What do you do when you unknowingly give your new blog series a name very similar to a romance-novel-turned-movie-starring-(gag)-Zac-Efron? Honestly claim ignorance to the book’s existence (until now) and calmly point out the quotation marks around “lucky,” along with the plurality of “one.” Surely Nicholas Sparks would be cool about the whole thing. (After all, I truly think The Notebook was a good… um, movie. Haven’t gotten around to the book yet.)
And anyway, I like the name, and I’m VERY excited to bring you the second installment of The “Lucky” Ones series. (New to WTH? Figure out what I’m talking about here.) This week’s interview features Katee Lue—yoga teacher, world traveler, and all-around awesome woman.
Who is she? A little background: Upon graduating from college (with a volleyball scholarship and a degree in Mass Communication), Katee Lue knew right away she wanted to travel. It was around then that she discovered her love for yoga, as well. So she pursued and completed yoga teacher training (and taught actor Woody Harrelson along the way!), then traveled to Cape Town, South Africa in late 2011 to work with tourism company Cape Adventure Zone. There, Katee embarked on a path of exploration and self-discovery snorkeling, hiking, and even shark cage diving—all the while making lifelong friends with locals and fellow travelers.
She now lives in Yellowknife, NWT in Canada, where there is approximately one person per 30 square kilometers. And she loves it.
Another fun fact? Katee and I graduated from the same college (Towson University) and had one class with each other, yet this interview is the most we’ve ever talked. I’m only sorry I didn’t get to know her sooner! Finally, here’s Katee Lue:
How has teaching yoga brought you closer to others? What special relationships or bonds have you developed as a result?
Teaching yoga has brought me closer with others because it is a practice in which we open up to things we didn’t know about ourselves, and break down barriers to come to new awakenings. To grow on a level this deep is truly sacred and forms sacred bonds. In addition, yoga is a never-ending practice. Even for me as a teacher, there is still SO much to learn and so many poses to advance. They say it takes 30 years to become a master. The true bond that is formed through yoga, whether practicing or teaching, is the realization that we are all students of life for as long as we live. Yoga helps us to learn more about ourselves intrinsically, and as a result, we start to understand our place in the world a little better. Yoga brings us to the realization that there is still so much to learn in life. This awareness humbles us and brings us together to celebrate life and bond over self-growth.
Can you expand upon how your relationship with yourself—both mind and body—has changed since you began practicing?
My relationship with myself is constantly evolving. I practice spending time every day to nurture the union of my mind, body and soul. This is done through yoga, but also through reflection and quiet meditation. I’ve learned that my body is a temple of the soul and I am most happy when I get a good, sweaty workout and eat well. I have learned that my mind is most effective when I practice mastering it through meditation and focus. I’ve also learned that these things need to be practiced every day to truly have an effect, and it is not until I do them that I realize what a huge, positive difference they make in my life.
What have you learned spiritually? Do you need to be a spiritual person to reap the benefits of practicing yoga?
Great question. Spiritually, the most important thing that I have learned, is that life is not so serious. At the end of the day, this life that we have is a blessed gift. We need only to find gratitude for it and celebrate it in every moment. I have also learned that the spirit thrives off growth, and growth can only happen when we push the boundaries and enter the unknown. That is what keeps life exciting and the spirit young. I have also learned that our physical and mental ailments are a result of a disconnection with our spirit. Our body is like a messenger for our spirit.
To answer the second part of your question, I believe we are all spiritual people, whether we realize it or not, but I get what you’re saying, and the answer is no. You do not have to be a Monk Sage of Sivanna to reap the benefits of yoga. I started practicing yoga as a form of exercise. I like the feeling of building strength and sweating. Slowly and surely, I found spiritual awakening while becoming physically stronger and mentally sharp. The poses and sequences have been methodically designed over thousands of years to allow us all to practice yoga – which is translated to “the union of the mind, body and soul.”
No one gets to pursue what they love without a little work. What does the process of teacher training involve?
Teacher training was one of the most incredible periods of growth I’ve experienced. It is much less the practice of the physical postures as it is the practice of self-awareness. In teacher training we not only learn the philosophy of yoga, but start to live the yogic lifestyle which incorporates the eight limbs of yoga. The true work that went into teacher training was practice. Practice in healthy and positive thoughts, practice in the asanas (postures), and practice in awareness. It is accessible to everyone.
When I began teaching in my backyard in South Africa, I invited all the friends I had and anyone else that I met. The class was donation-based, so the excuse of not having enough money was eliminated. People were so creative. They would bring bottles of wine, food that we barbecued after, music. It was the best form of trade and afterwards we all chilled around the fire and cooked food.
