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Dena Jackson and her transformation to better health after 2 1/2 years.
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It’s funny how much my perspective changed when I celebrated my 40th birthday last year. I looked at the milestone as a chance for a fresh start and to do things I’ve dreamed of doing. Part of that was checking off things on my bucket list (i.e. going on a 2 week trip to Israel) and the other was getting healthier overall – mind, body, and spirit.
In mid-January, I returned to Hot Yoga Pasadena after a lot of on and off attendance over the past few years. The last time I was really committed to my practice, I completed the 60-Day challenge in 2014. After completing that challenge, I quickly reverted back to my old ways of doing things – unhealthy eating and irregular attendance of my yoga practice.
After several months of being “off”, I honestly couldn’t go through a 60 minute class without sitting down at some point.
When the 60-day challenge came up this year, I didn’t anticipate completing it. I figured I might as well try and that doing my best to complete it would be better than not trying at all. The amazing thing, to me, was that I was able to do the challenge without missing a single day. It wasn’t easy – I had many aches and pains, got in a pretty bad car accident, and hit a mental “wall” a few times in the process. I just told myself, keep going until I can’t. So I did.
Somehow 60 days has turned into 100. From past experience, I’ve learned that I personally needed more than 60 days for a healthier lifestyle to become my new norm. Since returning to HYP in January, I’ve lost 35 pounds, dropped 4 sizes, and feel immensely stronger both physically and mentally. What happens next? I keep going… not to challenge myself to consecutive days or focus on losing weight, but to just keep going until I can’t. A day off here and there is sometimes needed, but I know I have to continue to plug along with my new norm.
My name is Isabella Marez and I am 18 years old. Growing up I struggled with my weight and always worried about how I looked to other people. It was not until I was named the Tournament of Roses 100th Rose Queen for the 2018 Rose Parade that I was constantly in the public eye. I was so worried about how I looked to other people that I never felt good about myself internally. The first time I tried hot yoga in pasadena was with my mom when I was 12 years old. I stopped going after while due to my demanding softball schedule but after my time on the court and being 18 I decided to take control of my body and start looking but most importantly feeling the way I wanted to.
It was 4 weeks till prom and I wanted to feel confident in my dress and in general. So I went back to hot yoga with my mom and have been coming every week to continue my practice, to help my self confidence, my spirituality, and physical health. One thing I have learned since coming back to yoga and from my past struggles with my weight and self image is that how you feel internally about your body is more important than how others see you. I feel more empowered, confident, and in-tuned with my own body after just 4 weeks of coming back to hot yoga, I can’t wait to see how I feel continuing my practice for the rest of my life and what new journeys I will experience when I head off to college at Seattle Univeristy this fall. I have all the strong women in my life to thank for showing me that beauty comes from within and that confidence comes from hard work and dedication!
I’d like to say that before ever stepping into a Bikram yoga class, I thought I would hate it because I don’t like hot weather temperatures. It was engraved in my head that I would not be able to do this. I went in with the attitude that if I could just stay in the room without leaving, I would be happy with that accomplishment. Turns out, I stayed and did all the poses with my best effort. Over the course of a month, I was addicted. I took 28 classes within a month.
I’m primarily a runner. I love to race, achieve new P.R.’s, and collect medals! I can’t express enough, how much doing Bikram has helped me after my long runs and races. Usually a day or two after a long run or race, my body feels sore from head to toe. Surprisingly since doing Bikram right after a run, I’m barely sore the next day! It’s amazing how restorative this practice is for me.
I consider myself pretty diverse doing all kinds of activities. I love to take yoga, spin, circuit training, body sculpting, and a bunch of other classes at my gym Breakthru Fitness. But, I can definitely say that Bikram helps to “round” everything out. I’d recommend anyone and everyone to incorporate Bikram into their workout schedule.
Three years and thirty pounds ago, I struggled out of my first Bikram Yoga class. Drenched in sweat, worried that I might not be able to make it back to my car, I still somehow sensed that I had stumbled upon something good. Or maybe I was just hoping I had.
What I knew for sure was that I was losing the ability to walk. A cane, a walker, and even a wheelchair loomed ominously in my mind’s eye. This became especially apparent when, on a trip to Yosemite, I found myself sitting in the car instead of walking to waterfalls. I had always loved to hike, and now, here I was, well on my way to becoming an invalid. Yes, I do have a disability that has affected my mobility since birth. Did that mean I had to accept what seemed inevitable?
