This week’s profile features an interview with Katie Breen. She made her way down to the City of Raleigh, in North Carolina, shortly after finishing her studies in Theology and Media Production at Villanova University, in Pennsylvania. Upon arriving, she immediately felt at home and has really gotten involved in many ways.
I had my first yoga class with Katie some time nearly about a year ago, but I first remember her light when we recognized each other at a class somewhere else. She gave me a hug and it warmed me for the rest of the day. Katie has become my favorite yoga teacher as I’ve regularly attended classes over the past year and I often hear her in my head if I’m doing a posture that involves hips. “Say good morning to your right hip flexor,” she would say. And I would smile. Katie has that kind of light about her, but I didn’t realize how many layers there were until she agreed to share her story.
- Katie, I’ve experienced the magic of a yoga class with you, but would you tell me more about what you actually do in your “day job?”
My day job has a unique rhythm. I am the studio manager of blue lotus yoga, a downtown Raleigh yoga studio. In addition to studio managing, I am also a yoga instructor. Or, in addition to teaching yoga, I am also a studio manager. It’s a “chicken or the egg” type of thing.
In managing a yoga studio, each day presents a different assortment of tasks; however, every day entails emails and phone calls, which is vastly improved by a strong cup of coffee and Escazu dark chocolate. There are some days I know what monthly planning or class scheduling is in store, and other days, student needs or teacher requests pop up that I handle as they arise. Some days, I meet with other members of our staff to plan offerings or to discuss whatever is current to the studio. I may meet with a teacher to discuss their classes or pop into the studio outside of class hours and tidy up, do some banking, drop off announcements or mailings, or track down a delivery. There are a few days out of the week that these tasks are interspersed with yoga classes that I teach – at Raleigh City Farm, the weekly community class at the blue, one on one with private clients or corporate classes like those I teach at Pendo.
- What do you enjoy most about being a yoga instructor and studio manager?
I love that I have flexibility in my days and can work in my own capacity. I thrive from the balance of working both independently in my manger role, and collectively with a group of people to take them through the experience of a yoga class as a yoga instructor. The use of my energy is so different, that between the two roles, it feels like I’m working both sides of my brain (and all sides of my heart).
I am so grateful for a steady manager job that allows me to step away for an hour and go out for a run in the woods if it happens to be a beautiful day. Or to unplug for 24 hours to attend a really stellar training. Or meet up with a friend in the middle of the day for lunch. Or work completely from home. One day entirely different than the next keeps things interesting. It keeps me feeling that I’m “in” my day – as it is.
In my teaching role, I feel beyond privileged to share what I know about life and the yoga practice with those I meet. The co-creative aspect of teaching — planning a class for the willing souls that show up on their mats – is quite a beautiful gift to show up to in this life. It is definitely a choice I’ve made to not have a traditional 9-5 job, but it’s a choice I’ve intentionally made because I enjoy a less structured day, a less structured life, and really potent purpose.
- How happy have you been with your choices as you’ve created your life with purpose?
Across the board in my life, I can say with certainty that more times than not, I listened to the resounding voice of my intuition. I’m blessed to feel the “knowing” within me, and so while some choices I’ve made have been difficult at the time, I am extremely happy with what I’ve experienced thus far in my life and where I’ve landed. If I could rewind and live my life up until this point again, exactly as it was, I would. In a heartbeat.
- As such a reflective instructor, would you share what your best sources of learning are?
I am a huge reader. A few creative and insightful books that have lately sparked my spirit:
- Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
- Mark Nepo’s The One Life We’re Given: Finding the Wisdom that Waits in Your Heart
- Krista Tippett’s Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living
I love the writings of naturalists and environmentalists like Wendell Berry and Thomas Berry, who talk a lot about our connection to the land and how we go about restoring a pattern of living in sync with nature and with the resources we’ve been given from the earth – spiritually and practically. Leaning even more into spirituality, I’m all about Mary Oliver’s and Thomas Merton’s writings too.
- Krista Tippett’s On Being, by far my favorite podcast
- Elizabeth D’Alto Untame Yourself, the Wild Soul Woman
- Elizabeth Gilbert’s Magic Lessons (both seasons!)
