“If we could master breath, everything after that is going to be handled a bit better.”
That's a quote from James Newbury, an athlete who completed the entire 5-hour bike ride and 4-hour run of an Ironman race, breathing only through his nose.
“We’re going to live at a higher level.”
Living at a higher level sounds good.
Here is my nose:
Maybe you’ve been here:
Huffing and puffing through the first few poses in one of your first hot yoga classes, your face turning bright beet-red. The more you try to breathe, sucking air in through your mouth- the harder it seems to get.
From somewhere in the distance, you hear the instructor’s calm, encouraging voice:
“Close your mouth, breathe through your nose.”
You try it.
Nose breathing is the way
Many people have been taught or just naturally start breathing through their mouths while exercising, especially when it gets intense. But emerging research suggests nasal breathing (like we do for about 80 out of the 90 minutes in a Bikram Yoga class) is actually where it’s at.
That’s no big surprise for yoga practitioners, who have been harnessing the power of breath for centuries! (But we always love when science backs up what we do!)
Breathing by the nose helps athletes perform better
For example, this recent study looked at runners who used nasal breathing and found their maximum rate of oxygen consumption was unchanged compared to mouth breathing.
At the same time, their respiratory rates (breaths per minute) and ratios of oxygen intake to carbon dioxide output decreased, which means they didn’t have to work as hard to get the same amount of oxygen!
Researchers believe the lower breath rate caused by breathing through your nose (a much smaller opening for air than your gaping maw) allows more time for oxygen to get to the bloodstream.
That means you get more oxygen to your cells from each breath, which allows you to breathe less.
Wait a sec? Is breathing LESS a good thing?
Don’t worry: no one is telling you not to breathe. It’s about being efficient.
By breathing through your nose "you actually can perform your big physical tasks – running, cycling, things like that, you can perform them using less oxygen because you're not having to breathe as much to perform them,” says researcher George Dallam. “Which turns this not just into a health thing, but also into a performance thing too.”
Nose breathing helps with daily wellbeing too
I recently read a fascinating book called Breath, by James Nestor. In it Nestor “explores the million-year-long history of how the human species has lost the ability to breathe properly and why we’re suffering from a laundry list of maladies—snoring, sleep apnea, asthma, autoimmune disease, allergies—because of it.”
One thing Nestor did as part of this book was an experiment where he plugged his nose completely for 10 days, forcing himself to breathe only through his mouth. Spoiler alert: the results were disastrous!
Other spoiler alert: everything got better when he began breathing through his nose again.
Among other things, it turns out people who breathe primarily through their noses have:
Nasal breathing calms ya down
Breathing slowly through the nose is associated with the parasympathetic aspect of your nervous system, known as the “rest, digest and reproduce” state. (You probably know that one from yoga class!)
Breathing fast, through the mouth, or too much (hyperventilation) activates the sympathetic nervous system, putting you into a state of “fight, flight or freeze.” (You know that one from if you’ve ever been stressed out.)
That’s because nasal breathing activates the lower part of the lungs, which is associated with the parasympathetic nerves.
Oh hey, we made a video about that!
“You’re dealing with what is called a vagal response,” Dallam says. “You’re actually activating your vagal nerve to do the action of the lung itself when you breathe that way. That’s why a relaxation breath is a deeper breath. If you breathe deeply and activate the diaphragm well, and activate the lower portion of the lung, then you create some immediate relaxation.”
It ain't always easy, but it's worth it
As James Nestor and James Newbury found, breathing by the nose during physical exertion isn't necessarily easy.
The key, whether in a Bikram Yoga class or training for a triathlon, is to only challenge yourself as much as you can while maintaining nasal breathing. This means you may need to back off on intensity at first and be patient with the process.
(Helloooo, psychological benefits!)
When you breathe calmly through your nose, you take charge of your own nervous system
The more you practice, the better you'll get at nasal breathing and the more your health will improve as a result.
