This is a special post from The Green Yogi’s, Warrior I, Mary Strong. She recently spent a weekend with “Aim True” yogi, Kathryn Budig. We are the beneficiaries of her experience, read on to Be Inspired.
As I begin my 6-mile bike ride through the cobble stone streets of Nantucket, the morning dew settling softly on my face, I can’t help but feel a sense of anticipation.
I am heading to an old boat hanger on the other side of the island for a 3-day yoga workshop with the Queen of arm balances and inversions, Kathryn Budig. The response to her arrival is overwhelming. More than 60 people have signed-up to participate in the “Aim True” and “Flight of the Yogi” workshop. It is the largest yoga workshop on Nantucket to date, forcing the owner of The Yoga Room, the only yoga studio on the island, to move the event to a larger space.
The boat hanger is tucked away in a small cul-de-sac at the end of a dirt road. One side is completely open, revealing cement floors speckled with colorful yoga mats, billowy fabrics hanging from the ceiling and a violinist playing melodic sounds while perched on a loft overlooking the main studio. The room is buzzing with eager yogis, anxious to meet Kathryn in person.
Kathryn Budig has become one of the great yogis of our time. She has graced the cover of countless magazines and fearlessly balanced on her hands, wearing only socks, in a famous ad for ToeSox. I pictured Kathryn to be tall, aloof and untouchable, a “yoga star” that arrives late and leaves early to avoid being bombarded by her students. On the contrary, she is 5’ 2”, easy-going and completely approachable. And…she was early.
As I spend more time with Kathryn over the weekend, it is easy to see why she is so successful. She has a unique ability to give people rare “Aha” moments through playful and creative instruction, using words like “sassy bottom” to describe what to avoid while attempting an inversion. She asks us to have an “intimate relationship with our shinbone” while holding a forward fold, and I can’t help but laugh. Her expressions encourage us to explore the more playful side of yoga.
Kathryn approaches and asks me to hug an imaginary character named “Marcel” under my armpit as I move into Astavakrasana, an arm-balancing pose I have struggled with for years. I finally have my “Aha” moment and balance effortlessly. Her talents become even more apparent. The woman practicing next to me is looking for her “Aha” moment too. She is hoping to overcome her fear of going upside down. Kathryn begins to coach her into tripod headstand using her “Kathrynisms.” Moments later, the woman is balancing on her head. She lets out a squeal and shouts, “I did it, I did it!” They both laugh.
After the workshop, I sat down with Kathryn for an intimate interview. I couldn’t help but wonder about her personal journey into yoga, and what’s next on her path to greatness:
Q: How did you get your start in yoga?
A: I found yoga when I was in college. One of my ballet friends discovered yoga and said I had to try it. So I started practicing once a week and that turned into twice a week. I moved to L.A. to continue the whole acting career and decided to try teacher training while I was at it.
Q: Was there a defining moment when you thought…this could be my true calling?
A: I think when I realized that I didn’t like Hollywood at all and it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, I simultaneously realized that I was kind of good at this whole yoga thing. So it was a very accidental career.
Q: This is the largest yoga workshop Nantucket has ever had. You’ve obviously become a big draw wherever you go. What makes you so good at this “yoga thing”?
A: I make the postures that are challenging accessible to people, and I think I have a gift at helping people realize their potential. I am also a very accessible person in general. I don’t believe in the whole guru thing, that the teacher is above the student. I like to look at the student eye to eye. I think that’s lacking a lot these days. People are looking for someone to be inspired by, but not someone to rule them.
Q: What is “Aim True” all about?
A: “Aim True” is just remembering the potential that you already posses, finding a sense of purpose, and making that purpose strong so it is something you live with every day of your life regardless of society’s influences, and other people who might have strong opinions against what you’re doing.
Q: Who are your mentors?
A: My teacher was Maty Ezraty, the co-founder of YogaWorks. She is a little 4’ 11” powerhouse and I love that woman so much. She moved to Hawaii, so I don’t get to see her that much anymore. Seane Corn is a big sister figure to me. Whenever I don’t know what to do, I call her. She gives it to me straight and I appreciate her honesty. She was one of the first people who saw something inside of me and told me I had a message to share, as opposed to just being a good asana teacher. She was the one who encouraged me to make that transformation.
Q: Speaking of transformations, you are moving to Florida soon.
A: It’s a big move from Venice, California to Florida, but my love is there and we’ve been apart for over a year now. All I need is an airport and Internet connection to do my job. It goes along with my Aim True philosophy. I’ve got to get over my fear of changing my life of 8 years, and make the move.
Q: I loved your story about how you overcame your fear of skydiving and fell in love with your skydiving instructor. Is there anything else you’re afraid of?
A: I have a major fear of the ocean and sharks. Although I did go paddle boarding the other day for a couple of hours, so it’s a step in the right direction. I think the ocean will be the next frontier for me.
Q: What do you love most about your job?
A: The opportunity to see the world. That’s probably the big one for me right now. Also, the opportunity to meet people from all over and see how different, yet how amazingly similar, we all are. That’s very inspiring to me.
Q: If you could give someone one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: At the end of the day, take a moment to look at your decisions in life and recognize if they are fear based or love based. If you go to bed at night and the choices that you’ve made have come from a place of love, you can’t go wrong.
Q: Where is Kathryn Budig 5 years from now?
A: In a happy place!