Week 2 Recap: Bikram Yoga Teacher Training in Thailand

Week two was probably both the fastest and shortest week of my life. It zoomed by in a jiffy  compared to week one but four days of lecture ending around 12:30am and even one long early morning 3:30am dismissal tried my patience and good spirits time and time again. In my regular life I usually like to lay my head down to rest around 10 or 11 at night. So with no choice but to stay up extremely beyond my normal bedtime to listen to lecture and watch Bollywood videos (The Boss’s favorites!) and still wake up 7:30am for morning yoga class every day of the week,  left me irritated, confused, frustrated and  itchy (attack of the mosquitoes…again !). Wednesday’s insanely long 3:30am ending was my breaking point. 

But of course this is Bikram Yoga Teacher Training taught by The Boss himself,  Bikram Choudhary,  so there’s a method to his madness,  a lesson in every action, an A-ha moment waiting to be unveiled. Week 2 of Bikram Yoga Teacher Training broke me down mentally and rebuilt  my mind using Terminator strength. 

Please Dont Take Away My Precious Sleep Boss

Wednesday night, week 2: After 3 hours of lecture on the topic of humanity and spirituality,  the time was 1am. Most of the 333 of us fellow yoga trainees were struggling to keep our eyes open. So when The Boss announced a ten minute break and then resume to watching a Bollywood love story film at 1am, our jaws must have dropped 5 feet below the ground in total shock and disbelief. But we had “no choice” – a phrase Boss and staff uses so often,  you’d think it was going  out of style.

So we complied, we snacked on late night munchies like ice cream,  cookies,  chips,  candy and drank coffee all in an attempt to stay alert during the movie. All that sugar and caffeine in my body only made me tired and bloated. I watched the first 3 quartets of the movie then my eyes gave up and shut themselves in peace until after the movie was over. Damn I missed the ending. 

Despite not knowing how the movie wrapped,  I was elated to get to my room in record time to lay my head on my snuggly soft pillow.  Before dozing off, negative thoughts boiled in my mind such as:

. Wow I can’t believe he took away my sleep just to watch a dumb movie. Soooo not right!

. Is this how the rest of the 7 weeks will go?? I don’t know if I’m cut out for this

.  He’s torturing us keeping us up so late.  How evil and inconsiderate.

. Eating all that crap just to stay up failed miserably.  If I gain weight at the end of this 9 weeks it will sorely put a damper on my spirits. 

Then I closed my eyes, slept a few hours, woke up zombie like, put on my sports bra and yoga shorts and headed to the hot room around 8am Thursday morning.  Class began 30 minutes later and as I sweated through each posture stretching and flexing and deep breathing, the most amazing thing began to happen: I slowly gained energy at the completion of each posture. 26 postures later I felt like a brand new woman: recharged, rejuevenated,  reenergized, rebuilt.  This renewed, vibrate person painted my persona for the whole day which didn’t end until after midnight. 

I was amazed at what my body was able to do off such little sleep.  The Boss brags to us how he stays up until 5am watching Bollywood movies with his staff.  He generally gets 2 to 3 hours of sleep each night and teaches us five days a week boosting the amount of energy it takes to  light the Staples Center.  Looking back at the negative thoughts that satiated my mind 3:45am Wed morning I learned many life lessons:

1. Sometimes in life, we have “no choice”. In such moments, instead of pouting and stressing over it, it’s best to use positive energy,  and go with the flow. In such moments when we let go and just allow things to take its natural course is when we learn valuable lessons. 

2.  You are as strong as what you allow your mind to believe.  Because I believed I wouldn’t be able to stay up for the movie,  I allowed myself to overload my body with sugar and processed foods which only failed me and proved what I was thinking in the first place: I can’t stay up.  Lesson: whether you succeed or fail is the doing of the mind.

