Hi, I’m Katie – I’m an opera singer, freelance writer, and one of the co-founders of CF Yogi. As an adult living with CF, yoga has played a key role in the management of CF in my everyday life for almost a decade, and I’ve been teaching yoga since 2013.
Living with CF, it can get frustrating when you feel like you can’t do the things you really want to do. Yoga flips that on its head – it brings the focus to what you CAN do, rather than what you can’t do. I’ve found that the small, incremental progress you make with a regular yoga practice adds up greatly over time – and one day you notice you can do something that you couldn’t do before. It helps you rewire your mind, as you see that things you once thought were as impossible are within your reach with some practice and persistence.
I discovered yoga during a period of illness in 2010, when my lung function dropped to its lowest levels to date – around 50%. I had always been active as a singer and dancer, and loved spending time outdoors hiking or doing archery, but was never much of a gym-goer type. When antibiotics didn’t boost my lungs back up quite as much as they should have, I knew that I was going to have to commit to regular exercise. I restructured my life around exercise, committing myself to at least 30 minutes a day, no excuses.
I knew that I would only stick with exercise if it was something that I enjoyed. I can’t stand treadmills and stationary bikes (the monotony bores me to tears), so I went to every single fitness class at my local gym to see what I liked. The yoga class was good, and I liked the instructor so I kept going back. Other interests waxed and waned over time, but yoga was the one thing that I kept coming back to.
Within six months of refocusing my life around fitness and exercise, my lung function had increased back to my baseline at 70%. And more than that, I found that yoga not only improved my physical wellness, but my confidence as a singer, and my overall quality of life.
Yoga blew my mind when I realized that it was all about letting go of competition and simply being present in your body in the moment, noticing and appreciating everything it’s doing for you. The opera world – and the world of singers in general – is incredibly competitive. Once I started practicing yoga, I stopped comparing myself to others, and I stopped fighting with my body. That mental shift freed my physical breath, and I started seeing myself as an artist with something unique to offer.
I took my first yoga teacher training with YogaFit so that I could practice yoga safely on my own, with no intent to teach . . . let alone complete an RYT200 training program. But during the course of that first weekend of training, I realized that the alignment-oriented nature of the training had so much potential in making yoga accessible to everyone, I couldn’t help but share it. I started teaching occasionally as a volunteer and sub, and soon local gyms and yoga studios began asking me to teach regular classes. In 2017 I completed my RYT200 training with 4 years of teaching experience already under my belt.
The “flow” or “vinyasa” style yoga, that I personally practice, uses breath linked with motion. I’ve found that this approach increases my lung function and body awareness, making it a valuable tool in managing my long-term health and wellness. This focus on the breath makes it possible for people of diverse physical abilities to participate in the same class.
With all the diversity of physical capabilities in our CF community, it seemed like a logical next step to share this with our CF community. In 2014 I wrote a blog post about it on my personal website, which led to an opportunity In 2016 to create some Yoga for Cystic Fibrosis videos for the CF Trust in the UK, in collaboration with Pactster.com. That in turn brought an opportunity to lead a livestreamed yoga class for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s FamilyCon, and planted the seeds for CF Yogi.
Emotionally and physically, we human beings share so many parallel experiences that everyone has something to learn from each other. I learn from my students all the time – and now with CF Yogi I’m excited to help the CF community learn from each other, too.
We live with cystic fibrosis every day of our lives. But CF is one tiny mutation in one tiny gene. It’s a mere speck in our genetic code, yet it is an attention hog that likes to dominate the conversation about who we are, what we’ll do, even how long we’ll live. In reality, we are so much more than that. CF Yogi is about making the choice to give the rest of ourselves some attention: our bodies, our minds, our spirits.