BBL Gets a Makeover!

In 2012, we started a program at Bikram Yoga Portsmouth called Bikram’s Biggest Loser. This program was motivated by my older sister’s inspiring story. Read it here.

In a nutshell, my sister, Gina, found her way to the yoga on a regular basis nine years after taking her first class and hating it/herself. She battled self-hatred and obesity most of her life and found love and respect for herself on her yoga mat.

In the world of yoga, fat people are greatly underrepresented. Did you notice I said fat? I said it on purpose. “Overweight” implies that there’s “right” weight and, frankly, I’m done with that dogma.

While more than a third of Americans are categorized as “obese“, the percentage of practicing yoga students who fit those characteristics hover near the single digits. I wanted to change that.

Around the country, “Fat Yoga” studios have opened catering to obese yogis. Studios added “Curvy Yoga” or “Yoga for Round Bodies” and that never sat well with me. At our studio, we never differentiated between kids and adults. We don’t offer special classes for athletes or the elderly. Why would we exclude people from our regular schedule based on their weight?

How would it serve anyone to isolate fat people to a single class once a week?

A beautiful thing happens when all yogis practice together. It promotes the understanding that we are all the same on the deepest levels. I wanted something different for BYP. I wanted inclusion.

I wanted people to know that BYP was a safe place to practice yoga for anyone. I wanted students who had a BMI over 30 to know they wouldn’t be the only fat person in the room. I wanted to spread the word that my teachers knew how help people get into poses if there were big breasts or big bellies in the way, or how to approach a pose if thick thighs made the traditional execution impossible. I wanted people to understand that no matter who you are and what struggles you face, we were not going to judge you.

We modeled the program, at first, after the popular TV show The Biggest Loser. Not for the rapid (and reportedly dangerous) weight loss, but for the trainers’ intense belief in the participants’ abilities to achieve that which they did not yet believe in themselves. On TBL people’s ideas of themselves as quitters and losers transformed to that of achievers and athletes. We saw that happen in our students every day at yoga.

We knew the tantalizing draw of weight loss would bring in lots of clients. We were featured on the morning news and 43 people registered for our first challenge. Nationally, most people report that they try their first yoga class for either weight loss or fitness goals.

And people did lose weight. A lot of it. Our first winner lost 71 pounds and cut his cholesterol in half. One woman dropped eight dress sizes, four inches off her thighs. In five years, participants have lost nearly a collective ton of weight.

Some people didn’t lose weight. Not a pound. A few students even gained weight, but something else important was happening. People’s lives were changing. They were standing up for themselves at work. They were lowering dosages of blood pressure medication or going off anxiety meds. BBL participants found community, made friends, and felt a part of something. They rallied each other when they wanted to quit. They quieted that evil critic in their own heads. They learned to look in the mirror with pride, not shame.

I have a secret to share. I never cared if anyone lost any weight.  

I only cared that people found health and wellness and happiness. I knew that the potential for weight loss would draw people to the program because that is the song of our culture. Lose weight and be worth something! My vision was that if I could get them to show up, people would learn to love and respect themselves on the mat and the rest would fall away.

My vision came true. It worked.

Everything I thought the program could be, it was and even more. Last year, we added the Fueled and Fit program with nutritionist Erin Holt. Erin’s life goal is to get everyone in the world to stop dieting forever and learn to eat and listen to their bodies so they can fuel themselves and feel good. She strives to help people heal their convoluted relationships with food.

With Erin’s work, the program dug even further into our deep-seated beliefs about food, body image, and self-worth. Last year’s program pushed us to make a big change in how we structure and name the program to better represent the power and efficacy of dedicating three months of your life to healing your self and setting your life on a new path for good.

Last season, we had optional EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) sessions with Cheri Keirstead. This year, we’ll offer these tapping sessions as a criteria of the challenge. EFT is a psychological acupressure tool that allows you to practice calming your limbic system while simultaneously talking through issues and thought patterns that underlie your biggest challenges. Some participants worried that the tapping was a little too woo-woo-weirdo for them, but the folks who actually attended the sessions saw amazing results. Hey, sometimes the crazy hippie stuff works.

