My Bikram Yoga Journey – Paula Reyes, BYT Teacher and Studio Manager

In the midst of several hard years, I was barely recovering from grieving from a divorce when I lost a job of sixteen years. In retrospect,  I ask myself did I lose that job or did that job lose me? But at that time I was devastated. 

Paula before she knew she had cancer.

I found myself working as a cashier at Organic Roots where I met Phillip the BYT studio owner. I asked him about Bikram Yoga.  He explained the practice and the benefits of the practice and it resonated with me. It sounded exactly how I wanted it to feel.  At the time,  I was having breathing issues which doctors had diagnosed as asthma. I showed up for my first Bikram Yoga class at 6am and was determined to practice three times a week, hoping I could fit in more classes with in my busy work schedule.  I was juggling two jobs at that time.

During my first class I thought,  “Oh boy! What did I sign myself up for?” It was hard and I barely did any poses.  I spent most of the class sitting down and getting up to try again.  By the time I was trying to get into the postures everyone else was done!

I went to work after my 6am class and I had this unbelievable energy.  I was so excited I was telling everyone about Hot Yoga. I did better in my second class and even though I was still having breathing issues I managed to do more of the postures.  I noticed that day I craved more vegetables, fruits and definitely I was drinking more water than what I was used to. I rested so well that night!  

I was in the middle of my third class when I had an emotional break down.  Something came over me at one point when I was looking at myself in the mirror during tree pose.  My body looked sick to me. I looked very tired, and I felt so sad about that person in the mirror.  I couldn’t help it… I had to run out to the bathroom and break down in tears.  I was too embarrassed to do it in class. The emotions were so powerful but I gathered myself up and went back to finish my class.  I was determined to keep going.

Paula during her first chemo treatment

I went on with my busy work days, but unfortunately I was not able to go back to Bikram Yoga because that weekend what I thought was asthma turned out to be cancer. “How is that even possible?” I asked. After several medical procedures and tests I found out that it was Stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. It had taken over my right lung therefore my right lung had collapsed.  No wonder I was having problems breathing! I was walking around functioning with one lung.  

I was very fortunate to have found a great group of doctors who took care of me and put a plan into action very fast. I started chemotherapy right away..then surgery…then more chemotherapy. Yes. I was out of commission for one full year.  During that year when I was feeling too sick and weak, Bikram Yoga was in my mind. I wanted to feel good again, I wanted to feel strong, I wanted to have good clean energy. I wanted to breathe! But at that time I could barely take a few steps from my bed to the bathroom.

Paula took up hiking in between chemotherapy treatments

My last chemotherapy treatment was December 23, 2015. Best Christmas gift ever! On January 26, 2016 I went back to Bikram Yoga and haven’t stopped since. My first couple of weeks back were not the best.  I was uncomfortable. I felt like vomiting so often and dizzy. I was very weak but even though my body was not liking it, my mind was loving it! I would go home after class and feel on top of the world! I was so inspired by the other students and instructors. 

I remember sitting in the back of the yoga room for the most part and just visualizing myself doing a Standing Bow or Balancing Stick. I would visualize my body healthy and strong. I showed up to class just about everyday for three months.  Everyday was challenging but my body was getting stronger. Bikram Yoga became my Happy Place. I loved being part of the Bikram Yoga community. The owners Katy and Phillip made me feel welcome in their beautiful studio. The instructors were so inspiring and caring. I was going through a roller coaster of emotions and high anxiety during this time in my life, but I felt safe and comfortable in that environment.

Paula shaves her head during chemo

Paula two months after starting Bikram Yoga

Three months later the moment of truth arrived. It was time to go back to the doctors to get several tests done and find out if that horrible cancer had left my body completely. You would probably think that I was nervous, anxious to find out. But, no. I wasn’t!  I had this peace in my heart and soul. All I knew was that I felt amazing. I had never felt like that before. I can honestly say I felt like a new person. The doctors and nurses couldn’t believe how healthy I looked after only three months after finishing treatment. OK… So I looked and felt amazing! To match that, there were the test results, everything on paper was picture perfect. My lung specialist said “I want to frame these test results” My nutrition levels were perfect. The alkalinity in my blood… perfect.  My lungs were clean as a whistle. Yes! My right lung that had collapsed due to cancer cells was clean.  I DID IT.  That horrible cancer was dormant and I was feeling on top of the world!


But then the oncologist spoke. He recommended one more year of preventive chemotherapy.  “A lower dose” he said, but none than less CHEMOTHERAPY. I got very upset and didn’t say much but I was thinking,  “Absolutely not!” After seeking different medical opinions I made the decision that I would not do one more year of chemotherapy.  My preventive care has been a consistent Bikram Yoga practice, combined with a healthy nutritious diet. I went back to my full time job, full of energy and ready to go on with my life. I never thought I would say this but I missed my work days, having a routine, and feeling normal again.

Paula today

I was so passionate about Bikram Yoga that six months into my practice the opportunity of becoming a Bikram Yoga teacher showed up.  Best decision I ever made! Later on, the opportunity of becoming the Studio Manager showed up, and here I am now…I’m the Studio Manager and Yoga Instructor at Bikram Yoga Temecula!

In December of 2018 I will be three years in cancer remission.