Karen Barry is a full-time secondary school teacher who is passionate about the benefits of yoga in schools. She completed her teacher training with Himalaya Yoga Valley in Cork in 2015 and has been teaching at the centre for just over a year. Currently, Karen can be found teaching New Beginnings Level 2 on Wednesday evenings at 19.45.
What was your path from practitioner to teacher?
I had dipped in and out of yoga for many years in my twenties, attending six week courses here and there. A few years ago I moved overseas and lived in a small rural town with very few amenities so I bought myself a yoga DVD and started to practice in the living room. Initially the aim was to increase my fitness but over time the draw to the mat became about so much more. When I returned to Ireland I started to attend classes in Himalaya Yoga Valley Centre and then the real journey began. I slowly began to build up a regular practice, experiencing the transformative benefits of pranayama and asana first hand. With guidance and encouragement from both Lisa and Lalit I decided to sign up for the teacher training here in Cork.
What is your favourite pose and why? Are there any poses that are difficult for you?
I love backbends. I find them accessible, liberating, uplifting and energising.
I have a love hate relationship with arm balances. While I relish and really enjoy the challenge I do find many of them difficult and frustrating. I used to beat myself up about them but now I use them them as a way of focusing my mind and keeping my competitive streak in check!
What’s the most important thing yoga has taught you?
The importance of yoga as an investment in my own well-being, not to be so hard on myself, to enjoy the successes and respect the limitations within my own practice.
How does your own practice fit in?
I am a full-time secondary school teacher and I teach yoga in the evenings so my week can be quite busy. Yoga is not just something I do on my mat. I consider it to be a tool that supports me in my everyday life.
I like to start my day with diaphragmatic breathing to ground myself, to set myself up for the day as it were. Throughout the day I try to remind myself to come back to the breath when the monkey mind starts to go into overdrive. I like to do seated stretches and breathing exercises during my school day (often with my students) to release muscle tension, shift the energy and to help me focus.
On days when I feel strong, energetic, full of the joys of life or even frustrated with something I enjoy an invigorating challenging asana practice. Other days when the energy is low I find myself drawn to a slow gentle restorative practice. I am enjoying exploring my own practice and tailoring it to how I am feeling on any given day.
What’s one of the biggest misconceptions about yoga that you’d like to address?
That yoga is for women. Yoga is for everyone and everybody!
Any gentle etiquette reminders you’d like to give students?
We can often be very eager to move on to the next pose. A gentle reminder to follow the teacher’s cues when coming out of each pose so that students come out of the poses safely and with awareness.
How do you see the future of yoga?
I would love to see yoga as part of the core curriculum in our schools. I strongly believe in yoga as a tool for building resilience in children and adolescents.
Favourites: food, place in Ireland, vacation destination, book?
Place in Ireland: Kerry
Vacation destination: Anywhere in Africa.
Book: Jonathan Livingston Seagull- Richard Bach, haven’t read it in about 15 years, must go back to it!
What would you like your students to take away with them after a class with you?
People are drawn to yoga for many different reasons. Whatever the reason, I would like my students to leave my class with that “Ah…that’s why I do yoga!” feeling.