Just Breathe: How Yoga Changed My Life

sup yogaI started teaching it when my cousin (owner of the first Yoga Den) asked me to get certified. Ever since I started at the age of 22, yoga has helped me through all the wonderful phases — college, marriage, prenatal and postpartum of three kids. It’s become a big part of my identity and has kept me grounded through all the trials and tribulations — and there have been many!

We like to say in classes, “The breath is a partner throughout the practice.” Well, yoga has been like my partner throughout my adult life.

The word yoga itself stems from the Sanskrit term “yoke,” meaning “to unite” — in other words, joining our body, mind, and spirit. The physical practice of yoga allows us to connect to our body with full permission to not judge — but instead, embrace our strengths and honor our weaknesses.

Well, this is super sweet and somewhat cheesy, but when you begin to practice all young and limber, it’s hard not to compare what those poses once looked and felt like, to how they have adapted and changed in my now 42-year-old body. I struggled to watch the changes throughout my pregnancies. I criticized and judged the hell out of myself. I wish I knew then what I know now. Our bodies are incredible. I’m trying to embrace the fact that life is short and our bodies are the impermanent home on this earth — our temple, and it’s the only one we get. And, how amazing is it that we can create life and turn blood into milk that nourishes our babes?!

We are ALL fully capable of practicing this ancient form of radical self-acceptance. It will be a life-long quest to connect to our higher self.

The method to the madness

Yoga isn’t just about the poses. It’s about staying flexible to the ups and downs. We can benefit from practicing the balancing tree pose, far beyond just the physical perks. It teaches us to remain the student — sway with the breeze like a tree, and bend our knees so we don’t break. But, when we fall (and we will), we learn to pick ourselves back up and try again. To breathe through the highs and lows of life — for that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.

As moms, we naturally take care of others but often neglect ourselves. Practicing yoga teaches us that it’s important to take care of ourselves first because only then can you truly give to others — you know the whole oxygen mask on the airplane metaphor. Yoga is so much more than practicing on a mat. It’s an ideology — that we’re all the same just living in different bodies with unique experiences.

READ: Just Say Om: Your Unofficial Guide to Kids’ Yoga in Jacksonville

Our “off the mat” yoga is where the true challenges live. Just a few examples: When our kids are arguing over what they want for dinner, when a car dangerously cuts in front of us, or when our husband leaves the toilet seat up for the upteenth time. How do we REACT? Or… how can we observe, breathe, and realize it’s not the end of the world. Pick our battles instead of responding or reacting to the situation. It’s not easy, but here’s the truth: Bad moments last as long as good moments. How can we appreciate both? Our challenges actually make us better and more interesting! I’d take hectic and exciting over boring and bland every day.

I REALLY love SUP yoga (stand-up paddleboard yoga) because it can be so much more playful than inside a studio. We breathe in the fresh air, feel the gentle breeze on our skin, get some good Vitamin D, and laugh! We’re learning not to take ourselves, or this practice, too seriously. One of my favorite parts of SUP yoga is after the class when most of us stay at Wicked Barley enjoying lunch and libations! Breaking bread and opening up our hearts — this is where the real yoga happens. We’re forming an incredible community of like-minded misfits in an ethos of individual opinions with no judgment.

Experience SUP Yoga

Come out and join the stoke of floating your yoga! Follow me @flyp.yogapaddleco. I schedule pop-up style; that way we know more about what the weather will look like. To register, just message me and I’ll add you to the list!

Maybe it’s my age and time of practice — but the more I experience, the more I realize how little I know. I’m sure I’ll learn more from you than you will from me, but I promise you’ll have a great time! #alwaysthestudent

About the Author

Kate Vallas started teaching yoga in her hometown of Jacksonville back in 2003. She then became trained to teach stand-up paddleboard 2011. She started her own SUP yoga company in 2017, Florida Yoga and Paddle Co. Yoga outside just makes sense, and Kate loves taking people’s practice out on the water — where there is fresh air, positive energy, and healthy feelings of fear and excitement! “Life can get hard and hectic, but as long as we take some time to get silly and destress, those hard times won’t get the best of us.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here