Christi Anne of Practical Happiness Living went from teaching yoga to teaching autistic children to being an intimacy architect. She advocates for bringing more intimacy into your life, not just superficial surface connections, but to get deeper and to allow yourself to be vulnerable, all the while clearly defining personal boundaries and limitations in order to truly succeed. Christi believes there is a need to feel safe and what makes us feel safe is having healthy consent and boundaries. She shares that people should consider ditching near-impossible and constantly frustrating ideals for a more realistic and practical approach to happiness.

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Sharkpreneur with Christi Anne of Practical Happiness Living

I have the good fortune to be joined by Christi Anne of Practical Happiness Living. Christi, thanks so much for joining us.

Thank you for having me, Seth.

It is our pleasure. Let’s go back in time a little bit. How did you get started?

I got started teaching yoga to autistic children initially.

Yoga to autistic kids; what inspired you to become a yoga teacher in that target market specifically?

I was inspired to become a yoga teacher when I was in a terrible car accident and that threw my hips off and I started taking yoga. I realized how much it helped, not just the physical aspect of my healing, but on this emotional mental level, clearing my life of clutter and drama, unnecessary chatter in the brain. Because my father is disabled, I want it to target the market of those who thought they couldn’t do yoga. I initially started working with disabled people and then that segue into autism.

You’ve got a real passion for helping people. You started with folks who thought they couldn’t do yoga, who are disabled. How did you segue into autistic kids?

I found a group actually called Wee Fun, which is out in Pasadena. They are therapy center and they were interested in the idea of exploring yoga, not just for the kids, but also for the parents to help them cope with the emotional challenges of having a child on the spectrum. I loved the idea of bringing it to the whole family because you can help a child, but it’s until everybody’s on board and on the same page and being like cheerleaders for each other and celebrating what’s working, that’s when real shifts began to take place.

My wife is a marriage counselor, therapist, and social worker. She’s often said the parents will come and say, “Fix the kid,” and what you need to do is to fix the parents and then magically, the kid doesn’t have the issues anymore. How did that transfer because that’s a little bit different than what you’re doing now? Talk about the evolution from autistic kid yoga to what you’re doing now.

Autistic kids don’t stay kids. Everybody grows up, nobody stays as a child. The challenge that was coming about was as these kids were becoming adults, parents being willing and able to support them in those transitions of wanting to live a life just like everybody else, wanting to date, wanting to be independent, wanting to hold a job, wanting to have intimate relationships. It was an area where nobody knew how to talk about it and nobody wanted to talk about it. It was like the elephant in the room that everyone was trying to pretend wasn’t there. Also a hobby of mine was doing burlesque so I had a lot of comfort in just being able to talk about sex and sexuality in a way that was not judgmental. My own comfort and in embrace of that help other people feel comfortable in saying, “Let’s talk about this.” How do we teach our kids about consent and boundaries and how to get out into the dating world? That’s where it began to segue more and more. I realized in general, we all need more education and information around consent and boundaries and how to be intimate with ourselves and intimate with each other in a community and in a partnership.

SP 94 | Practical Happiness Living

Practical Happiness Living: Autistic kids don’t stay kids. Everybody grows up, nobody stays as a child.

How would you describe what you’re doing now? What elevator pitch? What do you do?

I am an intimacy architect. My goal is to teach you to have a healthy, intimate relationship with yourself on a well-being level, how you’re physically treating your body, what you’re eating, what you’re doing as far as activities to nurture yourself, and then through that to create these relationships that bring more intimacy into your life. Not just these superficial surface connections but to get deeper, to allow yourself to be vulnerable. In order to be vulnerable, we need to feel safe and what makes us feel safe is having healthy consent and boundaries. When we’re clear about where our boundaries are, what it is that we want, what is and is not acceptable in our lives. We don’t settle then we really start asking for what we want. We’re really great at accepting if somebody says no, maybe that isn’t what they want, and can really like line up with the people who are enthusiastic and on the same track. Then we’re really creating communities where everybody is supporting one another and we’re all working together towards that goal.

That is a beautiful mission statement and a beautiful mission that you are on. How big is the problem? We’ve got some significant intimacy issues in our society as a whole. Talk a little bit about what’s been going on in the news almost every other day. There seems to be some intimacy issues all the way up to the top.

