Karla's Grant Story

Grant Recipient’s Name:
Karla Johnston-Krase

 

Name of Organization Receiving Yoga Instruction:
The Greater Racine Collaborative for Healthy Birth Outcomes

 

Location:
Racine, Wisconsin

 

My Story:

 

The OmTown Yogis grant allowed me the opportunity to work with The Greater Racine Collaborative for Healthy Birth Outcomes (HBO Collaborative). This community-wide initiative is committed to reducing the African American infant mortality rate and improving the health and well-being of African American women, children and families in Racine. Their work takes on special significance, as Racine has the highest infant mortality rate in Wisconsin, and one of the
highest in the nation.

 

As a yoga teacher and mom of three through both birth and adoption, I have experienced firsthand how simple practices of yoga can support families who feel stressed and overwhelmed. At the time I heard of the OmTown Yogis grant opportunity, I was already volunteering my time teaching pre/post natal yoga to teens in the school district and responding to various prenatal and kids’ yoga requests in the community. The grant offered an opportunity for me to think of how the impact might be greater. It was clear to me that the HBO Collaborative was a healthy and dedicated group of leaders and organizations that were already working in diverse partnerships to make a difference. Samantha Perry, the Collaborative’s Planning Coordinator and Project Manager, was immediately open to the possibility of working together to offer yoga to Racine families.

Through my work with different organizations in the Collaborative,
I was able to share the benefits of yoga with various groups including pregnant moms and new moms, most of whom are already parenting other children and were participating in breastfeeding or mentoring
programs. There were several classes in which children came and we focused on both care for mom and yoga as a tool for connecting with children. One partner organization requested a partner/couples class, and yet another brought together eighteen fathers interested in yoga as a tool for stress management. I was delighted that through this grant, I was able to continue and expand my work with pre/post natal teens in three of Racine’s high schools.

Sharing the benefits of yoga is so fun and rewarding, but the best part is knowing that seeds are being planted and we really do not always know when or how they will sprout.

I offer a few snapshots of my year in Racine... On a Saturday afternoon, a group of six moms gathered for yoga. The children accompanying them ranged from a few weeks to five years old. One woman was ready to bring her baby into the world any day, and was hopeful that yoga might support her in some way. As we stood in a circle breathing and moving arms, I invited the moms and mentors to add sound to their breath on the exhale. As the “Ahhhh” sound filled the room, one very busy child stopped and stared. The moms chuckled. We continued as I explained that it is important for our children to see us moving and breathing. Sometimes the best invitation is just the act of doing. By our third breath, the child was joining us in breath and sound and loving it. When we finished, he clapped and asked for more. His mom was excited to take this practice home with them.
A few months later, I was at an event hosted by one of the partner organizations. Over forty moms came by the yoga area for an interactive demo, and I was delighted to recognize many of them. They became the best promotion for yoga as they shared their experiences: “I used that breath you taught us all through my labor. I think it helped.” “My kid loves to lie on my back when I do that child pose you taught us. It feels good.” “I’m using oil instead of lotion on my body and my kids’ bodies now. My skin isn’t ashy anymore.” And then when I returned to one of the high schools later in the year, similar comments were shared... “I’m starting almost every day with water now, Karla, since you talked about that.” “Last week my baby was crying and I did that breath you showed me while holding her. It took a little bit but she went right to sleep.” “When is the next yoga session? I love that end part where we just lie still and rest. Best part!

The Collaborative is working hard to reduce the infant morta
lity rate and improve the health and well-being of African American families of Racine, one small step at a time. I am very grateful to
OTY for enabling me to be a part of their meaningful work.

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