Yoga by Kara logo
Yoga by Kara logo
Yoga by Kara logo
Kara Cummings

Hello, Nice to Meet You!

mandala

About Kara

Hello, I'm Kara. I love all things yoga, Pilates and functional movement based practices. I lead small group classes in Poplar Bluff, Missouri at the beautiful Studio 33 as well as in the corporate setting. I specialize in private yoga therapy as well as developing and conducting Yoga Alliance approved teacher trainings and continuing education courses . Here's my (shortened) yoga story...

I am originally from Missouri but spent most of my "formative" years living in Austin, TX being a flighty rock climber, student, dental assistant, EMT, concert-goer, world traveler and pretty much whatever, so of course I dabbled in yoga because, you know, it was cool and different. My first experience with yoga was with a very serious senior Iyengar instructor. I had no idea what I was getting into and to be honest, I was kind of intimidated by her stern demeanor. She intrigued me, however, with her knowledge of alignment and every little intricacy about the postures she had us practice. I ended up liking this yoga thing for many reasons, but most of all, because it made me feel really good. After a while, I decided to explore a few more avenues.

Power Yoga

Somehow, my yoga adventures caused me to enroll in an intensive "Power Yoga" teacher training course, which I completed in 1998. Next thing I knew, I was teaching classes in a few gyms and back alley art studios. I was having the time of my life, but I was still very wet behind the ears, so I sought out more training. Eventually, I found a comprehensive, teacher training program at the accredited yoga school, Yoga Yoga. After much hard work and dedication, I attained my 2nd certificate of completion in June of 2001, which allowed me to register as a 200 hour level yoga instructor. Since then, I have attended many workshops and trainings with world-renowned teachers and have accumulated thousands of teaching hours.

I have been influenced and inspired strongly by Ashtanga (as taught by Sri Pattabhi Jois) , Vinyasa, and Kundalini yoga (as taught by Yogi Bhajan). I also got back to my rock climbing roots and started training to teach super fun and challenging Aerial Yoga. As my practice has flourished and my knowledge has grown over the last 2 decades, I have developed a passion for private yoga therapy and working with people who are recovering and/or living with a myriad of conditions and injuries. My group classes are designed to improve fitness, conditioning, and mobility, reduce stress and tension, and awaken the joy of movement. My aim is to keep my classes informative, fun, and accessible, so expect plenty of laugh-worthy moments, coupled with breath and core work, strengthening and sweet, deep (but safe) stretches. So, namaste y'all! I hope to see you on the mat!

So, What is This Yoga Thing?

The classical techniques of yoga date back more than 5,000 years. In ancient times, the desire for greater personal freedom, health, long life, and heightened self-understanding gave birth to this system of physical and mental exercise which has since spread throughout the world. The word yoga means “to yoke or join together,” and it brings the body and mind together into one harmonious experience.

The whole system of yoga is built on three main structures: exercise, breathing, and meditation. The exercises of yoga are designed to put pressure on the glandular systems of the body, thereby increasing its efficiency and total health. The body is looked upon as the primary instrument that enables us to work and evolve in the world, and so a yoga student treats it with great care and respect. Breathing techniques are based on the concept that breath is the source of life in the body. The yoga student gently increases breath control to improve the health and function of both body and mind. These two systems of exercise and breathing help prepare the body and mind for meditation, and the student finds an easy approach to a quiet mind that allows silence and healing from everyday stress. Regular daily practice of all three parts of this structure of yoga produce a clear, bright mind and a strong, capable body.

Short and Sweet Yoga History

It's difficult to determine when Yoga began, but it certainly predates written history. Stone carvings depicting figures in Yoga positions have been found in archeological sites in the Indus Valley dating back some 5,000 years.

The tradition of Yoga has always been passed on individually from teacher to student through oral teaching and practical demonstration. The formal techniques that are now known as Yoga are, therefore, based on the collective experiences of many individuals over many thousands of years. The particular manner in which the techniques are taught and practiced today depends on the approach passed down in the line of teachers supporting the individual practitioner.

One of the earliest texts having to do with Yoga was compiled by a scholar named Patanjali, who set down the most prevalent Yoga theories and practices of his time in a book he called Yoga Sutras (“Yoga Aphorisms”) as early as the 1st or 2nd century B.C. or as late as the 5th century A.D. (exact dates are unknown). The system that he wrote about is known as “Ashtanga Yoga,” or the eight limbs of Yoga, and this is what is generally referred to today as Classical Yoga. Most current adherents practice some variation of Patanjali’s system.

The 8 Steps of Classical Yoga

The eight steps of Classical Yoga are:

1) yama, meaning “restraint” — refraining from violence, lying, stealing, casual sex, and hoarding;
2) niyama, meaning “observance” — purity, contentment, tolerance, study, and remembrance;
3) asana, physical exercises;
4) pranayama, breathing techniques;
5) pratyahara, preparation for meditation, described as “withdrawal of the mind from the senses”;
6) dharana, concentration, being able to hold the mind on one object for a specified time;
7) dhyana, meditation, the ability to focus on one thing (or nothing) indefinitely;
8) samadhi, absorption, or realization of the essential nature of the self.

Modern Western Yoga classes generally focus on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th steps. Yoga did not become widely known until the 1960s, as part of the youth culture’s growing interest in anything Eastern. As more became known about the beneficial effects of Yoga, it gained acceptance and respect as a valuable method for helping in the management of stress and improving health and well-being. Many physicians now recommend Yoga practice to patients at risk for heart disease, as well as those with back pain, arthritis, depression, and other chronic conditions.

Is Yoga a Religion?

No, yoga is not a religion. It has no creed or fixed set of beliefs, nor is there a prescribed god-like figure to be worshipped. The core of yoga’s philosophy is that everything is supplied from within the individual. Thus, there is no dependence on an external figure, either in the sense of a person or god figure, or a religious organization. The common belief that yoga derives from Hinduism is a misconception. Yoga actually predates Hinduism by many centuries. Ancient seals unearthed in the Indus Valley provide clear evidence of widespread yoga practice earlier than 3,000 B.C.E. The techniques of yoga have been adopted by Hinduism as well as by other world religions. Yoga is a system of techniques that can be used for a number of goals, from simply managing stress better, learning to relax, and increasing limberness and strentgh all the way to becoming more self-aware and acquiring the deepest knowledge of one’s own self. The practice of yoga will not interfere with any religion. Students of yoga can continue to follow the religious traditions they have grown up in or adopted without conflict.