By Sudha Carolyn Lundeen
Developing skills in my yoga practice for working with special populations has been a long and, at times, very personal journey for me. I can trace the beginning back to my sophomore year in high school when my father (a college football and swimming coach) coaxed me to help him teach swimming to students with physical disabilities. He taught me how to investigate their individual needs and come up with unique ways to help them learn. I loved the experience and thought I would become a physical therapist in order to work with this population full time. As with many of my life "plans," that never happened. I went into rehab and oncology nursing instead and from there shifted my attention and energy into what we then called alternative approaches to health and well-being. I moved to Kripalu Center and immersed myself in personal sadhana, began teaching yoga and training in other modalities. This eventually led me to lead 200- and 500-hour yoga teacher trainings and to develop a private therapeutic yoga practice.
Every one of us has experiences that inform what and how we teach. From my own experiences with breast cancer, i am very aware of its aspects and effects, not just during October, which has been slated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In fact, much progress has been made in getting information and support out for women diagnosed with breast cancer. Though each type of cancer has it's unique aspects, there are many common denominators. Breast cancer is just one of the populations I am passionate about serving. The past month I was given the opportunity to support a woman make the choices that were best fitting her and prepare for a successful surgery. Working one on one like that can be very rewarding and also asks me to reach deep into trainings and experiences of my past, not just yoga training. I sometimes think that being a good and sensitive listener is one of the most important skills we each have to offer.
I love working with clients individually and in small groups. I have learned as much from each of them as I have from my esteemed teachers. And I love sharing what I have learned with yoga students. At this month’s YTA workshop.