Moms & Special Needs Kids
Yoga is My Stress Control
By: Julie Hornok, Yoga Teacher, Author, Speaker, Event Planner and Autism Activist
Life with a child with special needs was slowly draining me. I didn’t know how much more I could take.
Then I walked into the dim room, deeply inhaled the lavender and peppermint scented air, and rolled out my mat. Sitting down, I watched the flames on the candles flicker for a few seconds before closing my eyes, taking a deep breath, and letting out a sigh of relief.
For the next hour, I did not have to attend to anyone, solve any problems or put out any fires. My heart rate slowed and my mind cleared. I was finally at peace.
Just two hours ago, I was sitting on the floor holding my daughter tightly in my arms to keep her safe as she screamed at the top of her lungs, flailed her arms and legs and attempted to bite me. Since this was happening in the middle of the produce aisle at the grocery store, the judgmental glares were omnipresent. I am not sure what triggered this meltdown, but then I was never sure because she had no words to tell me. What I did know was the only thing that would calm her down was to firmly wrap my arms around her and wait it out.
My daughter, Lizzie, was diagnosed with autism days after her second birthday. She had all the signs: she lost the little language she once had, no eye contact, lined objects up, flapped her arms, walked on her toes and seemed to have no awareness of the world around her. Although the doctor’s official words, “Your daughter has autism,” did not come as a surprise, they were quite a blow. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach and with that punch, my life forever changed.
I jumped in with both feet by implementing a thirty hour-a-week therapy program, a special diet, and other autism protocols during the day. At night, I researched the latest and greatest treatments for autism. The burden placed on my shoulders to help my little girl be her best self was heavy. The daily grind was physically exhausting, and the toll it took on my emotional health was excruciating.
Somewhere in the midst of it all, I forgot to take care of myself. So much so that when I walked into the nutritionist’s office to get help for my daughter, she stopped me in my tracks. “I will not help you with your daughter until we first take care of you,” she said. The stress in my life had caused my body to be in fight or flight mode for so long that I was experiencing full blown adrenal fatigue. The nutrition part of my treatment was easy, but finding a way to manage daily stress with no end in sight, was another story.
As a former marathon runner, I thought returning to running might help. It didn’t. I sampled all types of fitness classes and boot camps hoping to find some relief. No luck. I then threw myself into triathlons. Through a freak incident, I ended up with permanent injuries in both of my knees. The orthopedic doctor prescribed over 100 hours of physical therapy. I had read that yoga could strengthen the muscles around the knees, so I decided this less expensive option was worth a try.
When the teacher brought us out of savasana at the end of my first yoga class, a new feeling flowed over me. My muscles burned from the movement, but more importantly, my mind was calm and clear. This was the stress reliever I had been searching for.
Over time, practicing yoga was successful in strengthening the muscles around my knees so I was no long experiencing pain while walking and even going up and down stairs. But the bigger benefit was that I had found a way to manage my high daily stress. By making it a priority to take care of myself, I am a better mom to my daughter and my other two kids, a better wife to my husband, and I have more energy to give back to the world.
ABOUT Julie Hornok:
Julie Hornok is a yoga teacher, author, speaker, event planner and autism activist. Her writing has appeared in YogaDigest.com, Parenting Special Needs Magazine, Autism Parenting Magazine, AutismSpot, Thrive Magazine, Literary Mama, Chicken Soup for the Soul series and many more. Her first book, United in Autism: Finding Strength Inside the Spectrum, will be released in October 2018.
When Julie isn’t busy driving her three kids all around town, she loves to bring free pampering events to autism moms through United in Autism. Join her United in Autism Facebook Community for interviews from inspiring autism parents and experts from around the world. JulieHornok.com