Pregnant, Poised and Powerful

A beautiful standing bow, made even more so by the beautiful baby in her belly!

A beautiful standing bow, made even more so by the beautiful baby in her belly!

When you meet Christina, you are first struck by her perfect complexion, her beautiful dark eyes and her sparkly smile.  But after you talk to her awhile, you see an inner determination that is not immediately apparent.  Walking away from our interview, only one thought came to mind.  That girl is fierce.

Christina first came to Bikram yoga after serving in the Peace Corps.  She returned in 2010, and after hearing about Bikram often in Seattle, decided to give it a try here in Vancouver.  She moved here to be with her then boyfriend, now husband, who also practices at the studio.  Christina had tried yoga at her gym, and while she liked it, she found it lacking.  Plus it was cold in there.  As luck would have it, Groupon provided the pathway to the studio.  In the beginning, Christina found Bikram yoga to be, well, noisy.  There was so much talking.  And the poses were the same every time.  But after a while she learned, it’s not the poses that need to change.  It’s you.

After practicing for over a year, and soon after she got married, Christina found out she was expecting.  This came as a surprise, so she and her husband decided to keep it quiet.  She went to class as usual and remembers feeling absolutely awful.  Actually, she said class sucked.  She felt heavy, like every movement required more effort than it should have.  She also felt metaphorically heavy because of this secret she had.  Her own family didn’t even know.  But eventually she knew she had to tell the instructor.  After calling her over, Christina was told by the instructor that she shouldn’t be practicing in her first trimester.  Christina emailed Rajashree, who assured her it was okay to practice.  However, nausea and fatigue kept her out of the hot room until her second trimester.  (Please refer to Rajashree’s pregnancy recommendations on the Bikram yoga website for more specifics).  

Christina, true to form throughout her pregnancy, listened to her body.  When she didn’t feel well during her first three months, she “laid on the couch.”  Knowing she’d eventually go back, she discussed Bikram yoga with her midwife.  While the midwife “wasn’t a fan,” she told Christina to stay hydrated, keep cool and keep her heart rate as low as possible.  (Christina emphasizes how important it is to drink more than you may want to, hydration is crucial).   Other instructors at the studio reminded Christina that it wasn’t about the temperature in the room, it was about her core temperature, which was regulated by sweating it out anyway.  Studio owner Erika (who had delivered a healthy baby after doing Bikram yoga throughout her pregnancy)  provided pose modifications and support.  In her typically assured manner, she says that if her midwife told her it wasn’t okay, she would have found somebody else.

Second trimester:  hooray!  As Christina started feeling better, she went back to the hot room.  And this time…she felt like Wonder Woman.  She felt flexible and amazing.  Her family, however, didn’t feel so great about it.  They saw the photos and worried that she could be hurting the baby.  Some friends were shocked, one even commented that she was cooking her baby.  To this friend, she replied, “then she’ll come out perfect.”  This kind of poise is present whenever she is questioned; remarkably rare among the nervous first-time-moms set.  When asked how she maintained the courage of her convictions, Christina shrugs and says she just knew she could do it.  Even when she got frustrated, she didn’t give up. She remembers one class where she slept the whole class.  She says, “the hot room gives you what you need.  I guess I needed a nap.”

Feeling like Wonder Woman in her second trimester.

Feeling like Wonder Woman in her second trimester.

In the uphill struggle that marks the third trimester, Christina says the poses began to get harder and harder, and she remembers when she wasn’t able to do eagle anymore.  The wide legged stretch on the floor felt great, but weird when her belly began touching the floor.  Her husband reminded her:  All you need to get out of yoga right now is breathing.  Concentrate on that.  So she did.  And finally, the day after she did reflexology, went out to dinner, had wine and went for a walk with her husband, she went into labor.  Her doula came, and was thrilled with how well Christina was doing using prayanama to get her through the contractions.  She used anything and everything to get herself through in her typically resourceful manner:  hot compresses, therapy ball and soaking in the tub.  At last it was time to go to the hospital.  Feeling aggravated by the wait to check in and fill the pool (she was doing a waterbirth), she kept breathing.  As the pain worsened, it became more challenging.  It felt like she wasn’t getting any breaks in the contractions.  Thoughts were swirling but she couldn’t communicate.  She found herself yelling in a high pitch. Ultimately, her midwife reminded her to “get out of her head and into her body.”  A lower pitch and open throat, she told herself.  And then her daughter was born.

