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Hot yoga provides mental solace and physical benefits for Lansing area participants

Alexis Alston

The temperature is toasty, helping yoga students find their best form in this growing form of the discipline.

It's 103 degrees Fahrenheit, sweat is dripping into eyes, the air is humid and smells mildly of salt, the focus is on breathing patterns as one listens for instructions on where to guide their body along the mat. That is the scene every morning at the “Yoga is Medicine” studio in East Lansing. It is where people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages come together in a specially built yoga room to be encouraged and transformed through Bikram yoga.

Bikram Yoga was the very first form of hot yoga, founded by Bikram Choudhury in the 1970s. The practice consists of a fixed series of 26 postures done in environments that reach up to 104 degrees.

“You’re never too old, never too bad, never too late and never too sick to start from scratch once again,” Choudhury said.

Bikram teachers all over the nation have heard Bikram’s quote and continue to share it, live it, and believe it every day. Ann Chrapkiewicz is one of those many teachers. She is the founder and owner of the Yoga is Medicine studio.

“My mission in life is to provide access to this yoga for the mid-Michigan population…to educate people about what our yoga method can do, how to make it work for just about any condition, and why we keep its methods and principles pure after 50 years of being in the United States,” said Chrapkiewicz.

Alexis Alston

According to the National Library of Medicine, Bikram yoga has been shown to improve lower body strength, lower and upper body range of motion, and balance in healthy adults. One of the great things about yoga is that it does not require any previous training to benefit from it.

Noah Sage, a junior at Michigan State, is not the typical person expected to try yoga. He stands 6-foot, can't even come close to touching his toes.

“I am not flexible by any means, but I regularly attend hot yoga classes on Sunday,” Sage said. “It required no previous experience or anything…and if I got to tired or didn't think I could do something I would just lay down and enjoy the heat like a sauna”

Bikram yoga’s benefits extend far beyond just physical. According to the American Osteopathic Association Yoga’s incorporation of meditation and breathing can help improve a person’s mental well-being.

“The practice is 1 percent physical, 99 percent mental,” Chrapkiewucz said.

Kaia Scheffler, 21, is one of the many who enjoy practicing yoga. She is also a track and field athlete at MSU. She naturally developed flexibility by spending many of her childhood years doing gymnastics and cheerleading. For her yoga was never about the physical aspect.

“For me it was about my mental state…I tend to get a lot of built-up stress and anxiety and It was recommended by my track coach that I try hot yoga,” said Scheffler. “I started going every Sunday and noticed positive changes immediately. It really forces you to spend ninety minutes focused on just yourself and your thoughts.”

The practice is designed to be suitable for everyone regardless of age and fitness level. There is no one size fits all, poses can be easily adapted.

“There are lots of misconceptions for sure regarding who can practice and how accessible it is,” said Chrapkiewicz. Many of her students are 50, some in their 70s, and a few in their 80s. She has also helped pregnant people safely through practice.

“Don't knock it till you try it,” said Sage. “You may just stumble upon a hobby you never thought you’d enjoy.”

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