What Kaiut Yoga Means To Me
Growing up in Fort Worth, TX with my farming, calf-roping dad meant lots of dirt, animals, and meaningful physical movement every day. This memory came back to me during one of my first classes with Francisco Kaiut.
He said something that resonated so strongly to me: “Humans were designed to focus while moving.”
Francisco could’ve been describing my family: me, my dad, and my son. If my son is asked to practice math homework while sitting, his body moves and fidgets. If you get him moving, playing tennis, parkour, BMX riding, etc. he astounds me with the problems he can solve and the stories he can tell. Cognitively speaking, my son performs best when his body is in motion.
I, too, have always had trouble simply sitting still and thinking. I would chew a whole pack of gum, one after the other, while I read sociology or even children’s literature textbooks in college. Algebra was different, I could solve problems, step-by-step, for hours, continuing to think it through as I went for a jog or took an exercise class. As a child, my preference was to be outside, inventing “tricks” on the trampoline while I memorized all the words to my favorite songs. Moving while thinking and focusing has always been natural for me.
When I turned four, Gymnastics became my favorite ways to explore the world. As I practiced, my brain felt alive and calm as I integrated my teacher’s words through movement. I remember when Russia won the Gold Medal in the 1972 Olympics— this made me proud to be taking gymnastics from a Russian School! One of my earliest memories was working on cartwheels on both my left and my right side. We were working on symmetry in the sport. I loved the physical and mental challenge of this concept and would practice throughout each day.
When I was nine years old I began noticing there was something “not quite right” with my left shoulder blade. It just didn’t look or behave in the same way as my right shoulder blade. There was no pain or issue, it just wasn’t symmetrical and I grew up with “shoulder blade envy" for those who were perfectly symmetrical in this way.
Throughout my school years I enjoyed gymnastics, cheerleading, and springboard diving. I noticed I didn’t have equal strength between the left and right sides of my body. I needed my arms and legs to work in unison for diving and I needed my left leg for a good spring. There was no issue or pain, I was just noticing and silently wishing I could be a bit more symmetrical.
I’ve learned and now embrace the fact that humans are not symmetrical. There is a reason for this and it’s all about the way our bodies function. Trying to force the idea of symmetry creates restrictions and functional issues in the long run as we lose the ability to move with fluidity. It has been far more effective for me to work with the left and right sides of my system within the mindset of asymmetry. It has allowed me to feel and to understand how each side works independent of the other. Over the past couple of years, this is only become clearer.
Prior to my Kaiut Yoga practice, I had a superficial understanding of how my system felt and worked. The mindset of symmetry alongside my desire to look a certain way masked this clarity. I trained for half marathons, taught aerobics, and lifted weights for years. These activities revealed very clear patterns of over-use and under-use in and around my whole system. Chronic and acute pain were becoming a fact of life.
I started to experience both acute and chronic pain in my twenties. I would wake up with what I call “cricks” in my neck. The pain isolated in my left upper trapezius. As a result, I couldn’t turn my head, mainly to the left. At times, this pain would last for weeks. It was scary, painful, and debilitating. Honestly, I felt too young to be experiencing this level of pain. I thought it was muscular. Only recently have I realized what it really was: nerve pain.
Over the past 30 years I have worked with Physical Therapists, John Barnes Myofascial Release Therapists, and Cranial Sacral Therapists to manage the chronic pain in my neck and shoulders. After about eight weeks of twice-weekly treatments, I felt better. I always left these sessions with the “good intention” to continue with my own home treatment but never kept it up. The exercises were boring and tedious. Thankfully, insurance paid for most of these therapeutic treatments. When they didn’t, I spent at least 130 dollars per visit.
Three months before taking my first Kaiut Yoga Teacher training, I was 49 years old, and I was experiencing acute neck pain once again. After performing the song “Jambalaya” at a guitar recital, nerve pain radiated down my neck and left arm. I had performed the song while standing with the strap around my left shoulder. I ignored this pain for about six weeks then decided to visit a physical therapist that specializes in sports related injuries. By the time I went to my first Kaiut Yoga teacher training, the nerve pain had settled a bit and I was left with some tingling in my thumb, index, and middle fingers. My physical therapist told me to avoid anything that would trigger this tingling. This was an almost impossible feat since everything I do means moving my head at least a little bit.
Avoiding left me blind in my ability to easily use my left hand, arm, shoulder, and neck in unison. We were in a pose called Sukhasana (Sitting with legs crossed) with some lateral spinal movement to the left. I was asked to place my left hand next to my left hip, move my hand away in a straight line and keep my right sit bone grounded. I remember feeling disoriented and confused by my lack of awareness as I tried to find this straight line. I kept trying to move my head to avoid the tingling. Francisco asked me what I was feeling. I told him what I was avoiding. From this point on Francisco made it clear, in the most compassionate way, that I should not avoid these sensations.
I had a choice to make. I was at the beginning of an eight day training. I could continue to avoid the sensation and leave the training or commit to the process Francisco was suggesting. I felt like I had tried everything else so I chose to trust Francisco. I completed the training and practiced the sequences for at least one hour, two or three times a week. I wasn’t doing any of the exercises the physical therapist was asking me to do mainly because Kaiut Yoga was more interesting. And, I wanted to see how not doing the exercises would impact the overall result.
After three months of practicing Kaiut Yoga, my physical therapist was impressed with my progress. The soft tissue surrounding my neck had improved, I was no longer experiencing the tingling, and my neck felt stronger than ever. I was told to keep doing what I was doing.
I continued to visit my physical therapist on a monthly basis with the purpose of checking in with him and tracking my progress as I put the Kaiut Yoga Method to the test. My body responded and after 18 months of a regular Kaiut Yoga practice I felt surprisingly better. My mind was so used to feeling chronic pain that it took a little time for my brain to understand the pain was no longer present. I had removed what didn’t belong. The sensitivity, the exhaustion, and the pain. I no longer deal with chronic or acute neck pain and I have absolutely zero tingling or numbness in my fingers. Had I stayed on the path of avoiding, I would have been at the beginning of losing neurological awareness along the left side of my body. I was ready to make the choice to stop avoiding and I’m glad I did.
I am 50 years old now, I feel structurally stronger and more flexible than ever and I no longer need the services of physical therapists, John Barnes Myofascial Release, or Cranial Sacral practitioners to manage chronic pain. The goal for these wellness practitioners is more about progressing patients back into their regular life or sport, while Kaiut Yoga, for me, is a continuation of therapeutic care, making it by far the most cost-effective practice I have found for chronic pain, maintenance, and overall system health, including anxiety. In my experience, it is the perfect complement to existing therapeutic services.
There is something quite powerful about having a therapeutic yoga teacher who sees, knows, and addresses the system as a whole, from both a human and a scientific perspective. Someone who sees physical/emotional patterns and tracks progress. A teacher who knows and understands intimately what it means to be human. Who sees without judgement and can impact lasting change in the most compassionate way. Someone who holds you accountable, doesn’t let you avoid what needs attention, and empowers you to take control of your own health.
Francisco Kaiut has empowered me to navigate between traditional medical beliefs and holistic medicine and I knew from the first workshop I attended that I wanted to share this method he has created. Over the past two years, I have attended three teacher trainings, several workshops, and an observation program in Curitiba, Brazil. I have met many teachers inspired to teach this method and I have had the privilege of taking classes from multiple teachers in and around the U.S. and Brazil.
I am first a student of this work. My goal is to share it with humanity.