Mental Health Champions: Why & How Bari Koral Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness

Posted on

I’m very kind to myself. Becoming my own best friend is the best thing I ever did. WE got this. WE have come a long way. WE have our dreams. WE work together. WE are okay. Even when it’s not okay, it’s okay. I show up for myself. IT’s been a real gift.

As a part of our series about Mental Health Champions helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Bari Koral.

Bari Koral is a popular children and family recording artist and a globally recognized kids yoga educator. Her songs and activities for kids’ yoga are used by thousands of children, parents and teachers every day. She is considered a pioneer in the world of kids’ yoga.

Yoga and mindfulness has helped calm her own anxiety and has significantly enhanced her life. Bari passionately seeks to share these tools for health and happiness with others. She has trained thousands of teachers and is at the forefront of introducing and reinforcing the benefits of yoga and mindfulness with young children.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I had a fairly normal childhood in Long Island. I was an artist but didn’t know it till I was well in my 20s. I always had some trouble fitting in with my peers. I went to Syracuse University for TV, Radio and Film and picked up a guitar shortly before graduation. Then I was hooked and became a singer songwriter.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit about what you or your organization are trying to address?

We all know that our youth are having mental struggles of almost epidemic proportions ,and this was before Covid! It’s estimated that fifty-one percent of young children will have some kind of mental diagnosis when they get older. We need to reach children now. To teach them skills early. We are educating children for world we have no idea what will look like in 20 years. But their nervous systems are ancient. It follows the basic patterns of breath and recovery and self-regulation. We can prepare our children to face uncertain futures and ride the waves of life as they get older.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

Almost out of the blue, I developed a lot of anxiety after graduating college, moving to New York City and navigating my chosen career. I absolutely no idea how to handle these overwhelming and fearful feelings and thoughts. I always say I went to the best schools but no one prepared me for how to handle my nervous system. No one ever talked about the importance of an exhale, or how to softly guide my thoughts to more reassuring places. After having a bonified panic disorder for nearly 7 years, I finally discovered yoga and mindfulness and that was my main path to healing. I have dedicated my life to sharing these tools with others — especially young children and their adults.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

I had pursued some of my dreams, but it was really when I saw the movie The Secret. I saw the first release, with Ester Hicks. The idea that my “thoughts mattered” was incredible news to me! I always thought they were private, that no one could hear, and many of my thoughts were limited, fearful and terrible. It was such an aha moment. It was like someone gave me the golden ticket. My life changed literally overnight. The work became learning to vault over my limiting beliefs. So the “re-programming” of all my old stories about never having enough money or success or steady relationships. But I was willing to do the work. The main light was knowing which direction I had to walk it. That was it — The Secret showed me what had to change. It was illuminating. And that lead to my discovering more and more authors and practices that solidified this new way of being for me. A Hopi Indian once said “I never let a thought linger without my consent.” This is what I work on.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I have so many stories as I sing for children and teach yoga and mindfulness to thousands of children, teachers and parents. I would say that during the early stages of the pandemic, I was just as freaked out as everyone else, yet I started to get such positive feedback about my work that uplifted me so much and it made me want to dig deeper, learn more and continue to serve. I actually got much busier during Covid, and I never expected that. The world had had a collected nervous breakdown and I was ready for it! I was ready to help! I already had my nervous breakdown way back in my twenties — I was prepared this time and could help others through times of uncertainty.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

So many, many I never met! Ester Hicks, who channels Abraham, is an incredible teacher! Eckhart Tolle, as well. I think A New Earth is basically all one needs to leave an awakened life filled with gratitude and presence (still takes maintenance though, so that is why everyone else is so helpful!)

And my dear friend Sadie Nardini, who has become a yoga star in her own right has helped me along the way. We used to be two very broke girls sitting on a corner in New York City rooting each other on to dream our dreams, and to pursue our dreams. She was actually the one who offered me a free yoga and mindfulness training after I saw The Secret and it really turned my life around to actually be certified and to teach and know from such a deep inside understanding.

According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?

I think since Covid it’s becoming much more open and talked about. That is one of the best things Covid did for us. And it’s helpful to have people like Prince Harry, and others out there talking about it. I think we are taking another look at the old age of hustle culture. Everyone I know wants to have a bigger impact, and work less. I find that groups soften when I’m vulnerable with them. When I talk about my own struggles, people recognize that in themselves. They feel safe to open up to some healing. We are all human, we all suffer. We have to know that. It’s the human condition. People who aren’t vulnerable and open can really throw me! But I find that less and less now.

In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?

Well, it should just come from everywhere. I’m not sure If anyone in “government” can lead it unless they have done some work themselves! I have dedicated myself to schools. Schools are the fabric. That is where a lot of my time and energy goes. Pre-K and Early Elementary. When kids executive function develops the most. It’s like learning a language. We need to get in there early and keep re-enforcing it.

What are your 5 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

I started doing yoga every day in the morning because that gets my body going. Also if I don’t do it in the morning it tends to not happen!

A little bit goes a long way. So even 3–30 minutes of yoga or meditation really adds up. So I don’t wait till I have lots of time. I do things in smaller chunks.

I try to stop what I’m doing and listen to my body when it’s talking to me. It’s so easy to get bogged down with work. Am I thirsty? Do I need to pee? ☺ I try to listen!

My number one priority is to attempt to not over program myself. I hate the feeling of call after call or travel after travel. I need downtime. I need space. This has done a lot to curtail my anxiety.

I’m very kind to myself. Becoming my own best friend is the best thing I ever did. WE got this. WE have come a long way. WE have our dreams. WE work together. WE are okay. Even when it’s not okay, it’s okay. I show up for myself. IT’s been a real gift.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?

I love Gabby Bernstein and Marie Forleo! So Marie-TV is a great resource and I love their newsletters. I also listened to some talks from Tara Branch during Covid. And I enjoy the poet Mary Oliver.

If you could tell other people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

The secret to happiness is serving others. It’s that simple. What’s the point of doing something that doesn’t make the world a better place for others?

How can our readers follow you online?

@bari.koral Instagram

@barikoral on Facebook

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Mental Health Champions: Why & How Bari Koral Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.