ZELIENOPLE — The mental and physical discipline of yoga is being credited with helping mistreated, traumatized children relax and keep their bodies and minds healthy.
Glade Run Lutheran Services has provided yoga therapy classes at its Zelienople campus and school since last year.
The yoga therapy sessions teach abused children relaxation and breathing techniques, keeping them engaged in the moment — not imprisoned by the past.
As a result, according to Sheila Talarico, executive director for the Glade Run Foundation, Glade Run’s students have demonstrated less behavioral issues and greater emotional management.
Talarico said the 330-acre campus along West Beaver Road houses 95 residential students in cottages and its St. Stephen’s School holds nearly 300 students from 50 different school districts.
“The students have mental health issues and quite a few of them have autism as well,” said Talarico.
“We started doing yoga classes last year, and we initially started the therapy yoga classes with one girls’ cottage,” said Talarico.
“Our instructor’s name is Alison Popivchak, a registered yoga instructor with Yoga Alliance,” she said.
“Because of the nature of our youths, one or more of our staff are in the class,” said Talarico.
“Therapeutic yoga focuses on the fact the kids, the participants have experienced significant trauma,” Talarico said.
The classes, she added, focus on meditative experience, relaxation and breathing.
Each session, containing 30 to 40 students, meets once or twice a week for a 40- to 60-minute class. Each session runs eight weeks.
“It’s something we are going to continue,” said Talarico. “It has been so beneficial to our kids, the ones with residual trauma or severe anxiety.”
“They act out and we have been able to use the yoga to calm them down. It’s a way to teach them more self-care. It has been really beneficial for the kids. It’s another tool to help with their healing. she said.
The yoga classes are made possible through a grant from Wheat Ridge Ministries, a nonprofit group based in Itasca, Ill., that supports innovative health and human care initiatives.
Anya Knodt, the assistant director for ministry at Wheat Ridge, said Glade Run received a $5,000 grant to pay for the yoga instructor and staff members.
“We support new and innovative health programs by congregations and nonprofits with connections to the Lutheran community,” said Knodt. “We are in the Lutheran tradition in our history and our roots.”
Wheat Ridge was founded in 1905 as the Evangelical Lutheran Sanitarium in Wheat Ridge, Colo. Its original mission was to minister to Lutherans suffering from tuberculosis.
Its granting efforts are focused on improving the health of the whole person, by addressing wellness of body, mind and spirit.
Currently more than 70 ministries around the world receive assistance through Wheat Ridge grants, Knodt said.
“We are motivated by our Christianity to support new ministries that provided health and hope in Christ’s name,” Knodt said.
“And so we recognize the whole body health effects of yoga and view yoga as a great way to stay active, reduce stress and promote health,” said Knodt.
“We are really pleased to support yoga therapy at Glade Run. It’s proven to be more effective than traditional group therapy alone to help these children recover from abuse,” said Knodt.
Talarico added, “We have known for many years having additional therapy acts to help them reach their therapy goals, more quickly, gets them back home more quickly.”
“Our plan is to keep it (therapeutic yoga classes) going for sure. It’s really beneficial. It helps with emotional angst and when you exercise you feel better and this is a form of exercises as well,” she said.