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Journal

Embodied Rituals for Skin + Soul

Filtering by Tag: Yoga

Evolving yoga & the bodysoul

Katie Gordon

A friend and I were walking and talking the other day about how, as teachers, both our yoga practice and the way we approach teaching has evolved. I came to yoga during college after leaving ballet. I had struggled with bulimia and anorexia for years, but even more than that, I felt mentally, emotionally, and physically rigid. I was stuck in this foreign body that I had numbed and quieted for so long, I no longer knew how to hear the voice of my soul or feel my physical body enough to even know when something was wrong. So I stumbled/dragged myself into a yoga studio around the corner from my apartment in Boston's Back Bay, started teaching awhile later, and discovered a world I saw as completely opposite from my rigid, extreme, self-loathing reality. And unlike the pain and exhaustion of ballet, I had found something that made me feel literally high afterward. Plus it's healthy (both physically and mentally), it's great exercise (they don't call it a yoga butt for nothing), and I felt good about myself as a person, justified in my somewhat-self-righteous approach to the yoga-raw food-vegan-sattvic-clean-eating lifestyle because I'm doing something "of value" and teaching people how to feel better, right? Now I see all I had done was carry that same rigidity, the same self-imposed rules into a new setting.

And then I got disillusioned with the whole thing. I got bored. I got injured. I wasn't down with paying $100 for a pair of yoga pants. I got tired of feeling burnt out after teaching SO much and struggling to pay my bills. Seriously, if you want to be a "successful" yoga teacher (and they're out there!) you gotta hustle. You gotta have passion. And I didn't. My body hurt, I could barely make rent, I didn't even have the time or energy or desire to maintain my own practice. So I said f*ck this.

I gave up trying to survive by teaching and I got a "real job." You know the whole work 9-5, wear "professional" clothes, get a paycheck every 2 weeks, have health insurance, work in an office kinda job. This was that stage in my practice when I was so happy to NOT stress out about money/survival/my-family-thinks-I'm-a-total-failure that you'll do anything for this new job. And don't get me wrong, the company I worked for is GREAT! They treat their employees better than any I've seen. The people there are wonderful. But my connection to my wild soul was fading. And my physical body was like, "How can you possibly have a job where you're sitting at a computer all day??!! Have I taught you nothing??"

During this time my practice taught me to slow down. Because of injuries, I couldn't do everything I used to be able to do. I had to be super mindful, take my time, and listen to my body in a way I never have. I felt like because I no longer had to depend on yoga to make a living, I could make it all about me. What I needed, wanted, craved in terms of movement. How my bodysoul needed to manifest herself. And through that work, it became increasingly clear that, even though I was comfortable & happy enough, I wasn't living my full truth or my soul's purpose in the world.

So when the opportunity arrived, I left. I moved to the Pacific Northwest, where I'd wanted to live since I was a kid (after watching The Goonies. Because pirate caves.) and where I could focus solely on my little business. And since Wild Grace is an extension of me, it became VERY clear that to have an abundant business, I needed to cultivate a healthier mind-body-soul connection. For me, even though I hated to admit it for awhile, the way in to that connection was through my yoga practice. It forced me to sit, breathe, be, and listen. It showed me how to deeply honor my body when I was practicing honestly and from a place of love for myself.

As I was preparing to teach a demo class in my new home town, I realized my yoga practice and what it meant to me had changed because my relationship with my body had changed. Because of the way I used to practice, always pushing myself, forcing myself further into poses, to keep going even if practicing didn't feel good or if I was hurt, my body had finally had enough and my practice HAD to change.

You're probably thinking, "Well, duh!" But really, I could finally see clearly how the way I felt in my body, the way I surrendered to my body, the way I saw it, felt it, heard it. The way I allowed it space. The way I honored the open spaces and the tense, closed, traumatized spaces had shifted in each stage of both my ego & soul growth. And because of that I was finally allowing my body to evolve rather than stay within a "safe" range of weight and shape. I was allowing my soul to expand, to be her brilliant & bright self. Where there was once a major disconnect between my soul's desire for compassion and self-love and my mind's need for some semblance of control, now there's just (for the most part) quiet, space, and a deep honoring of the way it sometimes all has to play out so that we can actually learn how to get out of our own way and meaningfully make something of ourselves.

And so I guess when you can finally let go of your opinion of the yoga industry, your fear of not being "good enough," the constant need to compare yourself as a teacher and student, and the competition for classes, all that's left is your relationship to your body (physical and energetic) and the practice of showing up each day to be with yourself.

What I learned from a busted shoulder...

