FREE Webinar Series: “Journey to the Heart” with love. life. om.

Let’s get this party started!

Yesterday was Loving Kindness Wednesday. I spent the day planning and scheduling love. life. om.’s first FREE webinar series specifically designed for everyone and anyone with the desire to transform their lives and reach their full potential.

Join the conversation and open your heart to new people, new opportunities, and new insights within love. life. om.’s safe and inclusive community.

In this FREE series, we’ll read selected meditations from Melody Beattie’s best-selling book “Journey to the Heart” and spend time sharing and reflecting on her words of wisdom. I’ll also share simple yet powerful mindfulness tools you can integrate into your personal healing journey toolkit.

Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with others who share your desire and passion to finally be free from unnecessary mental, emotional and physical blocks to finding joy and happiness!

Sign up today!

There are four (4) sessions in the series. Sign up for all of them or only the ones that fit your schedule best. I can’t wait for all of us to connect!

Have a beautiful day!
Paula Carrasquillo, MA, RYT-200
yoga teacher and health coach 

Paula.Carrasquillo_Marriott_Serenity_PoolWork with me! If you’re interested in learning powerful tools and techniques to transform your body, mind and spirit and open new pathways to healing and reaching your highest potential self, contact me to learn about the programs and services I offer.

FREE Webinar Series: “Journey to the Heart” by Melody Beatty

FREE Book Club Webinar Series: “Journey to the heart” by Melody Beatty

To kickstart the new year, I bought Beatty’s book of daily meditations. Each evening, I read an entry and am always blown away.
Some of you may know her other book, “Codependent No More”. I purchased that book a few years ago, but it didn’t resonate with me the way her book of daily meditations has.

It’s not that I’m in denial that I have a history of being codependent; I think we all can acknowledge we’ve been or continue to be codependent to a degree thanks to our upbringing in a society that makes us believe codependency is normal while simultaneously brainwashing us into believing we’re not codependent and that being codependent is “bad”. For many of us, it was the toxic relationship with a narcissist/sociopath/psychopath that finally opened our eyes to our conditioning and codependent tendencies. 

So no, I’m not in denial. It’s just that I’m the type of person who doesn’t wish to dwell for long on what’s wrong with me, because that generally leads me down a slippery slope of self-blame and self-judgment, which, ironically, sends me deeper into codependency because I end up desperate for external validation from others. Nope. I refuse to get trapped on that merry-go-round ever again.

I know I was codependent in the past and remain codependent to a degree today. I accept it. What I want to know is how do I change my default and learn to be more self-sufficient and self-reliant in relationships and with myself?

Beatty’s daily meditations provide part of answers, I believe, and speak to simple action steps that have the potential to pull us out of our conditioning and into a healthier mindset of joy, freedom, and accountability.

I’d like to invite you to read and share Beatty’s book with me. I’ll be conducting FREE webinars and inviting everyone to join in the conversation.

If you’re interested, please comment below with a day of the week and time that works best for you. I will do my best to accommodate as many of us as I can when scheduling the first FREE live webinar.

During the webinars, I’ll also share other mindfulness tools to help you stay grounded and focused on your inner journey of healing and transformation!

Paula Carrasquillo, MA, RYT-200
yoga teacher and health coach 

Paula.Carrasquillo_Marriott_Serenity_PoolWork with me! If you’re interested in learning powerful tools and techniques to transform your body, mind and spirit and open new pathways to healing and reaching your highest potential self, contact me to learn about the programs and services I offer.

Trauma Purge and the Surprise of Letting Go

It’s Loving Kindness Wednesday!

I took the attached picture last week in Maui. After snapping the shot, I looked at the image and thought, “That’s not what I thought I was taking a picture of. This looks like a flame shooting up through the waves!!”

It was so unexpected and such a wonderful surprise. A lot like how it feels when we’re moving through transformation and out of trauma and into our greatest potential self. The unexpected happens frequently regardless of the tools we use to release our trapped trauma, emotions and pain. 

A tool I use and recommend others to practice is yoga. But yoga isn’t the gentle kind of release one might think it is. It’s powerful and intense. 

Through movements and holdings of the body simultaneously with the breath, yoga loosens trauma in preparation for the ultimate purge, cleansing and letting go of trauma. 

Loosening too much too quickly is not recommended. Otherwise, you run the risk of re-traumatizing yourself and creating an even thicker block of compacted and congested emotional and spiritual “gunk”. 

