Hot Yoga and Diabetes

An increasing number of people with diabetes are turning to yoga in an effort to keep their condition under control and improve their overall quality of life.

So what is diabetes? Diabetes is caused when either the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the cells in your body become resistant to insulin. Insulin does the important role of regulating the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood, making sure there is not too much or too little. Insulin acts like a key to unlock cells and allow glucose in so it can be stored until it is needed.

Today’s lifestyles mean that more and more people are at risk of becoming diabetic at some point in their lives unless they take action by changing their lifestyles.

Around 90% of diabetic people have type 2 diabetes. There is a growing body of research which says exercise and changes to diet can significantly improve and even reverse the effects of this type of diabetes. Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson is one of several public figures who have recently claimed they have managed to reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes through weight loss, exercise and diet.

If you’re trying to avoid becoming diabetic, or need to find a way to manage type 2 diabetes, hot yoga is a great way to exercise, increase your insulin sensitivity and help to stabilise your blood sugars whilst you work. Always listen to your body and to your health care professionals who will advise you about the best way to manage your health condition.

10% of diabetics have type 1 diabetes which is controlled through insulin injections. We’ll write about this in a later post as there are some important things to think about in relation to type 1 diabetes and hot yoga.

Changing Eating Habits

Old habits die hard!

Food shopping just a routine? Reaching for the same supersized sharing snack packs at the supermarket? Most of us are creatures of habit. We shop in the same places, have very similar shopping lists from week to week and usually cook very similar meals. To be honest, it works really well for most of us – with a busy life, it just makes things easier.

This becomes an issue when you decide you want to lose weight: your well stocked store cupboards full of favourite treats become a trap for the unwary. So when you make your cup of coffee, you automatically reach for the biscuits. One leads to two and then before you know it you’ve fairly mindlessly eaten an extra 300 calories. This wouldn’t be so bad but it leads to spikes and troughs in your sugar levels. Rather than making you feel satisfied, the next trough stimulates a need to eat something else equally as enticing!

If you’re serious about eating healthier, and perhaps even trying to lose some weight, a good place to start is to empty those store cupboards and change your usual treats for healthy alternatives. Start to think differently not just about your meals but about your overall lifestyle.

These are our top six tips for change:

  • Try not to skip breakfast – it fuels you for the day.
  • Plan your meals and, just as importantly, plan your snacks.
  • Think about portion size. Use scales for a while to measure out portions, then try to visualise the amount you need, not the amount you are used to.
  • Work out where your empty calories are coming from and replace them with healthy alternatives. For example, replace sweet biscuits with fruit, raw veggies or a small portion of healthy nuts.
  • Try to get enough quality sleep – it really helps keep you strong the next day.
  • Work out what will motivate you to stay on track.

It helps if you can identify your high risk situations and plan for them, for example, family meals out, or that all you can eat buffet. If you have a plan, you can make sure you don’t blow all your good work.

Be patient and kind with yourself. If you do end up having something from your list of foods to avoid, give yourself a break. It’s just one slip: all is not lost.

Above all, see this as a life change, not a diet. Reprogramme yourself to enjoy your new style of eating so it becomes less of a chore, and more of a lifestyle choice.

To help prevent relapse and make sure you maintain progress, share your journey with a friend or family member who can encourage you to stay with it. They’ll celebrate those moments with you when you get into that item of clothing you’ve always loved but not been able to wear for years, safe in the knowledge that it will also be back in fashion!

Crescent Lunge – What a Bind!

This fantastic stretch is technically a bound revolved crescent lunge. As you can see from the picture, the bottom hand reaches underneath to link with your other hand to really take the challenge of this pose to the next level. Your drishti or gaze can be down to the earth, facing forward or over your top shoulder.

It’s an amazingly satisfying posture to get into. Though it might not appear so at first glance, this pose opens your heart, stretches and elongates the spine and expands your chest to allow you to fill your lungs.

Part of the challenge in this pose is the strength and balance you need in your legs to be able to create a really stable base. Can’t quite reach? Not a problem! We’ll find a modification that is right for you, for example, by using yoga props or lowering to one knee.

