This is the story of Kassie who has a lot of challenges in her life. Kassie sees herself as a bit of a rough diamond. She’s 53, works in child-care, is a divorced mother of two and grandmother of one.
How did you hear about Bikram Yoga?
I was introduced to it by a gym instructor.
When did you start Bikram Yoga?
I started in 2006 at the age of 42 because I had a very, very busy mind and no flexibility. I was a bit of a gym junkie and I needed to try and learn to be still. My 32 year marriage had ended and I was devastated. I needed to sort myself out, I was broken.
You had a serious ski-ing accident last year. What happened?
I had such a bad accident I was off work for a year. I blew out both my knees’ ACLs, fractured both my patellas (knee caps) and tore the medial meniscii in both. I really was a mess.
When did you come back to yoga?
So my accident was Feb 2015, and I was operated on very soon after. I came back in June 2016, 8 weeks after my second operation.
How often are you coming?
3 times a week
What was it like when you first came back?
Before the accident, I was pretty flexible and strong. I found it quite easy in the room, if I’m honest**. But coming back, I could barely stand up in the room. I couldn’t even lift my arms up, they felt like lead! But by the end of the first class back, I felt that I’d been hit by the yoga bus but I was back. I was smiling, I felt soooo good!!
So how were the knees?
I couldn’t do any kind of cardio at all, so yoga was really, really good because it was getting my heart rate up. In the beginning it was so painful even to put my weight on my knees, I would always start the pose correctly though and go to where I could go. The teachers talk about “red light” pain and I followed their guidance and felt so safe to just move little by little to where I could. Some days were better than others but I understand from experience that every day is a different practice and I always feel so blessed to be walking in the room and know that long term, the knees are really getting better. Plus I’ve been back 3 weeks and I’ve lost 3 kgs which is also helping my knees.
My specialists have told me that a lot of the pain is caused by the scarring and doing my yoga the pain would lessen.
The most important posture for you Kassie?
I did 12 months of rehab but I feel that I’m gaining more benefits from coming to yoga 3 times a week. The standing balancing postures are very hard for me but I know that they are the most important because they are rebuilding all the muscles around the knee, especially the VMO which stabilises the whole knee joint.
Did you find that stillness you were looking for?
I was learning the stillness before, but having the accident and feeling so blessed to be back in the room and back at work after a year in rehab at Delmar Hospital, 4 days a week, it felt easy to be still. That might not make sense but the accident put things in perspective, the ego went because I just felt so blessed to be in the land of the living!
Your mum has been ill for quite a few years. Tell me about that Kassie.
Mum’s been in a nursing home for 4 years in a vegetative state, she’s only 74. She was diagnosed with dementia at 50. That’s another reason I keep doing yoga. I’m 53.
How does the yoga help you handle what you are going through with your mum?
Mum can’t speak or use any part of her body. I feel like I’ve lost her but she’s still here. When I’m in the yoga room the outside world stops and I’m just there working on a particular pose. I really do understand now that it is a 90 minute meditation. I don’t think about the heat. I don’t think about the people around me, I’m facing my demons looking in the mirror just being in the moment.
What do you mean facing the demons?
I have a skin disease called vitiligo, it’s a loss of pigment brought on by a lot of trauma in my life. After the accident my skin got worse. Now that I’m practicing yoga again and feeling calm, my skin is improving.
Anything else you love about the yoga Kassie?
I met the man of my dreams here!!
Besides helping with your knee recovery, what has been the biggest thing Bikram Yoga has given you?
My journey in this life is having faith in myself. Learning to love myself, it’s
good to be different, but I feel different because of my skin and I’ve got to learn to accept my difference and be OK with it. At home I avoid mirrors so looking in the mirror in the room is very confronting and I didn’t used to ever look in it. Now, I stare that mirror down!
Interview with Kim MacKechnie