Featuring Kristy Gargano, LSW, CYT
From the Mat to the Field Featuring:
Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Training Graduate:
Kristy Gargano MSW, LSW, CYT
Q: Please tell us a little about yourself!
A: Hello readers! My name is Kristy Gargano and I am a licensed social worker (LSW), a certified yoga instructor (CYT), a wife, a dog mom (his name is Mr. Wellington, but I call him Mister for short), and a lover of travel, food, plants, and creativity! Aside from my own career as a therapist, my husband and I also own the Osteria Bigolaro restaurant in Geneva, IL. Needless to say, we are very busy, but wouldn’t have it any other way.
Q: Within your career, what do you specialize in?
A: My areas of specialty include working with teens and adults dealing with anxiety, depression, stress and self-esteem issues, as well as, trauma-related issues and chronic pain. The therapeutic modalities I use in my practice are DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy), MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction), and yoga-informed psychotherapy. I also find immense joy and value in bringing art and nature into my work.
Q: How do you professionally integrate yoga and mindfulness?
A: I use mindfulness in almost every session, most commonly by teaching my clients about the impact of our breath. Being aware of, and paying attention to our breath is a grounding exercise that we so often take for granted. I teach my clients that being aware of the breath brings them to the present moment, when their thoughts may be racing. I also teach how deep breathing has mental AND physical positive effects on the body. Our breath is a powerful thing, and the greatest part is that we ALL have it.
The way I incorporate yoga is all dependent on the client’s comfortability, ability, and interest. In the past, I have structured full “classes” of movement. I would incorporate various DBT skills into the practice, teaching how yoga/movement can help with mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and even help us interpersonally. Other times, I may use one or two asanas (poses) to help client’s with tension, stress, anxiety symptoms, and ways these asanas can be used outside of therapy.
Q: What do you enjoy most about integrating yoga and mindfulness within your career or personal life?
A: Yoga and mindfulness have been life changing for me. I honestly feel that I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. Yoga lead me to realize how challenging it is for me to “hold space” for anything uncomfortable. It taught me to understand and be curious about the thoughts and sensations I experience when I’m uncomfortable with something emotionally or physically. Before yoga, I avoided a lot. I let fear and anxiety rule over me. Now, I know what’s happening and I take an active role in being kind to myself when needed, and moving into discomfort.
Likewise, mindfulness has helped me be kinder to myself, to acknowledge the self-judgment that I experience, and I am continually working to let things go, or let things be as they are. I use my breath to manage anxiety when it arises, and bring mindfulness into everyday tasks that make them more enjoyable (like doing the dishes and cooking!). I notice I have more joy in life, and don’t hold on to anger and frustration like I once did. It’s liberating!
Q: What were your favorite aspects about the Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Training for Professionals you attended last year?
A: In addition to being able to learn so much about myself, my favorite parts of YMTT is the community it created. I have great relationships with the other amazing, kind, smart individuals that I worked so closely with in the training. I have gained a wonderful support network, and we all stay in touch professionally and personally. I think Dr. Brendel also curated an impressive training because of all the professional speakers/yoga instructors who were part of the training. Oh, and I can’t forget the really fun stuff – sound healing, art therapy, and paddle board yoga, just to name a few.
Q: What have you been up to since our YMTT?
A: Since YMTT, I have moved from working in an IOP setting (intensive outpatient treatment facility), to Evergreen Counseling, a private practice in Wheaton, IL. I also recently started a Mindful Yoga class at Yellow Aura Yoga in Geneva, IL. This summer I am planning a presentation with a colleague that will highlight the benefits of yoga and DBT in therapy, and I am thrilled! I could not have imagined the doors that would have opened because of this training and I have absolutely no regrets.
Q: What tips do you have for others wanting to follow a similar career path as you?
A: Don’t let fear and anxiety be in the driver seat. Put them in check, and don’t look back. There were plenty of times before the yoga training, and even in grad-school, where I thought nervously about the time commitment, the financial commitment, but I had some great supporters who encouraged me to keep moving forward. I can’t thank my support system enough. Most importantly, I can’t thank myself enough. It’s been so worth it.
Q: A final question just for fun. Any programs on Netflix, Prime, or other streaming service that you’d recommend and why?
A: I wish I had some profound show that I felt was life changing, but honestly, I’m a binge-watcher who just likes entertainment. My favorite shows are Handmaid’s Tale, Peaky Blinders, Grace & Frankie, Shameless, Stranger Things, the earlier seasons of Orange Is the New Black, and Cable Girls. I’m sure there are more, but these are my favs!