Many longtime yoga practitioners understand the link between yoga and creativity. For the most part, it’s obvious – being relaxed, feeling good about yourself, having the ability to concentrate, and being mindful are all important assets in the creative process. But there’s another side to it, too. And yoga instructor Kimi Hugli knows all about that. It works both ways: creativity can enhance yoga practice and a creative teacher can serve her clients and students in unique, personal, and innovative ways.
Originally from Darnestown, Maryland, Kimi graduated from the University of Richmond with a double major in Theater and Dance. She’s also a visual artist who engages in an organic process to create free-flowing abstract paintings. Her yoga classes evolve in a similar, natural way.
“When I first started teaching I had a class plan… And then as I got different clients every time, it became one of those things where I had to use my creativity and my knowledge, and I asked, ‘How are you feeling today? What are your injuries? Are there areas you would like to work on?’ And then after hearing whatever their feedback was, I created a class on the spot… there are some basic stretches that are for all levels of people, with different modifications or props to make it easier or harder. So I start with a little bit of a base, and then obviously I consult with my clients, my students, and I build more of a class from there. So that's definitely where my creativity has helped me a lot.”
In 2014, Kimi was certified as a teacher through LifePower Yoga, a training that helped her develop a deeper connection with herself and her own body. Between yoga classes, she continues to devote much of her time to creating art and performing in regional theater productions, including shows with Black Fedora Mystery Theater, Midtown Productions, Charleston Stage, and others. She’s also the mom to a bunny named Loki, an avid lifter, and a baker.
Kimi cites a sense of fulfillment and purpose in serving others as her ultimate motivation to teach yoga. She knows that yoga can be much more than just another gym workout – it can be a lifestyle change that you take home with you. She emphasizes some of the moves that students can do at home on a regular basis. “I always just try and give tips,” she says. "’This is something you can do in bed. Just put your feet up against the wall.’ So I'm always trying to encourage them to bring their practice home, and it doesn't have to be a whole practice obviously, but just encouraging them to really listen to their bodies.”
Not only can yoga, as Kimi teaches it, help with pain and stiff necks, spine, hips, and shoulders, but can offer some general improvements that go well beyond the physical. “Yoga helps calm the mind, body and spirit,” she tells us. “It's a great way to learn how to feel good in your own body. It's a great way to open up your heart, I think... I guess apart from just getting physically better with strength, flexibility, and ... cardio, apart from those physical benefits, I really think it's a spiritual or a mind practice as well, if you wish it to be so.”
Her ability to serve others comes from her desire to create friendship and connection with everyone who comes to her class. The feedback loop between client and teacher is what informs the direction of her classes. While she may occasionally teach a more vigorous power yoga class, her classes are mostly known for their gentleness and emphasis on meditation and mindfulness.
She includes two meditation sessions in each class, “to bring the mind back into the body and let go of to-do lists or errands and all of that and just be with yourself so that you can truly feel... So it's something that's cumulative, and it is something hard to build unless you're coming regularly to a class or you carve out time to meditate.”
The purpose of all this is to help people learn to tune in to their own bodies and minds a little more. With her level of yoga knowledge and creativity, Kimi is able to offer personalized recommendations and custom-tailored classes that address the specific needs of the students. Her suggestions might be about small things – a different way to twist or a slight change in movement – but they are the kind of recommendations that, over time, can increase relaxation, release of tension, increase ability to be mindful, and to create deep and lasting change.
“I am one of those people who loves giving Christmas presents more than receiving,” Kimi says. “I mean, it's always great to receive, but I get a lot of joy when I've had a couple people hug me after class, or just be very, very grateful, and say, ‘Thank you so much, that felt so good. My hips are a little more open, or my neck feels so much better.’ And that's beyond words, beyond describing. It's such a great feeling, to be giving somebody something like that!”