Yoga for a Healthy Life
She describes herself as a human pretzel, but Carolan Sudol is much lovelier than a knot of contorted carbohydrates. Limber and graceful, she is the teacher at Bikram Yoga Dupont, a studio that practices the yoga of Bikram Choudhury. Five years ago Carolan studied yoga at Bikram Choudhury’s Yoga College of India in California, and since then she has become an active part of Dupont Circle’s vibrant culture.
Each session of Bikram yoga lasts for ninety minutes and is composed of twenty-six positions in a room that is heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit. In recent years Bikram yoga, also called hot yoga, has enjoyed a large amount of popularity in America, Australia, and Europe. Practitioners believe that the heat allows the body to become more flexible and release more toxins.
When I meet Carolan in her clean, spacious studio she has just finished teaching four yoga classes, but unlike many teachers she is not stressed out and clutching a mug of black coffee. She is calm and radiates a healthy glow.
While we chat she eats her lunch, a sandwich of tuna and lettuce on whole grain bread. When I ask her what her diet is like, she says, “I eat lots of vegetables and tofu, and I like to get whole grain wraps and things like that. I also eat fish and eggs, but no meat.”
Although she has been practicing yoga on-and-off since she was a young girl, Carolan is still learning and applying healthy habits to her lifestyle. She stopped eating beef, poultry and pork five months ago, and since changing her diet she feels much lighter and finds that she has more energy for her clients, which is essential considering her vigorous teaching schedule.
Classes at Bikram Yoga Dupont clearly reflect the neighborhood it is located in. If you thought that yoga was just an activity for housewives to do in the living room between vacuuming and basting a chicken, attending a class at Bikram Yoga Dupont will change that mental image. An equal ratio of men and women attend Carolan’s classes, and the majority of them are college students and young professionals of all ethnicities.
Virtually all of the regular students at Bikram Yoga Dupont have been radically changed by practicing yoga. “I have had people come in here drinking alcohol or smoking and watched them change and detoxify from the practice. Some people come in looking like a caveman and completely turn around,” Carolan says, and then grins and adds, “I sometimes catch students with cigarettes, and they try to hide them from me.” So the transition from caveman to detoxified, hard-sweating yoga master may not be an overnight transition, but this slow change is perhaps the strongest way to incorporate lasting practices. Many of Carolann’s students have been consecutively attending classes for years.
Active participation in a full-body workout like yoga naturally encourages healthy habits in other parts of one’s life. Carolan believes that it is not possible to do yoga and not notice what you eat, and that the answer to improving one’s diet is different for each person. “When students ask me for advice I tell them to experiment because everyone is different,” she says.
Healthy habits create a certain lifestyle that is determined by the everyday choices that we make. Carolan doesn’t own or drive a car, and she considers this to be a healthy practice, just like choosing tofu over meatloaf or water instead of soda. Regular yoga practice is another choice for a healthy lifestyle that is most beneficial when combined with other healthy options.
Some of the benefits of regular yoga practice include injury recovery, strength conditioning, restful sleep, vitality and increased circulation. “You impact the entire body with yoga,” Carolan says, “and one hundred percent of your body is enlivened from practicing. Before I started practicing I was hypoglycemic and had anemia, and after a year of regular practice those symptoms went away. Many people here practice for diabetes, skin improvement…bad backs are the most popular. People notice returning pain after they stop practicing, and they come back in order to reduce it. If I stopped, those symptoms [hypoglycemia and anemia] would return. By maintaining the practice I get the benefits.”
Bikram Yoga Dupont is located at 1635 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. Visit them on the web at http://www.bikramyogadc.com.