in the nude.

Naked Yoga.

Just in the last few days I have openly talked about attending a class, I have learned that these words arouse different thoughts, assumptions, and opinions from many people. Personally, my initial reaction to the concept was of intrigue and curiosity. I mean, of course I had some fear surrounding the vulnerability of a nude practice in front of others (insert crow pose here).

But, my intrigue and fear stemmed from something deeper. It was rooted deep down within me and surrounded my personal acceptance and non-acceptance of my body. Before I get into that though, let's go through the societal reactions I got this last week when discussing the nude practice:

  • the side glance and uncomfortable laugh - #classic
  • the deer in headlights shock - #ohhellno
  • the shit eating grin of excitement - #doooowndog
  • the Elvis lip meets eyebrow raise of disagreement - #gross

When I presented the idea of going, I didn't think much of people's reactions to be honest. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and beliefs. It wasn't until after I actually attended the class that I thought more on the why behind people's reactions. I believe all the various reactions stem from a slight curiosity, maybe even envy for those who have accepted their bodies enough to disrobe in front of others and move in ways you wouldn't normally while nude. Perhaps everyone wants to feel that freedom and confidence in who they are and how they look. Perhaps.

OK, on to the class - I know this is what you want to hear. It wasn't a weird craigslist meetup where people just gathered to take their clothes off and do yoga. No, this is all very intentional. Naked in Motion, the organization that offered the practice I attended in the small, very artsy, 11th floor studio in the Flatiron District of Manhattan, offers more than just a class with no clothes - when you enter, you become part of their movement.

 

"We aim to hold safe spaces where people can take a collective journey through fear towards self-discovery, compassion, and empowerment." - Naked in Motion

 

Their website touches on subjects such as shedding self-hate, body shaming, judgement, social standards and limiting personal beliefs that many of us can empathize with - I mean we are all made human, right? The practice they offer is aimed to be a safe space for you to explore a new mind/body connection while finding freedom in the relationship you have with your body, and empowerment to express that relationship. I mean, really cool stuff. 

When I first exited the elevator onto the 11th floor, there were a few men waiting outside the door to the studio, one whom I found attractive, and I immediately got anxiety. My heart started racing and I started having second thoughts of whether or not I could actually step outside of this comfort zone. Then, a woman stepped out of the elevator who was obviously the instructor, deducted from the studio the keys in her hand, and I felt some relief. At least I wasn't the only female. She was a really beautiful lesbian woman with curvy hips, fierce eyebrows, and beautifully pale skin; the kind of pale that makes skin look 10x softer than everyone else's skin.

The studio had beautiful natural light and through the windows you could see the entire city. Really inspiring. Soft white, transparent curtains hung over the windows creating a tranquil space as we set up our mats. I kept waiting for people to just start ripping off their clothes, but everyone sat on their mats clothed. I followed suit. 

There were nine of us total, ten including the instructor, which she voiced was a small class size compared to the normal crowd. She had us set up in two rows, facing the center of the room (sigh of relief, no one was seeing this downdog if you know what I mean). Before we began, we went over the ground rules. Nudity is mandatory, but women have the option to wear bottoms. Anyone in a gender transition also has the option to wear what they need to express themselves as their identifying gender. When holding postures, your drishti (gaze/focus) should be on the floor, or a still object other than another person's body. Participants are not allowed to make any comments before or after class regarding another person's body or practice. Participants are also advised not to invite another yogi to hang out after class to grab coffee, dinner, etc. Erections are not all sexual, so if someone experiences one, the choice is open to continue practicing or take a child's pose. No phones allowed until the last person has their clothes back on. These are many of the rules, but not all.

When we de-clothed, any small feeling of sexuality dissipated and it became a very artistic, natural environment. People casually took their clothes off as they would to get in the shower and returned back to their mats to begin practice. There was no snickering, no awkward glances or insecurity that you could see. Everyone stood tall, openly and honestly. It was really powerful to be a part of even without looking at anyone else's body. You could feel the freedom in the room, as if the vibration in the room accelerated in the most natural, primal way. 

I began to get very comfortable as the practice progressed. Standing across from a complete stranger in Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I), with full frontal nudity was really powerful. We weren't looking at one another (I mean, at least I wasn't - my gaze was fixed on the center of the room floor slightly above my mat), but even without looking you could feel them. It's like when you are practicing next to someone and you can't see them in your side by side downdogs, but you can hear their deep ujjayi breathing, and that sound alone keeps you propelling forward. It was similar to that but stronger. 

As we moved and I was able to observe my own body in the practice, of course I noticed some things. The way my skin looks when I take a twist. How my belly hangs if my core isn't engaged fully (great reminder to engage I will say). And noticing how yoga pants really do help with sweat absorption in certain areas of the body. But, the care for how my body looked as I did postures got lost as I got lost in the movement and really seeing how it all worked in my body. Feeling and seeing the sweat on every inch of my body was empowering and made me feel so in my body and in my strength. The connection I felt with my breath and every limb of my physical body was amplified. To think that I had feelings that practicing nude would possibly lower my acceptance of my body at this point seemed preposterous now - I had never felt more in tune with myself and more proud of the body and skin I was in. 

"I had never felt more in tune with myself and more proud of the body and skin I was in."

 

I come from a lengthy background of body shaming and self hate. If you know me, you know I have done a lot of self-study and work around understanding who I am and how I show up in this world, but my relationship with my body hasn't been something I have addressed a whole lot. This yoga practice has been the number one healer for this relationship thus far, hence my curiosity to explore it further and continue the healing in a new light - in the nude.

My body issues started at the age of about 15 when I began purging all of my food in order to loose weight. A friend of mine had started doing it and I admired her body, so I thought if I did the same, maybe I would look like her. Well, throwing up doesn't give you a longer torso and bigger boobs, which I now know to be my admiration of her. But once the purging started, I was addicted. Go figure, me, addicted. {SMH}. It continued on for some time, but once I found drugs and alcohol (and my Dad found out about the purging and gave me a good scare), I shied away from it. Still to this day, I suffer very slightly from body dysmorphia. But, the abuse on my body didn't stop there- it shifted into 13 years of severe alcohol and drug addiction. I had no respect for my body and used it as a tool to get what I needed to stay high and drunk as much as I could. This way of living led me to a life full of abuse in every sense of the word and I grew to hate the skin I was in. I began to believe the verbally abusive comments about the way I looked and who I was, and also deeply felt disgust and shame of certain sexual encounters, some willing, others not. There was a point where I couldn't even look myself in the mirror. I found myself utterly disgusting for things I had done to my body and things others had done to it as well. 

