Posts Tagged ‘yoga’

Aloha Series (50th state)

Date: January 19, 2017

Location: Kapa’a, Hawaii (Kaua’i) (Aloha Series)

Time: 3:31:05

Distance: 13.1

We did it. Our bucket list goal of completing a half marathon in all fifty states has been accomplished.

both

Celebrating the completion of  a half marathon in all 50 states the year we both turn 50!

I should be happy, but in all honesty, my feeling of accomplishment is tinged with some sadness–kind of like a kid the day after Christmas when they’ve opened all of their presents after weeks of anticipation.

I’ve put off writing this post because I don’t really know where to begin. Do I start with the story about how ten years ago, my best friend from college suggested we run a half marathon in every state? Do I describe our wonderful, week-long Hawaiian vacation? Or, perhaps I start with the story about how I was in the emergency room at the hospital only three weeks before the race?

I’ll start with the emergency room story.

Early in December, I suddenly noticed a sharp pain in my ribs along the lower, right side towards my back. I was sure it was a pulled muscle and didn’t pay too much attention to it. After about three or four days of aggravating pain, I got a massage. The pain went away–further confirming my initial thought that I had pulled a muscle.

For the next two or three weeks, I went about my daily routine–still running, going to yoga, and looking forward to visiting my parents in Arizona during Christmas.

While in Arizona, the pain returned–coincidentally, the next day after a rousing game of Pickle Ball. “There’s that muscle strain again,” I thought. “I really should have taken it easy yesterday.” I was sure that a few days of rest would make it go away again.

I enjoyed the time in Arizona with my family, continued running every other day, and noticed that the pain only hurt when I lay on my back or took a deep breath. At that point, I started considering other possible ailments. Pinched nerve? Kidney infection? Gall bladder attack? While I was up during the day and moving around, though, the pain really wasn’t all that apparent, so I certainly wasn’t worried that it was anything serious.

On December 30th, I drove the eleven hours home without any pain. I was just looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep in my own bed after being gone for a week. A good night’s sleep, though, would elude me. That evening, as I tossed and turned, trying to find a position that didn’t hurt, I finally realized that I probably should go to the hospital.

After getting to the emergency room at about 1:30 am, I learned that the symptom of “sharp, stabbing pain,” and saying, “it hurts to take a deep breath” gets immediate attention.

The hospital staff was great. In the midst of my fear and agony, they tried to keep the mood lighthearted and reassuring. I also appreciated how they explained everything they were doing and why. Those first couple of hours included an IV, blood tests, giving me Morphine, and following the other normal intake procedures. The blood test prompted a CT scan, which confirmed that I had a pulmonary embolism. A giant blood clot that, I found out later, was taking up a third of my right lung.The size of it also prompted the doctors to order an ultrasound of my heart to find out if my heart had been damaged as a result. Luckily, it wasn’t.

I was immediately admitted to the hospital in the early morning hours of New Year’s Eve, and enjoyed the holiday weekend pumped full of anti-coagulants and pain medication.

The three days I spent in the hospital flew by as I mostly slept, and I looked forward to going home–not really letting the gravity of what had happened sink in. In fact, during the first conversation I had with the doctor, I asked if I could still go to Hawaii and run the half marathon I had been planning for so long. He kind of chuckled, then realized I was serious. After some thought, he said it would probably be okay. There would be no restriction on airplane travel, because I was now on anti-coagulants, and he said as long as I had been training (I had), I could do the race as long as I didn’t over exert myself. He said a slow jog or walking would be most appropriate.

So there you have it. I was still able to go. And, I was still not really comprehending what had just happened to me.

My finish time was the slowest I’ve ever had, but I didn’t care one bit. After everything I had gone through, I finished it, dammit. And that’s really all I cared about.

Other things I cared about? Going to Hawaii with my husband, kids, and parents, and celebrating my friend Denise’s 50th birthday while we were there. That whole week was great.

Finishing the 50 half marathons in 50 states goal the year my very dear friend and I both turned 50 is certainly an accomplishment worth celebrating.

Again, I’m somewhat sad it’s over. It’s been an emotional journey as much as a physical journey, and it’s hard to let it go.

