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The Melbourne Age - A Bikram Experience
The Age masthead

It's 8am Saturday, the beginning of winter and we are standing, ready for a Melbourne yoga class, in 37-degree heat. It sounds barmy because it is. Midway between summer and a sauna.

Considered the fastest-growing style of yoga in America, the Calcutta-born, LA-based Bikram Choudhury has led his Bikram-method yoga in Beverly Hills since the mid-'70s, with converts including Mariel Hemingway, Quincy Jones and Barbra Streisand. With over 500 affiliated Bikram Yoga schools now in the US, Australia is suddenly catching on.

The first dedicated Bikram studio, Yoga Tree, opened in September in Melbourne, followed by Bikram's Yoga College of India [also in Melbourne], which opened in March. Sparkling clean, both venues belie the buckets of human sweat and malodorous bodies passing through each day.

Bikram Yoga is based on the 4000-year-old hatha yoga discipline, which unites postures and breathing techniques, and was taught one-on-one to a young Choudhury by his closest hatha authority, Bishnu Ghosh.

Choudhury has since worked with Western doctors to devise a series of two breathing exercises and 26 postures to counter our most common health problems. "It doesn't matter how well you do each posture, only that you try the right way," he says.

He believes that cranking up the heat aids deeper stretching, opens the pores to release toxins, thins blood to clear the circulatory system and increases the heart rate for a better aerobic workout: his brand of yoga is optimally taught in 60 per cent humidity over 90 minutes. He says regular practice can aid weight loss, develop stamina, tone muscles, speed up injury recovery, relieve asthma, improve digestion and stabilise blood pressure.

To the newcomer, Bikram Yoga is a veritable sweat-fest. To the uninitiated, its mention either piques curiosity or gives rise to scepticism. For the official medical word, I contact the Australian Medical Association's Victorian branch.

"We expose ourselves to day-long temperatures of 37-degrees or more in summer, so the heat is fine, as long as you get your fluids," says Garnham. "Thirst is always a poor and late indicator of the degree of dehydration. Also, anyone with a significant medical condition, especially one that affects their heart or kidneys, should check with their doctor before trying a class."

Choudhury says it is not unusual to feel nauseous or dizzy during the first Bikram class. "Practising yoga in a heated room reveals to us our present condition. Usually the problem is that we do not drink enough water." Many also feel weary after the first few sessions. "Your body has begun to cleanse itself," he explains.

Bikram's first 12 poses involve standing backbends, forward bends and balancing poses to build focus and those guaranteed rivulets of sweat. Bikram Yoga involves no shoulderstands, headstands, salutes to the sun or downward-facing dogs, common to other forms of yoga. Choudhury considers these too difficult for beginners and says the benefits of inversions (blood flow to the brain, reduction of blood pressure and compression of the thyroid gland) already exist in his series.

Hot Yoga

  • Drink plenty of water before class and during it but arrive on an empty stomach. Eating three hours before class is a good rule to follow.
  • Do not feel pressured to keep up with everyone else.
  • Listen to your body. The benefits come when you try to do each pose the right way, even if you can only do it part way.
  • Only do Bikram Yoga in a heated room and never alter the sequence of poses.
    Wear non-restrictive, cool clothing.
  • Seek medical advice for any medical concerns before taking a class.

    Check out www.bikramyoga.com for affiliated schools worldwide.
Keeping your Brain Fit with Bikram Yoga

If you’ve been practicing Bikram yoga regularly, you will already know that it can make you fitter, stronger, and more flexible. You may even be sleeping better and have noticed that your memory is sharper and your mind is clearer. Above and beyond that, you can also use Bikram Yoga to change your brain, and improve your cognitive function.

Your brain is plastic. This means that rather than being “hard-wired” or static, your brain retains the ability to change and adapt throughout your entire lifetime. Whenever you learn a new skill, you physically alter the structure of your brain: new neural pathways are formed and existing ones strengthened. Likewise when you stop doing something, neural connections can weaken. As with any muscle, your brain works on a “use it or lose it basis,” and you have to exercise your brain regularly in order to maintain optimum fitness.

Any exercise that increases your heart rate and your lung capacity sends more blood and oxygen to your brain, which increases brain function and helps to restore damaged brain cells. It also reduces stress and releases hormones that have been shown to stimulate cell growth in the areas of the brain associated with memory and learning.
 
Scientists have been researching neuroplasticity for many decades, although it is only in the last five or so years that the idea that the brain is constantly adapting itself has become widely accepted. One of the most exciting findings is that getting older does not have to lead to cognitive decline. It is possible to keep your brain fit, and even improve your brain function over time. The key is that you have to keep learning. And that learning should involve mindfulness, or close attention; it should recruit several of your senses at once; and it should involve the use of both gross and fine motor skills.

One of the most crucial things that you are learning to do in class is to focus your attention. As soon as you start doing something automatically, without mindfulness, you are just coasting down the same neural pathways, rather than forming new ones. In order to make long term change, it is necessary to pay close attention to what you are doing. In a Bikram Yoga class, you hear the instructions, focus in the mirror, and apply the words to your body, which means your visual, auditory and motor cortices are all engaged. As you are strengthening your muscles, you are also strengthening your neural connections and increasing the size and detail of the neural maps relating to those muscles. When you first start practicing it takes intense concentration and determination just to learn how to lock your knee, but once you have trained yourself to do that, the actions become part of your muscle memory, which frees your mind to focus on the more subtle details of the posture.

