Teacher Feature; Karen McKinnon


Yoga can transform and enhance many aspects of your life. For Karen McKinnon, yoga has been the perfect additive to her journey in healing herself and others. As a current student of the Living Institute school of Psychotherapy, Karen has allowed for her practice as a yoga teacher to help her learn more about the minds, bodies, and soul of her students.
“I began at The Yoga Studio in 2002 when it existed at Spaina and Bloor,” says Karen, “Michelle Finney the studio owner at the time, visited my home as her daughter played with my sister. I had never met her before, but upon her arrival at our door, I ran down the stairs excited and buzzing. She looked at my hands and said, ‘Yoga would be good for you.’ I could feel in my spirit that something was special about this meeting and I began attending yoga classes.”

The draw to the spirit is something that we hear a lot at Yoga Tree. People see the spirit of yoga in others and feel an affinity for the path, allowing it to transform their lives in ways that they never believed possible. “After 2 years of weekly practice, I started to ask many questions about the yoga tradition, energy, spirituality, mysticism and felt a deep need to share what I was learning. I simply loved connecting with the body and heart in this way. I was developing a more complex understanding of the relationship within myself and others and I yearned for more of a connection with spirit. I couldn’t wait to dive in more and share my growing gratitude and joy for the practice with others.”

After her years of practice, Karen became certified in Ottawa with Akhanda Yoga through the World Conscious Yoga Family. “Yogi Vishvketu and Chetana Panwar were my dear teachers,” she says, “I’m honored to say that I’m now a teacher with Akhanda YTT in Canada for the 200 hour program as the Techniques teacher. To this day I draw upon the richness and support that I received in my training as a source of inspiration and knowledge to develop a brighter and fuller way to experience life. The philosophy, asana, mantra, and pranayama nourished me and helped me to expand the expression of myself in the most healing of ways.”

Yoga Tree is honored to have Karen as one our teachers. Karen’s experience serves to enrich the practice of all of her students, specifically beginners. When it comes to beginning your yoga practice, Karen has some very simple advice; “Give yoga a good try. Find the styles and teachers that resonate most with you, then practice! Practice daily. The benefits of yoga come with consistency. It’s phenomenal what happens when you consistently and lovingly spend time with yourself.”

Since Karen focuses very strongly on the spiritual element of yoga, she is a wonderful teacher for both beginner and advanced practitioners. “At Yoga Tree I teach gentler classes, with one class that allots 15 minutes of meditation at the end,” she says, “It is such and treat to sit with people interested in the spirit of their inner world. It nourishes me to help others nourish themselves through the courage and joy that comes from being gentle. The nature of my classes is taught from my experience with yoga philosophy as part of a practical engaged lifestyle and my bhaktic – heart centered nature. I balance attention to physical detail with personal exploration for theoretical and experiential learning. I wish to nurture and empower others through the love of moving the body, of exploring the nature of the mind, and connecting with the beauty of the light within, breathing through it all.”

With such a gentle practice in mind and heart, what is Karen’s favorite asana? “It tends to change depending on what I need,” she says, “A few current favorites are Chakrasana – Full Wheel, Virbhadrasana – Warrior 1, Ekpadasana – Standing Stick. I feel lighter and less congested in the chest, shoulders, and back and more supported in the lower body with these poses.”

Be sure to enjoy one of Karen’s Beginner or Gentle Hatha classes and the Yonge and Eglinton studio!