Preferably, begin or reintroduce yoga by easing into a practice of yin or guided meditation. These types of tools are slower and more focused, allowing for a gentle emergence of accumulated trauma, stress and anxiety. Connected to this accumulation of gunk are your fears partnered with all the self-sabotaging tools the gunk set as your default whenever faced with relationship challenges. So as the gunk surfaces, expect to be swiftly and unexpectedly overcome with even more intense sensations of the following: self-doubt, self-judgment, shame, remorse, regret, lack of self-respect, etc. 

Fortunately and with more practice, instead of cycling through the loop of these destructive emotions, you will recognize and be aware of them. When you are aware of them, they have no power or control over your actions, behaviors and/or treatment of others. When you’re aware of them, you accept them for the tricksters that they are and simultaneously let them go.

The letting go process may happen unexpectedly. You’ll know when it’s happening. No need for me to spoil the surprise.

Paula Carrasquillo, yoga teacher and health coach

Why I stuck with yoga even when it got ugly

Recently, a very dear friend and fellow survivor introduced me to Linda Sparrowe, yoga teacher, former editor-in-chief of Yoga International magazine, and past managing editor of Yoga Journal. She’s a participant on the upcoming panel discussion, “Yoga Continuum: Facing Challenges with Courage and Compassion”, as part of a collaboration between Naropa University and Yoga Journal. She kindly asked me to detail my experience with yoga as therapy. I share her questions and my answers below:

How have yoga and meditation helped you in your own journey through diagnosis, treatment, remission, and even recurrence?  

When I began practicing yoga 4 years ago at the age of 39, I had no idea how much of me was broken. At 18, I experienced intimate partner abuse at the hands of my boyfriend, who was also 18. The relationship didn’t last more than 6 months, but my life and outlook on life changed forever. 

For 2 decades, I suffered from, without realizing I was suffering from them, depression, alcohol abuse, and post-traumatic stress (PTSD). My inner world was out of control, but I thought I could compensate by controlling my outer world. My perfectionistic tendencies ran the gamut: I had to look perfect from head to toe; I had to get perfect grades; I had to perform perfectly in my jobs; I had to have a perfectly clean and ordered house; I had to look like I had a perfect life despite the fact I hated myself. I didn’t even understand why I hated myself, which made hating myself that much more intense and burdensome on my mind and spirit. I became obsessed with food and acquired an eating disorder. I feared criticism and didn’t want anyone to think I was stupid. So one degree wasn’t enough. I had to go for advanced degrees and certificates, anything to prove my worth and value. Just being me wasn’t enough.

At 39, I escaped another short-term abusive relationship. I was lost. I wanted to kill myself. Luckily, I had family who loved and supported me. But even that didn’t seem like enough.

Then I discovered yoga two months before my 40th birthday. Within a few weeks of practicing, I overcame my binge eating and bulimia. Within 6 months, I quit drinking and was finally diagnosed with PTSD. For good and bad, my yoga practice opened the pathway to all of the repressed memories and denial I had been trying to bury for years. All the harm inflicted upon me by myself and others surfaced. I thought I was going to lose my mind. I thought I was going crazy, because, for the first time since I was 18, I was facing all of myself head on, and I couldn’t look away. Yoga unveiled my inner being, and my inner being wouldn’t allow me to look away. This process of going inward and seeing myself “naked” was painful, humiliating and shameful. Initially and despite practicing yoga almost daily, I fell even deeper into the pit of darkness and self-hatred. 

Fortunately, the side effects of my bottom were short-lived, because yoga helped me find my voice. I wrote and self-published my first book in 2012, “Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath”, which highlights my last abusive relationship. From there, I created and maintained a blog on which I purged myself of more “stuff” and connected to others in the process. At the end of 2014, I self-published my second book, “Unashamed Voices: True Stories Written by Survivors of Domestic Violence, Rape and Fraud”, which features 38 first-hand accounts of abuse submitted to me by visitors of my blog.

And I feel like that’s only the beginning of my life’s work. 

Last year, I completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training, because I not only wanted to deepen my practice and understanding of yoga, but I want to give others the gift yoga gave to me: my life. 

I teach yoga twice a week and yoga nidra guided meditation once a week. Over time, I plan to transition away from my corporate job as a web content developer and trainer and into teaching yoga and being a health coach full-time. My deepest heart’s desire is to help as many people as I can escape their pain, shame, and humiliation and awaken as I awakened.

