m in my mid-thirties and getting carded consistently again thanks to Bikram. People had stopped carding me about a year ago, after 2 weeks of yoga the bags under my eyes have dramatically been reduced—and people now think it’s possible I’m in my 20’s.
2) Caffeine helps: If you haven’t tried Bikram yet, you should know hot yoga is tough. About a week into my challenge, I stopped drinking morning coffee and felt the lack of caffeine dramatically. Truthfully, I was more zombie than human—not just after the workout, but for the remainder of the day.
Many studies have been published on caffeine improves workout benefits, but Bikram really drove this notion home.
3) Doubles are really triples: When doing a 30 day challenge, sometimes you cannot make it every day. In order to complete the challenge, your only option is to do 2 workouts in one day. But the dirty secret is it works out to be 3 Bikram workouts in 24-hours. And it kinda of kills me. Actually, I’m pretty okay during the workouts, but by the time I arrive home I’m a mess.
The thing that saves you about doubles, is the day of rest. But if you make the mistake of not going one day, then do two the next day, you still have to continue on. And your day of rest is misplaced. But if you plan ahead, do two in one day, then get a day of rest, doubles really are not so bad.
4) Muscle tone is for chubby people too: I’m about 80 pounds from being in the ideal weight zone, which firmly labels me as obese. So considering something like washboard abs had seemed ridiculous with 80+ pounds to burn off first. But ~20 days into my hot yoga challenge, I was shocked to see two distinct parallel lines on the outer edges of my belly.
And once it was clear that Bikram was helping me form muscle tone, I started to spot it in other places: legs, thighs and arms. But the belly/abs muscle is by far the most dramatic and fun to watch. And, for those of aiming to burn fat, keep in mind that the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn naturally each day because muscle mass increases your resting metabolic rate.
5) Two pounds of sweat: Before and after Bikram class, weigh yourself and try not to get too excited. For me, I “lose” 2 pounds. But it’s NOT two pounds of fat, it’s sweat. And sweating has all sorts of amazing benefits:
• Sweat glands help heal wounds
• Sweat releases toxins including: excess salt, cholesterol and alcohol
• Sweat is an antibiotic
• Sweat effectively eliminates BPA from your system (Bisphenol A)
• Sweating helps release the grit and grime that holds in bacteria which leads to ZITS
• Sweat helps to regulate your body temperature
6) I don’t want to stop seeing this kind of progress: The first few weeks were especially difficult, but by day 21, the internal reluctance had been replaced with exhilaration. By 30 days, I decided to keep going. I’m almost at 45 days. Admittedly, I’m afraid that to lose the momentum if I stop the challenge even for 1-day.
Bikram is not for everyone, but it has done me a physical & mental world of good! If you can make time for a challenge, double down and do it. By the end of each yoga class, I never regretted attending.
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