"(I) allowed myself to experience the power and beauty of the human form in it's most vulnerable state."

 

The practice of yoga, even in it's more societal norm (with clothes on), began the healing process of these deeply rooted feelings and helps me daily to develop a loving relationship with my body. The action of taking my clothes off, in full exposure, to experience this practice, was a milestone in acceptance for me and an experience I will never forget. I was able to overcome the thoughts of people, (men and women) viewing my body as less than AND strictly as a tool for sex or to do with it what they wanted, and allowed myself to experience the power and beauty of the human form in it's most vulnerable state. 

To anyone curious or on the fence of practicing yoga naked in a group setting, I highly recommend it. Just make sure it's not a weird craigslist meetup first. :) 

 

 

Working Towards GOOD

Year 1.

Looking back to one year ago, I was just about to graduate from my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training program. Even after months of training, I still had NO clue what I wanted to do with this certification. You might be wondering why I even invested in such a costly program if I wasn’t dead set on teaching yoga. But for where I was in life and in my heart, I signed up just knowing that it felt like the next right step in my personal and fitness journey I had set out on 2.5 years prior. I knew how important yoga had become to my body, mind and spiritual life, and that I wanted, rather I needed to explore it deeper. What that looked like after I held that certification piece of paper - was totally up in the air.

Throughout teacher training, we had done various journal exercises visualizing where we wanted to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years. Truth be told, I often scribbled something down on the paper just so it looked like I did my homework (sorry Beth!). I will say that the one intense visualization I did have has yet to happen. I mean, it’s only been one year, so I still have hope! But, all I can tell you is that it does involve South America, beaches, mountains, private clients, and being my own boss...sigh. I’ll make it there, just you watch.

Moving on - (daydreaming aside), this first year as a certified yoga teacher has been nothing short of spectacular. All those scribbled notes I wrote down of what I thought I might do and create with this journey, have been surpassed, with the exception of teaching and living in S. America of course. But seriously, I have grown more in this last year as human being than I thought possible. My growth did not come in the form of nailing the inverted postures I so often see on Instagram, or having the most creative sequencing in the Tri-County area, which is naively what I thought being a great yoga teacher was all about very early on. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. My growth instead, came from within. It came in the form of finding ME, my voice in this practice - priceless.

Since “Finding Kate” is a very broad subject, I’ve broken it down into some relevant categories in relation to teaching yoga. Here is goes:

 

Finding my Niche:

This gave me anxiety at first. Coming out of teacher training in such a highly saturated yoga market (Charleston, SC), thinking of ways to make myself stand out was overwhelming. I scrambled as I watched other trainees land auditions and jobs at popular studios right away, thinking to myself, “I’m not doing enough, trying hard enough, putting myself out there enough.” It was very self defeating. I also had a full time day job, which limited my time to seek placement at studios, nor was I sure I could take on a full load of scheduled classes right away.

So, I pondered instead, of other interests in my life that I could link with yoga that other teachers might not be as knowledgeable about and I started there. Thus, the birth of “Runner’s Yoga” here in Charleston, SC. Two activities I swoon over! Perfect, I thought! It started off monthly, inviting my community to a local park for a donation based meet-up. I routed runners through the beautiful streets of historic Charleston for distances based on their pace and endurance levels, and back to the park where I would lead the group in a yoga flow focused on strength building and hip/hamstring opening stretches- great for runners. Quickly, this evolved from a monthly event to a weekly event based on demand and I established a good little following. My first gig! Sure, it didn’t look like everyone else’s but I was happy and I was offering our community something no one had before. For that, I was proud.

Shortly after this Spring/Summer event startup, I came across the opportunity for another yoga training that had Kate Moon written all over it. Y12SR, Yoga & 12-step Recovery, was offering a condensed intensive training in Boston and I knew I just had to find a way to go. My personal recovery is what brought me to a yoga mat in the first place. Getting certified as a way to offer yoga to others struggling to find a new way of life free from the throws of addiction was exactly the avenue that I knew I was called in this life to teach. So, off to Boston I went and it was hands down one of the best decisions of my life.

I currently teach Y12SR weekly here in Charleston and to say it has been rewarding is an understatement. It has changed me and how I view myself, others, and the disease of addiction. With two other Y12SR leaders in the area, there are now two meetings/classes per week, which is HUGE as some cities have never heard of this modality before. If you are interested in learning more, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

To summarize the “Finding my Niche” category of this blog, here is my advice to new yoga teachers: Don’t put so much pressure on yourself to have everything figured out right away. Your journey doesn’t have to look like everyone else's and more than likely, it won’t. Embrace the not knowing and be open to how it may show up in your life! Stay true to who you are and it will happen the way it is intended to happen, maybe not on your time, or when you want it to - but if we got everything as we wanted and when we wanted, this world would be scary! Am I right?!

Finding my VOICE:

This is a constant evolution for me and will always be as I continue to grow and change as a teacher and as a person. When I first began spitting out sequences of postures, I sounded a lot like the teachers I most often took classes from, and that’s OK. I took their classes because I respected them, enjoyed their flows, the message they offered, and the overall experience their classes gave me. So it is natural that my first few months of classes would come off similarly in tone and vigor.

However, I quickly felt inauthentic. It felt like I was trying too hard by guiding people through Asana that wouldn’t even come naturally to my body. It felt forced, rehearsed and uninspired. When I would take something a teacher shared in his/her yoga class, like some philosophical “A-ha!” revelation that seemed so wonderful and enlightening at the time I heard it, and then try to repeat it to my students, it was a total flop. Because it wasn’t coming from ME - from what was relevant to me that I could pass on as a message.

