Inquiring Minds - Q&A with Yoga Mentor Karen Gastiaburo

This week, we caught up with the amazing Karen Gastiaburo - Harlem resident, yogi, teacher, and a lead yoga mentor to our students under our Grow-Move-Create curriculum programming. Read on to meet Karen and learn more about her experience.

On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort towards spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear.
— The Bhagavad Gita

Seed Street: What was the first thing that stood out to you when you began teaching our young yogis?

Karen: What stood out to me was that the kids just wanted to be HEARD. Teaching them to reflect, to go inside and listen, to have respect for themselves and for one another when speaking. I had to remember that they are children, but children are wise beyond their years and respect was a central part of our dialogue throughout.

Seed Street: Beyond yoga as a form of movement, meditation and inner-awareness were central tenants you introduced into practice from day 1.

Karen: I have experienced a lot of growth in my personal life through the process of self-inquiry.

Meditation is about contemplation, clearing the mind of chatter in order to create the space and time for learning and making clear decisions.

Our girls would come to class with various stress inducers like School, tests, friends, home life – It was so important for them to take that quiet meditative time to breathe and let the stress go out with the breath and breathe in new air, new light and a renewed sense of self-confidence - simply let go!  The response to being handed these tools was immediate.

Seed Street: Tell us more about your own history as a yogi and background with teaching yoga.

Karen: I started practicing yoga somewhere around the year 2000, but a trip to India in 2002 is what really catapulted me into a deeper practice.

Then, about 8 years ago things really shifted for me. I found a teacher / mentor in [NYC-based yogi] Jackie Prete. She shared ideas and practices that resonated with me. And I continued my journey into teaching yoga.

I primarily study and teach Anusara Yoga and teach classes at the World Yoga Center on the UWS (72nd Street) on a regular basis, along with volunteering to teach their community classes. I continue to enjoy teaching all walks of life and welcome the opportunity to experience and grow in new ways. Self-inquiry is key to that process and that process manifests into asana practice.

But, something was missing ...I always imagined working with kids in some capacity. I am at that point in my life where I feel really blessed and grateful and it was now time to give back.  All the things I’ve learned so far I hope to impart on the children of our future.  Seed Street was such a sweet do something I love and share this with the students.

Seed Street: How long have you been a resident of Harlem?

Karen: 7 years, which by some NY standards is a long time.....I've made friends with neighbors, I'm engaged in the community and I participate...., and by Harlem standards makes me a newcomer!...Harlem is a neighborhood steeped in history with families that have lived here for generations and I have a lot of respect for that.  I feel fortunate to be welcomed here and to be able to share my talents and passions with kids that are growing up here.  

Seed Street: What is the most important thing you hope to impart to these young yogis through the process of introducing them to yoga?

Karen: I am a person who is always looking to grow and learn, to stay very curious. For me, teaching yoga is about the self-inquiry, what makes somebody tick, understanding them, their personal obstacles and how to help them grow and to overcome those obstacles.

We are all creatures of habit, sometimes to a fault. And, we learn from the people around us. But then, we have the power to make new choices, new decisions "is this working for me, or is it not?" those choices, those decisions can change the course of your life. 

Do we repeat a pattern or do we change a pattern? We alone have control over that. If I can impart that message to these young minds, that you are in control, that things can be different and you can shape that narrative, that is a powerful thing, that is the message I hope to leave them with. "Take care of yourself". 

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from The Bhagavad Gita - 

"On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort towards spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear."  

This Week at Seed Street - Week of May 2nd

We are back from spring break this week.

MOVE: We combined our study of individual poses and our discussions of Chakras into a series of sun salutations. Our young yogis had such a great time building upon their flow and seeing the different poses come together into a longer, fluid sequence.

CREATE: Our entrepreneur teams were hard at work translating their business plans into visual displays that they will showcase at the Business Plan Fair coming up on May 19th. Our teams had a lively discussion as they stenciled, sketched, collaged and debated how to best present their ideas in two weeks.

GROW: Friday’s wet weather kept the Grow team indoors, but it didn’t stop us from thinking about the green veggies and herbs tucked away safely in our container garden.  The group developed and illustrated more than two dozen recipes for vegetable-centric foods, all of which included lettuce and/or basil, the two plants we harvested a couple of weeks ago for our Spring Harvest Table. The recipes include veggie tacos, a diverse array of salads, and a couple of yummy sandwiches.

This Week At Seed Street - April 18-22

A truly glorious spring week at Seed Street.

Move: We learned about standing yoga poses and practiced meditation. We relied on props for support, using straps to stretch our upper backs and learning how to keep our shoulders back without exaggerating the natural curvature of our spines. We used straps and balance near the wall to help us achieve dancers pose!  We finished class with a guided meditation, using the yoga blocks to improve our seated postures.  It was a great extension of the balancing and focus work we did the prior week.

Create: Our Create entrepreneurs were working at full force.  All three business plan teams were ironing out important decisions including their marketing strategies and the roles and responsibilities of each member of their team.  We are so excited for the teams to showcase their full plans at our Business Plan Fair in just a few weeks!

Grow: We celebrated a spring harvest with a vegetable and herb distribution to family and friends on Friday.  Our young farmers distributed over 40 bags of lettuce and basil, grown in our hydroponic container garden, to parents and other members of the Children’s Aid Society community.  It was a wonderful way to wrap up the week and begin a much needed and well deserved Spring Break!  

Note on week of April 25: Programming is paused for spring break this week; check back in two weeks for more news from Seed Street!

This Week at Seed Street - April 11th, 2016

This week at Seed Street began with yoga.  This week’s yoga practice tackled the themes of stamina and focus. In an effort to built strength, the girls pushed themselves to hold poses for an extra breath or two longer, and reflected on how stamina isn’t just about physical strength; it requires mental strength and focus too.  To explore and practice focus, we did tree pose.   It was exciting to hear the students describe how they were able to hold the pose the longest when they focused on themselves and blocked out everyone else around them.

 In Create, the three business plan teams finished their SWOT (Strength - Weakness - Opportunities - Threats) analysis charts.  They are ready to start applying their work over the past two weeks to make some important strategic revision to their business plans.  We already looking forward to each teams final business pitches at the end of May.  

The week ended with another beautiful day working in and around the container garden.  We postponed our farm stand for one more week, giving our lettuce and basil a little more time to grow before we harvest.  We used that time to transplant additional seedlings into the hydroponic system and finished making our signs and decorations for the farm stand. We also crafted some invitations to our family and friends to join us for our farm stand next week.   We had a new participant in our gardening club a couple weeks ago, and our seasoned gardeners where able to demonstrate their knowledge of hydroponics and plant anatomy as they graciously showed her the ropes.