Yoga With A Powerful Purpose
It’s More Than You Think
Life rolls on at a frenetic pace and keeping track of kids, friends, family and everything else takes discipline. Before we know it, the years have whirled by, and much of what was familiar is in the past. The same goes with friends, jobs, and acquaintances.
Now and then I catch a glimpse of an old friend doing something great. That’s the genesis of this post and podcast. I met Kristin over 25 years ago as she attempted to quell my fears of anything equestrian. My first adventure on horseback was nothing short of comical, but her positive attitude and spirit got me back to the stable in one piece.
Much has changed since then and after learning about her journey I thought her mission and passion was perfectly aligned with the theme of the Project You podcast.
Listen in to our conversation as she shares her journey from the stress of a 9111 operator to a her new life. Kristin shares her vision of what’s possible through the magic of yoga combined with a mother’s love for children.
Autism Spectrum Disorder Statistics
- About 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
- ASD is reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups
- ASD is almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189)
- Studies in Asia, Europe, and North America have identified individuals with ASD with an average prevalence of about 1%
- A study in South Korea reported a prevalence of 2.6%
- About 1 in 6 children in the United States had a developmental disability in 2006-2008, ranging from mild disabilities such as speech and language impairments to serious developmental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism.
- DATA from CDC.org
A Simple DVD to get started: Rodney Yee
I knew I was fairly ignorant about the specifics of different styles of yoga, so I did a little research to clarify things.
The Styles Of Yoga
An American creation by yogi John Friend. This style is centered on the premise that we are all filled an intrinsic goodness. This style of practice is designed to open the hearts of students, let them experience grace and let inner qualities of goodness and peace shine through.
The teacher will guide students through rigorous movements patterned after Friend’s Universal Principles of Alignment.
This is one I’d heard of before. It’s based on ancient teachings and was brought to the Western world in the 1970s. Using a series of specific postures, it resembles vinyasa yoga and links each movement to the breath. The poses are performed in varying order and leave practitioners sweating and hot due to the physical demands.
Probably best known as Hot Yoga, this style was created by Bikram Choudhury about 30 years ago. Practiced in heated rooms, students generate torrents of sweat while working through a series of 26 poses. The flow of movements generally follows a prescribed pattern.
In simplest terms, this style refers to any style with specific physical postures. Most Western taught yoga classes use this style. Considered a gentle form, this style is well suited for the beginner and can solidify a foundation of understanding before moving on to some of the more challenging styles.
This style focuses on proper alignment and is meticulous when practiced with true intention. Developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, this style utilizes props to help students find proper alignment. Those with injuries or joint concerns may find this a good choice with proper instruction guiding training.
This is a physically demanding style that incorporates spiritual elements. Jivamukti translates to “liberation while living” and was developed in 1984. Sanskrit chanting and a theme for each class is typical.
This 3-part practice teaches knowing, accepting and learning from the body. Practitioners learn how their body moves and these postures are held for a period in a still-form meditation. The body becomes the teacher as the student finds spontaneous flow in asanas.
This is a flowing fluid style of constant movement and invigorating poses. The purpose is to release the serpent (Kundalini) energy from the body.
Restorative yoga is method to relax and soothe stress. Props such as blankets, bolsters and props allow poses without any strain or effort. The goal is to restore and rejuvenate the body.
Consistent asanas are used in this style and bookended by sun salutations and savasana (the word I murdered in this podcast). Savasana is corpse pose and is an ultimate in relaxation at the end of a session. Breathing, diet, relaxation, exercise and positive mental thinking blend to create a healthy lifestyle.
Vinyasa is the Sanskrit word for flow. Fluid movements and choreographed classes are the standard for this style. Transitions are smooth, and music is sometimes used to keep the energy of the class high. This style has the potential to test your physical abilities. There is a variation of this style called power and is an athletic style (but not acroyoga).
- Helping individuals with anxiety, autism, and special needs integrate breathing and yoga-based movements to create relaxation and regulation into a stimulating world.