How are yoga and meditation sources of healing, understanding and acceptance? 

Yoga taught me acceptance and letting go. At the heart of yoga, I learned:

1. Compassion for all living things. The first I had to master was compassion for myself. 

2. Being perfect is unattainable, because nothing is permanent except change, so there is no such thing as a state of being perfect. 

3. How others treat me is about them and not me. How I treat myself is what matters, because how I treat myself is how I will treat others. I want to be good to people, not indifferent, mean, or nasty. It’s a daily exercise to elevate my levels of self-love and self-trust. 

4. The humiliation, shame, and pain I experienced doesn’t mean I’m weak or unworthy of love; it means I’m human. I’m perfect just because I’m me. Yoga taught me that.

And, what would you put in your own yoga toolkit that you could draw upon as you face aging, illness, or even death?

To never stop. To keep going. It’s never too late to live or take another breath toward a more fulfilling life. Life is the absence of the fear of growing old and dying. Life is love. Death just happens.

Is it possible to explain why yoga? Or, maybe more precisely, what it was about yoga itself that allowed you to trust the process? That allowed you to stick with the pain of investigation and self-inquiry? What can yoga do for us that, for instance, talk therapy can not? How did yoga help you find your voice and feel comfortable and safe sharing it? How did it help you find more compassion, courage and perhaps patience with yourself?

First and foremost, my teachers, their patience, and their spirit of acceptance kept me motivated. I felt safe with them. I didn’t feel judged in their presence, which allowed me to be less critical of myself. Reciprocity of energy and vibration. If I fell out of a posture, my teachers would either encourage me to try again or encourage me to let it go for the night and try again the next night. No need to become frustrated or angry with myself, they’d say. It’s only yoga, and tomorrow is another day. Wow! That was a lot for my perfectionist nature to handle and accept. But my teachers made it effortless for me. I was never made to feel like I failed, like any attempt was a poor attempt, or like I had to attain a certain level of expertise or experience before becoming a yogini. I was permitted to be a yogini the second I walked onto my mat for the first time. Being accepted and respected without the need to prove myself worthy…that’s a powerful motivator. 

And because my teachers were so good to me, I wanted to be good to me. I found myself surrounded by acceptance, and peace washed over my hypersensitive nature which was normally agitated and accustomed to being preoccupied with seeking acceptance from others. This unconditional acceptance from my teachers on the outside allowed me to be focused inwardly on my journey into a new frontier of self-discovery, self-acceptance, and self-love. My entire perspective shifted because my teachers showed me so much love and acceptance, and they didn’t even know me outside of the classroom.

Despite how tough my inward journey became at times, I refused to give up on myself. If I gave up on myself, I saw it as giving up on my teachers and all the love and kindness they freely and generously bestowed upon me. If I felt like giving up, I’d grab my mat and head to the studio. I always had my teachers, my breathing, my asana, and the collective energy of the studio to ground me. And for me, an introvert and highly sensitive person to rush to people rather than away from them for energy and motivation, that’s heavy.

Today, I’m more inwardly motivated and look to my personal transformation the past four years as proof that this thing called yoga works…for me. So why give it up? Why stop? I keep learning more and more and getting healthier and healthier. I’ve been 100% medication-free for over three years! No therapist would be able to do that for me, because 1) people on drugs keep therapists in business; and 2) no therapist understands or would believe that medication acts as a band-aid and blocks the user from finding their inner power. Medication couldn’t cure or heal me; medication kept me numb and lifeless. With yoga, I learned that being in motion and being in tune and aware of my body, mind, and spirit is the only path to resurrection, renewal, and an authentic life. Disease and sickness don’t stand a chance against the detoxifying power of perpetual motion, which keeps the mind open and the body successfully moving in the direction of health, homeostasis, and balance. 

Om Shanti,

Paula Carrasquillo

Just say “No!” to sociopath oppression and possession

“Have patience. Wait until the mud settles and the water is clear. Remain unmoving until right action arises by itself.” ~ Lao-tzu

The sociopaths we escaped were jealous of us. It’s that simple. They saw our strengths and knew we were stronger, which is why they made every attempt to demean and devalue us with words, suggestions and actions. Misery loves company, after all.

They hated us for liking ourselves and wanted to warp our healthy levels of self-love and self-respect into something ugly, grotesque and sinful.

They wanted to convince us that we were narcissistic and selfish. (Ironic, huh?)

