We are so happy to introduce you to the 2015 Kind Heart Scholarship winner
Whitney Galstad from Spokane Washington. Recently we asked Whitney to
reflect on the last few months and what it meant to her to go through the
process of becoming an Imagination Yoga teacher, we hope you enjoy her
contemplations as much as we love her!
I was introduced to Imagination Yoga at a statewide inservice mental health symposium in my native Eastern Oregon in the fall of 2014. I was in my eighth year of working as a school counselor for a rural public school district and, having had a personal yoga practice of my own for the past several years, instantly connected with what Imagination Yoga was all about—getting kids active, teaching them how to be calm and mindful and encouraging kind hearts, kind words, and kind thoughts. As I sat through the brief but engaging presentation and was guided on my very first “adventure,” I felt the spark of two of my passions colliding: Yoga and working with children.
I left that workshop with a renewed sense of purpose, and was determined to incorporate yoga and breathing exercises into my character education lessons for the district I was returning to. I began to just do simple breathing “check ins” with the students; which grew into incorporating different poses and activities to supplement whatever character trait we were focusing on. The enthusiasm with which it was received (by students, teachers and administration) was proof. This stuff works.
Later that fall, my husband was presented with an opportunity to relocate for work while I was feeling stretched thin as a working Mom of a 4 year old, a 2 year old, and a newborn. After prayerfully considering our options, we decided to move north to Spokane, Washington, where I would put my school counseling career on hold for a season in lieu of staying home with our babies.
As much as I knew I was right where I needed to be, I missed the connection I’d had with my students and longed for a way to serve and teach and empower that wouldn’t require me to be away full time. So you can only imagine what went through my mind when I saw the post from Imagination Yoga on Instagram that announced their 2015 “Kind Hearts” scholarship. It was the training I’d wanted! The potential to get to marry those two passions of mine, just as I had for that hour during that fall inservice, was SO exciting. So, I applied (almost immediately) and after doing so called my Mom and gushed about the possibilities. Nominations from family, friends and co-workers followed and then I just waited.
You know when you just feel like you are supposed to be doing something—like you were MADE to do it? That is how I felt when I thought about getting to use my education and skills as a school counselor in a therapeutic and fun yoga setting. So basically, I just held my breath and checked my email every morning and night until I finally got the “one.” I remember I was in my car with my kids just leaving the gym and I got that “ding” signifying a new email, so before I backed out of my parking spot I opened it and sat there, stunned, as I read that I had been selected as the recipient. I’m quite certain I floated home on a cloud that day and may or may not have cried when I broke the news to my husband.
The three-day training was just as I expected: awesome and validating. Within the first hour on that first day I could hardly wait to begin teaching my own little sun ray of kiddos. The first two days of training included practicing the poses that were integrated into the adventures as well as walking through a handful of the actual adventures—which was really the most productive activity for all of us aspiring IY teachers. It was encouraging and inspiring to take in the manner in which Jamie and Jessica led the adventures, and their regard for the little “yogis” in their presence. We also covered the kindness and concentration curriculums which were like ready made lessons plans, which as anyone who has ever worked in education knows, are definitely something to get excited about. I found the content of both curriculums so pertinent and powerful to the space we currently live in a public education system that is thick with academic pressure and demands and leaves little time for healthy breath and movement.
The final day was spent walking through the business and marketing workbook which detailed how to get your Imagination Yoga business started and how to run it efficiently. As a non-business savvy individual, I was encouraged to see that they offered ready-made documents such as brochures, business cards, invoices and templates so a LOT of the legwork was already done! They also went over how to “get out there” and market yourself to your community, and gave a lot of feedback and opportunity for brainstorming where to spend time and effort in the outreach process.
However, more than the practicing of the adventures or the exciting contents of the media package, it was the cohesiveness and camaraderie of the group of amazing women who came together with unique but common visions that left the greatest impact on me. Just simply hearing the stories of what brought each of the women there, to that room, on that day, was heartbreakingly beautiful and incredibly inspiring. We all seemed to be connected by the threads of love, purpose, and passion.
Since the training has concluded I have been working on completing the last of the necessary steps toward becoming a certified “Imagination Yoga” instructor, brainstorming about local outreach, and, of course practicing with my own kids, their cousins, their friends, and pretty much anyone who will let me guide them on an adventure.
My youngest daughter just celebrated her first birthday and she takes full yoga breaths—outstretched arms and all. I never formally “taught” her, she has just seen me do them with her older two siblings and their cousins, and one day she just started randomly raising her chubby little arms slowly above her head and then letting out a loud exhale as she brought them back down to her sides.
As I watched her, so proud of herself, taking her full yoga breaths I witnessed how the simple yet powerful intention of “Kind Hearts, Kind Words, Kind Thoughts” begins with a single breath.
It’s sacred work, and I couldn’t be more honored to be a part of it.
We couldn’t be more thrilled to have Whitney Galstad as the newest member of the Imagination Yoga team.