Kimberly Fowler never met an obstacle she couldn’t overcome. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor 25 years ago. She was hit by a car while competing in a triathlon. And she almost died after falling during a climbing expedition. What helped her survive these unbelievable challenges? Kimberly says yoga.
“When I was diagnosed, I said not only am I not going to die, I’m going to get into the best shape of my life.”
She is the founder of YAS Fitness centers in and around Los Angeles and has created her own style of workouts called Yoga For Athletes and a yoga-and-spin hybrid known as YAS. Now this former attorney-turned-entrepreneur hopes to inspire everyone to make yoga a part of their lives.
UPDATE: Sunday was Kimberly’s 2nd annual three hour “spin-a-thon” for Think Cure to raise money to fight cancer. Their goal was to raise $150,00. They beat it and raised over $175,000!
When I first interviewed Kimberly four years ago for Multiplicity Media, she made an undeniable impression on me. I decided to set a goal and become a YAS instructor myself, but it was scary and certainly not easy. So now I want everyone to experience Kimberly Fowler’s fearlessness…
EYE: In 2010 I found myself at a crossroads, needing something to get me physically and emotionally centered. Becoming a yoga/spin instructor at YAS has inspired me and changed my life. Is it true that you’ve said yoga saved your life?
KIMBERLY: It is true and on several occasions. I was diagnosed with a brain tumor while in law school and was given six months to live. It was an extremely stressful time for me. Yoga gave me the opportunity to de-stress, to breathe, and it gave me the ability to think.
In those situations, you get very stressed out and you can’t think clearly. I also had a climbing accident and punctured my lung. I couldn’t breathe. I had been practicing yoga for so long, it helped me get down the mountain. So yes, on two occasions, yoga saved my life for sure.
“I wanted to believe that instead of getting bitter, you can get better.”
EYE: Your diagnosis was 25 years ago and here you are. A miracle story…
KIMBERLY: I was full of piss and vinegar. I wasn’t going to die in 6 months. I wanted to believe that instead of getting bitter, you can get better.
EYE: Through yoga, you discovered that athletes could benefit without it being too spiritual…
KIMBERLY: I love athletes. I’ve been one my whole life. It’s how I got into college through sports scholarships. When I was diagnosed, I said not only am I not going to die, I’m going to get into the best shape of my life.
I started doing triathlons and competing professionally. When it comes to spirituality, I don’t preach it. I think you can find it in spinning and in running; you have the ability to find it on your own.
A lot of people have told me through spinning, they have found that place for them. I don’t need to preach. I can’t tell you how to get to that spiritual place.
EYE: You are a successful lawyer and you ran a huge vitamin company, so at what point did you say I want to create something on my own. What was in you to do that? It’s a very scary proposition.
KIMBERLY: It is scary and I get emails from women all the time about it. I speak often to groups on starting your own business. I was the COO of a $200 million vitamin company. Then I was climbing Mt. Charleston near Las Vegas, climbing without ropes, and I slipped and fell.
“I was in my 40s. If you’re ever going to do something, I said now’s the time.“
I was in the hospital for six months. I lost my job. At that point you have to make a decision…to reinvent? Everyone wanted me to go back into law which is a natural thought process. But I’ve read the books that tell you to do what you love.
I was in my 40s. If you’re ever going to do something, I said now’s the time. So my loves were yoga and spinning so I put that into my business, thus the name YAS.
EYE: You now have four YAS Fitness centers in Southern California with many more to come I’m sure! But not only that, you created your own style of yoga workout. What is Yoga For Athletes? This video shows you teaching several different exercises.
KIMBERLY: With yoga it can be very intimidating especially for people who aren’t flexible. I’ve been practicing forever and before starting YAS, I would walk into a studio and to this day I can’t turn myself into a pretzel. It’s not going to happen…
EYE: Yes, Cirque du Soleil is not in our future…ha….
It’s challenging. You get everything that you do in a traditional yoga class but without “om-ing” and chanting.
When instructors are speaking Sanskrit, new students don’t know what they are saying. It’s an intimidating process to walk into your first yoga class. I didn’t want that to happen. At YAS, you still sweat and get the benefits of yoga, but you’re also getting a great workout.
You can do it. We do have no pretzel zones at YAS. Ha. I think it’s been wonderful. We get a lot of people who have never tried yoga in their life. That to me is so rewarding.
EYE: Yes, even my husband is no longer afraid of doing yoga. But he does your DVD at home. As an instructor, I know that goal-setting is key. How important is setting goals to you?
KIMBERLY: It’s hugely important. I grew up extremely poor. My goal in high school was to go to college. My parents were not supportive of it. They said how are you going to afford it? No one in my family had ever been to college. It wasn’t in their thought process.
EYE: They didn’t support you completely?
KIMBERLY: Not at all. I was working in high school, bringing money in. Both my parents were alcoholics; my dad was not working. They thought of me going to college as losing an income source.
Not only did I have to set a goal and try to figure out how, I had to figure it out with a lot of people telling me you can’t do it, you shouldn’t do it. But I did. I went to college and I went to law school.
EYE: You’ve also written your first book. Why did you write “The No Om Zone“?
KIMBERLY: I want yoga to be accessible. This is a practical yoga book – a head-to-toe yoga book of demonstrations. It breaks down different areas of the body into 8 –to 10 minute workouts. If you want to focus on your lower back for example, there is a specific workout for just that part of your body.
EYE: You can do it in parts if a full hour is intimidating…get into it slowly…
KIMBERLY: Yes, it has a chapter on how to get ready for your first yoga class. I want someone to know it’s a barefoot practice. I don’t’ want them to walk in with their sneakers on. This way you know the simple things like how a yoga teacher walks around the room, there won’t be chanting, and no Sanskrit.
EYE: Where there’s will there’s a way – especially with finding a cure for cancer. You work tirelessly for causes, and giving back. What is the 2nd annual YAS-A-THON?
KIMBERLY: Every year, we do about four fundraisers. Last year, we did the first YAS-A-THON for Think Cure! It was a huge hit. Our members are amazing. We raised $140 thousand in 3 hours of spinning.
EYE: Just to emphasize, you said THREE HOURS of spinning!
KIMBERLY: Yes!! This is our second annual event. We have 162 bikes, and at $1000 per bike, we hope to exceed our goal of $150 thousand. It is truly rewarding. Think Cure is an organization affiliated with the Los Angeles Dodgers that raises money for cancer research. It’s about curing cancer. We can cure cancer!
EYE: My thanks to you Kimberly!!! I’ll be at the YAS-A-THON, and hoping to help reach the goal of $150 thousand for Think Cure!!! And of course, see you in class!