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Kate Nowak

Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I grew up in Western New York. I was very into school, and also played volleyball, softball, and violin. I studied Computer Engineering at Rensselaer - where I also played volleyball - until I tore my ACL. It required surgery and pretty much ended my agility-oriented sporting activities. 

In college I participated in Navy ROTC, so after graduation I was commissioned as an Ensign in the fleet. I spent four years trying to be useful as an aircraft maintenance officer. The military is of course very big on running, but my knee couldn't handle too much, so I got into activities like swimming and step aerobics. 

After my Navy service, I attended SUNY Binghamton for a Master of Arts in Teaching Mathematics, and I have been teaching math for six years at Fayetteville Manlius High School.

What brought you to the Bikram yoga practice?

I started practicing yoga around 2004, when I moved to a town with a yoga studio. The style was Anusara, and I found that it improved my mood, sleep, and sense of well-being. Around that time I tried my first Bikram class on a visit to a major city, because the studio had a big sign on the side of the building that said "Hot Yoga!" with like flames and stuff, and I was intrigued - and I hated every second of it. I think I left the room after the first camel posture. The heat was just overwhelming, and no one told me it was ok to sit down or lay down. I stayed away for a long time, convinced that it wasn't for me.

Last summer I was feeling burned out on all my usual exercise like weight lifting and aerobics. I was also spending about 5 weeks in Brooklyn, and there was a Bikram studio within walking distance of where I was staying. The first class there was as rough as I remembered, but the teachers were extremely encouraging and gentle and convinced me it was ok to not do every posture and to sit down when I felt dizzy. They offered a 10 classes for $10 special, so I made myself go every day. Then I signed on for unlimited classes for one month, and ended up going every single day of my stay there. That first month or so, I saw the biggest improvements in my posture, decreased anxiety, and it just became a challenging game to see how much more I could do every day. You really make fast improvements when you first start.

When I returned home to Syracuse, I drove up to Bikram Yoga Oswego for a class the first day I was back. I was so impressed with the studio and the quality of instruction that I continued to go almost every day for the rest of the summer, even though it involved a drive. With Judy, Maggie, and Sandy's teaching, I have been able to deepen and strengthen my practice. As you get better, your progress doesn't come as quickly, but working hard makes the victories (getting your toes around your calf on the stubborn left side in Eagle, touching your forehead to the floor in standing-separate-leg-stretching) that much sweeter. Next up: kicking out in standing-head-to-knee, and getting all the way back with my knees on the ground in fixed-firm pose.

How often do you practice and what specific physical issues, if any, did you have before taking your first class?

Currently I practice two or three times a week. I would like to go more often, but working full time makes driving to Oswego every day impractical. However, I find that at this stage, I still see progress and get physical and mental benefits with a 2-3 times/week practice. When I first started, I was wary of my previous knee injury, but the Bikram practice has strengthened my knee joint to the point where I don't have to worry about it anymore.

What changes have you seen/felt in your body- overall physical and general well- being?

The biggest change and benefit has been that since I started practicing at the beginning of the summer, I have lost about 50 pounds. I attribute this more to the "tightening of loose mental screws" (as Bikram says) than to the physical activity itself. When I feel balanced and calm, I don't feel like eating when I'm not hungry or to console myself. I don't have to try so hard to maintain a sensible diet. In addition, I have noticed marked improvements in my posture, balance, strength, flexibility, and tone. I had been having minor sciatica and the beginnings of arthritis in my hip, but those symptoms have disappeared. I no longer feel exhausted or have achy feet or back or feel like I need to eat a bunch of sugar at the end of my work day. This practice is just really good for you.

What is your favorite part about Oswego Bikram yoga?

The teachers are really, really excellent. I visit the local Bikram studio any time I travel, and Sandy, Judy, and Maggie are as good or better as teachers you can find anywhere. They are faithful to the dialog, nudge you, with compassion, when you need nudging, and ensure students are getting individual feedback to improve their practice. 

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