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Leading With Pride (PART 3: Katarina Wittkamp)




It’s been a real honor to be an observer and admirer of Katarina’s amazing transformation and growth as a yoga teacher and leader.  What I love about this interview is that having known Kat for so many years, I know that the advice that she is giving is advice that she lives by.  Kat is warm and strong.  She is bold and brave, and also gentle.  She is a learner for life, a listener, and this is apparent whether you interact with her as a student in class, at one of her workshops, or at the Modo Yoga Teacher Trainings that she co facilitates.  Kat loves teaching teachers so much, that she decided to begin mentoring teachers one on one.   She shares thoughts on leadership as well as a fun story about her first Pride parade. 


Jess: What do you think is most important in a leader?

Katarina:  A leader has to have a good sense of their personal vision/mission, while also being flexible and receptive to the values and talents of the folks they’re working with. Everyone needs to have space to grow and evolve—the leader’s voice isn’t the only voice in the room that matters. They must have the ability to hold to their values and priorities while also giving their team/collaborators space to have their own. A leader must also know when to draw the line on their non-negotiables to maintain a vision for the direction the team is moving in.

Jess: How has your vision of leadership changed over the years?

Katarina: I used to think leadership was all about knowing everything, having all the answers and needing to steer the ship alone. I now know that that’s a) impossible, b) so stressful and c) booooring! In my books, great leadership is about empowering others to shine and creating something greater than can be done alone. The question of great leadership really becomes about sharing and amplifying power and creativity for the greater benefit of all. It’s energizing, freeing and expansive when viewed that way!

Jess: How do you celebrate Pride Month personally and/or in community?

Katarina: I’m a bit of a late bloomer in this regard. I came out only a few years ago (most of those years were spent in lockdown). Pride has been an evolving process for me. Last year I attended Pride with my wife in London, ON where we were living at the time. I thought we’d just watch the parade from the sidewalk like everyone else. But a friend of mine, Courtney, who owns the spin studio Lost Cycle, rented a 30-person tandem bike and as it passed by, she called us out and invited us to jump on at the beginning of the parade. It was epic being a PART of the parade and not just watching from the sidelines. We sang, danced and peddled our way on this massive bike through London, and had the best time. This year, we’ll be attending the Pride Parade and other related events in Vancouver. I’m excited to meet more folks in the community here. Hey, maybe we’ll hop onto another Pride float! 

Jess: How many years have you been teaching?  What advice do you have for teachers?

Katarina: I’ve been teaching since 2011. My advice for teachers is to keep an open mind and don’t decide too early on in the journey what kind of teacher you are. So often I hear new yoga teachers making big conclusive statements about who they are as teachers like: “I’m not a Flow teacher” or “I’m only going to teach slow classes,” but they’ve only been teaching for a few years. Allow yourself to try on different styles, continue to immerse yourself in continuing education, and be open to your preferences changing. In many ways, this is like becoming an artist, and as we’ve seen with many of the Great Artists of our time, their style of expression changes through the years—and yours likely will, too. 

Oh and also, take this seriously. This is a real job and an honourable profession, and you aren’t being irresponsible by teaching yoga and this isn’t a waste of your university degree (that last bit was more for me when I was a new teacher!!)

Jess: How can we all be better allies in and out of the studio for the LGBTQL+2 community?


Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Is the new person coming to the studio with a regular their friend or their partner? Just ask! 

Given we live in the societal context of heteronormativity, be mindful of internalized homophobia. You don’t have to be ashamed of the beliefs you grew up with around what’s “normal” or “not normal” in terms of gender expression and sexual orientation. Much of that was outside of your control. But it IS your responsibility to address those beliefs now that you’re a grown adult. I’ve had to do inner work around this too! It’s brave and essential work! Kinda scary but ultimately freeing.

Know that living in the world as a Queer person is not the same life experience as being straight. Be curious about your Queer friends’ life experiences. Seek to understand, ask great questions and practice active listening. This is how we form better relationships and deeper understanding of one another! Love each other wholly!


To read more from Katarina visit her blog, and to attend a class with her at Modo Yoga North Vancouver, check out her teaching schedule.


Jess Robertson is Modo Yoga’s Co Founder, Senior Advisor, and Community Documentarian.  She is also a writer, musician, yoga teacher and Co Founder of the New Leaf Foundation. She lives in Montreal, Canada with her 2 kids.