Don't take my word for it though! Try it in class today ;)
Over the summer we published this blog post discussing existing research on heat and humidity in relation to COVID-19. (Hint: it was good news for Bikram Yogis!)
A new study came out this month which has even more to say on the subject. Where back in May, scientists observed that areas with higher temps and humidity experienced less spread of COVID, the recent findings suggest it's not quite that simple.
Wait... can we still do Bikram Yoga??
Before I dive in any deeper, I'd like to point out that in no way am I claiming that being in our yoga room will guarantee that you do not catch the novel coronavirus. The truth is that any time you leave your home or are around other people, you are at some risk of catching COVID. This post is addressing the scientific findings that some environments pose more risk than others.
Here is what the science says:
"Our research shows that the viability of coronavirus is higher at low air temperature values below or equal to 75 F (25°C) and at high relative humidity values greater than or equal to 65%," says Prof. Dimitris Drikakis, one of the new study's authors.
"Therefore, countries with the above weather conditions or indoor places with the above environmental conditions (at those conditions) are more at risk."
Check out this chart (circle added for reference) from the study showing the concentration of airborne contaminated droplets:
The study found there was less risk of catching COVID at temperatures above 75 and humidity below 65%.
Hooray: that's US! (See the red circle on the image above.)
We keep our hot room at a perfectly sweet spot for sweating: 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 Celsius) with 40-60% humidity (In most classes, especially now with our limited capacity, humidity actually remains between 40-50%.)
Scientists now understand that how well COVID spreads in the air is due to a combination of factors which include not only heat and humidity but also (when outdoors) wind and (when indoors) ventilation.
For indoor spaces, proper ventilation is advised, as well as the use of air purification systems to help reduce concentration levels of any contagions in the air.
Here at Home we've always been fans of good air quality.
Yogis who've practiced in stuffier hot studios often remark at how much better they breathe in our room! That's in part because of our Demand Control Ventilation system.
The DCV maintains indoor air quality by automatically adjusting the amount of outside air coming into the hot room when the CO2 reaches a specific level.
In order to further increase the flow of outside air in keeping with current recommendations, this setting is currently at “0” which means we are bringing in the maximum amount of outside air (around 50%) during class. The air which is recycled is constantly cleaned by the iWave air purification system.
"We should also avoid places of low temperature," says Drikakis.
We've been saying that for years! ;)
Check out this post for a rundown of the many benefits of heat for all kinds of reasons. And read this if you have any concerns about "handling" the heat. Most importantly, join us in Home's hot room: we're here 7 days a week.
Click here to book your class!
Bikram Yoga in a face mask: #36482 on the list of things I’ve done in 2020 which I never imagined I would do! You know what though? It ain’t so bad.
Yogis have been asking for recommendations, so...
Here are a few things I’ve discovered:
But the #1 thing you need to do when practicing Bikram Yoga in a mask (or even not in a mask) is simple and costs $0:
Give yourself permission to take radical good care of yourself during class.
That means breathe through your nose, and rest when necessary (Hint: if you find it hard to keep breathing through your nose, you need a rest:)
Good news is, you already practice that every time you do Bikram Yoga- right?
When you first return Home, you will probably need to take more breaks than you are accustomed to. It's true that a mask will be in the way of air headed into your nose, but also don't forget that you haven't been in a hot room for 7 months!
Like Standing Head to Knee pose, doing your yoga in a mask is going to take practice. If you're prepared to try- mindfully and patiently (and with the right supplies!) hot yoga in a mask may not be your favorite, but it won't totally suck. You might even forget it's there.
Plus, think of how bada** that is! "I do Bikram Yoga in a face mask" said no lame person EVER. ;)
Check out this post for more thoughts on masks!
I feel pretty confident about spending 90 minutes in a hot room breathing with you during a global pandemic. There are a few reasons for that:
Ok... but what's an iWave?
