an interview with karen mckinnon

karen shares her vast experience and yogic knowledge with an open heart.

Karen Mckinnon, one of Toronto’s brightest yoga teachers, is Certified as an Akhanda (holistic) Hatha Yoga Teacher and Reiki Master. With a joyful heart she spreads yoga all around Toronto, Canada and her class is filled with inspiration and deep yogic knowledge. Enjoy these profound insights into the life of this radiant yogini.

Hillary Pike for Yogi Times: What does your personal yoga practice mean to you? How has it affected your life?

Karen Mckinnon: My personal practice means a great deal to me. It is integrated into the way I live my life, and am nourished by it. It really is a wonderful practice of exploration.

I truly don’t know what kind of person I would be without having practiced yoga for the last 12 years. Yoga is my therapy, meditation, connection to spirit, and my playground. Yoga has helped me to navigate and process my emotions, strengthen, open and heal my body, bring ease and insight into my mind and given me a deeper connection to Spirit. Akhanda Hatha Yoga profoundly affects my life from daily and consistent practice. The nectar comes from repetition.

HP: You are certified as an Akhanda Hatha Yoga Teacher and you also teach Restorative, Therapeutic and Ying Yoga. How do you recommend people to find the style of yoga that fits what they are looking for?

Karen Mckinnon: The best way to find the style that works for you: attend classes! Be open because there is simply no better way to know which style works for you until you try it. It’s not something you can intellectually figure out; it is something you have to experience. It’s kind of like trying to know if you prefer the taste of an orange over an apple without having tasted either of them. And keep in mind, there are different kinds of apples and oranges; i.e. many flavors in the yoga community.

Akhanda Hatha Yoga focuses on asana (posture), pranayama (breathing techniques), kriyas (cleansing techniques), physical and energetic anatomy, mantra (chanting), and includes the traditional 4 paths of yoga: Bhakti, (devotional or heart centered), Karma (yoga of service), Jnana (yoga of knowledge), Raja (yoga of meditation) with all of it poised in the deep foundation of yoga philosophy, and Ayurveda. Here is the link to the site where you can find Akhanda teachers all over the world and Yoga Teacher Training that I co-facilitate in Canada. 

HP: What does teaching yoga mean to you?

Karen Mckinnon: Teaching yoga is truly a blessing. Earlier today as I walked around a corporate office where I teach, feeling my bare feet on the ground and my comfortable yoga clothes I thought, “Wow. I get to move my body and breathe and spend time with others taking the time to take care of ourselves. I get to be part of others finding greater health and meaning; how lucky am I?!” To see people come to realizations about their life or the world, or discover new ease and joy in their body is priceless. Teaching yoga is part of how I express the authenticity of my being and how I share my light and gifts with the world.

HP: What brought you to the yogic path?

Karen Mckinnon: My search for deeper meaning, personal connection and purpose lead me to the practice of yoga. The first book on yoga I read at age 15 was, ”˜Yoga, Youth and Reincarnation’ by Jess Stern. I was fascinated to read topics on mind-body connection, physical vitality and reincarnation among others, igniting a deep sense of belonging with regard to my place in the world.

Later on with a chance encounter, the owner of a yoga studio, looked at my palms and said, “Yoga would be good for you.” Every fiber of my being resonated and was extremely activated and excited to follow that connection. I’ve been practicing ever since.

The yogic path has now brought me to study with The Living Institute for Existential-Integrative Psychotherapy. I’m excited to offer yoga and psychotherapy as complimentary healing modalities. 

HP: You often teach over 13 classes a week. Do you find that you are more filled with energy after leading a class or does teaching that often take a toll on you?

Karen Mckinnon: 13 classes appears to be the limit where I can still function daily and feel healthy. The tricky part is all the travelling in between classes. If it weren’t for all the traveling, I’m sure I’d be good teaching more per week. At the end of almost every class, I feel more energized, centered, alive and satisfied. It is the feeling of my creative energy doing what it needs to do and feeling fulfilled in this way. Even when I’ve had a challenging day, emotionally or physically, I can teach a yoga class and feel more vitalized by the end. So yes, I almost always feel more filled with energy after teaching.

HP: You are also a Reiki Master; do you bring your energy healing work into your yoga classes on some levels?

Karen Mckinnon: Yes. Reiki within a yoga class is definitely different than an official Reiki session where clients lie rested on a table for 60 minutes where I focus solely on energy. Because of my Reiki training and practice, I can more sensitively feel and work with the energy of the room and flow with it as I teach; it’s like having an extra guiding source when leading a class. It’s me being lead, as I also feel what I wish to lead- the two together create the class. It’s quite interesting being within that dynamic in the moment. When I do hands-on assists, reiki energy is also shared which often helps people settle into their body.

HP: What teacher of yours has influenced your life the most?

Karen Mckinnon: There have been a few teachers who have had lasting impact on me who have very much shaped and colored how I teach, but also who I am as a person. Scott Petrie, a passionate philosopher, writer, yoga teacher trainer and educator, and co-founder of Yoga Community Toronto, was the second yoga teacher I ever had and I continue to take his creative, intriguing and insightful classes. Yogi Vishvketu with his dear and beautiful deep rooted yoga practice and soul insight that began in India when he was 8 and Chetana Panwar with her eloquent, heartfelt and impressive speaking and writing gifts were the teachers in my Yoga Teacher Training who offer yoga certifications and retreats around the world.

The energy of their beings have taught and supported me greatly, naturally exemplifying their insights.  They saw my potential and continuously nourished my growth. Their love of life and desire to deepen their relationship and understanding, between self and other showed in their dedication and love for exploring life which shone brightly in their teachings, rich within yoga philosophy. My spirit is beyond grateful.

HP: If you could sum up what yoga means to you in one sentence what would it be?

Karen Mckinnon: Yoga means to be or practice being passionately engaged with life.

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