- Rob Bell’s The Robcast
- TED Radio Hour
Lately, I have been listening to Sounds from the Trail – stories and bits from folks that have hiked the Appalachian and Pacific coast trails. So interesting! And not exactly Podcasts, but I listen to NPR a lot and am a big fan of Sunday Morning on CBS3. I like their way of storytelling.
- What advantages, barriers, and motivators for women have you observed?
Advantages: women coming into their own, being badasses, starting businesses, owning their worth, being in the world and making their mark, supporting one another & holding one another up, bringing the feminine aspect more into the world, knowing what they want and going after it
Barriers: money, time, expectations leftover from previous generations, being okay being alone, owning self-worth, feeling like they have to do it all, supporting self while pursuing passion
Motivators: joy, freedom, passion, creativity, sisterhood, change agents, personal growth, grounded risk taking, letting their voices be heard, authenticity
- You have such a zest for authenticity in life. What is your passion and why is it important to you?
One of my main pursuits is the development of a sustainable society through yoga; I envision a greater global effort which connects us back to the land, to each other, and to ourselves. Where I was raised in a suburb not too far from Philadelphia, we were about an hour from any farm and I never saw a farmers’ market or a local anything really — other than a Cheesesteak or soft Pretzel — until I came to Raleigh. Sustainable Agriculture is a movement, a lifestyle, a practice that lights me up. Here, everything is homegrown – businesses, lettuce, coffee, and beer. It’s astonishing and it makes sense. It fits. We are codependent on the land and we need to move towards that mindset again.
My passion is in using the practice of yoga, already a practice of connection to one’s self, to bring sustainability, thriving, well-being of self, others, and the community’s resources back to the center. This was the inspiration for starting a yoga series at Raleigh City Farm. As a hallmark for urban farming and community, the practice of connection made so much sense to start there, and it is just a small piece in a much larger global network I hope to build.
I also have a huge passion for creative and socially responsible storytelling. My college years took me to West Africa and South India for filmmaking as a way to land my social responsibility. Within a year of moving to North Carolina, I was producing, editing and directing creative projects that kept the fire fueling inside me.
- What do you devote your time to outside of “work?”
Maintaining a work/life balance has been one of the greatest struggles for me in the past year, but I’ve made huge strides in seeing what an energy drain it was for me to be constantly feeling the need to fill all of my time, to always say yes, to overcommit, or to always be available to “work.” So now, there is a more defined outside of “work” and as a result, I’m more free.
Any chance I get, I go outside. I love to hike in the woods and run on trails. I’m currently training again for a half marathon. The last race I did was 4 years ago back in Philadelphia – the 10 miler Broad Street Run. I’m all game to take it up a notch and harness my endurance!
My friends fuel me. I have always been so very blessed with so many good people in my life, and those close ones are the truest nourishment. I love to go listen to live music or attend festivals and events downtown. I can easily and happily enjoy a good beer on a sunny Saturday downtown with friends. I could ride my bike for hours on the greenway – I take a whole lot of solace in those rides of open air and open time. I enjoy cooking food – I make awesome soups this time of year! And eating anywhere in this city could be a hobby in itself because we have such incredible restaurants and eateries. I truly fill up my cup by traveling – packing up and getting away and restoring, even if just for a weekend. I’m striving for more scheduled time away.
- How do you feel most inspired?
I feel most inspired when I have abundant time and space for myself. For whatever I need.
If it’s rest, I feel inspired by a day with nothing in it. If it’s the sunshine, I feel most inspired by letting the sun hit my back as I take a run around the neighborhood. If it’s good company, well I have the best of the best on speed dial who will talk and laugh with me for hours. If it’s silence and introspection, I feel inspired by getting lost in the woods. Sometimes, I just need a break and I’m learning that it’s also fuel to lose track of time through a good book or TV show.
Laughter, a good hard sleep, consistent morning time that is my own, and nourishing food are all non-negotiables that are always fueling my inspiration. Creativity enters when I have space and time, when I’m ready, so I’ve made sure to establish consistent open time with nothing in it.
- Best and worst advice you’ve ever received?
Best advice: Don’t take life too seriously.
Worst advice: Don’t take life too seriously.
Good call, Katie.
Thanks for reading Katie’s story. Share in the comments how it impacted you or share it on social media. Check out next week’s weekly post on Women & the Ways We Work. Missed the others? Take a look at my blog to read the others. Know someone you think should be featured? Can I help you or your organization with a storytelling project? Contact me and let’s chat.