What is Yoga? - Interview with Kat Pither, founder of Yogi Bare

What is Yoga? - Interview with Kat Pither, founder of Yogi Bare

For me, yoga was my back pocket healer. I discovered it quietly and softly when I was in rehab struggling with acute anxiety, PTSD and addiction. Yoga seemed like this exotic, mystical magic. I couldn’t explain it but I knew I felt it. It shrunk demons. It tethered my mind to my body. So what is yoga? First things first: forget everything you see on social media. Yoga is a feeling – not a pose. Yes, the poses are beautiful, like art, and I know it’s allowed some incredible yogis to bloom in confidence as they explore their creativity. However, despite what you see, you can’t actually take a picture of yoga.

Yoga is the sweet surrender as you feel yourself let go during the bliss of savasana. Yoga is the girl who hides in the toilets having panic attacks, remembering slow inhales and exhales, being her own hero. Yoga is the flicker of unguarded emotion across the face of man who bottles up his feelings. Yoga is lightness and weightlessness. Yoga is feeling safe in a room full of strangers.

Yoga is clarity in a whirlwind. It’s connection – with yourself and, in turn, with others. You’ll never be able to trap its magic in a lens, and I wouldn’t want to anyway. I created Yogi Bare out of a feeling – of belonging and not belonging. Because we’ve all been there. Standing in a class unsure how literal the word ‘dynamic’ will be taken, searching #Yogaeverydamnday on Instagram, setting a 5am alarm to meditate and feeling guilty when not quite making it. Prior to Yogi Bare, I worked as a script writer for film and TV, which included a stint as a script developer at the British Film Institute. I loved the type of writing that clearly came from a place of real, raw, honest emotion. Similarly, with Yoga Bare, I’m not trying to be anything other than myself.

When I trained as a yoga teacher, I wanted to help people struggling with whatever set them off course. There was a resistance to the idea of yoga being something for other people and the preconception that you had to look a certain way and have gymnastic skills. “I’m not flexible enough” is often the response. I felt yoga should remain accessible, fun and full of magic and delight – not comparison, competition, staid or elitism. So I got to work. 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 into a world that can sometimes seem alien. The name isn’t just a fun play on words but ‘Bare’ is symbolic of the eco credentials and a sense of stripping back. It’s my love letter to the rebels; those who didn’t feel like they fitted in before.

Sustainability is a huge part of Yogi Bare. To me, this means being connected to the real. The world we live in values the ‘new new new’ and ‘now now now.’ Everything seems disposable and there to serve instant gratification. When we slow down, we see things for what they are, we connect with them and find the nature underneath it all. Slowing down also helps us make better choices in all aspects of our lives. This could be remembering your keep cup or realising that the cheap neon dress you ‘need’ isn’t really you. Better choices build into a kind rebellion. I don’t just create mats to stand on but mats that stand for something. I match every mat with a charity project, such as planting trees with hometree or working with surf charity The Wave Project. I also love Ocean Sole who collect flip flops washed up in Kenya’s waterways and turn them into yoga blocks.

As for the future of yoga, we must always respect the roots and traditions. It’s important to remind ourselves that it is a sacred, ancient practice developed over hundreds of years and embedded with history, context, philosophy, culture and spirituality. The world we currently live in could not be more different from yoga’s birthplace. It comes with its own new challenges – technology, mental health, self-esteem, competition and comparison. It’s weird, fast-paced and voyeuristic. There is space for something new that combines movement, modern practices and science to combat our technology fuelled lives. It’s sad to see yoga becoming more about achieving poses, being super sexy and going viral. It makes it exclusive and, in my opinion, loses all of its magic. I don’t relate to that side of it. However, for me, mental health is at the forefront of Yogi Bare because that’s what I know and that’s where it came from. Yoga helps us move in a way that is the antidote to the frantic modern world. Take comfort in knowing that the traditions of yoga philosophy can – and will – change your life.

Tips for practicing yoga at home

Nestled in between the laundry basket and the interruptions, we can still find peace. Here are my tips:

Surround yourself with little pieces of magic that make you feel good. I love using scent to calm me, such as grapefruit essential oil

Create a vibey playlist to inspire movement and play

Use a grippy mat that allows you to truly practice instead of being worried about slipping

Remember all and any movement is worthy. That could be lying with your legs up the wall, slow sensations or something short and dynamic. It’s all amazing

Don’t be judgemental or put pressure on your practice to look a certain way.

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