Before you know it, you will find yourself in Parivrtta Baddha Anjaneyasana which is the Sanskrit name for this lovely posture – hope you enjoy it as much as we do! (Anjaneya means praise or salutation)

Practising Yoga Safely

This pose can help develop your fitness, but we always recommend that you work with a great yoga teacher if you want to attempt postures like this and many others we’ll mention on the blog. Your teacher should have the expertise to support and guide you and recommend safe postures for your body and experience level, and – just as importantly – to check your alignment once you are in pose. 

Extend Your Warrior

This strong posture will help you feel grounded and powerful. Feel the stretch from the tips of the fingers to the edge of your foot and see why this is such a popular choice in our classes.

You’ll find your length and alignment in this pose is enhanced by the hot yoga studio heat and by using the mirrors to check and refine your posture. Our talented teacher will remind you to push your weight evenly through your feet as you actively stretch and reach.

Done correctly, this pose has so many benefits: stabilising your shoulders and pelvis; mobilising and opening your hips; helping build strength and flexibility in your legs; and engaging those precious core muscles that will protect your spine.

This posture reminds us to rise up with strength and steadiness to challenge our physical limitations and turn them into personal achievements.

Want to challenge yourself more? A good teacher can adapt this pose to challenge even the strongest yoga warrior. The teacher’s talent lies in assessing the level of challenge needed, taking their students further than they thought possible, but at the right pace.

Want less challenge? That’s easy – we can suggest lots of progressions to help you start your yoga journey, but before you know it, with regular practice and expert help you will be well on your way to being the strongest warrior you can be.

If you’d like to learn more about hot yoga, use the tag cloud to browse through our earlier posts, or better still, come and join us.

Please consult your doctor before making changes to your lifestyle such as going on a diet or embarking on an exercise programme.

Eagle Pose, the Barometer of My Day

It’s hard to pin down my favourite pose – it varies depending on the day, the emotion, the mood and the music.

But if I had to choose my favourite of the moment, it would be the Eagle Pose. There’s just something about tying yourself in knots that appeals! Eagle Pose, for me, leads to so many different options. However flexible I’m feeling, I can always challenge myself to feel that amazing stretch across the shoulders and enjoy the precarious nature of the balance. It’s a fitness barometer – I can tell what my day has been like from this pose and then I can work to unwind and de-stress if necessary.

Let us know what your favourite pose is by voting here:
What is your favourite standing strength pose?

What To Expect After A Hot Yoga Session

You will notice quite a few things after your first few hot yoga classes, apart from feeling the glow of exercise.

Your heart rate will be higher than normal. Around 72 beats per minute is normal for most folk but, during a hot yoga session, this will climb to about 150 beats per minute to put you in that fat burning zone we mentioned in an earlier post. Your heart is a special type of muscle and, like all muscles, when you exercise them, they grow stronger and more efficient. This is exactly what will happen to your heart.

Straight after class your blood pressure might be slightly elevated. Your muscles have needed more oxygen to work and this has caused an increased blood supply to travel through your arteries and veins. The smooth muscle fibres of the blood vessels walls will have worked hard to ensure you have all the oxygen you need. Again this is a good thing – if you keep coming regularly, you might experience an overall reduction in your blood pressure as your body adapts and grows stronger.

You will feel more flexible. Your tendons and ligaments will have become pliable in the gorgeous heat of our studio and this will increase the range of movement you can get at your joints. Over time, as your muscles strengthen, this is going to really help your health and well-being.

You will notice your posture improve. Our members who have joint problems have reported a reduction in pain and the amount of medication they need and you may find you start to experience the same thing.

Your muscles will be more pliable too. If you’ve not exercised for a while your muscles might feel different as there will be some tiny tears in the muscle fibres. While this might sound shocking, it’s nothing to worry about: this is nature’s way of helping the muscles grow stronger. An increase in lean muscle mass gives lots of important health benefits.

Keep coming to classes and in a few weeks’ time you will most likely notice that clothes fit better as you lose inches. People will start to comment on how well you look. Psychologically this gives most people a lift in mood and a boost in confidence as well as in energy levels.

Most importantly of all, you’ll start to understand why we love hot yoga so much. Find a studio and give it a try – your body will thank you for it!

As always, please consult your doctor before making changes to your lifestyle such as embarking on a new exercise programme.

How to Recover After a Hot Yoga Class

Despite the blog title, expect to feel amazing after a hot yoga session: our class members often tell us how fantastic they feel. If you’re a fan of hot yoga, you’ll know exactly what we mean, but it’s not an easy sensation to explain to those who have never experienced it. Try to imagine a sense of achievement, the joy of being in tune with your body, the buzz of having taken part in a great session, and a feeling of relaxation, all mixed together.

