The science of yoga, as it has been practiced for thousands of years, is aimed at uniting the mind, the body and the spirit. Those who practice it regularly claim a myriad of benefits including being more energetic, happier, and peaceful.
For four years, West Hartford psychotherapist Lucy Rosenblatt has combined her background in dance and yoga to aid children with Autism Spectrum Disorder using special techniques adapted from mainstream dance and yoga classes. Rosenblatt has created a non-competitive, non-judgmental program in which these children can learn to relax, relieve anxiety, interact socially, and have fun.
Rosenblatt, a licensed professional counselor and drug and alcohol counselor, has been a practicing psychotherapist for 30 years. Through those years her great love of dancing has led her to believe strongly in the mind/body connection. “Dance was really my first love and has always been a part of my life.”
There came a point when she decided to delve deeper into the connection between recreational dance and therapy. “I was at the point where I had been a psychotherapist for almost 25 years and I decided that I wanted to do something a little bit different. It was then that I became more interested in relaxation, movement, and looked at dance and yoga as therapeutic as well as recreational. That is when I took training in Yoga Meets Dance.”
Yoga Meets Dance is a unique melding of movement arts and yoga practice, developed in 2006 by a former teacher of Yoga Dance at a yoga studio in Lenox, MA. It concentrates less on the perfection of poses and technique and more on the joy of movement for movement’s sake. Rosenblatt became a certified Yoga Meets Dance instructor while continuing her work as a psychotherapist.
In 2008 Rosenblatt was working at St. Francis outpatient services when she met and partnered with a child psychiatrist who had been awarded a grant to study how various relaxation techniques could be helpful for children with autism.
At this point, Rosenblatt says, she had never worked with children, let alone children with autism, but she adapted her Yoga Meets Dance program for these children and used this data for research. Children between the ages of three and 17 were recruited to take part in their study.
In 2010, as the study reached its conclusion, Rosenblatt went on to receive her accreditation in Creative Kids Yoga, which focuses on children from toddlers to adolescents, tailoring movement activities by factors such as age, anatomy, disposition and lifestyle. The research paper she had been assisting with was presented in October, 2010.
During her research period, Rosenblatt says that parents of children recruited for the yoga and dance classes were asked questions before and after the classes. The final results were “promising,” as Rosenblatt states, noting that the music and movements helped with anxiety, irritability, self-soothing, social interactions, language difficulties, and repetitive motions so prevalent with Autism Spectrum disorders.
This encouraged her to continue instructing yoga and dance with an emphasis on children. She began to look into places to hold classes, from schools, to the Boys and Girl’s Club to various yoga studios. She offered the classes to children with and without autism.
As word spread, she began receiving requests from parents of teens and young adults with special needs, other than autism, to create a program for them.
Last spring, at a yoga studio on LaSalle Road, Rosenblatt instructed a class for the older teens and young adults. One of those students was Conor McCue, a 20-year-old with Downs Syndrome. His mother, Mary Lee Wakefield, has high praise for Rosenblatt and her program. “Conor has really responded well to the yoga sessions. The kindness and compassion that Lucy has demonstrated have opened up a whole new world for him. He loves being part of a group experience that is both calming and pleasurable. He is able to participate at his own pace and ability in a supportive and non-judgmental environment.”
Rosenblatt says that no matter how stressful it has been for her to find locations for her classes and to recruit children into the class, “99 percent of the time, in the end, I’ve had fun.”
She notes that while her students benefit from the programs, she, too, gains from interacting with them. “Just to watch them relax a little and calm themselves, have fun, begin to interact with each other, and accept my assistance in helping them is very rewarding.”
Rosenblatt is now registering for her fall classes that will be taking place at the newly-opened Bishop’s Corner studio. Her classes for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder begin on Sept. 18. Her other classes for older teens and young adults with special needs start on Sept. 20. Both programs run for nine-week sessions.
Siblings may attend for half price.
Parents may stay with their children or drop them off, depending upon the child’s abilities and independence.