“I had to wreck my life to put the pieces back together.”
Kate Patterson Baldwin pinches a bite size piece off a baseball sized muffin as she describes her realization while studying yoga in India. Kate is approachable but has the type of poise that communicates intelligence and life experience. Her passion for the arts and yoga led to stories of adventure, education, and self-discovery, all of which she was willing to share.
“I was pretty much living two lives,” she said. “My yoga life, which was healthy, and my toxic life. I was a bartender at the time, I drank a lot and had a ton of toxic relationships.”
Kate began practicing yoga in 2001, but it wasn’t until a blood vessel on her brain burst that she really dedicated herself to the practice. At first, she was drawn to hot yoga because of the physical challenge that accompanies the heat and the postures, but it did not take long before she discovered the philosophical and spiritual sides of yoga. Kate began to study these concepts and started her journey as a teacher.
Kate introduces complex spiritual concepts of yoga with analogies. She warns that her explanation is a simple way of introducing these in-depth spiritual concepts of yoga. Kate holds up her hand and explains that the human form is like a hand wearing a glove with multiple layers of fabric. The hand inside the glove is your divine presence or your bliss layer; the first layer of fabric is your wisdom and intellect; the next layer is your senses and emotions; the next layer is your energy-body; and the outermost layer exposed to the world is your physical body.
“The layers all affect each other,” she said. “Positive input in one layer will send positive effects through all the layers, however the same applies to negative input. For example, healing emotional wounds will have a positive affect on our bodies just as burdening ourselves emotionally will have negative affects on our bodies. Point being, a yoga practice involves more than physical movement. If we only do the postures without also working on our life choices, it makes it hard to achieve the peace of mind that yoga promises.”
Kate has an impressive knowledge of yoga. She quickly rattles off the eight limbs of yoga and differentiates the practices and principles with each one. Some of limbs are spiritual practices within a person’s everyday life and others are physical practices such as breathing exercises. The active application of these eight limbs help achieve clarity of the mind… which, in the era of chaos we live, in is difficult to do. Yoga is a practical method of regaining momentary peace and an ability to face the world with a calm composed mind. The benefits of yoga apply to anyone, of all different lifestyles.
Kate believes that yoga is truly for anyone. That it is meant to help work with the body you possess. Yoga is not just for the thin, conventionally attractive, rich people as the internet has led us to believe. Kate laughed and joked about the Instagram, L.A model, yogi stereotypes that are common. She even wrote a comedic parody song about it.
“It does frustrate me that something that changed my life in such a significant, spiritual way is reduced to a shallow image,” she said. “Something that could help people struggling with physical or emotional pain has been reduced to bendy spines and flexible hamstrings. I’m not against it being bendy, and if obsession with the yoga poses gets someone on the mat, that’s great. It’s more than just the image, though.”
Yoga is accessible, affordable, and for anyone of any body type or background. The key here is that you become a teammate with your body, whatever body you have, and when you learn how to work with your body in a positive, healthy way, the experience of life improves.
“The goal of yoga is to learn how to live in the present moment, and with present moment awareness comes a clear mind,” Kate said. “That is why you go through asanas (yoga positions) and everyday moral applications… to achieve clarity and focus.”
The clear mind that yoga practitioners experience is what helps Kate with her creative process. Kate is a writer and comedic improviser who is active in Norfolk’s artistic community.
“When my mind is clear I produce a better product,” she said. “I am not worried about criticism or outside opinions. I’m not lost in thoughts that steer me away from my creative self. I’m not worried about my pride, which allows me to make the changes I need to a piece for betterment of my own product.”
Creative types often struggle with inner critics and igniting the process of creating. Yoga is a simple way for the artists to produce a clear head and silence the inner critic.
A new person to yoga may find all the information surrounding it to be overwhelming. Kate offered some advice for newbies who are beginning their journey into the yoga world.
- Come in with your mind open. A closed mind might restrict how much you benefit from the lesson.
- Be prepared for unexpected experiences. There is a physical and emotional vulnerability that comes with yoga and it can awaken unforeseen emotions.
- If you don’t have a great experience in one class, try another. There are many different styles of yoga and many different teaching voices, so keep trying until you find one a combination you like.
- If you don’t want to spend the money, donation classes are available most weekends. You pay what you see fit and get to participate in the class.
Kate’s ambition through yoga is to share its healing qualities with as many people as possible.
“It profoundly changed my life and I believe it has the power to profoundly change anyone who commits to a dedicated practice.”
It can have spiritual and physical benefits for people while also offering clarity of the mind. That connection between the body, mind, and soul will help soothe the artist’s head space creating an environment where creativity can thrive.