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Meet Katrina Gustafson of Karma Yoga Center in Central Denver

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katrina Gustafson.

Katrina, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My yoga journey began out of necessity 17 years ago when I got pregnant and needed to quit smoking.

I joined a big fitness gym to replace the nicotine itch and discovered their yoga classes.

I haven’t been off my yoga mat since then.

Although gym yoga opened my eyes to this ancient practice, I quickly developed a desire to dive deeper into a more authentic yoga practice that steeped itself in the truer purpose of yoga. I knew in my heart that yoga was much more than just a workout so I sought out studios that offered the whole yoga practice of mind, body, and spirit.

I quickly found such a place and began to see the powerful effects it had on me.

I dove in head first- I completed a 200-hour teacher training- I quit my 12-year career as a high school English teacher- and started teaching yoga. I loved it.

All the questions I had about life and myself were getting answered through the practice.
I soon found a master teacher named Saul David Raye and began studying under him.
I completed another 200 and 300-hour training- which put me at a 500hr certification.
I had been managing a yoga studio and taught full time. Part of my responsibility including leading a teacher training program.

My job was good, but some circumstances arose with that studio and I needed to move on. So, I decided to write a business plan, apply for a small business loan and open my own studio.

This was in 2009 and the economy was just hit with a recession. Most of my contemporaries were skeptical that I would get the loan or survive the opening year. But contrary to what they thought- all things fell into place. I opened up in June of 2010 in the Wash Park area of Denver. I felt so empowered and fulfilled. I knew to bring yoga to the world- even in my small way- was absolutely my soul’s purpose and I felt this knowing deep in the marrow of my bones.

Soon, I had 50 teachers working for me and over 100 classes offered a week. I put a strong emphasis on staying true to the origins of this ancient practice and made a diligent effort to not comprise the integrity of the teachings by watering it down to appease the western yoga appetite that geared toward being more of a fitness or workout practice.

Instead, I amplified some of the other virtues of the practice- like spiritual qualities. I wasn’t afraid to bring that component into the class. I was not afraid to talk about Spirit, God, dharma, karma, living our truth and being In integrity. Bhakti yoga sits as the foundation of my practice. This simply means that love and devotion are at the heart of my studio’s practice.

We chant in Sanskrit and teach about the Vedas and other ancient wisdom traditions.
We encourage prayer, meditation, loving-kindness, and selfless service.
I wanted people to come to their mat and fall in love with themselves and this beautiful life.

Soon, we had established ourselves as a spiritual-based yoga center. This was a niche that was fairly under-represented in Denver as most studios stay more toward workout yoga and therefore I filled a big need for many who were seeking a deeper practice. I got our program certified with Yoga Alliance and within my first year of the business began offering teacher training. This also filled a passion of mine as teaching has always been in my heart and I missed my students from my high school teaching career. The trainings, along with hosting retreats abroad helped to sustain the business costs to stay in operation.

Shortly after I opened, the transformations that had occurred in me because of the practice- like realizing the importance of living my truth- led me to file for divorce and start a new life. Juggling my family, I have two sons, and my business as a single mom was incredibly challenging but I was able to get my feet on the ground and rise even stronger than before in my personal power.

It was shortly after that when I decided it was time to go to the motherland of yoga. So, I went on a month-long pilgrimage with my teacher to India. That trip took everything to the next level for me. My understanding of the yoga principles went from theory to practice. I felt the teachings rather than merely understanding them. The journey helped bring a pivotal shift of living from and for my soul self.

But upon my return, I learned that my building had sold and the new owners were scraping it and I had three months to find a new studio home. With the help of many wonderful students and friends, we moved seamlessly from the Wash Park location to our current studio in Platt Park. The seemingly devastating news of having to uproot was a blessing in disguise. Our new home was better than the last and business picked up instantly.

During this time I had met my now husband Michael Shankara. He has joined me in the not only sacred union of the hearts but also as my business partner and an amazing father to my sons. He is a Mayan shaman and astrologer, as well as a yoga teacher and together we have taken our spiritual practice and teachings to a whole new level. We co-facilitate many retreats and teacher trainings along with my dear friend and events manager Lisa Theis who has worked for me since the very beginning.

Today, Karma Yoga Center has an incredible yoga community. We have graduated 14 yoga teacher training groups and hosted a dozen plus retreats around the globe. Most importantly, to me is that we have established a safe and sacred place for people to come to for healing and rejuvenating their mind, body, and spirit. I am deeply honored to have found this path of yoga.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Denver’s growth has caused rent to increase and its challenging sometimes to make ends meet- but the growth brings new students.

What were you like growing up?
As a child, I was precocious. I was curious and inquisitive and very active. I loved the outdoors and was a very social creature.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Erin K. Sturgas

Getting in touch: VoyageDenver is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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