Embracing the Shadow

Yoga teacher uses inner work to empower personal evolution

By Jessica Laskey
March 2022

“Women have no problem talking about all the things that suck about themselves,” laments Catherine la O’. “My work is about taking the stories we’ve been told about who we are and transitioning that mindset to something that feels more authentic. We’ve been told a story of limitation, but it’s not true.”

Technically, la O’ is a yoga teacher, but she’s more than that. Through her virtual studio Liminal Space, clients can take classes in various styles of yoga and engage in “shadow work,” a process of personal introspection and examination based on the psychology of Carl Jung. The goal is to rid clients of limiting self-beliefs in favor of greater self-expression.

“Yoga and shadow work are very interrelated,” says la O’, who has practiced yoga for more than 20 years. “Shadows are what we ignore or don’t want to deal with. We haven’t processed emotions and trauma that our nervous system is still holding onto—we aren’t living in our bodies. If you can’t feel your body, how can you feel your intuition?”

The journey for la O’ began when she had a stressful advertising job in San Francisco during the dot-com boom and bust. Though she made “really good money,” she was unhappy, smoking and stressed.

“I felt like they were buying my life from me,” she says. When a friend connected her with a therapist, who introduced her to yoga, she found herself losing some of the apathy that haunted her for years. When the magazine she worked for folded, she turned down a new job and spent a year doing yoga.

Though la O’ didn’t miss the stress, she missed the personal dynamics of sales. A chance conversation at a dinner party turned her onto the subject of social psychology, which turned out to be a great fit. At age 30, she earned a bachelor’s degree in social psychology from San Francisco State University. She enrolled in coaching school with the idea to start a business helping people in career transitions.

After obtaining certification in integral professional coaching at New Ventures West in San Francisco, along with multiple yoga certifications, la O’ was working consistently around the Bay Area. But she was starting to tire of teaching more than 20 classes a week to stay solvent.

She decided to change locations and see if she could make a name for herself in Sacramento, where yoga was still in “a fairly young state”—and where she could afford to live in a house by herself instead of with three roommates.

la O’ quickly found work at several studios, but was still floundering. She decided to branch out and do her own thing when the pandemic hit.

“In one day, my business completely crashed,” la O’ says. “I had no idea when it would be coming back, so I did what a lot of teachers did—I started doing donation-based online Zoom classes. It was OK for a while, but by month two, month three, month four, it just wasn’t sustainable.”

Undeterred, la O’ got creative. She had a friend who’d launched a membership-based yoga website, so she asked for advice and soon launched her own. She approached other local instructors about trading classes, allowing her members to access another teacher’s classes through her platform and vice versa, which was an instant hit.

la O’ offers one-on-one virtual check-ins to stay connected with clients and dedicated shadow work sessions, including an introductory workshop.

“I’ve loved the way it’s worked out so far,” la O’ says. “The other teachers and I can sub for each other if we need to take time off, and you still get to feel like you have a relationship with everybody in the room. That’s what we all love about yoga—that community connection.”

For more information, visit liminalspace.net

Jessica Laskey can be reached at jessrlaskey@gmail.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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