“I’ve had three very serious health scares in my life, and this yoga has resulted in one of the most comprehensive approaches to healing I’ve ever been involved in.”
According to my weight, I burn 1,568 calories doing Bikram yoga every time; but I don’t do it for the calories. I do it because I can touch my hands to the ground now…and my 18 year-old niece can’t! But seriously: How did Bikram yoga save my life? I started the day after Thanksgiving (2009), a time when I had been too tired to go to the gym and just thought I was too overweight to work out anymore. So after two people mentioned Bikram, I thought I would try it.
The first day I was like a jack in the box: Up then down, then up, then down… and I was really having a difficult time breathing. But I used to sing, run, and do aerobics, so I knew how to breathe properly and I’d never had a problem catching my breath. So I chalked it up to the heat and kept going – up, down, up, and down – on my mat.
After the first week I noticed I was moving a lot better during the day, but I wasn’t breathing any better. I started having to rest on the stairs to get up to my apartment. It was very scary. I went from having terrible knee issues to now having breathing issues. I went to four doctors who all said I was too overweight and needed to exercise, even though I have a brown belt in aikido and could spend an hour on an elliptical machine. They all said the same thing: “You're too fat, you're getting older, and you're too old to carry this fat.” Great. I was too embarrassed to keep going to the doctor, but then I started coughing. I thought it was a cold.
Finally an urgent care doctor suggested I had congestive heart failure. “No,” I told him flat out. “It’s allergies. I just need an inhaler.” Well, after I convinced him that I didn’t have the energy to drive myself to ER (which I didn't), he gave me an inhaler – and I still went to hot yoga every day. I was off from work, but I went to yoga every day that week! That Friday, my regular doctor wasn’t in for my follow up, so I went to ER like the urgent care doctor suggested.
And they kept me.
I was severely anemic, I needed two pints of blood, and I had been going into congestive heart failure. I’m 41 years old and my menopausal bleeding was actually a hemorrhage. I was having a fit in triage, saying, “I have to finish my 30 day challenge! I have to get to hot yoga! I can’t stay here!!!” That was when they all slowed down and started talking to me in a voice that said “You sound crazy but we're going to try to help you understand anyway.” I learned all about hemoglobin and what it does – mine was 6.5. So what, right? Well, it’s supposed to be 15. Oh, dear. I also have very thick blood, so what blood was left was moving very slowly and ineffectively through my body. But here’s the important thing: Because of the heat inside the hot yoga room –
the severe heat – my blood stayed thin enough to oxygenate my body long enough for me to get treatment.
I’ve had three very serious health scares in my life, but this was by far the worst one. I have fibromyalgia, a closed head injury (that has healed), rheumatoid arthritis, and the doctors are trying to lump all of this into a lupus diagnosis but I refuse to let them. I believe the heat, the stretches, the support, the warmth of the individuals, the commitment of the owners and the other students in the class…all have resulted in one of the most comprehensive approaches to healing I’ve ever been involved in.
So now, I take iron pills and vitamins, and two pills for migraines. If I’m in pain I use aspirin or something over the counter. But no more pills for my pills and no more incurable pain. Every pain I have now is temporary.
I still get winded in class, but I’m lasting longer on my feet. And when I’m tired, I know how to relax, flat on my back, in a healing position. And when I get stressed out, I imagine I’m in a class full of people standing in the tree pose, which I think is the most beautiful pose.
And when I’m afraid that I'll never get better, I know it’s a lie.
– Yvette Perry-Kahar