Q & A with Kathryn Budig: Great Abs, Great Books, and Great Handstands with the Yoga Instructor and Model
Yogi, Kathryn Budig's name is synonymous with handstands -- lots of them. While pursuing a BA in English and drama at the University of Virginia, she accidentally discovered a new passion: yoga. Budig's acting and new-found love of yoga led her to Los Angeles, where as a yogi she gradually evolved into teaching creative sequences that make arm balances and inversions accessible to everyone in the room. (Doesn't she make it look easy?)
Budig teaches vinyasa flow yoga at Yogaworks Santa Monica, as well as to a vast pool of private clientele. She has been featured in Yoga Journal and Yogi Times, on E!, and in a documentary called Y Yoga. She is also a Southern California ambassador for Nike's 2008-09 yoga line. In addition, Budig is a co-founder of Poses for Paws, an organization dedicated to raising money for animal shelters through yoga.
We talk to Kathryn about everything from her favorite books to her favorite yoga poses.
MindBodyGreen: You fell in love with yoga at UVA -- can you explain how it happened? Was it a slow process, or did you have an "A-ha!" moment? What drew you to yoga?
Kathryn Budig: I actually had an "ick" moment and a persistent best friend. A fellow musical-theater friend had fallen in love with yoga and sought out the local ashtanga studio downtown in Charlottesville, where I went to college. I did not connect to the teacher at all and had no idea about physical adjustments in a yoga class, so I was convinced he was trying to get fresh with me. My friend persuaded me to try another teacher, and I immediately fell in love with her grace, beauty, and strength. It was ashtanga yoga, too (though I had no idea at the time), and I was hooked.
MBG: What do you recommend to someone who wants to get started with yoga?
KB: Regardless of how strong or athletic you are, always start in a beginner class. It isn't about lacking the ability -- it's like going to a foreign country and not knowing how to speak the language. Try as many styles of yoga and teachers as you can, and stick with the one that makes you smile, laugh, and want to get back on the mat.
MBG: What do you love about yoga?
KB: I love the trans-formative power of yoga. It is the most amazing tool to get us back in line with who we are and who we want to be. Poses that initially seem exciting for physical reasons end up teaching us so much about how we treat ourselves and others, and about what kind of decisions we make. It is incredibly humbling and simultaneously thrilling and motivating. It shows us that our possibilities are limitless if we are open to tapping into our potential and shedding anything that has been holding us back. Plus, it's super-fun.
MBG: What is the best advice for someone struggling to learn an arm balance or handstand?
KB: Come practice with me! Seriously, though (and I am about the first part), remember to be patient. The physical body is important, and it is crucial to keep it healthy and strong, but we have to remember that these poses often come when we're mentally ready for them. Trust in that, and in the meantime, find your sense of humor. You will fall down. So, get back up. Dust yourself off and smile. Don't bother wasting your energy with frustration or disappointment. It's your journey and you can make it as playful and full of joy as you like.
MBG: What are the best poses for great abs?
KB: Navasana and friends! The ashtanga style pickup and jump back will create a ton of strength and discipline. I teach my students to soften their rib cage and "control the sassy bottom." People like to stick their bums out, which takes it into the lower back and makes one lose control in the core. Try to move through every single yoga pose with awareness of the pose, and that will keep you fired up. Don't forget the Breath of Fire breathing technique -- or, best of all, laughter! You can check out my podcasts at Yoga Journal for one of my 20-minute classes dedicated to the core. They're great for everyday strengthening.
MBG: Favorite yoga pose?
KB: It's gotta be a tie between bakasana and handstand. Bakasana is so compact and -- let's face it -- cute. I think it's the home base to all arm balances. Handstand is just so liberating and reminds me that I am incredibly strong, but also that some days, I'm just not going to nail it and that is absolutely OK. It's such a great metaphor for life: Some days you're going to score, and some days you're going to fall flat on your face no matter how hard you try. It's not necessarily about whether or not you do the pose, but how you can stay your true to your authentic self and path regardless.
MBG: How do you relax after a long day?
KB: I have the most amazing dog in the world, Ashi. She is a pug/beagle mix, and I named her after ashtanga. We take long walks through the canals where I live and snuggle like it's our job. I am an avid cook and consumer of food, so exploring new recipes or restaurants is always one of my favorite activities.
MBG: Any favorite gear? Favorite mat?
KB: I'm honored to be an ambassador for Lululemon Santa Monica and absolutely love their clothes. They've really started to get fun and sassy lately. I'm currently wearing a pair of black tights with ruffles all up the sides. It satisfies my inner feminine ninja side. As far as mats go, Manduka has been a favorite of mine forever -- it just doesn't get any better.
MBG: What are some of your favorite places in L.A.?
KB: I'm a Westside girl, so I find joy in the canals in Venice, the jetty in the Marina, the restaurants on Abbot Kinney, a little dive bar in Venice called Hinano's, and hiking in Solstice Canyon in Malibu.
MBG: What's on your playlist?
KB: I don't play music in my classes, but it runs through my veins back from my musical-theater days. I'm currently listening to Weekend Players, Muse, and Hotel Costes; and I love the songs "Bruises" by Chairlift and "Stop and Stare" by OneRepublic.
MBG: Favorite quote?
KB: "You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming." Pablo Neruda.
MBG: Favorite book? Last great book you've read?
KB: How about a top five list? (Sorry, I'm an English BA.)
- Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen: Mr. Darcy is my fictional soul mate.
- The Odyssey, by Homer: Classic, mystical, and brilliant.
- Dracula by Bram Stoker: Victorian mystery at its best.
- The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly: an amazing mix of light and dark, reality and fantasy.
- The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling: for creating a world that everyone wants to be part of and reminding people how to dream. (Okay, I lied-top six.)
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll: This ain't your Disney cartoon-such an insane trip!
I just taught in Savannah, Georgia, so I picked up a copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil to get me in the mood and am just finishing it up.
MBG: Guilty indulgence?
KB: I feel another list coming on... Fine shoes and handbags, Vosges chocolates, Italian restaurants, Q-tips, People.com, toys for my dog (I bring her back one every time I travel), and the TV shows Supernatural, Dexter, and True Blood. I can't honestly say I feel too guilty about any, though.
MBG: If it were your last supper, what would your last meal be? Where would the meal be? Who would you like to be there (past/present/future)?
KB: I'd like my amazing friend and client Giada De Laurentiis to cook a traditional Italian dinner at my family's house in Charleston, South Carolina. My family, Ashi, and best friends would be there. Sure, there are a ton of people past and present whom I'd like to meet, but if it were the end, I'd just want to be surrounded by love.
For more on Kathryn Budig:
Photos 2, 3 and 5 by Jasper Johal