Karen Citow: Owner and Founder, Breathe … A Yoga Oasis

Karen Citow saw plenty of unhappiness in her job as a clinical psychologist, investigating allegations of child abuse for the Departments of Children and Family Services in L.A. and Chicago.

“It was a very challenging situation, investigating families with multi-generational abuse and neglect,” she says. But she loved making a difference and making the world better.

Fast forward a few years, and this married mother of three wanted a new challenge, but didn’t want to go back to clinical psychology. She loved yoga and decided to open the kind of studio she dreamed of practicing in: non-judgmental, kind and a place that would give back to the world.

In January 2010, Breathe opened and Karen committed to giving 100 percent of the studio’s profits to charity. Last year, the charity was UNICEF. She offers two free Karma classes each week, with a suggested donation of $10 that goes directly to UNICEF. Breathe also gave out more than 750 UNICEF boxes to children for the annual Halloween collection. These two initiatives raised more than $4,000 for UNICEF.

When we talked, Karen was unsure if the studio would actually be profitable by the end of the year. “We’re close,” she says, but adds that she’s committed to giving a generous donation to UNICEF in addition to the $4,000, regardless of actual profits.

In 2011, the charity will change. “My sister-in-law died after a 14-year fight with a rare form of ovarian cancer,” Karen says. She’s investigating cancer charities, trying to find the perfect one that will honor her sister-in-law’s memory and do the most good.

“People come to Breathe first of all for the teachers,” says Karen. “But they also love the company philosophy. It buoys people up. They come in and say, ‘I heard about what you’re doing.’”

When Karen practices and talks about yoga, she goes back to its ancient foundation. “It’s all about finding peacefulness, kindness and harmony in yourself, and then taking it out to the world,” she says. Her studio offers a variety of courses, including hot yoga, but she doesn’t want it to be the kind of place where people have to look a certain way or dress a certain way to fit in.

“On the North Shore, where people put so much pressure on themselves, it’s good to have a place to just be kind to yourself,” she says. “Yoga is the antithesis of multi-tasking!”

But this yogi does find a way to multi-task. She practices yoga in a place she loves, while making the world a better place—a beautiful and peaceful combination.

To learn more about Breathe … A Yoga Oasis, visit breatheyogaglencoe.net.