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Bikram Yoga for Cold Buffalo Winters

Hot Flash

On a hot July afternoon last summer, when some were huddling in air-conditioned spaces or heading for the beach, I found myself needing a fix of the “hot” yoga I’ve been practicing for about four years. Bikram yoga is a type of hatha yoga that is distinguished from most other forms of by the temperature and humidity of the studio in which it is practiced. It is hot, sweaty, and extremely cathartic, and for whatever reason, I wanted to sweat the afternoon away.

The first time I did bikram yoga was a memorable, if not exactly enjoyable, event. Actually, it was absolutely grueling. At several points during the 90-minute class I was nauseous, dizzy, and wanted nothing more than to get out of that sweat lodge. Had I not been admonished before the class that the most important thing is to stay in the room, I would have left. But I stuck with it and finished the class and felt great about it. Not only did I feel like I gave my body the best workout of my life, my mind was strengthened and put at ease. So much of getting myself out to yoga on a hot day has to do with this desire to stick through it—a quality I didn’t have enough of in my life before I started yoga.

Once your body gets used to this kind of workout, it’s hard to give it up, or to feel sated by other forms of exercise. It is ultimately a feat of cardiovascular endurance—there are certain postures which get your heart pumping out of your chest. It is also the most brilliantly comprehensive exercise I know of; the routine really leaves no muscle untouched. Issues I’ve had with asthma have disappeared, and my dependence on asthma medications has come to a screeching halt. One of my favorite teachers found yoga to help relieve back pain. There are thousands of stories just like this that form a testament to the restorative and healing powers of bikram yoga, as well as its usefulness in weight loss.

I thought about sharing all the amazing testimonials I’ve heard over the years, but I’d rather suggest just taking a class. If nothing else, you will never forget it. Your skin will be glowing and you will leave the yoga studio feeling as if you were just born. You will be as close to perfect as you ever have for at least an hour - and then go again the next day. It is really that wonderful.

Not to be overlooked are the multitude of benefits to mental discipline that the practice of this yoga instills. A little discipline and confidence can go a long way in changing one’s life in small steps. It’s played a centering role in my life, and has helped me cope with the pressure and stresses of school and work. After 90 minutes of stretching and sweating and focusing on breathing, a large amount of the day’s brain clutter clears away.

The founder of bikram yoga, Bikram Choudhury, is a somewhat controversial figure who has been described as yoga’s “bad boy” due to his intense passion combined with his nearly flawless business sense. He has managed to copyright the sequence of 26 postures that make up bikram yoga, so that only teachers who have completed an intensive nine-week training in a tropical locale are allowed to set up and teach the practice. This tight control affords teachers a ready-made business model for those wishing to settle, or a nomadic existence for the adventurous. Many teachers travel and teach, and get put up and paid by the hosting studio.

One such entrepreneur, Becky Machado, recently opened up a fabulous studio on Main Street in Williamsville. I have practiced in several studios and this one is not missing a thing. The large open floor space with windows and mirrors offers a lot of room, in a relaxing atmosphere that is refreshed with eucalyptus and also kept very clean—something very hard to do considering the amount of cumulative sweat. There are a lot of different teachers who all have something special to offer. Just tune in! It is hard not to get excited when you to talk to them, they are all bursting with yoga glow.

Luckily for Western New Yorkers, there are two studios in the area. Mark Drost and Zefea Samson have recently transformed the new Buffalo Bikram Yoga studio on Elmwood at Delevan into a bright and welcoming place to practice. They have renovated the entire space to include a larger studio, dressing rooms and showers. If you live in the city this studio is centrally located, and often you will find traveling teachers passing through. Check out their teacher schedule online—lately there has been a lot of new teachers coming through Buffalo. Hopefully they will get what is so great about living in Western New York and stick around.

You can find out more about both studios online: bikramyogawilliamsville.com and bikramyogabuffalo.com. They both offer reasonable prices especially for students and senior citizens. Both Web sites are rich with information about the practice and its benefits. Remember, yoga is for everyone not just flexible people.

My favorite thing about practicing bikram yoga—especially here in Western New York—is that sometimes in the middle of my practice I find myself lying on the floor, yawning, smiling, laughing, and feeling like I am about to burst.

It’s bikram yoga season right now—a welcome hot flash at the beginning of winter. So go on, get out, and sweat until you feel brand spanking new, Buffalo!

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