Yogini Karen: An Interview

Starting off the Wednesday Featured series with an interview with my Yoga Instructor of close to three years. My mother embraced yoga many years ago and kept asking me to try it when I started having foot, knee problems and the tummy from the childbirths refused to go. I did on one trip to Madras, and hated it. Something didn’t seem right and it just didn’t stick.

Then in 2008, I tore the cartilage in my right knee. It was pretty bad and I had an arthroscopy done and it instilled a fear in me, very deep. You see, that was the very first time I had a scalpel on my skin. I was a healthy woman all through my life and all my three children were born naturally. The procedure and its after-effects terrified me cold. I was not admitting it, but I slowed down my lifestyle dramatically and in turn put on more weight coz of inactivity.

A new online friend on hearing about my stiff knee suggested that I try Yoga to ease and stretch my muscles. I knew I was taut. By coincidence, two days later, a neighbor friend asked me to come try out this Yoga class she goes in the neighborhood on Wednesday mornings. I tried on a whim, and I came home sore, in tears and feeling extremely ashamed that I was in such bad shape (physically and emotionally). Next week, I pushed myself out the door, and then the next and then before I knew it, I was hooked. I liked my teacher, I loved the stretching and how I felt the next day, I loved the space in which we practiced and most were neighbors, and women I knew outside of class. Another good friend joined in, and well, session after session we stuck on, and this is my third year with Karen Jaynes. 

Yoga has changed my life. Well, at least it has slowed me down to pause, think, and be in the moment (those Wednesdays at least) and I like how much of a foundation the stretching of the muscles has helped in my aerobic exercise and in my general well being.

I love Karen for how she runs her class, for her little anecdotes, for the way she eases folks into poses and for the humor that she and in turn we bring in, and am amazed at how far we have all come, individually. I can now do a downward dog with ease. Stay in a plank for more than 45 seconds. I can sleep in the pigeon pose and not groan, and I am almost there with my balance as a tree.

I believe that things fall into place when they have to. The right teacher and the right moment in your life are two traveling points. They meet, at random and on occasion or maybe just once. If your mind is open then, there is a click and a match is made.

Today is her birthday too! How things come together eh? :-)

Meet our wonderful, interesting and inspiring Yoga instructor, guide and teacher:

Karen of All Ways Yoga. 

Contact: Website and Facebook Page

karen Jaynes

How did you come into Yoga? Tell us your personal journey on how you are here today? I grew up in a place that knew nothing of yoga. I grew up in Northeast Philadelphia in the 70’s and 80’s, a place where no one looked a stranger in the eye unless you were looking for trouble.  I come from humble blue-collar roots.  My dad was a Philly cop, my step dad was a Teamster Union truck driver with the Philadelphia Inquirer and my mom was an export document manager at a bank downtown.  None of my parents were college educated and my mom often tells the story of how her parents wouldn’t let her go to college to become a nurse since she was “just going to get married and have kids”.    I had to fend for my own, and trust my instincts to do so. I didn’t trust anyone really and felt like it was I against the world most of the time.  Through all of this grit, I was successful in school, received good grades, captain of my cheerleading squad, sang in choirs and acted on stage.  I kept a lot of secrets, experiencing a lot of life early. I graduated Temple University with a double major and honors and survived making ends meet with two part time jobs while paying rent, I graduated in four years by funding my own way.  I got married and was a part-time kickboxing instructor at the time, and working full time with a real estate capital partner group. But once pregnant, my friends encouraged me to take yoga.  Yoga?  Me?  I surely wasn’t going to get my workout there!  It was trendy in Los Angeles to take yoga, and I gave it a go. With this child growing in me I became a lot more introspective. The yoga class helped calm my worries and nerves and gave me something new to learn while I changed physically and surprisingly mindfully, and very spiritually. I learned how to meditate and breathe. See I was this girl from a tough town.  My personality could be as harsh as those streets.  I had so many survival tactics ingrained into my being that this new concept of living in moments, not judging, being relaxed and finding time to breathe sounded ridiculous and would leave me completely vulnerable and exposed.  Surely if I were that relaxed I’d be off guard and a sure target for mal-intention.  But what I realized when I didn’t expect those things to happen they stopped happening.  I was living in a pretty affluent neighborhood in L.A. and a bit wiser.  This was a new place, new time and a new me.  I gave in to the principles of yoga and I slowly began to evolve.  After my son was born we moved back to the east coast. My daughter came and I was encouraged to teach.  It took me over 4 years to go through my entire 200 hour yoga teacher training while raising two small babies, going through a divorce and rebuilding my life.  But it has made all the difference.  I have dedicated my life to teaching this magical practice to any and all who will listen to it and open their souls.  It has made a peaceful and gentle yogini out of a very edgy, full of angst, and street-smart Philly girl with a messy past.  It has raised me up to be a better mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend and partner.  I am forever grateful and want to share and give this elation to all. 

***

Wow! Okay, so now a little on the birth and where you want to take All Ways Yoga.  As I began to increase the number of classes I taught and had students follow my classes I decided I wanted to have a company name.  I wanted to send out newsletters and share thoughts about yoga not just the physical aspects but in the learned life aspects so I spent some time coming up with a name that I thought meant something.  What did yoga mean to me and how could I explain that in a name.  So All Ways Yoga came to me as In all ways, our yoga is for us.  In all ways our yoga is within us. 

