Teacher Feature: Catherine Burke

Introducing Ms. May ; Catherine Burke!

We definitely got a good chuckle and a lot of new info about the ever so poised and creative teacher we all know and love. Enjoy!

 1.Brief, non-yoga teacher bio; other interests/passions. Where are you from, what’s your heritage, how many sibling if any, pets or no pets.

CB: I was born and raised in uptown New Orleans. I left to study art in NYC and ended up staying there 7 years before moving back. I think because I’ve traveled quite a bit, and spent a good chunk of time living away (where I had the “y’all” and “where ya at” shamed out of me), people are often surprised that I’m from here. But I like to brag that I’m so natrally N’awlins I have a place waiting for me in St. Roch cemetery (true). I have an older sister, a baby niece and a nephew on the way. Since college, I’ve parlayed my visual arts degree into a career as a graphic designer, doing work primarily for local non-profits and arts organizations, and I also teach an annual graphic design workshop at NOCCA. I freelanced for many years, but since last year, I’ve been working full-time as the graphic designer for the New Orleans Public Library. Working full-time and being at Reyn as much as I can doesn’t leave much time for pets, unfortunately, but I still tease myself by reading bios on the LASPCA website and occasionally cruising dog parks.

mardigras         2. Least favorite / hardest posture for you.

CB: Uff.. Parvritta Trikonasana is the first one that pops into my mind. Something about maintaining proper alignment through the foundation – grounding down through the feet, engaging the legs, keeping hips level, often feels very wobbly to me. To then try to open up and find freedom, lift, and twist through the upper body is always a challenge and a bit of a battle. Students should know anytime I teach that in class I do it with total compassion and a little bit of dread.


3. Whats your favorite part about being a yoga teacher?

 CB: I could literally go on and on about this one. On the most superficial level, I think it’s amazing that my job requires me to be barefoot and basically wearing pajamas, and around other people who are just as comfortable! As a necessary complement to all the time I spend working by myself and at a computer, teaching yoga requires me to be really present and responsive. I don’t play any instruments, but I imagine the sense of total presence and flow musicians get into when they play is similar to what I feel when I’m teaching. Even more so than when I’m practicing sometimes, when I teach, my mind is completely focused on the moment, staying fully present and observant, and anything else that was going on in my mind from before class disappears. It’s there when class is over, but it’s really quite remarkable how much space I get to clear in my own mind simply by showing up and guiding someone else to do the same. Teaching also reminds me to be a little easier on myself and not sweat the inevitable mistakes – “oops, I forgot that pose on the second side” or “I can’t keep left and right straight today.” Students may not always realize it, but we notice when we screw things up and there’s a lot to learn there about just loving your mistakes and going with it. I also love how teaching inspires me to keep practicing and studying something I already deeply love because I want to keep bringing new perspectives and insight to my students. One of my favorite metaphors for teaching yoga is that we are guides along a trail. As a guide, our job is to point out places along the trail where we’ve stumbled, how we’ve learned to cross a particularly difficult part of it, and to remind students to enjoy the view after they’ve done the hard work to get there. Thinking of the practice this way is like really paying attention to nature – you’ll always notice something new. We’re all on the trail but we’re each having our own personal discoveries. Probably most of all, I love seeing progress in my students, the tiny ah-ha moments and the complete physical and emotional transformations you get to witness as a yoga teacher.


4. What’s your favorite tv show to binge watch (if any).

CB: Oh man, yoga teacher tell-all! I really try to limit my screen use, considering I’m already in front of one most of the day. But…..I have definitely gone through some phases. At the moment, I’ve been drawn to anything light and silly that’s going to make me laugh – Inside Amy Schumer has recently been doing the job – so funny! Arrested Development, 30 Rock, Louie, and Portlandia are all classics I re-watch when I need a reliable laugh. The Wire and Friday Night Lights were both pretty all-consuming journeys. Now I really try to watch more one-off shows rather than something that’s going to suck me in too deep. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

5. Favorite NOLA restaurant or hang out. croatia

CB: I basically always want to be outside. Bayou St John and the chime tree in City Park and are probably two of my favorite spots on earth. Pagoda Cafe is my neighborhood coffee shop, which I love for its outdoor seating and overall positive vibes. The Green Fork on Prytania is my go-to for a delicious pick-me-up. I follow a paleo diet to manage some chronic health issues, and they have an amazing paleo muffin that satisfies my craving for a baked goodie once in awhile, not to mention super fresh and creative juices and smoothies, and kombucha on tap. Oh, and anywhere with an oyster happy hour!

6. Something students may not know about you.

CB: This surprises even me, but unintentionally, every car I’ve ever owned has been a convertible… Holler at me on a sunny day!

7. Yogi-toe, Yay? or Nay?

CB:  Nope, just maintaining a good strong grip into a sticky mat, or clawing into the ground when I get to practice in my backyard works the best for me.