3. Sometimes we have to be broken down in order to be built up. Bikram took away our sleep to get us out of our comfortable place and learn to adjust to what is not normal for us. After the 3:30am experience,  I now feel like I can handle any obstacle that comes my way. 

The Boss has a way of doing things.  He gives us “no choice” and tells us to “trust the process” time and time again.  Usually I just follow along because it’s what all 333 of us yoga teacher trainees are expected to do.  But after Wednesday night I realize why he tells us these things.  So much doubt,  fear, and limitations we put on ourselves when we have a choice to say no or not follow thru with the hard tasks in life. But by trusting the process we are trusting in ourselves to tackle life successfully.  Each and everytime.

Bikram Choudhary is a genius!  Week two was a much needed mental workout for me and fellow yogis. I am so grateful for my experience thus far. Looking forward to week 3. Follow along with me as I continue to blog my experience at Bikram Yoga Teacher Training in beautiful Khaolak Thailand. 

Namaste.

Bikram Yoga 30 Day Challenge: Days 25 -30

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Ladies and gentlemen it’s a wrap.  My 30 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge has come to its completion.  I have successfully practiced Bikram yoga 30 consecutive days – that’s 90 minutes, 105 degree temperature, 26 postures, for 30 days straight.

accomplishment

You may think I’m crazy but boy I feel so good!  Mentally, physically, I feel like I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.  It’s the best feeling.  Check out my journal for days 25 – 30 below.  And if you haven’t yet done so, start with days 1 – 24 by going here, here, here, and here.

Today’s post is my journal for days 25 – 30.  But for the grand finale and summary on my experience, the good, the bad, the ugly, pictures of me from day 30 compared to day 1, weight and body transformation, and my future with Bikram yoga and more…then click here for where I recap everything — with selfies! (pics of myself).  And please please please post your comments below.  I want to hear from you!

Day 25 – Monday 7/22/13

“Health can be instantly improved simply by changing your mood .”

The teacher said this in class today and it instantly made me adjust the stank expression I had imprinted on my face.  Sometimes when we put the body in new, challenging positions, the face can express the discomfort and apprehension we may feel in our thoughts.

We may grind our teeth, hold our breath, scrunch up the face, or just mean-mug.  These negative expressions affect the body’s ability to perform the pose as efficiently and as deeply as you can possibly go in the posture.

By simply smiling and breathing through the nose, it allows the body to flow through the poses and you end up performing much better and enjoying the experience.  The quote is deep, I believe it.

Other activity done for the day:  n/a

 

Day 26 – Tuesday 7/23/13

6am class, bright and early, barely made class in time but super glad I did.  The teacher shared with the class her wonderful weekend experience working with a Bikram Yoga expert teacher who has been practicing yoga for over 30 years.  My teacher incorporated some tips during our class and wow, it added quite a change to my practice.

Two of the biggest takeaways learned:

1. Hold in the stomach – always.  It is important to keep the core engaged for support, posture and to help build the core muscles.  I definitely felt and saw the definition in my stomach the next day.  Powerful.

2. Tuck in the butt/hips to keep the spine straight.  As a woman with extra junk in the truck, the lower spine is left bent where the lower back meets the crack of the butt. Often referred to as “duck butt”.   This can prevent one from fully stretching the length of the spine and reaping the full benefits of each pose.

The solution is to tuck in the butt/hips which then rolls in the lower stomach so that the spine is as straight as possible from top to bottom.  Not to mention, this helps to tone and shape the butt and lower abdomen. I try to tuck in my hips and engage my core muscles as often as I remember throughout the entire day, not just in yoga class.

Being aware of these two changes have changed my practice in a promising way.  My core area is a bit sore after each class which is a sign that extra toning is going on there.  Plus it makes me feel good to know that I am practicing each pose the correct way.  It is always smart to learn new perspectives and implement them to improve your practice.

My teacher has been practicing for over 10 years and it blew her mind that weekend to learn new tips that will potentially take her Bikram yoga practice to a whole new level.

