January Student of the Month: Sandy Krzyzanowski
Sandy Krzyzanowski has been part of our #YogaFitFamily since February 2006. Since then, she has completed her 200 hour, 140 Warriors, YogaLean Certification, as well as her 500 hour. Most recently she became a Certified Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT). Sandy is a life-long student and truly embraces the spirit of YogaFit with all that she does. I was honored to have the opportunity to chat with Sandy. Here is her story...
Q: How did you first find out about Yogafit?
A: I live in the Minneapolis area which is a huge hub for YogaFit trainings. Back in February of 2006, I was working in the corporate world, when a coworker of mine saw a YogaFit advertisement in a magazine. She knew I loved doing yoga and that I was a personal trainer, so she shared it with me. Then Yoga was just something I did on my own, I used to follow VCR tapes! I thought Level 1 would be interesting to make sure my alignment was correct. At the time, I had no intention of ever teaching yoga, I simply wanted to improve my personal practice. After Level 1, YogaFit requires all students to complete 8 hours of community service teaching. Needless to say, I was a nervous WRECK! Luckily, during my trainings I met my first YogaFit best friend, Tracey Mortensen, who let me teach my community classes at her studio. These classes really began to increase my self esteem. I recently took a business training and the instructor told me, "when you work on your busines acumen, you're actually working on your own stuff, your own issues and any resistance to that reflects anything in your self that you are resisting." That's why the community classes do such great improvement on self esteem! With this requirement, I had the opportunity to fine tune what what I was doing, while defining myself as a teacher from the get-go. Plus, the giving back is such a neat thing that Beth Shaw has built into the program. I had always been drawn to yoga, but the YogaFit program is just so perfectly developed - even down to the music. Getting involved with the YogaFit trainings really deepened my love of yoga.
Q: Which training had the most impact on the way you teach?
A: The YogaFit for Warriors trainings by far. I originally thought it would just be a great addition. Really that’s how I think of all the trainings, “Oh, that’s an interesting class!” My parents were Polish prisoners of war (WWII) on German farms. They met in a displaced persons camp after the war—still basically a prisoner, but they met, got married, and had two kids all while living in the displaced persons camp. It wasn’t until I took the YogaFit Warrior training that I realized my parents didn’t just have short tempers - but instead they were living with PTSD. I owe YogaFit a huge set of gratitude for that training because it answered so many questions that I didn’t really know I had; but I needed answers for. I grew up in a house that was very volatile. It was so meaningful to understand that what my parents were going through and the psychological reactions they had were not controllable. I infuse the trauma training in all of my YogaFit classes now. I think it’s that important and it has become part of who I am. I’m actually in the process of writing a book, about my family history and what I have learned thanks to these amazing YogaFit trainings! Yoga therapy is an important element in the book.
Q: Were these trainings difficult for you to take?
A: They were very emotional but it was a huge blessing. I started linking memories from my childhood to signs of PTSD. For example, there was one instance when my dad had what I now know to be a panic attack. He started hyperventilating and sweating, and the strange thing was that my mom was so indifferent. I was the little girl in the bedroom wondering “why aren't we calling an ambulance; why is mom treating him so indifferently?" I now understand that it was because she had her own version of panic attacks too. One time, my mom cried on the floor in the basement all day. I lay next to her in the fetal position and wrapped my arms around her. I grew up with those incidences, but I was unable able to make sense of them.
Another example, one of our family members wasn’t talked to for years over a card game incident. After taking the Warriors training I realized that the card games may have been a trigger from the gambling in the war camps. During the YogaFit trainings, the light bulbs went off, it was a slow kind of “Oh my gosh, my parents had PTSD." I have a much better understanding now. I now know that were going through a lot of emotional trauma and they didn’t know how to explain it because they didn't understand it themselves. "Why did I just fly off the handle?” The trigger would happen and my parents were left looking at it later wondering "Why did I say those things? What happened right there?" It was easier to avoid talking about it.
