Kat Yates — yoga guide, holistic living coach

Yoga is a holistic experience for many — mind, body, spirit. But did one element or another first draw you to the practice? That is, were you seeking to settle your mind? Have greater physical flexibility? Explore your spiritual nature?

I was first drawn into yoga for the physical benefits like many — I was recovering from bunion surgery and it was one of the only things I could do to work my muscles and stretch a little bit — I got hooked! — the mental + emotional benefits came later, and now that’s why I practice

How about now: does yoga feed your mind or your body or your spirit more, or are those elements more in balance than when you started?

my practice looks completely different now than it did 9 years ago — my daily practice looks more like seated pranayama + meditation, plus 15-30 minutes of movement I like to call ‘daily maintenance’ — without a doubt, the tools and techniques I’ve learned feed my mind and soul (as well as body!), but these techniques take time to learn and refine — everyone has their own personal recipe

How long have you been practicing yoga? How frequently do you practice now?

I’ve been practicing yoga since 2015, and teaching since 2017 — it’s rare that a day goes by that I don’t practice (or at least sit and do some breathing techniques for 10 minutes)

How long did you practice yoga before you started teaching it?

two years — I knew as soon as I started practicing that I was going to teach it — I knew it in my bones — there was no question

Do you have a preferred yoga style?

while I started out teaching a more vigorous ‘flow’ style class (this was what I learned from my first teachers and in my first YTT), my style has evolved to include many modalities including hatha, kundalini, and Katonah Yoga — in 2020 I started deep-diving in Katonah Yoga and now it continues to inform every facet of my life, my practice and my teaching — I also teach Yin yoga, where you can find threads of Vipassana meditation and Five Element theory infused into my classes

When you first took up yoga, what came easiest and what was more challenging?

the postures came easily, as I was naturally flexible — the strength aspect – as well as cultivating boundaries – was a little more challenging for me — I had a lot of resistance to pranayama at the beginning as well, but once I started to stick with it and found recipes that worked for me, it became my favorite part of the practice

From your experience as a teacher, can you generalize about what comes easiest for beginners and what is more challenging?

from my experience as a teacher, I’d say generally getting the form + alignment correct in the postures (learning how to fold from one’s own joint spaces instead of trying to mimic what others are doing) as well as developing a strong breath are the two things that take time, repetition, and patience

What have been the greatest benefits of yoga for you?

the greatest benefits of yoga for me have been greater peace of mind, insanely reduced stress levels, and better lung capacity — I’ve also watched my body change in ways I could have never fathomed – but that is not why I practice!

Yoga is a universal practice. But as a world traveler, have you found a noticeable difference in yoga practice elsewhere?

honestly, I haven’t noticed a huge difference in yoga practiced elsewhere — I’ve taught and practiced in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Malaysia, Bali, India and USA – certainly, cultural differences can influence the style (for example, a lot of Ashtanga and more meditation-focused styles in India) but in general, those who are interested in yoga are typically already open-minded enough to be willing to explore any style or modality

Apart from yoga, do you practice other techniques of mindfulness or meditation?

I do pranayama (breathing techniques) every day in the morning before I do my movement practice — I also walk my dog which is my daily dose of mindful walking — I have also done three different Vipassana meditation (10 day silent) courses which greatly influence the way I think and perceive the world now

Outside of a yoga session, do you ever just strike a pose and stretch? If so, which pose(s) and where?

all the time! — when I’m on the couch, I often throw my legs up the wall or in the air and grab a foot — or if I’m out for a walk or bike ride, I’ll stretch often!

You have a choice: lead a yoga class (1) outdoors on a beautiful day, overlooking the ocean, or (2) in a well-designed, very comfortable minimalist indoor space. Which do you pick?

honestly, this is a tough question! — so long as there is a hard, sturdy floor without gaps in it, I’d pick an outdoor space any day over an indoor one — but what’s not to love about a well-curated, open indoor space? — the only place I would not practice (or recommend practicing on) is the beach — sand is overrated, and not a good surface to practice on!

—interview © Marshal Zeringue