So, what helped me break through that? I read books and highlighted areas that spoke to me. I started journaling daily about what comes up for me off the mat. I took a gig at a small local spa and yoga studio where I didn’t feel a whole lot of pressure and started trying to speak my truth. The smaller classes made me feel less intimidated and the space felt more just a place for neighbors to gather and flow, rather than a high end studio where students pay top dollar. Now, don’t get me wrong, this small gem of a studio is not less than any other studio in town, it is still my home twice a week and the students are equal to students anywhere else. What I’m saying is, for me, having a smaller intimate space is what I, personally, needed early on as a teacher to make mistakes, try out new transitions, stumble over my words and my messages -  and ultimately learn that all of that is OK and is going to happen my whole career as an instructor! Now, I do these things at bigger studios too and it is totally acceptable! I just needed to feel less pressure. That’s my journey. And it is still evolving.

To summarize “Finding my Voice”: Speak your Truth. Not anyone else’s.

Finding My Practice:

While all these amazing teaching opportunities started happening, life got busy. If ever someone needed class coverage, YES! I was your girl! The word “No” was not in my vocabulary. Ninety-nine percent of the time there wasn’t even a pause to check my schedule before committing. I was jumping through hoops to gain teaching experience and it was magical and exhausting all at once. I lost my own practice. I exhausted myself in planning and teaching my classes that when a evening arrived where I didn’t have a commitment, I just wanted to rest. I didn’t even want to smell the scent of lavender and lemongrass oils or drying yoga mats. No thank you.

What I needed was to take one less commitment per week and sign up for a yoga class somewhere around town. Hear someone else’s voice, let someone else hold space for me.

I have learned that in order for me to hold space for others, I have to allow someone to do the same for me.

Preaching to others this practice of yoga and the importance of taking time to connect with self and spirit, but not doing that for myself became hypocritical in my heart. And unhealthy for my being.

Take time to practice. Let others call the Asanas so you can just move and be present. Don’t worry about remembering what cool transition the teacher led you through to take back to your next class. Drop all that. Just breathe and move and BE yoga. When I do this, what I experience and feel and work through for myself is far more powerful to share with students than any sequence I could try my hardest to recite from memory.

To Summarize: No is a complete sentence.

Finding Meditation:

Damn Y’all. This is hard. But, so very worth it.

The reason I was drawn to such a physical practice like Power Yoga outright was that I could not sit still. Literally, when you are detoxing from alcohol and drugs after so long, sitting still can be the scariest place and very self defeating when you notice your body is trembling. So, having the rigorous, physical practice took by mind off the stillness and what my body was going through on the inside. I focused on breath and movement instead of feeling physically uncomfortable, unstable and downright mentally abusive toward self for shame of who I had been as a human being for so long.

But, clouds cleared up, body softened, and I sat still. Now, it is one of my very favorite places to be. I encourage students daily to sit. To be OK with sitting. I tell them that as the mind begins to wander to the grocery list and the “I forgot to bring Ketchup to Table 19”, and the general thought of GO!, to visualize that thought in a cloud drifting by. To wave at it, acknowledge it, then let it float out of view.

It has been during meditation that I have felt the most calm, the most clear and level-headed in life. Meditation takes me to gratitude immediately as it has taught me that my mind is not such a scary place after all. It is quite lovely and open and free and inspired. That if I get quiet enough, the answers to what I seek come into my heart. And I can feel life move through me. It’s seriously groovy - only way to describe it.

As a teacher, I think it is important we educate students on the other limbs of yoga outside of Asana. Our physical practice and our physical being is just part of who we are and who we can be. We have to see and acknowledge the whole package to reap the full benefits.

In Summary: Don’t hate. Meditate.

I listened to a podcast not too long ago on my stair climber at the gym (insert no judgement here) that really got me thinking. It was the Podcast, “Goal Digger” by entrepreneur and marketing guru Jenna Kutcher, interviewing world renown yoga and author, Kathryn Budig. Definitely worth a listen.

Part of their discussion circled around the influences, both positive and negative, of social media on the yoga world. How platforms like Instagram have made yoga freely accessible to so many people who otherwise might not have found the practice and also how it connects like-minded people from all over the world, both of which are fantastic contributions, It was also expressed how this attention of beautiful physical postures in photography has dimmed the light on other limbs of yoga and daily practices outside of body. It has become more about followers and less about lineage: where your teachings derive from, what gurus and leaders you have studied under, and what you have to offer the world as a teacher of Yoga.

Truly a great conversation. One question, or thought really stuck out to me and I’ll leave you with this, what kind of teacher do you want to be? Do you want to be a GOOD teacher, or do you want to be a popular one?

I’ll keep working towards good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

courage to change.

If you're anything like me, you have a love/hate relationship with change. I LOVE the idea of change because new and shiny things draw my attention. I'm a woman. Also, just a human.

New car, yes please. New yoga mat, of course. New apartment = new decor. New love, butterflies. You get the picture. AND I also hate it. Absolutely down to my core fear it. Because what hides behind the shininess of change? Discomfort. Unease. The great unknown. 

Change means stepping out of my comfort zone. Altering my schedule and routine. Compromising. Change often presents fresh challenges that make me question myself, my abilities and my needs. It's because of these scary things, I often avoid it at all costs. I play it safe and stay put, often longer than necessary because it's comfortable to me and I know it. I know I can do something so I stay in it longer than it continues to serve me, whether it be a relationship, a job, a friendship or a place I live. Anyone relate here?

See, what I've learned in my experiences, is staying in something simply out of comfort, can be a big problem. When something no longer serves me, I stop growing. My light tends to dim down inside and my sparkle fades. Once this happens, my mood and my belief in myself slowly start to diminish and I begin to question my self worth. Maybe I'm still in this because I'm not good enough for anything else. I can't leave because no one else will want me. I don't look like that person, so I wouldn't possibly get hired there. I know I'm really good at Power 1 Yoga, so I'll stay that way I don't look stupid and out of place at Power 2. This becomes viscous negative self talk and I feel defeated even before a decision is made. It's exhausting really. 

To play devil's advocate, I've also learned in my experience to pause before I make a change. Check my motives. I know right now my best friend is reading and smiling because just yesterday she said to me, "Kate, what are your motives?" I hate when she says that, but it's true. Pausing before leaping into change to make sure we aren't avoiding something, acting out of fear, putting our selfish needs before other's, is important to look at. Asking the question, does this serve the best version of myself? Not just making a change because it's easier to do or because it serves our own selfish needs. Asking these questions is hard because it reveals our true self behind the thick outer shell. It shows us our inner most selves, our "atman" in yogic philosophy, which isn't always pretty if we are being honest. A lot of my motives have shown self-serving and self-seeking behaviors, which I hate. It's also just human. AND by becoming aware of these behaviors, I am able to courageously look at myself and make a decision to make a change, or not make a change. The most I study myself, the more that it revealed, the purer my atman becomes, the lighter I become.

