The magic of breathing to help calm your child. Join me and Sasha Walsh for a fantastic conversation about adaptive yoga and the secret magic of breath work.
This episode is also available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/oiWbJOqoEfM
Today I am so excited to have a lifelong friend really. I’ve known her through my sister since we were kids. Sasha is an accessible yoga teacher training programs and parent workshops in hopes of inspiring more people to offer these concepts to children and others differently abled. Sasha is a yoga Alliance certified teacher specializing in accessible yoga for children. She serves the communities where people feel they’re not able to participate in yoga classes and are missing out on the many people Benefits of the practice, she creates a unique accessible yoga program that are infused with different therapy styles play and breath work. Sasha is has designed programs for private students and community classes that focus on the students intentions and goals. She also offers inspiring mentor programs for yoga teachers who are interested or curious about bringing the art of yoga to underserved community and special populations.
Tell us your story
I started teaching yoga nine years ago, yeah, nine years ago now I’m doing the child math in my head. So my daughter had just been born. My son was five at the time, and struggling immensely behavior, social emotional. So there were a lot of diagnoses and a lot of letters that were being thrown around as to what could be his issue. And the main thing that we were being told is therapy, play bass therapy. Get them involved, get them talking, try and get them talking. Cuz he was mostly non like very, not non verbal, but limited deliverable. So, for a five year old, you would expect some level of conversation and what’s really happening and all of these kinds of things. And his therapy, involved breathing. And it was very interesting because I had been doing yoga for about four years myself. For my own practice, so I hadn’t been teaching I’ve just been doing learning and managing my own self and doing my own breath work. And Riley came home with some homework from therapy. And it was a card and it said brief to calm down. And that literally shifted everything in our life. Because we were no longer calming down and breathing. The step was you have to breathe first in order to calm down. It was a huge it sounds a really silly simple shift, but it was mammoth in our world.
And I saw Riley go from a massive tantrum slash anxiety attack, which for him could have lasted days.They’re pretty epic. And we cuddled up and I put him on my lap, and I put his head on my chest. And I just did yoga breathing, which is called Ojai breath or the breathing so you can hear it. Right? Just audible.And I rocked him back and forth. And we did that. And no word of a lie within 15 minutes. He had de-escalated. Wow.
And never in the five to six years that he had been with us on this planet, had it ever taken that long to de-escalate. I was like, What is this magic?
What is this magic thing? And how can I help more kids with it? And then I discovered that there was no children’s yoga for differently abled children. So I thought that’s not okay, kids. kiddo, like my son, and someone who’s in a wheelchair, and maybe someone who’s afraid or they need their own space. And so I decided to learn how to teach kids yoga. And three, four certifications later and 1000 hours of training. I’m, a certified yoga instructor and I’m doing my own training. Now I’m training the teachers to take this program and go out so that more kids and more young people can get access to this.
So what is it about the breathing that worked? What was the magic?
So the magic honestly comes down to really basic biology, which is, when you are anxious when you are stressed, when you are angry, your breath gets shorter. Right? You don’t do big deep breaths when you’re in an escalated emotional state happy or sad or whatever. But when you’re escalated, you don’t take those big breaths. You’re depriving your body of oxygen. And so your body starts thinking that there’s something wrong because I can’t get enough air. And so your physical body starts to feel like there’s a problem. And it just adds to the emotional mental state when my body’s telling me that there’s a problem.
So by bringing slower breaths, bigger breaths and training ourselves to make it on a subconscious level that you, your body automatically knows when it hits that point it actually needs to stop and take a big breath. That that’s the part that takes time. But it’s that stopping to take a big breath that actually slams brakes on that biological response. It says, hang on, no, we’re okay. See, I just took another big deep breath. We’re not we’re not in peril, right? Nothing bad is happening too.
And from a cognitive standpoint, when you start to stress, and those negative or positive, what those escalating thoughts are running around in your brain. A lot of times you can’t get out of that circle of yuck that’s going on in your head. Seeing yourself to focus on something else does that interruption. It gives your brain a break. And it doesn’t make them go away. But it allows more oxygen to get to you. To your brain, it allows you more time to be like, “no, that’s not a real thought.”
