yoga for anxiety

Private yoga sessions with Karin

Traditionally, yoga was ‘whispered wisdom’, a lineage handed down from one teacher to one student.  As yoga burst into the American mainstream, group classes became the norm.  This is wonderful, as it allows anybody anywhere to experience yoga.  It can be a cost effective way to have a consistent practice.  It means we can try out different styles, different teachers, and different locations.  It means you can find a yoga class wherever in the world you happen to go. However, classes can be intimidating, alienating, or too generalized for what you most need and want.  Private sessions return yoga to its heart: the goal of personal transformation.

Let's face it; 'yoga classes' simply don't feel right for many of us.  That in no way means yoga is not an option.

In my own practice and as a teacher, I have seen that a few private yoga classes can teach more than years of group classes.  This is especially true at the beginning of a practice, at a point of ‘taking it to the next level’, or when students have specific physical, emotional, or private concerns.  Private sessions are entirely adaptive, supportive, and personal: any body, with any degree of mobility, can find here the profound healing, restoration, and preventative benefits of a yoga practice.

The basics: $125 per session.  Each session lasts about an hour and a half.  I strongly recommend that you commit to taking these in a sequence- taking a single class will give you a lot of information but no follow through.  To make this more accessible, you can purchase 4 privates and get a fifth for free.

Students New To Yoga

Starting a yoga practice with a few private sessions can rapidly introduce both a sense of familiarity and ‘easing in’.  It can break down some of the barriers of intimidation and alienation we feel in walking into a group of people we perceive to be ‘better’ at yoga than us, more flexible, more strong, or more confidant.  Working with a teacher who will directly answer any question you might have and who can explain yogic concepts and postures as they apply to you and your body, your lifestyle, your experience is an invaluable gift.  It is also entirely possible to set up an ongoing private session as your practice evolves; this can help you assess where you are, how to advance, and keep your practice rather than a synchronized yoga team as the goal.

Taking it to the Next Level

“I am currently in a teacher training program, and stumbled on Karin’s webpage.  After a single class with her, I knew I had found my teacher.  I learned more from her classes, her insights, and her conversations than I have in any trainings or workshops I’ve attended.  She has clearly made yoga a calling and not a career.  She watches to make yoga work, really work, for each and every one of her students.  You don’t find that in most teachers or studios.  You just don’t.” – Cari S

“I am a yoga teacher. I consider Karin to be a ‘teacher’s teacher’.  She teaches yoga of the heart, yoga of life, yoga as the whole experience of being alive.” David S

“Knowing Karin has taught me how to make yoga real – not a brand name or a thing I do once a week, but real.” anonymous

“I’ve practiced yoga for more than 30 years and I have never understood or felt alignment the way I do when Karin teaches.  Not all teachers are teachers.  Karin is.” Maria K

Sometimes we plateau in a yoga practice.  Sometimes we just wonder how the heck what we do on our mats is supposed to translate to ‘the path’.  And sometimes we need to know more; we become interested in arm balances, say, or we are worried our practice has to change as we age, or we want to use yoga as part of training for a marathon.  I’ve worked with a number of people who are in or are considering yoga teacher training and are hungry for dialogue.  Whatever the prompting, private sessions are a powerful way to take your group classes, your home practice, your path a little deeper.  It doesn’t take much – a private or two every once in a while radically transforms a practice.

Yoga Therapy, Yoga for Mobility, Weight loss, Personal Training, or Emotional Healing

We know – science has proven – that yoga works with things from anxiety to cardio vascular disease to Parkinson’s disease and fibromyagia in ways pills and talk therapy can’t do.  But we may also struggle to feel a group class is right for us, or how we can possibly participate.  Private sessions allow you to learn the appropriate modifications, experience the full benefits of postures, express any and all concerns and have them addressed.  All Return Yoga classes are open to and appreciate the participation of beginners and those who adapt their poses: but stepping into a class means the teacher cannot focus on you constantly.  Taking a private session or two can give you the confidance and information you need to adapt group classes appropirately and safely.  Yoga CAN be practiced safely, promote self healing, and turn limitations into strong points. Yoga IS for you, it’s just a matter of answering to your specific needs.

Life coaching, spiritual direction, philosophy, distance coaching

“Yoga”, real yoga, does not mean yoga class or physical postures.  Long story short, yoga is an eight limbed path, and the physical practice of asana is only one of those eight branches.  Many of us are interested in all those other branches.  This is incredibly important and something I want to encourage.  Further, many of us need time to process and dialogue our yoga experience, ask questions, or get some insight into that vast and often times confusing world that is ‘yoga’.  Many of us suspect ‘yoga’ might help but aren’t interested in the group style format.  Private sessions allow for all of this.  It’s your time.  Sessions can be all asana (physical practices), all conversation, or a blend of both.  Karin has training as a counselor, crisis intervention specialist, and advocate.