The #MeToo Movement was something very personal to me. In the course of teaching yoga, it would come up time and time again that people had abuse trauma issues. They would come looking to just do some salutes and stretch, and then inevitably, it would come up that the root of their problems and not being able to be intimate with their partner or settling for jobs that they hated or having friends that were abusive towards them, all resulted from these unhealed wounds. More and more now we’re really seeing that these incidents so how do we teach at the basic level consent and boundaries so this instance don’t snowball. I’m seeing that that’s the main issue is that we’re not taking into consideration simple things about like the way we greet each other, that assume that you should reach your hand out to touch somebody. That ties back in with autism. A lot of people on the spectrum have a hard time with physical touch. I think there’s a lot of things we’re not thinking about and where we’re just like going on autopilot as a society pushing forward and instead we need to reframe how we initially teach people to interact and how do we touch one another and how do we ask to touch one another, how do we step back and own our part that maybe we weren’t taught this. I would certainly teach on to the contrary. I was taught that I had to hug the creepy family member I didn’t want to go anywhere near. I was taught that boys, if they were mean to me, that meant that they liked me. I was taught that my no was really just a starting point for persuasion and it was just a matter of time before somebody could negotiate their way around it.

Just owning that to begin with, to say we didn’t really have it all figured out. We know better now. We know now to really honor when somebody says no to you, to actually be thankful for that because anytime somebody’s saying no to you, they’re really trying to take care of themselves, anytime we do something that we didn’t want to do, even if having all this regret and all this drama that comes as a part of it. Going back and just starting from the ground point of how we’re teaching kids and then how we’re kind of rewiring our own brains to think like, “How am I going to approach somebody at the next business meeting? Am I going to ask them if they would like to shake my hand? If they want to interact with me?” Even with people giving you cards, I have that happen all the time since like, “Here, take my card.” I’m like, “Did I ask for your card?” It’s all these little things that then it like spirals and spirals to, “I can just grab your ass if you say no to me.”

[Tweet “You don’t crap where you eat. “]

I know it seems like a far gap that it is all these little pebbles that were like, “That’s not a big deal.” It’s not a big deal if I put my arm around you and then it escalates and escalates. We need to dial it back and start evaluating how are we interacting and how can we be more conscious of ourselves like do I want this? Would I want somebody to come at me in this way and attempt to touch me or interact with me? How am I going to respond? How am I using each moment as a teaching lesson to say, “I have boundaries. These are my boundaries. I know maybe you didn’t understand this or weren’t aware of it, but let me take a moment to lay it out for you. This is how it works with me. You have to ask before you make any attempt to interact.” We teach kids so many things and it’s something we really gloss over. The idea that we have the right to consent to what we want to take part in.

Who are your ideal clients for this?

My ideal clients are families. I can work with families to help them, like us parents, increase intimacy that they have in their lives so that they are teaching their kids healthy consent and boundaries as their kids grow up. I feel like this is what we can do. You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube, but we can certainly take steps now to create a future where these aren’t epidemic issues of abuse and not.

How does the family know they need you? Do they know that? What are some of the intimacy mistakes that they’re making that would trigger them. Let’s say if there is a father or a husband or a wife watching this, listening to this, what would trigger them to say, “I need Christi’s magical help with this.”

The most obvious is if you’re not having sex with your partner or if you are having sex, but nobody’s really present. If you’re having sex with your partner and you’re daydreaming about somebody else or you’re thinking about the grocery list or you’re thinking about what time the kids have to go to soccer, or you’re thinking about that business meeting. If you’re not really present with your partner when you are attempting and sex is becoming this thing where it’s just like it’s my birthday, I get to have sex. It’s our anniversary so that means we have sex. No one’s choosing. I feel like that’s a big part of consent and boundaries is it reminds you of your power of choice and what are you choosing to do. If you’re going through the motions and just settling for whatever your partner’s giving you, that’s a sign that there are issues with your intimacy. It has this spiraling out effect like you’re not really happy and you don’t really feel connected and loved, then you tend to be unhappy at work. You tend to have a shorter fuse. You tend to see it with the way you relate to your kids. You’re not really as present with them either. You’re easily irritated at the things that they’re doing. You don’t really have the same joy for wanting to engage in your life.