In this blog post, Erin Holt addresses the intersection between woo-woo weirdo and science. Tapping works because you calm unconscious stress responses to emotionally-charged thoughts and memories while allowing yourself to put words to your feelings. Studies clearly show a naming emotions reduces neurological and biochemical response to them.

We made the choice to model the program after our successful Sober Yogis program as a challenge, no longer a competition. The challenge is to commit to yourself for 90 days. To dig deep into the parts of your life that are holding you back. To look at food as your fuel, not your enemy. To stop dieting forever. To heal your body and your mind. To gain control of chronic illness. To let go of patterns that no longer serve you. To create habits that will drive the rest of your life.

Participants who meet the requirements of the challenge win a month of unlimited yoga at their host studio. There’s no longer a BBL winner. With our new program, we all win. The goal is to take three months of your life to make changes to the way you move, eat, and think that will lay the groundwork for how you live the rest of your life.

We won’t be taking weights or body measurements. Instead, we’ll measure depression and anxiety scales, and social-connectedness.

This new format allows us to expand our reach with this program from obesity to a myriad of challenges like: PTSD, disordered eating, chronic illness, debilitating injury, depression, anxiety, self-hatred, trauma, addiction, anger management, stress-reduction, body dysmorphia and more.

It is with great pleasure that our team introduces to you the new and improved Commit to 90 program.

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Visit our website for more information and details on the challenge rules and resources.

We look forward to welcoming you to this supportive community,

Sara, Jaylon, Emily, Erin, Cherie and all of the teachers at Bikram Yoga Portsmouth and Epping

BBL 3.0 Yeah

 

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The May “Haps”

Hello, Fellow Yogis!

As Friday comes to a close, and the month of May wraps up, we wanted to take a moment to reflect back on the great month that we’ve had.  We started off strong with a great Cinco De Mayo celebration and “First Friday” music class featuring some of the music industries biggest “Divos”  (Cough Cough MJ, KANYE, BEIBER, BOWIE, JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE)

— To those of you wondering what the **** a “Divo” is ..we will leave you with this spot-on definition from UrbanDictionary- LOL

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With some Cinco decor hanging and good vibes flowing you could definitely say there was a”party in the hot room”  18221993_10154649979442615_7946714306779506266_n.jpg

Another awesome perk of May was getting another Posture of the month!! Woot-Woot! There is nothing better than having a whole month to grow and focus on a different posture.

MAY P-O-M

Head to Knee with Stretching Pose.png

Head to Knee with Stretching Pose has some great benefits to keep you looking and feeling great 🙂

Here are a few:

  • Helps balance blood sugar levels
  • Improves kidney function
  • Improves digestion
  • Improves the flexibility of sciatic nerves, ankles, and hip joints
  • Strengthens and firms back, abdomen and arms
  • Reduces symptoms of asthma
  • Deep hamstring stretch

We also had a great back bending clinic this month with former BYP teacher, Louise Giordani aka “Weezy”

The clinic gave students some great techniques and expanded on

  • How to recognize places of spinal mobility and restrictions
  • How to maximize the range of motion in your total spine

Now that our backs are feeling amazing~ we can’t wait to dive into next month’s posture **SPOILER ALERT** it’s the Spine twisting pose!!!

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As I take a sip from my water bottle I’m reminded that this month we have new water at the studio and guess what?? We are pretty stoked! Not only is Tourmaline great tasting bottled water, but it’s the only gravity-fed water bottling facility and to top it off the company creates no boreholes in the aquifer, taking only water that naturally bubbles up from the spring— How cool is that!

