This Woman's Work - Contemplate Your Karma

Kat (from Croatia, now living in Edinburgh. Owner of Karma Yoga Edinburgh)

Back home in Croatia, I was accepted to the Austrian Academy of Modern Dance, but initially I had to listen to my dad and finish studying Law first. The reality was I didn’t have enough funds to follow that dream, so I found myself working as a legal assistant for 7 years followed by a further 5 years as a school secretary. Since my day job didn’t allow for any creativity, together with my sister and a friend, I opened a dance studio in my town. I also started singing in a punk rock band, so my hobbies became far more interesting than my day job! I guess this is what people do when they feel they cannot properly express themselves in their working roles.

During my 15 years of teaching dance and running a pretty successful dance studio, I noticed that we needed to incorporate different styles and methods in order to keep our students at the top of their game. We introduced our dancers to capoeira, pilates, aerobics, acro-training, aerial dance and yoga. It quickly became apparent that of all the disciplines, yoga was the one they responded best to. After many years of dancing, my body was beginning to show signs of ‘wear and tear’ so inspired by our students, I began to practice yoga myself.

Eight years ago I had a meniscus injury that seemed to be dragging on for ages, so yoga was something I was willing to try knowing I could work around my limitations and practice at my own pace. One of my best friends was a student of Bryan Kest and she did quite a few workshops in my studio – soon I was totally hooked. For the last eight years I have kept doing yoga and have realised that my body and my mind have found their practice.

A typical morning begins when the alarm clock called Charlie (my hilarious cat) goes off around 6am, so there’s not much chance of any sleep after that. I start the day with a cup of coffee and lots of admin, wake up my body with some personal practice, prepare for my classes, along with lots of reading and learning; anything from anatomy and pregnancy related issues (I also run 2 prenatal yoga classes) to some more light reading like John Cleese’s autobiography! Usually I have classes in the evenings, but I always arrive at least half an hour before the class to make sure everything is ready for my yogis and yoginis.

The best thing about my job is sharing my practice with my clients, who are so much more than just ‘clients’. I prefer working with smaller groups because I can fully focus on their practice and share the joy of yoga in a safe, intimate, fun environment where we know each other by name and simply create a small community of people I love seeing on the mat each week. Also, working at Maggie’s Centre where I run a class for cancer patients and survivors is one of the most rewarding and best spent hours in my week. My own family is affected by breast cancer, so while I’m away from them I can still give something back and put a smile on a few faces. We really do have a good laugh at Maggie’s. In my opinion, incorporating humour into everyday life is crucial for our mental health, even while practicing yoga. Enjoying a moment that can be fun, relaxing and easy going is why lots of people come to my classes.

Doing what you love is freedom, loving what you do is happiness.

Practicing, teaching and sharing my knowledge is so rewarding, it’s hard to think of any real downsides. The only thing which could be challenging is putting yourself ‘out there’. A lot of yoga teachers have other jobs which help them to be more financially stable; some of us, whose only job is teaching yoga, have to work that bit harder to stay on top of things. There are always pro’s and con’s of working less and therefore earning less… and maybe doing 20-40 hours at the office and teaching yoga as a hobby for some would be more financially beneficial and fulfilling. At the end of the day, I’m sure that every person is trying their best to balance their needs and dreams, and for me – I’m happy the way things are.

I come from a country that was in the middle of a terrible war less than 30 years ago when things like that absolutely should not have been happening in Europe. I was only fourteen when the war started, but I was old enough to be aware of everything and to realise that your life can totally change in one day. That’s why I am thankful for every small thing in my life. People in Croatia have to work so hard just to pay bills and I know a lot of them who can’t afford things that many people here find normal. But that’s just my perspective; I think Scotland is a country which is very socially aware and responsible and which offers help to people in need on every corner. I consider myself a lucky person to live in such a country.

I see a lot of young people being drawn into the yoga industry; I think social media has a lot to do with it. You see these beautiful people doing yoga on top of mountains and on breathtaking beaches, organising amazing retreats and simply traveling the world, enjoying themselves! The reality is – you have to work hard to achieve a fraction of that, IF that’s your goal. There are a lot of inspiring ‘yoga celebrities’ out there who started their career in cold gyms with 2 people in front of them, going home with no money after paying the rent for the studio. If you have a big passion for teaching and sharing your positive energy with others – go for it. I see so many great, successful teachers and I know that didn’t happen overnight. By successful I don’t mean Bikram-successful (having forty Rolls Royce cars in the garage) because that’s another story. I mean, even after 10-20 years of teaching, you can still see that spark in their eyes when they run a class or talk to their students. To be honest, that’s rare in any industry but I left my secure life in Croatia, my day job and my dance studio just to teach yoga – and so far I have no regrets. There’s a great quote which is really dear to me and summarises how I feel; “Doing what you love is freedom, loving what you do is happiness”

Practice yoga with Kat: Karma Yoga Edinburgh

Follow Kat on Facebook: Karma Yoga Edinburgh

Photo credits: Photofish Edinburgh (b&w) // Jelena Herman (above)