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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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In Sports

Bikram yoga is going to make you sweat -- a lot.

I'm hot for Bikram yoga


Bikram Yoga studio's suggestion that you bring a towel to class is not to be taken lightly. In fact, you might want to bring two, just in case.

Bikram is a form of Hatha yoga (what we know as physical yoga) practiced in a room heated to 105 degrees with 40 percent humidity. The instructor guides you through 26 stretching postures and breathing exercises while you bend, contort and sweat -- a lot.

In mid-February Bron Gacki opened Wisconsin's first studio completely dedicated to the Bikram style. Bikram Yoga Milwaukee is located at 2084 N. Commerce St. and offers 17 weekly classes.

Gacki's been practicing yoga for about 10 years and teaching it for just over two. His mom, dad, brother and sister all teach yoga, so opening a Bikram studio was a natural move.

"I've taken other yoga classes but I always came back to Bikram," he says. "It seems to be the one-stop shop for me."

Bikram works every muscle, tendon, joint, ligament, organ and gland by moving oxygenated blood throughout the entire body. The warmth of the room nourishes the muscles, making them more malleable than normal, which reduces the risk of injury when you find yourself in a position you're not quite sure how to exit.

If you're a newcomer to the studio, there's no need to feel intimidated. Gacki's class is for everyone from beginners to regulars and because he takes you through the same 90-minute routine each practice, it's easy to learn. The more often you go, the more comfortable you become contorting your body in ways you might have previously thought impossible. And, if you feel sore after your first class, that just means you gave your muscles a good workout; it'll ease up with time.

"All (classes) are meant for beginners so that we can get people safely in and out of the postures," says Gacki. "Anybody can do it -- even experienced practitioners who have been doing Bikram for 10 or 20 years still find the class challenging, because you go at your own pace. You get out of the class what you put into it."

He teaches the poses developed by Bikram Choudhury, a teenage yoga champion who was later injured from a weightlifting accident. Bikram developed this method of yoga to heal and was recovered in six months. The routine is complementary -- some postures bring your heart rate up and others bring it back down. It works your whole body, like taking your daily vitamins, says Gacki.

The heated studio is beneficial in several ways. The heat acts as a catalyst for distributing oxygen throughout the entire body and the constant sweating helps you detox your skin. The heat also warms your muscles, making them softer and more flexible right off the bat, which helps you get deeper into the postures.

"There's a lot more going on that just stretching muscles," Gacki says. "The medical benefits are many, you're putting pressure on various internal organs to flush the toxins out."

It sounds intense, but it's not like a typical workout; you end up leaving the class with more energy than you had when you began.

And Gacki's designed the studio in a way that preserves natural energy, as well. He's implemented an ultra-efficient heating system that uses heat pumps for geothermal technology, which is crucial for heating a room to 105 degrees during a Wisconsin winter. In the summer, the system will allow the studio to operate without any natural gas, as the heat pumps convert air from outside and the lobby.

"According to the engineers, we use about one-third the amount of natural gas than we would using a traditional heating system," Gacki says.

So there you have it, year-round exercise that is just as good for the earth as it is for your body.


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