Why I practice Hot Yoga:
It’s July 2016, and I feel I’m ready to share my journey, or at least a snippet of my journey with all of you; the ones curious about yoga, the ones who wonder why I talk about yoga so much, the yogis who are curious about other yogis and the teachers who love to learn why students practice. Thank you all in advance for taking the time to learn about me.
I took my first Bikram class (aka Core 26 Hot, aka 26 & 2 series) in August of 2014 on an extended visit to Winnipeg. After a very close friend recommended Studio 26 Hot Yoga, I took the plunge, walked in and met Todd. If you’ve ever met Todd, you know what kindness and warmth radiates from him. The staff and students there were so welcoming! Todd gave me and the person I was with (I brought my brother-in-law) an orientation and off we went into the hot room. Yes, it was hot, Yes, it was hard, and yes, I was hooked! I had taken other yoga and hot yoga classes in the past but nothing made me feel like this.
I took this class because I was trying to wean my body off of the medications I was on. I was at a point that I didn’t know whether these medications were helping or hindering my health.
I have been dealing with chronic daily headaches for over six and a half years and also have a rare genetic neuromuscular disorder which puts me at a greater risk for nerve and muscle damage. This disorder causes numbness, muscle weakness, pain and is slightly unpredictable.
I was prescribed daily narcotic and anti-nausea medications after trying what felt like hundreds of different medications, treatments, lifestyle changes and diet changes for my headaches. Nothing seemed to help control the pain, and nothing at this point was going to “cure” me. The many specialists I’ve seen along the way, who poked and prodded until they were somewhat satisfied, have yet to solve my headache mystery. They do believe, and so do I, that the headaches are somewhat hormonally driven and also have migraine characteristics. They believe these hormonal issues stemmed from, for lack of better words to explain simply, having an unsuccessful complicated pregnancy in 2002. This, coupled with other complications, ultimately led to a hysterectomy in 2007. My body has never felt the same. I haven’t been able to work in over 2 years. I slowly made career choices that had less and less responsibility, but eventually couldn’t handle any form of regular schedule with the toll my headaches had put on my body.
Before I took my first Bikram class, I felt 93, not 33. My body was screaming for me to do something. Change something. Start something. Anything.
I took my second class two days after my first and kept that rate up until I went back home to Calgary. Todd convinced me to find a Bikram studio back home. This time, I walked into Bikram Yoga Calgary South (known now as House of Yoga). Michelle was my first instructor there. She was so welcoming and so motivating! I slowly started to get to know the owners, Morgan and Lyndsay, the staff and fellow students. I felt I had found not only a sense of hope for my health, but a sense of community; of belonging.
After trying on my own for months, I realized I needed more help to rid my body of all of the medication it had gotten used to over the years. I was ultimately hospitalized in the Summer of 2015. One of the first people to come visit me in the hospital was Lisa, a staff member from BYCS. I was touched by how this yoga community continued to support me. They didn’t really know me, yet, and I was shocked at how everyone sent their wishes and were eager to have me back at the studio.
After a long 62 days in the hospital, some (what seemed like crazy) alternative treatments, and a few weeks of recovery at home, I returned to the hot room. That day was November 9, 2015. I was welcomed back with open arms and warm faces at BYCS. The restart to my yoga practice was slow, but I stuck with it and I now average 16-20 classes a month. I have not been on a narcotic medication for my headaches in over 10 months, besides a couple of trips to the hospital for unexpected pain flare ups. I even made it through two wrist surgeries with very minor pharmaceutical intervention. I take one specialist recommended alternative medication for pain control versus the many pharmaceutical medications (with so many adverse reactions) I was prescribed for years. If you would have told me a year ago that this is where I would be, I would have laughed in your face, and then cried. A year ago, I thought any improvement was a pipe dream. I am a far cry from being pain free or headache free but there’s hope, and improvement, and that means a lot. My headaches are still there, every day, but they don’t knock me on my butt quite as much and as often as they used to. The stronger I can make my body on the good days, the easier it is to recover from the bad ones. Some days I get frustrated, and need to remind myself to trust the process, and some days I even impress myself. Like anything in life, you need work hard, stay positive and let things go. Every class is different, because everyday is different.
The Bikram series is also the only yoga series I’ve found that will not irritate my neuromuscular disorder. I can complete a class with little modification, and can always move better afterwards. I have also built back muscle in my legs that I was told by my doctors would never come back.
I kept in touch with Todd when I was back in Calgary. We practiced together when he was in town, and I would take a class at Studio 26 anytime I was in back in Winnipeg. He quickly became a part of my Manitoba family. In May of 2016, my husband and I moved back to Winnipeg. I am back at Studio 26, and couldn’t be more at home. I am touched that Todd, Ali, the staff and students embraced me as warmly as they have.
This yoga has changed my life. Studio 26, and more specifically, Todd Miller, has changed my life. He is one of the most genuine, compassionate and accepting people I’ve ever met. Without his support, and the unconditional love and support of my husband, my family and my “village”, I honestly can’t say what shape I’d be in right now.
It’s a life long journey to take care of your body, mind and soul, and I couldn’t be more thankful to have found yoga as part of my mine. I’m honoured to share my journey with you.