The iWave is the air purification system we've installed in the hot room's duct system! When air passes over the iWave, ions produced by the device reduce pathogens, allergens, particles, smoke and odors in the air, without producing harmful byproducts.
How does it work?
iWave uses a fancypants technology called "needle-point bi-polar ionization" to create equal amounts of positive and negative ions. When the ions are released into the air, they break down passing pollutants and gases into harmless stuff like oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapor.
When the ions run into pathogens like viruses, bacteria or mold, the ions remove their hydrogen molecules. Without these molecules, the pathogens have no source of energy- so they die.
The ions also attach to tiny allergens like pollen, causing them to stick together until they are large enough to be caught by our ventilation system’s hospital-grade MERV-13 air filters.
Is it safe?
Nature generates the same ions that the iWave’s technology does- with lightning, waterfalls and ocean waves. These natural processes break apart molecules, naturally cleaning the air. The difference between the iWave’s technology and what nature does is that the iWave does it without producing ozone!
Does it work on Coronavirus?
Yep! This system has actually undergone independent lab testing on COVID-19 and shown to deactivate 99.4% of the virus in just 30 minutes, in addition to significantly reducing a wide variety of other pathogens in the air and on hard non-porous surfaces.
With temperatures in the 90s this week, summer is definitely here! Are you wondering whether it makes sense to turn the heat up even more by coming to hot yoga class? You may be asking yourself if you even have the energy for it. Your friends and fam may be looking at you funny if you mention where you're headed when the thermometer outside is reaching the triple digits... So is it worth it? Short answer= YES. Here are just a few reasons it is:
Exercise scientists have been researching the benefits you may already be experiencing! Here's a study that explores how “Exercising in the Heat May Improve Athletic Performance in Cool and Hot Conditions.”
Want to deepen your understanding and get more goody out of your Bikram yoga practice? Check out these posts below for more videos from Kay, or search the archives for "tips!"
With 26 postures and one breathing exercise accomplished, the final breathing exercise begins to cool your body down so (after a 2-minute final savasana, of course!) you leave the hot room feeling like a brand new, yoga-lized you.
"January 2, 2016 was my first real class. (Technically I took a class in 2010, but because it wasn’t at BYSJ, there was obviously no reason to continue. ;)
"I am my mother’s son, which is to say that because she was fanatical about Bikram yoga, she knew I’d be interested before I knew myself. On a visit from Texas over the holidays, she roped me into joining her at a BYSJ class shortly after the studio first opened. I’d grown up a ballet dancer and runner and have always enjoyed meditative movement. Bikram yoga has proven to be a natural complement to my other current extracurriculars: running, dance, and Pilates.
"Beyond the obvious benefit of having much better sex (TMI?), I’ve learned through Bikram yoga that life can simply be breath and point of focus. Received one too many passive aggressive emails at work? Breathe, do the yoga, focus on breathing. Sore knee, tight hamstrings, and a twitchy eye? Breathe, do the yoga, focus on breathing. Car battery’s dead, it’s been 12 days since you last saw the sun, and your cat just peed on your new comforter? Breathe, do the yoga, focus on breathing.
"I love coming up with different soothing visualizations to get me through class and life. Whether it’s a firehose wiping around spraying water in savasana, transforming into a hot air balloon in camel pose, or being drawn and quartered in full locust pose, there’s a lot of fun to be had coming up with visualizations that reframe The Struggle.
"Here are some tips I've derived from my personal scientific studies:
"But hey. I’m just the Mayor of BYSJ, what do I know?!" *
*Ben holds the title "Mayor" of BYSJ because he has the most check-ins on the app Swarm, where he has checked in every single time he's visited the studio- 225 and counting! Thanks, Ben!
Camel is great for so many things! Among its benefits are:
This is a posture where it's very normal, especially as a beginner, to feel dizzy, nauseous or emotional. The best thing to do is? Breathe. Immediately after you exit the posture, lie down in savasana (try to skip the water, handtowel, or whatever else you automatically reach for in that moment.) No worries, those feelings will pass- or you may even learn to like them! Backward bending this way is most likely a new sensation, and opening your chest, hips and throat can feel vulnerable.