Rewined to 3.15 years ago. One thousand one hundred and fifty four days ago, 27,677 hours. This was the day I made the biggest decision of change I have even made, and possibly ever will have to make in my life. I avoided it for years probably after the initial thoughts arose in my mind that it needed to occur. (Side note: DO NOT let fear of change build this long. Letting things build for this long, makes it that much harder to change. Like, really fucking hard. Lesson learned.) OK back to the story, 37.83 months ago, I made a phone call of desperation. After 28 years of living, 13 of which I was actively drinking and using drugs, I picked up the phone, called my Dad and admitted defeat. Once I hung up the phone and told him I needed help to stop the cycle, I knew I had a long road ahead. Changing my entire life, my entire way of being from dawn to dusk, was going to need an entire brain rewire. To change my way of thinking about myself and the world around me was going to take a Gosh darn miracle. Changing my body back to a normal functioning human being's body, free from drugs and alcohol that ran it for so long, seemed nearly impossible. But, it happened. Change happened. And it took courage. It took dropping ego and asking for help. It took stepping WAY out of my comfort zone. It took tears and unease and a lot of compromise and willingness. Thank God for change. 

Today, when I am faced with a decision of change, I can look back at this time, at the hardest and best damn decision I ever made, and draw from it. Draw strength and courage and reminders for just how I did it. 

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So, what are some steps we can take to encourage healthy change? To take the leap and make it happen? Here are 6 easy steps I've thrown together to put your mind at ease about creating space for change to occur in your life: 

  1. Make a list of pro's and con's. List out the ways your situation is serving you in a healthy way, and ways it is no longer serving you as the best version of yourself. Weigh the pro's and con's.
  2. Talk with others. We are not alone! If I've learned anything in life it is that my situations that arise are NOT unique. Someone has walked the path before me. So I pick up the phone and dial a gal pal or family member and bounce ideas of them. Get different perspectives that could help you take the leap or shed some light on the situation. 
  3. Make a plan. You don't have to just throw your hands up in the air and say, "I'm done, I'm moving on!". That would just be a terrible idea (don't you just love those sometimes though...terrible ideas...<3). Make a strategy toward your next moves so you can make the change with ease in your heart.
  4. Trust the process. Connect with your higher power and turn it over. Believe that everything is going to work out just fine. 
  5. PAUSE. BREATHE. DO SOME YOGA. MEDITATE. 
  6. Take the leap. One of my favorite quotes: "What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?"

What is holding you back? List it. Acknowledge it. Consider it. And change it if it no longer serves you. Who knows where the road could take you...

the gut feeling. part I

We all have had the gut feeling before right? That deep in our bellies, sometimes butterfly-like sensation, guiding our instincts and intuition either toward something or away from something? Yes, that one. 

That gut feeling is one human phenomenon that I have a love hate relationship with. When it's the instinct of, "this is not right, walk away, walk away now". I hate it. Because more often than not, it is in direct conflict of what I want, or what I think I need. I never realize until much later in these instances, that my gut saved me. Now, on the other hand, I LOVE when my gut tells me, "YES! This is it. This is the thing. The thing you have been waiting for". And everything in my body melts and tingles and butterflies fill my insides. These gut feelings are rare, but oh so special. 

Yoga has been one of those loving gut feelings for me since my first in studio class. I knew it was something bigger than I, but I wasn't sure what that looked like yet. Two short years after I began practicing, the idea of going through teacher training began circling in my head. I was torn on whether to take the leap, whether or not it was the right path to take. It was such an investment of finances, time and energy along with everything else going on in life. But, my body, my heart and my spirit whispered yes, do this for you. I was still holding back even with that whisper, until something bigger, something clearer happened.

Just this past New Years Eve, my date and I sat by the window of this beautiful restaurant I used to work at in Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida. In order to get the discounted rate into the training program, I had to have my application in by the stroke of midnight - the start of the new year. I swear I'm not making up these details. It was about ten minutes until the ball drop, kisses and confetti, when an old associate came over to our table. We exchanged niceties and hugs. When I sat down, he looked me in the eyes and said, (almost verbatim), "I remember it all. I remember the girl you were when you were here and I had no faith in you. None. I have watched your journey these past few years and you are one of my living heroes. You are an inspiration." He said, "keep going".

In utter shock of this human exchange that just happened, I sat back in my chair and looked at my date across the table. "Keep going, he said". There it was, that gut feeling. I have to do this. I have to sign up for this training. This is it. This is what I'm made for. To carry my message and share my journey with others. And even if it speaks to just one person and shifts something inside of them to keep going too, I'll know I've taken the right path. 

With just a couple minutes left until midnight, the deadline, my date and I scurried outside to find cell service and send the application I had prepared in.

Sent.

Happy New Year. 

Kisses and confetti, and a new chapter. It was the start of something new and I had no idea it where it would take me next.

Fast forward to a few months later. A gal pal of mine put a bug in my ear about Y12SR. Y12-a-what? Yoga and 12-step recovery. Now, if you have read my blog, or know me, I am very open about my recovery. Just my choice to be, as it is my journey. And I truly believe, and KNOW I have helped others by being open about it. Not for everyone though.

As a brief overview, Y12SR draws together the ancient wisdoms of yoga philosophy and the 12-step aprroach used in a variety of recovery programs. The parallels between the two are so abundant, the thought to make this connection is nothing short of genius. The format of a Y12SR class starts with a 30-minute guided discussion surrounding the 12 steps, and continues  on into the yoga practice as students "take it to the mat". This program pretty much sums up my experience in yoga as I took many of my issues to my mat to sweat it out, cry it out, confront it or sit and meditate with it. Genius. And there is whole room of people doing the same thing with you! YES! I am never alone in this fight.

I emailed the South Carolina contact for Y12SR right away and said, "this is my calling! How do I do this here?!" What a God moment, or combination of moments really. I received a lighthearted email from a woman locally here in Charleston. She said, Kate, I am so glad to hear you are interested. Let's have coffee. [Insert gut feeling here].

Well, I tell you the woman is just everything I want to be in life. So down to earth and wise and giving. She is yoga. She is light and love. 

