Can yoga bring out the joy in you? The dancer who is unafraid to step out and live fully, even in times of darkness? Welcome to yoga with Katchie Ananda. A former dancer in Switzerland and Brazil, Katchie offers yoga as a way to express your spirit through the body. She engages the heart and mind as much as the body in her inspiring classes and her commitment to living mindfully and joyfully.
Katchie left the dance world in her 20s, leaving behind the world of eating disorders and intense competition, but bringing with her a personal discipline and a respect for focused training. In yoga, she first found a way to relax and thereafter built a daily practice. After moving to New York City for acting school, she discovered Jivamukti yoga and dropped everything – with the sense that she had at last found “a method for worshipping spirit with the body.” She practiced and taught with David Life and Sharon Gannon for many years in “an unabashedly spiritual practice.” Later, yoga brought her to Boulder to study and teach with Richard Freeman for three years, and then to San Francisco and Berkeley where she continues to teach and to train teachers in Anusara Yoga at Yoga Sangha.
Meeting Katchie, at first one may be struck by her exuberant joyfulness, her wide smile and sparkling presence, but she is not one to hide from the challenges of living. She says, “At some point I realized that no amount of yoga practice or perfection in yoga practice will shield me from suffering. Suffering will happen. My body will change, people will come and go. The only solution is to expand the container – to make myself bigger than my suffering. It’s like the difference between putting salt in a glass of water and putting the same amount of salt in a swimming pool.” She cites her Vipassana meditation practice and the inspiration of Jack Kornfield (founding teacher of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in West Marin) as important in expanding her own container, and mindfulness is a recurring theme in her classes.
Another major thread through Katchie’s classes is activism. She describes the connection between yoga practice and activism in terms of the breath. “The yoga practice is our inhale. It also could be singing or gardening, or something else. It’s our way to connect to a greater vision. The exhale is the giving back – to act on your convictions, to do something, no matter how small, beyond your individual concerns, wherever your passion is. With the inhale I feed myself and make my body strong so I can be of service. With the exhale, I serve others.”
As in the breath, the self-nourishing and the service must be in balance. Activists who focus only on service – the exhale – will burn out. A long, deep retreat gives us the nourishment to offer long, deep service. “When you act in alignment with your convictions, the result is ananda – bliss.”
Today Katchie is dedicated to co-creating and sustaining Yoga Sangha, a thriving studio in San Francisco’s Mission District, her 25-year dream now coming to fruition. Her intention is to “create a community where yoga is the principle of how we live.” The studio is a sun-drenched refuge in one of the Bay Area’s most urban neighborhoods – upstairs from 16th Street’s taquerias, bars, ethnic stores and trendy restaurants.
“It’s a place where people can come and be who they are,” says Katchie. “We celebrate diversity, not dogma. Yoga is not just for thin, young, flexible women. Yoga is for everyone. It’s an inhale, and it could become your inhale. It could become your way of connecting to your values, to yourself.”
Katchie has trained many teachers over the years, including Yoga Sangha. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher from age 12,” she explains. Her own teacher at the Waldorf School modeled how a teacher could help people reach their full potential, and she brings that intention – as well as her passion for yoga – to every student and to every aspiring yoga teacher that she meets. “My desire is to be a midwife to your full potential.”