Lesley C. – profiled last spring with her mom and sister – is one of BYV’s regulars. A physiotherapist with Teamworks Health Clinic in Vancouver, she’s got some unique insight into what makes a healthy practice – one in which you stand to gain the full benefits of the series!
When and why did you decide to try Bikram Yoga?
I started Bikram Yoga about three-and-a-half years ago, in October 2009. I was having problems with extreme fatigue and my digestive system, and I wanted to see if yoga would help. I absolutely hated my first class – I thought I was going to die, it was so hot! I struggled to catch my breath, coax my body into unfamiliar positions and, most of all, fight my natural instinct to run out of the room. But I was totally hooked after my second go three days later … there’s something fascinating about seeing the differences in my body so quickly. My digestive system was improving and my fatigue was lessening. After three months of Bikram Yoga I noticed such unbelievable changes in my body that I was curious to see what I could improve next.
How often do you practise Bikram Yoga these days?
I practised very frequently as a beginner but have transitioned into a maintenance phase, practising about three times a week and making time for other physical activities that I enjoy, like swimming and hiking.
What are the some of the best benefits you’ve experienced from Bikram Yoga?
Despite being an athlete all my life, flexibility has been a bit elusive. However, through routine practice, I can now touch my toes for the first time in my life! I’ve also experienced increased energy and improved digestion – my two main concerns when I started Bikram Yoga – and have learned to use my breath to control my body and mind (a skill I now use in my daily life to manage stress).
As a physiotherapist, what benefits may be gained through regular practice of Bikram Yoga?
I think one of the major benefits is balance. Most people have muscular imbalances that, over time, lead to dysfunctional movement patterns – and ultimately pain. By helping to stretch overly tight muscles and strengthen the longer muscles, Bikram Yoga can bring the body back to peak physical function. The most important part is to learn how to work where your body is at rather than forcing yourself too deeply into the postures and losing the integrity of the form. If you change the postures, you are allowing your body to “cheat” and miss out on the full benefits. Focusing on alignment is critical and humbling because it often means you cannot go as deep, but will see greater benefits in the long run.
Are there any parallels between Bikram Yoga and physiotherapy? Do they complement each other?
One of the things that’s really nice about a combination of yoga and physiotherapy is that all of the focus is on returning one’s body to peak performance, whether that’s for elite athletics or playing with grandchildren. Additionally, when people have trouble progressing in a posture, they may compromise form for increased depth (I was guilty of that in the beginning). Often, this is because we aren’t sure what is preventing our progress – which muscles, joint alignment or mental block is limiting our depth. As a physiotherapist, I’ve learned to break down the poses biomechanically, which helps me know where my limitations are and how to focus on increasing my depth without collapsing into my body’s natural movement patterns.
It’s difficult for most yogis to know how to execute the postures when they’re injured or struggling with a particular area of the body. Sometimes it’s important to step out of the hot room and into the clinic to address some very small muscle spasms, stiff joints or strained ligaments in order to maximize the benefits you stand to gain when you return to your practice.
Would Bikram Yoga practitioners benefit from physiotherapy?
Yes, from new yogis struggling with the adjustments their body must make during their practice to veterans who are trying to push themselves more but have some aches and pains to those with injuries that need advice on rehab and how to prevent further injury when returning to their practice. Also, with many students looking for the added benefit of weight loss, our dietician is excellent at personalizing meal plans and making sure you’re eating the right foods to maximize your muscle strength, promote energy and minimize fatigue – all keys to a healthy Bikram Yoga practice.
Tell us about Teamworks Health Clinic …
Teamworks is a new multidisciplinary health clinic with a collaborative approach to help you your full health potential. Our highly qualified and accredited health-care practitioners come from a range of disciplines: physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, acupuncture and dietetics. We work together in a seamless environment, and include you – the patient – and all of the other people involved in your health (your medical doctor, personal trainer, coach, etc.) to ensure that your care is co-ordinated, goal-focused and efficient. You can make an appointment by calling 604-428-3006 or stopping by the clinic on Broadway and Heather. If you have questions or are unsure which practitioner would be best for your condition, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – or just ask me after class!