Other activity done for the day:  30 minute at home cardio workout

Day 27 – Wednesday 7/24/13

Look at this photo:

Deep back-bending

Can you believe the spine can bend so deeply?  Who knew how flexible the spine really is.  I’m sure it took years for the girl in the photo to be able to go into such a deep backward bend in which her pointed fingers are merely inches away from touching the ground below her.  Quite amazing.  I wonder how bendy I’ll be after practicing consistently for a couple years?  Trips me out just thinking about it.

Click on the photo above to read about the benefits back-bending has on the spine and the wonders it can do for back pain.

Other activity done for the day:  30 minute park workout: running, jumping jacks, lunges, mountain climbers

Day 28 – Thursday 7/25/13

As I have increased my commitment to Bikram Yoga because of this challenge and have seen the wonderful benefits it has bestowed upon me physically and mentally, I couldn’t help but wonder about the celebrities who practice Bikram Yoga.  Celebrities tend to stay on top of the latest health and fitness craze and Bikram yoga is no exception.

Here is a short list of celebrities who love Bikram Yoga!

Jennifer Aniston –  (helped her heal over the Brad Pitt divorce)

George Clooney –  (practices whenever he is near a Bikram studio, even while traveling)

Madonna – (credits Bikram Yoga as a powerful and positive force in her life)

Lady Gaga

 “Yoga makes me feel like I can do anything…yoga heals me…” – Lady Gaga

David Beckham (arguably has one of the best soccer bodies in the game)

Beyonce (my birthday twin!) she was quoted as saying:

“Every time I do yoga, I want to cry. … By the end of the class your body can do things it couldn’t do in the beginning so you feel accomplished and emotional. It’s therapeutic.” – Beyonce

Ashton Kutcher (probably how he always seems to have lots of energy)

Demi Moore (says the heat helps her body detoxify)

Jenny McCarthy (lost 65 lbs post-baby by practicing 3 times per week)

Matthew McConaughey (my celebrity crush)

Carmen Electra (yoga is how she keeps her hot shape)

Carmen Electra - Standing Bow Pose

Carmen Electra – Standing Bow Pose

Other activity done for the day:  20 minute at-home workout: situps, pushups, planks

Day 29 – Friday 7/26/13

I realized in class today that I have a half marathon coming up in about 9 weeks and I have not yet started training.

I’m kind of behind as I usually like to allow 12 weeks to train.  But it’s all good, I’ll finish out this 30 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge then focus on my running schedule.  Out of guilt, I ran for about a half hour today.  Felt good.

Other activity done for the day:  33 minute run

Day 30 – Saturday 7/27/13

Last day of the challenge!!! I walked into the yoga studio with a huge grin on my face knowing that in 90 minutes, I would be done with my challenge.

On day one, 30 days seemed like forever.  But now that I am at the end of my journey, it seems like it breezed by.  Nevertheless, I am excited to have set a goal and accomplish it.

Furthermore, blogging about it on a weekly basis helped me to stay on tracj because of all the questions and cheers I was receiving from you all.  Thank you for the support, it kept me motivated especially on the days I wanted to sleep in instead of sweat.

I love the people at Bikram Yoga College of India Oakland.  Each day, they check in with me to see what day I am on and their eyes widen with excitement when I tell them about my journey.  In all of my years of working out at gyms and other group settings, I have never felt like I was part of a family until now.  Bikram Yoga Oakland has the most down-to-earth, friendly, interesting people – I feel like I’m at home when I go to class and see familiar smiley faces greeting me. 

Other activity done for the day:  45 minute run, 45 minute walk

Again, click here for my Bikram Yoga 30 Day Challenge recap where I talk about the good, the bad, the ugly, body transformation, and my future practicing Bikram Yoga.  Is there a 100 day challenge in the works?  

