THAY Teacher Spotlight
THAY would like to acknowledge Karen Gastiaburo, one of our Trauma Yoga Teachers since the beginning. Monica, a THAY team member got to sit down and discuss Karen’s experiences and how she has impacted her community.
Monica: What inspired you to use your yoga training for service and helping the community and how did you get involved with Three and a Half Acres Yoga (THAY)?
Karen: I started yoga back in 2000. I was going to the gym regularly (at the time Equinox) and was mostly into cardio and not really into yoga. But I had a friend who was changing careers at the time – leaving corporate America and getting into yoga as a profession – and I decided to go on a yoga retreat with her. The trip, which was in Costa Rica, turned out to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I met a wonderful group of people who I’m still friends with to this day, and they really inspired me to get into yoga. So that’s how I started to entertain taking yoga more seriously. I started taking yoga classes at Equinox and found an amazing mentor. I moved to Harlem in 2009, and met Lara (founder of THAY) a few years later, and the rest is history. I was inspired by Lara’s commitment to give back to the community, it was quite infectious.
“….working with the children that we serve, in communities that may never receive this opportunity, and seeing how calm and confident they were at the end of a series, was priceless… THAY makes that possible.”
Monica: That’s an amazing story, and yes, Lara’s energy is quite infectious! What were some of your first experiences with THAY?
Karen: Well I started with completing the Teacher Training for Trauma & Yoga service. The training was very humbling. Just the fact that people who experienced trauma needed special care and attention through yoga -it’s something we take for granted. We make certain assumptions but you begin to learn how to know your audience and tailor your practice to them.
Monica: I can imagine how life changing that can be. What is one of your most memorable experience as a volunteer?
Karen: Participating in one of the workshops where we brought together the NYPD with one of the schools that partners with THAY. It’s unbelievable to see. As a volunteer and teacher for the NYPD Yoga class, it can be hard to commit as a student and show up week after week and devote to your practice. But then an event like this, you can see the impact. The police officers took time out of their day and some even brought their families. The kids from the school also showed up and participated. One may think, why yoga, or how can that help – but you really saw how both parties got something out of it.
“…the fact that people who experienced trauma needed special care and attention through yoga- it’s something we take for granted.”
Monica: That’s a great point. I can see why people would question how giving to an organization that focuses on yoga is going to help the world. It tends to feel like a luxury, right? So what would you say to that? How has your support helped? And you’ve not only volunteered, but you’re an active supporter of THAY in terms of attending events and donating time and money.
Karen: That’s a really good question, and you’re right. What I feel is most important for people to know is that yoga is not a luxury. I think more people need to understand is how imperative yoga is to the their daily lives. The centering within yourself when you practice yoga is not like anything else. It’s not just stretching and becoming more flexible. It’s an act of self-inquiry, and through that inquiry you learn how to react in critical life situations. You know, just working with the children that we serve, in communities that may never receive this opportunity, and seeing how calm and confident they were at the end of a series, was priceless. And THAY makes that possible, and most importantly affordable. And beyond that, it takes time, selfless time that someone takes out of their day for someone else, to give back. In a city like NY, you don’t witness that a lot. Supporting THAY is what allows something like that to happen.
Monica: Wow. That was an incredible closing statement. Karen, thank you so much for your time and conducting this interview with me. I can’t wait to share your story!
Karen: Thank you for considering me! It’s truly an honor, I’m happy to spread the word about the work that we do and how important it is for our community.