by student Steve M. authored in August 2015

It all started in the summer of 2011 with severe back pain.  I had been an active gym goer and was in excellent health so it seemed like a minor back injury.  As the pain got worse I was referred to a spine specialist who suspected a disc problem and ordered an MRI.  The results were shocking in that a tumor the size of a fingernail was found growing in my spinal cord (at L1) attached to several nerves.

So, the tumor, later biopsied as an unusual Myxopapillary Ependymoma, a low-grade form of cancer — had to come out.  In October, I underwent a 5-hour neurosurgery where 99% of the tumor was removed.  The surgery required a delicate procedure called a triple laminectomy that refers to the removal of a portion of three vertebral bones to get to and open the spinal cord to remove the tumor.  After five days of immobilization where I could not lift my head (to prevent loss of spinal fluid), I recovered sufficiently to sit up in bed for two additional weeks.  During that period, it remained unclear if I would walk again.

Fortunately, the nerves sacrificed in the surgery did not deter me from starting the three months of therapy to walk again despite some neurological damage and chronic pain.  Six more months of physical therapy and pain management followed but simple tasks like picking something up from the floor felt impossible.  The chronic pain persisted.

Two years ago, one of my best friends, a woman six years my senior, then at the age of 76 — said let’s try something very different and maybe counterintuitive as she invited me to her Bikram yoga class in Midtown, where we fortunately met Georgia, who is absolutely amazing.  She assured us that we were not “too old” or “too disabled” for yoga and that we were very welcome.

The last two years I have been practicing up to three times a week, with some disruption from travel.  Interestingly some of the balancing work is very similar to the physical therapy routine for my spine recovery. Though the spinal series in class was at first unachievable due to pain, I can now work through the pain and find value because these routines later provide symptom relief for a full day or more after class, strongly improving my daily quality of life.

A special thank you to Christine and Jon who have worked with me on several helpful adaptations to protect my back. Being a scientist by profession, I was first hesitant to connect with the emotional side of yoga, but I started listening to Christine about this and now appreciate the positive mental benefits.

Importantly, after two years of mostly hiding in the back of the room and feeling sorry for my disabled self, I am now feeling rather proud of myself as a man in his seventies with a compromised spine who is fighting back against an ambiguous and rare cancer.  As a Professor of Medicine, take it from me – friends and yoga can be good medicine.

– Steve

Pure Action is a 501.c3 non-profit bringing the ancient benefits of yoga to mainstream medicine through research, education, and community. They have funded several research projects on the heath benefits of Bikram Yoga, including:

Another study, unlinked above, outlines the metabolic, cardiovascular and thermal responses to a single session of Bikram Yoga. While their original graphic is fantastic and packed with data points, it’s also designed as a 3 x 4 foot poster, making it difficult to read on the web.

We took their original graph and re-visualized it in a web friendly format to to show, scientifically, what happens to your oxygen intake (metabolic rate), your hear rate (cardiovascular rate) and core temperature during class. Want to know why the standing series is called the “warm up?” Take a look at where your core temperature peaks. Want to know why Camel pose is unlike any other? Take a look at what’s happening to your oxygen intake and heart rate. What to know why Triangle is called the master posture of the standing series, look at the chart’s metabolic peak rate!

For more information, visit their website at

About their research studies:

PURE Action is devoted to establishing the feasibility and the effectiveness of yoga therapy as an alternative medicine through continued research. As research is the basis for clinical practice, studies are needed that will enhance our knowledge of the benefits of yoga and afford this mode of physical activity recognition among health professionals and in the medical science arena. A concerted goal of this organization is to fund research studies on the effects of yoga on physical and mental health in various populations including under served communities.

Fueling your body before class with nutrient rich foods, coupled with optimizing you hydration levels, is important to give you the energy needed for 90 minutes in the hot room. Some would argue refueling your body after class is even more important. Whatever the case, at Bikram Yoga NYC we support and endorse healthy living, not only though yoga, but by making it a lifestyle choice that touches on everything we consume.

Enter Just Salad.

Just Salad provides quality, healthy food in a responsible and affordable way. They offer a rotating list of local, in-season ingredients, with a lot of quality protein options including grass fed free-range beef, antibiotic-free chicken, sustainable seafood, and organic tofu. In addition to their quality product and drive to see a healthier planet, we found another bond between our companies: Each of our locations has a Just Salad outpost less than 2 blocks away!

So, we’ve teamed up for a promotion that gives Bikram Yoga NYC students 50% off their first online order using promo code BIKRAM50. Offer ends 10/9/15. Also, starting this Thursday you can find vouchers at all Bikram Yoga NYC locations that entitles you to a free reusable bowl. Bring this bowl to ANY Just Salad location and get 2 FREE essentials, 1 FREE cheese or 1 premium topping. Offer ends 11/30/2015.

Bikram Yoga NYC & Just Salad… Hot Yoga and Cool Salads.
(promo code BIKRAM50)


Fine Print
Offer ends 10/10/15 at 11:59 PM EST. Only valid for first-time customers on Cannot be combined with any other offer or promotion. Limit one per person. Must use Coupon Code: BIKRAM50. Minimum order: $8.99 before tax and tip. Orders cannot exceed $20 before discount.