This past winter I started searching for access to year round Yoga programming because of my daughter, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder just over one year ago. I felt deep in my soul that Yoga was the answer for us. I read tons of material online and in books about the benefits of Yoga for children and, more specifically, children with Autism. I read about how Parents doing Yoga with their Autistic children could be of huge benefit to both the parent and child. Yoga was going to help us manage her Autism. Yoga would teach her how to relax when she felt herself becoming overwhelmed. Yoga would help her get her wiggles out when she felt like she needed to run laps or jump up and down for hours on end. Yoga would help me be in better shape, and calm my own anxiety when I felt it bubbling over from dealing with my special needs daughter; her school who doesn’t always seem to understand my child and her needs, and people in general including members of my own family that just don’t understand Autism and how it works inside the body and brain of my kid.
When it occurred to me that Yoga would benefit everyone, and when I wrote a proposal and presented a Yoga program to my community and worked my ass off to get funding and instruction and practice space, I knew that it would all be worth it because Yoga was the answer. Yoga was going to help us and other families be active, become healthy, participate in a sober, family oriented activity together, strengthen our community and just feel better. The classes filled up and everyone who came enjoyed and connected not only to their practice but on some level also to each other. A common goal, of wellness, will do that I think.
I think all this goodness around YogaRama happened because Yoga is accessible to everyone. Whatever your physical, mental, spiritual or emotional state, you can do yoga. It happened because I knew Yoga would help and be enjoyed by most of the people I knew. I also think this happened because of our instructor Rebecca, and her commitment to this program, her gentle and welcoming approach, her desire to understand and her willingness to learn more about our needs as individuals and as a community. I think also, as a group and as a community we were ready for Yoga. We were ready to buy in and live the benefits.
In Yoga class, Rebecca reminded us to breathe, to reach, to stand tall and strong and to focus. All good lessons for Yoga as well as life.
I had no idea how profoundly we as a family would be effected by just practicing Yoga several times per week. I thought I would run this little program for however long we managed to make the funding last and then I would move on and continue to work towards making our lives good and working with Harper to manage her Autism symptoms. I had no idea how this program would take off and fill up so quickly. I had no idea how much better we would all feel because of Yoga. I had no idea I would begin to dream of a Yoga centre in Rama with classes every day of the week, several times a day for all age groups and populations and with props like straps and bolsters and blocks and a library dedicated to Yoga and meditation and wellness or that I would also dream of holding weekend yoga retreats at our gorgeous Black River Park. I really had no idea.
As my dreams grew, our lives gradually started to feel more settled and we as individuals began to feel more at peace. Through our instructor Rebecca we had been given tools to manage stress and exercise our bodies and when implemented, these tools worked. Breathing and stretching made our lives better. The philosophy of Yoga and the philosophy of inclusion and effort, made our lives better. Exercise made our lives better. Being together made our lives better. Learning to be present made our lives better.
This is the picture my 6 year old daughter drew this past weekend when I told her I was going to be setting up a booth to promote YogaRama at the upcoming Rama First Nation Pow wow on August 23-25. She said she wanted to help. It’s a picture of our YogaRama yoga class that we go to at the Rama Daycare on Thursday evenings. It depicts her friends and family, including her stuffy Pengui, doing all of her favourite poses from class and saying “ooohhhmmm”. Everyone is smiling. It says “Bring friends to Yoga” and “Bring a water bottle” and “I heart Yoga”. It’s honestly, purely and truly from her heart. I think this picture says it all and is not only an endorsement of the work we’ve done with developing a Yoga program in Rama but it is also a testament to the power of yoga and how introducing yoga to young children and practicing together can make a big difference.
It’s all totally worth it when I see this picture and I feel sense of pride as well as gratitude for the successful program we made.