Meet Peter Karow

31 Aug 2020 10:50 AM | Natalie Cummings (Administrator)

Welcome to the Yoga for Arthritis monthly blog series that features our YFA members hard work, dedication, & passion. Without the ongoing efforts of these standout members, we would not be where we are today. 

How has Yoga for Arthritis impacted your daily life?

Teaching and practicing YFA has impacted my life in many ways, but three main areas stand out for me: I have become more compassionate; more observant; and more creative since becoming a YFA teacher. Teaching students who often are dealing with pain has made me more compassionate towards what they are going through and their strength has been very inspiring. Teaching YFA has made me be much more observant for signs of pain, discomfort and difficulty in performing asanas (I no longer rely solely on verbal reports of pain: I keenly observe how a student moves). Finally, teaching YFA has served to exponentially increase my creativity as a yoga teacher: I am always trying new and different ways to provide propping and support to students whatever their unique needs are and I feel much freer and more expansive in my teaching and thinking thanks to YFA. I will try just about anything to help a student to be comfortable practicing yoga and won’t stop trying until I have found a solution.

Why were you personally drawn to Yoga for Arthritis?

I was drawn to YFA because so many students in my yoga classes had Arthritis or pain and I felt that I did not have the skills as a yoga teacher to keep them safe and have them participate fully in my classes. It was a very frustrating situation both for myself and for my students. From my basic yoga training I knew that students should never do anything that caused pain, but I did not have the skills to offer them any alternatives except to tell them to listen to their own bodies. Also, if a student was unable to safely perform a certain asana, I did not have the skill set to adapt the asana to meet the students’ needs. I knew that the YFA training would give me the skills that I needed and indeed it did.

I have learned many things on my YFA journey, a lot of them about human perseverance and courage and also about the important health benefits of moving. YFA has shown me that anyone can practice yoga. Movement is so important to the maintenance of both physical and mental health but so many people are afraid to move because they have pain or limitations. Teaching YFA has opened my perspective to the reality that everyone can practice yoga. This is such a wonderful gift to be able to share with students.

What lessons have you learned through your Yoga for Arthritis journey?

Teaching in the pandemic was very interesting and challenging. For myself, while I had used Zoom before, I had never taught a yoga class before on Zoom. There was definitely a learning curve, mostly about small things like remembering to turn the video on so the students could see me and adjusting to the fact that when I asked the students to do seated forward bends in a chair they all totally disappeared from view until they returned to an upright position. The student response to the online classes was telling: in the first online YFA class in NYC there were 53 students attending! (That was another big adjustment: paying attention to how to keep that number of students’ visually insight and safe). It was also interesting to see elderly students who grew up in the age of pencils, paper and manual typewriters A positive and exciting. The change to online teaching has served as a catalyst for me to examine teaching methods and think about how to accomplish the most effective learning.

Let us know more about you and your Yoga for Arthritis Journey

Being a teacher trainer for the Level 1 YFA trainings has been an all-around wonderful experience. I have been very fortunate to co-teach with Nancy Obrien and Livvie Mann: we make a great team (not to mention getting to work with and learn from Steffany and the YFA staff). The preparation for the training is always a hectic combination of immersing myself in the material while at the same time working out the logistics of rooms, props and technology {how do we get the power-point projector to work again? What do we do if the machine gets too hot?}. For some reason, the scheduling of rooms always presents an ongoing and especially tricky challenge. The actual training ends up being a great learning experience as students from so many different backgrounds and experience come together to learn and grow. The whole process is really fun and uplifting.

As I currently work in a pediatric nursing home New York City, I thought I would share a bit about my experience of the pandemic. Most importantly, none of our residents died. We only had a few residents who got the virus and we were able to successfully treat all of them on-site.

The beginning of the pandemic was particularly scary—we did not have enough Personal Protective Equipment and as the health industry mobilized to address this pandemic, work became a 24 hour, 7 day a week endeavor. On a daily basis, we would receive guidance’s, directives and surveys from the New York City Department of Health, the New York State Department of Health, the Centers of Disease Control and Executive Orders from the Governor, some of which had conflicting information. The next day we would receive updates on the information we received the day before with different information. Sometimes the Department of Health would send out a one-hour notice about a mandatory webinar on a Saturday night! Information was flying, policies and procedures had to be written, staff had to be trained, residents and families had to be kept informed and reassured. It was a very hectic, confusing and scary time. Of course, all of my friends and family would ask how I was spending all the leisure time I had as the city had been on lockdown, but little did they know that I had NO leisure time.

Anyway, the good news is that we got through what I hope is the worst of the pandemic and I have definitely learned a lot about how to mobilize in a disaster and about resilience. Life gives us so many lessons.

Peter Karow

Peter Karow is a yoga teacher and yoga therapist certified through the International Association of Yoga Therapists. In addition, he is a licensed physical therapist and has worked in the health care field as an administrator for many years. He has taught yoga at the Integral Yoga Institute in New York City since 2011 and has certifications in Yoga for Arthritis, Yoga for Cancer and Therapeutic Yoga. In addition to teaching Yoga for Arthritis classes, he serves as a teacher in the Level 1 Yoga for Arthritis teacher trainings. He is particularly interested in Yoga as a vehicle for self-knowledge, healing and inner balance. He has a special interest in using Yoga Nidra as a therapeutic practice to help students affect personal change and healing in their lives.

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