Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sweat Lodge Deaths

The tragic sweat lodge deaths and injuries at a retreat led by self help author, James Arthur Ray have me thinking a lot about the risks of subjecting the human body to those types of conditions. The workshop participants were in the sweat lodge to challenge themselves spiritually, physically and mentally. It appears the sweat lodge was improperly constructed and overcrowded.
I can't help but correlate this to Bikram yoga. I am a dedicated six day a week Ashtanga yoga practitioner. Ashtanga is a very powerful, sweaty form of yoga that uses breath and "vinyasas" (a series of movements that includes a push up, an up dog and a down dog) in between almost every posture to build heat in the body.
Bikram yoga utilizes an outside source of heat to warm the room the 26 posture series will be practiced in to 105 degrees at 40% humidity.
People are either very drawn to this style or repulsed by it.
Bikram teachers are very strict and discourage resting or straying from the set series at all.
I find this extremely problematic considering the extreme heat.
I understand yoga practitioners wanting to sweat, especially those who come from a gym background, but safety must come first no matter what the desired outcome is.
A strong yoga practice will produce just as much sweat as the Bikram series, without the danger of practicing in the heat.
If you choose to practice Bikram yoga, be sure to go to a certified Bikram studio with well trained, experienced teachers, be aware of your own personal health risks and how they are affected by heat, hydrate well before and after class and above all listen to your body. If at any time you feel dizzy, nauseous or unsafe - rest, hydrate and move to a cooler place - regardless of what the teacher says.
It is better to be admonished momentarily by a "strict" teacher, than to lose your life or risk injury.

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