You know, “deep breath in, I am actually okay. And I breathe out. ” Right so you can start to interrupt and that’s the whole case. Once you interrupt that escalation, then it’s easier to use all of the other tools that you’ve learned, about redirecting yourself if you’re stressed or, self regulation tools and accessing, just asking for help. Given that your body and your brain a pause with that breath. That’s kind of the magic.
What are some ways we can play with breathing?
Sasha also shared some fun simple breathing activities you could play with your kids. Such as hockey with a pompom using your breath. But this important thing to note is that every child is different and will reacts differently to sensory inputs.
I loved the way Sasha word her message when you find something that doesn’t work for your child, “that it’s okay”. When you find something that doesn’t work, that you can actually celebrate that because then that’s new learning. Instead of saying, “Well, that didn’t work. Now we have to give up.” It’s “no let’s try. Let’s get more creative. Let’s find something that is going to work.” And it is also the principle of how she also adapts your yoga for families as well. It is all about working creatively.
Be sure to listen to the whole episode. I couldn’t do it justice here in print.
So is there anything else that you wanted to make sure that people knew or how we can connect with you? What have you got going on these days there?
I’m so I’m launching level one of my teacher training in September. Registrations open July First, and level one is the level appropriate for parents, caregivers, educators, yoga instructors. So you don’t have to be a yoga instructor to take it. And it’s how to integrate accessible yoga into your classroom or into your everyday home. Like, what’s the big deal? How do we do it? So I have that starting in September.
The other way you can find me is through my website, which is Jai Yogi’s. I try and post little snippets for everyone. Inspiration for your home practice because that’s really important for how you can bring these things that we do into your home and with your kiddos.
The other thing that I wanted to say that’s really important is just to remember that Yoga is not this perfect thing that we have in our head when you say yoga.Not the Instagram Lulu lemon thing. I mean it can be. There are some incredible Yogi’s who do amazing things. But it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m not a size zero. I’m a mom of two special needs kids.I wear a knee brace. And yet, I consider myself a yogi, and I teach yoga.
And so it’s not so much about the pose and the perfection of it. But it’s how did you get there? The feeling that getting into a pose brings you, the feeling of that breath in between when you move. That’s the important part to me. It doesn’t have to be this big thing. Yoga is literally the five minutes you took to, you know, take a breath while you were cooking dinner. You know Yoga is that big stretch you do just before you go to bed where you like notice every bit pop and stretch. That’s still yoga.It’s the same. It’s a little bit different, but it’s still the same at its heart.
About Sasha Walsh
Sasha is an accessible yoga teacher working with special needs children. Sasha was born with a rare genetic disorder, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome – Hypermobility subtype (hEDS). This is a connective tissue disorder which causes all her joints to be extra mobile and dislocate easily. She is a RAD classically trained ballet dancer, who at 17 was told she had to stop dancing because of hEDS’s effects on her knees. At the age of 19 she was diagnosed with ADHD and generalized anxiety, while in first year University.
It wasn’t until her first pregnancy that she was introduced to yoga in a format that was safe and comfortable for her, and once she found that, she didn’t look back. She continues to use yoga to cope with her hypermobility, her pregnancies, and everyday life. When her son was welcomed into the world, they discovered he was within the Autism spectrum. Sasha found herself called to offer him, all special needs children and their caregivers the tools of yoga to help them find ways of coping with the overwhelming symptoms and behaviors. This was furthered when her daughter was diagnosed with hEDS and OI-Type 1 (brittle bone).
Since then Sasha has gone on to offer accessible yoga teacher training programs and parent workshops in the hopes of inspiring more people to offer these concepts to children and others differently abled.
Sasha is a Yoga Alliance Certified Teacher RYT® 500 specializing in Accessible Yoga for children. She serves in communities where people feel they are not able to participate in yoga classes and are missing out on the many benefits of this practice. She creates unique accessible yoga programs that are infused with different therapy styles, play and breath work.
Sasha has designed programs for private students & community classes with a focus on the students’ intentions and goals. She also offers inspiring Mentor Programs for yoga teachers who are interested or curious about bringing the art of yoga to underserved communities and special populations.