Want to learn more about the company?? Check it out here:  http://tourmalinespring.com/#home

Well hey… that’s the May “Haps”  Take a look below for a sneak preview into June 🙂

  • First Friday Music Class- QUEER CULTURE
    • Donation class to help fund Portsmouth Pride
      • June 2nd @ 4:30
  • Portsmouth Pride Parade
  • #WHYYOGA starts in June! Tell us why you practice yoga for the chance to win an amazing basket of goodies! Just #whyyoga on your Instagram and Facebook to get your raffle tickets.
  • Don’t forget with the summer schedule starting May 27th that Barkan classes are moved to Tues/ Thurs- Come check it out and try something different. Already love Barkan?? AWESOME now your Saturdays are free to come try out the advanced class.

Bikram Yoga and Benign Positional Vertigo

A bout of vertigo can put the brakes on a lot of daily activity. Can you still practice yoga? Will it help? Will it make it worse?

As with most questions in life, the answer is, When in doubt, go to yoga.

I have suffered from motion sickness and periodic bouts of vertigo throughout my life. It wasn’t until my early thirties that an ear exam revealed I have Meniere’s disease, a genetic condition shared by my father and sister, and an explanation for vertigo at such a young age.

Practicing yoga has been a life-saver.

I cannot say classes with vertigo are easy or fun, but they are a path to feeling better for the rest of the day. To understand how to use your practice to help your vertigo, it’s critical to understand the main causes of Benign Positional Vertigo (BPV).

The otolith organs (utrical and sacculus) in your ear monitor your position in relation to gravity with a combination of fine hairs and tiny crystals. For different reasons, the crystals can occasionally get dislodged from these organs and find their way into semicircular canals that make up the vestibular labrynth. It is the out-of-bounds crystals in the vestibular canals that cause the nystagmus, nausea and dizziness that make up vertigo.

To get on track to feeling better, we must first get those crystals back where they belong. There are several techniques out there to counter BPV. The most popular for years was the Epley Maneuver, which I found effective about 50% of the time and works better if it is done to you by a professional.

In recent years, I discovered the Foster’s Maneuver designed by Dr. Carol Foster. This technique is simple to use and can be repeated until you feel better. It is easily assimilated right in the middle of class if you notice the vertigo returning. Please watch the technique in the video below.

What to do in class?

First, perform the Foster’s maneuver prior to class. Because it is ideally done in 15-minute intervals, it is best to do it about 5-10 minutes prior to the start of class. Before you do the technique, lie on your back and roll over to one side and sit up. Repeat on the other side. Note which side made you feel worse. This is the side you will turn your head to during the exercise.

When the class begins Prayanama, it may feel a little bit gross the first few times you drop your head back. If there are still free crystals, they are moving around. That’s why you may feel nauseated or a little dizzy. The exhale breath actually helps to bring the crystals to the back of the vestibular canals where you want them for the maneuver. Go slowly, but don’t skip over it. It will make you feel better in the long run.

Half Moon Pose is helpful in loosening all of the muscles you’ve been tensing since you woke up with vertigo. It’s good for your overall health, so participate. I often find I don’t have a lot of strength when I have vertigo, so don’t be surprised if it looks very different from your usual posture. Complete the lateral flexion (side bends) and the back bend, but skip the forward bend, Hands to Feet, for this class.

The backward bend of Half Moon is the same as the prep phase of the Foster’s Technique. Since the first forward bend in class is about 15 minutes after you did the first set of Foster’s, now is a great time to repeat it. From the back bend, keep looking up and come down to your knees and execute the rest of the maneuver from there while the class completes hands to feet.

In the second set, do not repeat the Foster’s Technique, but skip the forward bend.

Awkward, Eagle, Standing Head-to-knee and Standing Bow can be executed as usual, with one exception. If you have the ability to put your forehead on your knee in SH2K, don’t do that today. Keep your face parallel to the mirror.

Balancing Stick should be done to tolerance. Most people find they cannot come all of the way down to parallel. If you woke up with a full-fledged vertigo this morning, I’d recommend keeping your face parallel to the mirror for this class. This means you will only come down about halfway into the stick pose.

