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Bakanas loosens up with hybrid ‘Yogalates’ routine

From the St. Louis Business Journal…

Pilates helps balance the core, and yoga helps with overall balance, so it made perfect sense to physician Erin Bakanas to participate in both at the same time.

“Yogalates” is a hybrid exercise routine created in 1997 that combines the upper-body motions of Pilates with stretches and balancing techniques from yoga. The classes incorporate yoga flow moves such as “sun salutation” and classic Pilates exercises such as the “hundreds” sit-ups. Sometimes they blend in one exercise; for example, starting on one leg, walking the hands down the standing leg to the floor, then moving forward to a “downward dog” position, holding the pose and moving back up.

A doctor of internal medicine and associate professor at Saint Louis University, Bakanas, 50, knows the importance of staying active and being loose. She took up yoga eight years ago to alleviate back pain and started practicing Yogalates three years later when her gym, the Simon Recreation Center on the SLU campus, started offering it. “I find it really helpful for balancing training,” she said, “and it does build muscle strength.”

At 5 feet 9 inches tall and 168 pounds, Bakanas estimated she burns up to 400 calories an hour doing Yogalates. Yogalates also can alleviate the aches and pains she sees among many patients who come through her office. “To stay flexible is something you consciously have to work on when you get older,” she said.

Although there are do-it-yourself Yogalates workouts to practice at home, Bakanas advised doing the routine in a studio. “It’s one thing to buy a DVD, but you don’t have someone to correct your positions,” she said. “It’s nice to have an instructor to perfect you.”

Bakanas does Yogalates twice a week, paying $50 for a six-week session as a member of the recreation center. Bakanas said her center membership is reimbursed by SLU, which offers wellness initiatives for employees who use the gym facility regularly. The gym provides yoga mats, and though the center has Pilates machines, her class doesn’t use them.

The sessions usually last an hour, beginning with a “centering” time of two minutes to three minutes and ending with a “savasana,” or relaxing component, done in the “corpse pose” and lasting up to four minutes. During those times, Bakanas can focus on her breathing, allowing her to de-stress. “(It’s) an hour set aside for me,” she said of the sessions. “It can be a great technique for anyone in a stressed situation.”

Filed under Yogalates exercise workout working out yoga Pilates

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LeFort melts away the pounds with hot Bikram Yoga

From the St. Louis Business Journal…

John LeFort has twisted and sweated his way to a 40-pound weight loss.

Instead of picking up dumbbells or jumping on the treadmill, LeFort decided to try hot yoga at Bikram Yoga of St. Louis last spring. The 54-year-old, six-foot-one sales director weighed about 258 pounds at the time and said he was starting to experience the tolls of old age. He said his wife was in excellent shape and looked 20 years younger than him, and that was just the motivation to get him started.

“I realized to be happy with myself and to live longer, I had to look as good as she did,” LeFort said.

Bikram Yoga or Hot Yoga, as it is commonly called, is the practice of flexibility, strength and balance in a studio heated to about 105 F with humidity hovering between 40 percent to 60 percent.

The exercise goes through a series of 26 postures and lasts about an hour and half. Hot yoga improves muscle and respiratory organs and has a cleansing aspect too.

“You’re getting rid of a lot of fluids,” LeFort said. “It’s kind of like defrosting your freezer, it works better afterwards, and I think that’s how I feel.”

LeFort now weighs 218 pounds and his blood pressure has seen a dip as well, going from 128/80 to 119/69. “They claim an hour and half burns 1,000 calories,” he said. “I bet I burn more than that.”

As sales director for Pizza Wholesale, a nationwide distributor of Hunt Brother’s Pizza, LeFort travels four to five times a week. Yet even though he is out of town, he still manages to fit a short yoga session in.

“I try to practice on the road,” he said. “I try to find a studio wherever I am. I usually get pretty lucky.”

Yoga not only strengthens his core muscles, but also his decisions about healthy eating. Prior to yoga, he would indulge on a baked potato and steak when he was traveling. Now, he buys fruit and a salad and prepares it back at his hotel.

LeFort attends both the Clayton and Chesterfield St. Louis Bikram locations. An introductory pass for two weeks unlimited yoga costs $39. LeFort pays $1,500 for an annual pass and plans to practice 150-250 times during the year. While on the road, he spends $12-$15 to satisfy his yoga habit.

LeFort said “Hot Yoga” is not for the weak and requires practice to achieve results. He said he saw results after three sessions. “A lot of people are going to panic the first time. The key is to go right back and do it again.”

Perseverance is a common theme in the exercise, which starts with simple breathing exercises and evolves into more intense postures. The moves utilize the body itself to increase strength, forcing LeFort to use all he’s got.

“I think all yoga is good for you,” he said. “In my mind, it allows you to go further, push yourself further without getting hurt.”

Filed under Bikram Yoga Hot Yoga Exercise Workout St. Louis Business Journal