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beauty, stress, yoga

Beautiful: Yoga is for Everyone – Sarah Shaffer’s Story on Yoga with Down Syndrome

Sarah Shaffer practicing yoga

Too much of the media circus around yoga leads people to believe that it is a practice exclusively for super models and contortionists. Nothing could be further from the truth. U.S. News & World Report ran a story about Sarah Shaffer, a high school student who practices yoga to relax and improve her running.

The full story is below but the last line is the one that got me choked up. It perfectly illustrates why we focus Compass Yoga‘s mission on getting yoga to people who wouldn’t otherwise practice it. The reporter asked her if she had any advice for people new to yoga. Sarah says, “Keep doing yoga, even if it’s hard. It gets better the more you work at it. And you will feel so good after you’re done.”

Now that is beautiful.

Full article by Laura McMullen

Have you ever tried yoga? It’s not just for the thin, fit and athletically-built. Just about anyone who can breathe can practice yoga to some extent and reap its many benefits. We’ll prove it. In this series, U.S. News talks with people who are changing the face of yoga.

Sarah Schaffer is a senior at Free State High School in Lawrence, Kan. When she’s not playing the cymbals and triangle in the concert band, she’s sprinting and shot-putting on the school’s green and silver Firebirds track team. Sarah is a fan of country music – especially songs by Blake Shelton – and she also has Down syndrome.

Sarah is one of more than 400,000 people in the United States living with Down syndrome, according to the National Down Syndrome Society. Individuals with the condition have an extra full or partial copy of chromosome 21, which alters development and can result in mild to moderate cognitive delays. While every person with Down syndrome has unique traits and degrees of abilities, a few of the condition’s common physical characteristics include smaller stature, slightly upward-slanting eyes and low muscle tone, according to NDSS.

This low muscle tone is part of what prompted Sarah’s mom, Rose, a nurse with a degree in exercise science, to introduce her daughter to yoga. Rose felt yoga would help develop core strength, which would in turn boost Sarah’s coordination and ability to breathe deeply – a practice that would circulate more oxygen to her brain, Rose says. She soon discovered that yoga before bedtime also helped Sarah relax and sleep better.

Now, Sarah practices yoga regularly – even the “sculpting” variety with hand weights. She practices at after-school classes and at home with DVDs. (Her favorite DVDs are those hosted by fitness instructor Denise Austin because they’re fun, calm and relaxing, her mother says.) Sarah tells U.S. News more about her yoga practice. Her responses have been edited.

What’s your favorite part about yoga?

I like the music in the background, and I like the stretching because it’s fun, and it feels relaxing. The stretching helps with my running because I’m more stretched out.

Do you have a favorite stretch?

I like the bridge, and I like doing child’s pose at the end.

What’s been your biggest challenge with yoga?

I have a hard time balancing on one leg sometimes, but I’ve gotten better.

Do you have any advice for people new to yoga?

Do the same video every day until you get good at it. Keep doing yoga, even if it’s hard. It gets better the more you work at it. And you will feel so good after you’re done.

About Christa Avampato

I am a product developer and ed tech product manager who is equally inspired by new technology and ancient wisdom, a yoga and meditation teacher who learns from my students every day, and a writer who believes that creativity and determination is the most powerful duo on Earth. My creative career has stretched across Capitol Hill, Broadway theatre, education, nonprofit fundraising, health and wellness, and Fortune 500 companies in retail, media, and financial services. I now work for an innovative ed tech startup in Washington D.C. In every experience, I have used my sense of and respect for elegant design to develop meaningful products, services, program, and events that make people happy. A recovering multi-tasker, I am a proud alum of UPenn (BA) and the Darden School at UVA (MBA). When not in front of my Mac, I’m on my yoga mat, walking my rescue dog, Phineas, traveling with a purpose, or practicing the high-art of people watching. Follow my adventures at My Google Profile+


5 thoughts on “Beautiful: Yoga is for Everyone – Sarah Shaffer’s Story on Yoga with Down Syndrome

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