I wasn’t willing to sink into a recliner without a fight. Research on the Web quickly turned up all sorts of possibilities, from physical therapy to Pilates. Yoga, with which I had a little experience, appealed to me the most. Bikram Yoga and the testimonials of people who have found it healing made it an especially attractive, if daunting, choice. I had a thousand questions. At 59, was I too old to begin? Would I injure myself, make myself sick, or keel over from heat exhaustion?
There was only one way to find out for sure, and that’s how I found myself at Bikram Yoga Pasadena one pivotal morning in October, 2011. Since that overwhelming but oddly seductive first class, I have returned to the “torture chamber” over 300 more times. I could say that the practice has changed my life, but it might be more accurate to say that it has given me my life back.
Two years after my car-bound visit to Yosemite, I traveled with my husband to Washington, D.C. to see the cherry blossoms in bloom. We parked next to the Tidal Basin and strolled under the beautiful, flower-laden trees. Then we wandered up the Mall past all the iconic buildings to the Capitol. Then we headed to Union Station. It wasn’t until we were sitting at a restaurant inside Union Station that I remembered how, almost exactly two years earlier, I hadn’t been able to walk a hundred yards to see Yosemite Falls. I had just walked five miles without even thinking about it.
I did indeed stumble upon something good when I walked into Bikram Yoga Pasadena back in 2011. I’ve lost over thirty pounds, and I’ve gained strength, flexibility, and serenity of mind. That I now walk without pain or worry feels like a miracle.
– Megan Edwards
Four years ago before I started Bikram Yoga I had high cholesterol that my doctor told me would result in me needing medication. I weighed 195 pounds. Within 3 months of going to Bikram I was able to balance my cholesterol. Over these 4 years while going to Bikram Yoga, my diet has also changed, I make smarter choices when it comes to deciding what to eat. I now weigh 155 pounds! I’m obsessed!
– Raffi Haneyan
I wanted to share with you the medical test that has welded me to my Bikram Yoga practice. I had blood work done 5 days prior to starting Bikram Yoga then 57 days and about 50 classes later. Below are the blood work results I had done at Kaiser, as a part of of normal kidney monitoring by my nephrologist. This is the test that put me in near tears when I told you the impact Bikram yoga has had on me. All my other blood work numbers have dramatically improved, and over time my back has healed, I have gained confidence in my knee strength and flexibility.
In 2012 I did 205 classes which completely changed my body. It not only gave me great health, it changed our life style. In 2013 Deedie and I took up snow skiing again after a 30 year hiatus. I now have a season pass to Mammoth Mountain for 2014. We went to Peru in August 2013 and hiked the back side of Macupiccu, doing a 40 mile trek in five days up 10,000 feet. None of this would be possible without Bikram Yoga.
This all happened because you, Erin and Jeff believed in me, kept encouraging me when I was completely out of gas, laying on the mat as if I was going to die, at times looking like I was going to die. But still you found the tiny little points of encouragement, weaving them into me and kept me coming back. Now 20 pounds lighter, improved health, strengthened back and knees, we are doing stuff in our 60s that we used to do in our 30s. We are forever grateful.
– Gene Street, Retired Captain Azusa PD
I have been suffering from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) since teenage years, mainly lower back pain and abdominal cramps. Routine exercise in the gym did not seem to help regulate my PMS problems, so I decided to try Bikram in May 2006, referred by a coworker. I used to practice once a week until my first 60-day challenge in 2010. Not only it helped alleviated the PMS, but I also became a happier and calmer person, and my mind became more peaceful and self-possessed which allows me to be more logical and technical at work. I have also noticed my thighs and legs were nicely toned midway through the challenge. I’ve then decided to increase my practice from once to 3 times a week after the challenge.
In 2011, my 2nd 60-day challenge made me realized that most of my yoga outfit no longer fit me. They became pretty loose. I went to shop for new yoga outfits and found out I have dropped from size 8 to size 4! With this encouraging result, I gained even more confidence and I work harder in classes by staying more focused in each pose. I got a lot of compliments on my toned body and my glowing skin, which motivates me to keep practicing! I remain practicing 3 – 5 times a week, and I finally decided to commit to the Auto Monthly Payment after coming here for 5 years because I know I can do it, and I know I am able to practice 5 times a week now. With the previous 30-class card, I just keep making excuses to only practice certain number of classes in a week, but the challenge has proven to me that I’m capable of practicing more frequently. I know if I am determined, I can accomplish anything!
