By Kee Kee Buckley, creator of the Shama Yoga Rug.
I didn’t set out to become an inventor, it just sorta happened. It happened during a time in my life when I looked around and realized I wasn’t happy. There were a lot of broken parts in my life, and I had grown tired of sludging through the murky undercurrent of stagnant and toxic energy that seemed to infuse every bit of my existence. It was 2003, and yoga was the one thing that seemed to bind all the broken pieces of my life together. It was my lifeline during a time when little else made sense. A six year relationship had just ended, leaving me moving out of the beautiful spacious Venice Beach house owned by my ex-boyfriend into a tiny 300 square foot hobbit hole. I was also working hard to digest the fact that my dream career was really just something that was leaving me feeling empty and unfulfilled. I needed to find a solution and fix my life. Not knowing where else to begin, I turned to yoga.
In fact, I dove head first into yoga and enrolled in yoga teacher training. Then, wanting to take my practice even deeper, I enrolled in the Yoga Philosophy program at LMU and joined a yoga philosophy study group with several well-known LA yoga instructors. As my body and spirit grew stronger through yoga, I began to challenge myself physically with a more advanced asana practice. Yet with more physically demanding asana came more sweat. As much as I would like to say I glow when I work out, I don’t. I sweat. Profusely. My face gets red and puffy and sweat drips from places one would think sweat should never ever drip. On the one hand, sweating felt good – like I was detoxifying all that toxicity in my life. On the other hand, sweating hindered my practice by causing me to slip on my mat. Wanting a non-synthetic solution, I turned to cotton yoga rugs. Unfortunately, although they helped, I still would slip. Yes, I sweat that much.
Although I hadn’t yet found a solution to fix the bigger problems in my life, I was bound and determined to find a solution to fix my problems with sweating on my mat. A conversation with a friend about how I would improve the yoga rugs on the market led to me impulsively getting on the internet and educating myself about the difference between the weft and the warp yarns in weaving. I decided my dream yoga rug would have a raised weft weave, leaving ridges that would not only help with alignment, but would also be big enough to serve as friction points to stop me from slipping at the same time as being small enough that they wouldn’t throw off my balance. In order to accommodate large hands and feet on taller people and smaller hands and feet on shorter people, I wanted these ridges to be spaced further apart towards the ends of the rug and closer together towards the center of the rug. India was the only country I knew of that had commercial handloom companies, so I shot off a few e-mail inquiries to several of them. The most accommodating was a family-owned business in New Delhi, and over the next year they would send me samples, I would make changes and then they would send me new samples. We did this several times until I finally had a production sample of my new yoga rug, which I promptly named the Shama Yoga Rug. Shama in Sanskrit means tranquility and peace, and because I was actively searching for inner-peace in my life, I thought this the most fitting name for my new rug. The next few years involved obtaining a utility patent on my yoga rug, setting up an online store, and eventually finding a home for the Shama Yoga Rug in the Manduka family of products.
Fixing my problem with my sweaty yoga practice taught me a valuable life lesson. When I find there is a problem in my life, then I should buckle down, find a solution, and fix things once and for all. Surprisingly, inventing a patented yoga rug was easier than fixing some of the other broken things in my life. But I’m getting much better at drumming up the necessary courage to create lasting healthy changes. Each time I practice on my Shama Yoga Rug, I’m reminded of the importance of being an active participant in creating a life I love.
Ashley was teaching her regular vinyasa class and demonstrating Cobra pose. But at 8 months pregnant, there are some poses the body (well, mostly just the belly) won't do in the traditional sense. Ashley had this realization about a moment after it was too late to do anything about it. She went from Cobra to Nobra, tipping over uncontrollably in front of the whole class. Instead of getting upset, she immediately burst into laughter, and her whole class laughed as well.
That's when she knew her yoga practice wasn't going to be about "advanced" asana anymore. She let it go, making room for the new chapter in her life and the little miracle growing in her belly that would change it forever.
Ashley's yoga has come into a whole new journey deep in the mind, paying close attention to her thoughts and focus. She now feels more love and respect for her body and chooses to dedicate every practice to her growing family.
She was used to being great at things. Running, swimming, water polo – Sheri was tough to beat. But yoga was another story. When Sheri tried it, she wasn't good at it, so she didn't like it. Funny how things change.
A bridge that many competitive athletes have to cross is how to treat their bodies after an injury. Yoga can be a beautiful tool for recovery. Sheri turned to yoga to soothe her aching joints and bruised muscles. And it did soothe her body. Then it changed her perspective about it. She went from using diet and exercise to tell her body what to do, to listening to it and giving her body what it needs for holistic balance. If her body needs to go for a run, she does, but if it’s asking for some ice cream, then she does that too.
Sheri's not "perfect," and she accepts that. But she's happy, and able to be of service and kindness to others. And that's perfect. That's Sheri-perfect.
She was in a hectic spot. Balancing life as a college student and a single mother, her yoga mat was the glue that kept her together.
“During those precious moments on my mat I didn’t think about how bills were going to be paid, laundry was going to get done, or how I was going to handle three kids all by myself. My practice not only gave me physical strength, it gave me the emotional strength and resolve I needed to make it through each minute of my life.”