- My journey started shortly after my son Logan was diagnosed with autism at 27 months old. At 7 he was diagnosed as having non-epileptic seizures by an epileptologist with MN Epilepsy Group. His advice was yoga and meditation. So, I began exploring that, and eventually it lead to me traveling to New Hampshire to take a 4 day intensive course on Creative Relaxation 1 and 2 – Yoga Therapy for Children with Autism and Special Needs. These 4 days completely changed my life. I had gone in with the intent of only helping my son, but walked away knowing that my path was to share my knowledge and understanding with other parents, caregivers, and therapists. Now I’m also taking my 200 hour yoga teacher training with a particular interest in yoga therapy for individuals with disabilities.
- My son. He’s always been my main inspiration. Trying to explore and find ways to help him be successful without putting chemicals into his body.
- The goal is to teach the child (and parent, teacher, therapist, caregiver) tools to fill their toolbox. They need to find things that they can do throughout their day to help they compensate when anxiety or other emotions and behaviors start to take charge. It’s so great to see not only my son, but other of the kids I work with say that they were able to breath through a critical issue, or use their Darth Vader Breath to relax and fall asleep when they normally struggle with sleep. My son is able to problem solve or work through an issue that may normally cause tears or a meltdown — and he’s just using breathing techniques and focusing in on his breath instead of what initially upset him. Plus, just being active and learning body awareness for a lot of these kids is huge. Breath work is so grounding.
- It depends on what it is you’re looking for and what your body is able to handle. Also, what do you want to get out of your practice? Do you have any injuries? Are you pregnant? What is your daily life like? What is your level of experience or knowledge of yoga? Do you work out on a regular basis? Do you want to become more spiritual? There are lots of questions to ask before your first class and lots of different styles.
- I am currently studying Hatha Yoga, which is a gentle yoga that focuses on postures and breathing to open up the many channels of the body – especially the spine — so that energy can flow freely. But, there are many others. Most people are likely familiar with Vinyasa Bikram (Hot), Ashtanga, Kripalu, and Kundalini. Most of the yoga that is done here is Hatha, Vinyasa, or Hot Yoga.
- I am transitioning back into the working world. I have been the sole caregiver to my mom, who is visually and physically disabled, and my son for the past nine years. Before that, I was a 911 operator for several years. This is the complete opposite of the way my life used to be. It feels good, almost familiar. I was meant to find this lifestyle.
- I am certified to teach yoga therapy to children with autism and special needs. We go through 4 days of intensive training learning postures, techniques, and challenges, but also how to create a safe space and adapt poses for each child’s specific needs – whether that be sensory based, instability in the head, neck, spine, joints, or physical disability. A majority of those that took the course were Yoga Teachers, OT’s, PT’s, Speech Therapists, or Special Ed Teachers.
- I teach mindfulness and Creative Relaxation 3 times a week at my son’s school, I am starting a group classSaturday afternoons at BodySava in Moorhead, I work with an occupational therapist at Beyond Boundaries in Fargo, where we have started a small group of kids that need help refocusing their energy and relaxing, and I most recently been asked to work with one of the high school athletic teams to do both mindfulness and Creative Relaxation. So there are lots of different avenues that this is taking me, and each one is a new learning curve. I’m loving every second of it!! We’ll see what other doors open up. I’m open to the possibilities…
- I’m also wanting to attend more training. I want to get certified in Drums Alive – which is a fun and upbeat class where you drum on exercise balls and dance. It works on gross motor skills, coordination, rhythm, counting, following directions and socialization. This is great for adults and children with special needs. Movement and music can be so healing. This is something that I would love to offer. There is nothing like this out there for our special kiddos. In fact, I am the only Creative Relaxation Instructor in at least a 1,000 radius.
- The internet can be our greatest resource. We tend to use friends for that purpose, and I’m certainly not saying that they’re not a good resource, but my very first yoga class was a yogalates class. I knew nothing about yoga. That isn’t where I should have started. But, I went with a friend who was going through her yoga teacher training and wanted me to go with her. I never actually took a beginners yoga class — until a few months ago. It’s where I should have started, and I’ve been practicing for a few years now.
- Classes are offered in most, if not all gyms now. Again, it depends on what you want your practice to be. There are so many different styles and teachers that all offer something different. Ask around, try one out, and give it a chance. Not everyone gets hooked the first time. No matter what you do…DON’T SKIP SAVASANA AT THE END OF CLASS!! It is one of the, if not THE most important pose!!
