A lot of people talk about how difficult and unpleasant their first Bikram yoga class was, but Annick's memories of her first class at Bikram Yoga Maple Ridge are quite different: "I remember this feeling of relief when I walked in the door because I knew that I belonged, and that I had found my healing place."Okay, Annick might've found her first class challenging, "it was hot, emotional and uncomfortable," but she also found "a sense of hope once I was finished." A lot of pain, misery and stress had brought this mother of two to the threshold of the yoga room: "I was very overwhelmed with my 8 year old daughter, who suffered from Opposition Defiance Disorder and extreme anxiety. I buried myself in intense exercise, and, as a result, suffered several back injuries and hernias, which needed surgery. In May 2011 my dad passed away at the age of 64; he was in Belgium, where I was raised. I came back from Europe at the end of my rope. My grief was beyond pain, and after a few session with a counsellor and 6 months of sleepless nights, I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My bests friends were my anti-depressants, food and the TV!" Using breathing, focus and determination to make it through her classes, Annick finally felt like she was in control. "For once I didn’t have to talk to anyone about my feelings. I could just feel them and let them go. I knew after a few classes that I was in this practice for the long term, but never imagined that I would have a sense of peace, like I do today, just by joining Bikram." Annick credits her regular yoga practice with helping her live with her feelings, instead of ignoring them. She is able to focus on what she can change and not let what she can't eat at her; she recognizes and addresses the triggers for anxiety before she hits rock bottom. She needs antidepressants less and less – she is now on the lowest dose available, and her goal is to live medication-free in the next few months. She's also made great strides in her physical recovery from her back injuries and surgeries: "I am learning that with a healthy spine and proper breathing, I can get through stress with less pain." Yoga is reminds Annick that a healthy and balanced diet results in a healthy and balanced practice: "I am one of the lucky ones and never had to diet to stay at a healthy weight, but I have a very sensitive stomach, and need to watch what I eat on a regular basis." Managing stress, depression and anxiety has improved Annick's quality of life, helped her meet challenges in her job as the online secretary and Special Needs Assistant in the French School District in Port Coquitlam and strengthened her relationship with her family. "I have received a lot of compliments on my overall appearance and how healthy I look, but my best compliment comes from my girls, who tell me every day that they love me because I am who I am. Before Bikram, I never took the time to listen. Today I am hearing them, even in their smiles!" Annick hopes to bring her love of yoga and love of her family together by practicing with her whole family. Her other goal is to do a 30-day challenge. Currently, Annick practices between 5 and 6 times a week, and she seems to love everything about the classes: "I love 6 am classes for the intimacy of the class, and the afternoon classes of the intensity of the heat and the chance to challenge my breathing and stay strong and focused. I love the discipline it requires. Every posture has a role and the structure of the practice is comforting to me." Even though she loves the yoga and it has transformed her life, some might wonder how she finds the time to practice 5 or 6 times per week while working and raising two children while her husband is traveling for business on average every second week. Her answer is simple, direct and imperative: "It is not a commitment to me. It is a lifestyle." Annick realizes that Bikram yoga is a journey. She knows that it will take her and her family to great places. We hope to see this inspirational mom realizing her dream and practicing alongside of her whole family soon!