By the time we get to Standing Separate-leg Stretching, if has been about 15 minutes since your last Foster’s Technique. If you are still experiencing a little of that shaky-eye nystagmus, this is a good time to repeat it.

If you are feeling okay at this point, feel free to perform the posture, but keep your face up, above the horizontal plane. For flexible students, you may be able to achieve this by placing your hands on the floor and doing the posture with a flat back. If you are a little less loose in the hamstrings, do this with your hands on your thighs for support.

half way ssls

Triangle can be performed normally, but pay attention to how you feel. You may not be able to turn your head to the ceiling if it is making you sick, especially to your bad side.

So that you don’t reverse the good you’ve been doing with the Foster’s maneuver, please do not go down in Standing Separate-leg Head-to-knee. Setting up the arms and turning to the side is enough for today. Stretching your arms up and lengthening your spine is plenty of hard work anyway.

Tree Pose is not likely to present any problems. Go slowly in Toe Stand to see how far down you can go before the headache and nausea creeps back in. Again, try to keep your face parallel to the front mirror.

Once we get to the floor, it can be very difficult to lie on your back in Savasana with your head completely horizontal. Trying using a block or a rolled up towel to prop up your head to a position where can lie comfortably without the world spinning.

It is okay to perform Wind-Removing Pose with your head slightly elevated, but don’t tuck your chin strongly to your chest.

For the Cobra series the postures are generally helpful for vertigo, but you may need to start and finish the postures with your face parallel to the mirror. This would look like setting up Cobra propped up on your elbows or Full Locust and Bow with your chest already off the floor. On really bad days, I find I need to do the pregnancy version of Locust pose to stave off the nausea.

For the belly-down Savasanas, I generally find that propping my turned head up on two fists is enough lift to stave off the dizziness, but still feel able to rest comfortably. Your rolled-up towel from Wind-Removing would probably work fine here, too.

During the rest of the class, the up and down of each Savasana may be too much for your spinning head. Feel free to sit up between postures or lean against the back wall.

Fixed Firm should feel nice. Go slowly with dropping your head back until the vertigo is gone. Half Tortoise is not recommended until you’re feeling better. It’s really not worth it to try it and start the world spinning again.

Camel is another wonderful back bend that gets the crystals to drop back in the vestibular canals. At this point, it has been more than 15 minutes since your last Fosters maneuver. After the second set of Camel, you’re in the perfect position to whip down into another set. Rabbit should be avoided anyway, so you have a few minutes to do a good, long hold. Remember to hold each phase of the maneuver until the nystagmus stops.

Head-to-knee and Stretching can be performed to tolerance, as long as you don’t drop the head below the horizontal line.

Spine Twist can also be performed as usual, although you may find you need to move your head very slowly through the twist if it brings back the nystagmus.

For the final Savasana you may continue to use the rolled up towel to prop your head or you might find you are feeling well enough to test out a normal execution.

The most important part of this process is to move slowly and with awareness so you can discover what makes your body feel better or worse and stay within your physical limitations for today.

It is recommended with the Epley maneuver that you sleep propped up for the next 24 hours. It does not come recommended with the Foster’s maneuver, but I generally sleep with my head elevated for the next couple of days just to be sure it doesn’t return.

BPV can be initiated or exacerbated by low barometric pressure due to pressure sensitivity in the ear. In times of low barometric pressure, it will help to continue these recommendations both for class and for sleep until the pressure changes.

If you have any questions, ask your teachers for help navigating this difficult time.

sara and bella headstand

 

 

 

 

Sara Curry is the co-owner and Director of Bikram Yoga in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. When her vertigo is under control, she enjoys spending time upside down with her husband and two kids in Southern Maine.

 

 

 

A New Era: The End of Breastfeeding

After four years and seven months of breastfeeding, my days as a milch cow are over.  In one week, I lost four pounds and one cup size.

I can’t believe the clothes that I fit in now that I’m no longer a D-cup. Medium tops would always be a belly-shirt or I’d be exploding out the top like Pam Anderson. Dozens of people keep asking me: What are you doing? Are you on a diet?  You’re melting away!