As I was growing up I didn't recognize I had questions, but the after the YogaFit trainings, I realized the answers mattered. It meant the world to me. YogaFit helped me understand what was going on in my childhood. A yoga teacher of mine once asked during a training, “Who are you trying to save?” I realized I was trying to save the little girl that grew up in a PTSD-ridden household with no idea what was going on. I have so much respect for what my parents did and what they went through, especially given everything they were overcoming emotionally and physically. I think about the struggles of anyone in trauma. I have always had a deep respect for the military, the YogaFit for Warriors training has only made it that much deeper. I owe so much to the YogaFit Warrior training in particular. Yoga was my calling, and YogaFit deepened that, the Warrior training became my passion.
Q: How has your job as a yoga teacher evolved since 2006?
A: When I first started taking yoga teacher trainings, I really wasn't expecting taking it to the level I have. I ended up taking a second 200 hour training and it was not the caliber of YogaFit's training. After I graduated from the non-YogaFit 200 hour training, I had a YogaFit training scheduled just after. I felt so at home and so at peace that I was back in a YogaFit training environment. Earlier on as a yoga teacher, I viewed yoga more as fitness because I didn't know yet. It hadn't turned spiritual for me immediately. I just knew I was drawn to it and I wasn't sure why. The longer I teach yoga, the more spiritual it has become. The more I find meaning. The more I have found myself.
The YogaFit Warrior trainings, were slower and more regenerative. This style is meant to ease those with trauma, I always provide many choices in my classes. It has really impacted how I word things - everything is a choice. It's not horribly slow, but it is not a power yoga class. My adjustments are 99% verbal - especially since my specialty is trauma-informed yoga. I teach an older market - mostly over 40 and one group of late 60’s to early 70’s. My students enjoy knowing I’m not going to walk up to them and physically adjust them- unless they are in danger of hurting themselves. It’s a more tender flow. I give them the power to know themselves when using my voice to help them get where they should be. It empowers them to know their body somatically, as they understand where they need to be versus me just manipulating them into the pose. I wouldn’t say I was ever a heavy physical adjuster, because I was unsure of myself in the beginning. But when I took that second 200 hour training, with the other school, it was basically required that you had to touch everybody in every class. This made me think "Well, how does that really help anybody?” What if they didn’t do anything wrong? I’ve learned that people view a physical adjustment as if they’re doing something wrong, no matter how much you tell them otherwise. And then they're just thinking about it the whole time, like “I hope she doesn’t adjust me, I hope I’m doing this pose right.” They not listening to their bodies in those instances so much as looking for what some perfect post might look like. It's how the pose feels on their body that matters. I emphasize listen to their body. I was injured once because of physical adjustment, I cue everything differently now. YogaFit Master Trainer, Kristy Manual, taught me to emphasize the journey in between the poses versus just getting to an endpoint, by counting breaths or some other cueing. That's part of trauma informed yoga training. I really focus on grounding, bringing them back into their bodies.
Q: When did you decide to go for the C-IAYT Yoga Therapist credential?
A: Once I earned my 500 hr RYT, I decided that I wasn't going to quit learning. I thought, I’m still going to take advantage of the fact that they’re in the Minneapolis area and continue to take as many trainings as I can. The therapy/healthcare track interested me, because I had done some 1-on-1 personal training, and this would be a good full circle to come back around. Last year, my decision was solidified when one of my longest attending students had cancer relapse. I started doing on-on-one yoga therapy with her. She was too weak to do much asana, but we did a lot of yoga nidra, visualization and what I learned from Kristy in the Sound and Mantra training. We practiced legs up the wall (sometimes I would be her wall) and we did some reflexology on her feet and energy work. I sent her tapes, used aromatherapy and reiki. We used crystals during the nidra and at the end she felt so much better. The yoga therapy can be as simple as that. I forget who said it but “even if you’ve only helped one person with your yoga therapy training, it was worth it." It was overwhelmingly meaningful for me to work with her and share that time together. I didn't charge her for our time together. It just felt like the right thing to do and I was so honored to be part of her life. If that was the only reason I had all this training under my belt, then it was totally worth it. If i hadn’t had all the training from the YogaFit programs, I don’t know how confident I would have been to work with her. It scared me a bit, I didn't want to her hurt her. She needed to be in "rest and relax" mode to regenerate. We had a lot of fun together. Sadly, she ended up passing away last April. The church was filled with people. She was a beautiful soul. I will never forget her.