However, neuroplasticity can be a double-edged sword: the same capacity that allows your brain to adapt also endows it with a tendency to get locked into habitual ways of thinking - to take the same well-worn neural pathway. This is why you can sometimes get stuck in a rut in your practice, or find that you drift off into auto-pilot. Of course, they way to avoid this trap is to stay present. Bikram says that the goal of hatha (physical) yoga is to use the body as a vehicle to bring the mind back to the brain. He means that you use your focus, your attention to pull your mind into your body and into the present - resisting the urge to give in to distractions. The hardest thing to do is to concentrate for 90 minutes, but that concentration is key to keeping your brain fit and healthy.

If you are interested in reading more about brain fitness, and maybe testing your own, a good website to start with is: www.positscience.com/

The Melbourne Age - Executive Style - 10 Tips to Slow Down Your Life (NEW!)

Published Melbourne Age Online, Jun 19, 2013 - Gary Nunn
Read original Article

Leave technology switched off for even a little while and relax.

A driverless car freewheeling down a hill doesn't slow down by itself. It requires a driver to apply the brakes. Your life is a hill. Are you a driverless car? Consider this your driving lesson in slowing down.

Slowing down requires scheduling and specifically devised activities that interrupt you from incessantly clicking e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, text messages... don't pretend you don't. We all do it.

Here are 10 tips for slowing your life down and regaining some headspace in this crazy modern world.

1) Plan sacred slots into your weekend

Treat relaxation with the same solemn seriousness that a nun treats religion. Schedule slots into your weekend where you decline coffee meet-ups and gym sessions. It's tempting to say yes to all these fun things, but they require leaving home, changing clothes, travelling, being punctual – all things you do on weekdays and deserve a break from. Reserve at least two three-hour slots every weekend to enjoy your own company in your own home, in your trackies and baggy t-shirt. Block out these slots in your calendar. Don't ignore them.

2) Make the most of being an Aussie

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) this month found that Australia is the happiest nation in the developed world. Enjoy your country, its beaches, its huge blue sky and the natural environment that urges you to stroll by and leisurely admire it on a Sunday.

3) Switch off all technology from time to time

Many of us stare at a screen for eight hours a day. Turn off the laptop or smartphone, even for an hour, to take a breather from the sometimes bewildering pace of it all. Leave your phone at home for that stroll, or turn it off during those sacred relaxation slots. If that seems unrealistic, try a week-long experimental Facebook hiatus. See if you feel less connected - or just more relaxed.

4) Follow @DalaiLama on Twitter

Once the technology hiatus is over, check out the Twitter feed of the Office of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. His soothing tweets will remind you of a gentler time and encourage reflection.

5) Find the soundtrack to your new pace

The very tools we use for our adrenalin fixes can be used to chillax. Just as music can speed us up for jogging, it can equally wind us down. Whether it's classical, soul, emo or ballads, select the soundtrack to your desired mellow state, run a bath and press play. And just as social media can exhaust us, it can refresh us too – here's my suggested chill out play-list on Spotify.

6) On yer bike!

Getting around on a bicycle is often faster than any other mode of transport for short distances. It's also surprisingly relaxing as you cruise along, so dust off those lycra shorts. Actually, scratch that. Just do it in your trackies. Please.

7) Wear yourself out to chill out

Heard of a jogger's endorphin rush? It's a potent thing. If you just can't seem to unclutter your discombobulated mind, intensive cardio will often do it – then you can vegetate happily.

8) Bikram Yoga

Bikram yoga is one of the best ways to force overachievers to relax. If normal yoga leaves you restless, Bikram will both calm and exhaust you. The soothing but soaring high you feel afterwards has to be experienced to be believed.

9) A weekend off the booze

Drinking speeds you up, then quickly slows you down in all the wrong ways. Slow down on a natural high rather than on a depressant. Hangover-free weekends make a world of difference. Look up Hello Sunday Morning for tips on short-term sobriety.

10) Join a kibbutz

There are 256 kibbutzim in Israel. If none of the above works for you, perhaps it's time for a more radical change. Don't think for one second it won't be hard work; it will. But it'll be a break from the competitive and commercial nature of capitalism. Your body will be exhausted. Your brain just might get back into the gear it needs to function at its best.

 

 
 
Bikram's Yoga College of India - Melbourne
Contact Us

Bikram Yoga is beginner friendly.
All Classes are 90 minutes.
Doors open 30 minutes prior to classes.
First time students please arrive at least 15 minutes early, earlier if possible.
Wear comfortable exercise clothing.
You will need a mat, towel and water - you can hire and/or buy them at the studio, or bring your own.
Change rooms and showers at both studios.
Arrive with an empty stomach.
No need to book.

Prahran
New web site :
www.bikramyogaprahan.com.au
info@bikramyogaprahran.com.au
Level 1 / 236 High Street
Prahran, Victoria,
Australia 3181
Telephone: (03) 9529 6640
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Richmond
New web site: www.bikramyogarichmond.com.au
info@bikramyogarichmond.com.au
Level 1 / 179 Bridge Road
Richmond, Victoria,
Australia 3121
Telephone: (03) 9429 2112
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