5 Best Things about Bikram Yoga: Fitness Friday

Summer is in full swing, and while you have undoubtedly already made a few trips to the beach or the pool, it’s not too late to get into gear and get the body and tone you want.  Fitness expert, Bikram yoga instructor and owner of Bikram Yoga Andersonville in Chicago., Jessica Rask, says that Bikram yoga can put you on the fast-track to bikini body bliss. “Because Bikram is done in a 105-degree room with approximately 40% humidity, you sweat a great deal more than you would with other exercises, allowing the body to detoxify on a cellular level, ensuring all of your organs are working in optimal condition” she says. “Over time Bikram yoga can really help take inches off your waist, hips and thighs, while building muscle tone all over. Photo (above) via Pure Bikram Hot Yoga
Here are the 5 best things about Bikram Yoga via Jessica:
  1. All you need for yoga is a spine!  Bikram Yoga is an all levels class. Everyone can practice and feel comfortable doing so.  No matter what is happening with your body, you can come to class.  Bikram says you are never too old, too sick, or too injured to start from scratch again.  And it’s true!  The saddest moment for me, as a teacher, is hearing someone say they cannot come to class because of a broken toe, wrist, leg, etc.  Yoga is therapy!  It is so wonderful to watch our students practice ESPECIALLY when they are working through a physical ailment.  I have taught class to a young woman in a half leg cast, a first time student who had torn her ACL two weeks prior, broken wrists, herniated discs, MS, RA, you name it!  This specific style of yoga can be pivotal in the healing process for bodily injuries.
  2. In Bikram Yoga, it is not the teacher’s decision what to teach.  We perform the same 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises every class.  There is beauty in repetition.  Due to this stipulation in the Bikram Yoga class, you are assured your entire body is worked from top to bottom (i.e., the teacher cannot focus on forward bends or arm balancing, just because it is what they like)!  Over time, this repetition becomes your constant in an ever changing life.  You always know you can come to class and meditate in this beautiful dance that is the 26 and 2.
  3. Although we practice the same 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises, the body is always different so no class is ever the same!  Many times, I will hear students walk in and say they expect to have a hard time in class, only to have the best class ever on the mat!
  4. Over time, as one becomes more in tune with his or her body, it is easier to identify if something is off.  Because we do not provide hands on adjustments or demonstrate the postures, the student becomes very in tune with what is happening inside.  This is so important to a person’s well-being!  I have had students come to me and say they credit this yoga to knowing something was wrong inside and gone on to identify cancer in its very early stages….life saving!
  5. SWEATING…no need to extrapolate.

picture (above) is Jessica and thank you Jessica for contribution on this post.

Fitness Friday: Hot 2012 Yoga Trends

Welcome to my new Friday column, “Fashion Friday” where I’ll be sharing the latest and greatest information and tips to inspire, help and share my passion for fitness. To kick off this Friday, here are some Top Yoga Trends:

1. Paddleboard Yoga-This outdoor yoga class has peaked my eyes for a while. It looks like an incredible workout in general and awesome for the abs. If there’s a way to find balance and be outdoors at the same time, I am in.

2. Yoga-Spinning-Often called, “Zen on Wheels, ” I can’t think of two more fun exercises that are more fun complement each other. A 30 minute spin class followed by a 30 minute yoga class sounds like a great calorie burning and great combination that I am ready to try.

3. Hot Yoga/Bikram-Although I am a longtime fan for over 8 years, hot yoga is getting even “hotter” every day. Ninety minutes in a heated room will change your body and your life. I am thrilled Bikram Yoga Birmingham has come to Birmingham, and the more I go, the better I feel. Anyone can do this. Just try it, and be patient.

4. Yoga and Weight Lifting-Featured in this month’s Women’s Health Magazine, this routine, created by a New York instructor, combines upper-body strength exercises into a fast-paced circuit with yoga breathing. I think we are going to be seeing a lot more of these combined exercises.

Photo via Pinterest

How to Choose a Yoga Mat

I am so lucky to have Jennifer Berman, Owner of Jennifer Berman Corporate Yoga, as a friend. She is always there to answer all of my yoga questions. I was in desperate need for a yoga mat, and she was a wealth of knowledge. I thought I would share my interview with her recently. If you’re considering a new yoga mat or curious about the differences, read on. For more information on Jennifer, see  Jennifer Berman Corporate Yoga.

