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The gifts and 4 life lessons I received in teaching yoga to Special Needs students

The first gift I received was when my daughter Jasmin -now 18 yrs old- was born with Down Syndrome. Jasmin has been our guiding light to living life to the fullest. Each and every day since she was born has been a heart-opening journey . Jasmin has opened my eyes of a world of possibilities in human kind.

Yoga has been in my life for over twenty years. Eight years ago I got the opportunity to teach Yoga at Summit School, a school in Montreal, Canada for students with Special Needs including Down Syndrome, Autism, ADHD and other neurological challenges. Working with these students has been one of the best experiences of my life.



Here are 4 life lessons I received from my daughter and students

These amazing kids and young adults have pure hearts. God sent them to us to help us learn to open our hearts. To be vulnerable. To show our love to each other. One day I asked my daughter about a classmate and she describe him as KIND and SWEET, not skinny, fat, pretty or stupid. Well, that just melted my heart.

These students appreciate smallest things and gestures. They love eye contact, for just  that one moment they are noticed. After all, don’t we all wish to be recognized and appreciated for who we truly are?  In Yoga we learn all the deep inner layers of ourselves and these kids have taught me compassion for the self. They go straight to the source of just being them.

I see so many of us taking things for granted. How we manage to turn small problems into big ones! But these students have gratitude for the simplest of things. Joy of music, dancing, hugging, meal time and friendship. I can walk into my class with the world of troubles on my shoulders and in one sweep the students bring me back to the joy of living. Now that’s GRATITUDE!

We live in a society where our achievements are never enough, where we feel that we are not enough, no matter how well we do . “85% is ok, but you can do better!”  What if we could take pride in even the little things we do?  What if we could see the gifts in all humankind. Well these students do! Maybe they know how much harder they have to work for the same things that we take for granted. Just to balance on one foot is an achievement for some people. I have seen an individual in a regular adult class beat themself up trying to do Tree Pose.  Instead they could be looking at themselves and appreciating where they are at in that moment. “Wow,” they could say, “life is amazing , look what it is showing me!”

The greatest lesson for myself has been to Love myself and others for who they are. We all have Special Needs, we just have to appreciate them as gifts they truly are.


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How I Started Teaching Yoga to Special Needs Kids

_MG_9747As many of you know, my daughter Jasmin was born with Down syndrome. In searching for a local school that specialized in working with kids that needed special care, my husband and I came across the Summit School. Their people were so kind and dedicated, we were relieved to have found a place where we knew our daughter would flourish.


I Wanted to Help

If you are a parent of a child with special needs or a professional who works with one, you know how challenging it can be for them to sit still, to cope with change, to focus on self – soothing strategies, and to interact successfully. For these kids, a yoga lifestyle can provide crucial support. With my background of yoga and teaching, I jumped at the opportunity to teach at Summit School when I heard there was a need.

Summit School Student with apple


There is a wide range of students at Summit school with different needs, autism spectrum, with ADHD, emotional or behavioral disorders, down syndrome and processing disorders and other challenges.

In the beginning I really kept my teaching to the basics. The students had such a wide range of needs it was important to slowly develop a system that worked well for them. At first it was a real challenge but after several years the system had yielded some fantastic results.

Real Progress

IMG_0624The Yoga practice has helped to improve the students behavior and focus, strength, flexibility, balance, and self regulation through our regular practice. The most important part of my teaching is breathing techniques that help to calm the nervous system. Without a regular slow steady breath little changes can happen.

Over the years I have seen my students make real progress. They have gained improved self-awareness and confidence with their physical and emotional bodies. This is very important because it gives them a sense of strength and pride that they have some control over their well-being. My experience with the students and the wonderful staff at the Summit School continues to be a source of great joy and, I hope, mutual benefit.

This is all that I can wish for.

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