When I put out the call for PWDs or disability organizations that would be interested to be featured on the blog, I was so glad Soul To Soul Yoga contacted me. After reading about the amazing work they do, I instantly became a fan.
Cheryl Albright is the owner of Soul To Soul Yoga. She grew up with an older brother with autism and an aunt with Down syndrome. She began working with children with special needs through Rotary Camp Onsewaya at the age of 14. She continued through high school and college teaching adapted swim lessons with children with special needs. Cheryl has now been an occupational therapist for 15 years and teaching Yoga for the Special Child® for 9 years. She received her Registered Yoga Teacher training in 2014 and advanced training in adapting Hatha yoga with those diagnosed with scleroderma. Most recently, has been awarded her certification in yoga therapy. Soul to Soul Yoga was created in in collaboration with Yoga for the Special Child® to have a home in the Sarasota, FL, area.
What is Soul to Soul Yoga?
Soul To Soul Yoga is not just another therapy. It combines all the occupational therapy frames of reference into one practice using Yoga for The Special Child (R) Sonia Sumar Method (TM). The target market is the caregivers that have loved ones with special needs. Special needs can include developmental disabilities, neurological conditions, and orthopedic concerns. Most people come to Soul To Soul Yoga either referred by another professional or are looking for a fun engaging activity that has amazing therapeutic benefits.
Why did you start it, who/ what is the inspiration?
I had a similar business in NY but decided to move to Florida where its a bit warmer and no income tax. Sonia Sumar, the creator of Yoga For The Special Child just helped planting the seed that it could be done in the Sarasota area. I found a method of therapy that works and works toward something. It starts as a therapy either individual or small group but it translates into full inclusion into the community as well as a life long coping skill.
What has been the response to your services like? Do people appreciate and understand the work that you are doing?
Sarasota area is very conservative. Education and speaking in public has been the best way for me to reach the masses. There are many people who see the word yoga and will walk away. Many of my clients have been with me since the beginning in particular the adults with developmental disabilities. There are not very many people who understand the adult population with developmental disabilities in order to work with them. Education continues to be needed in this community.
What impact have you seen with Soul to Soul Yoga? How is it changing lives?
One of my most impactful stories is one mom who lives an hour away, was looking for something for her daughter with autism. She had head banging behaviors and had gotten so bad that she gave her self a concussion. After using Yoga for The Special Child (R) for about 3 months, the head banging had stopped. This is not just another therapy.
Should more yoga instructors be trained specifically in working with people with disabilities?
I don’t think everyone is made to teach people with disabilities however, Yoga For The Special Child (R) is an amazing in that it focuses on development and breaking down yoga poses.
What challenges have you faced so far in running your organization/ offering your services?
I had no business training when I first started. I had the basics. I knew I needed an attorney and accountant but day to day operations, not a clue where to start. I invested in business training and it was the smartest decision I have made so far.
What are your future plans?
Cheryl has been awarded through the state of the Florida to provide continuing education credits to other occupational therapist and other professionals. We will be provide small events with other professionals so they receive their necessary continuing education to maintain their licenses. Some other projects that are in the works is our Non for Profit- Removing Obstacles, Inc. This is a scholarship fund to assist families in paying for functional and integrative services that are not covered by insurance. These services include music therapy, art therapy, yoga therapy, hippotherapy, and many others. Cheryl is also working toward being able to bill the Veterans Administration directly.