Q: Since you already have your Yoga Therapy certificate, why are you continuing to take more trainings?
A: We are always learning. I don’t think I am ever going to quit taking YogaFit classes. And goodness, you should see my yoga books! You guys keep coming up with trainings that are so compelling. I love all the topics you cover, they’re all important. I don’t think I will ever be uninterested in a new topic YogaFit comes up with, because you always seem to having something that’s forefront. I am also really interested in the new 100 Hour Yoga for Wellness speciality track that was recently announced.
My biggest piece of advice to a new student is don’t be rushed during your trainings, don't try to just get to the end. Enjoy the journey, because you’re going to be doing this for a long time. I plan to do more one-on-one in the future. I’m mobile, so I don’t have a rent that I pay, I travel to different studios, gyms and homes. At the age that I’m at, I have no desire to acquire a rent. My training can just go with me, wherever I am. I have a yoga mobile. My car is filled with yoga mats and bolsters - I’m the traveling yogi.
Q: Is Yoga your full-time job now?
A: I was in the corporate world up until 2009. I don’t teach yoga full-time. I teach yoga part-time, but I work all the time. I am constantly working, I consider writing my book part of it. It's an extension of yoga therapy since that's an important part of the subject matter. It’s all connected.
Q: What do you think it is that draws you so passionately into the #YogaFitFamily? How do you know you will find the "homebase feeling" at any YogaFit training?
A: Going to that second 200 hour training and realizing how different it was and how YogaFit treats it’s people is what drew me in. My YogaFit besties, that I have formed are lifelong friendships. Also, I learned so much about myself and I learned about the family I was raised in. I realized there were questions I didn’t know I had and now I have answers. It was also being equipped and feeling knowledgeable enough to help someone I loved and cared about during her cancer treatment. She was terminal from the beginning, but I do believe she lasted longer because of our time together. I know she certainly felt our time together helped her. I loved being able to be there for her. One of the last times I saw her before she passed was in the hospital. The nurses asked what her pain level was before we began working together, and she said “the second I saw Sandy my pain went away.” It warmed my heart because she always told me how much better I made her feel. It’s a testament to how powerful Yoga Therapy is. It’s the YogaFit energy that comes through us.
YogaFit supports you as a student, they believe in you, it just feels like family. It feels more of my alma mater than any college I went to. I’m so proud to admit my training is through YogaFit. I am in awe of everything Beth Shaw has done to create this. Not only as a woman, but also starting as a sole-proprietor, like we all are, she has progressed to worldwide success. The high integrety of everything Beth does and the animal shelter charities that she donates to all make me proud. Everything about YogaFit, it just feels like the right place to be, the right people. We all talk about how good it is when we go to YogaFit trainings. We all feel like this is the place to be, we all feel like family and we all treat each other like family. I used to compete as an aerobics instructor and people are really backstabbing in that industry. I never feel that way at YogaFit, you smile and everyone smiles back. The experitse of the YogaFit Master Trainers is bar-none, with cutting edge classes. You don’t find classes like these elsewhere, and the trainers that teach these subjects are well-trained in the area of expertise. They’re not the "be all end all", where they’re trying to do everything themselves. They are highly educated, most with Master's or Doctorate degress in their specialties.
Q: When is your next training?
A: June 2018 - I will be attending the Minneapolis Mind Body Fitness Conference. I plan to take Chronic Pain, Art of Storytelling, and the new Expanding Consciousness training! Just a couple months ago, I realized that I needed a one-day training, so I went to Iowa for it. I was able to stay with my niece who just moved to the area. We were able to go to dinner and catch up - I love that I can take YogaFit trainings locally or travel when I want. Thank you YogaFit for everything!!