FEATURED TEACHER OF THE MONTH
Karuna (Kathleen) Scarola
Interview by Sarah McElwain
Karuna (Kathleen) Scarola took her first Integral Yoga class in 1974 and has been enjoying Yoga ever since. She is a longtime disciple of Swami Satchidananda, whose teachings inspire and permeate her life. She took Teacher Training in 1985 and has been teaching at IYINY for 18 years. Karuna is certified in Level I, Gentle Yoga, Yin Yoga, and Kidding Around Yoga. She has also attended Omega Institute’s Mindfulness in Education teacher training.
What is your definition of Yoga?
In 1974 I took my first Yoga class at the Integral Yoga Institute at 500 West End Avenue. I realized very quickly that Yoga is not just doing various poses to increase flexibility and become more fit. By the second class, I had become aware of the deep transformational aspect of Yoga. I felt a sense of peace that I had never before experienced, a profound quiet totally unlike any other. I wasn’t aware then that my entire way of viewing myself and the world was beginning to shift. Gurudev, Swami Satchidananda, has called Hatha Yoga, the “calling card” or the introduction to a very specific spiritual discipline. That was true for me. We are physical beings, and by practicing asana in the Integral Yoga tradition, we can gently move more deeply into the true purpose of Yoga. For me this means to live a life of acceptance and experience an abiding peace.
What do you love about Yoga?
I love that I am constantly evolving through the practice of Yoga, and I am not talking about the asana in this case. At the end of the day it is all about the state of the mind. I needed and was very blessed to have the presence of a living master as my example. The spiritual teachings offered and exemplified by Gurudev have defined my life. From the mundane to the most life-challenging experiences, the teachings have been my anchor. After living as a disciple for so many years I sometimes take the teachings for granted. I was starkly reminded of the power and beauty of this path a few years ago. My husband was diagnosed with A.L.S., a rapidly progressing and fatal disease. It was heartbreaking to watch him become totally “locked in” piece by piece until just his mind remained. It was the teachings that gave him and me the strength to deal with the disease and his ultimate passing. From Gurudev I learned that the purpose of this life is to learn lessons and accept whatever comes with equanimity. It is a goal of lifetimes.
Why do you teach Yoga?
I have always loved the Level I class. I love the pace and the meditative nature of the class. I love it that there are students who are brand-new to IYI and others who have been practicing for a long time but who, like me, love the pace. I feel the most at peace when I am teaching. As soon as I walk into the Institute I feel I am at my spiritual home. It is a blessing and an honor to be a part of IYI. I can be tired or distracted, and as soon as I start the class a peace comes over me. So, in sharing this profound practice, I am also spiritually rejuvenated.
What are the particular areas of Yoga you are teaching in now or in which you have created your own, special offerings? What attracted you to those areas?
I have just retired from a nearly 30-year career as a public school elementary teacher. I raised my own two children in the Yoga tradition, and I see how much my five-year old granddaughter enjoys practicing Yoga. It felt like a good fit to take the Kidding Around Yoga training with Rudra Swartz this past summer. It was a lot of fun! After I took the training I taught a series of classes at my public library. It was well received by the children and parents, so I plan to teach more of those classes. I have seen that even a “drop” of Yoga can be life altering. I am really happy to see so many schools teaching Yoga and mindfulness.
I also took the Yin Yoga training with Corina Benner this summer. I learned a great deal from that training as well. I never feel I have finished learning and am interested in whatever can improve my own practice and teaching.
What do you hope students will receive from you as a teacher, and what do you hope students will get out of your coming offerings and workshops?
I don’t believe that it is for me to hope that students will receive something. I teach as an instrument of my guru, and it is not in my hands as to what the effect will be. I just try to teach from my own love of the practice.
Do you have a favorite book or Yoga mat or product that you like, something you sincerely enjoy and wish to share with the teacher sangha?
I am a reader and find that many spiritual books help to remind me of my purpose. A few authors I especially like are Sri Nisargadatta, Sri Swami Satchidananda, and Eckhart Tolle. The book or quotation I read varies according to my needs of the moment. There is also an app called 3D Yoga that I refer to sometimes.
Ongoing class at IYI: Hathal I alternating Sundays at 11:15 a.m.