I have had the pleasure of being mentored by this woman for the last few months as she began the first meeting and class of Y12SR at the local studio, Reverb, owned by the wonderful Ashley Bell (another yoga and community giving goddess). I have had the pleasure of attending almost every session, schedule permitting, and have even substituted a few times. Reverb and the teacher have developed a system that assists getting patients of the Charleston Center, a local detox and rehabilitation center, to and from the Y12SR sessions to introduce them to yoga and this method. The Charleston Center also receives 1/3 of the donations from this donation based class. 

In the little experience I have had with these sessions and teaching, I will tell you, there is nothing more gratifying than a person brand new to recovery approaching you after a yoga class with tears in their eyes, full of life and hope that there is a better way to live. Nothing better than having a woman tell you she can feel something shifting on her mat. It is a beautiful thing. It is life changing. 

Now, to bring you to present day, I am on a mission to spread this further in Charleston. Because one class, for one hour a week, on one day of the week, in one specific area is not enough. I want to reach different demographics in different parts of town on nights they can make it. I want to give others in recovery the experiences I have on my mat everyday: moving and praying and meditating to find the easier, softer way in recovery by getting to know my body, mind and spirit through movement. 

So, I am heading to Boston. This week. I reached out to people, made it known what I needed to do this not only for me, but for my community and I am making it happen. 

I will come home next week with the proper certifications to teach Y12SR and spread it to those I can. Who knows what the reaction will be. Perhaps it will be slow, perhaps quick, or maybe there is no reaction at all. But, I am damn determined to give it my all and at least give people the option to feel what I have felt.

I can't wait to share the journey with you.

to be continued...

 

 

 

my love affair with me.

If you have been following me for the last 3 years, or even the last 3 blog posts, you might have picked up on my dedication to me. I am dedicated to becoming a woman comfortable in her own skin, thoughts, actions and decisions. To become the best version of myself. Dedicated to self? Some of you might be thinking, "isn't that conceded or self-centered?" Maybe self-involved or just plain selfish?
My answer is yes and no. AND so very necessary. 
I have found that in order to live my life vibrantly and with purpose, I have to know me. I have to understand what inspires me, saddens me, what really ticks me off, and what brings me joy. I have to understand my actions, intentions, and reactions to people, places and things. I have to attempt to experience, create, mess up, re-create and possibly succeed. To do all of this, it means a lot of me time. 
So, for the last few years I have feverishly worked on these things. I have filled journal after journal about it, talked to other like-minded people, some not so like-minded people, analyzed it all and made proclamations of SELF; then thrown all of it away and started over again. The best thing about all this me time, is that it has actually made me a better person. I am living as a more authentic self. That right there is service to others, so not so selfish anymore... :)
Truthfully, I lived far too much of my life caring what other's thought of me that it drove me crazy with self doubt, insecurity and resentments. It made me sick. I've given up on all that now and I've just decided to do me - to be me, whatever that looks like on any given day. I've dropped the need to look good in other's eyes and focus on what makes me feel good inside. Ironically, I'm a much cooler person now that I'm not trying to dang hard to fit in. I'm just trying on a daily basis to live in my true North and most authentic self. People really dig it. 
So, what does this love affair look like exactly? Well, currently I am sitting on a balcony, overlooking the waters of the US Virgin Islands.  It is unreal. Like a dream, or out of the movies. This can't be MY life. But, it is. A couple days ago a friend saw a picture I posted and sent me a message asking, "what are you doing in St. Thomas?!" My quick response was, "visiting a friend and channeling my inner Goddess, duh..." Truth. I am here and I am getting in touch with who I am down to my core and standing in my own power as a woman. Years ago, I would have never done something like this for myself. Invested in what set my soul on fire. Here I am, creating magic for myself. It's a beautiful thing. Can't afford it? Neither could I. But, I made it happen. I picked up some extra side gigs and saved where I could and called a friend and asked to stay with her while I was here. Where there is a will there is a way. So go. Make it happen for yourself. 
While I've been here, I have spoiled myself with white sandy beaches and thong bikinis (because I can!). I have taken myself out to eat on the water and gone snorkeling with the sea life. I have taken moments to pause and reflect on it. My friend and I have been active in Crossfit and yoga and running....and ice cream. And I am so incredibly insatiably happy, I could die right now and feel no sorrow. OK, too far. But, really, I am in my true self and so deserving of the love I am giving me right now. 
It's OK to invest in ourselves I have learned. Yoga teacher training was a huge investment, marathon training - big investment, weekend getaways -big investments. What is on your list of investments for YOU? Not for anyone else, but for you. Think about it.
While all parts of my love affair can't look like St. Thomas getaways, what does my love affair look like on a daily basis? It's the small things that make it big really.
Usually my day starts with some sort of prayer, or diddy as I refer to them. A reflective thought. Usually it is a few extra moments with my eyes closed to heart my breath, maybe a quick 5 minute guided meditation, and then, "allow me to hear what you need me to hear, say what you need me to say, and be who you need me to be today". Simple. That's what works for me. You are welcome to borrow it. Often times, I take a Child's Pose for this diddy because getting on my knees to pray I've found isn't comfortable for me.
After my upon awakening routine, I have to find movement. I am my best self when my body feels strong and healthy. Whether I go for a run, do yoga at home or in a studio setting, or hit the gym, I've got to move! It sets the tone for my day to be alive and energized and productive! Maybe you live on the water and can cruise on your SUP, or go for a swim, but try some movement. Get active! Put your physical health as a priority!
If it's a work day, awesome! My day has already been successful and I can carry that through the next 8 hours or so with my co-workers. If it's not a work day, well then game on! You can usually find me scoping out a coffee shop, playing at the beach with my dog, River, connecting with others in recovery, working on making my back yard a sanctuary, treating myself to a pedi, taking a yoga workshop, reading a book in a park, enjoying a cold cup of froyo...I mean you name it, I'm doing it! I spent way too much of my life already wasting time just waiting for life to find me, that I try to dabble in everything to make the most of my time here on Earth. I do what makes me happy and what brings me joy! If I'm doing it and I don't feel joyful, well then on to the next!
I used to sit at home, curtains drawn, sipping wine and growing angry with the world and all the people in it. Your lives were all so beautiful and free and I was living in a self created prison of resentment and self-pity. It was a really ugly time for me. When I finally got help to get out of the mess I created, my thinking began shifting as I began to find value in myself as a human being again and fall back in love with me day by day. At first, I had to remind myself of the steps to take to find happy on a daily basis. After awhile, it became routine, second nature. It became my normal because how could I forget to go for a run? I found that I love running!
It takes work to create the life you've always wanted. It takes guts, and messes and mess ups and do-overs. It takes looking at your inner self in it's most raw form, head on, and taking all the good, the bad and the ugly, putting it on display and changing what you can and accepting the rest. It takes trying on all sorts of crazy ideas like training for your first full marathon in two months and proving to yourself you can do it, and trying again later. It takes humbling yourself asking for help when you need it. It takes goal setting and commitment and doubt and love and a lot of unsure moments.
Why would you want all that? Sounds scary. But, that is life. We are human. Get to know yourself while you are here. Be the best you and pass it on. We will all love it. Once you get there, to that love affair with yourself, it truly is worth the fight. 

