For the past 25-plus years, fitness expert and celebrity trainer Rebecca Kordecki has been working with individuals to become “the boss of their happy and healthy,” as she puts it.
The founder of RK FIT and creator of “Booty Slide”—the full-body slide-based workout that’s become so ubiquitous it’s sold at Walmart and Kmart—quickly became a go-to trainer in both Los Angeles and New York, where she’s worked with celebrities and professional athletes like Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Khloe Kardashian, Reggie Bush, and Jim Carrey.
But when working out wasn’t helping get through a difficult situation, the 57-year-old trainer decided that she needed to expand her wellness toolbox, not only for herself, but also for her clients. After discovering the practice of breathwork—which is commonly used during yoga workouts—Kordecki launched the Breath Zone, which offers breathwork meditation classes, breathwork teacher certifications, and a new class called “BreathPlay.” It’s since become the focus of her work.
“When I think about all the things I’d seen people shift and change and let go of through breathwork, it was so much greater than all of the things I’d ever done with my fitness,” Kordecki, says.
During a recent Zoom call, Kordecki talked to Los Angeles about how fitness saved her life after recovering from a cocaine drug addiction, how she created a fitness empire, and why she’s now expanding her expertise to include breathwork. The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
You’ve been very vocal over the years about your difficult upbringing and your struggles with drug addiction. Can you talk about that period of your life and when you eventually hit rock bottom?
When I was 18,19, I discovered cocaine for the first time. My mom actually is the first person who introduced me to it by giving me a line with a friend of hers. My mom just wasn’t right. She was like, ‘If you’re gonna do drugs, I want you to try it with me.’ She gave me a line of coke and I hated it. Then two years later, I tried it on my own, and I loved it. So, I went into a major addiction for about six, seven years, where literally it was the kind of addiction where I would stay up for five days straight using smoking, snorting, doing whatever. It was so bad to the point where I probably shouldn’t even be here. It’s a miracle because of the situations I got myself in.
I hit my rock bottom when I was 26, and I remember one night it was like 4 a.m. I’d been partying for days and I’d had a fight with my drug dealer and his girlfriend. I ended up with a bloody nose and they kicked me out of their house where I’d been staying. So I was walking down Lankershim Boulevard and I had nothing on me. And I was like if I don’t do something now, I’m either going to be six feet under, or I’m going to use until I don’t know where I’ll end up. So just in that moment I made this decision to move back in with my adoptive father.
After making that decision, you moved to Wisconsin to live with your adoptive father and enrolled in a rehab center, where you eventually got clean. Then shortly after, you started running, which you’ve said ultimately changed your life. Why did you start running and how did it help you turn things around?
My family lived on an 80-acre farm, so there were just country roads for miles so I would run and run and run eight miles a day. Ten miles a day. Finally I’m like, “I should run a marathon.” So I gave myself a goal, which also incentivized me to keep running. My goal was to run the L.A. marathon when I came home cause I knew I was going to come back to L.A., but I just wanted to make sure that I was solid in my sobriety.
When I did that marathon, it was a big deal for me to achieve something after recovering.
You went on to launch your first fitness company, RK FIT, in 1994 after you were laid off from a previous job in an unrelated field. Then, after several years of working in fitness, you pivoted towards breathwork. Take us back to when you first discovered breathwork and why it made such an impact on you?
I was in a situation in which I was breaking up with someone. It got very toxic and I knew that I needed to get out of it, but I kept thinking I could save them. There came a point in time where I realized I needed to get out for my own health and safety. But I was paralyzed. All my tools like working out ten hours a day didn’t work, writing my ass off wasn’t working, doing yoga and meditating weren’t working. So somebody said to me, go try breathwork and I’m like, well, ‘What’s that?’
So, I found this place called the DEN Meditation center, which was where I used to teach for four years before it closed during COVID. I went there and took a breathwork class and it blew me away. I got cracked open—what we say in breathwork class—and all of the stuff that I still hadn’t worked on that was still underneath all of the work I’d already done that was buried. And it came out and I just had this big guttural, fetal cry and all of these emotions came out at once. In that moment, I also knew this is the thing I’m meant to do right now.
I knew breathwork was my medicine to get me clear on how to deal with that person and get out of this relationship in a healthy way with integrity. But I also knew that I had discovered the new thing that would be the evolution of my work.
