Sunday, January 24, 2010
One of the things that first really grabbed me about Bikram was that it extends so much beyond just the physical. I remember that even amidst the anguish of my first every class I noticed the teacher speaking about how this practice could build a stronger mind, a more determined spirit, and could even play a part in correcting hormonal imbalance - for example, the link between the compression poses and regulation of the thyroid (metabolism-governing) gland. "How could that be?", I thought. "I mean sure, all exercise (in theory) improves the metabolism, but how can a specific pose directly influence a certain hormone."
Being the anal gal that I am, I had to do some research of my own. And - as I'm sure you can guess since I'm writing about it - I found it all to be true. And then some. You see, each aspect of your hormonal system is controlled not just by internal influences (the foods you eat, for example), but by the external as well. Exposure to environmental toxins would be an example of negative influence to the hormonal system.
But the good news is that the very second you enter the hot room, you're assisting your body to correct hormonal imbalance, increase your metabolism, and even give you the building blocks for balanced emotions and improved moods. This practice really is the ultimate inside-out workout, isn't it?! And everything from the heat which works to eliminate toxins to the smallest adjustments in the way you hold each pose has the ability to powerfully influence the way your body responds. That's just one reason why it's so important to really listen to what the teacher says and avoid making your own adjustments. If you can master this you'll start to experience some of the best classes of your practice to date.
Anyway, I'm getting slightly off the topic I had in mind. The point I wanted to make today is that the practice itself already gives you such incredible transformation, but - as with anything - there are always a few simple things you can do both in and out of the room to maximise these results. And why wouldn't you? Balanced hormones will assist in every area of your health, from your weight and energy, to your sleep, your moods, your digestion, your mental focus, your libido, and - yes - definitely a stronger practice.
So with that in mind, here are my top 5 tips for balanced hormones and a stronger practice:
1. Don't undo all your good work by skipping out on proper nutrition. Visit this previous article for tips on the best pre/post Bikram foods.
2. Be sure to get good quality sleep whenever you can. As much as we all have so many things we 'should' be doing, the basis of excellent health and longevity is adequate rest. Trust me - the more you cut back on sleep, the more you shorten your lifespan. If you have to live with reduced sleep for whatever reason (which, as a new Mum, I definitely relate to), then it becomes all the more important to follow the other 4 points listed here!
3. Try supplementing your diet with the occasional superfood such as raw greens, coconut oil, or maca powder - known for it's unique ability to balance hormones, improve energy, and assist in weight management. Just add it to your pre or post yoga shake.
4. Make up your mind that you will, in fact, view your yoga as a 90-minute meditation. Not a chance to revise your to-do list, not an opportunity to play-back at-home arguments or even joyful activities, but just a time to focus on you. The greatest gift you can give yourself is to be present.
5. Supplement your practice with the occasional functional weight training workout. While Bikram does help to build strength, variety in exercise is important, and building some lean muscle is one of the simplest methods of increasing your metabolism and providing your body with the building blocks to healthy hormones.
And if it all sounds like a bit too much, then why not try focusing on just one of these points each week for the next five weeks? I'd love to hear how you go as well as if you have anything to add. Either leave a comment below, or contact me here. Good luck!
Food for Yoga. Food for Life.
Please leave a comment, or send me an email (email@example.com). If you're keen to learn more about getting the most out of your body then visit me on my regular blog, BodyIncredible.com. It's all about how to feel and look amazing both inside and out through correct nutrition and lifestyle.