Meet Movement Optimist Carrie Owerko

Carrie Owerko came to yoga during her work in movement theater. The theater company she worked for at the time was exploring the work of Jerzy Grotowski and his Polish Theater Lab, and yoga asana was a part of that. She found that she liked doing yoga daily and continued even after she left the company and began studying Laban Movement Analysis—a method and language for describing, visualizing, interpreting, and documenting human movement—at the LABAN/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies in New York City, where she became a certified movement analyst.

Of her yoga discovery, she says, “It’s funny to me—I started yoga during my time in theater and dance, then I studied Laban, and then did a deep dive into Iyengar yoga—20 plus years—and I now find myself integrating the earlier Laban/Bartenieff work, along with movement science, and even some dance, into growing my practice. 

“Einstein said, ‘Play is the highest form of research,’ and this is exactly the research I am doing. There is deliberate practice, certainly, but play is my way to facilitate learning and creativity and, more importantly, integration. I love to explore the relationship of discipline and playfulness and am a firm believer in the power of controlled folly.”

Carrie is a senior level certified Iyengar yoga teacher, a certified yoga therapist, and a functional range conditioning mobility specialist. Before studying yoga, she earned a BFA in dance and theater, and graduated from the renowned Neighborhood Playhouse School for the Theater in New York City. Carrie then spent several years working as a performer and a teacher in experimental theater; she taught in New York City schools and at Rikers Island correctional facility. 

She has spent years exploring human movement with the intention of helping people develop clearer, more fully embodied communication and expression. She imbues her approach to Iyengar Yoga with openness and curiosity, and the integration of science, yoga philosophy, and poetic imagination is central to her practice and her teaching method. 

Carrie is currently working on a book about play in practice that encapsulates her process, as a mover, a learner, an artist, and a human being. She says, “When I approach anything with an attitude of "How might I play with this?" I end up giving myself permission to learn, to enter into the unknown and into true discovery. Play is, for me, a kind of Tao.” 

We interviewed Carrie, asking her the four questions we ask all of our featured teachers, so that you can get to know her and learn more about what to expect from her classes on YI.

What style, tradition, and/or lineage are you a part of (if any)?

I have been teaching Iyengar Yoga for 25 years now, yet am often described as a non-traditional Iyengar teacher. My background in Laban Movement Analysis, modern dance, and movement theater, along with my in-depth and ongoing studies in movement science, greatly influences what I practice and teach. Sharing a mindful yet playful approach to learning and practice is my mission.

What can I expect from your classes?

My classes are infused with playful, novel movements that are designed to increase your body’s capacity to move and move well. There is an emphasis on active ranges of motion, strength work, active mobility, and dynamic stability. All of the practices are created with an intention to help increase resiliency in body and mind.

What’s on your mind these days yoga-wise?

I am a movement optimist. There has been a lot of fear-mongering language in yoga of late—around things like correct alignment and cueing. I think our bodies and brains are able to adapt and change, and that we are more robust and resilient than we give ourselves credit for. Yoga and movement can be wonderful tools for increasing our capacity to withstand the stressors of life. I am very much interested in the power of play: how, as adults, play helps us continue to learn, grow, and positively adapt. That’s why I’m writing a book on this topic.

What do you like to do outside of yoga?

I love to engage in a variety of movement activities—dancing, hiking, swimming, you name it! I travel a lot for work, and walking for hours in new places is one of my greatest joys. I am a lover of life-long learning so I enjoy taking courses in anything related to movement science and/or dance. I also love to read—non-fiction mostly, but I have a soft spot for poetry. I find poetry, music, dance, and all the arts speak to me and move me in a way that yoga philosophy doesn't. Mary Oliver, Walt Whitman, and others are my Patanjali.

Learn more about Carrie and try one of her playful and dynamic classes on YI!

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