Using Your Yoga Mat As A Stretcher!Posted on: August 6th, 2014 by Ben Gonzalez
Hot yoga is so hot right now. In more ways than one. And most popular in recent years is Bikram Yoga. Founded by the brother of Paramahansa Yoganandi (who himself founded the Self Realization Fellowship. Angelinos know what I’m talking about.Based in Mt. Washington? In that awesome Golden Age of Hollywood mansion-turned-monastery? Overlooks the Los Angeles skyline. Off the 110? No… dang… Well, if you’re local you should go visit. Google search it. I can tell you the entire history of that place and how I came to posses such knowledge at the risk of continuing to suddenly break from my point to give a brief history of this pseudo-religion founded by an Indian expat who combined elements of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity into one easy-to-digest all in one philosophy emphasizing connection between the self and the all…. <deeeeeeeep breath> but I digress. Ahem…
Bikram is a form of hot Hatha Yoga where you step into a room at about 110 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity at about 40%. It’s hot. It’s not comfy, exactly. But it’s so popular that it’s become the go-to for an insurmountable amount of rush hour survivors and people looking for an intense set of 26 sequenced postures guided and standardized in the same duration of 90 minutes per class. This is more like an intense 90-minute set of heavy weight lifting than it is a 90 minute session with dim lights, burning nag champa, and new age soundscapes playing in the background . When the class is done, you are soaked and using your yoga mat as a stretcher. You become a purge of your own sweat and misery. The latter of particular importance as evidence from previous clinical studies showed that Hatha Yoga may have anti-depressant benefits.
Massachussetts General Hospital is currently pursuing a pilot trial to study the effectiveness of Bikram Yoga as a treatment for depression. While it’s been known to many from personal experience, Dr. Maren Nyer, director of Yoga Research in the MGH Depression Clinical and Research Program notes that Hot Yoga “…appears to be a promising treatment for depression.” She notes that hot yoga provides both mindfulness and intense exercise, both known to be effective treatments of major depressive disorder.
While this is a pilot trial of an actual clinical study, Hot Yoga enthusiasts should rejoice that not only is it great exercise, but it’s very likely that, as the the earliest trial currently show, practitioners are far less likely to develop major depressive disorders. One could assume it’s the constant exercise and serotonin production thereof that is a contributing factor into this. However, I think it’s partly the discipline that has to be assimilated in order to do this regularly. I tried it twice and decide that if I can pick and choose which I will engage in regularly, I was too much of a wimp to stick with the Hot Yoga as my regular routine. Instead, I chose daily 2k runs and 90 minute weight lifting routines. Although I love my yoga mat, Hot Yoga is just too hot for me to handle.