So whenever we demonstrated self-respect by saying “no” to them and trying to maintain our boundaries, they’d degrade us, bring us down and convince us we weren’t as great as we thought we were. (Which is sad, because we simply had a healthy degree of self-worth that SEEMED inflated compared to their total lack of self-worth and self-respect.)

They wanted to convince us of what they wanted us to believe was true: that we were no better than them and that we needed them to learn humility and grace.


You can’t learn humility and grace from people who only understand possession and oppression. We are not in need of them. They are not people we want to aspire to be like. And there is no shame in believing you are amazing and have the right to your feelings, beliefs and personal interpretations of your experiences and ideas.

We don’t have to continue apologizing for being “normal” and healthy, a place too few are allowed to reach thanks to the sociopaths in their lives whispering to them repeatedly, “You really shouldn’t think so highly of yourself. It’s tasteless!”

The goal of a sociopath is to find the ultimate victim, someone who will take those whisperings to heart and permit those whisperings to lower their personal standards. Only a person who remains completely lost and oblivious to what the sociopath is doing can remain a victim whom the sociopath can get away with oppressing and possessing their entire life.

Be thrilled you escaped. No matter how long it took, you awakened to your power. Seize it and never forget it’s there and has always been there.

Paula Carrasquillo

This post was selected for The Great Sociopathic Abuse and Recovery Blog Tour organized by Joyce M. Short, author Carnal Abuse by Deceit.

(image by JD Marston)

Back to Bikram at a non-affiliated Bikram Studio

After 5 months of searching, I finally discovered a studio that teaches Bikram Yoga but is not a Bikram Yoga affiliate/franchise.

If you read my post from January about mourning my Bikram Yoga practice, you know I gave up the practice after much struggle, thought, and consideration.

I am a survivor of abuse and work every day to bring awareness and help to others struggling in the aftermath of their abuse. When I discovered the abuse and sexual assault allegations against Bikram Choudhury, I had to consider their legitimacy based on the combination of multiple allegations and on what my gut and intuition was telling me.

And because the majority of studios that teach Bikram Yoga are affiliates and pay fees to Bikram, Inc., I could no longer reconcile giving my hard-earned money and energy to a man and empire that directly counters my ultimate hopes for this world.

Last week, my husband, son, and I were driving through Bethesda. I glanced over in the direction of the Bikram Yoga Bethesda studio and was shocked to see that the name of the studio had changed to Pure Om Yoga. I immediately grabbed my phone and messaged the studio through its Facebook page asking if they still offered Bikram-style yoga and if they remained affiliated with the Bikram brand and empire. Happily surprised, I received a response within an hour confirming that they still taught the same yoga but were no longer affiliated with Bikram, Inc.

Do yo have any idea how thrilled I was? Despite who and what Bikram is today, he created a series of poses and breathing exercises that helped me in many ways. Like with any style, there are teachers who exploit and harm through inflated egos and their need to be revered as gurus.

I just want the yoga without the guru and without knowing my money is lining the pockets of an empire that misrepresents all that I have come to understand and love about yoga and life on this planet.

I am a conscientious consumer. Every day and with each new experience, I become more and more aware of what I put into my body and where and with whom I interact daily. As information is provided to me, I will continue to make choices that resonate with my core values and beliefs. As a deep feeler and emotional person who has been harmed in the past by overlooking the seemingly insignificant misdeeds of those around me, I can never again compromise my core beliefs, as I have in the past, for the sake of convenience.

I visited Pure Om Yoga on Saturday and went back on Sunday. The anxieties I had been feeling a few months ago before I quit my Bikram Yoga practice no longer interfered with my conscience while on the mat and in the hot room. Where I was drained prior, I am invigorated today.

Outside of this explanation, I can’t express exactly how that “letting go” filled me with peace, joy, and hope.


© 2014 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.

Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

I’m going to be featured in OM Yoga Magazine!


International, UK-based OM Yoga Magazine will feature my book (Escaping the Boy: My Life with a Sociopath), me and fellow survivor, blogger, and entrepreneur, Andrea Clark, in their upcoming edition.

As part of a larger story on the benefits of yoga and meditation for domestic violence victims and their children, our professional bios and contributions to issues of safety, DV/abuse recovery, and sociopath awareness will be highlighted.

To put an international spotlight on survivors of sociopath/pathological abuse is HUGE!! It’s huge for everyone from victims to those who offer assistance and support to survivors in recovery.