But there’s still work to be done. Your main priority afterwards will be to rehydrate. Hot yoga classes can be 36 degrees or more, with up to 80% humidity. Some people claim you can detox through hot yoga, but in fact your body has extremely sophisticated ways of dealing with toxins. They are processed mainly by the liver or the kidneys rather than being lost through sweat.

Your body, like you, is unique and the amount of electrolytes lost during a class varies from person to person. Electrolytes are the salts in your blood. Sweat tastes salty because of the sodium and chloride lost in it. You also lose low concentrations of potassium, magnesium and calcium. Ideally, these electrolytes will be swiftly replaced through your normal diet. We’ll share tips on eating well in another post. For example, a handful of heart-healthy almonds will provide magnesium, calcium and other nutrients such as vitamin E.

What’s certain is that everyone will need to rehydrate as quickly as possible. Some class members rehydrate with coconut water, a natural source of electrolytes with a neutral pH. There are a number of coconut waters on the market, with varying sugar contents. Some are extremely high in sugar which means that, along with that great taste, you’ll get a high calorie count so might want to limit how much you drink. You’ll be tired of hearing this, but always check the label, especially for anything you’re likely to consume regularly.

If you’re thinking about trying coconut water too, or want to see how the brand you prefer compares to others, check out these coconut water reviews.

You’re always welcome to bring your favourite drink along to your hot yoga session for some expert advice. One of the sports scientists in our class advises that just drinking plenty of water will be sufficient to replace the electrolytes you have lost during the class.

It’s fairly obvious that you will need to shower after a hot yoga session, and change out of your yoga kit, but also spare a thought for your yoga mat. It will also need to recover and dry out, so try to avoid keeping it rolled up in a bag. Follow the manufacturer’s advice for keeping it in great condition, ready for your next class.

During a hot yoga session, tie your hair back if it’s long enough to get in your way. We suggest you come to the class without make up – mascara halfway down your face is not a great look, not that we would bother! The good news is that the warmth of the room will naturally open your skin’s pores, so after the class is a great time to quickly cleanse and moisturise. This applies to men, just as much as women. You will not believe how great your skin will start to feel: that healthy glow of exercise tends to pay dividends for your complexion.

Some of the beauties of our classes are the tips and advice we get from each other. Our members come from different professions and walks of life and are happy to help and advise if required. For example, another of our members, an amazing hairdresser and colour specialist, reminds us that the heat can dry out some people’s hair. Use a good conditioner as part of your recovery routine if that applies to you.

After a class, you will be experiencing the afterglow of a job well done. Your body releases chemicals called endorphins during exercise and these natural, mood enhancing chemicals will help you feel amazing. They are one of the reasons yoga is so good for alleviating stress and anxiety, a topic we will cover in greater detail later on.

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Journey to Savasana

How hard is it to liberate your mind at the end of a hot yoga class when this has been the first moment you’ve had to yourself all week? Step away too quickly and your shopping list, what to cook for tea, how to entertain the kids on a wet weekend will all fly through your mind at the speed of light.

However much you try to unwind and refocus your breathing and centre yourself, you just can’t help it, can you – or can you? Is there a trick to carrying the relaxation you feel through to the rest of your life, or is it time to head for the showers?

Relaxation is a key part of the class. As the session draws to a close, it’s your opportunity to celebrate all your hard work and invest a few minutes to kick-start the recovery process.

This is where your body grows stronger and the benefits of your yoga session start to materialise. At Bolton Hot Yoga, we revitalise and reflect at the end of each class with a guided meditation. It doesn’t take long, it’s set to some great music and it’s designed to just give you enough time to cool down and recover.

Learning to focus on your breathing, to scan your body and check your posture all help you stay healthy. There is a traditional name for this part of the session – Savasana – often associated with adopting a relaxed posture, lying flat on your back. You’ll get yourself comfy in whatever position you find best – it may be sitting or in pose of the child – you choose. We’ll dim the lights, help you slow your breathing and allow you to finish off a great class in a quiet state of mind.

As with anything, the more you practise, the better at meditation you’ll get. As you feel those muscular tensions easing away from your body and find out how to free your mind, you will become calmer, more in the moment, and able to be more present in your daily life.

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