People have been asking me, “What now?” a lot. No, I don’t have the desire to now run a full marathon in all fifty states, do a race in all seven continents, start running ultra marathons, or start doing triathlons. Frequent walks with my dogs, a few running miles, yoga classes twice a week, and an occasional race sounds perfect.

What I most look forward to now is the ability to sign up for races purely based on whether or not they sound fun, and which friends and family they bring me together with. Races for me have always provided the motivation I need to exercise regularly, and now I don’t have to plan my races a year or two out and decide where to send my registration fees based solely on whether or not “I need the state.”

The 50 states are DONE. Now I can choose races based on so many other reasons.

group-shot

Our entire entourage celebrating with us at the finish. What great support!!

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Post scripts.

The race put on my Mainly Marathons was incredible. An entire blog post devoted just to the race would be needed to fully explain how beautiful the course was and how great the organizers are. Click here for a great article about the race from The Garden Island newspaper.

My parents. I am so grateful that my parents cheered us on and have provided unwavering support all of these years. The week vacationing with them in Hawaii was a blast.

My kids. One of my kids stayed home to house sit and take care of our pets because it couldn’t get the week off from work. (Thank you, Evan–we missed you). The other two, Kaitlin and Keil, completed the race as well. The two of them made the experience all that more special.

My husband. I also am incredibly grateful that Orlando was able to spend the week with us. His job as an airline pilot often prevents him from getting to every family function. Not only did he get to spend the whole vacation with us, but he walked with me for almost two miles of the race and also got some great film footage. He has been my biggest supporter over this past decade and never once questioned why I wanted to do this or suggest I should be spending my money on better things. Thank you, Orlando, from the bottom of my heart. You are an amazing, supportive husband and I love you.

Denise. We’ve been through three decades of experiences together and I thank you. Thank you for coming up with this crazy idea, for helping me stay young, and for keeping it real. I’ve learned so much by being your friend. (Hug).

My health. I expect to be on an anti-coagulant for at least a year and I’ll have doctor’s visits to make sure I’m on the right path towards healing. I still feel like the news is still too new for it to completely sink in. Also, despite the occasional soreness or run-down feeling, I generally feel really good and pretty energetic so it’s hard for me to remember to take it easy. I often need to remind myself that what happened to me was very serious and could have taken my life. I continue to read as much as I can about pulmonary embolisms and will forever be grateful that I was prompted to go to the hospital when I did. Sometimes pain is a blessing.

Future races. I’m already registered for three upcoming races and want to do more. In time, I will learn more about whether or not it’s possible for me to regain my full lung capacity and how much I’ll be able to exert myself–if at all. Only time will tell.

My yoga practice. I can’t close this post without giving a shout-out to Bikram Yoga. I am 100% convinced that yoga was a huge contributor to the positive outcome I had health-wise. I didn’t need supplemental oxygen while I was in the hospital and my heart and lungs remained strong through all of this. I attribute that, in part, to my running. I also think Bikram Yoga had an even bigger influence on how well my body coped through what essentially was a life threatening condition. Namaste.

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First Light Half Marathon in Mobile, AL

Date: January 10, 2016

Distance: 13.22

Location: Mobile, AL

Time: 2:24:09

I loved this race! The city of Mobile has a cool vibe, and the course began and ended downtown and extended into several AlabamaShirt&medalshistoric, residential districts along tree-lined streets. The weather was nice and cool with no wind and the course was flat–that allowed me to finish in a must faster time than I expected. As noted in the MS race report, I really hadn’t been training like I should have.

I guess the walking and Bikram yoga classes got me through. The infrequent, short training runs I completed in the weeks leading up to the race certainly had nothing to do with it!

The location was great, the course support was great, I liked the shirts, and I liked that this race did so much to support a local non-profit organization dedicated to supporting people with intellectual disabilities: http://www.larchemobile.org/ In fact, the race medals are created by members of that community each year, as were the plaques they gave out to those of us who ran both the Mississippi Blues and First Light races.

As much as I didn’t like running these races alone–and I had quite an ordeal getting home using flight benefits (I ended up having to purchase a ticket), I’m really glad to be that much closer to the end goal. The Alabama race marked #43, and I have a clear plan ahead for knocking out the rest. The end is in sight!

 

Catching up on race posts, grief, loss, and continuing the journey

I have been neglecting my race posts and need to catch up.