Please checkout Andrea’s blog, The Eternal Victim and her Safe Girl Security site.

Also, consider following OM Yoga Magazine or getting a subscription. Their mobile app is free!


When we choose love over fear


All I know how to do today is share what I am passionate about with zero expectations. It’s how I operate in every corner of my life, from raising my son and being a friend to working my day job and training to become a yoga teacher.

I’m not lucky, fortunate or privileged. Where I find myself today has less to do with the people in my life who love me but more to do with my ability to believe in their love and that I am worthy of that love.

I don’t know where tomorrow will take me. I just do things today because I love doing them. I love life, and I love to share what I have learned. That’s it.

I have no desire or wish to be anyone’s guru or to be revered. And I can’t control how people judge me. That’s probably the most valuable lesson I have learned on this journey: I can only control how I view myself and my abilities. That view can either stifle me or empower me.

I simply have something inside of me that drives and propels me to get it out of me. My one hope is that someone, anyone, will find what I share valuable and useful and will inspire that person to share what is inside of them, too.

Sure, I’m a bit of an idealist. I want to see everyone succeed. I want to see people happy despite their pasts or their current struggles. And I honestly believe it is absolutely possible…a bunch of happy people co-existing and growing and sharing.

What’s so wrong with that?

Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

Mourning my Bikram Yoga practice in light of rape allegations

My introduction to yoga was through Bikram Yoga, specifically Bikram Yoga Rockville just around the corner from my home here in the DC Metro Area.

If you’ve followed this blog or my other blog, you’re already aware that Bikram Yoga, in a very real and profound way, changed my life.

I didn’t start practicing in October 2011 because I thought I would grow spiritually or eventually begin to heal from past abuse and emotional pain. On the contrary, my motivation was more materialistic and vain. I joined the Bikram Yoga studio because I wanted to get physically fit and maybe heal a knee injury I had been living with for far too many years.

Within days of practicing Bikram Yoga, I was able to stop taking Advil. I could even walk up and down stairs without fearing I’d topple or lose my footing.

Within a few months of starting, I turned 40 and discovered at my annual doctor’s visit that I had lost weight and lowered my blood pressure. There was no doubt that I was gaining energy, too. Soon, the emotional and spiritual benefits of my practice would be evident to myself and to others in my life.

A little over a year into my practice, the accusations that Bikram Choudhury, creator of the Bikram Yoga series and founder of the Bikram Yoga empire, raped women (yes, plural) who had attended his yoga teacher training certification. On the heels of these revelations, past employees of the yoga guru soon came forward with disturbing allegations of their own, depicting Bikram Choudhury as a racist tyrant who ran his business “like a cult.”

Here is a list of recent stories covering the allegations:

Bikram Yoga Founder Accused of Sexual Assaults ABC News Nightline – February 26, 2014

Women Suing Hot Yoga Guru for Alleged Sexual Assault Come Forward, ABC News – February 26, 2014

Bikram yoga guru accused of rape hires former White House lawyer, The Telegraph – January 31, 2014

Bikram Feels the Heat, Vanity Fair – January 1, 2014

Women who accused Bikram yoga founder of rape speak out against the millionaire ‘guru’ after ‘he forced one victim into a yoga pose during an attack’, The Daily Mail – December 6, 2013

Bikram Yoga’s Embattled Founder: The Alleged Rapes and Sexual Harassment Claims Against Guru Bikram Choudhury, Vanity Fair – December 3, 2013

Bikram Yoga Founder Blasted For Alleged Rape, Sexual Harassment And Racism In Explosive Lawsuit, The Huffington Post – August 6, 2013

I can’t say I was completely surprised. Even before I stepped foot into the Bikram Yoga studio here in Maryland, I had perused the Bikram Yoga website. The images of Bikram Choudhury sweating and practicing and standing like a dictator before large numbers of yoga practitioners kind of repulsed me. Silly me, I shamed myself for being so judgmental and was determined to not let my unfair prejudices keep me from trying something that could possibly help me.

After I started practicing, I gradually started learning a little more about how Bikram Yoga studios are managed, how Bikram Yoga teachers are trained and how other yoga disciplines viewed Bikram Yoga.

Briefly, if you want to teach and promote yourself as a teacher of the Bikram Yoga series, you must go through the 9-week Bikram Yoga certification intensive taught twice each year. You have your choice of either going to Los Angeles or splurging and going to Thailand.

