Kateryna S.

Slowing Down: A Young Woman Finds a New Home in Yoga
Yoga helped me understand that there’s another way to live.

When I moved to America at age 20, I hadn’t heard of yoga. The first few years I lived in Connecticut passed by so quickly I don’t even remember them, probably because I was working 16 hours a day, every day.

I was quite used to a breakneck schedule, and, in fact, thrived on it. Growing up in Sumy, Ukraine, my whole life was about racking up accomplishments and meeting one goal after the other. During high school, I had classes from 7:00 am until midnight, and I often worked night shifts to help my mother buy food for me and my sister.

The first time I went to a yoga class, I absolutely hated it. Slow down? Relax and breathe? I didn’t get it. So I read a book about yoga to understand what it was all about, and decided to give it another chance. Three classes later, a session with a Kripalu-trained teacher changed my life. As I was driving home, I realized I was actually relaxed and smiling. I felt calm in my mind and my body, which I hadn’t felt for a very long time, if ever.

As I began to practice yoga every day, I realized that I was either in constant go-go-go mode or burn-out mode, when I’d totally crash and be unable to get out of bed. Yoga helped me understand that there’s another way to live. Having studied psychology, I thought I knew myself inside and out, but yoga opened a totally new way to understand myself—one that has nothing to do with who I thought I was.

I wanted to learn as much as I could, and my heart was set on Kripalu’s monthlong yoga teacher training. I loved that Kripalu’s approach is centered on inquiry, since I’m curious to learn everything I can. I applied for a Diversity Scholarship and got one that let me attend the training. The day I walked into Kripalu, I thought, I want to spend my life here! My face hurt from grinning. That month, I didn’t learn yoga; I lived yoga. I was surrounded by people who thought the same way I thought, ate fabulous food, and talked and practiced yoga 24/7.

Training changed my world. The breathing techniques connected me to my thoughts, which connected me to my soul. I am never still, but I grew to love Savasana. To me, yoga is about grounding, about being in a particular moment, wherever you are. This is still a new concept for me, since I’ve always rushed through the moment, through the day, and through the months. My new goal is one that I’ll work on forever: appreciating the “now.” Otherwise, life flies past and you never know where your place in it is. I want my place to be right here, right now.

—Kateryna S., Rocky Hill, Connecticut