Katie is a yoga practitioner and teacher and an ostomate who has found healing inside and out through her dedication to yoga and trusting her gut, even though she ended up having hers removed. Originally from the Midwest and used to a busy city, she has found peace and recovery from pain in the Low Country as an island girl. Although fairly new to the Instagram yoga community as @stomiyogi, her raw honesty about her health issues and journey with her ileostomy have touched and inspired many. She has collaborated with Yulady Saluti to create an Instagram account @livingwithanostomy dedicated to helping ostomates learn how to live healthy lifestyles and practice yoga with an ostomy.
Katie is in the process of building her personal website and blog and writing about her story to spread awareness about the unique condition that led to her ostomy surgeries. She has already helped several ostomates navigate the unknown territory of learning to not just live but thrive with an ostomy and hopes to continue to do so. She is incredibly grateful for her yoga practice, which helped her survive until finally having her life-saving surgeries and continues to help her heal and living a healthy life with an ileostomy.
What do you do best?
Help others. I'm a giver and people pleaser. I love to make people feel happy, whole, and full. Spreading smiles is something I strive to do daily. You never know when you're going to make someone's day just by giving them a smile or holding the door open for them. Even the smallest acts can make a difference, although I like to inspire others in more influential ways as well.
What makes you the best?
I don't necessarily believe that anyone is the 'best' at anything. We should always be open to learning and realize that mastering anything is not the goal. The journey is the most rewarding part. Perhaps what makes me the 'best' is realizing that very idea...that we are all students and should be open-minded. Also, given my personal health struggles, I feel I excel at not judging others based on initial appearances or glimpses of their lives. You can never understand what is going on behind the scenes or inside others at first glance. Keeping things real, honest, and open is a quality of mine most admire. I hope that inspires others to do so as well, even if it means not being the 'best' at something.
What are your aspirations?
I plan to write my personal story of chronic health issues and how yoga has helped me survive difficult times through online and print magazine articles, my website and blog (in the process of being built), and many books. As an avid herbalist, Ayurveda enthusiast, and Disney lover, I plan to write several books about Ayurveda and how it can help those with conditions like mine and books about the connections between Disney fairy tale motifs and yoga philosophies. I hope to mainly teach private yoga classes as I feel a more personally focused class is best not for the students but the teacher as well. My main mission is to spread awareness about the chronic illnesses that led to my ileostomy, to help others with similar conditions and ostomies, and to encourage people with chronic health issues to incorporate all aspects of yoga into their lives in order to find healing. Opening the eyes of society to the myriad of hidden chronic illnesses that do not receive the awareness, support, or research well-known diseases do is a hurdle I hope to help overcome along with others suffering from relatively unknown illnesses.
Hands down, living with my chronic illnesses and surviving two incredibly challenging ostomy surgeries and the complications that followed. This involved over nine hospital stays, more than ten ER visits, major body-altering and lifestyle adjustments, decades of severe pain, relying on myself for years due to isolation caused by my conditions, and being bed-ridden for six weeks after my second ostomy surgery. Most importantly, learning how to resume and strengthen my yoga practice after getting my ileostomy is one of my biggest accomplishments in my eyes.
Most Challenging Moment?
Ironically, choosing to get an irreversible ileostomy and the lifestyle changes it would require was not the most challenging moment in my life. I've had several times in my life that tested my resolve and strength. I was even willing to risk losing one aspect of yoga, my physical asana practice, because I wasn't sure that it would be possible with my ostomy. The truly most challenging moment in my life was when I was first beginning to learn that my digestive issues weren't due to Irritable Bowel Syndrome and test results were inconclusive during my second year in college. I had been hopeful for a new beginning miles away from the judgments of those I grew up with who didn't understand my condition but had to make the incredibly difficult decision to withdraw from the college that I miss to this day. I thrived there my freshman year but became even more ill at the start of my second year and had to leave behind the fresh start of which I was dreaming. I did eventually finish my degree years later, while juggling doctor appointments and treatments, but I will always wonder how different my life may have turned out if I didn't have to leave behind the college and friends I loved.
Hakuna Matata...It means no worries for the rest of your days, from "The Lion King"! Also, the belief that everything happens for a reason...I have to believe that I've been dealt these struggles and was put on this earth for a reason, hopefully to inspire others to fight through their own struggles and come out shining. Finally, a saying that one of my inspirations mentions in various ways...everything is exactly as it should be, everything is perfect, you're exactly where you need to be right here and now. All of these mottos help me see that I may not be able to change the cards I've been dealt in life, but I have the ability to choose how I play them.
First off, my stoma sister Yulady Saluti and her amazing husband Gerald Saluti, who have been such supportive rocks in my life since she reached out to me after finding that she needed to get a permanent ostomy. Secondly, my mother who has been the one to fight for me when I no longer had the physical or emotional strength to stand up to doctors who didn't believe me. She's picked me up off the floor after fainting several times due to harsh medications, slept in the hospital and at the foot of my bed while recovering from my surgeries. She's done more for me than I think any mother ever has for her child. Finally, my yoga inspiration, Kathryn Budig. Without her online classes and workshops in which I was joyously and tearfully able to meet her and learn from her in person, I wouldn't be alive today. Her classes, her words, her motivating beliefs have all had major impacts on my life and have helped me hang on when most would give up and let go.
My yoga mat...which I place on my kitchen floor every morning to practice daily. More importantly, the beach that is a short walk away from where I live in the Low Country, where I can forget everything, listen to the waves, and watch for my spirit animals, my dolphins. When my dolphins grace others and myself with their presence, I know that everything is going to be okay. Tears starts to roll down my cheeks uncontrollably. They are magical healers that I am drawn to any time I visit the beach. Nature itself soothes my soul.
My yoga mats, I use a few for different purposes...@liforme for my daily practice, @mandukayoga eKO Lite mat for poses on carpet and certain backbends, and my @jadeyoga travel mat that folds easily into my suitcase. Also, my yoga towels, specifically my YogiToes Towel from @mandukayoga because I get quite sweaty and slippery even practicing in air conditioning. My large collection of yoga, nautral health, and Ayurveda books as well as the malas and gifts I've received from my yoga friends all over the world all have a home - my altar of sorts - my bookcase! I've always said, as long as I have my mat and books, I'm content!
If you haven't guessed, yoga, writing, Ayurveda, spreading awareness about my chronic illnesses and ostomies and helping others with ostomies. A topic I hope to shed light on through my writing and social media venues is that every body is unique and needs different foods, exercises, and lifestyles to help them optimize their health. Even though my dreams of being a doctor focusing on holistic medicine were not fulfilled, helping others in these ways will make that dream come true in an even more rewarding waybecause I will be able to focus on my main passion and sustenance in life...yoga.