- In all honestly, although I have read about Kripalu Yoga, I haven’t practiced it. I practice Hatha and Vinyasa. My suggestion is to find a style and class that fits your lifestyle. I tried Hot Yoga once, and it will be my last. I thought I would certainly faint and spontaneously combust! Ha! Not for me. My body has limitations, and I have learned to listen to it and not overdo it, or I will pay for it later. We need to learn how to be compassionate to ourselves and our bodies while still pushing ourselves a bit out of our comfort zone.
- By Shambala do you mean in Buddhism?? Like a meeting place? If so, there is a very small Buddhist Community here. I wish that were different.
- I’d love to have my own studio someday. But, honestly I love working as a team. As I mentioned before, I’m working with an occupational therapist that is an autism specialist. We work very well together, and it’s so exciting to try something new with a group of kids and have it be successful. I’d like to explore that possibility more. I also want to expand my training and knowledge. There is so much more I want to learn and explore.
- At the end of each session, we do what’s called floating on a cloud. It’s savasana, without it sounding too ‘foreign’ to parents or children. In that moment of quiet space, my wish is to teach each child to rest in the beauty of their own comfortable and safe space within themselves. That is relaxation. That is what I want them all to experience.
- LOMA came about several years ago after a classmate of mine saw some of the artwork that my son Logan and I were doing together. We used to sign our work LOMA – which stands for LOgan and MAma. She made blank greeting cards with 4 different paintings on the cover, and we sold them to raise money for our local autism support group. We raised close to $300. It was a such a heartfelt experience and holds so much love for me. When it came time to think of a name, there really wasn’t another option. Logan is the reason that I’m here. He is my inspiration. So, LOMA was born.
- Something my son and I created together.
- I hold weekly group classes for a child and parent/caregiver at BodySava in Moorhead. I also do 1:1 sessions that are created specifically for what a therapist or parent want to work on: strength, balance, flexibility, socialization, tension release, and breathing. All of my information is also on my website loma-inc.squarespace.com
- I offer both. It just depends on what you’re looking to work on. I love small groups because it becomes a social experience and a safe place to talk about feelings. We work on a lot of breathing exercises.
- I think anyone can benefit, but I need to be careful. I’m not a therapist and would not be prepared to deal with someone having a big emotional release, which is inevitable. But, I would love to work WITH a therapist to help these individual work through their pain.
- Honestly, we live in a very conservative state. People hear yoga and immediately think ‘religion’. It’s not. Nor is mindfulness or meditation. We can only educate those who are willing to learn by creating interest and a safe place to experience whether or not it’s right for them. One of boys in my groups is a teenager with autism. The first time we met, he told me what we were doing was stupid. But, he followed my rule of staying on his mat if he chose not to participate. Well, he did participate for the rest of the class, and went on to tell his mom that he was using his fire breath to relax and fall asleep. We just had our 3rd session, and he is very engaged and vocal about what is helping and what isn’t. I was able to create a safe place for him to come and express himself, and now he’s learning coping strategies that he’s doing on his own. That’s huge. He is why I decided to teach. And the new little girl that joined our group. And the kiddos in school that come up to me and tell me how much they love our time together.
- I have been practicing meditation for over 2 years. It is part of my daily routine and also my son’s. It doesn’t have to be a formal practice, but rather just taking 5 minutes out of your day to focus on your breath and being present. There are so many wonderful guided meditations out there; I would highly recommend giving it a try. Deepak Chopra has a wonderful 21-day meditation challenge, and DoYouYoga has a fantastic 30-day challenge . Both are guided meditations and take between 10-30 minutes. Also, just repeating a mantra, which is a word or phrase, can be so helpful. I like to use So Hum, which is Sanskrit and translates to “I am that”. But, you could come up with your own. My son uses “peace is within me”. — I could go on about this forever.
- Sleeping in, fancy coffee, a hot shower, and some alone time to reflect. Then some sun salutes and meditation before going out exploring in a new place. I love new experiences and the lessons we learn from them. Pretty low key for me.
- Happy and fulfilled
- To reach as many people as I can, and help them realize what it feels like to be grounded and calm. To introduce mindfulness into the schools and help decrease bullying. Not dreaming too big. It’s all possible.
- They can reach me on my website or at BodySava