Missoula, MT Half Marathon (July 13, 2014) Time: 2:14:01

Oklahoma City, OK Half Marathon (October 11, 2014) Time: 2:31:08

Savannah, GA Rock and Roll Half Marathon (November 8, 2014) Time: 2:25:04

Run SLC Race Series (5K on February 7, 2015; 10K on March 7, 2015; 15K on April 4, 2015) 

Eisenhower Half Marathon in Abilene, KS (April 11, 2015) Time: 2:23:43

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Life certainly got in the way as I faced two especially tragic events over the past few months–the tragic suicide of a current student, and the cancer-caused death of a former student. As you can imagine, my world abruptly changed and priorities certainly shifted.

I can’t even begin to process the suicide death. The loss of someone so talented and with so much promise is incomprehensible. That loss happened in November and was sudden and shocking. I must leave it at that. I will never understand that one.

The other loss unfolded over the course of months–allowing me to be a bit more emotionally prepared, but that loss was closer to home. TJ was a former student of mine who asked me to help him through his cancer journey late last summer and through the fall. At the time, his relationship with his parents was virtually non-existent and he needed support. I was honored that he asked me, but that journey was particularly difficult as I had to watch cancer steal his life away despite his most valiant efforts, through the summer and fall, ending in December. With each daily hospital visit, I watched as my dear friend TJ’s life slipped away and he died on December 5th at the young age of 24. I am grateful that, over the course of his illness, he used that time to reconnect with his family members, which was a blessing to all involved. We are all, however, still reeling from the unfairness of it all.

During the emotional turmoil I was experiencing, I was grateful for the well-being of my own husband and children and tried my best to carve out time for occasional runs and yoga classes. As a way to process stress and have some semblance of control in my life, I decided to use the month of December to complete a 30-day yoga challenge. I wrote about that in this blog, and that experience probably helped me a lot as I was processing a great deal of pain. My running, however, became an afterthought and during the first few months of the year, I barely ran at all.

I have now recommitted, and know how important my running and yoga classes are to my own emotional and physical well-being. I didn’t take time to post pithy, cheery details of my races, however, because I just wasn’t in that place. Not sure I am still.

I do, however, look forward to my continued race journey and this half marathon 50-states goal. As of today, 32 are in the books and by the end of this week, I will report having finished numbers 33, 34, 35, and 36.

Dear Bikram, I’m not having fun.

I used to love Bikram yoga. After completing 24 classes in 26 days in my quest to do a 30-day challenge, however, I’m not feeling the love. And, if I’m going to make it to the end, I still have to do six classes in the next four days. Blech.

I’m achy all over, my knee hurts, I have a pressure point sore on my foot, and I’m exhausted. I’m also tired of doing so much laundry and planning every freaking day around my yoga class. No zen-like peace in my world.

Bikram Yoga Pose Sequence

The 30-day challenge promises “a new body, and a new positive attitude.” I have neither.
Admittedly, attaining a new body requires heathy dietary choices (which I haven’t paid particularly close attention to) and the positive attitude is difficult for me to have when I’m hurting and simply “getting through” my classes.

Yoga classes used to be enjoyable when I only went twice a week. They provided me peace and power. With yoga, my running injuries healed, I gained strength, flexibility, and focus.

I still suggest Bikram yoga to everyone I meet. Yoga classes would help my mom with her arthritis, my sister with her migraines, and any of my friends and family who are looking for good cross-training options or therapy sessions that don’t require talking to someone from a couch.

I will not, however, recommend that anyone try to cram 30 ninety-minute hot yoga classes into 30 consecutive days. For me, it hasn’t been healthy. Granted, I am stronger and more flexible, but I’m certainly not better off physically overall. I can’t wait to get through this month and go back to my twice per week plan–balanced with running, walking, and hiking.

Knowing that I will never attempt a 30-day yoga challenge again, let’s end this on a positive note.

What I have liked about the thirty-day challenge:

1. Getting to take classes from so many different instructors has been great. Hearing someone explain a posture in a slightly different way has really added to my understanding of how to correctly do each pose. I still have a long way to go, but with each class and each attempt, I think I am moving in the right direction. And, as many teachers have reminded me, “This is a practice, not a perfect.” And, “As long as you are focusing on form before depth, you are receiving 100% of the benefits.”

