Spring is a beautiful time but for many of us a tough time because of seasonal allergies. Guess what? Bikram can help with that...A lot!!!
Spring means budding flowers, blooming trees and, if you're one of the millions of North Americans who have seasonal allergies, sneezing, congestion, a runny nose and other annoying symptoms. These reactions (also known as hay fever and allergic rhinitis) can no doubt make you miserable. Bikram Yoga may be able to help.
While evidence that a hot-yoga practice can relieve the symptoms of hay fever is, thus far, purely anecdotal (i.e., it hasn't yet been scientifically or medically proven), online testimonials from Bikram Yogis indicate that regular stints in the studio this season may help to relieve some of their symptoms:
"I find that the humidity in [Bikram] Yoga really helps clear up the sinuses. But I've heard that some people find their allergies worse in humidity, so it depends on the individual. For me it helps that the breathing exercises force you to breathe through your nose. Yoga helps get rid of the general stress and misery of being itchy, stuffy and sneezy all summer." Another stuffed-up practitioner says: "I have been doing [Bikram] Yoga since college and I love the way that it can relax my body. Yoga is great for stress relief."
In fact, many experts point to stress as a factor that can actually worsen your allergies by causing "physiological responses, including the release of stress hormones and histamines." A stress reaction can also trigger inflammation. According to some doctors, relaxation - which diminishes the "fight-or-flight" response, may be the answer: "Through relaxation, the nervous system basically tells the immune system to hold its fire. Once the immune system backs off, the inflammation and mucus decrease, and symptoms diminish."
While most longtime practitioners will tell you that Bikram Yoga constitutes their daily dose of relaxation in a big way, some beginners may find getting used to the heat and humidity - not to mention the challenging nature of the series - a little less than laid back (at least for the first little while). If this sounds like you and you also happen to suffer from seasonal allergies, you don't necessarily need to cut back on classes. Just start paying closer attention to how you're feeling while you practice. If you find your symptoms getting worse, this may be an indication that you need to ease up on some of the postures and be gentler with yourself in general, especially on days when you feel stuffed up. You may also want to heighten the level of relaxation you experience in class by concentrating more on your breathing, taking calm, slow, deep breaths by your nose throughout the 90 minutes; we're not kidding when we tell you let go of all your stress and leave it in the hot room!
Speaking of breathing, here's what one more seasonal allergy sufferer says about Bikram Yoga: "Simply the combination of heat, exertion and focus on breath allows me to clear my sinuses. Any exercise should help do something similar, but the heat and focus on breath in [Bikram] Yoga compounds that effect for me. I've also found yoga to be very good for my asthma, due to the disciplined breathing. My asthma tends to get worse when my allergies are bad, so that's another benefit.
For years now, I've heard the benefits of eating no sugar, from different people. I always thought it sounded too difficult or required too much discipline. This is why I want to share my experience with you, now after 6 weeks of consuming foods and drinks with no added sugar. It hasn't been as difficult as I expected, and the results, have been awesome!
I committed to 4 weeks of "no added sugar", meaning no foods or drinks with sugar, or any of it's incarnations, on the label. That means no sugar, honey, molasses, fructose, any syrup, agave, etc... I still ate foods with natural sugars, meaning fresh fruits and veggies, beans and even whole milk. So, this is not a NO sugar diet, which I wasn't sure I could actually handle. To give you an idea of my starting point here... I was having sugar in coffee (multiple times a day), eating granola and granola bars, ice cream or chocolate probably 5 nights a week. (Not great!)
That previous diet made the first 3 days ROUGH! I had headaches and wanted sweets more than I could believe. After that passed, I was just a little cranky for a week and a half. I didn't feel much different than before though... Good thing I committed to 4 weeks, otherwise I may have stopped there. At 2 and a half weeks, I had probably my best Bikram class in a year! I felt looser than I had been in a long time, and still strong. Then it happened in another class 3 weeks in, and I was sold on this dietary change.
Not all my classes have been fantastic, but I generally feel better than I have in a while! It's been almost 6 weeks since I started, and I am not looking back. Here's a quick list of my results:
As with any bigger dietary change, having a plan is helpful! I replaced a meal a day with a homemade smoothie (vegan protein powder, almond milk, pecans, some green veggie juice, cinnamon). I also brought food with me more. It's tougher to grab a quick meal and know that there's no sugar added. Most salad dressings have some sugar added, and I have yet to find a whole grain bread with no sweetener!
If you are considering a dietary change, know that the yoga is your friend. You practice your concentration, determination, and discipline every time you step on your mat. It will help you stick with your change. Then once you see the results start, the change is even easier to stick with!
Having Trouble Finding Fresh Produce in Bay Ridge? Yellow Hook CSA has Shares Available!
Two summers ago I moved to Bay Ridge from the suburbs and was shocked to find the lack of affordable fresh produce in our neighborhood. I had heard about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) before but wasn’t sure there was one operating in my area. An internet search led me to the Yellow Hook CSA which delivers local, very fresh, high quality produce that is completely organic right to Bay Ridge!
Each week for 22 weeks, members pickup their “share” at Our Saviour’s Church (80th and 4th) which contains a variety of veggies and fruit grown and picked that week on Garden of Eve farm in Long Island. In addition to paying for the share in advance, members are required to help at the distribution site one shift throughout the season. This entails a few hours one evening helping to organize the shares of produce and direct members when they come for their pickup.
If you are interested in signing up, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit yellowhookcsa.org and also see the flyer in the studio downstairs on the community board.