Member Spotlight: Krisy Elrod on Breathing & Mindfulness

I have thought about breathing my entire life.  I was born with really severe asthma and have many memories of hospitals, doctor’s offices, inhalers, and pill bottles.

My parents tell me stories about how I had blue lips as a baby.  Being a tiny person who clutches their chest wheezing and coughing makes grown ups very nervous, so I was often excluded from anything requiring being outside and doing any physical activity.

Everyone, including myself, was more comfortable if I was sitting down focused on breathing like a regular person and not doing my best impression of a fish out of water.  That was pretty much my life until my late teens/early twenties when for no good reason and quite miraculously, I grew out of it.  I had no idea what to do with a regular body since I had spent my whole life in one that I felt was always trying to kill me.

When I was 17 I took a yoga class in college and that was the first time I was able to connect my thoughts, movement and breath together. I was fascinated by the experience and have continued my relationship with yoga ever since.

Because I have always been a badass, even if I couldn’t demonstrate this outwardly, I had turned being still and quiet into a super power.  I studied and read all the time, skipped a grade, and will graduate this year with my Ph.D. (!!!).

Now, I am a licensed marriage and family therapist primarily working with kids/teens and people who have PTSD.  When I was in my master’s program I started learning about mindfulness as something that could help with mental health problems.  As I learned about it, I thought it sounded a lot like the experiences I had in my yoga classes.  Personal and professional collided and I was really excited to learn more.

I have been seeing clients since 2008 and have been using mindfulness, meditation and breathing exercises as part of my treatment since early on in my career.

Since 2014, I have been doing a weekly group for teenagers that teaches them the skills of mindfulness and meditation and provides an opportunity to practice in a group setting, and to ask questions or get feedback from their peers.

My clients have more self awareness which helps them to get in touch with their thought processes, physical experience and emotions.  This helps lessen anxiety and depression and gives them more compassion and empathy.  People also say they feel more calm and relaxed.  This is a skill that anyone can learn and practice and benefit from.

We are often so busy and have so many responsibilities that our experience becomes fragmented and we are never really where we are.  Our alarm goes off and we are thinking about having to brush our teeth, while brushing our teeth we think about getting dressed, while getting dressing we are thinking about running out the door, while driving we are thinking about the first meeting etc. etc.  Mindfulness helps to be more conscious of what’s going on in our thoughts, feelings, and body right now.  That’s the only place we can really be or do anything.

Last year I realized I was approaching the end of my formal education and I would begin to have more time to take on a new endeavor.  It was clear that my level of activity was in need of some attention.  I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do or could be interested in, and also what was really scary.

I like big projects, learning new things, and am secretly (sometimes not so secretly) really competitive.  I am nothing if not efficient, so CrossFit was definitely it.  I still had my written and oral exams to get through and lots of travel for school and conferences so I knew starting out was going to be slow going, but so far it has been awesome.  All the coaches are amazing and really helpful at meeting me where I am.  I have learned a ton and am no longer totally panicked waking in the door.  First goals met!

As school responsibilities free up, I am spending more time focusing on my physical health and have some time for actual goals this year.

I am taking the PCF University nutrition class to learn about how to best fuel my body and hopefully lose some fat so that I am lighter and can get better at things like push ups and pull ups (as in I’d like to be able to do one).

I also want to figure out how to incorporate mindfulness and breathing into my movements in the gym.  I was in class with Lindsay and she said if I could figure out how to breathe when I move I could lift a shit ton more weight.  That day she was right so I want to see how that translates to everything I do.  I bet it helps with this idea of being more aggressive that LG is always talking to me about.

I’m looking forward to see how incorporating what I know about mindfulness and breath work into class helps me tune into my body and lift all that weight Lindsay was talking about.  Fire breathing badass here I come!

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