RIVERTON - Karla Padilla began what she calls a Zumba journey as a way of reclaiming her Latino identity and later learned it became a way of coping with and healing from Cushing's disease.
Padilla, a member of Saint Andrew Parish, started doing Zumba after her husband, Duane, suggested it. She did not expect Zumba to become a career. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in public relations from the University of Utah and earned a master's degree in organizational management from the University of Phoenix. She worked as a human resource manager at Marriott International for eight years before deciding to become a full-time mother to her 4-year-old daughter, Anavaleska, whom she adopted from Guatemala. She and her husband also have a son, Carlos, 10.
"I was really inspired by my Zumba instructor and became a certified teacher," Padilla said. "This was a huge step for me because I had a difficult time growing up as a Latina in Utah. I always loved to dance, but was never selected for dance clubs in school. Once I started Zumba and heard the Latin music, my Latino roots were awakened and I gained a new self-confidence. Zumba is dancing the salsa, cumbia, merengue, reggaeton and belly dancing blended together with the bhangra, samba, Brazilian or African dances. These dances are put together in a routine, or a powerful combination, where you exercise in disguise because you feel like you are dancing. It is a way of building friendships and camaraderie with others while dancing."
Zumba also helped Padilla heal from Cushing's disease after she was diagnosed in June 2009. Cushing's disease is a disorder resulting from prolonged exposure of the body's tissues to high levels of the hormone cortisol, which is released from the pituitary gland.
"We need cortisol, but when it is in excess, it becomes dangerous because it eats away at our muscles and bones," said Padilla. "It also causes acne, dry skin, thin arms and a large upper body, fatigue, unexplained bruises and an occasional moon face."
Padilla said she and her family became one with her community to help them get through the trial of this disease; race and religion did not matter. She had to have brain surgery to help heal from the condition. "If I did not have the surgery, my body would have deteriorated," she said. "With two young children and a husband, I had to do something. My faith got me through this. God put special people in my life like my neighbors, who are mostly members of the Latter-day Saints faith, to help with my children and instructors to take over and hold my classes until I could return. My mom and my husband prayed with me to ask for guidance, especially the day we thought I was going to have to have more surgery."
Padilla also started meditating, visualizing her body healing and reading the Bible. "Luke became important to me because he spoke about being strong," Padilla said. "All of this with prayer and Zumba helped me to the point that the doctors were amazed. They expected me to be big and overweight and in bed without any energy. I told them I run and do Zumba. The music is happy and helps me let go of my problems. I give them to God. I realized exercise is so important for my mental and physical well-being. I also learned I needed to slow down and enjoy life and my family, which was difficult after having a career."