Quick FAQs

Who are private yoga sessions for? 

Any of the above (new to yoga, looking to start a home practice, wanting to take it to the next level, or have a specific concern).  Privates are also frequently recommended as a starting point or addition to group classes for fertility issues, obesity, disability, anxiety, depression, PTSD, pre and post natal, stress, chronic pain, cancer recovery, sleep trouble, illness….

Q: Why are Private Sessions Recommended for Herniated or Ruptured Spinal Disks? Many doctors are suggesting yoga to people with disk issues. Yoga can be very therapeutic and provide back pain relief. However, certain postures offered in a group class setting could also aggravate disk conditions. Safety and ahimsa (non-harming) is our first priority. With a little private coaching, someone with a disk issue can learn how to practice yoga safely alone or in a group class. In just one private session, a student can gain a basic understanding of which postures are most useful to their condition, which ones to avoid, and which ones to approach in a modified form.

Q: Why are Private Yoga Sessions Recommended for Pregnancy? Pregnancy is such an individual experience that it deserves individual attention and support. This personal guidance empowers the mother to be to practice safely. She can then attend ANY regular group yoga class at her leisure with the understanding of how to take care of herself by modifying postures to avoid strain or injury to the baby.

Q: What do I Bring to a Private Yoga Session? – What do I Wear? – How do I Prepare? There is nothing you need to do to prepare for your private session. If you have a spinal condition like scoliosis and you may want to bring a your X-rays or MRI report for the instructor to review. Wear clothing that is comfortable and will stretch and move with your body. You are encouraged to bring a notebook and pen. If you can, you may want to write down your questions or concerns in the days before your private to bring with you.

Stability. Balance. Grace.

A recent study of Parkinson's disease showed a gentle yoga practice, once a week, returned people's ability to balance.  To stand, on their own.  To walk.  To hold the hand steady. Parkinson's is a withering disease, a slow erosion of the neural pathways.  The body slowly loses its capacity and the mind, I imagine, begins to close in upon itself, moving in smaller and smaller cages.  The mind forgets how to relate to the body.

Painful.  Frightening.

Yet I don't think it's terribly far from what most of us are living, most of the time.   I think we have forgotten (mistrusted, misused, tried to hide or control or shrink) the body to the point we can no longer feel it.  We have become trapped, disembodied.  We have, in very real ways, forgotten how to feel and what it means to be embodied.  To be alive.

It's a common experience in yoga classes to feel we're going to fall on our faces, that we're on the verge of toppling.  We feel the anti-thesis of grace and beauty.  When I teach, I watch this happening; feel your feet on the ground, I'll say, or notice your breath in your belly, and half the people in the room look up to the ceiling as if the answers and the sensation were up there somewhere.  They crane their necks around to see what the teacher or the experienced students are doing.  If I say feel your hand, from the inside, I get looks of skepticism.  There's yoga teacher talking crazy again, the look says.

I am not speaking of advanced poses of gyration and balancing on one foot.

I am talking about tadasana, mountain pose.  Or sitting up tall.

This is very, very hard for most of us to do.


We cower, instead.  We hunch.  We try to make ourselves small, or have a chronically puffed up chest.  Old injuries, our childhoods, our belief and self esteem all cow the body into misalignment and unbalance.  This isn't metaphorical, either: if you think of how a depressed or grief stricken person stands, how they breath, you can imagine the postural changes.  Four or five minutes of this posture has a ripple effect on our mood and our chemistry.  Ten or twenty years, and the mood and the chemistry have re-formed the body and made it hard.

Feeling violated or insecure causes some bodies to protect themselves with added weight.  Anxiety and constricts the muscles around the heart, freezes the shoulders and the back into a hard shell.  People who have been told to be quiet, to not draw attention to themselves, who have learned to focus all their attention outside (on alcoholic parents, an abusive partner, an unstable environment) hold a very small stance and seem to shrink in space.  Even assertive, confidant, or aggressive persons have an overdeveloped strength in the neck, chest, and arms but stand on cocked legs, bowed legs, hurt their knees and their ankles over and over again.

Some of this is malicious feeling, as though we have to 'deal' with all our unresolved issues in the past.  It needn't be.  Similar structural changes happen simply because we over use our dominant hand, fell off a horse when we were twelve, or were rear ended five years ago.

These are only questions we can start asking ourselves, directions in which to move.

What happens inside when someone cues you to stand tall?  How does it feel to occupy as much space as you can, to stretch your arms wide, to kick hard?

Do you hands shake?  Why?


The Parkinson's study suggests yogic movement retrains the brain and neural pathways, establishes new pathways, reconnects brain and intention and nerves.

Even if parts of our brain have died and eroded, we can learn how to stand again.


I feel I'm going to fall over, a student said in virabadrasana 2. If the slightest wind blew, I would fall.

How, then, do we learn to feel balanced, to feel strong and stable?  What does a yoga pose have to do with our mind, our self?  Where do you start?

