Doctors discovered she had an inoperable brain tumor. With a “screw this attitude” towards surgical procedures that could’ve greatly impaired her joint movement-the unthinkable for a tri-athlete-doctors assured Kimberly Fowler that her days were numbered. “This is completely unlike me. I always know where I have to be and I’m there. I’ve just had so much going on lately, but I guess I like the stress.” And with that, in walks, Kimberly Fowler, owner of YAS Fitness Centers and the empress of all things fitness. So, she’s a little late for her interview with Genlux and a lot more toned than she is tardy, but as the “New Face of Modern Yoga”, Fowler’s booming business and burgeoning celebrity has kept her in high demand. Fowler’s Yoga for Athletes® program has gained a cult following with more than 500 YAS-goers frequenting her, ultra-modern Abbot Kinney studio on a daily basis. Her unique blend of yoga and in-door cycling, coupled with her promise of “no-chanting, no granola, and no Sanskrit” has proven to have mass appeal. “I started the Yoga for Athletes® program because people try to force themselves into a pose and end up injured, so they don’t like yoga,” she explains. “They don’t realize that it takes a while for the body to adjust, to turn yourself into a pretzel. Every pose has a lesser or more advanced level so athletes don’t get injured.” However, before Fowler reached her iconic yoga status, her less then humble beginnings left her a fighter long before she mastered the Warrior pose. Coming from an impoverished background and alcoholic parents, Fowler acted as mentor for her younger siblings while also juggling several jobs to fund her college career. “Sports and athletics were more important to my family then education. I came from a poor family so athletics always took priority over learning.” After becoming the first college graduate from her family, her aspirations for higher learning led her to law school, but were temporarily put on pause when doctors discovered she had an inoperable brain tumor. With a “screw this attitude” towards surgical procedures that could’ve greatly impaired her joint movement-the unthinkable for a tri-athlete-doctors assured Fowler that her days were numbered. Miraculously beating the odds through unconventional treatments and the “mind over matter” outlook, Fowler became cancer-free and steadily continued her law practice until 1982 when she was hit by a car during a bicycle race. Following the suggestion of her physical therapist, she explored the healing powers of Iyengar yoga. The yoga proved instrumental not only in her recuperation from the bicycle accident, but in the recovery from a near fatal rock-climbing more than fifteen years later that left her with a punctured lung and an injured kidney – a kidney that against the advice of her doctors, Fowler refused to have removed. “I guess you can say that yoga has saved my life a couple of times when nothing else could; a lot of it is just mind over body.” Shortly before her free-climbing accident, Fowler had transitioned from Houston-based lawyer to Monaco-based lawyer (reaping the benefits of her friendship with Prince Albert) to COO of The Winning Combination, an American vitamin company. Fowler’s shift from the gavel-pounding and pinstripe-suited field to that sun salutations and spandex became official after having spent several months in the hospital mending the wounds from her climbing accident. “I realized that I didn’t want to waist my time in a hospital and that I just wanted to spend however much longer I had doing what I love to do, and that meant spinning and yoga.” Fowler, with her black nail polish, Edie Sedgwick-reminiscent bob, and signature low-rise black YAS sweatpants, doesn’t fit the stereotypical image of a soft-spoken, earthy yoga guru; in fact, she is notoriously the ‘anti-guru.’ Her progression into the yoga realm is far from conventional; after two decades as a litigator (“the scariest kinds of lawyers.” Cher quips in the 90’s classic Clueless), and then as the only female executive of The Wining Combination, yoga was an unlikely career move. “As a lawyer you fight every day, and even if you win a case, you don’t touch people’s lives. And I get so many testimonials about how YAS has changed lives in a way that has nothing to do with money. After years of being a lawyer and a corporate exec I got tired of fighting all the time.” Combing the yin and yang energies of spinning and yoga, Fowler’s sequence allows students to sweat out their aggression on the bike before lunging deeper into warrior two’s or surrendering in child’s pose-all to the tune of a fabulous Rolling Stones or Zeppelin track. “People see yoga in a certain way so they stay away from it,” explains Fowler. “This studio is definitely a safe haven and I’m not trying to preach or conquer anybody, I just attract people who wouldn’t go for it; I attract the athletes.” Aside from the seemingly unlikely marriage of cardio and core work, Fowler further flouts the more traditional chanting and meditative practices of yoga as well as the ninety-minute Power Yoga craze, as her classes are designed to meet the one-hour mark. “Time is so valuable and I’ve noticed that after an hour of yoga half the class bails, so I decided to make it shorter so people will stay to absorb all the elements of the class.” Citing her corporate and law background as well as her type-A personality, Fowler applies the same conquer-all and business-savvy approach to a yoga empire that has come to include several instructional DVD’s, two book deals, The No OM Zone (Rodale 2011) and Flat Belly Yoga! (Prevention Books 2013). A reality show is in development, following the opening of her next studio, her own yoga clothing line that includes skull-and-bones theme, and eventually, an anti-aging vitamin line. “I think I appeal to a broad base and not to an elite group. I’m like everybody else-I’m not totally flexible, I don’t do some poses correctly, and I don’t just do yoga,” she explains. “Nobody is perfect and nobody has the same body or the perfect pose, and I represent that.” A strong advocate of movement in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a preference for strong yoga bodies over ‘waify’ figures, Fowler continues to be a one-woman powerhouse single-handedly revolutionizing the age-old practice of yoga, all from the comforts of her minimalist Venice Studio, where she still teaches on the weekend.
“I remember driving down Abbot Kinney and I saw this building with broken windows and the ‘for lease’ sign dangling off the side. It was a gang area. People thought I was crazy, but somehow I knew it would work. But, I never knew it would work out this well. This is absolutely wild!”