“I’m not goal driven ….I’m Fun driven,” Beth Lytle laughs, as she sips her iced hibiscus green tea. Sitting across the table from this attractive, sprite-like woman, I find this intriguing statement easy to believe. Lithe and lively, she sports a short pixie haircut (color changes frequently to match her moods), bright, intelligent eyes, a sprinkling of freckles, and a mischievous smile. Her very posture suggests “free spirit” and her demeanor invites you to join right in. Irresistible, really.
Beth Lytle: Yoga for Growth, Balance, and Fun!
But it was not only this obvious “joie de vivre” that first drew me to Beth. There was something deeper.
About a year ago, when I first started “The Tree Series,” I met Beth and learned that she was a yoga instructor. Coincidentally, I was also drawing – just for fun and because yoga is an important component in my own life – tree-people doing yoga. Although these early drawings weren’t specifically about Beth, she was there in my mind. We became Facebook friends and I started to notice her posts.
Beth sometimes talked about her classes, but more often, her posts were personal reflections – thoughtful comments on the day-to-day business of her life. She wrote about situations that she initially found negative or annoying and she would struggle with these reactions. Yet in the end, she would re-frame them in ways that brought more openness, kindness and flexibility into her life. She was so honest – vulnerable and approachable at the same time. She got my attention.
Here was someone who worked – in a deliberate and thoughtful way – to become a better, stronger, and more understanding person. And she was having fun doing it. She was not just teaching yoga, she was incorporating its core values into her everyday life.
This is not easy to do. I think most of us start our days with this intent, but then life rushes on, we get caught up in our day-to-day stuff and old habits kick in. Our good intentions remain intentions. So how does this “surely just as busy as I am person” manage it?
I ask Beth about this. “Yoga is about becoming aware and present in your life,” Beth explains. “It allows you to accept [what life offers] graciously and to act compassionately. It reminds you to pause long enough to create awareness and be intentional in your actions.” It takes practice and we are not always successful, but yoga is a wonderful tool for creating awareness and managing stress. Beth emphasizes that yoga is a method of stress management – not stress reduction. There will always be stress. “Your practice teaches you to bring yourself down – you do the work and learn the techniques to manage the stress. You learn when to let it go.”
Certainly, Beth has had stressors in her own life. Her father left their family when Beth was 6 and her sister was 4. She didn’t see him again until she was 18. Other life changes – self-discovery, spiritual identity, marriage and divorce, being a single mom – came with their own elements of anxiety and uncertainty. But Beth was well equipped to handle them. Her mom, a strong and very caring woman, taught her daughters to take responsibility for themselves. This early training served her well. “I never felt like a victim,” Beth explains. It gave her the confidence to take chances and pursue her own values. Ultimately, it led to her choice to become a yoga instructor.
Beth took her first Yoga class at a local YMCA in January, 2000 in Wichita, Kansas, where she was living at the time. She laughingly credits Madonna for piquing her interest in yoga. “I saw Madonna interviewed on TV right after she had her first baby,” Beth explains. “She was in incredible shape and claimed it was because of her Yoga practice.” Beth decided to give it a try. The principles of yoga fit well with her own values and allowed her to build on them. In 2002, she completed the minimum program for basic certification and began teaching.
Almost immediately, Beth developed a rapport with her students. Driven by their questions and expectations – “they wanted more from me and more from yoga” – she completed the 200-hour certification program in 2004. Soon, she was leading six or more group classes and nine private sessions per week.
“Often, when we go through periods of big, personal evolution,” Beth explains, “some areas of our lives just don’t fit the way they used to. I was growing, not just my business, but really expanding my spiritual self and exploring old junk that needed to be healed and released. In retrospect, I see that the process shook up the relationship I was in. Or rather, it shook me up within the relationship.” Beth knew she had to make some changes. She and her young son Beau left Wichita and moved back to her hometown of Hawkins, Texas to be near her family. Beth rented a house in Hawkins and started a small yoga class in Big Sandy.*
Beth reflects for a moment. “I know it sounds crazy for a single mom to choose teaching yoga part-time as her means of support, but I value my freedom more than material things. It’s a matter of choices and priorities.” She had the flexibility she needed to be home with Beau. Beth has since remarried, and her work allows her to manage her roles of wife, mom, and stepmom.
“Yoga is a perfect fit for who I am,” Beth notes. “I can do what I want and make it fun for myself.” In college, she majored in English and minored in journalism and theater, and before marriage and motherhood, she taught English and Drama for several years. Teaching yoga allows her to take the things she’s good at – speaking, writing and performing – and blend them in way that is both fun and rewarding. “I can’t imagine a more affirming job – students come up to me all the time and tell me how my classes have helped them.” At the same time, she has the personal freedom to live her life in accordance with her values. For Beth, yoga is about nurturing and students learning to nurture themselves.
“I believe we are driven to do what we love and enjoy,” Beth continues. “By satisfying that need for ourselves, we are free to help other people. And that feeds our own happiness.” It’s a positive and reinforcing circle. Beth realizes that we all want work that is meaningful and makes a difference. For her, that work is teaching yoga. Beth describes herself as a conduit – “the yoga flows through me – the students are really doing it for themselves.”
Here’s what Beth’s students say:
“Beth has a sweet, welcoming spirit and has been such a positive influence in my life. Her curiosity and interest in life and the people around her is infectious. I’m a lucky girl to be her student and friend.” -Meredith Hogue Watson
“Beth Lytle is the most caring, supportive, positive, loving guide in my life. Her ability to share her energy and powerful, life experiences and joy has made a huge impact on my life experience. Beth’s guidance of not just yoga but relationships with people and our beautiful planet are unsurpassed.” – Beth Walker
Definitely more than a conduit… more like a force. Beth has found a way to create joy in her own life and to share it with others. And she has a great time doing it!
Thank you, Beth Lytle, for sharing your story, your talents, and your fun!
* Beth Lytle teaches classes at Holly Lake Community Center, Trinity Mother Francis Fitness Center in Lindale, and the Windhorse Yoga Studio in Tyler. She also has an evening class in Rusk County and is developing a “Yoga for Weight Loss” class.