I Am A Yoga Girl - Karen Samuels

I am a YOGA GIRL and have been as long as memory serves…I really was a 12 year old girl when my sister, 10 years older, had her first baby and asked me to go along to the local YWCA to try a yoga class.

Being a dutiful little sister, I said yes. Thing is, yoga took my breath away that very first class. August, 1970. My yoga teacher in that crowded room of girls, women and grandmas in our tights and leotards on beach towels brought me right home. My sister didn’t continue; at 12 this meant I had to beg my mom, or older brothers to drive me to classes. Can you imagine this preteen, scrawny girl with a pixie haircut and pointy glasses, showing up every week to take yoga class? Savasana was my favorite.

My dad would come into my bedroom at night reminding me to turn off the light and go to sleep, and find me in a headstand, or sitting cross legged practicing pranayama. My mom told him to “let me be”, and fortunately yoga grew into the core of my being with every exhalation.

Fast forward, no women in my family had gone to college for more than a semester, then got married and had a family. In addition to my beloved yoga, I loved to read. Okay, admittedly, I was a nerd and a bit of an overachiever. I made one B in all of junior and high school, in Driver’s Ed class. The football coach who taught the class had my brother as Captain of the team. So he asked me to type the tests for the course. Guess what, since I typed up all the tests for him, I didn’t take them. He refused to give me an A since I never took his tests! It was one of many early life lessons in letting go of expectations.

So when I headed off to a women’s college, bright eyed and ready to learn, we REFUSED to allow anyone to call us GIRLS! No way, we were WOMEN! How many times was I asked what it was like to go to a girl’s school and indignantly piped up with: I am (a) woman, not a girl!!!! When my mother died a few short months into that first year of college, being a girl felt like a lost luxury.

Nowadays, being a GIRL, a YOGA GIRL means being in the company of those empowering everyone to grow into more… But really, I’ve been a YOGA GIRL always and forever. Truly believe yoga found me early, to invite my inner healer into the world.

After college, I immediately started working on women’s health, women’s bodies, eating and body related issues. Meanwhile, I was still studying yoga everywhere possible.

There was this crossroads when I was 21 years old….I also fell in love with Psychology in college. Especially studying about the psychology of health, wellness, women’s body image and eating disorders.

I wanted to study yoga and I wanted to study psychology. I wanted to have it all. It was 1979 after all! So I started my first Yoga Teacher Training in Miami at the Yoga Institute of Miami with Bobbi Goldin, a dedicated Iyengar trained teacher. She brought many touring yogis to her studio that year of study. I was finally living my dream. I studied with Martyn Jackson, from Australia who eventually drew me to another teacher training in southern California. I was willing to leave everything to study more yoga.

I was also working for the State of Florida in Liberty City, immediately in the aftermath of the riots and burning of neighborhoods with consuming racial unrest as the Cuban prisons and psychiatric hospitals were sending their “undesirables” to south Florida. The Haitian refugees were coming ashore on rafts and small boats daily. The African American community was losing its minimum wage jobs to these new arrivals willing to work for $1/Day cash. My white privilege and my college education reminded me; to become a white “ally” meant doing more. I was working in the midst of riots, burning neighborhoods, shootings and enormous despair. Helping people find homes and jobs and connections to local churches to find the support in the community that the State was ill equipped to handle. After work, running off to yoga class in a lovely, peaceful space helped me, but not my beloved community. That was when it became clear, going on to study and become a Clinical Psychologist AND a yoga teacher would allow me to do more. No one could tell me I wasn’t qualified to make social change, to help the disenfranchised, to become a voice for the disembodied.

I worked my way through the next 8 years of graduate school and post doc training, and ever since, living yoga. Working as a psychologist has been an honor and privilege. Being a part of healing, social justice, naming the invisible, witness to truth telling and recovery has been my life.

As @Yogipsychologist, I LOVE BEING A YOGA GIRL.

Especially in recent weeks, I have heard countless #Metoo stories every day. Add to the thousands of stories of trauma and healing over these many years. Making sacred space to invite healing and sharing. To listen into voice.

To me that is truly what being a YOGA GIRL has empowered me to be, do, support and pay it forward.

What are your dreams, my beloved YOGA GIRL Community? Please share in the comments.

Love, Karen

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