Kayla Butler is a Florida native who is on a mission to get more black women on the yoga mat. Raised by two generations of entrepreneurial minded women, she is determined to achieve her dream of becoming a full time yoga teacher and digital strategist. Read her interview and don't forget to check out her favorites here. Use promo code KAYLA to get 10% off your order and support her inspiring work!
How did you become interested in yoga and when did you begin your practice?
I delved into yoga after a sports injury. I couldn't lift weights while recovering, so I chose yoga because I knew it would be a way to maintain my strength with the added benefit of becoming more flexible. Initially it was a purely physical interest and it gradually developed into this transformative component of my life in January 2015.
What made you decide to start yoga teacher training to become an instructor?
I had been asked to guide classes on numerous occasions for some time in 2016. I knew it was something I wanted to do but I didn't pursue it because I wasn't in a place financially to afford a YTT. The more I was enveloped in the practice, the more I felt the desire to teach. My goal since I began sharing my practice on Instagram was to get more women of the color on the mat. I was able to contribute to my dream in teaching friends and family who supported me 100% and encouraged me to pursue becoming certified. Ultimately what really made me decide to begin the YTT was the push I had from family and friends who believed I could and trusted me to introduce them to the practice.
Growing up did you have any entrepreneurial influences or did you assume you would be working a regular 9-5 job?
Hmm that's a great question. I never assumed I would be working a 9-5 because I get bored way too easily. I always knew that I would be a public servant in providing my gifts whether it's educating or singing to the world. As far as an entrepreneurial influence, I would say my mother and grandmother have always been those examples in my life. My mother was a Purchasing expert for majority of her career. She assisted in obtaining a business license for my grandmother's maid services. All of my life I always saw the both of them operating as a team, from handling finances to making major purchases like homes. A future goal is to open a yoga studio/wellness center with my mother at my side and my grandmother's energy and loving spirit filling the space.
You have a Masters Degree in Neuroscience, which is really cool. How does that play into your work as a yoga teacher?
Thank you! Meditation and neuroscience go hand in hand. There are a number of Neuroscientists who are taking a look at how both asana (postures in yoga) and meditation have an effect on neural circuits and networks. In particular the circuitry of structures of the brain like the amygdala which houses our emotional experiences. Meditation is thought to directly impact increased activation in this area, thus contributing to the individual being more compassionate and empathic.
What are some pro’s and con’s of using social media to promote your business and connect with your community.
Instagram is beautiful. It has connected me with amazing, forward moving individuals who have a passion for progression. I'm grateful for where it's brought me as it is a great platform to market yourself. However, with exposure comes negativity, and transparency allows others to feel as if they truly know you. I've had more positive experiences than negative; I like to think I've developed thick skin in learning how to deal with the negative responses I have and will more than likely receive in the future just as anyone who puts themselves out there. It comes with the territory.
What challenges have you faced while balancing your day job with your calling to be yoga instructor?
I want to quit everyday lol. I wish I could say I was kidding, but I'm not (insert serious face Emoji). I'm grateful to have a job that affords me to fund my dream while I make it a reality. I've worked at a similar job where I was constantly thinking of all of the things I would rather be doing than working which led to a great deal of anger and anxiety. Rather than focusing on the positives, my mind constantly swirled around with how dissatisfied I was that I wasn't out doing some other thing. I was working, I was able to buy food, shop occasionally, pay for my tuition, and escape the area from time to time. My mind was solely focused only on being unhappy that I had to wake up to go to a job I hate everyday. I'm still practicing today on being happy while at work, while of course I daydream about teaching yoga. I still find little things to keep me in the right mindset beyond 5 PM.
Since graduating from your masters program, what goals are you working towards?
I am working towards learning more about digital marketing and social media analytics. As I noticed the influence and impact of social media on brand awareness, it made extremely intrigued with the ways in which it can be used to accelerate a business and bring forth a great deal of success for the individual. In learning more about the ins and outs of digital marketing I can ultimately assist POC who have established businesses or those looking to start one in providing the tools necessary to drive profit. I ultimately want to do the same with Neuroscience through education and advocacy in changing the statistics around neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
What advice would you give your younger self or a young person starting out on a similar path?
My advice to a younger me or a young person would be to pursue your dreams fiercely and unapologetically. As a child I was easily discouraged when taunted or bullied. I knew I possessed the talent to be everything and more but in being modest and intimidated I acquiesced and hid my gifts because I believed my bullies. I developed the strength to fight back and pursue what makes me happy regardless if someone thinks I'm good at it or not. If you know you have a talent and you're good at it, let it be known as it is a gift. You do yourself a disservice in not sharing your gifts with the world. If your dream is to sing let your voice be heard, sing your heart out. Do what makes you happy, praise your gifts, and share them with an open heart. Those who love it will love it and those that don't simply don't.
Can you share some daily habits you incorporate into your life to help sustain you as an instructor and a businesswoman?
Make up your bed every single morning; this is part of my mindfulness practice. It's my first task after handling all of the necessary things like brushing your teeth and washing your face. In making my bed I put myself in a mindset that I'm going to be conscientious about everything I'm doing and being grateful that I am able to do it. The mantra I repeat while I'm making my bed is "Om Mani Padme Hum" it translates to the jewel is within the lotus, meaning all of your power is within you... I'm repeating to myself that I am capable, I'm able, and I have what I need.
Look up at the sky and be grateful that you can see. Here again is a mindfulness practice. We wake up and we're already moving and shaking without a whole lot of thought. We jump in our cars sometimes without even noticing the beauty all around us. In taking a moment to look at your environment you bring yourself back into a state of gratitude. I try to pay attention to the flowers on my walk to my car, the feel of the sun on my face, and even the smell of the rain. Our senses should never be taken for granted.
Tell at least one person something to make them smile.
Jot down a list of things to tackle for the week, reward yourself for what you were able to get done. We don't pat ourselves on the back enough. If you did your laundry after staring at it for two weeks, treat yourself to something good, whether it's a cup of tea or two hours of undisturbed rest. Any task completed is something to be proud of, honor yourself for the efforts you put forth each day.
What is your ultimate vision and what steps are you taking this year towards realizing it.
My ultimate vision is to teach yoga internationally and work remotely as a Digital Media Strategist. I put all of this on a vision board and now I'm watching it manifest. I am currently taking courses to become certified in Inbound Marketing, enrolled in a YTT with plans to teach in Costa Rica after I graduate, and I am applying for entry level jobs in the Digital Marketing sector to get my foot in the door. All while this is happening my heart is continuously filled as I see more Black people stepping on to yoga mats to practice. Ultimately in sharing my own knowledge to help those same POC market themselves in such a way that they can accomplish their goals in an even more intelligent fashion.
Drawing from your own experience, how do you see entrepreneurship (part-time or full time) enriching the lives of women and transforming communities of color?
In this day and age the best way for many of us to really be financially independent is to delve into business for ourselves. As a recruiter I see the way the job market works first hand and it's really not a fair game for those who with a college level education. In order to achieve the goals necessary to navigate this life we have to create streams of income that align with our interests and put us at the forefront. It's beautiful to see so many women starting up their businesses and really sprinkling their black girl magic all over the place. It's inspiring to watch it unfold. In starting and sticking to business plans we not only inspire our peers but our children as well. They get to see first hand how struggle can turn into triumph along with the fact that we are the creators of our destinies. In believing in our capabilities and now having the support of other POC who want to buy Black, we shift the industries we dominate with our dollars, we change the mindset of negative views on our spending power, and we embrace our own.