We had an inspirational conversation with Cardiff-based yoga teacher and entrepreneur Kat Pither, who invited us on a sunny Sunday morning for a walk around Penarth Pier, her favorite spot in the area. Strolling on the pier, Kat opened up about her journey into yoga and why she quit the rat race in London in order to embark on a much more authentic journey by learning to let go and cultivate her own self.
Who is Kat behind Yogi Bare?
Golden light, the right song at the right moment, dogs whose smiles reach the corners of their mouths, mugs of once steaming tea left too long on a window sill as I run away with an idea, having pride for strangers, noticing new things about old friends, Sundays, the inky colour of green forests, waking in the early hours and feeling like the birds are performing for my pleasure, walking paths through heavy globs of rain when you have nowhere to go and nowhere to be, watching the body move in unbridled freedom, inner space and outer space, making playlists to line up with feelings, the arrival of spring, pink sky gradients at night, westerns and horror, teeth that catch on lips when grinning, brushing my teeth, trainers without socks, idealism and surrealism. These are a few of my favourite things.
What is your most vivid childhood memory?
Capturing a concussed pigeon to “nurse” back to life and retain urban legend status in the school playground. After sneaking him from garden to bedroom the concussion quickly wore off and the whole scenario was quickly reduced from Animal Hospital to Fawlty Towers with a very energetic pigeon, two horrified parents and the mischievous delight of my brother and I’s power to heal.
When and how did you encounter yoga for the first time?
Believe it or not I hated Yoga the first few classes I went to! I had been told over and over how good it would be for me and I had placed so much reliance on it being a life changing cure for me. Unfortunately as with life and yoga poses – the more pressure you place on something to be perfect, the less likely it will be. I battled against trying so hard to love the concept that when I practiced I thought it was goal oriented. And then one day an Italian surfer yoga teacher waltzed into my life in a band T-shirt and The Doors on her playlist and taught me the art of letting go and being unapologetically me. I lost myself completely in her class, moving and feeling everything – I was hardly aware of the tears on my cheeks or what anyone else in the room was doing. I was present. The realisation of carving your own path and finding the yoga style for you was and still is instrumental to my falling in love with mindful movement.
Who has been your greatest influence?
My dad, the most gentle and brave man I know recently told me that when he left for Canada age 17 without a clue, just the desire to see and experience he had to inspire himself. I love that idea of finding inspiration within yourself. It means you are really connected and cool with who you are. We live our lives in a honeycomb of comparison and emulation, sure it's great to look at others to admire their creative stimulus but perhaps it's time we started to cultivate our inspirations from within, embracing our unique capacity and vastness. One my favourite authors, Henry Beston, has really enhanced and enriched my appreciation of and the importance of drawing from nature. He manages to capture and frame the rapture of what was seemingly indescribable in the most enchanting way. His words add so much value and connection to my life, both in terms of connection to nature as our greatest influencer and connection to shared consciousness with others. “In a world older and more complete than ours, animals move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” We are all connected, we all influence one another.
What’s your mission as a yoga instructor? Who are you trying to reach and why?
Perhaps this lacks the altruism assumed in yoga but I will unashamedly admit my reasons to teach are defined by my personal struggles with anxiety, addiction and a crippling sense of not belonging. For so many years I was so lost and alone but yoga has taught me to be really, authentically happy hanging out with myself. I will always be open with my struggles and my intentions and the fact I’m still embracing my journey, perhaps I’m not a conventional or traditional teacher but all I want is to share the things which have helped me in the hope they might contribute to someone else’s day in some small way.
What do you find rewarding about being a yoga instructor?
One of my favourite phrases is: we are all just walking one another home. That’s what being a yoga instructor is, you are sharing your passion with others. Its when you see faces flicker with unguarded emotion that you see how yoga is melting something away for them. Yoga is all about taking what you need – some days you need rest and restoration and some days you need to lose yourself in an empowering flow, if you can contribute quietly to someone’s development to self-compassion and understanding. That is everything.
How did the idea of Yogi Bare come about and what made it worth pursuing?
Yogi Bare is the physical manifestation of the concept of yoga being for everybody and every body. I wanted to develop a range of eco sensitive products with accessible price points after seeing a slight shift in a strand of yoga defined by wealth, social standing, gender and ethnicity. I wanted to bring some fun and personality to a world that can sometimes seem alien or difficult to access. The name isn’t just a fun play on words but the Bare is symbolic of the eco credentials and a sense of stripping back.
What was the most challenging step when you started the Yogi Bare adventure?
The most challenging step was finding the courage and self belief. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by people who saw who I was before I could or did.
What is your definition of healing? And why is it so important to “let go”?