Katie Gordon

peace with your body Today I want to share an important lesson that it's taken me a LONG time to learn.  I'm pretty stubborn, so hopefully it won't take quite as long for you to learn it, or maybe you're one of the lucky ones who already has.  If that's the case, consider this a gentle reminder.

Four years ago, during my yoga teacher training, my right shoulder started feeling a bit tweaky.  I asked my teachers about it and all of them said to rest it, stop doing chaturanga (the ultimate shoulder shredder) for awhile, and work on my alignment once it felt better.  At the time I was 23 and knew everything, so I didn't listen.  I was also in the super yogini, vegetarian, yoga-every-damn-day mindset and taking some time off and being gentle with myself just didn't fit the program.

Fast forward to the present day.  The slightly-tweaky shoulder of 4 years ago is now so inflamed that it hurts ALL THE TIME.  Finally, I went to see a physical therapist recommended by a trusted fellow bodyworker and after an hour of slightly painful myofascial release and a stern talking to about "seriously staying off of it for 2 weeks", my shoulder feels better than it has since I started teaching!  Of course I still have to remind myself every day to stay off of it.  No demonstrating, no handstands, no down dogs, no planks, just stop.

This yoga hiatus has forced me to re-evaluate the way I practice, the way I teach, and the way I treat myself.  I've had the time to really sit with myself, feel my body, and check in with what would FEEL GOOD, not what I think I should do, not how many days it's been since I did a vinyasa, or worry about losing the strength I worked so hard to build up.  Because none of that matters if I'm not doing it mindfully.

So here's the lesson: It is SO NECESSARY to listen and deeply nourish yourself, both body and spirit.  Injury, illness, and pain are signs of imbalance in our physical or energetic bodies that shouldn't be ignored.  Resting isn't weakness.  I've noticed resting and taking time to replenish my stores of energy is actually more work and takes more courage because it requires silencing the guilt and fear of being "lazy" and going against everything I've done for 27 years.

How can you deeply nourish and love yourself more?  What are some of your favorite self-care practices?  And what might you be doing that is causing your physical, emotional, or energetic body more stress?  What might it be like to let that go?

Love, Katie xo

Wild Grace

Katie Gordon

Hello friends! Exciting news!  If you skipped ahead to the end, you may have noticed there’s a new web address at the bottom of this post.  This is my new project where I've finally brought all of my work together under one (figurative) roof.  Even though it's still a work in progress, I was too excited to wait to tell you all!  As most of you know, I’ve been training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition to become a health coach.  I went into this saying to myself, “I couldn’t actually BE a health coach, I just want the nutrition info to pass along to my yoga and bodywork clients.”  Gradually, though, I began to see how I could integrate health coaching into the bodywork, infusing conversations about food with deep healing work to address issues such as disordered eating, distorted body image, and negative patterns associated with nourishing ourselves.

About now you may be asking, “What exactly IS a health coach, and why might I need one?”

To illustrate, a story: I have a dear friend who has been my biggest support through this program.  When I was in the deepest mud and muck, questioning my worth, abilities, and place in the world (you know the little things), she laced up her boots and trudged in after me, grabbed my hand, and helped me find a way out.  In other words, she’s there telling me how much I rock. That’s a health coach.  Not someone who will give you a list of foods to eat and send you on your way, but someone who’s in the trenches with you every step of the way.

So what are you telling yourself you could “never” do?  What’s holding you back from reaching your goals, living your dream life, and fulfilling your deepest desires for yourself?  What do you not dare to say out loud for fear of being unable to accomplish it?

Maybe you’re caught in a cycle of addiction.  Maybe every meal is a battle with yourself because your body is telling you one thing, but your head keeps getting in the way, telling you that you don’t deserve to eat because you haven’t worked out today.  Maybe you’re feeling stuck in a job or a relationship that’s not feeding your soul.  Maybe you want to start your own business but are afraid of taking those first steps.  As a health coach, just like my friend did for me, I’ll be there to pull on my boots (I have some really cute Doc Martens), traipse through the mud, take you by the hand, and find a way out together, all along telling you how much you rock!  Sound good?

If so, let’s set up a free initial consultation to give you the opportunity to talk about your dreams, your goals, and how we can work together to help you heal, grow, and get free.  The best part is that we can work together in person, on the phone,or via Skype, so this is open to EVERYONE!  Email me to set up your free session at kgordon8@gmail.com and let’s get started.  I've you've been following this blog, make your way over to my NEW website/blog and be sure to bookmark it.  This one will eventually link to the new one...as soon as I figure out how to do that.

Much love,

Katie

Health Coach + Bodyworker + Soul Rebel

Founder of Wild Grace