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Kimberly Fowler isn't your typical yogi. "Irreverent" is how CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta described Fowler's popular approach to yoga in his June '09 feature on her fun and unpretentious classes. But innovative may be a more apt description for the Fowler phenomena. Since opening her first YAS Fitness Center in Venice, California in 2001 Fowler has regularly shaken up the yoga and fitness worlds with fresh, no-nonsense workouts designed for everyone from elite athletes to, well, everyone...
It started with the original YAS Fitness Center: No one had ever combined yoga with indoor cycling before--let alone built a studio dedicated to the combination. Mixing hard-charging cardio with straightforward yoga was ridiculed by some yoga purists. But it didn't stop imitators at gyms around the world from jumping on the bandwagon with yoga and spinning classes of their own. The copycats didn't surprise Fowler, whose experience as a professional triathlete had taught her the value of combining yoga with athletics. They only encouraged her to create Yoga for Athletes®, her next workout to rock the fitness world.
Yoga for Athletes® jump-started the yoga-as-cross-training craze that has swept the planet. The Yoga for Athletes® DVD is so popular that students around the world have taken to posting
photos on Facebook of themselves holding it up at famous locales. That and winning titles with its help: The Santa Monica Rugby Club won the'06 national championship--a first--and proclaimed the workout "the athlete's secret weapon." British track star Tasha Danvers won the '08 Beijing Olympics 400m Hurdles bronze with the help of Yoga for Athletes®, overcoming a host of personal and professional hurdles along the way.
Fowler understands a thing or two about hurdles. While still a twenty-something triathlete, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. Like Lance Armstrong a decade later, Fowler battled back from her death sentence to return to competition as an elite athlete. She credits yoga as central to her
recovery and comeback. Going stronger than ever nearly three decades later, she's spoken repeatedly on behalf of Livestrong, Armstrong's foundation dedicated to helping people fight cancer. She's also spoken much on behalf of Nike, having served for years as the company's Yoga Athlete/Spokesperson.
With so many yoga-related accomplishments, it's tempting to view Fowler as some kind of power yogi--that is, if such words and hero worship didn't make her cringe. "I'm not your guru, you are," is a common Fowlerism. Open and accessible, Fowler means no disrespect for yoga traditions and their spiritual components. She just doesn't cram dogma down peoples' throats. And while happily forgoing Sanskrit and chanting hasn't always endeared her to the yoga establishment, that's never been her goal. Fowler wants to change the minds of everyday people about yoga. She wants to make yoga accessible to the masses, not just the chosen few.
And she's getting there...If you've cracked a magazine or newspaper over the last decade, chances are you've read about Fowler, her original DVDs or YAS Fitness Centers. New franchise locations have sprung up across Southern California and will soon open across the country. "I want to get people off the couch and onto the mat," Fowler says of her ongoing agenda and new book The No OM Zone No Chanting, No Granola, No Sanskrit. Coming soon from Rodale Books, The No OM Zone continues Fowler's mission to take the mystery and intimidation out of yoga, to welcome newcomers and to introduce them to a fun and fulfilling practice.