On The Mat With Kat
“I felt the pressure that social media presents of the perfect pretzel yogi.” This was Kat Pither’s first impression of the yoga scene, so she set out on a mission to create an inclusive and comfortable space for others to feel connected through yoga
When London-based Kat Pither first discovered yoga, she felt there was a resistance to the idea of yoga being something for other people and the preconception that you had to look a certain way and have gymnastic skills. Kat felt yoga should remain accessible, fun and full of magic – not comparison, competition, staid or elitism, so she set to work. The former script developer trained to become a yoga teacher and founded the accessory company, Yogi Bare, which offers a range of eco-sensitive products with accessible price points. Yogi Bare’s ethos is “Come as you are. Just as you are,” and through her work, Kat is opening doorways for more people to access yoga.
Glorious: How and when did you discover yoga and why is it so important to you today?
Kat Pither: I believe yoga is with us from birth. When we are young, we instinctively move, crawl, hop, and curiously wonder what the world looks like upside down or through our legs. We moved in ways that felt right, not because we should, or to achieve a goal. We rested when the earth rested or when our body told us to. As adults, we often forget how to be human and how to be alive in body, mind and spirit. To find yoga again as an adult is to remember and to unlearn everything society has tried to mould us into that goes against who we really are, and it feels so good. My personal journey into yoga is in many ways unusual. About eight years ago, I found myself very disconnected after a battle with anxiety and addiction. Yoga taught me to connect – both physically through appreciating how cool our bodies are, and how much they love and try their best for us – to spiritually when I felt able to soak and savour life fully.
Glorious: What were your initial thoughts of the yoga scene and what surprised you?
Kat Pither: I didn’t fit in at all! I felt like I was in the scene of the film Mean Girls, where Lindsay Lohan is wandering through the cafe wondering where to sit on the first day of school. I didn’t feel as though I belonged.. In part, it was because I was uncomfortable with myself and didn’t know who I was or what I was about, but on a larger and more problematic scale, I felt the pressure that social media presents of the perfect pretzel yogi. I could never match that. Fresh out of rehab where the practice was the only thing that switched off all the thoughts swirling around my head, I encountered yoga elitism for the first time. It was unwelcome and judgemental. It felt at odds with what I had come to know. But it just takes one person, one teacher, one breath, and then it all makes sense. You realise that yoga land is only a microcosm for the real world. It’s not separate, it’s not another, it’s the same, and like anything, you’ll find your place and your people.
Glorious: Why did you decide to set up Yogi Bare and what is your mission?
Kat Pither: Our underlying ethos is “Come as you are. Just as you are,” and that’s all I ever want people to feel. To know everything they might expect yoga to be … it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to act, look or practice like anything to be welcome with Yogi Bare. For me, it’s not about the products, it’s about the feeling, the community, the sense of belonging and the encouragement to try, play, explore and make mistakes. The products are like flags and you don’t have to wave one to be part of the celebration.
Glorious: Where does your creative side come from and what impact does this have on Yogi Bare?
Kat Pither: If you ask my family or friends they’d say I’m an alien or from out of space! I have a very vivid imagination and it’s how I experience and feel this world. I use a lot of metaphors to describe things in the hope that people will build the same mental image as I do. It’s the way I make sense of things and process the world, in the same way we use our body and breath to process our minds in Yoga. I hope that the creative side of Yogi Bare allows doorways to open for people to access yoga. I don’t want to stereotype anything.
Glorious: What type of yoga do you teach and what do you enjoy/prefer about this particular form of yoga?
Kat Pither: I like to read the energy of the room and the people, and then give them what they need, rather than what they think they want. To study the nervous system is to understand the complexities of what it means to fully let go. It’s a recipe, a cocktail for peace. Each element is applied at the right time to loosen the body, loosen the mind and find the soul. In TRE, a system developed for veterans who couldn’t process their trauma, micro movements are completed to build fire and strength, as well as exhaust the muscles, so a full release may be possible. The body builds cortisol that mimics the stress of life and it learns to give it space and time to release. This is written into the body’s memory and means it can cope better with stress in our lives.
Glorious: Do you feel that anyone can enjoy and gain from yoga?
Kat Pither: Come as you are … you’ll see. You willl realise that yoga is all around. It’s not a pose or asana … they are things that just teach us patience, strength or our capacity. It’s the place of peace we reach. That’s yoga and what’s not to gain from that?
Glorious: What has yoga done for you as a person?
Kat Pither: We don’t realise how hard we are on ourselves, how cruelly or unkindly we speak to ourselves inside. We just accept it as normal, which allows the not nice voice to poke and pick away at us. Yoga helped me realise that it’s not normal at all. We have to be our own best friend as we are stuck with ourselves 24/7. That’s understanding who we actually are and what we actually need. I’m an introverted extrovert so I need to wander, have time and space alone to be creative and without time pressures, but I also need to be inspired by people and conversation. Yoga shows you that you aren’t who you thought you were, the layers and labels applied to you were never yours to carry. You were always supposed to write them yourself and not let others do it for you. It’s made me cool with who I am and much kinder to myself.
Glorious: Since establishing Yogi Bare you have collaborated with Liverpool Football Club and Merrell. Tell us about these collaborations and highlights.
Kat Pither: It’s blown my mind! I know these brands are huge but they are all made up of incredible people, ideas and energies. All of our collaborations have come about due to forming genuine friendships and brands never viewing Yogi Bare as limited to a yoga mat company. For Liverpool Football Club, the slogan, ‘You’ll never walk alone’ is about belonging. For Merrell, they recently developed the Merrell Hike Club to create a strong female community and safety in hiking. It’s about connection and it’s all Yoga in the truest sense.
Glorious: Where is the yoga scene heading in the world of sports?
Kat Pither: It’s funny as it’s always been there. Yoga allows you to do more of what you love for longer. To be an athlete, focus and agility are critical and yoga lends itself to this. Of course, for certain sports we have to be mindful of types of extension/mobility, but yoga is vital for injury pre-rehab and rehab as well as a deeper understanding of our body and its movement patterns. Sports stars like footballer Mo Salah combine spirituality and yoga, while American footballer Tom Brady, aged 45, credits yoga as helping him to be at the top of his game at his age. It also allows us to be focused and let go of self-limiting emotions and negative thoughts.
Glorious: When you’re not practising yoga, do you have any sporting interests?
Kat Pither: I am a massive UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) fan, which I know surprises a lot of people! I was lucky enough to live in Iceland on an exchange with MMA centre Mjölnir. I was there to teach and study yoga for athletes on an experimental boxing yoga programme with Total Boxer. It was one of the best experiences of my life and my greatest learning. To be a fighter you have to have so much humility and be able to slow time and not hold on to the last fight or round .. to get up again and again and stay present.
Glorious: What’s next for Kat Pither and Yogi Bare?
Kat Pither: I recently returned from an Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE), which is an incredible gathering of music, immersive virtual reality and inspiring conferences. I performed with Anjuna and their new label Anjuna Deep Reflections, an ambient soundscape label. Together with the most amazing artist, Jessie Marcella, we combined our passions of music, spoken word, breathwork and meditation to create a really raw, fully immersive, moving experience around the power of connection. I really hope to continue into this space through music and writing. If it’s another way to help people breathe a little easier, be a little kinder to themselves and remind them of who they really are on a different level and scale .. that is everything to me.