In an intimate interview, author and founder of Aim True Yoga, Kathryn Budig speaks openly about finding love in unexpected places, living passionately and her new vision of happiness.
A year after walking down the aisle, Kathryn Budig made one of the hardest, most liberating decisions of her life. She filed for a divorce and vowed to live life on her own terms. Looking to complete the picture, she had settled into a marriage blindly unaware of the missing link that kept them at a distance. Then, by chance, she locked eyes with a woman who pulled her back to the surface and reminded her of the passion she had been denying herself. Shaken awake, she drew the strength to take the first steps on the journey back towards her authentic self. As she broke away from the relationship with her husband, she fell head-first into a love affair with the beautiful stranger who flipped her worldview and raised her up. In a profoundly personal interview, the internationally renowned yoga teacher shares the story of how she opened her heart to love and reconnected with her own powerful voice.
Q: What should love look like?
Love shouldn’t look like anything.
My fiancé (sports writer and commentator, Kate Fagan) and I met through a work event. I was sponsored by Under Armour and she was the ESPN speaker. I thought she was very striking, and we started talking every day. I was married at the time and falling in love with a woman had never crossed my mind. It was completely unexpected, and it was the most beautiful surprise of my entire life. It was also a big wakeup call to how unhappy I had been in my marriage, and how I had numbed myself to my unhappiness. You’re told that getting married is the pinnacle. And, that if you get married, you’ve found success. If I had gone in with what I thought love should look like when I met her, I wouldn’t have been able to see her in that way.
If you get caught up with what you think love looks like, you will be wrong. It just comes from the most unexpected places. I think we’re trained to make lists of the perfect person, down to how many languages they speak, and while I understand honing in on intention, think about the number of people you’re going to push away if you think it’s that specific. Now I tell people to keep their eyes and heart open to anything, everything and to stay open to your connection with people.
Like Yoga, there are seasons to love. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re going through one of those dry spells. Give yourself a break and just know it’s going to be there for you when you’re ready to come back.
Q: What is the most important practice in a relationship?
Talk. It is truly a way of getting to know who you are and what makes you happy.
Saying ‘I choose this because I’d like to be happy’ is the most liberating and empowering thing you can do for yourself. I have had a lot of people reach out to me saying they felt stuck in their marriages, and in their relationships. They know they’re not happy but they’ve been in it for so long they don’t know how to get out. They ask me ‘how can you possibly start over when you’ve done something for so long?’. It’s absolutely possible, and you will be happier on the other side, but you just have to emotionally prepare yourself for a phase that will be prickly, sticky and murky, but it will also be one of the most intense and amazing soul searching experiences of your entire life.
There are also conscientious efforts you can take to make things better. In love, talk as much as possible. I think a lot of us feel bad about the way we naturally feel because we’re told that it’s not right. So we push it down and we push it down, and we turn into crazy animals. What I’ve done and what I’ve seen in relationships. If you don’t speak about what hurts you, and what’s not right in a relationship, and these feelings fester and build up resentment. Then one day you’ll randomly blow up at one another. But it’s so easily prevented. If we took the time to say ‘hey, I’m going to voice my frustrations’, it helps. It doesn’t totally fix it, but at least you can have a real conversation instead of this suppressed, explosive bottle rocket that’s just waiting to explode. If we spoke more about our feelings with radical honesty, we will be much better people for ourselves and for the people who rely on us.
You cannot burn all your energy when you have so much to give in your life.
Q: What makes a good partner?
I think a good partner is someone who is absolutely willing to communicate and listen to you. And to speak about it with you when emotions come up.
With love, I believe it’s all in the timing. I’m grateful for my marriage. I wouldn’t have seen Kate, in the same way, had I not had the previous experience of my marriage. So I do believe it all happens for a reason. It’s a journey, but relationships aren’t supposed to be perfect. You’re two humans who love each other deeply which means you’re going to push each other’s buttons. I feel I’m so sensitive to her because I love her so much, I just want her approval. The times I really freak out is when I feel I’m not getting her approval or when I think she doesn’t see me. But I continue to learn something new from her every day. She’s taught me to open up much more, she’s taught me to think much more, to really see perspectives I never knew expected. She truly challenges me.
I’m still learning to say how I feel in the moment. It’s a journey and relationships aren’t supposed to be perfect.
Q: What is happiness?
To me right now, happiness is home and creating my world there.
The biggest thing that I’m tackling in my life right now, is this concept of happiness versus success and the correlation between the two. I realise that for so long, my definition of happiness was success.I believed I had to be successful in order to achieve happiness. I cared what my parents and society thought about me and how I wanted to be viewed. It’s also complicated being a yoga teacher, because when you sit next to someone on a plane and they ask, ‘what do you do?’, you’ll very often get that sympathetic,’ ohhh.. Soo..what does your partner do for a living that sustains you?’. Society deems a successful woman as, ‘the woman who does everything’, and it’s not who we are at the core. I don’t want to be that woman. I don’t need to do everything.
If I choose things that really make me happy in my life, that is what I call being successful. It may be my own interpretation, and I’m learning very quickly that the things that make me happy are not glossy or sexy to the outside world, and that’s absolutely okay.
I have a piece of art in my house that says, ‘every day is a new opportunity to create a new Happily Ever After’, and your Happily Ever After can change. Don’t think it looks like a certain person, or experience, or gender, or age, or house, or a number of babies. Love is always changing, love is full of success, love is full of failure, it is cyclical, it’s infinite, and it is a beautiful constantly moving energy that is constantly surrounding us. Even if you feel you don’t have any in your life, it is there. Trust it is there.
We need to loosen up, try more and be open to love. I’m curious what love would look like if we rewired how we raised our children. What choices people would make, and how it would affect what they’re hardwired to believe.
Kathryn Budig is an internationally celebrated yoga teacher and author. With over a decade of experience in her field, Budig served as the yoga editor to Women’s Health magazine for five years, contributed recipes and sat on the Yahoo Health Advisory Board, and regularly contributes to Yoga Journal, The New Potato, and MindBodyGreen. She was an athlete in Under Armour’s “I WILL WHAT I WANT” campaign, the co-host of ESPN’s podcast, Free Cookies, teaches regular online classes on Yogaglo.com, and is the founder of her animal project, Poses for Paws. She is the creator of the Aim True Yoga DVD produced by Gaiam, author of The Women’s Health Big Book of Yoga and Aim True.
Photography by Daniel Stark at Stark Photography.