y4c Teacher of the Month: Katy Keys
Q: What was your original inspiration for teaching yoga?
A: As a therapeutic massage therapist for many years, my own yoga practice began to deepen, and I realized that I could use this knowledge to help my clients. I was already seeing cancer survivors on my massage table, so it made sense that yoga could help people feel more at home in their own bodies.
Q: What was your inspiration to teach cancer survivors specifically?
A: This seemed like a natural extension of what I was already doing. I could see that many new survivors were looking for ways to reclaim their sense of power and balance. Yoga teaches all of us new things about ourselves and the world we live in.
Q: What have you enjoyed most about working with this population?
A: I love teaching absolute beginners about yoga; especially the breathing practices. With cancer survivors, there are many ah-ha moments, and they are priceless! The thing I enjoy the most is seeing them grow in their practice as they become more confident and settle into their own strength. The seasoned students begin to take the new ones under their wings, and help them feel more at ease. To be honest, I think I am learning more from them than they are from me!
Q: When/Where do you teach classes?
A: I am fortunate to be teaching at Fitness One at Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia. The fitness center and oncology department work together to get the word out to potential students, who can attend the classes for free. They are held weekly on Tuesdays at 6:30 pm and Thursdays at 12:45 pm.
Q: What did you find to be the most useful element of y4c training?
A: My training with Tari was so helpful in bringing everything together for teaching survivor students. The most eye-opening aspect of the training was the experiential practice where each of us used props in order to reduce our strength or range of motion, or to mimic the effects of lymphedema. It made me even more compassionate toward those who are struggling with this.
Q: How do you incorporate your own teaching elements in y4c style classes?
A: As a massage therapist, I am a natural nurturer, in that I practice ways to support and encourage the student without causing pain or discomfort. We focus on alignment and breathing, and I invite them to challenge themselves safely.
Q: Has teaching yoga to cancer survivors surprised you in any unexpected ways?
A: My students are such an inspiration to me, and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to work with them. I have learned to be more patient and compassionate with myself as well as with others.
Q: What is your favorite asana?
A: My favorite asana is Ardha Chandrasana (Half-Moon Pose) because I feel like I am flying! I teach this pose with modifications using a chair for students who are unable to reach the floor with their hands.