My name is Kala MacDonald and I am a Tantric Hatha Meditation and Yoga Coach. I am also the founder and president of nonprofit organization Yoga to Cope, which provides free, online yoga-based resources to people coping through trauma, grief, depression, and the like.
I am a meditation and yoga coach, daughter to my divorced parents Sherri and Mike, and sister to my two half-brothers, Brenton on my mom’s side and Jordan on my dad’s.
It was 2008 and I was packing to leave for college. My mom had lost her husband to cancer a couple of years back, and we had quickly moved into a modular home park after his passing. I remember being excited that our modular home was brand new, but as a teenager, I admittedly was overwhelmed with feelings of shame that we would be living in a trailer park. By the time I was leaving for school, my brother Brenton had established a friend group in the park and I saw him doing what many teenage boys do, testing limits, and pushing boundaries. When he and my mom dropped me off in Tennessee, I wondered if he would be okay.
Shortly after arriving at Belmont University I found a Groupon for a hot yoga studio and decided to take advantage. I was in search of exercise to combat my feeling heavy for the first time in my life. I left the first class drenched and elated, and I was excited to go back and do it all again the next day, and the next. And I did. I fell in love with yoga. It made me feel capable, detoxified, and light on my feet. The music was excellent, the people were kind. It smelled nice.
I ended up home in Missouri to finish my undergraduate degree. When I did, I promptly moved back to Nashville with my then-fiancé. We got a house and a puppy, and I began working as a nanny. It was quiet time and I was reading with the 4-year-old when my phone rang. It was my dad, and so I marked my page in my Louise Penny novel and answered the call. My dad proceeded to tell me my brother Jordan was dead. The next day my fiancé and I drove the nine hours home to Kansas City. What followed was a blur of service planning and urn selecting, uncomfortable hugs and so many flowers. I quietly decided to end my engagement and broke things off with him about a month later. I quit my job and left Tennessee, and thus began a multi-year exploration of self.
Within these years I reconnected to yoga and was on my mat sometimes as often as six times per week, but it was different. I noticed my practice had become the therapy I couldn’t afford at the time, and I was focused on the mindful and emotional challenges, not just the physical ones. I stopped comparing myself to the girl next to me in class and began to only compare myself to who I was the day before.
2016 began in South Korea and ended at my first yoga teacher training in Bali, and it was every bit as magical, preparatory, and worthwhile as I had dreamed. I came home from that YTT with a new plan: move to Los Angeles the day after Christmas, and nanny until I could find work as a yogi. I announced said plan to my friends and family, planning to spend the holiday months with them before the big move westward. I got a part-time job at a Westport bar for spending money until the big move.
I was waitressing there one night in late October when my mom showed up, which felt instantly odd. I met her at the door, knowing something must be wrong, and she told me my brother Brenton had died by suicide. We climbed in the backseat of her boyfriend’s car – he had been circling the block – and were taken to identify his body. It was like deja vu, but with the second side of my family. Another service, another cremation (we even went to the same place), more hugs, more flowers. In that instant, I went from being the oldest child to being the only child between my parents, each now without their son.
I’ve been asked if I think the grieving process ends. My answer is no, I don’t think it does. In college, yoga was just a workout. Twelve years later, it is my everything. If I thought my practice was therapeutic after losing Jordan to homicide, it was doubly so after losing Brenton to suicide. I’ll never understand how I’ve survived. I should be completely broken, and I feel guilty sometimes that I’m not.
The golden thread through all of the darkness has been my practice, which continues to remind me of the gift that is the present moment, something my brothers no longer have. I believe my immersion into yoga and its myriad practices make me stronger in every sense of the word. Though my brothers are no longer physically here, I find peace in knowing that they are still somehow present. They are the handful of salt dissolving into the ocean. Yoga, in my darkest years and hardest moments, has given me peace and a feeling of connection that I value so very much, and so it is my own purpose in this life to share yoga’s treasures with others in need.
To learn more about Yoga To Cope tune in to our weekly podcast, or read along with our new Book Club. You can learn more about me, explore my Women’s Wellness retreat offerings, find out how to work together, and more by visiting www.yogawithkala.com.
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