2. I will like being able to say I completed a thirty-day challenge because, for me, it has been a HUGE challenge and I like being able to cross off various life experiences on my never-ending bucket list. Still haven’t gotten there, and not 100% I’ll make it to the end, but I’ll certainly do my best. I’ll then be able to add this accomplishment to the list of other things I’ve done.

3. I always look forward to seeing the staff and other students at the yoga studio. Salt Lake City Bikram Yoga truly rocks. They have amazing instructors, really nice owners, and a beautiful studio. It is truly a wonderful, welcoming place. I also like that an equal mix of men and women, from all ages and with all body types, show up to the same torture chamber as a supportive community with various reasons for why they are there.

4. I’m more accepting of my body. The 30-day challenge hasn’t necessarily provided this, but Bikram Yoga, overall, has. If you expect everyone in a Bikram yoga class to be young and perfectly toned, think again. All of us show up, no matter our age, weight, or limitations–barely dressed because of the heat–and work with the bodies we have. Bodies, in all of their various forms and abilities can be strong and beautiful.

What I have learned:

1. I’m reminded, once again, that it’s best to listen to my body. In reality, my yoga instructors would most likely tell me to discontinue the challenge and go back to a less frequent practice because, for me, that’s clearly the healthier option. My body is telling me that I’m overdoing it and I really should listen. I’m also very stubborn and committed, however, so I most likely won’t listen.

2. Cross-training is best. There are some people out there who stick to one form of exercise and seem to do fine. That doesn’t make sense to me. I feel most balanced and healthiest when I am doing a mix of various things. This challenge has made me really miss running. I also look forward to having more free time to walk my dogs.

3. Don’t set your expectations too firmly at the beginning of anything and let progress come in very small increments. I think I expected too much from this challenge. I envisioned being able to correctly do every pose in its full expression by the end. In only one month? Yeah. Crazy thought, I know. But I did hope.

4. You will always learn from any experience. You might not learn what you expect to learn, but trust me. You will learn.

In summary, wish me luck as I get through these last six classes. Consider giving Bikram Yoga a shot if you haven’t already, and–most importantly–listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs.

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Update: Today (December 30th), I completed my 30-day yoga challenge! Glad to have that done. Yoga Challenge

Stick it out

Date: June 22, 2014

Distance: 10 miles

Time: 1:52:51

Yesterday, I completed a ten-mile training run and thought a lot about the importance of sticking it out.

http://www.pinterest.com/irunhappy/run-happy/

http://www.pinterest.com/irunhappy/run-happy/ (Forgive the capital “R”. Not my creation. Like the sentiment, however.

This thought–about the need to be persistent during a particular workout–was most likely brought on by the fact that I chose to run five miles uphill before I turned around and rewarded myself with the much-easier five miles down. I hate hills. They really suck. But, I must admit–sometimes the first couple of miles of any run feels challenging, no matter the terrain or elevation. To get through those first tough miles, I repeated, “stick it out, stick it out, stick it out” dozens of times in order to keep myself focused.

Even after eight years of running, I still have days when I start out and nothing is coming together–I hurt, my muscles feel tight, I can’t get my breathing under control, and–in short–it’s not fun at all.

Thankfully, because I’ve been running for awhile, I know that this feeling is most likely temporary. I just need to stick it out until my muscles loosen, my breath falls into a calm, steady rhythm, and my mind opens up because I forget that I’m running. I just need to stick it out.

For me, things generally come together about 1.5 or 2 miles in. This common physiological reality is probably why people who say they hate to run honestly hate to run. They most likely haven’t ever gotten past those initial couple of miles and experienced “the good part.” After all, why would anyone run if it always hurt and was a struggle? It takes awhile, though, to work up to one or two miles when running and many people simply don’t have the patience or the will to stick it out.

Before I started running regularly, I remember how awful some of my first attempts felt. I used to be in awe of runners who ran “for fun” and genuinely seemed to enjoy running. Blech. I hated it and could never understand how they got to that point. I remember thinking that some people are just built for running and I’m not.

In reality, I just had never given myself a fair chance to build up to the point where I could start to enjoy running–where I could experience the benefits of running. That took me years. I wished I would have stuck it out back then, but I didn’t have the patience.

