We had the good fortune of connecting with Kala MacDonald and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kala, is there something you can share with us that those outside of the industry might not be aware of?
The yoga industry is extremely, EXTREMELY unregulated. So many so-called yoga teachers, even very popular ones, around the world have nothing more than a 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) certificate, if that. You don’t need a high school education or the equivalent, you don’t need any accompanying college/university degree, and while the larger governing agencies within the yoga profession do “require” Continuing Education (C.E.) credits be fulfilled every so often, those programs are also often unregulated.
The unfortunate fact is that many (I’d even venture to say “most”) yoga teachers are sickeningly under-qualified to be working with you when you lay your mat out in their studios, as there is not nearly enough regulation of YTT and C.E. programming to safely assume every yoga teacher you go to for class is able and ready to handle your individual body, injuries, traumas, emotional state, and so fourth. My advice, especially if you re brand new or a beginner exploring yoga, when you see a class labeled “all-levels” …RUN. Or, better yet, speak with that teacher or studio about being more explanatory with their class descriptions so you and others know exactly which rooms are meant for you and safe for you.
Luckily, there are a few small-but-mighty new organizations popping up in the yoga professional sphere trying to change the lack of regulation, professionalism, and standards of the industry. They’re doing so via peer-reviewed hierarchies of teachers (i.e. to differentiate between someone who just got their 200-hour YTT certificate yesterday vs. someone who has their 500-hour+ YTT certificate(s) and has been learning, reflecting, pivoting, and teaching for 30 years) and via peer-reviewed standardized testing for membership, thus setting apart those who can understand and display some of the basics of yoga anatomy, philosophy, practice, and teaching. It’s for this reason that I feel its an exciting time to be a yoga teacher, we are on the cusp of some very needed and exciting change!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’ve lost both of my younger brothers, Jordan to homicide in 2013 and Brenton to suicide in 2016. They were 21 and 22 when they passed. During my times of grief, I dove deeply into an established, fitness-minded yoga practice that suddenly was the vessel that carried me through both unimaginable losses. Yoga became my medicine and my therapy, and I quickly decided to pursue a YTT certification to become a teacher so I could share the myriad benefits of a foundational purposeful yoga practice. I studied in Bali (twice!) to eventually earn my 500-hour Certified Yoga Teacher status from Zuna Yoga. I don’t teach yoga classes, per se. Instead, I specialize in foundational Tantric Hatha Yoga practices, the pieces, particularly to cope through depression, anxiety and stress.
In 2020, during a pandemic that afforded me a lot of free, creative time, I authored my first book, “Grow, Eat, Breathe, Repeat”, a 168-page plant-based guide book featuring personal essays, kitchen shopping lists, simple recipes, and home gardening guides. When I’m not working to grow the nonprofit organization I founded in 2018, Yoga to Cope, or hosting our organization’s weekly wellness podcast of the same name, you can find me planning my next wellness retreat somewhere around the world or cozy at home in LA. I am currently midway through a Yoga Studies Master’s degree at Loyola Marymount University and preparing to pilot my first teacher training programs in Fall 2022 – both a 50-hour Re-Teacher Training for already-certified yoga teachers and a full 200-hour YTT for those new to their interest in teaching yoga.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If I were hosting someone in LA, we would spend the first night or two here at my place in the Valley for a proper catch up and taco tour. First we’d be ordering fish tacos and chicken street tacos from the cart that parks around the corner from my house, and the next day we’d get the potato tacos and perfect guacamole from Sol y Luna down the road. A full compare and contrast over spicy margaritas would be in order, of course, and at some point we would need to do a little Runyon canyon hike + Alfred Coffee stop to keep energy levels high.
Then we would need to relocate to a rented bungalow near my favorite beaches in Malibu along the PCH for the rest of the trip. We’d stop for orange wines and snacks at a grocery store along the way so we could cook and BBQ at the house to the sounds of the ocean ever day and evening. There would be plenty of book reading, plenty of beach walking, and plenty of card games. We’d have to set aside one sunset dinnertime to splurge on Nobu. The food is delightful and fresh, the ambiance is cool and a little Hollywood, and the views are hard to beat. I’d hope my friend’s favorite celeb would happen to be dining at the same time as we were.
On the drive home we’d stop for coffee, head back to my place for one last goodbye, and I’d get her an Uber to the airport, because friends don’t let friends drive you to LAX.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My ongoing learning and fascination with yoga and teaching began with two intensive YTT trainings in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia (Zuna Yoga) and have currently landed me in the middle of an M.A. in Yoga Studies degree and a 100-hour Yoga, Mindfulness, and Social Change certificate program in Los Angeles (Loyola Marymount University).
Images by: Victoria Wall Harris and Zack Cloud Hall