Where are some of the most beautiful spots you’ve visited, whether in Africa or elsewhere?
There is truly beauty everywhere. The most stunning place I have been is Cape Town. The balance between table mountain and the ocean not only creates a breath-taking visual delight, it creates a calm energy amongst the people, and unique plant kingdoms. It’s one of life’s hidden gems.
What was it like living in Cape Town? Did you get to know any locals? Was it at all a culture shock?
It was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had. I got to know a lot of locals who have become my family and life-long friends. South-Africans are honest, real, grounded people and they welcome everyone in with open arms and treat you as if you are family. They see the bigger picture in life and remain open to all cultures that visit their land.
There was a bit of a culture shock. No matter how grounded one is, when they are in a completely new environment and culture they’re forced to learn new things, ultimately about themselves. Cape Town brought many lessons and realizations into my life. I discovered diligence through the strength of the mountain, unique beauty in the plants (Cape Town is home to the Cape Floral Kingdom, which is the most dense of all six kingdoms on earth, containing over 9,000 species). I also developed trust in the world, that even at the tip of the world, thousands of miles away from what I call home, that I could still find family, love and joy. My trip to Cape Town profoundly stripped my ego of all things but love. What makes life fulfilling and worth living is finding joy in every moment, and learning from everyone and everything that we see. Being different than someone or something only gives them potential to be an even more impacting teacher than our last. The lessons are there— are you present to them? When we release the fear about being different and accept our authenticity, life becomes one ginormous, adventurous classroom.
How is it living in such an isolated area now? Do you plan to travel or live elsewhere again in the near or distant future?
Living in an isolated area right now is different than anything I have ever experienced. The amazing thing is that there is actually access to everything. What is even more surprising is that there are even more opportunities to do the things that I have wanted to do here, because of its small size. Everyone knows everyone else, and because the town is so small, businesses and recreational activities accommodate their schedule to the people. It is pretty amazing to see how everything works in harmony here.
I definitely plan to travel more and live elsewhere in the future. I am aiming for after Christmas. I miss the beach, so we will see where that longing takes me…
What are some common misconceptions about yoga? Can you dispel those?
The most beautiful thing about yoga is that it doesn’t matter what level you are at. People often think that because they are not flexible they are not good at yoga. Untrue. Yoga is just the ability to look inside and truly become aware of our body and our thoughts. I have studied yoga because I want to share that gift with others, so they too have the tools to create peace in their lives.
Doing what you do now seems like a left turn from what you studied in school. Are you glad you went to college? Do you have any desire to pursue a more “traditional” career path as so many (either willingly or unwillingly) get sucked into? Why or why not?
I am very happy that I went to school. Some of my best memories are from University. It was an immense growing period in my life. I would definitely consider a more traditional career path. It is fun to work with young, motivated people. I studied advertising and marketing which are two things that I love. It is such a great creative outlet, and I love working on projects. Again, life is full of choices. I think later on down the road if I am seeking more of a challenge, I may pursue a different career path. Right now yoga is what I love, and I can incorporate everything I love into it.
On that same note, many recent college grads are either struggling to find work or are settling for an industry they’re not passionate about. What would you tell someone in that position who would rather be doing what you’re doing?
I would tell them that the only limits in their life are those they place on themselves. Working, no matter where it is, is a great experience. Making money is rewarding and exciting. If someone wants to teach yoga, they can. It is a matter of being proactive about it. Teaching yoga really means to live the yogic lifestyle. By this I mean that they practice releasing attachments and desires and are gaining the lessons in all circumstances. In this case, they are always a student and always a teacher.
There are plenty of opportunities to teach, whether it be at lunch time, after work, on the weekends, in studios, gyms, schools, parks… anywhere! That’s the beauty of yoga. As teachers we are able to be creative in the ways that we give. People are not going to walk up to us and beg for yoga, but if we create a space or a time when they can access it, they will come. If someone wanted to teach full-time then I would encourage them to do it. The universe always supports us, and the biggest lessons come from taking chances. Be honest with yourself and hold enough space of love in your life that allows you to pursue your passion while fulfilling all basic needs. The transition can be seamless.
What books would you recommend to any kindred spirits looking for ways to seriously incorporate travel, yoga, or a greater sense of spirituality in their lives?
There are a few books that I have read that have influenced the way I live today. Some include: The Four Agreements, Way of the Peaceful Warrior, Gandhi – His Life and Message for the World, Journey Into Power, and Autobiography of a Yogi.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Katee. You are one seriously inspiring lady, and we could all learn something from you. Have questions for Katee? Comments? Leave them here!