Always resilient & strong
Kim Duckworth knows what it means to be knocked down, and get right back up again – literally. With a passion for horses, she was pursuing her dream as an apprentice steeplechase jockey in West Chester, Pa., when a terrible riding accident left her with a sad diagnosis that at age 25, she would never walk without a cane again. Determined to walk without a cane, and to ride again, she returned to her roots in Northeastern Pennsylvania. She made an incredible recovery with rehab and hard work, and after years of strenuous workouts in the gym, Duckworth discovered yoga. Teaming up with her brother and fellow yogi Chad Clark, well-known in the yoga world for building hot yoga studios across the country (in fact, Clark brought the first yoga studio to the area when he built Steamtown Hot Yoga), Duckworth recently opened Endless Mountains Hot Yoga at Shadowbrook Inn & Resort, Tunkhannock. Her days are filled with fun times with her 5-year-old daughter, Katharine, enjoying their horses, and of course, yoga. Offering private instruction as well as classes in the studio, Duckworth is always on the move – and loving every minute of it. Meet Dalton’s Kim Duckworth…
How did you transition from apprentice steeplechase jockey to yoga instructor?
My first passion in my life was always horses. I was living in West Chester, Pa., and I was galloping steeplechase horses, and it’s pretty hard on your body. I had a horrific fall and was told I would never walk again without a cane and I’d have a bad limp.
How old were you when this happened?
I was 25. A horse flipped right over on top of me. So I moved back here, and after about a year of rehab I was running about 5 and a half miles a day and working all kinds of jobs. I really wanted to work with horses, but I worked all kinds of jobs. I always kind of had my foot in the door in the fitness industry, too, because I knew I needed to stay fit in order to stay healthy because of my leg. And after about 20 years working at gyms, working out in gyms, I just wasn’t getting anywhere with it. I was getting bored. My joints, my muscles, everything was always in pain and I had a lot of arthritis all over. I had many injuries because I continued to train horses here.
How did you get from the diagnosis of you’re not going to walk again without a cane to working out?
I said, “Absolutely not. No way.” Determination. The mind is a powerful tool.
When did you discover yoga?
I started doing yoga in about 2001, and I realized the yoga kept me able to get on a horse and ride because I was riding to make a living. But it was so painful. Everything was so bad. The last diagnosis I had when they x-rayed my spine they said I had the spine of a 75-year-old woman from all the compression. So I made a decision that I was going to just enjoy horses for recreation and pursue yoga 100 percent. I started teaching about five years ago and it’s much healthier.
What was your first yoga class like (as a student)?
I had been into very high intensity exercise. To come back from that injury, I was a lunatic in the gym. I did spinning classes, working out two hours a day, just pounding myself. In 2001, my brother was living in New York City and he told me to come to New York and take a yoga class with him. I said, “Chad, come on. I like spinning and elliptical, anything hardcore.” And he said, “Oh this is hardcore. It’s a Bikram hot yoga class.” And I said, “All right, how hard could it be?” My brother trained and studied with Bikram and that’s where I got a lot of my training from – my brother and Bikram. And Chad taught for Bikram for a couple years in California. So he knew what he was getting me into, but I had no idea. Thirty minutes into the class I looked over at him and I said, “I’m going to kill you after this class” (laughs) because I thought I was going to die. And the room was packed. George Stephanopoulos was next to me, and I knew I couldn’t make it to the door because I knew I couldn’t step over that many people without stepping on someone. It was just jam packed full of people sweating, and they were so focused and so into the workout. I thought “I have to leave!” but I didn’t. I stuck with it. And afterwards I just noticed a difference in my posture and my spine, and I was hooked.
Why is the heat in hot yoga class so good for you?
The room is heated anywhere from 95 to 105 degrees and the humidity is around 40 percent, and the heat itself enables you to stretch deeper, safely – to gain more flexibility. It’s an incredible cardio workout. The 90-minute class is equal to a 4-mile run and the most incredible thing about that is you don’t leave your mat, you’re not pounding on your joints. You’re using every single joint, muscle, gland in your body. The detoxification is amazing. Every pore is cleaned out and the greatest thing is you lose a lot of weight. It gives you that long, lean look. And then I went a step further because I am a bit of a loony toon (laughs) so I decided just teaching the hot yoga, the Bikram method, wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more and I started studying with Bryan Kest, a power yoga guru, based in Calif.
How is power yoga different from hot yoga?
Hot yoga is a Hatha-based yoga, it’s 26 postures all done in the same series. The power yoga is more synchronizing your breath and movement. It’s more of a flow. There’s a lot more upper-body power required. (We do) push-ups and lunges and no classes are the same. I never teach the same class twice. I do it in the heat as well.
So you’re doing hot, power yoga.
Actually, I call it kickasana power yoga, because it kicks your butt!
You opened your studio in Tunkhannock just three days before the flood.
I had so many people come in after the flood and they were looking for some peace. They had lost their homes, they had lost everything they had, so they came to the yoga studio to try find something. I want to reach out to people and help them to become the best they can be because it’s helped me. It’s completely changed my life, 100 percent for the better.
An Open House will be held at Endless Mountains Hot Yoga at Shadowbrook Inn & Resort, Rte. 6, Tunkhannock, on Saturday, Nov. 19, featuring a free hot yoga class (for beginners) with Duckworth from 10 to 11 a.m., and a class with guest instructor Chad Clark, from 12 to 1:30 p.m. From 2 to 4 p.m., there will be a silent auction to benefit the Victims Resource Center, a charity Duckworth holds near and dear to her heart. Prizes include an overnight stay and fine dining certificates from Mount Airy Casino Resort and Shadowbrook Inn & Resort, to name a few. The event also features a reception with wine and appetizers. Registration is required by calling 983-9002. For more information, visit www.EMHotyoga.com.