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Chika Obih is a certified holistic nutrition consultant; blogger; and founder of Chika Obih Wellness based in Oakland, CA and offers services virtually, in-person or by phone.  Chika is passionate about empowering people to take charge of their own health utilizing the power of wholesome, clean foods and fun holistic lifestyle solutions.  Contact Chika today to set up your free consultation.

Follow Chika on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

22 Reasons to Exercise Regularly

exercise_in the zoneExercise is a key component in any healthy lifestyle.  For me, exercise is not an option.  I am intentionally active at least 4-5 days a week.  On “rest days” I am still pretty active because I take stairs instead of the elevator to the second floor of my apartment building multiple times a day.  I also walk my errands when time allows — including a nice stroll to the local Farmer’s Market each Saturday morning.  For me, a life without exercise and physical activity would debilitate my mind, body and soul.  I’d be less effective and far less successful in my life both professionally and socially.

Exercise offers far more benefits then the 22 listed below.  Use this list as inspiration to prioritize regular exercise and physical activity into your daily schedule.

22 Benefits of Regular Exercise

1.  Burn excess body fat, helping to decrease and control weight.

2.  Improve body’s use of insulin to help manage blood sugar levels.

3.  For Type 2 Diabetics:  with moderate exercise, the muscles take up glucose at almost 20 TIMES the normal rate, lowering blood sugar levels substantially!

4.  Improve muscle strength.

5.  Lowers blood pressure levels

6.  Helps to protect against heart and blood vessel disease by lowering bad LDL cholesterol and increasing healthy HDL cholesterol.

7.  Decreases risk of cardiovascular disease and lowers unhealthy triglycerides.

8.  Can help prevent or manage stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, certain types of cancer, arthritis and falls.

9.  Improves mood by stimulating various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. 

10.  Helps you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep.

11.  Puts the spark back into your sex life! Leaves you feeling energized and looking better, which may have a positive effect on your sex life.

12.  Improves blood circulation and reduces risk of heart disease.

13.  Increases energy level and enhances work capacity.

14.  Reduces stress, promotes relaxation, releases tension and anxiety.

15.  Improves self-confidence.

16.  Delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps cardiovascular system work more efficiently therefore boosting energy.

17.  Reduces depression and anxiety.

18.  Strength training helps people manage diabetes and improves muscle gain, reduces body fat, depression and improves self-esteem.

19.  Exercise 3-4 times per week for 30-60 minutes each.  Ideally, working out everyday is the ultimate goal. 

20.  Exercise is FUN!  Enjoy the outdoors, relax and unwind, or simply engage in activities that make you happy!

21.  Promotes spending time with family or friends in a fun social setting.

22.  Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have health concerns.

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Click here to get juicy food and life notes straight from Chika to your inbox!

Chika Obih is a certified holistic nutrition consultant; blogger; and founder of Soul-Wholesome Nutrition based in Oakland, CA and offers services virtually, in-person or by phone.  Chika is passionate about empowering people to take charge of their own health utilizing the power of wholesome, clean foods and fun holistic lifestyle solutions.  Contact Chika today to set up your free consultation.

Follow Chika on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

7 Tips to Increase Energy Naturally

I often get asked the question “How do I get more energy?”  In an age where we tend to work long hours even when away from the office, we find it hard to power down and give our bodies the rest it deserves. In fact a recent survey showed employees spend an extra 7 hours working on mobile devices outside of regular work hours.   This non-stop, always-tuned-in behavior can leave us feeling tired, irritated, and lightweight depressed all before 12 noon! If this sounds like you, then this article should help you get your mojo back — without dependency on coffee or other addictive stimulants.

1. Protein Power

Protein should be eaten at every meal for multiple reasons.  For one, without protein, blood sugar can spike and drop quickly leaving you with cravings for sugar at 3pm in the afternoon. No wonder why you keep making trips to the 5Bucks across the street. Save your money and skip the sugar crash by eating 20-30g of protein per meal and 10-15g per snack. Pair protein with healthy fats and starches for the ultimate energy boost.  Try these protein-packed lunch ideas.