1. Why is a yoga mat important?

A good  yoga mat will provide you with cushioning and traction for your yoga practice.

2. What should you look for in a yoga mat?

Just like most things, the type of mat people prefer is a personal preference. I have tried just about every type of mat, and my preference is a basic, no frills mat. The basic mats are lightweight, easy to carry and provide enough cushion for most people. The more expensive mats, like “Manduka“, are thicker, have extra cushioning and provide more of a textured non-slip surface. If you have knee issues, you might choose a thicker mat. Also, when you choose a mat, you might select an eco-friendly mat that is free from PVC or latex. If you do Bikram or Hot Vinyasa Flow, then a Yogitoes Skidless towel is helpful for slipping and to absorb sweat.

3. What is your favorite brand?

I like Gaim and Hugger Mugger.

4. How do you clean yoga mats?

The thinner mats can be put in the washing machine on gentle cycle with a mild detergent. In fact, when I first get my mat, I put it in the wash to get rid of slickness and any rubbery odor. You can also make a simple water/vinegar spray that is a natural antibacterial spray using 1 part warm water and 3 parts white vinegar. Spray the mat, wipe it down with a sponge or towel, and hang your mat outside to dry.

5. How should you store a yoga mat? hung up? rolled? why?

If your mat is dry, then it’s fine rolled up. However if you sweat a lot, make sure you wipe it down each time you practice yoga and then hang it to dry.

6. What is your favorite thing about teaching corporate yoga?

I love bringing health and wellness to people that normally would not have time to get to a yoga class. It is so rewarding to watch my students transform their overall well-being.

7. If you could purchase any yoga mat, which would it be?

I like the Gaim Eco Reversible Yoga Mat (pictured below). It’s not too thick, it’s versatile and it’s made from nontoxic TPE, which contains no PVC or latex.

From Alison: The Breathe mat (pictured above) is my new favorite a mat and towel all-in-one which is so easy to wash.

Top Fitness Trends of 2011

I’m so excited to introduce a new addition to my site called “Lifestyle”. In this section, I will be writing about fitness, healthy living, health, nutrition and more. I am so excited about this opportunity as I will be taking my passion for a healthy lifestyle to a new level. This week my “Lifestyle” post is about fitness trends. I have been researching and talking to many fitness professionals to determine what I think are going to be the Top 10 Fitness Trends of 2011. Please let me know if you have some ideas of your own.


1. Yoga-Different styles of yoga are becoming mainstream, and more people are catching on to the physical and mental benefits of yoga. I personally love “Bikram” (hot yoga). See information on corporate yoga (below).

2. Strength Training-More and more data explains the importance of strength training. There’s a strong trend of sports specific training for kids, teens and adults. Group training is also even becoming more popular because of the reductions of personal training costs.

3. Core Workouts-Workouts focusing on the core are trending with ball workouts, plank workouts, water core workouts and horizontal workouts.

4. Spin Cycling classes-Indoor cycling classes are really taking off. You can ride at your own level, get a great workout and sweat, and do it even if it’s dark or rough weather. Warning, it really revs up the appetite.

5. Bootcamp Workouts-Personal trainers, as well as, gyms are having more group style mix-it-up workout classes that are tough challenges to the body.

6. Interval Training-High interval training classes (HIT) are becoming very popular this year as well as interval training in all sports such as running, cycling and swimming. You can burn a lot of fat in a short amount of time with this type of workout.

8. Yoga Spinning-This combines yoga and spinning in one workout. I’ve haven’t tried this, but I hear the two go together like a “yin and yang” combining stretching and strengthening all in one. It sounds fun to cycle to new age music.

9. Piloxing-This new celebrity craze combines the power, speed and agility of boxing with the sculpting of pilates. I can’t wait to try this.

10. Body Weight Workouts-Workouts using your body weight are becoming hot. My friend, Sandra, Owner of “Fuel Plus Fitness”, specializes and is the founder of “Horizontal Conditioning”. This is a challenging workout that creates a lean sculpted body. She has DVD’s of her workouts as well as ball videos.

Note: The photo above was taken by Joseph DeSciose of my friend, Jennifer Berman, Owner of Jennifer Berman Corporate Yoga. Jennifer travels around with her mat in tow to business offices such as law firms and corporations. She brings a yoga mind and strong workout to the corporate world.