Lingering shoulder pain first drew Mountain Yoga Sandy Founder Jackie Wheeler to yoga more than 20 years ago. At the time, Jackie was living in Washington State where she had graduated from the Art Institute of Seattle and was apprenticing as a furniture designer. The demands of woodworking aggravated an injury she’d suffered while kayaking, and so after months of urging from a friend (“I hated stretching and could not touch my toes!” Jackie says.), she finally relented and attended her first Bikram yoga class in 1996.
During the first pose of that first class, combined with the heat and having to look at herself in the mirror, Jackie thought, “I’m never coming back.” But by the closing Shavasana, the pain in her shoulder had already lessened and, moreover, the discipline required to complete the full 90-minutes gave her a rare taste of feeling grounded. “I couldn’t focus on one spot for 10 seconds to save my life then,” she says. “I realized my shoulder was the least of my worries and that, for my mind, I needed yoga like I needed to breathe.”
Soon Jackie was practicing three or more times per week. The anxiety she’d grappled with her entire life began to lift and, at the same time, the heat and physical challenge of the poses built confidence and resiliency within her that easily translated outside of the yoga room. Best of all, for the first time, Jackie felt a sense of self-worth and belonging that was not defined by the way she perceived how others viewed her. “It was really a journey to self-love,” she says.
In 2000, Jackie became certified at the Bikram Yoga College of India. And then, in 2003, opened Bikram Yoga Sandy, thereby realizing her dream of operating her own yoga studio. “Growing up in Utah, I never felt like I could truly be myself,” she says. “I found it so exhilarating to create this sanctuary where people could leave all those things that divide us at the door, focus on our similarities versus our differences and come together as a community to experience the profound benefits of yoga.”
In the years that followed, Jackie broadened and enriched her Bikram-based foundation with teacher trainings and workshops in multiple yoga lineages. In 2013, with the intention of promoting a more balanced, sustainable yoga practice, the studio physically expanded to include a non-heated yoga room and was renamed Mountain Yoga Sandy. The studio’s class menu was, in turn, broadened to a 5 Elemental Class system which includes Hatha, Fusion, Flow, Stretch, and Restore classes.
Outside of MYS, Jackie enjoys skiing, mountain biking, hiking, design, and being a mom to her son, Boone, and daughter, Catalina. Watching her children grow has deepened the joy she experiences from getting to share the mental and physical benefits of yoga with others every day. “I feel really inspired and honored to hold this space not only for people to become better humans,” she says, “but be better aligned with how they fit into the world as a whole.”