I asked him to pay attention to his feet.  In an effort to stay stable, he was unconsciously taking small steps, keeping the movements and the poses conservative.

Yoga poses begin with foundations, with the way our body comes in contact with the floor.  A strong, balanced pose means the joints are stabilized, which means the muscles and connective tissue are engaged (which means tightening joints up, not flexibility).

Personal trainers and physical therapists often teach movements with a ball or a wobble board.  The point is teaching the body to stabilize itself.  The body does this by contracting muscles in co-ordination, creating foundation.

Yoga uses the body itself to teach stability and poise.  If it is true that fear, anxiety, depression, or a car wreck fifteen years ago changes our body, than it is also true that consciously training our body to stand confidently will change our minds and our moods.  It offers a way to confidence, stability, and grace that is altogether different than psychotherapy or positive affirmations.  It asks us not to worry about the thoughts and feelings that happen over, and over, and over again but to pause for a moment and consider the skin of our toes and the structure of the ankles.

But to get there, we have to feel our feet on the ground.  We have to know our relationship to the floor.

We have to start getting out of our heads, and into the body.


There is an illustration floating around the internet, that say's "When you fall, I'll be there for you" and is signed, affectionately, The Floor.

Some yogis have altered the illustration and crossed out 'floor' to read 'mat'.

This is the point I love, in yoga.  The point where the idea, the philosophy, the meaning, is ripped right out of the abstract and into the real.  yoga is the practice of reality.

On the one hand, this idea of the floor catching you is humiliating.  It culls up images of awkwardness, embarrassment, all that learning how to walk and ride a bicycle. Let alone dancing, which most of us can not, in any impressive way, do.

On the other hand, there is a honest comfort here.  Reality is the only solid ground there is.  Our plans, our expectations, our heads have proven us to be silly, more often than not.  They are houses of mirrors and will lead directly to suffering and disappointment, if not just a chronic sense of being numb and stuck.

Reality, though, touching our hands or our feet to the floor and learning how to build stability, has an element of power to it.  I have friends who swear by the grounding effect of gardening, others who will mutter something about needing to use their hands when they start to feel overwhelmed or have to work something through.  Most of us, I think, can remember a time when an emotion swelled so powerfully we had to go for a walk, had to wash the dishes or clean a closet or sweep the floor.  Most of us can acknowledge the fact that a difficult to solve problem often needs us to stop ruminating and spend time doing: tinkering on a car, walking the dog, playing with a child, cooking a meal.

It isn't that there is anything wrong with thinking.  Only that thinking, to be inspired and fully formed, to be genius, needs to have its feet on the ground.  It needs time, ground, experience.

We will never, I mean, think our way into feeling better or more alive.  We can never burn by thought alone to an answer to life's questions.  We can never work through the issues of our past or our unfulfilled dreams or our nagging anxieties unless and until we experience our selves as strong, fast, stable, and breathy.


This is a gift.  This is a promise.  This is why yoga is so powerful for those of us who might feel anxious, vulnerable, or afraid.

At moments of heartbreak, overwhelm, or panic, it is possible to find our feet.

Yogic movement retrains the mind, reconnects attention and nerves, gives us the floor.

This is why yogic practice is hard, and the hardness has very little to do with physical limitations.  The hardness is in our minds, in finding a willingness to let go of our thinking habits and just show up, instead.  Most of us resist.  Our mind insists we aren't any good at this stuff, that other people are strong and flexible and athletic but not us.  The mind wants to stay afraid, says things like I'm always alone, this situation is unfair, why me, why can't I.  It is packed with 'always', 'never', and doubt.  It is ruthless in it's perfectionism, procrastination, blame, and fear.  It becomes rapt with it's own preconceptions, prejudices, and self-preservation to the point it loses connection with reality.

Yet emotional balance, emotional intelligence, and healing are reality bound.

Remember, for a moment, those times when you were so emotionally charged you needed to move.  Or how physical reality (song, walking, washing the dishes, touching something alive) has helped you work through a problem.

Now know, for a moment, that the quickest and surest route to getting out of your own fear and suffering is to consider someone else's.  Wisdom practices throughout time have taught that the surest way to solve your own problems is to help someone else through theirs.  The point is not altruism, per say.  The point is reality.  If we can, for even a moment, crawl out of the mind and into the world we come back in contact with reality and perspective.

We remember time.  We know relativity.  We realize we can, actually, stand up.  However big our fear or panic, we'll know that there is more to life than it.

There is more to us than it.

The mind closes in on itself, moving into smaller and smaller cages.  It forgets how to relate to the body.

Eventually, we learn how to feel panic or fear or uncertainty full on, but still stand.  We'll know they are not constant, not solid, and that we do not actually become overwhelmed.  We'll learn emotional balance, intellectual gravity, skill in life.

We experience ourselves standing tall.