Karoline Barwinski is currently teaching our 4 session Intro to Yoga series. Here's the interview we did with her:
How were you introduced to yoga and what motivated you to integrate it into your life?
My father actually inspired me to take my first yoga class when I was in high school. While I was very athletic then, when I tried yoga I noticed how stiff I really was. I could barely even touch my toes! Since then, as I've explored my own practice, I've experienced an enduring transformation in my body and mind which has manifested in enhanced flexibility and strength, greater confidence and faith in my capabilities, better ability to deal with stress and life's challenges, and a wonderful sense of vitality.
What inspired you to teach yoga?
I was asked to lead a class in Central Park by a few friends one day and it was one of the most gratifying and enjoyable experiences! What I felt teaching that day continues to resonate within me as I teach my classes today. For me, teaching is about connecting, giving, and exploring. While continuing to explore the practice and evolving as a yogi, I love connecting with my students and sharing with them yoga's myriad physical and spiritual benefits. It's truly a gift.
Tell us about the concept of Om Hop Yoga.
To me, life is about exploration. I wanted to embrace that concept through yoga, as yoga itself is about exploring yourself and your body. That's where the idea of Om Hop sprouted. By hopping from one location to another, we get a chance to not only explore the city, but ourselves through the practice. I started teaching in New York's parks and this winter my friends have been gracious with hosting my classes at their apartments, which make for a very intimate and inviting setting. And now I'm excited for the opportunity to teach at the library!
Has there been a defining moment for you in your practice?
There was one moment in my training that opened up a world of possibility for me. I have very tight hamstrings, always have. During one of the teacher training sessions the teacher chose me for a demonstration of Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), knowing that I always struggled in the pose because of my hamstrings. With my teacher's assistance, I stayed mentally focused on the pose and with every breath I began to relax deeper into it, which culminated in a wonderful release. At that moment I finally began to believe in the possibility of reaching any goal I dream up and persevere toward.
What are some of the misperceptions about yoga and why does it seem intimidating to some?
One of the most frequent reasons I hear of why people don't want to try yoga is that they're not flexible. They've seen teachers contort their bodies in unbelievable ways and they run in the opposite direction because they think they'll need to get into those poses and they don't have the flexibility or strength. I've been trying to dispel that perception ever since I started teaching. You progress at your own pace and there is no competition. And flexibility increases with a dedicated practice.
What inspired you to approach the library about doing this program here?
The library is one of the few institutions in NYC that offers free programs and caters to a sense of community. I believe that yoga is a gift and that everyone should have access to it. I couldn't resist sharing yoga's benefits with those who may not otherwise have access to introductory classes. I'm excited about the program and love the Library's enthusiasm for offering such a variety of free programs for the community.
You can follow Karoline on her blog and on Twitter @OmHop.