As a healthy, active woman in her early 20s who loved outdoor activities, fitness classes and running, Kyla thought, "I'll do yoga when I'm old and I can't do all the other stuff."
That day of not being able to do "all the other stuff" came sooner than anyone could have imagined after an ATV accident left Kyla was left with a shattered pelvis.
After three months confined to a wheelchair and a long-period of rehabilitation that included learning to walk again, this fitness freak was ready for physical activity, but knew that her body couldn't handle the high-intensity work outs she was used to. That's when she turned to Bikram Yoga: "I heard it was hot. [laughs] But, I also heard it was a healing yoga. I knew that it would help me. I'm not going to lie -- being an ex-cardio junkie, I also knew that it burned A LOT of calories, which is also why I started, as I couldn't exactly run through my rehab."
Kyla had enthusiasm for Bikram yoga right from her first class, "I loved it!!! I actually felt better, looser, leaner, thirstier, more energetic... And I felt like I had finally had a workout!!! It was my first good sweat in over 4 months!"
Despite her 60-pound weight loss since the time of her accident, Kyla considers the calorie burning aspects of Bikram yoga as a mere fringe benefit. "The real reason I go [to class] is the MENTAL and SPIRITUAL connection that it gives me. Along with the flexibility, which allows my to be in less pain with my injury. I was actually prescribed oxycodone for my injury, and, thankfully, haven't taken it in over 2 years. Doctors are always surprised when they hear that I do not take pain meds. If it weren't for yoga, I'd be in a lot more pain on a day-to-day basis."
While yoga has replaced prescription painkillers in Kyla's life, it hasn't replaced her other physical activities; instead it has enhanced and intensified her performance in running and fitness. Bikram yoga has enabled her to reconnect with a long-time passion: "I'm running -- I was told I would never run [again], and I was running about 6 months after the accident, thanks to Bikram." Bikram yoga also helped Kyla pursue a new passion, "I'm now working towards getting my pro card from the International Body Building association with bikini competitions." The long lean muscles that yoga helps to create, she explains, are key for fitness competitors. "I recently placed 2nd in Bikini B class at the Sandra Wickham Fall Classic 2012." But Kyla's greatest victories are still the small ones: "I also can now do classes with no water, which i think is pretty awesome."
Despite Bikram yoga's reputation as a fierce workout, it was the fact that all efforts are rewarded that hooked Kyla: "I actually had my crutches for my first class. I took the class at my own pace, which I loved. I did the postures that I could do, and was amazed that the instructor was okay with this. That's when I fell in love with the yoga." Kyla worked her way up from completing only 3 or 4 postures per class and doing what she can each day, "I can really see my improvements -- I also love that." And, yoga encouraged her to take time for herself and work on a balance in her life: "Before my accident I was a high paced, work-work-work-type that still exercised but tried to get it all done super fast."
"Yoga gives me that balance. My attitude now is that if I could choose only one activity for the rest of my life (i.e. no running, no weights, no marathons, no classes) it would be yoga. I love yoga. It gives me a little bit of everything: cardio, weight-bearing activity, stretching..." And, it even causes me to focus on my diet, as you don't want to ingest anything that is going to harm your body for your practice. Only good quality food."
Coming to class is easy for Kyla, as easy as the choice between pain and feeling great. And, as she says, "It truly is only 90 minutes of my life each day and it sets me up for a stellar, wicked, awesome day. Why would I miss that?"
[caption id="attachment_397" align="alignleft" width="500"] Jillian, Zihuatanejo Mexico in February 2012[/caption]
How do you do it? Is a question that Jillian hears quite often, meaning, how does she make time for her daily yoga practice. She's lost count of how many challenges (to complete consecutive yoga classes she's) completed: 2 or 3 30-day challenges and a 60-day challenge. She's currently on day 82 of a 100-day challenge. As you can see by her beautiful photo, she even makes time for yoga while on vacation!
Bikram yoga can be humbling, especially when you're just starting out. Jillian describes her ill-informed attire for her first Bikram yoga class (not at BYL) in 2002: "I wore socks, sneakers and a baseball cap because I didn't know any better. I took off the socks and sneakers of my own accord, but the instructor, Camille, ripped the hat off my head!" If you've ever felt like a fool in class, Jillian's story proves that we all start somewhere.
So, how does she make herself come back, day after day? Jillian's response suggests that it's just something she does (and doesn't think about). "I remember always wanting to do yoga everyday and never thinking I could make it work. I guess I just had to make it a priority!" She continues, "I work shift work so fitting in yoga after day shifts and between night shifts is always a challenge. On the days that I work, my day is only work, yoga and sleep. I find that no matter how tired I am when I wake up (sometimes after sleeping only a few hours between shifts) that yoga always gives me enough energy to make it through a night shift."
On the practical side, Jillian always packs her towels and yoga outfit the night before and makes sure she is hydrated: "3 cups of tea before a morning class; 2 litres of water during class."
The benefits of her regular practice are one thing that helps Jillian maintain a regular yoga practice. "I love the feeling of sweating out all the toxins," she enthuses -- not to mention stress relief, weight loss, increased flexibility and a great cardio work out. "My male co-workers make fun of me for doing yoga because they have no idea what it's all about." Little do they know that yoga makes Jill better at her job: "it has improved my ability to stay calm in stressful and sometimes dangerous situations, which arise often at work."
Jillian says she fell in love with Bikram yoga in 2010, but she still has room in her life for her other loves: cooking, gardening ("I love my vegetable garden. This summer we had so many tomatoes, we had to give dozens away because we couldn't eat that many!") and, of course, her boyfriend. And although she describes him as a "yoga widow", he benefits from her yoga practice, too. She says she likes to test her flexibility on non-yoga moves at home, and we'll leave it at that.
Jillian knows that being healthy now not only means she can fit into clothes she previously couldn't, but will also prevent arthritis, heart conditions, pulmonary disease and digestion issues, all of which run in her family. "I want to be healthy as I age because with no kids in my immediate future, I am eventually going to be that older new mom." Somehow a Bikram yoga class doesn't seem that challenging when compared with being a parent...
When Jillian does become that new mom, we're sure she'll continue to kill her yoga challenges and maintain her healthy lifestyle. (And people will continue to ask her how she does it...)