Body Positive Yoga, Interview with Amber Karnes
PHOTOS BY Robinson Imagery
Between teaching online at bodypositiveyoga.com (through free classes on her blog and her monthly subscription site, where she posts lots of new, really original videos every month), and her online course for teachers with Dianne Bondy called Yoga For All, and leading workshops and retreats all around the country, Amber Karnes had time to answer some questions for our readers! I’d hoped to write here that I’m in the Yoga for All course, but alas my furnace had other plans for that money. So I’m saving and have it on my agenda. I have taken a lot of online classes, have an online yoga membership and have participated in several of Amber’s and Dianne’s online classes, even a live one, and I appreciate their style and guidance.
1. You have practiced yoga for over a decade. Do you remember your first class and what you were thinking?
I went to my first yoga class in my early 20s. I was on some big weight loss project at the time, and the trainer at my gym said that I should do yoga on my rest days because “Yoga doesn’t really count as exercise, but you still burn calories.” Well, sign me up. I was pretty sure fat people didn’t go to yoga studios, but I went anyway.
I remember being the only bigger person in the room. I don’t remember what we did in class. What I do remember was leaving the class, walking to my car behind the building, driving away, getting on the interstate to go home, and about 10 minutes into my drive, the familiar mental soundtrack started back up. Maybe you’ve experienced this soundtrack too: that voice in the back of your mind that second-guesses everything you do, tells you you aren’t good enough, reminds you of that stupid thing you said or did, and constantly judges and casts shame onto your body.
What I realized was that if the ol’ judgment reel had started back up, that meant it had stopped. Even for a few minutes, my mind had quieted itself and I had spent those minutes not thinking about or judging my body or myself. This was new! I was eager to repeat this experiment, so I went back to class. A few classes more, and I was hooked.
2. What language/components do you feel are important to use in every yoga class you guide?
I like to normalize taking different variations of poses, using props, and having bodies that aren’t always in “perfect working order.” So we talk about bodies. We talk about sensation and what it might mean. We learn how to use props and take variations for almost every pose we do. It’s important to me that my students feel that they have agency to choose how to interact with their mat in any given practice – to take the yoga practice back into their own hands and realize they are their most important teacher and the only expert of their bodies.
See? LOVE THIS TEACHER! (Related articles: 21st Century Yoga Props: Making Yoga More Accessible, Vitruvian Man Uses Props)
3. You are touring the U.S. with your Body Positive Yoga and Yoga for All beginning in October. How did you decide to come to St. Louis and in what other cities will you be teaching?
Oh boy! It’s a long road trip! I’ve been to Cincinnati, Minneapolis, Ripon & Madison, Wisconsin, I’ll be all over Illinois, St. Louis, West Virginia – I’m so excited! Honestly the tour came together very quickly. I realized I had weekends in Minneapolis and Chicago just a few days apart and didn’t want to spend all that time on planes. I put a screenshot of a square on a map and asked “who in this square wants me to come through their town?” on my Facebook page. Less than 48 hours later, the tour was done! I’m so excited to come to St. Louis (my first time!).
4. You have committed yourself to offering inclusive, adaptive yoga to empower diverse practitioners around the globe. Do you still get nervous before teaching? Do you have a ritual for centering before beginning?
I get nervous every time. Will this resonate with anyone? Will they like me? Will someone come that doesn’t feel accommodated or included? My ritual is usually pacing back and forth awkwardly in and out of the yoga room and cracking jokes until it’s time to start. I try to embrace the awkward and laugh about it!
5. What are some of your favorite activities besides yoga?
I just started doing Body Positive Yoga full time in January, so I spend a lot of time “workin on the business” which means being on my laptop or in front of a videocamera creating content, or on the phone or email with locations where I’ll be traveling to teach, booking events, etc. But other than that, I’m really into camping and hiking (and do that as much as possible with my husband, Jimmy). I like cooking and knitting too. And reading (mostly nonfiction and memoir).
6. If you could offer advice to someone considering yoga teacher training, what would your biggest pointers be?
A. Figure out what sort of focus you want to have in your training. Are you an anatomy geek? Do you want to spend tons of time focusing on asana? Are you more interested in the inner work or personal transformation aspect? Ancient texts?
7. You work with Dianne Bondy and have created a Yoga for All Teacher Training to help teachers become more inclusive and body positive in their impact on students. How might our readers find out more about this and is it just for teachers or can anyone benefit from the training?
You can go to yogaforalltraining.com to learn more (and if you sign up with your email address, you’ll get a free mini-course). We’ve worked with hundreds of teachers who have become part of this body positive yoga movement, and we hope to continue to reach around the globe and build the community even more. It’s geared toward teachers or aspiring teachers. If you’re a student and would just like information on modifications and props, or yoga classes geared toward the body you have today – check out my monthly subscription site, Body Positive Yoga online (you can try it out for 2 weeks for free)!
8. If you could give past Amber one sentence of advice what would that sentence be?
Stop trying to protect other people from your feelings. And don’t dim your light to make others feel less intimidated. Share the spotlight when it’s right, not because you think you’re not enough.
Ok, we love you Amber! I am so looking forward to learning from this incredible human. Find her teaching at Blue Sky Yoga on Friday, November 3 and Saturday, November 4.
MAKE YOGA WORK FOR YOU IN THE BODY YOU HAVE TODAY, Saturday, November 4, 2017,
TEACHER WORKSHOP: BODY POSITIVE YOGA, Saturday, November 4, 2017,
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