Nope. Just stopped the nursing. Its amazing how much smaller your body looks without the extra flesh on top. And I’ve missed these clothes! I remember looking through a box last fall and thinking, “Why am I holding on to this stuff?” It had been five years since I’d worn any of it (pregnant or nursing or pregnant AND nursing).  Hello again, little fitted tees and dresses with spaghetti straps!

Other moms told me my energy would be through the roof. I certainly feel much more productive now that I’m not nourishing another person with my body. It takes that weight-of-the-world off your shoulders. Not there there aren’t a million things to be done, it just doesn’t feel like that much more than I can handle.

More than it feeling like I had more energy, stopping breastfeeding felt like someone stopped stepping on me all day long.

And I’m cleaning out my closets. And the basement. Who needs a crib? A changing table?  Six pairs of adorable little sneakers?

So long, SI pain!

Good god, Jim! The last time I felt like this, Cynthia and Ky had come to do Advanced with us after winning the International Championship in 2007. It was the first class I felt like I was making progress in my body, not just surviving or recovering. Not only can I pick up my foot in Standing Head-to-Knee, but I can put my head on my knee at 6:30 am.

Bella was about 18 months old at the time. We have some really cute pictures of her in class with us and her soggy diaper. It was the first time I felt like I could actually try in Guillotine without dislodging my sacrum on the left.

My strength is back. I have control over my abdominal muscles. I can actually hold Peacock and Cock and Lifting Lotus. I really never anticipated that I would take so long to get back to those places. The first time I tried Peacock postpartum it was like I had never done it before.

Cock? Postpartum, I was back to being able to lift my Lotus up only a half an inch! I remember sitting down the day after Bella was born and leaning forward. My rectus abdominus actually folded in half! My only consolation was that I knew I had done it before, so I knew I would get there again.

My flexibility is progressing. I can finally push in Hands-to-Feet, Tortoise, Rabbit and Frog. For nearly five years, every time I would try to go deeper, it would cause that horrifying sacroiliac pain. The chiropractor helped me to get my sacrum level again in 2007, but tight psoas and piriformus kept straining the joint.

I have to credit Emmy Cleaves with resolving my SI and hip problems. When I saw her in November 2010 at the Women’s Retreat in Orlando, she helped every woman in the room with hip pain. “If you have a chronic pain in the hip, it can generally be traced to Triangle.” She corrected each and every one of us. She sat right on me. Rode me like a donkey.

The only correction Bikram has ever given me was to push my hips more forward in Triangle. Laura always corrects me to get my hip forward, but I never got it until she showed us all of the pit falls. I’d get my hip forward, but my whole torso would come with it. I’d get low enough, but I’d have tilted my hips in the set up. More often than not, I just wasn’t pushing my left hip forward because my psoas was too tight.

Since then, my pain has been slowly diminishing. I stretch my hip flexors and piriformus every single day. Now that I bring my attention to them, I can feel how tight they are in Half Moon back bend and Camel. My hips have been sore for about three months. In a great way. Like I’m doing double sessions for rugby. Triangle is hard as hell every single time.

I’ve also been seeing Paul Caswell at Performance Muscular Therapy in Portsmouth. Absolutely amazing. My first visit, I thought I was going to jump up off the table and punch him. Or maybe just bawl my baby blues out.

I knew I had tight hips, but I had no idea I had so much garbage in my hamstrings and quadriceps. By the third session, the massage to my legs and hips just felt like a deep massage. I was shocked by the absence of pain. Gives me hope for the future. I conquered the back pain in 2004 and the hip pain in 2011. Namaste, BABY!

Pregnancy Blog 2: Ten Months Postpartum

Stay Strong, Team

It’s three years today since Bella was born. Judah is nine months old. We made it, team.  Some days (today) I don’t know how. It’s not the day-to-day, it’s the sleep.

