In April of 2009 I walked into a studio and stepped onto a yoga mat. I couldn’t eat, sleep – or do much of anything except cry, and feel sorry for myself. My beautiful 16 month old baby girl had just been diagnosed with autism – and my heart was shattered. I needed to be “healed” or “fixed”, and I was searching for that thing to help me forget all the sadness.
From my first class- I was instantly in love – and for the first time in a long time – the sound of screaming in my own head stopped. I was able to escape my crumbling world – if only for 90 minutes. As my journey with yoga began – so did my journey with Autism.
A once happy and interactive baby – was now a toddler who didn’t speak at all, screamed constantly, slept only 2-3 hours per night, and seemed locked away in her own world. I quit my corporate job and became of full time “Autism-mom” – which involved multiple therapies a day, lots of tears and sleepless nights.
where to turn?
Somehow, I was able to keep up my yoga practice – 6, sometimes 7 days a week at the studio. It was during those 90 minutes that I was able to find the peace and inspiration I needed to continue on the journey with my daughter. During all of this – I also found TACA (Talk About Curing Autism) – a non-profit group dedicated to educating, empowering and connecting families living with autism. TACA guided me to therapists, provided me with support, and Alexis began to make slow progress. She began to open the door into our world – just a little.
Soon – I decided to go to yoga teacher training. During training – my yoga practice began to transform from “escape” of the present moment to “acceptance”. That path to acceptance in yoga was the key that unlocked the door to the rest of my life. Yoga showed me that acceptance of my daughter was the larger picture for me. How could I truly love this child if I couldn’t accept everything about her and every single hair on her head? Even if it was the most painful thing in the world – I couldn’t keep running and escaping. In my physical yoga practice, I could force myself into different poses that my body wasn’t ready for yet – and I would get hurt. And if I forced my daughter to be someone that she wasn’t – if I denied her autism – I would get hurt, and so would she.
living with autism
We have been living with autism for the last 5 years, and it has been the hardest thing I have ever dealt with in my life. My daughter is 6 years old, cannot speak a sentence, and often cries and screams in frustration. We often get stares – as she makes strange noises to block out the sensory input that overwhelms her mind and her body. The urge to “escape” can be overwhelming at times. However – Just like my yoga practice, the friends I have made in TACA are always there to encourage me to keep showing up – trying – accepting and loving her just the same.
When the opportunity to give back to TACA came up through Evolation Yoga Atlanta’s “Charitable Flow” – I was ecstatic to be able to give back! Last week – As we breathed, moved and practiced the Charitable Flow together – the class reminded me that yoga can do amazing things for people on and off the mat. Yoga can heal us – transform us- and brighten our lives. Yoga reminds me that if I keep showing up, and I keep trying every day – things will change – healing will happen & light will illuminate. My daughter teaches me that these things will happen when they are supposed to – and not on my schedule. So in the meantime – all I can do is show up, shine my light – and breathe.
Sarah is a yoga teacher at evolation yoga Atlanta. She is an Atlanta native who grew up in the Decatur area, and graduated from Lakeside High School. She attended Oglethorpe University & Georgia State University, and had a 7 year-long career in outside sales – working for a Fortune 500 company. After the birth of her daughter in 2007 – her yoga practice took on an entirely new importance. In 2009, her daughter was diagnosed with autism, and she left her career in sales to become a full-time caregiver. It was then that yoga became a real passion and a daily necessity. This transformation took Sarah’s yoga from being a purely physical practice to being a way to connect mind, body and soul. Learning that yoga isn’t necessarily about twisting into a pretzel – but more about body awareness and inner peace – is a process that continues daily.