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Out & About

Taking a stand

Social worker Kristen Kauke uses yoga to champion mental health awareness efforts

Kane County Magazine

For the last 18 years, Kristen Kauke has reaped the physical and mental benefits of yoga. She sought an outlet for the stresses of graduate school and work, and soon discovered that her “time on the mat” helped her to find stillness in an otherwise hectic life.

Four years ago, she became a certified instructor and today, she combines the health benefits of yoga with her work as a clinical social worker to help young people find an outlet for tension as well as renewal in themselves.

“I see a lot of overlap between the yoga world and the therapy world,” Kauke says. “Mindful meditation can be the missing picture to help people resolve issues – getting out of the head and into the body can  heal the pain, in much the same way that talking alone.”

Kauke provides counseling services at Creekwood Associates, a private practice in St. Charles. Last year, she offered her skills as a yoga instructor to those at the Youth Detention Center, where young men volunteer for her classes. She describes many of her students as intense, brooding young men who, over the course of the program, learn to move with steadiness, find balance and discover an outlet for stress and tension.

“They tell me, ‘I feel better after some time on the mat,’” she says. “I’ve found a blend of my passions that meet my mission of service.”

The program has received a positive response, and Kauke says that she hopes to continue working with young adults.

Growing up in Arlington Heights, Kauke says that, from the time she was a teen, she knew she wanted to work in the area of counseling services. As a young adult, she sought ways to build experience with helping others and it gradually grew into a career. Along the way, teachers, professors and those in the field have served as mentors to Kauke, providing support and encouragement, while continuing to spark her interests.

Kauke supports a greater awareness of mental health and, in May 2015, she launched the St. Charles Regional Effort of Change Direction. Through the imitative Kauke says that she would like to see more people talking about and being aware of mental health needs in the community. During the program’s launch, she coordinated a screening of the film “Love & Mercy,” which tells the story of Beach Boys musician Brian Wilson. The event included a post-film panel to discuss mental health concerns.

She’s also worked on suicide prevention programs in Batavia. Her work is considered a grassroots effort, with no budget. Fundraising helps to support programs in the community.

This fall she’s planning to teach a six-week course – “Eat, Breath, Thrive” – at The Prana Yoga Center in Geneva, which will include yoga practice and discussions about food and health. Lisa Bertke, founder of the Prana Yoga Center and an instructor, says that Kauke has a way of meeting her students at whatever level they are at and helping them grow in skill and understanding.

“She teaches [yoga] from the heart,” Bertke says. “She just has a beautiful spirit.”

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