If you do not go through this specific training, you can not teach the Bikram Yoga series.

Fine. I get that. Seems fair.

But this is what bothers me a bit:

If and when you are able to open up your own Bikram Yoga studio, part of your membership revenue as a Bikram Yoga instructor and studio owner must be paid to Bikram, Inc. of which Bikram Choudhury is the “Boss” and CEO. This is the fast-food franchise model applied to yoga.

So even after you carve out 9 weeks away from your family and friends, pay between $11,400 to $15,500 for training (depending on your preferred room accommodations) and spend more time after training improving your poses and ability to teach effectively, Bikram Choudhury wants more of you if you decide to run a studio with his name “Bikram” on the sign.

You can’t teach Bikram Yoga without Bikram training and then you can’t call yourself a Bikram studio or say your class is a Bikram class without paying more money? It all seems very non-yogi-like to me.

Despite all the yucky sensations I was feeling and tasting, I kept paying my monthly dues and attending classes. I just loved my teachers and the other yogis at the studio.

But the rape allegations have stopped me in my tracks. I have only attended a handful of classes at the Bikram Yoga studio since January 1, 2014. Instead, I have been practicing yoga at home (YouTube is full of great teachers and free videos!) and at another yoga studio where I am participating in 200-hour yoga teacher training.

I’m struggling. After all, Bikram Choudhury hasn’t been found guilty. However, as an advocate who is determined to bring as much awareness to the forefront about pathological, abusive predators as I can, I MUST take a stand and believe that these women are telling the truth. Too much of what they say and the struggles they repeat about finally coming forward have me more than convinced.

As far as Bikram Choudhury’s responses and defense…his words echo classic perpetrator speak. I can’t deny what I hear and what I know about abusers. I can’t. I believe Bikram Choudhury is an abusive rapist and has hurt and harmed far more than just these few women brave enough to come forward.

Today, I am left to mourn my Bikram Yoga practice. I never revered Bikram Choudhury as my guru. However, I looked to my Bikram Yoga instructors for nearly two (2) years for spiritual guidance and support. I have zero regrets. I also know that there are predators everywhere–teachers teaching other styles of yoga throughout the world preying on the vulnerabilities of women and men. Nothing I do can stop that from happening.

But I have the power to disconnect from the negative energy in my life that simply doesn’t seem to be dissipating. If one day Bikram Choudhury releases the studios from paying the franchise fee, I may go back.

And if my information about the franchises is erroneous, please let me know. If there are Bikram Yoga-trained instructors freely teaching the 26-posture series without being obligated to pay Bikram, Inc., let me know.


© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.

Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

Is yoga okay for kids?


This story was originally published on June 24, 2013, to the author’s The Washington Times Communities column with the original title, Teaching Yoga to Children: Harmful or Beneficial?

Like anything new and foreign introduced into a community or society, offering and teaching yoga to our children is accompanied with skepticism and controversy.

The popularity of yoga in the United States has increased dramatically in the last five years. In December 2012, Yoga Journal revealed that 20.4 million Americans practice yoga, compared to 15.8 million from the previous Yoga in America 2008 study, an increase of 29 percent.

From celebrities and corporate executives to housewives and the elderly, yoga is attracting and maintaining a strong following, for good reason. Regular yoga practice can help reduce stress, increase overall fitness, and provide relief and management of chronic conditions and diseases.

In addition, recent studies have suggested that teaching yoga to school-aged children increases their patience, attention span, competitive spirit and cognitive abilities, leading to increased learning and ease of new-skills comprehension, according to T.S. Ganpat and H.R. Nagendra.

So it’s no surprise that yoga programs for children are popping up across the country.

Unfortunately, bringing this awareness and understanding to all parents, not just those parents who already practice yoga themselves, is proving difficult.

“Although my adult classes are full and growing, the kid’s program is not,” explains Marta Fiscus, certified yoga instructor and K-12 arts teacher.

“I think there are two reasons for this. First, children already have their schedules full with soccer, ballet, music lessons, etc. These are activities that parents automatically enroll their kids in. It’s common ground. The new offering of yoga in this community has never been routine. Also, I think this community still has a preconceived idea that yoga is something foreign.”

This community Fiscus refers to is the small, Appalachian town of Cumberland, Md.

