by Jess Bayas

I was an art therapist in my life before G. I was the director of a day program for adults with developmental disabilities, as well as visual and hearing impairment. Although program management was not my cup of tea, I missed the people that I worked with and stayed in touch with everyone in the program. Seeing a need, I asked them (again and again) about letting me come in to run a yoga or movement group for the people who attend the program or even for the staff -- both could benefit from more, better movement in their life.

Last fall they finally contacted me. Last December I started teaching monthly yoga (i.e., movement) groups for two different programs. I have since started at another agency who will expand my work into a second program later this summer!

The people I work with range in ability enormously. One group uses an ASL interpreter because almost all of the participants are deaf (and my signing while coaching is not that great). Some people can walk, some use a walker or cane, others arrive in a wheelchair. Some are able to see and hear, some have limited or no vision or hearing. Some are able to freely move their arms, legs, hands, or spines. Others are very limited in their ability to move.

I am not going to lie, it can be stressful to figure out how to offer such diverse groups the range of what we do at G. But I do my best to bring the spirit and fun of G into each session and get people moving around however they can. Some days I walk out thinking there was no way they could have gotten anything out of that, but then the staff tell me how impressed they are with how engaged people were and how much fun they had.

This work is about doing more than just help people move better. Many get clinical movement, but my work is about empowering someone to try something that they may not otherwise have tried, and helping them realize that they can explore and expand their capabilities. This is about sharing challenges and celebrating every little success -- especially when they (often reluctantly) try something new.

With teaching and coaching, it’s always about more than moving. It’s about creating a safe place for people, connecting with people; although movement is the anchor, the non-movement reasons are the reasons that I love it. And in that sense, I realize that I can let go of trying to give these groups all of the movements we do, because the more important benefit goes beyond the physical. When we face and share challenges together, our efforts tap into something deeper, something that connects us in a different space. Which is the same place I connect with G, and what I hope to help people connect with in every session I coach.