the f word.

No, not that "F" word...to me this one is far worse than the other. Fear. I know I have a whole pocket of fears, perhaps an entire backpack. Actually, I've taken a personal inventory of fear and I have listed out 24 to be exact. That is scary to realize in itself.

Fear is that backseat driver, always looming in the quiet distance, rearing it's little head out when I least expect to say, 'hey there, not so fast!"... Let's get you really anxious, sweaty, maybe a little hysterical with tears before we leave this moment. 

I feel as if the subject of fear might make some people uncomfortable. Maybe you are shifting in your seat right now, pondering what fears you might have, if any, coming to a conclusion that no, no fear lives in your heart - you are fearless! All of the cute, encouraging, inspiring quotes on Pinterest tell us fearless is the way to live. So we concede that is what we are and how we will live - fearless! But, in all honesty, I think we need our fears in life to teach us and guide us out of our comfort zones. If I was fearful of some things, then I wouldn't need courage to walk through them. And courage, well now, I could write a whole book on that word.

Instead of being fearless, I choose to recognize my fears that make me so human and vulnerable, call me coward if you will. My fears I will get to know like an old friend, that way I can recognize understand them, no matter how long they live in my heart.

All this fear talk stemmed from a minor incident I experienced Tuesday evening. I was driving home from work on the interstate. Traffic was heavy and rain was pouring down when I was rear ended by a large SUV. I didn't see it coming. The noise of the impact scared me more than anything and I immediately began to hyperventilate and cry with anxiety. I was stricken with fear. Fear of what exactly though? I was totally fine, everything was fine, but I could not calm myself down. Yea, getting in an accident is a scary thing of course, but the fear in that moment and the days after where nightmares ensued, I am coming to realize was just my reaction to something much bigger...

So I have spent the last few days pondering fear. When I first think of fear, as might you, the more commonly admitted fears in society come to mind: fear of heights, or spiders. Fear of the dark, or fear of small spaces. Fear of tomatoes (no? just me?). Then there is the stuff no one really every talks about - the deep rooted things: Fear of never finding love, or fear of failure. Fear of going through life and never feeling fulfilled or finding passion. Fear of having no purpose. Fear of death and leaving loved ones behind. These fears are less talked about. But, why? Surely I'm not the only one who fears these things - I know I am not. Why is everyone so damn scared to talk about it then? Fear of talking about fear?

I have watched fear creep up in my yoga practice as well. In the heated room full of deep breathing, sweaty bodies, I hear my instructor call out, "lay flat on your bellies, lift your chest, pull your shoulder blades into your spine, reach back...." and boom all of a sudden I feel like I have to pee. I know bow pose is coming next and it is really difficult for me to reach back into bow pose. My fears of looking like an amateur, kicking and reaching to try to make hand to shin contact like a fish gasping for air out of water, come to life. I immediately want to flee.

This is where the decision is made. This is where I choose the person I am to be in this very moment. Do I let my fear get the best of me and tip toe quietly over practicing yogis toward the restroom, OR do I stay and try again? Maybe this time is different. Maybe I flail a little less and learn something new about my body that helps get me there easier. Perhaps if I stay and do bow pose, my fear lessens a little more that day. Maybe it does not. I'll never know unless I breathe, stay and try. 

After my accident Tuesday, what would it have looked like if I would have brushed off the tears and my following nightmares as if it meant nothing and made the choice not to explore the deeper rooted feelings? It's not guaranteed that I won't be totally full of fear if I ever experience a car accident again, I most likely will. But, because I made the decision to confront what was going on in my head and heart following the incident, I understand myself and my reaction that much more and next time, I will recognize it and know how to cope with it next time it shows up. And say hey, "fear #18, I remember you, we got this...".

Elizabeth Gilbert opens her book Big Magic with a section on courage. Courage as you know is deeply tied to fear. So, I'll conclude with her words:

"It isn't always comfortable or easy - carrying your fear around with you on your great and ambitious road trip, I mean - but it's always worth it, because if you can't learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you'll never be able to go anywhere interesting or do anything interesting.

And that would be a pity, because your life is short and rare and amazing and miraculous and you want to do really interesting things and make really interesting things while you are still here. I know that's what you want for yourself because that's what I want for myself too. It's what we all want."

So, perhaps we don't live our lives trying to be fearless, but courageous instead by getting to know our fears, moving alongside them, and living BIG despite all of them. It won't be easy of course, but totally worth it. 

 

you had me at beach!

'Tis the season for bikinis, gal pals, summer love, and of course, yoga on the beach! My heart would explode if I added one more of my favorite things to that sentence. Oh, and Froyo! How could I forget my favorite sugary frozen treat?! OK, I've literally exploded with happiness! This is my season and my summer to shine, I  just know it.

How lucky am I that I live in such a beautiful place and I have already been given the opportunity to teach yoga on the beach three times in the last two weeks?! AND and it has been ideal weather every single time, thank goodness!