Fiscus has been teaching children in many capacities for almost 25 years, beginning in New York City where she worked as a toddler specialist teaching gymnastics, movement, art and music. After moving back to her native Western Maryland, she became a certified K-12 visual arts teacher and worked in both the public and private schools.

In 2007, shortly after she gave birth to her second son, Fiscus began teaching yoga to adults.

“I never had any intention of teaching yoga, but a job became available and my fellow yogis suggested I would be good at it. Once I became more confident as a yoga teacher, I was able to expand my vision to bringing yoga to children.”

With her extensive childhood teaching experiences, along with a desire to deepen her own yoga practice, Fiscus felt it was time for the children of her community to experience the joys and benefits that come with yoga.

Fiscus researched children’s yoga programs and discovered Radiant Child Yoga founded by Shakta Kaur Khalsa. She enrolled and became certified. Fiscus now teaches the first yoga program ever offered in Allegany County Maryland through a partnership between Tri-State Community School for the Arts and Beginnings Montessori School as an after-school activity requiring fees and signup.

Fiscus has great expectations for the program’s future sprinkled with some reservations and concerns considering Cumberland has an unemployment rate of more than eight percent and was recently listed among the top ten poorest cities in the country.

“At this point, the only way I foresee the program being successful in this area is to make it part of the school curriculum,” Fiscus states with hope.

Unfortunately, the ‘foreign’ fear and misconception of yoga may be what keeps yoga from becoming a part of public school curriculum, regardless of the demographics and economics of the community.

Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) in California is learning this lesson the hard way.

EUSD implemented its yoga curriculum last year as part of a larger health and wellness initiative, funding the program with a $533,000 grant awarded to EUSD by the K.P. Jois Foundation.

In April 2013, a lawsuit was filed by concerned parents of EUSD on behalf of attorney Dean Broyles from the National Center for Law and Policy. The suit alleges that EUSD incorporated Ashtanga yoga into the school’s curriculum, which “unlawfully promotes religious beliefs” and violates the U.S. Constitution.

The trial began May 20 with testimony given by many experts for both the defense and plaintiff.

Witness testimony for the plaintiff began with Dr. Candy Brown, professor at Indiana University. Brown presented arguments that yoga is “inherently religious.”

“Ashtanga yoga, as endorsed by the EUSD yoga curriculum, in my expert opinion, promotes and advances religion, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Western metaphysics,” testifies Brown.

As one of three witness for the defense, Chris Chapple, Ph.D., professor of Indic and comparative religion at Loyola Marymount University, asserted that “yoga may be practiced free from religious ideology,” and concurred with parts of Brown’s testimony related to who practices yoga but added that Brown neglected “to note that yoga is also practiced by Sikhs, Muslims, and Christians in India and elsewhere.”

Adding further testimony for the defense was Mark Singleton, Ph.D. and professor at St. John’s College. The website for Yoga Alliance, quotes Singleton as stating, “In my opinion, to claim that the practice of yoga techniques in secular, ecumenical, or religiously plural settings in the United States today is inherently religious is akin to claiming that college basketball is inherently religious because of its missionary Christian origins.”

There is no denying that yoga is a Sanskrit word and that Sanskrit is the language of the Vedas, India’s ancient religious texts. But the common practice of yoga in the West has been stripped of these religious and ancient roots and is considered by many to be a secular practice beneficial to anyone regardless of their spiritual path or preference.

And who has more to benefit from a healthy mind/body practice than our children?

“I am really hoping the word about kid’s yoga will get out there,” Fiscus adds. “Yoga poses come naturally to children, whether they are athletic or not. So when a child realizes, ‘Hey, I can do this,’ it sparks excitement and confidence. No doubt parents will see that children’s yoga is not only fun, but helps their kids develop confidence, self-awareness, and the ability to calm themselves, which is only the beginning of the lifelong gifts yoga gives to the young.”

The judge in the EUSD lawsuit ruled this morning that the yoga program was not religious and could continue being taught as part of the District’s wellness program.


© 2013 Paula Carrasquillo and A Yogini Transformed.

Paula Carrasquillo is an active yogi, author, and advocate who has lived in numerous watersheds throughout the United States, including Colorado, Maine, Maryland and New Mexico. She currently lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Paula is passionate about her family, friends and the motivational and brave people she meets daily through her online writing and social media exchanges. To Paula, every person, place, thing, idea and feeling she encounters is significant and meaningful, even those which she most wants to forget. Follow Paula on Twitter and check out her other blog.

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