Yoga – The Greatest Gift

Name: Julie Peoples-Clark
Location: Burlington, Vermont, USA
Occupation: Mother, Dancer, Yoga & Dance Teacher

Ella and Julie 2Ten years ago, I gave birth to my daughter Ella. My husband and I were very excited to be having a baby. I had a wonderful full-term pregnancy. I ate right, exercised every day, didn’t drink alcohol, and stayed away from anyone who was smoking. My due date came and went and I was two weeks overdue when I finally went into labor. My labor was very hard and long, Ella went into distress and was not breathing when she was born. She was taken away from me and the next time I saw her she was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

On the third day after her birth, I was finally able to hold Ella. It was a wonderful moment, then the doctors told us she was having seizures and had severe brain damage. We took Ella home at three weeks not really knowing what to make of the doctor’s gloomy predictions. A couple of months later, she was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy and we were told she would never walk or talk.

I fell into a deep depression that lasted for three years. The depth of my depression was so extreme that I shudder to think of the dangerous thoughts I had during this time. Despite my depression, I managed to do a lot of research on alternative therapies for brain injury. We tried a lot of them, some worked and many didn’t. With the therapies that worked, Ella improved. She has gone from a screaming baby to a happy little girl who smiles all of the time.

One of the therapies that I researched was Yoga for the Special Child™ developed by Sonia Sumar. I had practiced yoga for many years before Ella was born so I was drawn to Sonia’s program. In the workshop, I was introduced to a step-by-step integrated system of yoga asanas designed to increase cognitive and motor skills. Sonia also encouraged me to practice yoga again and to read many of the ancient yoga texts. One of the lessons that I learned from my readings was that in order for me to care for Ella I had to care for myself.

Julie Ella doing yogaI began practicing yoga every day by myself and with Ella. I woke each morning, washed my face, brushed my teeth, read from the yoga texts, meditated, and practiced yoga asanas. My depression began to lift and Ella continued to improve. By practicing with Ella everyday, I gained a sense of power over her recovery, finally feeling like I could help her. Sharing our yoga practice gives us a chance to connect in a loving and gentle way.

As we go through our practice, I think about the important lesson of non-attachment that yoga teaches: letting go of any expectations. I live in the present moment finding joy each day and marveling at my incredible daughter and all she has overcome. By learning and living the lessons of yoga each day I have come to peace with the tragedy of Ella’s birth and I have moved on. Ella is the greatest gift I could have ever received. She has taught me more about the person I hope to become than anyone else could. Ella is my guru!

Julie Peoples-Clark bio photoJulie Peoples-Clark, RYT, certified in Yoga for the Special Child™, is a Registered Svadhyaya Yoga Teacher with the National Yoga Alliance, and is also a Bikram Yoga Teacher. She is a former professional modern dancer and teacher of professional and college level modern dance. She stopped dancing professionally 10 years ago when her daughter Ella was born with spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy. Julie’s search to help Ella lead her to Sonia Sumar and the Yoga for the Special Child™ training program. Attending the yoga training program was Julie’s first step in recovery from severe postpartum depression. Julie practices Vipassana Meditation, Bikram Yoga, and classical yoga to maintain and strengthen her body, mind, and spirit. She teaches yoga classes to adults and children with disabilities in Burlington, VT. Recently, Julie started teaching and performing dance again. Ella was in the front row! Follow Julie’s blog on WordPress here:

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9 thoughts on “Yoga – The Greatest Gift

  1. Thank you for sharing your journey with your daughter. I also teach yoga and work with an organization called Ashrams for Autism, teaching yoga to children and adults on the spectrum. I know first hand how it works to calm and rebalance children in distress. Thank you for spreading the word through your blog!

  2. Powerful story. Thanks for sharing. I would love to catch-up sometime when I am back up in New England as I have not seen you since we were kids. xoxo

    Bethany Cooper

  3. Julie- this is so beautiful. Isn’t it amazing that our teachers often come from unexpected places? From places of unknowing and fear and challenge- and from that, something (meaning someone) blossoms. Ella sounds like an amazingly rich teacher, and how lucky you both are to have one another. I also think it’s incredibly fortunate that you’re there to pass on your experience to others who may be feeling helpless or alone. The teaching ripples in wonderful ways. Thank you! and thank ELLA!

  4. Having read this I believed itt was extremely enlightening.
    I appreciate you taking thee time and effort to put this short article together.
    I once atain find myself spending way too much timje oth reading and posting comments.
    But so what, it was still worth it!

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