2. Exercise

Get active if you want to boost your energy. It may sound counter-intuitive but studies show that exercise boosts energy levels in even those who suffer from chronic fatigue issues.  Exercise gets the blood pumping and boosts endorphins, the “feel good” hormones.  If you are sedentary  start moving by walking 15-30 minutes  during lunch breaks.  Any bit of activity will help with energy and clear brain fog. Need exercise ideas?  Try here.

3. Don’t Go Hungry

The fastest way to get the energy knocked from you is to go hungry for too long.  I’ve known people who refrain from eating all day and when they get home from work, they are ravenous and irritable. They end up eating waayyy more than they should because the body is trying to make up for the starvation it incurred earlier.  This is how people gain weight: starving themselves therefore slowing metabolism.   Don’t let this be you.  Start your mornings by eating something even if just a cup of herbal tea and boiled egg. By eating before hunger strikes, blood sugar will level out thus stabilizing energy and boosting mood.  Not to mention, metabolism will increase thus helping with weight loss. Try to eat every 3-4 hours to get ahead of hunger.

4. Refrain from Coffee

So many of you think that coffee is the way to gain magical energy.  Sadly it is not a quick-fixer and in fact can cause major adrenal fatigue issues for those whose bodies are sensitive to the affects of caffeine. Not only that, but coffee energizes you than deflates you about 3-5 hours after. Hence why many people drink multiple cups per day — to keep the high going.  Coffee also affects your sleep in the worst way causing restlessness and keeping you from entering deep, RIM sleep which leaves you groggy, tired, and reaching for that morning cup of Joe to get the day started.  Vicious cycle.

If you are addicted to coffee consider a plan to reduce your intake.  If you are looking for coffee alternatives, try black or green tea for 1/3 the caffeine + anti-oxidants.  Green tea has been shown to improve weight loss and increase brain power without the jitters.  If you apply all 7 tips you may soon learn that you don’t NEED coffee to function.  A cup here and there for exercise performance or just for the taste is totally okay as long as there is no dependence.

5. Say “NO” to Energy Drinks

Similar to coffee, energy drinks are not only addictive, they also tend to contain loads of caffeine, sugar and artificial chemicals.  These ingredients may be doing more harm than good in the long run as this article shows how energy drinks cause seizures.  The sugar content alone should be enough reason to refrain from consumption.  An 8 ounce serving of Monster Energy Drink has a whopping 27g of sugar! That’s equivalent to nearly 7 teaspoons of sugar in just that cup.  Crazy enough, Monster drinks come in 16 ounce cans.  When is the last time you drank just half a can?  Do yourself a favor and skip the sugar spikes and lows which ultimately leads to increased hunger and fat gain.

6. Drink More water & less alcohol

Alcohol is a depressant and quickly sucks the life out of you.  How many times have you woke up after a fun night of drinking feeling beat down to the bones?  Blame it on the alcohol.  Reduce alcohol intake to just 1-2 servings a few times a week or less and increase intake of water.  Not only does dehydration create false hunger pangs, it can also exacerbate fatigue.  So sip on water consistently throughout the day and limit alcohol intake to beat low energy.

7. Get More Sleep

Sleep is important to reset, recharge and rejuvenate the body to begin the next day on a high note.  For those who believe the quote, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” you may be headed toward that state sooner than you think.  Lack of sleep can cause obesity and other health ailments which can shorten one’s lifespan.  Sounds like the new mantra should be “sleep more, live longer.” Promote adequate, deep sleep by dimming down lights, powering down your computer and phone at lease one hour before bedtime.  Taking an epsom salt bath, reading, and relaxing right before bed can improve overall sleep quality.

Implement these 7 strategies to boost energy today.

What are actions you take to increase and maintain energy levels throughout the day?  Share your thoughts in the comments.