I'd like to share my yoga journey with you because I want people to know yoga is more than just cool poses and cute pants. It’s a deep-rooted, ancient practice with medicinal benefits; and the best part is, all you have to do is be able to breathe to reap the benefits. You don’t have to be flexible, or strong, or even a calm person to do yoga. You can show up in all your forms, even at the end of a downward spiral, and it will welcome you.

 

I'm here to tell you that rock bottom doesn't mean your life is ruined. It means you traveled a very long and exhausting path… and survived. Which means you're a human being with a story. We’ve all heard the cliché, “the good thing about rock bottom is that there's no place to go but up.” And it's true…but first you have to decide you don’t want to be there anymore, and then you have to make the decision to start climbing.

 

My yoga journey started when I was 21 years old. I was mentally ill, very unstable, with extremely unhealthy habits. Just when I thought I had nothing left to offer the world, I stumbled upon the practice of yoga. With commitment, and the guidance of my teachers, yoga turned into the vehicle in which carried me out of the trenches of darkness within myself... and back to a state where I could welcome peace again. 

 

I had an athletic childhood. My parents were gym owners, my father a personal trainer. I was competitive by nature, and a lot of the time, hard on myself for how I performed in sports. I knew how to physically discipline myself and grow stronger but I couldn't appreciate it because I didn't know how to take care of my mind. When we lost my father unexpectedly, I was 15 and it was a tragedy that inevitably turned our lives upside down. We moved quickly out of my childhood home; life as I knew it was gone. I spent most of my high school days dedicated to being an athlete, the social butterfly, party-girl type, however; and I threw my pain on the back burner, never dealing with it properly. My sexuality was a secret until I was 18, when I met my first real girlfriend.

 

Yet, the truth is not everyone accepted me back then, and that took a toll on my ability to be comfortable with myself. Self-loathing and depression were covered with a smile and I couldn’t wait to move off to college. So when I moved to Akron for school I was excited to live on my own and teach myself how to pay bills, keep an apartment, cook... all the stuff young adults learn. But I was also excited to go to parties and stay up all night too. It was fun at first, but it quickly snowballed into self-medication. The party scene became my life and I became a bartender to be closer to it. Self-hatred became by best friend, and overindulgence was my escape. Be it alcohol, coffee, bad habits, people, I overindulged in it anything I possibly could. My grades were not compromised, but my body and sanity was. My relationships were on the rocks, my body was malnourished, and I lost most my muscle mass from stress. I was diagnosed with mental health disorders along the way and I was numbing the pain instead of facing it. I felt like a wild animal in a cage, not knowing the key to freedom was within me.

 

 Kate before yoga

Kate before yoga

 

Until....A friend asked me to go to a yoga class one night.  And I couldn't help but fall in love with how the teacher focused on awareness of how we FELT during the class, instead of how we looked. We focused on being still. We focused on listening to our bodies and calming our minds. We focused on loving ourselves for who we were in that specific moment. There was no performing, there was no judgment. Finally, I surrendered to who I’d become, and I was ready to face myself. I started going to yoga classes more and more and with each class I peeled back the layers of my identity in order to get to my roots.  

 

Through physical movements, breath, mantras, and nourishing food I started to collect the tools I needed to climb out of the dark hole I buried myself in. I could feel the toxins leaving my body, I could recall beautiful memories of my childhood that escaped my mind through my depression, and there were lots and lots of tears- as the built-up suffering and repressed emotion was finding its way out of my soul. Within a year or so, the good days outweighed the bad. I started to spend more nights in a yoga studio, or meditating at home, and less out on the scene. I gained back my muscle, my relationship flourished, my mindset stabilized, and my sense of oneness with all living things transformed me into a much softer, stronger, compassionate human being.

 

 Kate having fun at Yoga Squared

Kate having fun at Yoga Squared

 

Like all transformations, I had setbacks too. Days where I didn’t want to go, days where I wanted to hide in my room. I slowly realized those are the days we need to show up the most- and that reminder will always be there because the truth is, life gets tricky but it doesn’t do us any good to hide from it. I learned that staying grateful in the face of adversity is they key to more sunny days. I learned that yoga is a journey with no real destination, and that’s the beauty because our growth within yoga is thus, limitless. I learned wherever we are in life, wherever we’ve been, whoever we’ve become…we can choose to start climbing at any moment. We can choose to be the master of our minds, and create the life we want to live. We can choose to dig deep within ourselves to find the key to freedom…and yoga is a tool to help us with that.

 

I went on to graduate college from the University of Akron. I learned how to appreciate a few craft beers without overindulging. I learned to practice mindfulness & self-acceptance. I made new friends. I’ve learned its okay to walk away from that which no longer serves us. As this story comes full-circle, and though I’ll always be a student, I’m now a yoga teacher and get to share this practice with the world. It is one of the most humbling and honorable achievements of my life.

Thank you for listening.

 

Love + Light With Gratitude,

-Kate Woodford

 Kate doing just fine!

Kate doing just fine!