Every month I like to feature an interview with someone who has used sweating and physical exercise to improve his or her life. This interview with my fellow yogi and friend, Lysa Wilkins, inspires me beyond what I thought possible. I will let the interview speak for itself, but reading about Lysa’s experience with Bikram Yoga totally confirms that yoga, exercise, and sweating goes far deeper than surface level.
Check it out!
- When did you start practicing Bikram Yoga and what brought you into the hot room for the first time?
LYSA: I came to my first class in November of 2013. I had just lost my mom that past summer and her birthday was in November, I had just found out my husband of 13 years was having an affair AND the final blow – that I had a torn labrum in BOTH hips and wouldn’t be able to run anymore (I was an avid triathlete and 1/2 marathon runner!!) I was desperate to RUN away from my problems literally and figuratively but at that moment was actually focused on finding an exercise that would challenge me, get me OUT of my house while I sorted out my emotions and decisions and take the place of the meditation I got when I ran. I literally “stumbled” on Bikram Yoga Natick’s website one night when I couldn’t sleep and started reading……I got very VERY curious.
- At the beginning of your practice, what was the most challenging thing about Bikram Yoga?
LYSA: That I came to my first class completely OVER dressed!!! But seriously – besides that!! The most challenging thing for me was my competitive nature. I wanted to nail every posture right out of the gate and look like a pro! I hated not knowing how to do everything and then hated not being perfect at it when I tried! BOY did I learn to let THAT go in a hurry! I had also had horrible experiences in lots of other Yoga studios – feeling judged, feeling out of place. My very first class at BYN was nothing but love and support from the teacher(s) and the students! It was like – HEY – we are all in this together! Let’s see what we can do!
- What has been the greatest benefit (or benefits!) you’ve received from your yoga practice?
LYSA: #1 – TOTAL HEALING; mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically IN THAT ORDER. #2 – self acceptance and love #3 – a moving meditation that challenges me the way running did without beating up my body.
- You’re no stranger to having suffered an injury, specifically in the knee. How has Bikram Yoga affected your injury and recovery?
LYSA: I had the great fortune of hearing about, meeting and speaking to many yoga students who had gone through what I went through with my knee. I was practicing with a torn meniscus and avoiding the need for surgery because the practice was supporting my knee’s ability to heal itself. In July of 2016 I could no longer put off knee surgery due to a fall that made the tear in my meniscus much worse. It was now vertical AND horizontal (I’m an over achiever). I had the surgery at the end of August when I couldn’t take the pain even lying down. Now a year later there are only 2 postures that I cannot do the full expression of and – that is OK!!! Because I have full range of motion, virtually no pain at all and my scar tissue is almost non existent!! In addition, a few months ago I got kicked full force by one of my horses on a Sunday morning and decided no matter what I was going to the 4pm class to help the circulation in my leg even though I was in excruciating pain……as always the coaching and gentle reminders from the teacher that evening kept me safe from myself and at the end of class I had full range of motion in my leg again. I healed in one week an injury (I have had in the past!) that normally would have taken a month or more to heal fully. AND very little bruising! Also – I have kept hip surgery at bay because if I practice at least 3 times a week I have ZERO pain in my hips and my orthopedic surgeon is SO happy with me!!
- Tell us a little bit more about your life outside the hot room, and how you bring your yoga with you into every day life.
LYSA: I truly believe that the STUDIO, and this practice has saved my life. I came in that November a broken sprit and a broken body. I met [the teachers] Maria, Billy and Margie and the healing began immediately. I remember crying non-stop though my first several weeks of class (and still do sometimes). There was NO judgment, NO calling me out. There was only love, support, understanding and safety. What I learned in the hot room after just my first class (Maria taught it) was that ALL I HAD TO DO WAS BREATHE – and literally everything else was optional. I took THAT statement outside the hot room with me that night and it became my mantra. Every day felt like a challenge for two years solid as I tried to save my marriage by myself. I listened to that voice tell me to just breathe and I started to make it through one day – then a full week – then a month – then a year. EVERY DAY I had to remember to breathe and that everything else was optional and I still do that every day. My life outside the hot room is very busy and very full and now it is VERY happy and very balanced. I credit that exclusively to finding this amazing studio and this unbelievable practice.
- What advice would you give to new students just starting out with Bikram Yoga?
LYSA: STAY IN THE ROOM the full 90 minutes your first class!!! Just BREATHE in that first class and listen to the words if you are overwhelmed. COMMIT to at least seven classes before you even consider giving up on it. ASK questions of the instructors because they LOVE to support you and help! ALLOW yourself to relax and listen to your body and NOT your mind.
Wow! I’m ready for yoga now, how about you?!
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Lysa practicing Standing Head To Knee Pose – with some very serious spectators! 😉