Kait's Journey to Yoga

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Authored by Kaitlyn

My journey to yoga was a rocky one. I believe it's important to share my story in an authentic way because so many of us believe that because we can't touch our toes, if we have an injury, or we don't look like someone else in a pose, we can't yoga. We have so many excuses for ourselves for why we can't do this societal norm of what 'yoga' means. But we can.

I absolutely hated yoga when I started. In fact, the only reason I ever started was because of a very serious back injury and an epidural that went wrong-- inflicting three months of immobility, a medical dependence on hydrocodone, and two and a half years of PT, four days a week. Laying still half-drugged on the hospital bed, I remember my doctor saying "do yoga." So once I could move again, I bought a pass to the rec center and went to my first class. What my doctor neglected to tell me, however, was that there were certain back bending poses- up dog, wheel, bridge, camel, etc. - that I absolutely should not have been doing at the time. I wasn't informed to check in with an instructor to let them know my injury and I thought that in order to do yoga, I had to just do what everyone else was doing. I was a competitive cheerleader for years, of course I was going to slay my first class. Therefore, as the instructor called poses and I watched around the room I knew I had the flexibility to do any of the poses anyone else was doing with ease. But I didn't. I left class with tears running down my face, embarrassed, and in excruciating pain from what I had just forced my body to do. I went back again the following week to try again, and I was traumatized. I accepted that yoga was not for me, that I was doomed to a lifetime of chronic pain, and that my body was rendered useless. I hated myself, my body, and my life. 

Fast forward a few years of PT and my core strength was back on point. A friend had begged me to try hot yoga with her and I knew what my capabilities were. SHE urged me to talk to the instructor before class to see what I should do instead of certain poses and I actually left with a smile on my face. I bought a membership to the studio, and I started going about once or twice a week purely to work out. My body was becoming thinner and I was regaining the strength that I had lost. I started doing the elliptical at the gym, lost 30 pounds, and I was more confident than ever before. 

Then, I moved to Italy. See, these people have it figured out. Their foods don't have processed anything in it and they walk literally everywhere. Because of their lifestyle, they are able to eat foods loaded with carbs and still maintain a very healthy figure without any gym memberships, so there were zero gyms or yoga studios in the town where I was living. On average, I was walking 10-15 miles a day. But for me, this just wasn't enough. I began gaining all the weight back I had lost, and losing all functioning ability in my core. I was relapsing. And while you may think "but you were in Italy, you were living a once in a lifetime opportunity..." that's a whole other story. But it was a train wreck. While I was trying to make the best of living in a foreign place, I was unwelcome and everyone made it very apparent. Depression hit me hard and I hadn't ever experienced the mental component of yoga so I didn't turn to it when I needed it most. It became apparent that my body was shutting down and the muscles in my core were completely shot. The most embarrassing point in my life was running back to my dorm from the train station, trying to hold my bladder but not having the proper core muscle functioning to do so. And at this moment I knew I needed to get back to working on myself.  

That same friend that begged me to go to yoga, introduced me to an organization that I knew I needed to be a part of. From half way across the world, I did the work so that when I came back the The States, I could get right back to the grindstone. I became an ambassador of a national health and fitness organization called CHAARG and founded a chapter at my university to show girls my age that you can [re]start from any point in your life, no matter where you are, and become the best version of yourself-- mentally, physically, and emotionally. Being a role model and inspiration to many girls around me held me accountable to always try my hardest and to be proud of where I was at that moment. Because of CHAARG, I was introduced [yet again] to yoga. 

Through continuous practice, not only did the physical healing begin, but furthermore, I began to have a deeper sense of myself and the growth I wanted to make in my life. I started to regain strength in my body and an ability to find self-love and acceptance. In addition to enabling me to live pain free, with the help of the teachers and assistants, I have been able to achieve poses that I would have never imagined I’d be able to do with my condition. And now, I’m even a total inversion addict. 

It wasn’t until after another bad back “flare up” that I had this clarifying epiphany that this injury is, in fact, a part of me-- instead of defying it and trying to prove to myself that I can do what my body tells me I can’t, I decided that it’s time to accept that this is who I am and what I have to overcome in my everyday life. Yoga has truly helped develop me into a new and improved Kait- allowing me to feel powerful and confident in my own skin + proud of what my body is able to do, honoring what I need at every moment of each new day. 

Which leads us to why I felt such a strong tug on my heart to become a certified yoga instructor. I want to inspire YOU to embrace your inner strength, power, and love for yourself and others around you, just as I was gifted. Many doctors ruined my spirit by saying “you’ll never be able to do this again…”. See, we live in this world where people [including yourself] will convince you of all the reasons you can’t do something-- My teaching has granted me the tools to show you that you can. Even further, I will be there to cheer you on every step of the way.

If you ever have questions, need someone to talk to, or want to chat further about my story, I am always available to you. There have been numerous moments in my life that I’ve felt extreme depression, sadness, exhaustion, and like giving up. People ask me “why are you so open with everyone about the experiences you’ve been through?” I always reply by saying something like this:

 When you’re stuck in a rut, when you feel like you’re drowning in darkness, when you seem to have no reason to keep moving forward, life gets really, really hard. Most of the time when you’re scrolling through social media, you only see the best, filtered, top-picked glimpse of someone’s life. Living together on this earth, we have a responsibility (in my eyes) to treat others as best as we can provide to them. That means being honest, raw, vulnerable, open, living, caring, inviting, etc. During some of the hardest times in my life, the only thing that I could fathom to focus on was simply being, breathing, and taking up space. On my mat, little by little, I found relief and comfort. I found my breath and I found my home. My mission as an instructor has been for many reasons: to lead, to inspire, to spread yoga, to make the world a better place, to empower, to connect. But above all else, the reason that shines brighter and more clearly each day, is to provide a safe place for someone. An environment where one can focus on just being. A place to take their mind off of anything that demands their attention in their life. A base where people come to find stillness in the chaos of their journey alongside of others who might need the same thing. No matter what, judgement free, and a spot to find a welcoming smile and a bit of encouragement to keep inching forward, even when it feels unmanageable. It is so important to me that you know you are important, you are loved, you matter, and you can do this. 

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Kaitlyn Bowman