Meet Kay & Mike... - Mind Body Solutions
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Our Work in the World

Meet Kay & Mike…

Kay and Mike are both farm kids; more denim and flannel than spandex. Kay grew up on a dairy operation in central Wisconsin and Mike raised soybeans, corn, and beef in southcentral Minnesota. They are a down-to-earth, eyes-wide-open, couple, accustomed to hard work, together.

They met while enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, Stout campus. Kay was pursuing a teaching degree in what was then called Home Economics. Mike had two years remaining on his Vietnam era Army commitment. Believing that the constant relocation required by military service wasn’t conducive to a strong family life, they waited another two years until Mike’s discharge. They’ve now been together fifty-one years, forty-seven of them married and have a daughter, Irene and a son, Matt.

Kay spent her career teaching “life skills” in elementary, middle and high school in a small district in rural Wisconsin. Mike likes to work with his hands, preferably with wood but was drafted/promoted into construction industry management. Both are now happily retired. In 2009, Kay was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease; a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. The pragmatic pair wasted no time and began investigating the prognosis of the disease, current research, support groups, and palliative approaches like yoga, acupuncture and aromatherapy.

When Kay began having trouble sleeping, her daughter suggested she try yoga. Irene was taking instructor training in Hutchinson and invited her Mom to attend a class with her. Kay found the practice far too vigorous for her abilities but found that doing Viparita Karani, often called Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose before bed helped with her sleep problems. Their research uncovered a study being conducted at the Udall Center at the University of Minnesota on the possible benefits of yoga for people with Parkinson’s. The twelve-week trial would have a cadre of twenty participants, working with two instructors for one-hour sessions twice weekly. Entry to the twenty-member cohort was winnowed through a gauntlet of interviews and physical, mental and medical tests.

The program’s syllabus was strictly adhered to and taught by two professional yoga instructors, one of whom was Mind Body Solutions’ Program Director, Amy Samson-Burke. The trial was demanding. Two weeks into the study, two individuals dropped out.  As Kay recalls, ”I came close to quitting; at that point, my level of exhaustion was increasing rapidly even though my body was feeling changes. I decided to give it one more week. At the end of the fourth week, I made a new discovery; I could smell Mike’s morning coffee. I’d lost my sense of smell over ten years ago. As I shared this revelation with other study members, three people recognized the same changes. Be careful of what you ask for as it could come back to haunt you. The smell of perfume has become unacceptable and hurts the nose.”

After the study concluded, Kay and Mike tried yoga at another studio closer to home but it wasn’t what they were looking for. When they heard that Amy was teaching Ambulatory Adaptive Yoga at the Barr Bliss studio, they made the decision that the benefits to be gained were worth the trek from the far northern suburbs. They followed the migration with the rest of the Tuesday tribe to MBS’s new home in St. Louis Park.

Their loyalty to MBS is based on the warmth and skill of their teachers and assistants and the friendships they have developed in the class. Kay’s favorite asana is still Legs-Up-the-Wall. Mike on the other hand as a self-described “class clown” prefers “Blocks-On-The-Head” as his pose of choice.

Their final words of advice: “Take Time To Stop and Smell The Coffee”

Kay & Mike with MBS Program Director and Adaptive Yoga teacher Amy Samson-Burke.

Kay & Mike practicing a version of legs up the wall using a chair in MBS’ Ambulatory Adaptive Class.

Mike practicing his infamous “Blocks on the Head” pose.