The sweat that comes from hot yoga does a body good for healing and focus. At least that’s what students at Bikram Hot Yoga hear from its founders and owners, Omekongo Dibinga, Ph.D. and Kendra Blackett-Dibinga.
The couple leads a team of instructors for their three yoga studios located in Riverdale, Takoma and Ivy City. They received startup funding for Bikram Hot Yoga through the Washington Area Community Investment Fund, Inc., a nonprofit community loan fund based in the District since 1987.
Health benefits from yoga continue to be embraced by people of all ages with 14 styles available for discerning health advocates. Bikram Hot Yoga Studio features hatha yoga in a 105-degree room with 40 to 50 percent humidity. Also offered: hot Pilates in a 95-degree room with 40 percent humidity; and Nidra yoga, a relaxing, meditative-style of yoga done in a non-heated room.
Omekongo and Kendra say they gained an appreciation for the benefits of yoga from their individual aches and pains. As a former fitness trainer and runner, Kendra began experiencing knee problems and had have a screw inserted. A friend touted the benefits of hot yoga saying that it enabled her to discontinue arthritis medication. Kendra says she immediately tried hot yoga and quickly shared the benefits with her husband, Omekongo, who had been seeking ways to manage lower back, groin and knee pain.
Once on board with hot yoga, Omekongo became trained to be one of the first hot Pilates instructors in the D.C. area. Hot Pilates focuses on strengthening muscles and the body’s core.
A key benefit from yoga: the achievement of body and mind calmness which contribute to overall wellness.
“To focus and stay in a yoga pose, that is a form of meditation,” Kendra said. “I can tell when someone is distracted because they will lose their balance.”
According to the American Osteopathic Association, yoga has many health and healing benefits including: lowering blood pressure, reducing insomnia; increasing flexibility, muscle strength and tone; improving respiration, energy and vitality, maintaining a balanced metabolism; reducing weight; supporting cardio and circulatory health; improving athletic performance; and providing greater protection from injuries.
Testimonials from Bikram Hot Yoga clients who started classes with specific health issues routinely point to improved wellness. And while medical professionals do not cite yoga as a substitute for treatment directed by licensed physicians many students have claimed to achieve a decrease in blood pressure, weight loss, overcoming depression and being able to reduce the amount of medications they once took.
“We have students who have been in physical therapy or treated by a chiropractor,” Omekongo said. “Their movement has greatly improved. We even have a chiropractor who comes to classes at our studio.”
Omekongo and Kendra have been married for 22 years and have three children ages 2, 9 and 11. They say that between co-owning a business and raising three young children, they have seen parallels between yoga and managing day-to-day life.
“How do you stay focused to get things done?” Kendra asked. “I found with yoga, I became more focused. What once took me five hours to do, I am now able to complete in a couple of hours.”