At first, you’re so hopped up on hormones and excitement that you can ride on them for a good week. Then, by two weeks, you start to think, “Wow.  This no sleep thing is no joke.”  Dragging, grey, tired. And then it just becomes your reality. You’re just tired all of the time. That’s parenting. People say, it will get better at three months, six months, nine months, when they start eating solids, once the molars come in. I think for some kids it does, but I know for a lot of kids it doesn’t.

That’s one of the secret lies of parenting. In yoga we say, the biggest lie in Bikram Yoga is “Balancing stick is ten seconds.” In parenting, the biggest lie another parent will tell you is “My kid sleeps through the night.” Means something different to everyone and it doesn’t last for anyone. One of my good friends did cry-it-out at four months. She said her son slept through the night.  “It works, Sara. You have to do it.”

At sixmonths he was getting up twice a night and at nine months once and at 12 months four times and at 18 months he was sleeping in her bed. We’re all just trying our best. Doing what we can. And we all have different kids. They all respond in different ways.

I’m not going to lie. My kids don’t sleep. Bella was up every 60-90 minutes, every single night for a good 18 months, didn’t STTN until after Judah was born. Judah slept last week from 10:30 pm to 4:30 am and so did I. It was the first time I’d slept six hours in over three years. I felt so good that morning. The next night, he woke up every 30-60 minutes.  I felt so terrible that morning. Up and down. Up and down. And if you have some advice for me, please keep it to yourself. I’ve heard it all from people I know and from people I don’t. And I’ve tried it all. If you want to commiserate, give me a call.

So, I’m humming along with life in my reality of tired all of the time, coping pretty well, keeping most of the balls in the air and all of a sudden, there comes a moment when I think, “How am I not a danger to society? How am I operating a motorized vehicle? Running a business? Cooking dinner without losing a finger or burning someone?”

I’m SO tired. Drained. Exhausted. Brainless. Hopeless. I think its the brainless that’s the scariest.

And then the next day, I’m all right. Take class. Change my outlook on life. Feel better. Keep moving. That’s what my sister and I always say to each other: The only way to keep going is to keep going.

And you know, someday these sweet, little muffins won’t even live in my house, let alone wake me up every two hours and I will be very sad. Some days that’s enough to keep a positive outlook. Some days.

Pregnancy Blog 2: Six Months Postpartum

I spoke too soon.  One month after the last post, Judah started teething and has been up all night ever since. And spring? It’s July and we’re still having spring.  Just got a first taste of summer this week.  B.S.

I just re-read my caution to people with SI issues to wait until nine months to push it. Wish I’d listened to my own advice. I keep feeling better, then pushing it again and then I can’t get my foot the next day in Standing Head-to-knee. I don’t know, really, though if that is the SI stuff or the not sleeping. The more I nurse at night in bed, the more my hip hurts. I’m sure it’s all connected. Tired, run down, no time/energy to cook, no sleep, cranky baby, its a vicious cycle.

The yoga helps. I feel better, more energized, like I can face the day. Vitamin D and fish oil have helped, too.  I’ve also been seeing Ning Ling Zhou in Kennebunk once a month.  She’s a massage therapist and acupuncturist and is AWESOME.  The first time I went in, she massaged and pricked my left glute and sacrum for most of the time and I got off her table without pain for the first time in months. Very cool. (207) 985-5177.  Worth the drive.

I do have to say, though, Bella was a nightmare with her sleeping for 2 years. We co-slept. She night-nursed. I nursed her to sleep. Now, she is a comfortable, confident little girl. She goes to sleep easily in her own bed and sleeps through the night. I really feel like all of that nighttime parenting time that we put in with her paid off. She has no issues with sleep. We don’t fight her to go to bed. She does rise at the crack of dawn, but she’s out every night by seven. We’ll get there one day, Jude.

Kudos to all of the parents out there doing the hardest job in the world. I heard people say that before I had kids and thought they were exaggerating. Ha! I thought a lot of things before I had kids…