YEOJA Mag - Gxrl Gaze California Karina Veronica - Interview and Photography by Sarah Alikhan


Gxrl Gaze California

Karina Veronica is a recent college graduate, artist, and educator from LA. Photographer Sarah Alikhan had a chance to talk to Karina about identity, family dynamics, and the transformative aspects of yoga

Tell me a bit about yourself in your own words.
Karina: Hi, my name is Karina Veronica. I am a first generation, Mexican, non-binary femme from Los Angeles, California. I am a recent college graduate, community organizer, artist, educator, and healer. I am a huge advocate for mental and physical health. And overall wellness. I want to bridge the gap between racism, class, and homophobia by creating accessibility to resources and bringing breath back to movement and oneself.

What are your astrological placements?
Karina: My sun and moon are in Aries, my rising is in Taurus, and lastly my Venus is in Gemini.

Tell me a bit about your family / home life growing up.
Karina: This is a very complex question. I grew up moving all around Los Angeles, as well as up north in a little city near Nevada and with my parents divorced. I am a first generation Mexican. I grew up in a religious household (both Catholic and Christian). I grew up living with my mom sometimes in her own place and sometimes with mi abuelita and going to my dad’s every other weekend. In one home I grew up with violence, and the other I grew up not being understood. I never opened up to anyone about my childhood experiences, except for a few friends and my aunt on my mom’s side, named Veronica. (She was like a second mom to me).
I had to grow up quickly and be self-sufficient. I focused on academics, enrolled myself in sports (all kinds, but played volleyball from 4th grade until I graduated high school, and got recruited in 7th grade to play in a travel league. I picked up photography. I then switched to a public art school my Junior year of high school and this was the start of being who I am. I was finally not living in a violent home, I came out, and I had a new slate to just be me at the age of sixteen.

School, sports, and art saved my life. And for that I am forever grateful. I would not change the circumstances in which I grew up in because I would not be the person I am. As an adult, my relationship with my family has only gotten stronger because there has been a lot of unlearning and relearning amongst one another. Well, at least on my part that has helped build healthier relationships with those around me. With that yoga, therapy, and my spiritual practice has helped in this process.

YEOJA Mag - Gxrl Gaze California Karina Veronica - Interview and Photography by Sarah Alikhan
Photography: Sarah Alikhan

Are you a Los Angeles native?
Karina: I am a Los Angeles native! Raised in the depths and around the city. Tongva Lands!

What has been your journey into yoga? Do you remember your first class?
Karina: My journey into yoga began in college. I changed my major about four times (It’s okay if you do this too!) My second to last major was kinesiology, and when you are a kinesiology major you have to take physical activity courses as a part of the curriculum. I was interested in starting yoga; it was a class that counted towards my major. I enrolled and began my sophomore year of college back in 2015. My instructor was amazing, her name is Sarah. Her and the class changed my life. We started with the basics of the practice, learned the history of yoga, meditation, and how to do headstands. After this class, I began to yoga hop (doing two week free trials at multiple yoga locations) and this is when I fell in love with hot yoga! Yoga transformed and continues to transform me.

What’s something that you’d like to change within the yoga community in Los Angeles?
Karina: Something I’d like to change about the yoga community is the accessibility and the inclusivity of the culture. Yoga is unattainable for many because of how expensive it is. Additionally, many yoga spaces are unwelcoming and uncomfortable. Because of these circumstances, it caters to specific people: Caucasians and wealthy individuals [who are often one in the same]. This excludes poor/middle class, LGBTQIA+, black, indigenous, and people of colour. As a community we have to remember that yoga began in Northern India. This is the root, the power, and this understanding will allow us to expand our practice to all communities.

Do you have any advice to give to other people (predominantly POC/black folx) who want to get into teaching yoga?
Karina: YES! 

  1. Do not be intimidated and remember you deserve to take up space.
  2. Be gentle with yourself throughout your journey. Remember that the mind and body are constantly evolving and what you may not be able to do one day you may be able to do the next (and vice versa).
  3. Yoga is the meditation of the mind. YOU practice yoga the moment you connect to your breath, no one can take this away from you.
  4. Lastly, yoga hop and use those free trials until you find the right space for you!
YEOJA Mag - Gxrl Gaze California Karina Veronica - Interview and Photography by Sarah Alikhan
Photography: Sarah Alikhan

What do you consider an ideal space for transformation? Have you found a space like this for yourself, and if so, where?
Karina: An ideal space for transformation is a space that is not only brave but safe(r). It is a space that is inclusive, diverse, and accepting. A space in which no one is ostracised for being who they are. A space of healing and authenticity. A space that brings calmness to oneself. I have found this in a space in Long Beach, California, called Flora Y Tierra. This is also where I host yoga twice a month. Blanca [the owner of Flora Y Tierra] is an angel, and has created such a magnificent autonomous community space that centers LGBTQIA+ (black + indigenous + people of color.) I have yet to really find other spaces like this. With that, I hope to be able to create more spaces like this one day. 

How has yoga changed your life?
Karina: Yoga has truly changed my life for the better. It has reminded me to come back to myself, my body, and my breath. It has made me strong both mentally and physically. It reminds me to take a step back, to breathe through the discomfort, and flow with the ever changing energies of life. It has eased my mental health in ways I thought I wouldn’t be able. It has brought such healing- healing through some of the most detrimental times, as well as the most beautiful times. Yoga is for every(body). I want to be able to provide this [practice] for marginalised communities, because we are all deserving of such practice.

What’s in store for Karina in the future? What event/project are you most excited to take part in?
Karina: What has manifested itself is a platform I’ve utilized called patreon which is a monthly subscription. I have a subscription that is as low as $3 and as high as $20. With this subscription depending on what tier you choose, I provide a journal entry, meditation, and all levels of power and restorative flows! It would mean so much if you have the means to support this platform, not only will you be helping me you will be helping keep QTBIPOC donation-based yoga accessible to the community that I host at flora y tierra! I am selflessly promoting myself here haha. Please follow and check out my Instagram page @i.amhealin for what’s to come! I am thankful for the support that the community has granted to me. 

YEOJA Mag - Gxrl Gaze California Karina Veronica - Interview and Photography by Sarah Alikhan
Photography: Sarah Alikhan

What’s your favorite yoga pose?
Karina: All the poses have a special place in my mind and body because they all are there for different reasons, but one of my favorite poses is the supine twist. The supine twist is great for your spine, lower back, and digestive system! Make sure to keep your shoulders connected to the ground and start with your right leg first.

Do you listen to music while practicing? What’s your soundtrack at the moment?
Karina: Yes, I think creating playlists or listening to sound bowls is essential. It helps set the tone of the flow/class. My soundtrack currently is “Healer” by Sampa the Great and Zaachariaha.

 Portraits of Karina taken by Sarah Alikhan exclusively for YEOJA Mag. For more Gxrl Gaze articles, click here.