Katie and I met a few years ago in the yoga tent at the Arts Factory, Byron Bay. Her yoga guidance was perfectly pitched for the travel weary and travel hyper alike. Now based in L.A. as a private yoga instructor, she’s attempting to settle for a bit, although if I make a yoga sauna in the garden – just casually – she’s coming to New Zealand! As we both have a tendency towards itchy feet, I asked her how she balances physical globe-trotting with her own yogic journey and her tips on nutrition on the road. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation…
Thank you so much for speaking with us, Katie. It’s really exciting to me to know when people come across their passions, so I wondered if you would share with us when you found yoga or when yoga found you?
Well, when I was 17, my parents moved to Sedona, Arizona, this healing place in the desert– my mum was a new age hippie – and I stayed in Toronto in a rented condo. I guess I wasn’t into drinking and partying and I hadn’t really found my passion or what I was really good at yet, and I’d also been having trouble sleeping. Serendipitously, I lived just across the street from what was then a bikram studio – it’s now a moksha studio. I could literally see into the window of the studio from my room and I’d look over and see the windows fog up and one day I decided to go to class. So I was wearing sweat pants – like, this was before the days of Lululemon and clothes for yoga, you know, so they were probably like, ‘oh god this girl’s going to die,’ but I loved my first session and slept really well that night and carried on practicing from there.
So your first experience of yoga was bikram – that’s intense!
Yes, I mean, I then went on to the training with Bikram and found it so challenging, practicing two times a day, and the atmosphere – I just wasn’t prepared for it. The kind of repeated phrases and that aspect of it made me realize it wasn’t really for me. So I went into softer forms of yoga and am now studying a more alignment-based flow practice with Noah Maze, trying to bring the different aspects of hot and softer yoga together. I looove yin too. My training in that with Joe Barnett is amazing – one of our sessions was an hour and a half and we only did four poses!
I feel it’s so important to honour group dynamic and teach towards specific injuries and conditions by intuiting the atmosphere. So I love sequence yoga but I try to make it more fluid and flexible.
Amazing! There’s such a different kind of intensity in yin – it’s fantastic. Can we talk about food? I wondered if you could give some insights into what foods are useful before and after yoga. It’s suggested not to eat for two hours before yoga, which is something I find quite challenging! How do you work it?
Yes! Food is my second favourite thing after yoga! Well, I’m hyperglycaemic so I need to eat little and often. I need something in my belly before any yoga session, so I’m not distracted and so I don’t get light headed, so I’ll have a juice or a smoothie or a little granola. Then afterwards, I drink aloe vera juice – it is so hydrating! I love it! It tastes a little bitter but you know it’s doing you good straight away. I used to do coconut water but a friend of mine introduced me to aloe vera juice and he just scoops the gel straight out of the leaf.
So we were chatting earlier about Byron Bay and traveling since then. It’s so great to welcome in all the stimuli and the re-energising, opening aspects of journeying but it can leave you feeling a little unsettled. What are your, say, snack bags that you take with you on the road?
Ok, I always take twig tea with me – it’s called Kukicha and it’s a Japanese twig tea. I find it really helps me with cramps and lady pains. Then I’ll take green tea bags too. I also take essential oils; some peppermint oil for headaches – I’ll just put that on my temples – and I also take lavender oil with me for the plane. Then, if I’m not traveling too far and I’m able to get it through, I always take quinoa and almond milk. Then I can make some kind of a meal up when I get there with just some extra veggies or whatever.
One of my other favourite things when I’m traveling is to do loads of research beforehand – because I’m pretty much vegan – to find out where the health food shops and vegetarian restaurants are, and when I get there I ask around.
It’s challenging but adds to the adventure and gets me to know cities a lot better. I found this amazing place in Marrakesh online – a very small vegetarian restaurant so hidden. So I’m on this hunt, through a maze of suks, with nobody speaking English – I finally stumble across it and it’s this amazing little gem of juices and smoothies stocked by an organic garden half an hour away. Sometimes the best experiences are going on those hunts. And in Singapore, I found a vegetarian restaurant in Chinatown – again really hidden, no signs – run by this sweet Tibetan Buddhist couple serving just the tastiest and simplest healthy food ever. I still dream about that food! I ate there every day and we became friends and they were so supportive. When I was moving away they told me about a place in Singapore run by their friends…. So actually my vegan ways have brought me to some great places and people in traveling.
It’s so true – if you’re open about what food you’re looking for, more often than not, people will be really happy to help you out and rise to the challenge of cooking for you to make you feel welcome. And what are the yoga poses you tend to turn to in order to re-ground and re-energise in a new place?
I’ve become even more introverted as I’ve gotten older so big loud cities just do my head in!
If I’ve been through lots of airports and lots of stimulation, I find right away a good yin practice – long slow holds – helps me out and then once I’m kind of more grounded a good back-bend practice to energise myself to get back out there and readjust to the time.
Do you have a meditative aspect to your practice too?
Yes, that comes in as a grounding element too. I usually meditate in the mornings before I practice because at the end of physical practice, sometimes I’m ready for sleep or just want to savasana. I try for twenty minutes meditation every day – I try. I like to sleep so sometimes I sleep in instead of meditating for that long, but even if I only get a couple of minutes in, I’m aware of how much that changes my day positively. It’s an important part of the day for me wherever I am.
I absolutely agree, any time spent still is time well spent. Thanks so much for sharing all this, Katie. Maybe we could close with the ultimate question: how has yoga changed your life?
Starting yoga 12 years ago has had a profound effect on my life, but what has changed is not how long I’m holding a handstand but my ability to look inside and find exactly what I need.
Through yoga I have found that every single answer to every question is inside of you – yoga teaches me to listen to myself, to pause, to be present through the breath, then allow the truth to unfold, and when the truth unfolds to have the strength to listen to it. I guess what I have found is joy. That’s why yoga is so important in my life and why I am happiest sharing it – teaching brings me so much joy and I’m so grateful to have stumbled into that first yoga class at 17.
Wonderful! Thank you, Katie, for sharing. It’s been lovely speaking with you!x