 ***

Give us an idea of the demographics of your students. Age, fitness levels, the length and breadth of ones you meet in practice.  When I first started teaching I taught mostly women.  And the women were either moms or grandmothers. I use the role description lightly but you get the age range and demographics. On occasions I would have that token guy in a few classes or a couple that were seniors that took it together but it wasn’t the norm. They were mostly white and of varying fitness levels.  There are some students that really stick with it and in fact, I have students who have been with me since the first day I stepped into their class 9 + years ago. Some came and then went away and I never saw them again!  Now, things are very different.  I teach yoga to ages ranging from 3 years old to 85 years old.  I have some classes that are half full of men.  I teach yoga to people who are just recovering from an illness, injury, who have special or chronic conditions, those battling cancer, or in cancer remission.  I teach beginners who have just bought their first mat and it still has roll in it.  I teach students who are doing headstands and handstands and going pose to pose with me.  I used to see mostly white and middle to upper aged students.  I have high school and college age kids now in the same classes as their parents (of course on opposite sides of the rooms!)  I have many couples taking classes together, students from all races and cultures, students from all faiths. 

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As a teacher, do you find that there is one common reason that unites all students who come to you? Does it change as they practice? You know here, I think most people come to yoga at first for two things depending on the class they take.  1. They either have something going on with them physically or mentally – like stress that is affecting their lives and they need something and someone suggests yoga – like a doctor, therapist, friend or family member.  2. The other is a population of people who use the physical aspects of yoga to work out, get strong, and to definitely stretch their very tight bodies because they sit all day at desks or chauffer kids around in cars. I think that those reasons still remain as they practice and if they stay with it.  But there is an additional element I think that works it’s way in eventually and that is the spirit or the essence of their being…their soul steps out.  Divine inspiration becomes heard.  The inner peace takes more of a forefront, and there is clarity in focus. It’s holistic.

 ***

Karen Pose

What tools do you think one should own before starting a yoga practice? I think the only tool they need is a mat and you know they don’t really even need that.  Most importantly, they should just let go of whatever expectation they have of what yoga is and just give it a try.  Quiet the inner critic that protects them from feeling silly or ridiculous trying something new and unconventional. I mean yoga isn’t all that unconventional anymore…like 6 million people in the United States practice yoga.

***

“Right teacher and guide” – Does that apply to Yoga as well? Is there a connection and a bond that most students develop with the teacher?  I thought that’s where that came from…yoga. Right teacher, right guide.  For sure.  Most definitely.  I have had many teachers. But you know there are so many of us out there teaching and we bring to the mat and class or studio all something different to those poses.  Our life path is with us.  Our experiences. Our background.  It comes out in our style of posing.  Our expression when connecting with the mind.  Our song selections.  Our voice.  I think a bond does develop with your teacher and the same can be true with your students. It is the most rewarding part of the practice – this wonderful bond and connection you have with your teacher and students when it is the right match.

 ***

Is there anything else you bring to your Yoga class, apart from the mechanics of the practice?  I think I bring a lot of spirituality to my teaching because that is what yoga brings out of me.  I also like to bring real world experiences in, I use myself as an example when I am trying to teach a lesson. I like to use humor because it reminds us not to take ourselves so seriously.  I like to tell my students to smile or laugh when it gets tough during posing.  I like to share philosophies of mentors and great minds of current day and throughout history into our yoga. I love quotes and sharing them at the end of class.

***

What made you start off teaching Yoga, and as a business and school?  The power of suggestion from one of my teachers…funny, I now teach her mom!  It just kind of grew.  I set the intention.  And it grew.  It’s still growing.

***

You have challenges am sure in running and maintaining a business, care to share any and explain how you moved past them?

Growing pains are tough.  There is never enough of you to go around or enough time in the day.  But you have to strike a balance and know what you can do right now and what has to wait.  It doesn’t mean you can’t ever – just not right now.  I set goals and dream and meditate on the things I want to do and make room when it’s time for them. 

 ***

Any advice to new folks considering Yoga?  Come to a class.  Any teacher will let you just try it to see if you like it.  We are on a mission to share our passion. There are many styles so Google and do your research.  Ask around, again, there are like 6 million yogis doing yoga in the U.S.  Someone is bound to tell you something about it if you ask.  Probably more than you needed to know! 

 ***

How about advice to women out there who are debating on becoming their own boss aka setting up a business and going after their goal and passion? I joke with my kids that my company is really called All Ways Working.  Truth is, I am always working, but I love LOVE love what I do so it’s good.  Be prepared to work long hours so make sure you love what you are doing.  Also have someone close to you who can steal you away when it’s time to take a break and make you stop sometimes. And have no doubt.  Dream big.  If it gets overwhelming, step back and regroup.   Tired is different than discouraged.  Be tired.  Oh and GO FOR IT.  Tell everyone what you are doing too…people like to help and support you.

 ***

Where do you see yourself a year from now, and maybe 5 years from now.  As Karen and as the Founder of All Ways Yoga? I have some dreams in the soup pot.  They are simmering.  We’ll see what they turn out to be.  Sometimes you think you know where you are going and then the universe has another plan.  So, I keep working, plugging away, looking around.  Making connections.  I have a lot of faith. There may be a business that stems from All Ways Yoga.  I have friends dreaming ideas with me.  Karen?  Well one thing I know, You ‘ll find her on her mat.

Karen

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(Disclaimer: No monetary or any other kind of compensation was received for this post.) 

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