A dozen odd years later, Lori is happily married with now FIVE children and a fulfilling career teaching yoga – often to students whose path feels similar to her own. When a frazzled yogi rushes in moments before class begins, stressed for time and visibly distracted, Lori can relate. And she's in a special position to give other busy moms their one moment of sanity that they look forward to all week. Yoga is how SHE managed to to keep it all together, and life has a blessed way of coming full circle.
Building off her idea of 'the yoga life raft,' Lori is working to cultivate the power of her local community through yoga. With her husband, she has created the OmWork Club, a yoga-centric afterschool program for Chicago teens to study and socialize in a peaceful, positive and expressive environment.
Yoga was her 50th birthday present to herself. And it's been an amazing gift. Even after that very first yoga class, she knew her world was going to feel different.
Her practice is "the best thing ever," having eased her joints, given her infinite encouragement and a tranquil home anywhere she chooses – especially the yoga studio. While rock climbing will always be her "first love," yoga is her partner, helping her climb more than mountains. Recently, she climbed the wall, kicking up into her first headstand with the help of her teacher – she couldn’t stop smiling knowing that yoga had both literally and figuratively turned her world around.
“Yoga has been a huge help with my whole life. I love the energy I have after a good hard class. I love the serenity that comes a little later and how all my joints feel fresh and ready to take on the world. I spent some time away from the mat. The day I went back to class I couldn't believe the relief I felt. While I was just resting in easy posture I started crying and didn't stop until half way through. Life is good with an active yoga practice."
Soon after signing up for yoga teacher training in Costa Rica, Meaghan thought 'wait, am I crazy? This is not what responsible adults do!' Confused and second guessing herself, she began to talk herself out of the training. Then Meaghan got a sign from the universe – she stumbled on a giant billboard advertising a café with the same name as the training site in Costa Rica. She put her doubts to bed that day and hasn't looked back since.
Sometimes we spend too much time in our own heads; for Meaghan, yoga was a way out. Her world happens outside herself now, and her love of travel and cultural immersion has given her an awareness for the desperate need for access to education in countries that have limited resources. Recently, Meaghan got on her bike and rode across America for the organization Playing for Change. raising awareness and funds for schools and music education in developing countries.
Yoga has moved Meaghan to see her purpose of service. She has developed a reverence for her life and the people in it, making a conscious effort to serve people, the planet, and her own spirit.
When she was 3, yoga was a game of copying mommy on the mat. By the time she was 14, she was going to yoga studios for class. As a high schooler, Gigi was competitive – thriving off the stress and desire to perform. By college, the rush of team sports was over and she needed a new outlet for her focus and energy. She revived her yoga practice, and this time it was much more than a physical experience.
Yoga has been the guiding energy in her lifestyle since then. These days you can find Gigi teaching yoga and spreading the love in one of the most notoriously loveless places in the country – the LA Freeway. Her car sports a custom paint job of inspirational mantras to help calm the mind in even the tightest jams. “You’re Too Blessed to Be Stressed,” “Each One Teach One,” “We Are All One,” and “Be the Change” -- they give people a reason to smile, like a moving meditation even when you're not moving so fast. It's also led to some great red light conversations!
Throughout the years, yoga has helped Gigi and her mom stay bonded, and the student has since become the teacher with Gigi sharing the tools of pranayama, meditations, and restoration with the woman who introduced her to yoga in the first place.
Theresa started yoga 11 years ago to help ease the process of quitting smoking. Little did she know that yoga would also eventually lead her to quit her job.
After spending decades as a reporter covering murder trials, Theresa had quite a hardened shell around her. But the consistent yoga practice she developed had started to chip away at the walls she had built up to reveal a softer, more open side of herself. She slowly started to realize that she wanted a major career change – one where she could help people and truly make a difference. After years of practice and training, she is now a Yoga Therapist in her very own studio. Her life now feels light and happy.
Theresa remembers a moment during her Adaptive Yoga for Disabilities training where she watched her instructor align a paralyzed student into Tadasana on her back on the floor, and actually seeing the student experience the pose, even though she couldn’t feel it in the traditional sense. That moment affirmed for Theresa the power of the inner-body experience of yoga. .
Doctors told her she would have back pain for the rest of her life. That she would need to attend regular physical therapy sessions and wear a bulky, uncomfortable back brace for always. That's how it was supposed to go.
Camille attended many therapy sessions for her scoliosis, but shortly after each session the pain always came back. She wanted another solution and thought back to the few yoga classes she had tried years before and how they made her feel — relaxed, recharged. She decided to go back to yoga, more seriously now, with more intention. After developing a daily practice, her back and neck spasms completely went away.
While yoga gave Camille relief from her pain, it also taught her how to relax as her most authentic self. Yoga helps her feel the most like who she truly is — and breaks down the walls she puts up around herself keeping her from who she's supposed to be. To do that, Camille says they key is to relax.
“I can’t tell you how much I resisted “final relaxation” when I first started yoga. You have never seen anyone fidget about so much! I was attached to the idea that only action was worthwhile. In the end it finallyclicked that my Type A personality really, really needed to learn to switch off and relax. That relaxing is not 'doing nothing,' it’s actively doing a thing, a very valid thing that our body needs as much as food or water, and that is resting and recharging."
Camille is proud to be a young, African American female in the yoga world and looks forward to welcoming more yogis into an increasingly diverse community. We are all already connected, and this practice reveals and belongs to everyone.