I first met Rachel at Bikram Yoga Teacher Training in Fall 2011. We didn’t hang within the same group of people and didn’t have much interaction within the 9-week period. Honestly, during teacher training you’re basically in survival mode and though some moments are crystal clear, others are an all out blur. At some point I realized she was one of the teachers there from the Chicagoland area and therefore thought I might run into her after training, but our big bonding moment was on graduation day. As I was headed up to the stage to collect my teaching certificate I saw Rachel sitting waiting for her cue to go up on the stage as well. We both looked fabulous that day…in the same dress. She jumped up with a big grin on her face and we snapped a picture of the moment.
Not a week later, back home comfortable on the couch in my own home with the dog on my lap, my husband received a phone call from his fellow middle school teacher and friend, Kevin.
“Did your wife just graduate from Bikram Yoga Teacher Training?” he asked my husband.
“Yes, she just got home last week,” he replied.
“My daughter just graduated as well. They were there together!”
My husband looked at me and said, “Did you know you were there with Kevin’s daughter?”
And all of a sudden it hit me – Rachel Kuhn. My beautiful friend in the matching dress at graduation was someone I had heard about from her father when chatting at my husband’s work get-togethers and functions for years. The world sometimes can feel incredibly small.
As it turns out we ended up teaching at some of the same studios over the past 3 years and I’ve gotten to know what a shining light this friend of mine can be. We both had different dreams when it came to teaching. I dreamed of finally getting off the road and enjoying the adventure of staying home and in one place for once, while Rachel wanted to travel and teach around the world.
To date Rachel continues to teach on and off in Chicagoland, but has also been able to effect students and studios in Istanbul, Turkey, as well as, London and Cambridge in the UK. Her class is fierce, filled with energy and compassion, and she kills me in the best way possible every time.
But, her latest adventure is the one that truly moved me. She decided to hike the Camino de Santiago, a 784.9km, 487.7-mile trek from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago, Spain. She started in late August and just wrapped up her hike a few days ago.
Often thought of as a spiritual journey or pilgrimage Rachel decided to tie her hike to a fundraising campaign for Feed My Starving Children, a charity that, “strives to eliminate starvation in children throughout the world by helping to instill compassion in people to hear and respond to the cries of those in need.” Her goal is to raise enough money to feed a village for an entire year.
When I asked her why she decided to take such a long trek, she replied, “My dear friend Gina (fellow yoga teacher as well!), and my incredible cousin Janine (the one who introduced me to Bikram Yoga!), both shared with me their intention to take this pilgrimage on for themselves someday, as I had not yet heard of it before them. Then Gina walked El Camino last spring and her powerful Momma joined her for the final 200km or so. Gina returned home and moved me to inspiration and tears about her extraordinary experience. I then started to plan on walking El Camino in the spring of 2015. However, another miracle happened and my brother got engaged and the wedding will be next year around that time. I was having a bit of trouble securing a Bikram Yoga teaching gig abroad for September and suddenly I heard it. Or more so, I finally was willing to listen to the Universe … “NOW is it, you’ve got only NOW: GO.” And suddenly it made sense to walk for something bigger than myself. Inspired by my Mom, who had been volunteering for the non-profit organization Feed My Starving Children for several years, I chose to also walk to end hunger for children and, therefore, creating transformation not just on a personal level via this pilgrimage, but also, hopefully, on a global level as well.”
The trail is a daunting one and no small feat to complete. When asked about what she experienced on the trail day after day, she said, “HUMILITY. HUMILITY. HUMILITY. Also, gratitude, along with awe, blisters, love, despair, shin splints, inspiration, the flu, the human spirit at it’s finest, compassion, healing, and power. And, in all seriousness: miracles EVERYDAY. People giving and receiving…strangers becoming best friends in a moment, as one takes the other’s dirty, injured feet in their hands, without even batting an eye, and gives healing.”
She continues on stating, “None of my accomplishments (this pilgrimage included) are mine. Never have I accomplished a single thing on my own…there was always a community of rockstar human beings that made ‘my’ accomplishments possible.”
In reading this response I was curious. For me it always comes back to the yoga, because as a teacher it’s less of an activity and more of a lifestyle choice. When I wanted to know how she thought it would affect her teaching and her practice, she replied, “Oh wow, I can’t wait to see… I really hope it allows for a deeper, more impactful connection to what’s possible for my practice and even more so, for my student’s practice. I also believe there will be a whole new experience of gratitude for the ABILITY/PRIVILEGE to practice and teach this yoga.”
Though Rachel crossed the finish line of her journey joined by her parents on October 4th, she is continuing to try and reach her fundraising goal of $8,030 to feed an entire village for a year. If every person that reads VIEWS FROM THE PODIUM each week had the ability and the will to contribute $10 she would reach her goal. If you would like to be a part of the journey you can find Rachel’s donation page here: Donate to FEED MY STARVING CHILDREN.
For more pictures of Rachel’s journey check out her Facebook Page: Ending Hunger One Step at a Time – El Camino for the Children.
We’re all just walking each other home – Ram Dass
Do you know a Bikram Yoga teacher going beyond the podium? I would love to write further articles on teacher’s taking their practice outside the studio doors. Please contact me via the VIEWS FROM THE PODIUM Facebook Page or Twitter @ToriHicksGlo and tell me their or your story.
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