Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Mental and Physical Benefits of 90 Minutes of Movement

Movement for fitness means something different to nearly everybody. Some people may be heavy lifting machines that are focused to the max. To others it may be an excuse to interact with others so the workout prep includes blush and lip gloss. Whatever activity you choose to engage in, the most important thing is that it inspires you. We promote movement with our clients not only to lose weight but to manage stress, try something new, exceed your limits, and challenge your comfort zone.

I stumbled upon a hot yoga class at one point, and, despite my preliminary scoff, it left me a bit dazed and confused. I was caught off guard by my discomfort for the heat, the challenge and my lack of flexibility. I decided to give it a few more chances and realized I had a lot of inner soul searching to do. The class was 90 minutes long in a 105-degree room. I struggled with being forced to contain some personal, internalized issues, which were beginning to leak out as the series of poses progressed. The hot yoga classes are quiet. This allowed me to have a full hour and a half to myself during which I could push myself to new limits. It also gave me time to reflect on myself physically and mentally and settle my mind. 

Fast forward a few years, and now my company, Sweat and Butter, has a partnership with South Hills Hot Yoga in Mt. Lebanon, PA. After taking one of their classes I met the owner, Ignacio Filippini. I love meeting people who make a living out of the things they love to do, and Ignacio's enthusiasm is contagious. Not only did I want to thank him for his services but also to learn more about his journey through his practice of movement as it compares to the experience of a novice like me.

Here's what he told me:

“I’m from Argentina. I was brought up in Buenos Aires, and I had a life threatening accident when I was little. I had stuck my foot into a machine, and I almost died from this accident. That really made me into a different person. Even as a little boy I was different from the people around me. It taught me that it was ok to march to the beat of my own drum.

"I also did very well academically. I moved to the States where I had the opportunity to reinvent myself. I had many academic interests, but it wasn’t until high school that I learned I wanted to become a designer, so I studied design at CMU then moved to New York. At the time, I was unhealthy, smoking cigarettes and very stressed by my environment. My friend suggested that I try Bikram yoga to challenge myself. He also thought it might help me quit smoking. So I took a class, and i thought I was going to die! I was on the floor agonizing the whole time. After class I thought 'wow this is so crazy', but I felt so good! I walked home on an endorphin high. I decided right there and then that I would quit smoking, and, since I had an introductory rate, I went every day after work. I really started to notice a change in my whole life. I was a different person. There was a levity that I will never forget.  I really started to notice the benefits after sticking to my practice. I realized I had been neglecting a part of myself that was really important.”

So far so good. I didn’t feel bad after hearing about Ignacio's struggles through his first class, because I found myself to be strangely defeated in the past by the graceful practice. Sometimes it is hard to realize that a seasoned pro traversed the same learning curve as I was cursing through our hot yoga sessions. It is easy for us to place professionals on this untouchable pedestal where they seem to have been born enlightened and gifted with some alien talent that is nearly unachievable to the "common" man. I had to admit…I felt more at ease knowing he suffered. It helps to put into perspective the fact that we all have to start somewhere! Back to Ignacio's story...

“I was lost. 

(Ah yes that’s the stuff...Go on…) 

"New York for me was a weird experience, because i arrived thinking that I owned the world. I got to the city already with a job as a designer in a good company. I was young, and I had this concept of who I wanted to become. When I got there it was a totally different experience. My soul became sad. The city was too expensive, and I could barely survive financially. That’s where I was when I went to yoga for the first time. I was coping with the stress by smoking, and I was totally misaligned in every aspect because I wasn’t living a healthy lifestyle mentally and physically."

Sounds familiar. I have heard similar stories from clients who have their life in order and constantly strive forward with an empty tank. The effects of a good ‘Ah-ha!’ moment are remarkable at times. Hearing about Ignacio’s experience with Bikram yoga and relating it to my personal break through made this conversation feel like more of an even playing field. I realize that diving head-first into a new activity and forcing one’s comfort zone beyond its limits is not for everyone, so I wanted to hear how Ignacio would explain Bikram yoga to a newcomer.

“It is an accessible beginners yoga class meant for everyone. It is a holistic endeavor - not just a workout. Every part of the body is being conditioned and strengthened and opened up in the same sequence at the same time every day. This is very simple stuff that anyone can do, but it's also challenging enough that an experienced practitioner can be pushed to new heights. There’s always somewhere else to go in the posture. 

"I hear a few common hesitations. First, that it’s too hard. This is a misconception. Bikram is accessible to all. It's the challenge of the teacher to help people of different bodies and different abilities. Second, that it’s too hot. This is also a misconception because 105 degrees is hot, but it’s not like a sauna. Your body adjusts very quickly to the different temperature.  Your body is able to do more as you get used to it. Why the heat? It increases flexibility, stimulates circulation, and helps with the aches and pains. People also think they’ll get yelled at. We conduct our classes with a lot of love and compassion. We treat everyone with love, acceptance and respect. We love our students so that they can love themselves.

"I felt a huge transformation in my own practice with Bikram yoga, so I can definitely understand how it can touch people in different ways.  A big part of Bikram is learning to love yourself. Looking at yourself in the mirror for 90 minutes isn’t always easy. Our bodies are ancient machines, and we are living very modern lives that cause immense stress. Your body is so complex yet perfectly simple, and yoga helps it to heal itself.”

Now that the weather is quickly turning grey and cold, I would highly suggest finding some warmth in a hot yoga studio to escape the winter and the chaos of a hectic day. Stay tuned for collaborative workshops hosted by Sweat and Butter and Ignacio at South Hills Hot Yoga where we will highlight the importance of movement and fueling the body with the right food to optimize body functionality.

Stephanie Telep is a co-founder and health coach at Sweat and Butter.  She received her training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Duquesne University.  She is inspired to help others make necessary changes in their lives while fostering a positive and healthy path. She can be reached at

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1 comment :

  1. Yes, Yoga is on the rise. It's a great news Yoga is getting popularity among the young generation. Earlier only women loved to adopt yoga for maintaining nice body shape and to stay slim. It is proved that Yoga is a perfect discipline for all from any age, race and gender and everybody can get benefited physically and psychologically by practicing yoga regularly.
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