If we’re not having the level of intimacy or the frequency of intimacy or the presence during intimacy that would be a sign that we might need some help in this area? That’s as a couple as a relationship. What about in the workplace? That seems to be what’s on the headlines everyday lately.

You wouldn’t grab your male coworker’s ass. You wouldn’t tell your male coworker, “That suit looks really hot on you. It brings out your eyes.” I would be really shocked to find out that any of your viewers had told their male coworker they need to smile more. These things that we, for some reason in this society somewhere along the way, came under the impression that it was okay to talk to women in this really objectified way as if they’re there for the entertainment and pleasure of others. That’s not the case, you know, none of us are here to entertain or be the reason why you’re excited to go to work. You should be excited to go to work because you love your job, not because your hot secretary is going to maybe wear a short skirt today.

SP 94 | Practical Happiness Living

Practical Happiness Living: In order to be vulnerable, we need to feel safe and what makes us feel safe is having healthy consent and boundaries.

It’s scoping like would I want someone to say this to me? Would I want someone to tell me I need to smile more or dress up prettier or put on makeup? It’s just unnecessary and not appropriate. I certainly invite people to ask if I want to receive a compliment just like you would ask for anything else. Do you want to have a business meeting? Do you want to have tea or lunch? Just check in with somebody, find out if they want to receive this piece of information you want to give them. Also, really check in with yourself. Are you saying this because it makes you feel better? Are you fishing? I find often that compliments in the workplace where people just fishing to see was I in a relationship? Was I available for dating? Was I interested in them? They actually weren’t trying to give me a genuine compliment. They really were just fishing to see did they have a chance to sleep with me?

One of the earliest things my parents ever taught me was you don’t crap where you eat. There’s a slew of dating resources. There’s no reason why you need to dip into your work pool. I get it but you spend most of your time at work, the average American does, so you’re around these people and so you’re going to form relationships, possibly friendships. Friendships can lead to intimate relationships. I would say check in first really what is your motive because that I think is where the line gets drawn. It’s very clear to some people whether or not that compliment or comment comes from a genuine place or if it has this creepy vibe to it. No one wants to be the creepy person. Gauge why is it that you feel the need to share this piece of information. I always check in with myself. Is this true? Is this necessary? Most of the time, not the case. A lot of the times things that I think I should tell them that, it’s like it may not really be true to them. It’s probably not necessary. We have thousands of thoughts a day like, why do you need to express this one at this moment. Is it benefiting anybody? Or are you just fishing in hopes that you might get laid later?

For folks who would like to increase the intimacy in their own lives or folks at work who would like to know to learn how to teach their employees how to have better boundaries so that they have less intimacy issues, what is the best way for them to learn more about you and get in touch with you?

It’s been Christi Anne for Thank you so much for joining us.

Thank you so much, Seth.

Thanks, everybody. We will see you next time.

Links mentioned:

About Christi Anne

SP 94 | Practical Happiness LivingChristi Anne, began as a career in Production, working for Lion’s Gate and Universal (that is where she got such great organization, problem solving and time management skills). It was her Yoga practice that allowed her to balance her life in a happy way despite the high stress environment and that change is what inspired the start of Practical Happiness Living. Starting in 2007 at Yoga Blend, Christi Anne began the first of many Yoga Teacher Trainings. This would lead to her over 700 hours of education in Hatha, Kundalini, Thai, Yin, Pre-Natal and Restorative Yoga. Christi Anne has volunteered at Reading to Kids, lead workshops to partners of LA’s “First 5” program helping teachers bring yoga into the classroom, instructed Autistic Children in Yoga at Weeefun, a center for special needs kids, created Artistic Yoga Therapy workshops taught to Families at YMCA and taught Yoga for Surfers with Mary Osborne. Since moving to Nashville, Christi Anne has been a blessing to the community, volunteering at Alive Hospice, teaching Chair Yoga, serving on the panel for Sex Positive Nashville to educate people on Consent and Boundaries, plus leading Group Yoga combined with Lego’s to aid in motor skills at Friend’s Life Circle.

Christi’s approach is, “If you can breathe, you can do yoga.” There isn’t anyone too big or too small, too out of shape or too inflexible, too old or too young.

Practical Happiness is more than Yoga. It is a collection of Healing tools that will help you relax and renew your body and mind. Incorporating an approach to wellness that creates lasting changes which improve your life long after you leave the class.