My journey is no different from many who have gone before me and those who will come after me. I began my journey with a single step. For a long time, yoga was an exercise and relaxation program for me. I found yoga initially as a relief from my painful sciatic issues. A physical therapist recommended I try it after my sessions with her ended to help in the maintenance of my body. I was a struggling twenty something who had recently moved to Los Angeles and cash was in limited supply, so I bought a Rodney Yee DVD series. I diligently did my videos and enjoyed the physical benefits for my body. I was also pursuing a career in the film industry at the time and swept up in the allure of the film business. My practice dropped off as I traveled for work and had long workdays with little time to myself.
I then began a consistent practice at the Center for Yoga (now Yogaworks) on Larchmont, in Los Angeles. I was thankful for this consistency because I soon became pregnant. I had a difficult pregnancy and was very thankful that I could use yoga to help me navigate this stage of my life. My midwife introduced me to a book on mindfulness to help me process everything that was happening in my life. I will forever be in her debt for this act of kindness. Yoga and mindfulness helped keep my grounded in a very challenging time. When my beautiful daughter was born, she came quickly and in the tranquil and peaceful environment of our home despite the fact we didn’t make it to the hospital.
The next challenge for me came as I cared my infant daughter and a close family member who was battling addiction. It was a very painful and difficult time in my life. I felt isolated and alone. I believed that if I could just do that “right” thing I could fix it! If you are in a 12-step program, or have done any codependency work, you know there is a strong desire to “fix” an addict (and frankly everyone else around you). In the midst of this chaos, when my daughter was 14-month-old she had an anaphylactic reaction to food while I was home alone with her. She went into anaphylaxis within 15 minutes and I had to call an ambulance. She was rushed to the hospital. While in the ER, after stabilizing her, she went into a secondary anaphylaxis and had to be admitted into the Pediatric ICU. This event, along with the other circumstances in my life, left me with PTSD. My body held up for another year or so until the stress and chaos of my life was too much for me to bare. I was drained of energy, my iron saturation was depleted, I was diagnosed with thyroid disease and I had flipped the switch of Celia’s disease.
The Matrix is the best way to describe this turning point in my life. As if Morpheus offered me two pills, a red pill representing brutal reality and unforgiving knowledge, and a blue pill representing blissful ignorance and a false sense of harmony and security. With the kind words of dear friend, I took the red pill. I was plucked from the Matrix and standing face to face with real life. Thus I entered in to the recovery stage of my life… I started therapy… And I started yoga again. Not fancy studio yoga either, I went to LA fitness because they offered childcare. It was the single step I needed to start my new journey. I had read that EMDR (a type of psychotherapy) and yoga were the most effective ways to help with PTSD. For the sake of my daughter, I knew I needed to get help.
I often crawled with child in tow to yoga classes. I crawled into therapy for EMDR and could hardly crawled out, but I kept moving. I started to see a breathwork therapist who also worked in addiction recovery. I started to attend an intimate therapy group for those who have been affected by family members who struggle with addictive behavior. I started to attend Al-Anon. I was Neo plucked from the Matrix with eyes wide open. I was weak from years in the Matrix but I was starting to regain my strength. This began my journey to Yoga Therapy.
After 6 months of being in recovery I began practicing yoga at a local studio. My physical health was a mess at this point. It felt like my life was a series of doctors, therapists, and yoga. The doctors were telling me I was diseased, my therapists were helping me with the anxiety that came from these doctors’ visits and my existing PTSD. All the while, yoga was keeping me grounded, it was bringing me into wellness. Yoga helped me with my physical symptoms, it helped me start to reconnect to my body, mind and spirit. I knew I wanted to, maybe even needed to pursue this more. I signed up for a teacher training in Santa Monica. It was a one month intensive with Malachi Grieves at Yogaworks. I had to arrange childcare for my daughter while I was in school each day, so my mother and father flew out to help me. This was no small task to complete my training. Each day I would drive 2 hours each way to attended class. After attending class all day I had requirements for external yoga classes. Then halfway through my training my mother fell and broke her hip at our house. I was now tending to my mother in the hospital and I had lost my childcare. Thankfully, I had learned in recovery to reach out and ask for help, even when it was difficult. Other family and friends filled in so that my daughter was well cared for. Due to the stress of it all, I came down with a terrible case of bronchitis. It would have been easy to quit at any point of this journey, but I knew this was for my well being, so I kept moving forward.
I was interested in the deeper healing of yoga not just from the physical asana but also the psycho-spiritual aspects of healing. I looked into Trauma Sensitive Yoga or getting my next level of certification, but none of them seemed to be just what I was looking for, until I found Yoga Therapy at LMU. As soon as I found this program, I knew this is how I wanted to develop my skills and deepen my knowledge to help empower my fellow human beings to wholeness and wellbeing. I found myself in a community of colleagues that also wanted to ease the suffering of others. This loving, brave community of fellow students at LMU have been my teachers and confidants. I have learned so much about myself and the human body and its ability to heal itself when given the space and time to do so. As I have studied the ancient yoga texts and learned to be more self-aware, I have seen the healing power of yoga and yoga therapy in my own life. So much of the process is simple, but as my teacher always said “simple, simple, not so simple”. I started a practice of getting up at 5 AM and doing my breathwork, mediation, self-reflection and asana each morning. There is nothing complicated or difficult about this practice in itself, but this means I need to be in bed by 9:30 PM to feel rested. Just by implementing these changes in my routine and a few other simple steps I was able to regulate my digestion after almost 3 years of dysfunction. I had been to regular doctors, GI doctors, acupuncturists, wellness centers and still I could not regulate my digestion. Making simple lifestyle changes, I had a deep impact on my tissues. This practice also helps me throughout my day to feel grounded and more stable. I am less reactive and have more space to be present with those I love. The tools of yoga therapy have changed my life in the most positive and helpful way. I can’t change my circumstances, but I can change my approach. Yoga therapy helps me exam repetitive behaviors that might be affecting my physical, mental, and spiritual health. Here are a few examples from my own life: I was having joint pain in my right hand. I instantly went to disease – early arthritis, instead I was drinking my 40 oz water bottle with my finger looped in the lid and causing a repetitive stress issue for the joint. As soon as I changed water bottles, the joint healed. I had an issue with my neck and shoulder. I could barely turn my head to one side. I was convinced I had a pinched nerve. Turns out I was sleeping with a blanket tucked under my arm at night and when I took it way the pain also went away.
There are so many ways we experience pain in our life: physical, emotional, and spiritual. So often we think it is something outside of our control that is causing us pain. The beauty of yoga therapy is that it examines the whole person and helps bring awareness to our physical, mental and emotional states of being. My journey to yoga therapy has been an experience of empowered healing by examining my own patterns of behavior and making simple changes that lead toward wholeness and self-awareness.
To read more about my check out my About Kristin Lauterbach page.