I taught a class themed on the organic rate of process yesterday. It brought me to share some of the snapshots of my evolution as an artist, teacher and embodied spirit.
My interest in body-centered practice began when I met Alec Rubin on Miami Beach in 1992. He came to be my mentor in developing my creative practice and theory of what art making is, which I am presently defining as the process of clarifying what you truly want to say to the world, finding the appropriate medium of expression and doing so with intention and presence. Alec was the most alive, present and loving teacher I had ever met. He was an actor, dancer and primal therapist who taught a form of improvisational theater that he called “the Theater Within.” Alec’s main teaching was to learn to be simple, real and move from the core. His influence directed my search towards the body as the doorway to authenticity and transformation. I also experienced the power of an educator holding a vision of what is possible for me beyond what I could imagine, luckily, for the first of many more times! Alec seemed to have a space of potentiality just to his right side, a space of focused attention for someone, potentially anyone, almost all the time. I wondered if it had something to do with a twin sister he lost at age two. This type of wondering is my life long way of being that has found it's home, as I continue to wonder from embodied experience.
I have come to see the body and mind in health as an integrated whole that is naturally predisposed to fluidity. My understanding is that we are born with a life force, which has a pulsation, which originates in the core of the body and flows throughout the physical, emotional and mental realms of the individual. This natural pulsation of life force is met with external counter pulses of life experiences which, when internalized, can block and change the flow of a person’s energy on the physical, emotional and mental levels. I think that, fundamentally, human beings are looking for fluidity in their lives. Because these counter pulses range greatly in quality and intensity, the expression of this search is unique to the individual. I do think that people with similar experiences and approaches to the neutralization of these counter pulses have a tendency to group together. For example, I have found a sense of place in the world in groups of people who are dedicated to a daily yoga and meditation practice. People in my life who don’t feel moved to such a commitment often consider this lifestyle a rigid discipline. Through different lenses, practice is seen as deep commitment or rigid neurosis. This has been confusing and difficult to navigate at times. In my investigation, I sought to understand how people get blocked and unblocked physically and how this in turn affects emotional and mental fluidity. I hold the larger context of education as the frame for my investigation. This is an urgent question for me personally in that I have been engaged in the modalities that utilize the body as the entry point for creating change in other levels of the person for twenty years and have now developed clear theories and language that support my teaching practice. I am stepping out to share my learning and wondering at the suggestion of Forrest Yoga Guardian Catherine Allen. In my next stage of hatching out, I am mobilized to reach out and initiate conversations about embodied practice, spirituality and activism.
I sought out bodies of knowledge in books and human beings as my method of investigation. It is a delight and salvation to have found mentors who have helped me find my authentic voice and bring it into the yoga studio, classroom and stage. It is equally delightful to have dialogue with people I have “moved “ with for years in improvisational dance and physical theater about their thoughts our shared world. I recently worked with two groups of women practicing movement together. One was a creative dance group of women who identify as Christians and the other is a theater group with the intention of breaking silence around sexual violence. Finding the ground is the first step for both groups, and most people. Although we are all structurally connected to the ground, most of us are energetically disconnected from the ground and their lower bodies at some points. In the same way that an ungrounded electrical current is dangerous, an ungrounded person is vulnerable to the imbalances of over thinking, anxiety and other forms of over excitation due to a lack of having the ground to absorb excess energy. Forrest Yoga has vigorous abdominal exercises and asanas that discharge excess tension from the pelvis feet and legs in order to facilitate a felt sense of being held by and connected to the ground. Being able to facilitate such acts of healing and life affirming practices brings my own spirit a deeper sense of being at home in my body and on this earth.
As I finish up my teaching semester, I am going to pick up my attempt to share and articulate the awesome work I get to do in the world. This photo certainly captures the essence. I love; 1. creating spaces where people feel safe 2. creating itself 3. creating using "junk" and making beauty with the discarded. 4. collaborating with organizations and people that do work that is exciting and meaningful to me.
This is a photo of a dollhouse house made by a group of girls at a boys and girls club in Boston. In my art classes, magic happens as we envision what else is possible with boxes, old trader joe's signs ( I have worked for tj's for 10 years) and numerous other cast off materials. This type of creating is contagious. As the girls continued to work on the dollhouse, taking it to further and further levels of excellence, other students asked themselves "what else does this project need?" This is the compelling thing about project based learning, especially when the project is student driven. My curiosity is how to foster this type of agency in learners of all ages.
Today I taught a class of 16 women in substance abuse recovery. We begin the class with a check-in; physical, emotional, spiritual. The ladies were all over the map. People shared themselves and I, as I often am, was moved. I was moved by the openness, the resistance, the heaviness, the power of the practice. The teaching theme was to choose a spot to focus of for the entire practice, bringing safe, healing energy to the spot and moving out the shit that needs to go in order to heal. There was a lot of chaos and resistance when I got there. They have made the yoga class mandatory at the center. I asked the ladies to tune in to a hell spot that keeps them into their disease and really feel into what it does to their body and spirit. Then I asked them to use deep breaths and exhales to move that shit right out as it is ready to go. I shared that my intention was to create a safe space for them in recovery to begin to feel and be in their bodies. In order for energy (prana) to move, it needs to feel safe. This is THE priority. The energy shifted so dramatically, it blew me away.
Where: Akasha Studio, 14 Meehan St. Floor 2, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 (near Doyle’s)
Times: Sundays- 11am- 12:30pm & Tuesdays 6pm- 7:30pm $13 drop in
Forrest Yoga honors and celebrates the beauty of life and the power of Spirit. It is an inspiring yoga practice that builds flexibility, intelligence and strength while helping deepen the relationship with your authentic self. Accessing your intuition - the voice of your Spirit - builds personal strength and ushers integrity into your daily interactions with all beings. Forrest Yoga challenges you to heal, grow and welcome your Spirit home.
Karuna holds a Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard University and is in her second year of mentorship with Forrest Yoga Guardian, Heidi Sormaz, PhD. Teaching Forrest Yoga to people in recovery and healing is her deepest passion and greatest honor.
“ I’ve been practicing Forrest Yoga with Karuna for close to a year now and I can honestly say it has done wonders for me. I started practicing while going through an especially tumultuous and stressful time in my life. Karuna takes her experience of nearly two decades along with her training in trauma sensitive yoga and carefully adjusts the practice to the needs of the student. Her classes are conducted professionally and at a steady pace. She puts a lot of planning and preparation into her classes and is careful not to go beyond the ability of the students. I cannot recommend this class highly enough and don’t know where I’d be right now without it.” -Joshua L.
“Karuna is a wonderful yoga teacher. She is very attentive, present, and giving. I am always amazed at how restored I feel after 75 minutes in her presence. I was completely new to Forrest yoga when I took my first class with Karuna, and I am hooked. Karuna is extremely sensitive to injuries, pregnancies, tightness, etc, and always asks about issues and tailors class for each person, regardless of if it is your first yoga class or your 5000th. It's sweaty, challenging, shaky, and possible. It's the best mind-body experience out there, so far as I'm concerned. I love Forrest yoga, but I love Karuna yoga most of all.”
I am keenly aware of the loss of a yoga teacher who made a major contribution to my life through his sweet and open way of being. I wish I could have given him something to have helped him not check out of his life. I really do. Gabriel took his life two years ago this spring. Thank you deeply and dearly for your help.