Vitruvi Muse: Katie McKenzie

As you may already know, this month’s focus is “soul fitness.” We’ve covered topics like cleansing your space, new moons, and summer soaks, but now, let’s dive into the fitness part. For this, we wanted to reach out to someone who approaches fitness differently—someone who practices movement that flexes your soul and sets it on fire. So, everyone, meet this month’s muse: Katie McKenzie. Her class “The Block” isn’t your typical workout class. As a student of qi gong, Katie developed this class as a release. It’s a time where you can come back to the simplicity of your breath, but also yell and cry and purge all the shit that isn’t serving you. If you’re not familiar with qi gong, it stems from Chinese medicine, philosophy and martial arts and is seen as a practice to cultivate and balance qi (aka “life’s energy”). As someone who had a hard time sitting still for traditional meditation, Katie found so much power in qi gong, and used it to create her own form of meditation that works for her. We’ve taken The Block as a group, and safe to say it’s hard. You push yourself and you challenge your body, but you also learn to look at yourself with gratitude and love. You come out sweaty and feeling lighter, which is really what moving your body is all about.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Katie about what it means to be “strong”, her love and openness towards learning (she’s pegged herself a “forever student”), and how cuddling with her 2 little girls is her favourite way to recharge. Plus, she has a Spotify playlist to follow that makes you want to MOVE. Read on to get to know this beautiful soul better.

How would you describe the body/mind connection in qi gong?

For me, Qi Gong is so much more than just connecting the mind and body – it has become about the integration of the deepest part of myself, my fire, my soul, my spirit. The most powerful tool it has brought forth to me is the strength of my breath to shift, change and move energy that is not serving me. To give me the power, at any point in time during the day, to come back to myself through the simplicity of breath. There is so much power in the ability to breath and Qi Gong brought me that. It excites me to know that I am still at the beginning of my practice as a student of Qi Gong because already it has provided me so much beauty and strength.

When were you first introduced to Qi Gong? How has your relationship with this type of movement evolved over time?

I was first introduced to Qi Gong by my master pilates instructor Marta Hernandez. This woman is brilliance in all sense of the word. She embodies everything that is soul work and never shies away from exposing her students to the benefits of connecting to the deeper parts of themselves.

The interesting thing about this is that it has allowed me to find a type of meditation that works for me. I don’t sit still well and I was always in judgement of myself that I couldn’t “meditate” and there was so much shame in that for me. What this has allowed for me to do is that I found my own form of mediation through movement, combined with breath, that has allowed me to purge things that are not projecting me forward and then fill myself up with what I am needing to conquer, or just get through my day.

In the past my movement was all about power and strength and that a six pack and strong arms would make me feel like I was succeeding at taking on the world. What I found out later, was all that “strength” was the perfect tight little box that held all my fear, shame, guilt, anger, pain and anxiety to the point that my body started to fall apart and breakdown. Marta, pilates and Qi Gong came at the perfect time in my life to heal me, to empower me.

What inspired you to develop The Block? How does it differ from other workout classes?

I had literally hit rock bottom. I was projecting to the world that I had everything together. I was pregnant with my second beautiful little girl, an absolute blessing, and yet I hated the sight of myself. I was diagnosed with perinatal depression and I needed something to help me cope. I needed to move, to connect, to sweat but I needed to cry, to yell, to breathe. The Block was born from a place where I wanted to move properly and safely (through the principles of pilates) and shift all the sh!t that my spirit was feeling and replace it with all the support, love and compassion I needed to feel (Qi Gong). It is a culmination of all that I love and believe is necessary, power, strength, connection all starting from the simplest form of movement, breath.

What drew you to becoming a teacher?

Human connection, without a doubt. I love people in all their forms, shapes, colours and sizes. I love seeing the look in someone’s eyes when they get it, that smile, that posture, that confidence. That is what sets my soul on fire.

What’s your process like when you build a playlist for class? Any fave playlists of yours we should follow on Spotify? 

Oh goodness, haha, there is no greater victory dance that happens than when I find that song that just hits it. My playlist is my muse – she is what brings out the fire, the fierce and then the softness, the gentle in the perfect spots. My favourite one I have going right now is Werklab – Oakridge. It has all the feels.

Can you tell us a bit about the Reset Retreat you hosted in Galiano? Any more events/retreats planned for the future?

My retreat partner, Marika Richoz is literally the most talented chef I have every come in contact with and I am blessed to have her by my side not only in the kitchen (where I am the least talented human in the world) but also on a spiritual level. Sitting at a table and collaborating with her is one of the things that inspires me most. We are so aligned with each other in our vision of what we want to bring to the world.

The Reset was back in January and it was all about what we need to let go to move forward.  The vision and (I believe) executed result was that we created space for our guests to hit the reset button. To let go of all that was holding them back so they could see and feel what set their souls on fire and then gave them tools to move forward in that direction with love, compassion and light.  Marika and I are firm believers that it must first start within and that you must be your own biggest advocate, cheerleader and best friend in order to succeed, so that was what we tried to bring forward. There was also a whole lot of movement, sweating, hiking and epic food and conversation.

Our next retreat, The Renew, is on June 22nd in Whistler and we are beyond thrilled about what we have in store. This is all about what we wish to cultivate and grow in ourselves and as it’s happening on the weekend of the Summer Solstice, we look forward to the energy that it will bring forth.

Did becoming a mother change your perspective on health and wellness?

Haha, this is a loaded question that I could go on forever about.  Becoming a mother changed everything for me. It was the best and biggest smack to the face and ego I have ever had. For me becoming a mother to daughters, when my whole life was surrounded by boys/men (I have three brothers) was a whole other ball game. Becoming a mother softened me, exposed my pain, heartache, trauma of my youth and early adulthood and forced me to go through the depths of it all to become the type of woman I hope my daughters will be proud of. I am still a work in progress but I am forever grateful for them and all they have taught me – that the work of the soul is so much more important then the aesthetic of the vessel that carries it.

What are some of the ways you recharge and take care of yourself?

I am forever a student. I love taking new forms of movement and to be lead by other instructors.  I find it inspiring to see how others see and describe movement in all its forms and have always loved the excitement of trying something new.

Oh and of course the biggest and best recharge is cuddles with my girls. Chloe, my oldest, gives the best cuddles and is always asking for them which just fills me deeply with so much love I could burst. Ava, my baby, is all fire and spice until it’s bedtime when she lies in my arms, drinking her bottle with big, sleepy eyes that I constantly lose myself in. These moments are all that matter to me.

Favourite quote?

Only 1?!?! Oh goodness, well then it has to be from my girl who inspires me on the daily:

my ability to feel
is what makes me beautiful
and no one gets to
determine that but me

danielle doby

Follow Katie on Instagram or take one of her classes at Lagree West.

June 21, 2018