I met Karstee through Rock Your Bliss’ 7 Weeks to Bliss program and was excited to find she was also a contributor to Eat, Pray, Love Made Me Do It, along with my friend Eduardo Martinez. Karstee has used yoga to practice forgiveness and truly connect with her body. Karstee is what a yogi looks like.
1. When did you start doing yoga and why? The first time I ever went to a yoga class was towards the end of Summer in 2014. I had signed up to go to an early Saturday morning class at Red Rocks in Morrison, Colorado. It’s funny because looking back I can’t remember how I even came to hear of this event or what even possessed me to sign up to go– by myself none the less! I remember that morning rising before the sun and grabbing my dusty mat from the corner of my room, it was propped up against my dresser and I’m embarrassed to admit this, but it actually had cobwebs on it! I threw my hair up, threw the mat in the back seat, stopped for a coffee and then hit the road. I got to Red Rocks just after the sun rise…. and the light was stretching across the city below in one of those “everything that light touches is yours” Mufasa-esque type of moments. It was beautiful. Yogis & Yoginis were all over the amphitheater sitting on their mats and soaking up the warm morning sun. I picked a spot (in the very back row, or course) and unrolled my mat. I sat down and did some very beginner stretches and smiled at the people next to me. After a while the class began, I moved through poses that were familiar and learned some that I of course had never heard of before. In downward dogs I noticed I lacked the strength to hold myself up for very long, my arms would tremble and I would have to drop to my knees. I noticed that I could never gracefully pull my leg all the way through from downward dog into a lunge (I still can’t), but something about the overall message of the class made me feel like it was ok to forgive myself for not being there yet, for not being perfect. There seemed to be a message of letting go, of not lingering on any thought for too long, but rather just acknowledging, breathing and being in the moment. Towards the end of the class in a chautauranga (that I most certainly was doing wrong) the teacher said something along the lines of, “take a moment to send gratitude out to everything and everyone that has brought you to this very moment in this beautiful setting.” You could feel the electric buzz of gratitude, it was overwhelming. Tears welled in my eyes as I thought of the years that I had spent away from Colorado and of the person that I had been married to in that time. We had hurt each other and it had ended in such a final way. In that moment of gratitude I felt a subliminal wave of forgiveness and love to the people we were, to the person I had become. I saw the way I had been feeding the hurt inside of me for so long with unhealthy things like Chipotle Burritos and I had so much compassion to myself. It was strange. And when I left that day, I felt so peaceful and I felt like I had just done the kindest thing I possibly could do for myself. And so even though I don’t remember why I initially went that day, I know what keeps me coming back.
2. What myths or misconceptions did you have about yoga before starting? I thought that every single person that practiced yoga was going to be blonde, wear lululemon, and be kind of snobby. And while yes, there are blonde people, and yes the yoga community loves their lululemon… I have literally never felt like someone was being snobby to me. I had a lot of fear because I don’t fit the mold of what I thought a “yoga person” would look like. But I tell people all the time that my initial beliefs could not have been further from the truth, because if a person has developed a physical practice of yoga, I honestly believe they cannot help but for the practice to spill over into all the other areas of their life and so if a person is a yogi… there’s no way that person could ever hold lasting judgment against me because when they come back to their mat, back to their breath, and back to themselves they would only be able to see love. And I SWEAR I feel this when I go to my yoga studio (Core Power Yoga in Boulder)! Going to 24 hour fitness as an obese person, I feel completely invisible… but when I go to my yoga studio it feels like going home. I’m greeted by my name, I’m supported, teachers actually take the time to show me adjustments. I feel the very opposite of invisible, I feel seen.
3. What is your favorite pose and why? It’s definitely Supta Buddha Konasana (reclined bound angle pose)— I love after flowing, just laying in that moment and slowing down. I remember my favorite time ever in this pose— That day NPR and all major news outlets were reporting how the world was facing the biggest humanitarian crisis our generation has ever seen with the floods of migrants and refugees pouring into Europe. My heart and mind were so on this topic, I was fixated… I almost felt like I was driving in a daze on the way to class. While I was sitting at a red light I happened to look over and made eye contact with a homeless man on the corner holding a sign that said, “You are awesome”. He suddenly pointed at me and then mouthed the words from his sign… but he did it slowly and with a big smile, “You. Are. Awesome.” I smiled back and pointed at him and said, “You are awesome too.” We laughed, the light turned green, I waved and drove on. Class felt like any normal class until landing in Supta Baddha Konasana— I love practicing yoga to music and there are so many times that it has amplified the moment for me. Laying there with one hand on my belly and one hand on my heart, I listened to Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah”, it came to the line “and every breath we drew was hallelujah”. I thought of the migration crisis… all of those people running from the unimaginable and looking for a better life for themselves and their loved ones. Hallelujah. I thought of Germany (Germany!) opening it’s doors and arms and hearts and receiving thousands of these weary people. Hallelujah. I thought of that man on the corner smiling in the sunshine and bringing joy to other people’s day. Hallelujah. I came back to the moment– to a studio where you can fall to pieces in the dark concentrating on your breath and sending love to the whole world. Hallelujah.
Supta Baddah Konasana— how delicious. Hallelujah.
4. What are your thoughts on yoga and body image and has it affected your practice? I feel like yoga has improved my body image. I’ve come to appreciate my body— the things it can do and the areas where it’s limited. As I said above, I also really try to honor where I’m at and not beat myself up. I also feel I’m more in tune with the areas that are sore, and I know that most the time it’s nothing a good hour on the mat can’t fix. I also have become really mindful about my breath— and I try to send love to the areas that need it through my breath. I really love doing this during my menstrual cycle.
5. Do you feel that yoga conflicts or compliments your religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender identification or any other form of your identity? Yoga has strengthened my spirituality, it’s a beautiful complement to the beliefs that I already held about what this whole world means and how I should behave in it.
As for my sexual orientation/gender identification I feel like for so long I was trying to be invisible, I had been so hurt that I thought if I could just be invisible no one would ever notice me, love me, hurt me, you name it… I was hiding from it all… but really being in your body through a yoga practice just makes me eager to explore things I’ve been avoiding for a long time. And I’ve been excited, even though it’s been slow going, about the process of bringing my body back to life, if you will. Also, I know this is strange, but one time I went through class with my hair down (total accident— forgot a hair tie) and it was actually a really cool experiment and ended up being quite nice; I felt very feminine and sexy and as someone who has almost been living like a gender less asexual type of person it felt very exotic. haha!
6. What do you love most about yoga? I love the community that I have found, it is one that is so embracing and supportive!
7. What would you say to someone who is hesitant about starting a yoga practice? What do you have to lose? Try it, and if one type of class doesn’t strike your fancy then try a different one! And find the teachers you like, that is key! I love yoga for the physical practice, but I adore the classes where there is a spiritual side or lesson or something to ponder; and like I said I like music, some people don’t. There is a world of options out there, and I guarantee you will be able to find the one that fits you and that elevates whatever area of your life you might be looking to better!
Would you like to be featured? I would love to hear about your yogic journey. I am looking for yogis of all levels, years of experience, backgrounds, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, gender identifications and sects. Please email me at angieeatspeace at gmail.com.