The Cerebral Palsy Association of BC’s Adapted Yoga Program for people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities has brought smiles to children’s faces since its inception in 2013. For children and youth living with CP and other disabilities, the program has been a great source of joy and has given participants a feeling of belonging and a form of exercise.
“We laugh together, shared a few potluck dinners together, gone out to eat together, shared success and challenges we had that week together,” says the Victoria yoga group. “It is not just weekly yoga classes, we are a family.”
For participants such as Nathan who lives with a disability, the Adapted Yoga Program in Victoria provides an opportunity to participate in a safe form of exercise which supports each person’s needs through stretching, breathing and body movement. Ann, one of the yoga participants who comes to the Wednesday session at the Oaklands Community Centre, states, “I have inflamed joints and lower back pain and yoga has eased these conditions by the end of the class”.
Elaine Duke, a Victoria-based yoga instructor with forty years of experience, has seen improvements in the participants with cerebral palsy, such as improved gait. She encourages students to do floor-based exercises on the mat since carrying out the exercises gives the participants—particularly those individuals living with CP—a sense of strength knowing that they can get up on their own.
The Victoria yoga participants also believe that the program has benefited them immensely, especially with boosting their self-esteem. Having improved their own flexibility and strength, the participants have confidence that there are no limits to reaching their full potential. The group, comprised of people living with various disabilities, says: “The participants living with CP have been the most inspiring of all.”
Generally speaking, the yoga program serves as an outlet for youth to practice yoga in a non-judgmental way. Among the many benefits that the participants have experienced through the program, one of the most notable is the opportunity for the participants to have a say in their own well-being and share their experiences.
The program has aided social interaction between Nathan and his mom Susan since they have an activity to participate in together, as well as helping Nathan learn life skills. “He is taking attendance and helps with setting up and putting things away,” says Pang. “He is learning responsibility.”
The value of volunteering
Being a volunteer can be valuable for someone with a disability since the interaction provides key communication tools that the individual can use in future encounters in social and professional settings. By volunteering, Nate learns organizational skills through keeping track of the attendance, and the responsibility of being on time through setting up and putting away materials at the program.
According to a Statistics Canada health study on the social participation of children with disabilities, just 63 percent of children aged five to fourteen years of age were engaged in some sort of sport or activity at least once a week. CPABC offers Adapted Yoga free of charge in Vancouver and Victoria for about 20 participants in total. CPABC is grateful to have positively impacted the lives of those living with disabilities through the yoga program in Victoria and looks forward to its continued success.
Learn more about our Adapted Yoga program