A backbend most can only dream of, and in her third trimester no less!

A backbend most can only dream of, and in her third trimester no less!

Post-partum, Christina went back to class 4 weeks after her daughter was born.  This class was miserable for her, but she told herself to be patient.  Her advice to new moms is to not have high expectations.  It takes awhile.  And you might cry though the whole class because you are flooded with hormones.  And above all, don’t forget to pump before class.

When you are around Christina, you feel like she has her act together.  A sharp sense of humor rounds out her self reliant manner.  When asked how Bikram yoga helped her get through pregnancy, childbirth and being a new mom, she doesn’t hesitate.  It helps you be in the moment.  You focus on what is at hand, not the future.  You quiet your mind.  You don’t have to overthink.  Your body stays strong, but you give your mind a rest.

Knowing Christina, you would do well to listen.

The happy family.

The happy family.

Thanks to Christina for providing the beautiful photos, and the inspiration.


Yoga saved her. Literally.

cervical_spine (1)

In case you didn’t know, the cervical spine is not a spot you want to injure.

Fellow yogini Cindy has always been a self described daredevil.  A sampling of her adventures includes rugby, skiing, snowboarding and diving to name a few.  She thrives on trying new things and being social, such as doing a mini-talk shows, production, promoting ski-wear and now helping students design yearbooks.  If you were a friend of Cindy’s, you would know her as positive, energetic, fun to be around and up for anything.  Cindy had been doing Bikram yoga for about a year when, on an outing with girlfriends, her adventurous spirit lead her to a life-altering moment.  Look out, Cindy.  Karma is coming.

A beautiful day on a boat with friends.  Laughter, water and time away from the grind of work.  A couple of her friends’ kids decide they want to jump off a 5 story precipice into the beckoning water.  Wanting to add cliff jumping to her resume, Cindy said “Let’s do it!” in her usual enthusiastic way.  Her 20’s something co-jumper showed her how to negotiate, feet first, into the water below.  However, when Cindy jumped, she took a little pre-jump up and subsequently ended up trying to right herself the entire way down.  She hit the water hard, and from such a height, water becomes less and less like water and more and more like ground.  By lucky coincidence, a firefighter was in a boat near her and saw her land.  Swiftly and expertly, he and a friend removed her from the water, stabilized her spine with a towel and called for assistance.  That assistance wound up being first an ambulance, then a helicopter when they realized the extent of her injuries.  When Cindy asked questions, being reasonably cognitively aware of what was happening, the answer was almost always the same.  “Because,” they responded, “this is serious.”

About the time the helicopter arrived, Cindy knew this was more than what she thought initially was whiplash.  Her arms and neck were tingly and she was breathing in a rapid and shallow way.  She thought to herself that she was in shock as she was transported to the nearest hospital.  In pain and confused, she was urged to go to Portland for emergency surgery.  Then everything went black.  She woke up after her first surgery at OHSU where they place a plate in through her neck, pulling aside her vocal cords in the process.  Three days later, another surgery from the rear of her neck to place the screws.  In a drug induced fog, Cindy remembers wondering, “Am I dead?   Am I dreaming?”  Neither.  Long hours of recovery at the hands of her loving husband and 15 year old son allowed Cindy, having broken her neck in August, back to the hot room in January.  Pretty amazing.

Cindy speaks appreciatively toward studio owner Erika, who put her membership on hold until she could return.  Cindy’s doctor asked her what she did to keep fit, and when she answered Bikram yoga, he said the strength she had developed in her spine may very well have saved her from being a quadriplegic.  Her return to yoga, however, felt far from triumphant.  Tears flowed, disguised in sweat, out of sheer frustration.  In an extraordinary show of resilience, Cindy continues to battle back, talking herself through postures she could once do with ease.  She has learned how to alternately push herself and back off when needed.  Her favorite postures have changed since the accident, as she understands her new body.  As she attempts patience with her healing, she forgoes deep back bends and breathes through the frustration.  Her favorite pose is standing bow:  both it’s beauty and it’s promise.  “Someday,” she tells herself as she gently works her way into the posture.  Always the competitor, though, she challenges herself, “Cindy, you are going to figure this out!”