I certainly have learned and picked up on some things during my experiences as there are some do's and don't when prepping for yoga on the beach. Here's my two cents:

  • "I have Sand EVERYWHERE!" Well, yea it IS the beach, but I get it. Your body is movin' and groovin', we are down and then we are up, a gust of wind comes from the east, and you want me to twist how?! Mother Nature combined with physical movement will surely not let leave you sand free or primed for a dinner date after a session with me, so embrace the notion that you will get a little messy! Sand, sweat, salt water...be ready for it and take it all in! If you're lucky, I'll help you out with a ice cold Lemon-Echinacea head towel when you are done :)
  • WATER. Seems like common sense, yes? Keep your yoga instructor close and your water closer! #hydrate
  • "My feet are on fire!" You brought a large black LuLu Lemon mat that is radiating heat from the sun beating down on it. Yea, my feet would be burning too! Ouchie! My advice? Pick up a $10 mat from a store that is your designated beach mat. In a light color. This way you drop the concern of your mat getting ruined with water and sand and you save your feet pads a scorcher! Your instructor may have extra mats you can use as well, so don't be shy - speak up and ask for what you need to enjoy your practice and to practice safely.
  • "I can't forward fold Kate, I have a MAJOR wedgie..."  On Mother's Day, my sister came to visit (heart explosion part 2) and we were prepping to leave my house for yoga on the beach. She came out of my room in a CUTE one piece I had her try on that she looked gorgeous in. AND it covered just half of her peaches. When I reminded her of flow time, after I told her she looked beautiful, she opted for the full coverage bottoms. Point being - dress for success and comfort for your beach practice. You could also channel your inner Gisele Bundchen and let it ride (literally) OR perhaps you wear cool clothing and bring your favorite Brazilian piece to change into after you flow. We all love bronzed cheeks in the summer!
  • "Sunscreen is your friend..." What was that super weird song in the early 2000's that was five minutes of some guy talking (not singing), giving us life advice? Yea, well he was right. No reason not to put in on, right? You are turning and twisting, hopping and savasana-ing, so lather up! You are exposing delicate spaces while you move and you don't want to end up looking like an old Florida retiree, so just put it on. Plus, you want to be ready to roll for your next beach yoga session!
  • "But, there's no beach to practice on..." CHECK THE TIDES! Make sure you are heading out when the tides are low and there is plenty of beach to lunge around on :) Your instructor will hopefully think of this, but if you are the leader of your pack getting the group together, be mindful that tides roll in and out, so plan accordingly!
  • Dig in! The sand is certainly not flat, so create a safe space for your practice by leveling out the sand with your feet before you begin. Your balancing poses will thank you!

Most of all, I have learned to have fun! Yoga doesn't always have to be some emotional drama or spiritual awakening of the soul. It can be fun and care free with no attachments! 

 

 

the poses are my prayers

"I am standing on my own altar; the poses are my prayers" BKS Iyengar
In the last few years of my journey I have come to know myself pretty well through a lot of self reflection and hard work. I have learned that my go-to coping mechanism is to busy myself to the point of no rest. If I'm moving, so are my thoughts, so it blocks me from sitting with myself. Because sitting with myself and processing what is actually going on inside this head and heart can be a scary place for me. 
The activities and involvements become my guard, my wall, and my safety net. Starting to feel something, oh I'll just go do A, B and C and then rush home to let the dog out, make dinner, run my 6 mile training route, and maybe get some shut eye. But every once in awhile, this backwards coping mechanism fails me and I am left with my thoughts and overwhelming emotion. 
My thoughts spin and spin and pile up taller and taller until I loose the ability to express these emotions with words. I have learned when this happens, when I have no words and nothing left to give myself, I move on my mat. I move with all the emotion I have left and the poses become my prayers.
How beautiful sounding right? It's true. Thanks Iyengar :)
Think of a beginning of a yoga practice. Many times we start in Child's Pose. If you are looking at a person's body in this pose, their feet and legs are underneath them and their hands are outstretched on the mat before them and their head is bowed to the ground. It's a physical surrender. Surrender to the mat, to the higher power of your understanding...a signal that I can't, but you can...show me.
Taking Child's Pose was actually suggested to me from a Yogi Mentor of mine through my teacher training. I was expressing my discomfort with hitting my knees to pray and she said, "Kate, take Child's Pose" your prayers don't have to look like everyone's else's, nor does what you do with your body when you do pray. I will NEVER forget how I felt when she made this suggestion. Like a weight was lifted and life became easier and softer. How wise she is...
Warrior poses are very common in yoga practices and can hold so much power and significance. How do you feel when you are standing in Warrior I or Warrior II? Personally I feel strong, resilient, grounded and courageous. Warrior poses I have come to learn are actually all derived from an ancient tale of a Warrior names Virabhadra, an incredibly powerful warrior who used righteous anger to defeat enemies. The poses are built to signify the overcoming of ego and ignorance. Food for thought...
Last one that holds deep meaning for me is Tree Pose. Dang that Tree! I struggle with balance on and off my mat in everyday life. I have very little patience and tend to move on quickly from things when things aren't going my way. Patience. Tree Pose disciplines me to stay. To try again when I fall. To attempt to lift my hands and my gaze when I find stability. To root down through my feet and find grounding when I loose it. Tree Pose is a yoga essential - "root down to rise up". I will never continue to grow my limbs in life, if I forget my roots and loose my grounding. Sometimes it's a hard pill to swallow.
So, what do I plan to do tonight when I sign off and leave this for you to read? Open the windows to the coming rain, light a candle and pray on my mat. Because the truth is, I'm all out of answers and I'm exhausted trying to look for them. I am drained of trying to make what I want for myself work in my life, when clearly there is another plan for me. So, I will move gracefully and not so gracefully, and I might cry and I might get impatient, but I will move and I will pray.
Namaste. 
 

trust the process.

Sometimes I toss out these words to others, and neglect to tell them to myself. Even when I do pause and say, "trust the process, Kate", the next step, actually listening to them is an even bigger challenge.

So, "trust the process", what does that even mean? Just like any other phrase, I believe it is up for interpretation - the beauty being that it can mold to, adapt and take shape to any heart and soul's need at any given time. For this soul, right now, it means letting go. Letting go of control, letting go of the outcome, letting go of the need to know the next step, letting go of the need of approval from others...AND believing that something much bigger is working in my life that has my back. 

It reads so lovely, right? But, when life doesn't go my way, the words become painful. I actually begin to resent them. I fall into a self pity pot and loose all faith that things are going to work out and that I'm going to be OK. I quickly go down the rabbit hole of "what if's" and "I'm not good enough" and "if only's" when I find disappointment in an outcome. I think the whole world is against me and the restraints of success are pulling back. I begin to believe, once again, I'm undeserving of true happiness because I didn't get what I thought I wanted. Key word: thought. Because we all think we know what we want. Right?

