Libby Hancock attended her first Bikram Yoga class on August 3, 2014--three days after her 15-year-old daughter's funeral. Although that timing may seem strange, to Libby it made perfect sense.
"Katie had started doing Bikram Yoga in June when a church leader invited her to go to classes with her," Libby explains. "And even though it was summer vacation, Katie got up every morning at 6 AM to do yoga. She invited me to come with them, but I was like, 'No way!' Then Katie was killed in a car accident one day before completing her 30-Day Challenge. I remember thinking, 'I have to go to yoga for Katie.' I didn't understand what it was or much about it, but I knew that Katie had discovered her passion and I needed to find out why."
It didn't take Libby long to figure it out. The immediate love and concern that Joanne and the instructors and other students showed her as she started going to classes was almost tangible, and Libby felt her daughter near as she struggled--not just with the yoga but with adjusting to life without Katie. "I knew that Katie loved this place, and I knew they loved her," said Libby. "There were times I couldn't make it through the entire class, times when I curled up on the mat and cried, and other times when I had to leave entirely."
But Libby kept coming back. In fact, she attended almost every morning until school started, and then, after her job as a middle school teacher began, she continued to practice in the evening at least three times a week. She finished the Slow and Steady Challenge in February and completed the 30-Day Challenge in June.
Libby appreciates the physical benefits of her consistent commitment to Bikram. She learned years ago the value of physical exercise and has always worked out regularly. However, she was born with a congenital hip malfunction, and while it hadn't hindered her much throughout her life (after wearing leg braces until she was six), the year before the accident she had experienced hip pain almost every day. She was also dealing with nagging upper back pain. "Thanks to yoga, the hip pain has decreased significantly," notes Libby, "and the back pain has completely disappeared. I'm more toned and flexible too."
However, it's the mental and emotional benefits that Libby values the most as she works her way through the grieving process. July 24th marked the one-year anniversary of Katie's death, and the safety she has found at Bikram Yoga at Brick Canvas is as important now as it's ever been.
"I've been told that it can take a long time to work through the grief process, and I know I'm not done," she says. "But I'm making progress, and this is a safe place to continue to work on healing. When you do Bikram, they teach you not to look around at others, not to worry about where you are compared to others, but to focus on you and just work at doing the best you can. That's what I'm doing."
Note: Click here to read about how Katie's friends completed the challenge for her the day after her death.