We take it for granted that life is always moving forward as we move like someone sailing a rowing boat. We face back, seeing the trail of where we’ve been and what we have done but not where we are headed. I have a terrible habit of overthinking and over analysing my past moves. Yoga has helped so much slow things down for me. As someone who is very much pedal to the mettle or easily caught up in a racing mind that feels like the infamous Lion King scene with the buffalo stampede, it is imperative to find an objective detachment. Yoga is so much more than a series of postures, it is a philosophical shift in thinking, a movement in kindness, compassion and detachment. The latter being one of the most important lessons yoga has taught me and a lesson I will still be learning for the rest of my days. Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting. It just means we stop carrying the rucksack of our past into the present. It doesn’t define you.
What is your relationship with your own body? How has this changed over time?
This is a complex one. I’ve weaved my way through a pinball machine of eating disorders, self harm through addiction and anxious thoughts. And what I’ve gained is respect. Respect for our bodies which love unconditionally and relentlessly, twenty four hours a day they work so hard to keep us alive and well, irrespective of how we choose to treat them. Even through ill health they are still trying their hardest. My previous battles were founded in a sense of disconnection, being physically disconnected and lost in my thoughts. Yoga has taught me to come back to the body, to feel and to notice everything. Sometimes it is taking time to “wriggle your big toe” like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. Other times it's becoming blissfully heightened to sensations like a cool breeze dancing on your skin. Time seems to slow when you notice these things and you realize that the operating speed of the present moment is so marginal. The mind-body connection is undeniable and I am so excited that it is now being seriously considered in science and how we view mental health. Every day is to be taken at a time but I know in my mind when my body needs looking after and vice versa. I've learnt that it's important to listen to both.
What would you say to someone who thinks yoga isn’t for them?
If you have kind and compassionate thoughts, you do yoga. If you move, you already do yoga. If you breathe, you already do yoga. If you feel your heart lift in nature, you are already doing it just right. Yoga simply means “to unite”, it is all about connection; with our bodies, with our minds, with one another and with the wider world. There is a style of yoga out there to suit everyone, just because you tried one dessert one time it doesn’t mean you will never like dessert (dessert is great!). Yoga is about taking what you need, when you need it, it should be a compliment to your life and hobbies.
What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received?
Only you can experience this life, this world, its inexplicable magic and majesty so be bold, be unafraid and unashamed to perceive it your way and keep your eyes open to the wonders of the day to day.
What is your favourite dish?
I think true love is appreciating something in all its forms. So sweet potato. This one goes out to you.
How does a regular day look like for you?
I have always admired those who walk the path least travelled. I feel uncomfortable with “comfort”. My days have little regularity as I love waking up with a genuine excitement about what I can use that day for, where will I go, who will I meet, what will I create? I try to maintain that attitude appreciating the day as something to be rinsed for all its worth and possibility. Yogi Bare has a basic canvas of day to day demands, of course. But what you paint daily on the canvas can be different. The things I try to keep consistent directly relate to what Yogi Bare is about. I spend as much time as I possible can in conversation with people around me. I try hard to share as much about what yoga did for me, so that it can help other people, even if in the smallest of ways. However one thing that is not subject to change is that it will begin with a coffee and a wag of a tail and end in a sweet goodnight to my dog and a mug of steaming Chai. These are the bookends that make me.
What are some of your favourite places to hang out in Cardiff?
As someone originally from London, a city existing on its mastery of communication and creativity but also a place which can sometimes feel isolating and lonely, what strikes me most about Cardiff is its intimacy. A capital which feels like your favourite well worn trainers no matter where you are but still brimming with opportunity and inspiration. I love nothing more than to hide away behind a slice of vegan cake in the coffee shops of the Arcade, receive the warmest family sized welcome or “Alright!” from Adam at Anna Loka, immerse myself in the seasonal catwalk of Cosmeston Lakes. But most of all I always find and lose myself at the end of Penarth Pier. You can find me where the sky meets the ocean, the sea meets the shore, somewhere in between waking and dreaming.
What are your dreams and ambitions for Yogi Bare? How do you see it growing and changing over time?
Dreams are defined by their freedom and the way they spark an all-encompassing feeling of joy and excitement within us. The minute this is lacking that’s when I know I need to change something. By nature making anything “real” and tangible requires your full heart and being fully consumed. A fantastic and inspiring read is the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He devised the concept of Flow – being in a state of concentration so focused that it amounts to complete absorption in an activity and results in the achievement of a perfect state of happiness. Of course this isn’t an ever present feeling but my ambition is to strive to taste that again and again with what I do with Yogi Bare, like sweet stolen kisses. For me, Flow wouldn’t be fully achievable without meaning and purpose. I like that the brand has a function but I also want to commit towards growing Yogi Bare’s eco conscious principles and values, giving back to our earth, our home.