You originally built your career around helping people improve themselves physically, but you eventually shifted to focusing on helping your client’s focus within. For you, what is the distinct difference between the two?
It doesn’t matter if you have a six pack [if] your heart is funky or your stomach is always in knots. And it also conversely doesn’t matter if you got your mind solid and your “Om” on but you can’t walk up a flight up stairs because you’re not fit. So where do we find the balance of spirituality and, and mindset and balance there with fitness and health and good diet? I’ve been wanting to find a way to like, bring them together, instead of having them be two opposing forces. How can we be fit and spiritual and mindful and all of those things that bring them together. As I was discovering this work in myself and fixing some of my traumas, triggers, and pains, I was going ‘God, I want to do this with my clients.’
It’s been about six years since you launched the Breath Zone, and I’m curious if you enjoy teaching breathwork more than fitness now, or vice versa?
Gosh, I hate to say this because I loved my fitness career. I mean I’m so grateful for it, but I feel like the work I do in breathwork now, almost supersedes all the years I was in fitness. When I think about all the things I’d seen people shift and change and let go of through breathwork, it was so much greater than all of the things I’d ever done with my fitness. I always say every time I teach, I get more than I give. It’s just a beautiful practice. It’s a beautiful way for people to, again, be the boss of their own happy and healthy with something that’s available to them 24/7. Our breath is available all day, every day. You just need to kind of understand how to work with it and it can be empowering and freeing and can create homeostasis in the body where when we feel out of whack and crazy and anxious and scared, it can bring you back to center and grounded so quickly.
You’ve also launched what you call “BreathPlay” within your practice. Can you talk about what that is and what benefits it has?
To me what “BreathPlay” represents—and I’m just starting to build out what more of that will look like in the future and classes and stuff and I want to work with kids with it—but it’s more about learning how to play with the breath. Instead of like forcing a system of, you know, 4-7-8 breath pattern, which is a four-second inhale, hold for seven seconds, and then exhale for eight or a box breathing, which is 4-4-4-4. So there’s all these breath patterns that have formulas and they can be very restrictive in that you have to sit there and count the numbers and count the seconds and they can feel stifling. [But] to me, the reason why we want to do the breath is to feel free instead of having to count or hold or clock it.
“I knew breathwork was my medicine”
With “Breath Play,” we’re taking the breath and playing with things like what is a breath hold and a breath sigh? Like a breath hold of holding for 30 seconds. Breathing in and holding for 30 and then letting it out with a big audible sigh. What does that feel like? And what if you add some shaking to that and getting energy out of your body? What if you’re dancing while you’re breathing and physically moving and doing all kinds of combinations with the breath while you play with it, but without having to think about a number and account and this and that. And you’re just playing with the breath and getting comfortable with breath and getting comfortable with breath, and understanding breath, and being silly with the breath, and seeing how the breath can be medicine and it doesn’t have to feel like work right? Because you call it breathwork immediately people think, you know, is it work? [Laughs]
Are you still training people fitness wise, or are you primarily focusing on breathwork and BreathPlay?
I still love both. I mean, I’m still very passionate about fitness. And yeah, when I get certain clients that will come to me and they want to work with me, absolutely open to it and do it. More of what I’m going to probably continue with fitness is group stuff. I’m probably creating another version of “Booty Slide” like “Booty Slide 2.0” that I will release soon. I did a challenge during COVID with “Booty Slide” that combined breathwork and meditation. At the end, everyone was like you just cracked the code for what’s the way to move plus meditate without having to be this overwhelming thing. So that’d be the way that I’ll do it more.
I also created a breathwork teacher training through the Breath Zone where I teach other teachers how to develop a career and I certify them.
That sounds like its going to keep you busy, what’s next for you aside from that?
I’m working on a series called “Breathing Into Happy,” which will be another challenge and a series of guided breathwork meditations.
I am also excited to be teaming up with Mentality, a company that’s developing a new app around wellness, mental health, and mindset. More details will be coming soon. I’m also the brand ambassador and on the Water for Wellness Expert Council for Water Pik.
And lastly, I’m continuing to do live classes as things open up again. I’m now in Nashville and L.A., back and forth doing those. Then eventually when things get calmer with the pandemic, maybe finding a place to open again, or a studio. I don’t know, I’m open to what the universe might bring to me and put in my lap.
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