The idea of sticking it out not only applies to singular workouts–it also applies to an entire training plan or one’s general approach to healthier living and long-term goals. This weekend, I was provided with a reminder.

Being Reminded About the Need to Stick it Out

I’ve often written about my affinity for Bikram yoga. When I practice yoga, I am stronger, I have more clarity, I experience increased flexibility, I have improved balance, I sleep better, and I’m an all-around nicer person. So, why oh why did I quit going to classes about a month ago when I know how beneficial a regular practice is?

As sometimes happens, life got in the way. I had a particularly busy schedule last month and started cutting back on yoga classes–telling myself I didn’t have time. Thankfully, I (mostly) still kept up my running schedule.

After realizing that I had let an entire month slip by without attending a yoga class, I dragged myself to class on Saturday. And, what did I notice? I didn’t feel as strong. I was distracted. I had almost no flexibility. And the next morning? I was SORE!

Rather than beat myself up about my lack of discipline, though, I’ve used this experience as motivation to re-commit to a regular practice.  I’ve got to get back to my twice-a-week yoga routine.

It’s depressing, but it’s reality. It doesn’t take long to lose fitness levels when workouts stop. It’s much better to maintain those levels with a regular workout routine so the many benefits of regular exercise continue.

When life starts to get in the way, or when that training run starts out in agony, I just need to remind myself to stick it out. It’s worth it.

 

 

 

Staying motivated–why should you work out?

Date: December 8, 2013

I ran into a friend yesterday whom I hadn’t seen in several months. When I asked him how things were going he said, “Fine, but I really need to start working out again. I’ve been busy and I’ve lost my motivation.” I think those words get spoken a lot–especially at this time of year when the holidays are upon us, our routines get thrown for a loop, and–let’s face it–it’s damn cold outside and it’s hard to get excited about an outdoor workout. We know we should exercise, but it’s not always easy.Make time

Right now, I am looking outside my window at about six inches of freshly fallen snow and watching the thermometer creep up from 8 to 16-degrees. While drinking coffee and wasting time on the computer, I’m having an internal conversation with myself after seeing all the snow-filled sidewalks and streets in my neighborhood.

“I could go to the gym and run indoors.” “Yeah, but first you need to shovel the driveway.”  

“I could go to yoga class instead, and try to get a run in tomorrow.” “Yeah, but first you need to shovel the driveway.”

Then, I usually have this type of conversation with myself, “I have so many papers to grade, I really should work on those first. Or, I should get the grocery shopping done. It’s been awhile since I cooked a really good sit-down meal for my family, I should do that today. Oh, and this is such good baking weather; I should try that new cookie recipe I saw. I need to do laundry. I need to pay bills. I need to sort through those Christmas boxes and put up decorations. I really need to do some Christmas shopping. I should write a Christmas letter this year. I should…”

I think you get the point. When I allow myself to THINK about my planned workout, I often try to talk myself out of it–and sometimes I succeed. On occasion, I think that’s okay. Things do come up and should take priority–but not on a regular basis.

If other things start to have more prominence on your “to do” list than your workouts, that’s when you are putting other things above your own health. And what’s more important than your health? We often don’t realize how important our health is until poor health begins to affect other areas of our life–when we become too tired, too sore, or too sick to do the things in life that give us joy.

When my inner demons start to talk me out of my planned workout, I need to remind myself WHY I’m even doing this in the first place.

1. Stress release and depression avoidance. I’m a happier person and nicer to my family when I work out on a regular basis. I also notice how “down” I can feel when I go several days without exercise. It’s true. From personal experience, I’m certain that those studies showing how exercise prevents depression are true. Sixty minutes of exercise three days a week or thirty-five minutes five days a week is  just as effective as being on anti-depressant medication.

2. Health. I have a family history of all types of ailments that are prevented or lessened by exercise–heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and cancers. A list of seven health benefits of regular exercise is found at this Mayo Clinic website. Reviewing a list like this from time-to-time is sometimes helpful in reminding yourself why exercise is important.

Some recent studies have shown that regular exercise might also prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.  That, alone, should be reason to get out there and move.