During the 3rd and 4th 60-day challenges in 2012 and 2013, I have gone through some rough time, unlike the previous two positive challenge outcomes. Negative thoughts came up and I became emotional inside and outside of the classes. Practices became tougher and I could not take control of my mind and body. After talking to studio instructors, they ensured me that I was going through a newer, deeper practice level and emotional breakthrough. After learning and accepting the struggling me, I become more alert and sensitive all round. It is easier to identify my stress level and I would take action on it, deal with the problems, let go and move on. Bikram yoga has changed me tremendously whether it is mind or body.
– Karen Chung
- I lost two pant size
- I lost 12 lbs of fat
- I gained 5 lbs of muscle
- I used to have very flat feet – I have developed a mild arch (amazing!), strengthening my feet
- I have strengthened my ankles – I can now comfortably wear high heels
- I have gained neck flexibility that shocked my chiropractor (in a good way)
- My posture has improved
- I have mild scoliosis in the middle of my back, affecting the symmetry of my rib cage. As a classical singer, I have stared at my rib cage for 25 years. Through daily practice, I have been amazed at the ability of my body to find symmetry thanks to pranayama breathing at the beginning of class, and half moon pose side stretches (still a huge challenge for me).
- I sleep very well now, and wake up refreshed, naturally.
- When I started my 60-day challenge, I had been dealing with Achilles tendinitis for over a year with flare ups on and off throughout. Not only has the tendon stretched and reshaped to an almost normal shape (without the bump traditionally associated with this problem), but the pain is hardly ever present anymore…whereas I had been previously waking up with the pain every morning for at least a year!
- I have had a problem with my right hip since childhood – the ball of the femur does not sit properly in the socket of the pelvis, making that joint very unstable often popping out of the socket. Because of this, my right knee turns in. In addition, I have always been unsure of my footing since my leg’s length actually changes depending on the ball/socket position. And worst of all had been the pain. Because of my hip issue, standing balanced on two locked-out legs was always a real challenge, triangle seemed like an impossibility, and balancing on one leg, well, ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? I am delighted to report that all of that has improved amazingly. Although the hip still pops out, and I still cannot do standing head to knee balancing on my right leg, I have a beautiful triangle that makes me proud and in awe of my body. There is much more work to be done here, but I have great hope that there is a non-surgical solution for my hip dysplasia.
The things I have learned in the process of the challenge have also been valuable. I realized that I am stronger than I think (we all are!). I also realized that once I started to appreciate the body I saw in the mirror, and found the love for it and developed a true sense of awe at its ability to change, my body really started to change. Through softening my thoughts, my body changed and improved. Through focusing on how incredible my one-and-only body is, I learned to focus on the positive changes, and not to judge its imperfections. I am so grateful for this lesson!
Beyond all of the above physical and self-esteem benefits, the studio became for me a safe harbor, in which I did not have to deal with anything else but breathing and following instruction. I am so grateful for that also. This has been an emotionally challenging and draining summer for my family. I am grateful BikPas became the place where I knew I could find stillness, develop focus and strength within an atmosphere where one is encouraged to do one’s best in a friendly and nurturing environment.
I am grateful to Val for making this challenge available. When I started it, I didn’t know if I’d finish it, but I figured it would help me establish a more regular practice. I’m glad I did!
I am grateful for and indebted to each of the different teachers who lead my 60 classes… To Jeff, who always, ALWAYS, each class I took with him, he gave me a little correction that made a huge difference in my overall practice. To Nafisa, whom I seriously avoided at the beginning, and yet learned to really appreciate her tough love – thanks for helping me rise above my own limitations! To Adrienne, who always had something uplifting to say about the human spirit, and who, the day I was literally falling apart emotionally, kept encouraging me “keep going, Ursula, you can do it.” To Y Thuan and Brooke, for their solid, no-nonsense way of teaching – never any drama, always focused and kind. To Miranda for her sense of humor. To Valerie, for her beautiful, sincere and reassuring smile, not to mention impeccable guidance through each asana. To Jesse, who is the most awesome cheerleader ever (I made sure I was there every Tuesday at 9am, to be recharged with awesomeness!)– who really taught me how to come out of postures. And to Petra, whose concept of Angels and Warriors so beautifully sums up my whole experience of this challenge.
I cannot thank you enough, Val, for making this possible. Everything in the studio is a reflection of the love and respect you have for this practice, from the aesthetics of the studio, to the wonderful people who work there, teachers, staff (Zack, Cheryl, Abbie – what awesome front desk staff!), and the cleaning angels that wipe down the mirrors, pour liquid down the shower drains to unclog them at night, and the myriad of other things that must be attended to to keep the studio beautiful. It is an honor to practice at BikPas, and this, my first-ever 60-day challenge has made me even more appreciative of it all. What an amazing experience!
– Ursula Kleinecke-Boyer