Please meet a beloved teacher at Yogaspace- Karen Pierce- a remarkable teacher and yogi who’s been sharing knowledge, love and dedication to teaching yoga and her own continuing exploration for well over a decade at Yogaspace. Unbelievable opportunity- Karen will be extending her offering through Yoga Teacher Training, beginning very soon.
She was generous enough to share herself through an interview, about herself and what she offers the universe- on and off the mat. Learn about her history, her philosophy and her secrets! Please share this with anyone you know who’s seeking a deeply experienced, highly trained yogi to learn from- whether as a weekly student or for the teacher training.
When did you begin practicing yoga? I was introduced to Transcendental Meditation when I was 15 and have been doing different mindfulness techniques since then. I didn't start doing asana (movement) until my late 20's when I was teaching aerobics, step and kickboxing.
What about yoga caught your interest? I liked and continue to love the way it makes me feel.
What brought you to Yogaspace? A friend mentioned a new yoga studio was opening in Brookfield and I was tired of teaching yoga at a gym that had many owners. I met the then-owner Natasha and started teaching Thursday nights and then Mondays too. 16 years later, I'm still teaching Monday and Thursday nights. YogaSpace personifies what yoga is. A loving space, void of judgment, within which to practice. An all embracing, non-competitive philosophy, is what sets it apart from many other studios.
What are your favorite asanas? Shavasana always. Other than that, I love all the poses.
What are the asanas you feel challenged by? Since I'm not doing yoga to contort my body into a pose, I don't feel "challenged" by any of them. I do all my poses with Sthira Sukha – effort with ease, strength with softness, attention without tension. My breath informs me as to what the pose will look like and how deep I can go, not my ego. However, as I get older, it's getting harder to balance especially on full and new moons. I also no longer do standing drop back into backbends. But I still do them from the floor up which is safer at this moment in my life.
How do you take yoga off the mat? Most of my yoga is off the mat as it lives in my awareness of my breath. When I stay breath centered, I am heart centered and therefore I am practicing yoga. I observe moments of mindfulness throughout the day and practice shamanic journeying. Every day, I strike poses intentionally and at any moment my body tells me to move. Examples? Brushing my teeth in Tree pose then switching my legs and brushing hand, respectfully kicking up into a handstand for invigoration, sitting on the couch in Fire Log pose, or backbending over an exercise ball. Whatever comes to me, I respect that it is needed to balance out the day.
Who influences your yoga teaching practice? Although I have studied in almost every tradition, I follow in the lineage and philosophy of Krishnamacharya and his son Desikachar. Mark Whitwell, Gary Kraftsow and Srivatsa Ramaswami are my primary teachers. Most recently I studied Yoga & Shamanism with Ray Crist and went to Peru twice where I received sacred rites. Now I am a shamanic practitioner, so I am weaving more of that into my classes as well as shamanic yoga nidra.
What do you want someone who’s never taken a yoga class to know? Everyone can do yoga AND anyone can do yoga. It's about finding the right practice and the right teacher to meet you where you need to be at that time. That can mean looking carefully for a good fit, so be patient and don't give up until you find someone that’s just right for you.
What are your guiding principles? Leave the world a better place. Whether it's returning a borrowed item cleaner than when I got it, volunteering for great causes, donating anonymously, or just trying to speak and act with the intention to “do no harm”. That doesn't mean I don't offend, anger or hurt another's feelings- it means my intention is to come from a place of openness and as the Andean Q'ero healers say Ayni - reciprocity. Everything in the world is connected and when one shares with another, they are entitled to receive something back; an exchange of energy between, humans, nature and the universe.
How would you describe your role as a yoga teacher? What’s your reason for teaching? To inspire others to do THEIR yoga, whatever that looks like. My role is more of a guide to make sure that everyone in the class practices safely and within their own limits. I want my students to feel like they can adapt the yoga offered to their own needs. One student who rarely follows along with the class, comes because she loves the sense of community of attending a group class but has her own physical needs. I'm just glad she shows up on the mat every week and listens to HER Sat Guru, HER inner teacher.
What are a few quotes or themes that best exemplify how you see life?
"You're a ghost driving a meat-coated skeleton made from stardust, riding a rock, hurtling through space. What do you have to be afraid of?"
“I think hell is something you carry around with you. Not somewhere you go.”
“You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.”
What’s your favorite season? Spring. The rebirth of the flowers and trees and it is also the harbinger that Summer is coming soon.
What tools do you use to manage stress? It’s always the breath. And also being out in nature- taking the dogs for a walk, floating in the pool and gardening in the dirt. I also might ask my spirit animal or "my team" to be with me and guide me during challenging situations. Or, I might just make a martini!
What do you want your students know about you that they might not find in a typical bio? I am a heavy metal head! I love 80's Glam Bands and 90's Alternative Grunge. I've seen Kiss, Poison, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Van Halen/Hagar, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Hinder, Three Days Grace, Seether and Nickelback multiple times. But on the other end I also like Harry Connick Jr, Frank Sinatra, Ashana and Mozart!
Tell us one quirky thing about yourself that is likely to make someone else smile? I slaughter sayings and catchphrases. This especially humors my husband. "Six of one, half dozen of the other" would be more like a half dozen of one or the other!