3. Self Discipline & Confidence. I have self-diagnosed myself as having ADD. I’ve got all the classic symptoms–I start projects I don’t finish, I interrupt people while they are speaking, I change topics of conversations mid-sentence, I have a hard time sitting for any length of time, and I’m always multi-tasking to the point of feeling like I’m living in utter chaos most of my day. In short, I’m  creative, ambitious, and a great problem-solver, but I have a hard time focusing on only one thing at a time.

Running and yoga have shown me that I can follow through on something. I can hold myself accountable to see something through to the end, and–most importantly–my brain is at peace when I work out. When running or in the heat of a Bikram yoga class, I can’t multi-task. For the thirty minutes or two hours of my workout, I am focused on only one thing–putting one foot in front of the other, in the case of running, or holding a pose, in the case of yoga.

During my workouts I feel in control and focused. My brain is turned off and I am at peace. And, that “quiet brain feeling” often stays with me as the rest of my day unfolds. I also feel accomplished. If I’ve completed my planned workout for the day, there’s a small feeling of pride that I also carry with me. In short–I physically feel good, and I mentally feel good because I did what I said I would do. I am accountable to myself and I follow through on my promises to myself. For me, that’s huge.

Now, excuse me as I go shovel that driveway. I’ll remind myself that it’s for my health and I’ll try to convince my family members of the health benefits they should be enjoying as the rest of the snow falls and it will the their turn to shovel.

Bikram Choudhury is a narcissistic, lying jerk

…but I love his yoga classes.

from goodreads.com

from goodreads.com

I just finished reading “Hell-Bent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga,” by Benjamin Lorr. It’s one of those rare books that I could not put down and I continue to think about it long after I have read the final page.

The New York Times book review does a much better job of summarizing it than I could, but let’s just say I highly recommend it. In short, I would describe it as a book about extremism and the search for balance every human seeks.

I’ve been attending Bikram yoga classes twice a week for several months and I’ve become a huge fan. I’m noticeably stronger and more flexible as a result, and the classes have been a great compliment to my running. After a Bikram class I feel as though I just had a killer workout and I’m left feeling relaxed and a bit euphoric–much like having had a full-body, deep tissue massage. I love that each 90-minute, 105-degree class forces me to be “in the moment” and I even like the massive sweating involved.

Since I’ve been attending classes, I’ve heard many stories from people who swear their yoga practice has improved their health in some rather remarkable ways. The yoga has helped people with arthritis, thyroid problems, migraines, depression, addictions, and has eased or even cured all sorts of injuries–knee problems, lower back problems, and others.

I’ve noticed, even from just going twice a week, I’m not only enjoying new-found strength and flexibility, but I sleep better, I seem to handle stress better, and I simply feel better overall. I’m convinced there is something rather magical about it.

It’s  a big time commitment, though. Ninety-minute classes represent a big chunk of time for folks like me who work full time and have busy home lives. I doubt I could justify more than my twice-weekly classes along with the running I do three times per week. There are others, however, who practice daily or even more than that. There is also no shortage of people who are willing to pay $11,000 for grueling,  nine-week teacher training sessions where attendees power through twice daily classes, lectures, and where they must memorize the twenty-six-pose script, verbatim, in order to be certified as an official Bikram instructor. Lorr also became a certified instructor and describes the whole process with a great deal of raw insight and humor.

Throughout the course of the book, Lorr masterfully describes his quick addiction to Bikram yoga and how he quickly got caught up in the euphoria and impressive results from his daily practice, how he was influenced by several talented practitioners, and how he makes his way to not only instructor certification, but competition at the national level–meeting several other very influential people in the yoga world along the way. Lorr’s insightful and brilliant accounts of the people he meets and his experiences provide a riveting insight into the world of Bikram–the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Bikram the man has been subject of many types of  unflattering portrayals over the years and there seems to be a great deal of agreement in several areas: he is clearly caught up in a world of greed, instant gratification, and self promotion even at the cost of several important relationships. Lorr also exposes these dark sides of Bikram in some rather startling and disappointing ways but at the same time, manages to provide this brutally honest account of Bikram’s yoga world in such a way where it’s possible for the reader to separate Bikram the yoga from Bikram the man.

For that, I am grateful. I’m not ready to give up my twice a week addiction just yet and I’m pretty certain I do not like Bikram the man.

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April 2013 update: This article, also written by Benjamin Lohr, discusses sexual misconduct charges against Bikram Chaudhry. No surprise there.