Why practice yoga?

As college students, we often find ourselves at a crossroads…of a 20-lane intersection with no real concept of which way will make us happiest, benefit us most or give us the best chance to achieve our dreams. It’s stressful. We are in a tug-of-war between “this is the best time of your life, enjoy it,” and “load up on extracurricular activities, internships and double majors or else unemployment is in your future.”

So how do we combat the stress? How can we escape the ever-increasing deadlines and commitments?

The answer is simple: we do yoga. We set aside 90 minutes a day to be in a 105-degree room. We change our lives through a 26-position moving meditation. I won’t lie — it’s intense, but we are worth it. How can you worry about your biology test when you’re sweating off the stress and surrendering to the healing powers of this unique form of fitness?

This type of yoga is not for the faint of heart or the commitment-phobe. It’s for people who want to strengthen their bodies and seek peace of mind, people who are not afraid to challenge themselves. But the benefits are worth it.

This all may seem rather far-fetched, but hot yoga has been scientifically proven to heal both body and mind. It realigns your spine, dissolves back pains and even can fix runner’s knee. The first step is to stay in the room. The initial room temperature the practice requires is enough to send many who hear about Bikram (hot yoga) running.

“105 degrees?” they say, “Why would I subject myself to that?”

Because after spending 90 minutes in the hot room, studies show that yogis have better sleep, increased energy, improved clarity of thought and reduced stress. This specific form of yoga is a three-for-one workout that gives you a full cardio, strength training and stretching class.

Here’s how it works: the extreme heat causes you to sweat. When you sweat, your body cleans the toxins out of your system, brightens your skin and burns 500 to 1000 calories during one class. When you force yourself to dedicate an hour and a half to your own health and happiness, it gives you a sense of self-worth. Seeing the immediate result of that time spent in the hot room gives you a feeling of victory. These positive emotions carry over into life outside the hot room and allow you the privilege of not feeling overwhelmed.

Not to mention the fact that you’ll have an awesome body to boot. Seriously, I started my practice after finding out that these gorgeous (and I mean I-immediately-hated-them-level gorgeous) women in my first class were mothers. Middle-aged mothers. With multiple children. I thought they were in their twenties.

It’s a transparent practice. The glow you get from sweating it out in class really does come from within. So give yourself a chance to look and feel amazing. You deserve it. Just remember — stay hydrated.

Sarris Balcerzak is a junior English major from Columbus, Ohio.

I talked to Bikram Yoga instructor and owner of the Cincinnati Bikram Yoga Studio, Chelsea Young for her insight on the practice.

Why did you start Bikram?

I was looking for something to help me with my running and flexibility in general. I had never been flexible but always was an athlete growing up. I thought this was going to be lots of stretching. Boy, was I wrong. It is that and so much more.

Why do you teach?

I became a teacher so that I could bring Bikram to Cincinnati. In order to open, you needed to be a certified Bikram teacher. I now realize that it was all in my life’s plan, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is the most rewarding ‘job’ (not really a job perse) I have ever had. To help people in the Bikram room work through so many physical and mental challenges and to see everyone’s accomplishments is hands down the most amazing feeling of satisfaction.

What is the best thing about teaching Bikram?

Seeing all of the students’ improvements throughout their practice, knowing how hard the series is and how different it is for everyone. And when the students walk out, you see that look of accomplishment on their face. Nothing else like it.

What is your favorite position and why?

Each day, month, year my favorite postures become my least favorite postures and then recycle themselves all over again. Coming into my sixth year of practice, I’m slowly learning to take each posture as they come, and each day they all feel different. The one that never gets old is the Triangle — a constant marriage between your heart and your lungs, and breath is so important throughout. After you complete the Triangle, which is at the middle of the series, you feel like a warrior, proud and strong, like you can take on the world.

What is the number one health benefit that you notice in beginners?

The best part about Bikram yoga is everyone comes into the hot room for a different reason, most of those reasons being physical. What most beginners quickly learn is how mentally challenging the Bikram Hatha yoga series is, and they all come away with mental strength. I think that is the best of all — mental strength and faith in yourself, knowing you completed the series and worked the entire body in 90 minutes.