Bikram yoga initially drew Cindy in as a way to support an aging (eek!) body.  Having played team sports all her life, she was compelled by the group mentality.  Spiritually, Cindy uses savasana as a sacred space to cultivate thanks.  For what? For being healthy, for having people who love her, for the universe and for all the good things in life.  For a firefighter ironically named “Cliff” who pulled her from the water.  Bikram yoga also serves her competitive nature, with it’s mirrors and it’s teachers (she sees them as coaches) always encouraging her to do more, go farther and be better.  She has seen others and herself do things she didn’t think were possible.  You can do it.  You can do it…

Sometimes, despite a remarkable road to recovery, Cindy still plays some “head games.”  She asks herself why she put herself at risk.  Was I stressed?  Did I have something to prove?  Regretful of the pain she caused herself and the people she loves, she questions.  She wonders.  Just like a true yogi.  But when she finds herself in that place, she goes back to her breathing.  Her positive nature shines through.  She remembers the biggest lesson that yoga has taught her:  You are more than you think you are.  You can do more than you think you can do.  The confidence she has gained continues to grow.  She resolves to live life fully, if not as a daredevil, as the person next to you on her mat.  Living the big life.

Thanks Cindy!


Beth: She meets,she greets, she inspires…

Now that is a gorgeous backbend!

Now that is a gorgeous backbend.

Hello yogis and welcome to Vancouver Bikram Yoga’s blog!

In case you haven’t met her yet, we’d like to introduce you to Beth Perkins.  She mans the desk on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons.  You will know her immediately by her big beautiful eyes, her indelible smile, her ceaseless charm and her huge and seriously contagious laugh.  Oh yeah, and her backbends (see above).  Studio owner Erika wanted to spotlight Beth as a committed and incredibly fun yogi as well as someone who has come a long, arduous path to the place she is today.

Beth first came to the studio in July 2010, exactly one year after the death of her beloved 20 year old son Ryan.  His death had understandably paralyzed her on many levels.  She was trying to get herself back on track after a year of mourning; going to yoga with friends, engaging in a support group (with members whom even now she says she will count on forever) but she said there was something missing.  For Beth, it was Bikram Yoga.  She says this practice is “extreme,” but her grief and suffering at the time were extreme as well.  After a tough start, it turned out to be a perfect fit.  Her first class, Beth said she was worried she might not be able to crawl out of the room.  But she did.  Again and again, Beth came back.  Why?  To her, the answer lies in the grounding and focus it brought and the sense of accomplishment she felt like nothing else she had done before.

Her biggest challenge initially was breathing.  She found herself getting a little panicked and found it eased over time when she learned to “get on top of” her breath.  To her surprise and relief, the breathing carried over into her “real” life and learned that breath is the key to surviving in the hot room and outside of it.  She sees the hot room as a place to challenge what you think is real.  As she says it, in the room and in life, “the best thing is to let go of your expectations.  Or your ego will get you.”  Now, 2 and a half years after she began coming to the studio, her challenges are different but “opportunities are everywhere” to move your practice forward.  Her favorite poses are camel and rabbit.  They are difficult of course, but as she giggles, “sometimes I just tell myself I love how it feels when really it feels awful.  And you know what?  It works!”

The practice has contributed to Beth’s well-being in many ways.  Her doctor told her she was a “walking stroke,” but she has managed to lower her cholesterol by 120 points and her blood pressure as well since she started practicing.  Beth took the advice of her fellow yogi’s and eats a mostly plant based diet now, too.  Perhaps the most remarkable change she has made is moving from taking 3 different anti-depressants to now being anti-depressant free.  She credits yoga as being the force which got her through the withdrawal-like symptoms of dizziness and fatigue.  In her cheery and upbeat way, she also gives props to her fellow yogi’s as being the “beautiful community” which helped her through.  She sees them as keeping her accountable, being spiritually like-minded and contributing to her already bubbly outlook.  When you rub elbows with people like this, she says, you can’t help but be a better person.

And for now, you can catch Beth three days a week at the studio.   Sometimes four when she has time between her full time job in health care, playing with her two dogs and creating an outdoor space at the home she shares with her husband of 15 years.  Of course, the grief remains and becomes more acute when her son’s friends begin getting married and having children.  But Beth reminds herself, in her own genuine and sparkly way, that healing is a gift you give yourself. And along with time with friends and loved ones, yoga puts you on a path to accept and surrender.  Until then, Beth herself is a gift to anyone who meets her.  With her big beautiful laugh, her generous smiles and her dedicated practice to health, you can’t feel anything but be inspired.

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