Yogi advocates yoga for Children with special needs

THERE is much yoga can do for everyone—including children with special needs.

This is the advocacy of yogi and entrepreneur Mary Deen, who has been practicing yoga for seven years.

Deen opened a yoga studio named Love Yoga World on the 11th floor of SkyRise 2 at the Cebu IT Park five years ago. Since then, her yoga studio, which offers eight yoga classes a day, has become a destination for men and women who want to improve their health, heal aches and pains, and keep sickness at bay.

But the experienced registered yoga teacher is aiming for more.

“I want to share the yoga practice with everyone,” said Deen. “I know there are still a lot of people that I need to reach out to and invite into this lifestyle.” She first offered Yoga for Family, pitching it as a new bonding activity for kids and parents while helping them attain balance, strengthen their cores, and deepen the connection between parents and children.

“Because you do all the yoga poses together, children would see how their parents struggle with the poses and the victory that comes after executing them. Parents, on the other hand, see the weaknesses and strengths of their children and it somehow deepens the connection of their relationship,” Deen shared.

“Practicing yoga also disconnects parents from their usual busy routines. It’s a quality time, a real bonding activity with their children, as the practice requires being present in the now.”

Besides sharing the yoga practice with families, Deen is also opening her yoga studio to children with special needs, a first in Cebu.

“My goal is to make the yoga practice accessible to all walks of life, because it is for everyone. It enhances the physical, mental and emotional development of a person,” she said.

Deen signed up for and completed a one-week program on Yoga for the Special Child-The Sonia Sumar Method in Hong Kong last November for her to become a licensed practitioner.

Yoga for Special Child was developed by Sonia Sumar for her daughter Roberta, who was born with Down Syndrome in 1972.

Deen said yoga is a therapeutic approach to children with down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, and wheelchair users.

Yoga, according to Deen, will complement and enhance the child’s physical and occupational therapy sessions.

It likewise improves cognitive and motor skills; increases body awareness, strength and flexibility; improves concentration and reduces hyperactivity; and is an early intervention to assure healthy formative development of infants, toddlers and teenagers.

“I was healed by yoga. I know the practice would be helpful for others, too,” Deen said, adding that she suffered panic attacks before and that yoga has helped her find balance.

A competitive entrepreneur handling eight branches of specialty stores Adina and Simon in malls in Visayas and Mindanao, Deen sold all of these to concentrate on yoga.

She said she got so busy growing the business, which she single-handedly managed, that it has eaten up her time.

“I reached a point that I felt I was no longer happy. I started to question myself, question life. I started to feel emptiness. I developed anxiety, which led to panic attacks,” said Deen. She was able to rise from that fall.

“I got curious about yoga in one of my gym visits. I signed up for a class and fell in love with it. Yoga helped me find my balance,” she said. “I detached from the system that eats us from the inside. I became grounded and had a positive perspective about life. And I would love to share this journey with others.”

Besides being a licensed practitioner for Yoga for the Special Child, she is also certified to teach ashtanga yoga method by Ken Harakuma of the International Yoga Center Japan. She also received certifications in Thai yoga massage, reiki, restorative, and vinyasa yoga.

“Looking forward, I’d like to open more yoga studios through franchising so the practice could reach out to more people and places,” she said.
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