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Maria Wahl

Three times a week I walk into the Bikram Yoga studio on Lougheed Hwy in Coquitlam, and reconnect with an old friend, I've known this friend for 53 years, we lost touch for a time but Bikram Yoga brought us back together. The old friend I connect with is my body.

In 2003 after 4 years of misdiagnosis I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's disease is a chronic progressive disorder of the central nervous system that belong to a group of conditions called motor system disorders. Those cells produce dopamine, a chemical messenger responsible for transmitting signals within the brain. Loss of dopamine causes critical nerve cells in the brain, or neurons, to fire out of control, leaving patients unable to direct or control their movements in a normal manner. While Parkinson is not life threatening it is life altering.

Exercise had always been a way of life for me. But by 2005 I was feeling as though my body was betraying me, it would not response to any of the exercise programs I tried. It was as if my body was a separate entity. Parkinson's was pushing it further and further away.

In 2005 a friend from work suggested I accompany her to a session of Bikram Yoga. I was apprehensive; having heard about the heat, I was unsure if I would be able to endure the hot room and my self confidence in my body was low.

My first yoga practice was with Michael; I found his soft spoken instructions of the postures soothing to my soul. I will always remember the moment I felt my body, mind, and soul connect, we were doing camel pose my body moved with ease into the pose, I thought surely I was doing something incorrectly. I asked Michael what I was doing wrong, he looked at my pose and when he told me that I was doing it correctly I was amazed. The rest of the practice was like rhapsody; my old friend had come back.

Those early days of practices with Bikram Yoga were truly a turning point in how i have come to view my battle with Parkinson's. I have accepted that this disease is part of my life, but it is my choice how I will live my life.

I have been coming to Bikram 3 times weekly ever since, outside of the medication I take to control symptoms, Bikram Yoga plays a huge part of my total health care. It helps me maintain posture, balance, and core stability all of which are crucial areas for people with Parkinson's as these areas are greatly affected by the lost of dopamine. I credit my yoga practice with helping keep the progression of Parkinson at a slower pace. My neurologist also feels that Bikram Yoga is making a difference. At my last check up I explained what Bikram Yoga had done for me. I wasn't sure what he thought (as most doctors they like to see scientific data) but at the end of my appointment he said "whatever you're doing in that hot room it's working, stay with it."

Whether it is a 6:00am class or a 12:00pm class whether my Parkinson's symptoms are raging that day, when I stand to do the first breathing exercise my mind, body and soul embrace. For 90 minutes it is just us, in perfect harmony.

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