Family Yoga and Finding Your Own Way

by Zac Hills-Bonczyk

My mom was the first family member to become a Kripalu Yoga teacher. She completely immersed herself in the yoga and Ayurveda lifestyle after her cancer diagnosis and during her subsequent recovery. After completing the 200-hour training, Mom plunged straight into the 500-hour, and started a yoga studio in our house. Word spread through our Minnesota neighborhood, and the most amazing students, people who I would not otherwise have met, came through our front door for yoga class.

My dad, who works in the airline industry, came to Kripalu next. He’s the grounded one—lots of kapha in him—and he wanted to support my mom. The studio was growing, Mom occasionally needed a sub, and Dad also joined my mom and sister to lead yoga retreats around the world.

My sister is a dancer and experimental artist. She was instinctively curious about the expression of yoga, which influenced her decision to enroll in Kripalu’s 200-hour yoga teacher training. Yoga is her muse; it inspired her certification in JourneyDance at Kripalu, and her master’s degree thesis, which combined yoga and art.

Then it was my turn. This past January, I earned my 200-hour Kripalu Yoga teacher certification. I’ve also set my sights on the Kripalu Yoga in the Schools Teacher Training. And I’m planning to enroll in the 500-hour training program.

My parents never pushed yoga on us; they wanted us to find our own way. My interests were always rooted in nature and the outdoors. I didn’t start my yoga practice until five years ago, when I was 19. It was the first time that I experienced the same sense of connection that I felt when I was immersed in nature. Out in the wild, I learn so much about myself, and I feel completely at peace. Once I tried yoga, I found that I could access those feelings anytime.

One reason that I wanted to take yoga teacher training was to understand the science behind yoga: Why exactly does it feel so good? Our anatomy classes, as well as the evidence-based yoga studies presented by the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living, were fascinating.

I want to combine yoga with my music, youth leadership programs, and wilderness teaching trips. (I work as a guide for Camp Widjiwagon, a YMCA outdoor learning program.) As a hip-hop artist (I go by the name Forefeather), I want to infuse my music with the same values and spirit as yoga, and bring more positivity and optimism to a music genre that isn’t known for its uplifting messages.

Feeling safe, secure, and comfortable with who I am is one of the biggest gifts I’ve taken away from my training. Kripalu Yoga, to me, is about giving people the space to awaken vibrancy, withhold judgment, and develop witness consciousness. Along the way, I’ve strengthened ties with my family and become part of a new family—my Kripalu graduating class, which has evolved into a united, loving sangha.

Zac Hills-Bonczyk is a Kripalu Yoga teacher, musician, and outdoor education guide.

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