Through my various life experiences however, I have found that when I am patient and accept the situation, eventually, it turns out something much BIGGER happens down the road. 

Allow me to revert back to my previous blog about moving to Charleston to start over. I thought I would go right back into hospitality at one of the numerous top hotels Charleston has to offer. I mean, my background of serving tables at 5-star hotels on the beaches of Florida and opening a Four Seasons Hotel had any hotel job here in the bag...so I thought. 

I didn't get a call back from a single hotel. Not even for a front desk job, which in my mind, I was over-qualified for. At this point in my life, the word humble hadn't quite been added to my vocabulary mind you. Humility though, came rather quickly with this job search experience, as I soon took a position as a cashier and food runner at a local deli in town. I was slingin' Banh Mi's and two egg breakfasts like a boss! And you know, I really loved it. It was easy and fun and got me out of self. It was exactly what I needed at that time in my life. No pressure. Most importantly, it created space and time for the door to open to the career I have now, which has been such a blessing and growth platform for a me as a professional woman. 

In my yoga journey, trusting the process has been also very trying. It is really difficult and intimidating to walk into a room of yogi's when you have no clue what you are doing. Some class members are jumping into handstands to warm up, others twisting their bodies in foreign ways to prepare the spine for what is to come in class. And here I am, taking child's pose because I don't know what else to do to appear part of the crowd. Most of my early yoga classes were spent ogling other yogi's moves wondering if my body looked like theirs and judging myself for not lunging as low or balancing as effortlessly. I was a wobbly little thing. Still am.

I soon came to realize, that if I was going to create space in my life for this yoga adventure, which I felt a magnetic pull toward, I was going to have to drop all of this worry and doubt; Drop the need for looking good, let go of caring what other's thought of my wonky eagle legs (still wonky), drop expectations of my body's movement and wondering if my waistline hung over my pants, and just trust the process of how it was working for me. Not for anyone else. And when I did all of this, my practice became a practice. 

I felt free and strong. Beautiful and brave. I felt open and healthy- ready for all of life's possibilities. I trusted that if I fell, maybe someone would side eye me, but that was OK, because they have probably fell out of that pose once or twice too. I trusted the modifications I had to take to understand the poses and I trusted deeply that yoga was about to become something BIG for me! I didn't know just what that meant yet, I still don't, but that's the point!

Today, with this yoga adventure, I have chosen to trust the process and let go. I believe that how yoga is destined to show up in my life for me, and for others, will continue to unfold. When I start to try to take the control back, I remind myself that I don't know what is best for me, but something/someone bigger than me does. I have let go of the outcome of this journey to create space for gratitude and contentment for all that does happen in it.

The question remains, what does trusting the process look like for you? Does it involve work, family, love? All of these things? Me too. You aren't alone. 

Trust the process. Let go. I dare you. 

 

 

in walks Grace...

To fully understand yoga and I, I suppose I'll start from the beginning, well kinda... 
I moved to Charleston on a whim, having never been before. The transplant came as a suggestion from others - I was told it would be a perfect fit for me at that point in my life. To be completely transparent, that "point" in my life was just being released from a 90-day all women's rehabilitation center for drugs and alcohol. Three months prior I had uprooted myself from South Florida, with the help and love from my family, to attempt to take my life back. I was helpless, powerless, and reclusive. 
Once in Charleston, I was fortunate enough to be granted a bed in a women's halfway house about ten minutes outside of the beautiful downtown area. I arrived with two large black trash bags full of clothes, a few boxes of scrapbooks and journals from the years, and my bicycle. The "Mother" of the house handed me a $5 bill, a bus schedule, an AA meeting schedule, a list of rules to abide by, and a loving, "you got this girl - figure it out. Don't drink or use". 
Some days I took the bus, other days I biked, and when I trained my body to handle to mileage, I ran the ten miles downtown everyday to make meetings, eventually a land a job, and make a life for myself. This was my second chance.
YOGA. Yoga happened on one of those running days. I was jogging King Street, familiarizing myself with my new surroundings when I passed a small studio with flyers of the class schedule out front. There was a FREE community class that day! Since free was all I could afford, I made sure I was standing outside that door when it opened to take it. I was completely out of place in my mismatched loose fit attire and Nike's...shoot, I don't have mat, I thought. Do, I turn and run? All of those thoughts, however, quickly faded away...
Now, to be fair, I had done a little yoga before. My older sister showed me some basic Sun A's and Warrior's one afternoon she visited me in rehab. I could barely chatturanga! I did my handful of moves regularly at the facility, often inviting the other women there. It became really popular and the hour we all looked forward to on a daily basis. But THIS! This studio brought me a whole new purpose.
From the moment we took child's pose and I was able to hear my breath sync with my fellow yogis and soul searchers, I was hooked. I sweat, I cried, I fell, and I had to do a whole lot of looking around to see what the pose called was supposed to look like. As I mentioned before, all those feelings of being the misfit, were gone, as our bodies flowed in unison. I loved every minute. To this day, I will NEVER forget the way this class made me feel. I was going to be OK. Life was going to go on and I would survive it.
I was on fire.
A few free classes later, I approached an instructor there, and without too much detail, (not like I write to you now) I explained how I needed yoga to be in my life, but I couldn't afford it. The next words she spoke were literally music to my ears. They would allow me to clean the studio once a week (laundry, lavender towels, steam clean floors and tidy bathrooms), in exchange for unlimited free yoga. I could not believe this was being offered to me. Did they know what I was capable of? I was the master of manipulation, lies, and messing up anything good that was handed to me. But, they didn't even think twice. I was trusted and welcome there. Granted, I was not the only one they offered this program to, but at that moment I felt as if God, or Higher Power, or Buddha, had shined a light down on me and allowed grace to enter my life that day.
That was about two and a half years ago. My passion for yoga has only grown and I have grown with it. I continue to learn and challenge my body and mind. Yoga provides me discipline to stay when things get uncomfortable and I want to bail (which I SO often feel in life) and I end up walking away stronger and braver for having done so. It has literally cracked me wide open to life's possibilities and a new way of living and being. I am forever grateful for this practice and the grace my heart and soul carry today because of it.