While we were counting down to the end of 2018 and ushering in a new year, I started to reflect back on the year that was and what were my defining moments in 2018. And oddly enough, a podcast was at the centre of my most notable transformation!
How is this so? Here is the podcast which started it all: ESPN’s 30 for 30 podcast, hosted by Jody Avirgan.
30 For 30 are extremely well crafted and professionally produced sport documentaries that explore the broadest range of stories, from America’s favourite past-time to the shady world of professional gambling. I consider myself a sport fan, and there have been obscure topics that I’ve never heard of and it’s been these stories which have been the most enjoyable for me, due to how enlightened it has left me after hearing it being told in the 30 for 30 way. I think those who aren’t into sports will find 30 for 30 a worthwhile listen, because it’ll leave you more informed afterwards; and regardless of the topic being explored the episodes have been entertaining due to 30 for 30’s ability to tell a compelling story, and because each podcast production are near masterpieces (tight narrations, edge of your seat re-telling, and fantastic accompanying music).
In season 3, all 5 episodes were devoted to an in-depth exploration into Bikram yoga (Hot yoga), and it’s now shamed founder Bikram Choudhury. Julia Lowrie Henderson the reporter who worked on the story for more than a year, was once an Instructor in Bikhram yoga, and thus able to report from an insider’s point of view the rise and fall of Bikram, the yoga revolution that he built, and give a voice to his victims who had admired and trusted him, but as he built up their bodies he ruined their lives.
It’s compelling listening, although difficult at times, as there are serious issues being explored and to take in, say during a morning commute to work. But if you’ve heard bits and pieces of this in the news/social media, and you’re interested to find-out the truth behind all the accusations/ rumours, check it out!
For episode summaries, transcripts, and links to all 5 episodes please visit:
However this still doesn’t explain why this podcast and specifically these 5 episodes resulted in the most defining change for me in 2018?
I’m sure Julia’s last intension when crafting her piece, was to inspire someone to take up Bikram yoga at this point in time (as in fact trainees were leaving in the droves). However for me it did just that.
It was after episode 1 hearing how gruelling and demanding the 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises were (and being a bit of a masochist) I started to wonder how difficult can this training actually be? And there were testimonials of the health benefits from the practice, I wondered if it could change my life as well?
So motivated by these 2 drivers I started to read up on Bikhram yoga and found this great web-site which teaches in great detail the 26 postures and 2 breathing techniques, and lists out all the health benefits associated to each (the list of health benefits reads like it’s going to cure cancer and make you into Superman/woman, but I think tone it down 75% and there are definitely some health benefits there). If you’re interested to check it out, here is the link:
I approached the learning process by taking things slowly at first, by only learning 2 new techniques per day and slowly building up to the full 90 minute workout (which took around 2 weeks to build up to it). And Maggie Grove also helped me out a lot.
You might be wondering, “Who’s Maggie? A friend of yours?” No no….. I wish though….. Maggie lives on the other side of the world in LA! Although for around a 3 month period, Maggie was at our place each day leading my workouts. Oh yes, I should mention that Maggie was leading my workouts from our TV. *Smile*.
If after listening to the pod, exploring the postures/benefits, and you’re at the stage to take action (and you don’t mind the concept of learning/practicing from the comfort of your own home); just click on the Youtube link below. And in moments Maggie’s sultry voice will be greeting you…. Before she breaks you. Haaha.
Or alternatively, just ask your Google assistant to “Play Bikram yoga 90 minute work-out on Youtube., and in seconds you’re off and running (or standing still and doing the first breathing exercise). All you need in terms of space and equipment is a towel (if you have carpeted floors) and enough floor space where you’re able to lie down and do a snow angel without cracking your limbs on furniture. **You’ll probably need a proper padded yoga mat or a rug if you have tile or wooden floorboards, as you’ll be spending at least 45 minutes lying on the floor.
It’s not totally essential to have Maggie/Youtube casted or HDMI to your TV (as over time you just need the audio instructions from Maggie to lead your training); however it’ll help to be able to see what’s going on when you’re first learning. Besides, it’s quite inspiring to see the chick in the front row do the postures like she was made from elastic (as that could be you one day!). While if you’re not as fit/flexible as her, at 60mins into the work-out seeing the buff dude sweat like a pig….. That is also very comforting to know that someone else is suffering as badly as you are. Haaha.
And after 3 months, you’ll become so familiar with the 26/2, that you can try doing your 90 minute workout without Maggie (only if you’re not going to develop separation anxiety from Ms Grove). The benefits of being able to lead your own practice, is that there is flexibility in being able to do your yoga away from your TV. When I achieved this level of familiarity I was able to take my yoga onto the road (being on holidays didn’t stop me practicing my yoga); and without needing to listen to Maggie’s prompts, I was able to use that time to listen to music or podcasts so incorporating 2 passions into a very enjoyable 90 minute ‘Me time’ per day.
So 9 months on since I first started on this journey, where am I at? Have I seen any health benefits? And how difficult is Bikhram yoga?
To answer the last question first, yeah, it was definitely difficult at first. As your body is going to ache all over, as you’re using muscles and placing your body into postures that you’ve never asked your body to do before. But once you get over the initial pain of it (perhaps 4 weeks), it only becomes easier and easier.
And what benefits have I experienced?
Here is a list:
Flexibility– my flexibility has definitely improved, when I first started I was unable to touch my toes. These days I can reach several inches past them.
Core strength– I’m able to sit a lot straighter now (I used to be a horrible sloucher), and I used to get back pain from sitting too much at work. But these days I no longer have this problem as the first 10 minutes focuses on stretching and strengthening your back so all tension from a day is released after the first handful of postures.
Lean muscle– from practicing the 26 postures which stimulate every muscle group in your body, I definitely have more lean muscle in my arms, legs, back, butt and stomach now. Pretty much everywhere, even in my neck. Haaha.
Energy– I always feel more energised after a workout, although most days my mind asks if we really need to do this. But I always feel much better because of it.
Balance– this has definitely improved as my balance was really crap to start with.
Calmness– if I feel anxious these days, I take a few deep breaths (which you perform throughout your training) and I always feel more relaxed afterwards.
Waistline– and I’ve lost a pant size or two, however I changed my diet at the same time as taking up yoga, so it can’t be completely contributed to yoga alone.
So after 8 months of practicing Bikhram yoga, I really do feel much better because of it! If you’re able to decouple the man from the yoga, there are definite benefits of continuing on with the practice, or taking it up for the first time! If you are spurred to action from this post, please hit me up in 8-9 months time, as I’d love to hear how Hot yoga has change your health and life as well!