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Kathryn Budig had been teaching yoga for several years when she stumbled upon the inspiration that would help her through a difficult time — and transform her yoga practice.

Seeking comfort in the stories of the strong and independent Greek goddess Artemis, Budig came across a prayer that began: “Artemis, huntress of the moon, make my aim true.”

“It struck me deeply,” says Budig, now 33. “I realized that I needed to figure out what it meant to aim true. Otherwise, I’d never be able to achieve my goals; I’d just be flying blind.”

For Budig, that phrase — now her personal mantra — means embodying her strength and remaining faithful to her passions, whatever the situation. It’s a concept she shares with her students, encouraging them to find balance, self-acceptance, and joy in their own lives.

Budig’s inspired approach has made her one of the most recognized and reputable teachers in the yoga community. But she describes her yogic career path as “very accidental.”

After moving to Los Angeles in 2004 to pursue acting (she studied drama in college), Budig enrolled in yoga-teacher training under revered YogaWorks cofounders Maty Ezraty and Chuck Miller. It wasn’t long before she felt more at home on her yoga mat than in ultra-competitive Hollywood.

Today, Budig is the yoga expert for Women’s Health, serves on the Yahoo! Health advisory board, and contributes to the Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, and Yoga Journal. Her second book, Aim True, will be out in March.

When she’s not traveling, Budig can be found at home with her husband in South Carolina, or pursuing her other passions, which include an abiding love of animals: She has four dogs, and is also the founder of Poses for Paws, which raises money for animal-welfare projects. (Charlie, above, is a recently adopted rescue dog from an LA shelter the initiative supports.)

Another favorite pursuit is finding ways to make healthy food taste decadent. “I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, because I don’t believe in feeling guilty,” she muses.

That philosophy extends to every aspect of her life. “I believe in doing what you love, what feels good to you,” Budig adds. “Do what lights you up.”

Q&A With Kathryn Budig

Experience Life | How did you turn your passion for yoga into a fulfilling career?

Kathryn Budig | I have a lot of interests beyond yoga, so my journey was about finding a way to incorporate my passions within this common bond, and to find a way to share my gifts. I had people to look up to, but there’s no blueprint for success in the yoga world. I don’t have a mentor who’s done this work before, because this is my path. Like anyone else, I’ve had moments of doubt: We’re all trying to create something worth presenting, and getting to that level takes doubt, and change, and time.

In my career and personal life, “aim true” has spawned immense possibility. It’s evolved into an ability to know what my gift is and to be unapologetic about it — to inspire people with my message and know that not everyone will agree with me. I’ve got to brush that off and step forward. When I let go of the fear of trying to please everyone and really listen to my gift, that’s how I always hit my mark.

EL | You’ve written quite a bit about the stereotypical yoga body. Why do you think it’s important to do away with that image?

KB | These days, everything is filtered through social media, and this edited version of the “perfect” body is affecting people deeply. I’ve struggled a lot with body image — everyone I know has. It’s a huge epidemic right now.

The only way we can break the spell is to speak openly about it. If more people could eat healthy and take care of themselves while also owning their bodies, we could completely change the concept of what a healthy person looks like.

There is this notion that a “yoga body” must be lean and muscular to be beautiful. But yoga applies to all body types — that’s why it’s survived for so long and why it’s so powerful. To say that a body practicing yoga must look a certain way is incredibly discouraging for anybody who doesn’t fit that mold.

It’s hard, though, not to feel jealous when you see yogis on social media, posting amazing pose after amazing pose, looking unbelievable in their string bikinis. But everyone is on their own journey. If we would allow everyone to be where they are without judgment, it would take a lot of this discomfort out of the air, and we could abate the comparison and jealousy.

It’s challenging, but it’s why I practice yoga — to learn to let go of harsh judgments and let people do their thing.

EL | Your schedule has you traveling nearly every week. How do you stick with healthy routines?

KB | My practice is a way for me to calm my adrenals and create balance in my body; the postures give me peace of mind. I’m always trying to find as much routine as possible in a lifestyle that doesn’t offer much of it.

It took me a long time to realize that the healthiest choice I can make is choosing my attitude. Probiotics, digestive enzymes, and essential oils are great for your physical health, but I’m most drained when my mental health is out of balance. When I’m on the road, I miss my home, but I’m mindful of my blessings. If you open yourself to the situation, it can become amazing. There’s a lot of power in choosing how you feel.

EL | Do you have any advice for those who are new to yoga?

KB | Enjoy being a beginner, because you’ll only be there once. Half the journey is being challenged and rising to the difficulty. I’ve recently started practicing martial arts, and I’m enjoying it so much because I don’t understand a lot of it. It’s tough, and I’m messing up quite a bit, but mistakes make you sharp. Don’t try to be perfect. That may be the most profound decision that you can make as a new student.

EL | How can yoga help someone start the year strong — and stay strong?

KB | Each time you begin your practice, take a moment to set your intentions. Use your breath and posture as a way to manifest that intention, and you’ll find that’s incredibly powerful. No matter how you’re feeling when you walk into your practice, honoring your intention-setting moment through breath and movement is nothing short of magical.

By the time you get out of savasana, even if it wasn’t a great class, you can be closer to your intention. But it comes back to attitude: You have to choose it. Yoga can’t give it to you. You have to be ready to accept it.

EL | What’s your philosophy about New Year’s resolutions?

KB | I recommend starting simple. In the new year, many people have lavish intentions, and they’re destined for disappointment because their goal is unattainably far from where they are. So start small, with something that’s accessible.

You also have to trust the timing. Let’s say you decide you want to be able to do a handstand by the end of March, and you’re completely devoted to practicing. If the end of March comes and you can’t do it, you’ll feel like a failure, even though you’ve been doing your best every day.

I would invite people, as they work on becoming strong and creating intention, to not have a timeline. Just do your best every day. Set accessible goals and celebrate when you reach them, because life is about joy. Then, go back in and keep working.

Photography by Kwaku Alston

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