Here's a video Peter and I shot with our special guest teacher Audrey Holst. I asked Audrey if she had noticed any trends among our students in the way we are practicing, and together we agreed that Camel pose could use some attention to make sure you all are getting the goody mentioned above, without causing strain or pain. Enjoy, and please let us know if these tips are helpful for you!
"I've been practicing consistently for just over a year now, all because of you, your welcoming, inclusive studio, and the opportunity to be a karma yogi! Before that, I was an inconsistent, serial-Groupon-er in the Vancouver/Portland area. I've learned that being inconsistent made my practice harder on myself- pyschologically (I always had lots of reasons why I couldn't make it to class) and physically (I battled nausea a lot longer than I had to.) The secret for me is just showing up to practice frequently, ideally daily.
"I got into Bikram yoga expecting to improve a chronic knee injury and improve my strength and flexibility. All of these things have happened, and continue, to happen, especially now that I have a consistent practice. I have been most surprised by my seemingly sudden, new-found ability to automatically breathe slowly in and out during stressful situations that happen outside of the yoga room! I remember being in a work situation and I was all calm and breathing through it, and I literally wondered why I wasn't more upset, like I normally would be. It was at that moment I realized that I'd been practicing calm, full breathing while experiencing discomfort in class long enough that I had developed 'muscle memory' and it was automatic response. It was one of the strangest, and most freeing, moments of this year!
"When I began to practice regularly 3 or more times per week, I noticed a bunch of changes taking place. Decreased body pain, especially in my joints. I always say that Bikram yoga takes the 'old' out of my bones when my friends wonder why I practice. Cravings for healthier food and lots of lemony water. Serenity, instead of stressed, as a baseline for my mood for that day. Increased mental clarity and energy to be able to accomplish things.
"I've always enjoyed yoga, I'd take yoga books out of the library when I was a kid and contort myself in my first solo practice. Then I took my first Hatha yoga group class in college for credit. Yoga helped me be a better belly dancer and helped me through long shifts as a bartender. Later on, I didn't really think Bikram yoga would be very different from all the other non-hot forms I'd dabbled in, so I bought a Groupon (hahahahahahaha!)
"I went to my first class in a long-sleeve, full-legged bodysuit that I wore comfortably in dance classes. I was exhausted, dizzy, and queasy after the initial deep-breathing sets and pretty much just laid on my mat for the rest of class, trying not to run screaming from the room. It took me a month to return for my second try. It was still awful, but I kept on coming back, probably because the after-effects were so immediate and compelling.
"I often procrastinate. So when I saw "Do Later Now" on BYSJ's studio t-shirts, I was irked- and also knew this was exactly where I needed to spend my time, ha!
"Becoming a karma yoga cleaner at BYSJ gave me two wonderful (and unexpected) gifts. First, it has given me a sense of responsibility and belonging in a new, welcoming, beautiful studio/community. I'm pretty introverted and work with the public, so spending time in silence with other yogically-determined people was the perfect complement to my workday, especially practicing it early in the morning before I have to be 'on' for the public.
"My karma cleaning committment was the 'trick' I needed to play on myself in order to stop making excuses about why I couldn't get to class. Before I was a karma yogi, I'd change my mind about going for lots of reasons: not well-hydrated, didn't eat healthy food, need to clean the house, other people need me more, blah, blah, blah. Once I had to be there, I quickly realized that I'm better in so many ways, from the inside out, that I do everything in my life better when I do yoga that day too.
"Finding a studio that I could really belong to has led me to a consistent yoga practice and that has been ONE OF THE BEST GIFTS OF MY LIFE. Thank you, BYSJ!"
** Interested in becoming a Karma Yogi like Natalie? Email us!
Studio leader, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay D.