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Yeah, I know. That’s a big statement. Especially for me.

I can have some bandwagon tendencies. I jump on and ride along for about six months until a more interesting wagon rolls on by.

This is different. Bikram is a keeper. Yoga is a lifelong practice for me and if I ever stop doing it, someone needs to kick my ass back on to the mat because I’ve temporarily lost my mind.

The spiritual aspects of the practice are infused so strongly into my life, that sometimes I forget to pay homage to the physical piece.

When I was 11 years old, I broke my back. I crushed three vertebrae between my shoulder blades and I got whiplash in my lower back. I was encased in a metal brace and I had to use a wheelchair if I needed to walk further than a few steps.

In time I healed, but some issues remained. I had suffered nerve damage and had lingering pain. My left foot would drag when I got tired and the lightest touch to my lower back would cause spasms to shoot down my legs. I was generally stiff and sore but I just accepted pain was part of my life; I was grateful I could walk.

I exercised and tried to keep my back healthy. I went to the gym, spinning and kickboxing and lifting weights. My back pain was managable. It was mostly fine.

Then, at the age of 30, I walked into a Bikram yoga studio. It all changed.

I know people have all kinds of opinions about Bikram. Opinions about the heat, the unchanging routine or about Bikram’s posture trademarks.

I don’t care about any of that.

I care that I am now in my 30s and for the first time in over 20 years I have no back pain.

Bikram makes me strong – mentally, spiritually and physically. This yoga gave me back my spine, in more ways than one.

I was ready for a life with a “bad back”, I was prepared for constant ache and various restrictions. One of those things I shouldn’t be able to do, is this:

 

But here I am anyway.

It changed my normal. It changed what I could expect from life.

Go ahead and call it a cult and make fun of the Yoga Girl but when yoga is no longer cool, when the world has moved on to the next big thing – I’m still going to be backbending.

That’s why it doesn’t bother me that I have a hard time getting my forehead to my knee in Dandayamana Janushirasana after two years of solid practice. I know I’ll get there eventually. I’ll still be doing this when I’m 84; two years is nothing.

I don’t take complements well. I shrug them off and explain them away. But when someone praises my backbend, I do my best to fight that habit and simply say thank you. Because it’s the purest and most genuine way I know to express gratitude – to my spine, to this practice and to this life.

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