— Project Talaria

Bikram Yoga Saanich

Full disclosure. For the last 8 months, Bikram Yoga Saanich has been sponsoring Project Talaria by provoding us with free access to their classes. We approached them with the idea because we see the extreme benefit yoga has to offer runners. They have not required us, nor asked us to write this blog entry.

If running is the Yin, Bikram yoga is definitely the yang. if left unnatended, the sore, locked up, mobility limited body of the high mileage runner can degrade until injury breakdown occurs. Bikram Yoga provides a release, a counterbalance to all those hours of training. What I learned however is that Bikram Yoga is not just this release from the training, it is “training” in itself. Both physical and mental.

It is well documented what Bikram Yoga can do for your body and mind, regardless of who you are. I won’t touch on the fundamentals. I want to write about my personal experience at Bikram Yoga Saanich throughout my training for the Leadville 100 Mile race.

First off, no matter how hard I train and how fit I become, every single time I enter the room for the 1.5hr class it is a very challenging workout. Some days are harder than others, the struggles do change. A common theme remains; it is a tough workout that leaves me drained, but feeling amazing. I love the feeling of laying down in the hot room before class. My body feels great in that moment, as if I’m quenching a thirst. The next 1.5 hrs are all mine, dedicated to increasing mobility and flushing toxins out of my body. The Bikram routine and it’s poses are thorough and well thought-out. The entire body is stretched during the class. One of the greatest benefits I’ve seen from my practice is a clear awarness of the limitations and problem areas of my body. Tight muscle groups are exposed. Imbalances from my left and right sides, previously unknown to me, have become obvious. When stretching, getting massage or using the foam roller outside of the Yoga studio, it is now clear where the problems are and what to focus on.

The combination of the 1.5hr duration and the heat of a Bikram Yoga class make it a challenge to maintain focus. At points it seems you can’t stay in the room any longer. I cherish this feeling as it has a direct connection to endurance running. I believe endurance running to be more of a mental test than a physical one. Ultimiately there is no one but yourself keeping you from dropping out of a race after 100km’s of running (or at 30km into marathon for that matter) This mental toughness is a skill in itself and can be trained. I firmly believe that the focus, the hot, sweaty focus required in the Birkam Yoga class is direct brain training for those tough spots in endurance races.

Shavasana “After the exertions of the practice, Shavasana allows the body a chance to regroup and reset itself”
This pose is referred to as the most important in the entire series. Laying on the floor, it is a calm, motionless relaxation between the more active streching postures. Fresh blood flows to the area stetched by the previous pose. The mind and body are allowed a moment of rest and reprieve.

While laying in Shavasana during a particularily challenging class, a moment of clarity hit me. I realized that a Bikram Yoga class is a microcosm of my entire training routine. While training for Leadville I had a breakthrough with my running schedule. I ran fewer days each week, rested more, yet ran more km’s than ever before while avoiding serious injury. I did this by cutting out “junk miles” and focusing on each workout being challenging and having a direct purpose. After most hard workouts, a day of rest would follow. Run, rest, repeat. Those days of rest often included a Bikram Yoga class. Within those Bikram Yoga classes there were bouts of tough, focused, deep stretching, followed by rest and recovery in the form of the Shavasana pose. Make sense? I realized what had taken me years to figure out in my run training was already embedded into the Bikram Yoga structure. Focused, hard work followed by adequate rest and recovery is the ultimate foundation to physical improvement. This is true in becoming a stronger runner and also true in becoming a more flexible and healthy yoga student. I now know this, and apparently Bikram Choudhury has known this since the 70’s!

While still a novice student at Bikram Yoga, I have no doubt that my continued practice has left me stronger, healthier and more aware than ever before. From a beaten-up runner’s perspective the benefits of Bikram Yoga are quite clear. Being in the studio however, I have seen what the practice can do for people from all walks of life. For first-timer’s, the Bikram Saanich studio is a welcoming environment and a wonderful place to learn the ropes. It’s never too late to start. Your body will thank you!

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