Igniting Inspiration: One Yogi’s Path to Loving Life through Constant Health
A member for over 20 years, Karen Tracy radiates natural health, exudes an insatiable curiosity for holistic living, and quite frankly, she’s a badass wellness warrior. As a yoga teacher and community leader in the artist community of Joshua Tree, CA, Karen leads a life focused on health, happiness, and helping others. In short, she embodies all that we stand for, and has been chatting it up with Teri since the very beginning. What better way to find New Year inspiration than with the breath of fresh air that Karen’s story offers? But her sails weren’t always set toward alternative modalities of healing, and her journey to get there was anything but ordinary.
Losing Faith in Western Medicine
Karen graduated from dental school at UCLA in 1981, where she was schooled in traditional western dentistry, a discipline she later decided was too narrowly focused on expensive treatments and risky pharmaceuticals.
“Health care in this country is about treating symptoms of diseases,” she said. “I wish I could say that I was enlightened as a dentist, but I only came to understand nutrition later.”
She recalls not being taught anything about the role of nutrition in preventing things like gum disease and tooth decay, though she did incorporate prevention into her own 25 years of dental practice in rather unique ways. She even adopted the role of “Tooth Fairy” to teach dental health to little open minds.
The Tooth Fairy Tackles Tooth Decay
Karen captured schoolchildren’s receptive imaginations (dressed in a full-on Tooth Fairy costume) with cartoons of invasive, cavity-causing “sugar bugs” that taught them how to properly brush their teeth. She even sent every lucky little one home with a new tooth brush!
“It’s a shame that profit drives the entire health and food industry. People are driven by profit and not what benefits our health, I’m completely convinced of that. We have to be very discerning, and that’s where education comes into play.”
Though the school districts in Northern California were receptive to her prevention program, when she moved to Southern California she was met with tremendous push back by administrators who thought she just wanted to promote her own practice.
Darting to the Desert
Discouraged by her community, Karen was eager for a change when her dental school roommate called and asked her to take over her dental practice in the California desert while she cared for her newborn child.
She immediately agreed, and has lived in Joshua Tree, CA for the past 27 years.
Though she eventually found her calling as a yoga teacher, Karen wasn’t always versed in the ways of bending and balancing body and mind. In fact, the idea of yoga hovered in Karen’s thoughts for years before she even did her first downward-facing dog pose.
Admitting that her story was bound to sound odd, Karen explained that she once bought a van and had it gutted so that she could do yoga on the move, though she had never actually done yoga before.
“I didn’t know exactly what yoga was, just that I was going to do it someday,” said Karen. “I positioned myself to be receptive to yoga, whenever it appeared in my life.”
Finally, yoga “happened” to Karen when a photograph of a dome-shaped building a local teacher built as a yoga studio spoke to her from the front page of the local newspaper. She had been trying to practice yoga alone, though craning her neck to emulate postures in a book (and subsequently falling over) wasn’t cutting it.
The 72-Hour Career Change
She began taking private lessons in the dome, and later met her yogi muse, a young yoga teacher named Geoffrey (now Raksha Red Feather teaching in LA), who sparked her enchantment with the practice. After practicing for several years with the likes of Shiva Rea and Seane Corn (for all of our yogi members out there), Karen received a frantic call from the owner of her local studio asking her to teach a weekend class for a teacher who quit unexpectedly.
“And that was it!” remarked Karen. “I had 72 hours to prepare to teach my first class, and I’ve been teaching ever since.”
Aging with Grace
It’s no mystery that Karen is a beacon of inspiration for many (In fact, many photos of her doing yoga have gone viral online – see right). At the age of 64, although Karen has abandoned her days of competitive rock climbing, she continues to hike in the national park that surrounds her and lift weights in the mornings at her local gym.
Finding Benevolence at Burning Man
Although we’re no judges of viral photos at the Co-op, we’re pretty sure these gems of Karen and her beloved cat, Bela, at Burning Man (donning sand goggles, mind you) will be a hit among cat lovers. For the past 12 years, Karen, who is also trained as an EMT, has volunteered as a medical dispatcher in return for meals, a camping spot, and tickets to the festival.
Karen describes Burning Man as a fantastical, yet ultimately ephemeral environment, in which goods and services (like fresh orange juice from a dude on a gigantic tricycle) just seem to find you when you need them most.
“You bring what you have to give away (I give my medical training), and you seem to magically receive whatever is it you’re lacking. It’s some seriously synergistic energy at Burning Man,” enthused Karen.
Connecting with the Cell Nutritionals
Karen became interested in holistic nutrition the way many of us did, from friends recommending books to read, interviews to watch, and supplements to take. Karen remembers receiving an email from a friend “when the Internet was just a baby” recommending our supplements to her. She even proudly declared her possession of a receipt from October 25, 2001!
However, it’s being curious about nutrition and health, Karen says, that truly fuels her relentless pursuit of constant health. Namaste.