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My Journey to Becoming a Kids Yoga and Mindfulness Teacher

Written by Val Giegerich, Continuing Education Instructor + Trauma Supports Team Member

Graduates of a recent Kids Yoga + Mindfulness Teacher Training

"I learned all the things that make yoga and mindfulness critical tools for our youth and how to apply those concepts in creating meaningful lessons for children of all ages.  More importantly, I learned that my voice matters."  ~ Val Giegerich

My work life and professional life intersected in a way that changed the trajectory of my life in ways I could never have imagined possible in April of 2018.  At that time I was a Social Emotional Behavioral Health Consultant for Green Hills AEA in Southwest Iowa. In my role, I helped schools and teachers create optimal learning environments for students that were safe, predictable, and welcoming. This included teaching staff how to help students who have experienced trauma and may be exhibiting challenging behaviors. 

I attended a conference on trauma in Dubuque, IA with colleagues.  During the conference, one of the sessions intrigued me. It was called “Peace Out: How To Create a Peaceful Space In Your Classroom To Promote Calm and De-escalation In Your Students.” The presenter was Molly Schreiber, founder and CEO of Challenge to Change.  Her story and the resources she shared resonated with me on a deep level. I attended a free yoga session with her the next morning prior to the start of the conference. And so my journey began….

I often say that I started “stalking” Challenge to Change’s social media page to find more ways for me to continue to learn about this work. By doing this I discovered a two-day professional learning opportunity titled Yoga for Teachers. This course fascinated me and had me wanting more! I loved how it combined great pedagogy with finding ways to connect with students to help them have "smart minds, kind hearts, and calm bodies".  On the second day of this learning opportunity, I honestly had a feeling come over me that I had never experienced before; I knew that my journey with Challenge to Change was not over.  That feeling was a combination of faith, intuition, trust, and connection.

After the course ended, I rushed home to share with my husband my enthusiasm for continuing to explore Challenge to Change and Molly’s vision. I shared the financial and time commitment with him, and without hesitating, we decided that I would continue my journey by taking the Kids Yoga + Mindfulness Teacher Training.

Participants at a recent Kids Yoga + Mindfulness Teacher Training

In November of 2018, I attended my first weekend of training.  Looking back on that first weekend, I experienced so many emotions that were not new to me, they just hit me in different ways and at deeper levels.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude, yet felt way out of my comfort zone. There was fear that I was not good enough, strong enough, didn’t know enough about yoga, and was not worthy of  love and acceptance from a group of women I barely knew. In reality, there was a sense of belonging, safety, and connectedness with each other that allowed us all to be vulnerable as we learned and grew together.  

As our 95-hour training progressed, I learned all the things that make yoga and mindfulness critical tools for our youth and how to apply those concepts in creating meaningful lessons for children of all ages.  More importantly though, I learned that my voice matters, and I had lost my voice somewhere along the way, little by little.  Completing this training allowed me to reexamine my values and have the courage to look inward to find my voice again and start to use it in everyday life. 

I learned to speak my truth and use my voice to elevate others.  In addition, and just as important, I witnessed the power of connection and community, what it felt like to truly belong and accept others as they are with no judgment.  It challenged me to think about creating spaces where all people feel safe, connected, and part of a larger community.

Participants at a recent Kids Yoga + Mindfulness Teacher Training

My relationships with my family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances started to shift. People I had known for years commented on how they had always loved me, yet something was different, in a good way.  Communication between my husband and children became clearer and we started to engage in deeper conversations and value each other's perspective. For the first time in my life, I started to feel empowered to show the truest version of myself. I developed my noble goal so that others could experience what I felt when I was with my yoga sisters - creating safe spaces for those around me, where everyone feels valued, honored, and connected,

Upon completing my Kids Yoga and Mindfulness Teacher Training, I felt my journey with Challenge to Change was not over, nor was my yoga education.  Two weeks after completing my Kids Yoga and Mindfulness Teacher Training, I started a 200-hour Yoga Training to increase my skills and knowledge around yoga, so I could better teach children. 

I had no intentions of ever teaching adults, yet here I am five years later with a 500 Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) behind my name.  In the last 5 years, I have been blessed and honored to bring the practice of yoga to children, educators, and adults through many avenues, including presenting at conferences, teaching at studios and community centers, providing professional learning to teachers and childcare providers, and most recently facilitating a yoga teacher training. I still work for the AEA system supporting the social-emotional needs of children and adults, and I am also a yoga teacher. At this point in my life and career, I could not separate one from the other; they are two parts that help to make me whole.

“Yoga is a journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” In some ways the journey is cyclical. When I received a text from Molly asking me to write a blog post for the first time, I recall something was triggered in me. It was a reminder the importance of my voice and my truth.

The difference is now I embrace growth and understand sometimes I need to step outside of my comfort zone whether it comes from a small nudge from a friend, or a gale-force wind that I didn't see coming. 

If you have been thinking about this or other opportunities in your life I ask you now, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid? What would happen if you embraced the fear or doubt and allowed yourself the chance to grow?”

If you are ready to grow, a community full of connection and compassion awaits you, and you will be welcomed with open arms.

I will be leading a Kids Yoga and Mindfulness Teacher Training starting in June. I hope you'll join me, along with fellow Changemakers, Jenna and Sherrie!

This 95-hour training qualifies for up to 6 graduate or relicensure credits.


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