National Volunteer Week spotlight: Ashley Mananquil

BEAM Foundation Founder Jenna Galloway (left) and Ashley Mananquil (right)

By Ashley Mananquil, Wood’s Homes volunteer

I reached out to Woods Homes in the summer of 2016 to provide free yoga classes to youth accessing their programs. At first, it was just a way for me to complete my practicum hours as a new child and youth yoga instructor. After I taught a class with the youth who attended Wood’s Homes 2016 Fitness Day, I really wanted to continue to teach yoga on the campus on an ongoing basis. That’s when the partnership between the BEAM Foundation and Woods Homes was formed.

BEAM stands for Balance, Empower, Action and Movement, and is a not-for-profit foundation dedicated to influencing the healthy development of kids and youth through yoga. Our mission is to provide accessible and affordable yoga programming to children who are sick, recovering, have special needs or who come from low-income backgrounds.

Working closely with Tim Bowron, Wood’s Homes Recreational Outdoor Mentorship Program (ROMP) Coordinator, I developed a specialized trauma-informed yoga program for the youth receiving services at Wood’s Homes Bowness campus. The yoga program started in January 2017, and is expected to continue until June 2017 with possibilities of expanding into other programs and the Parkdale campus.

Teaching yoga to the youth of Woods Homes has been a true privilege and honor. In my experience as a social worker, I noticed a major lack of programming for children and youth who are placed in treatment programs. This is why I believed that Woods Homes would benefit from having access to free yoga for their youth.

When I decided to teach yoga to the youth of Woods Homes, I felt that consistency was the most important aspect to uphold as a volunteer. I wanted to implement a yoga program that was just that – consistent. The youth attending the yoga classes can expect a session each week on the same day, same time and with the same instructor. Although the numbers vary from week to week, there are youth who repeatedly show up and practice on their mat with me. It is actually the youth’s consistency and willingness to try yoga that has been the greatest part of volunteering as a yoga instructor with Woods Homes. I feel so fortunate to witness the youth push themselves outside their comfort zones week after week.

In the yoga classes, the youth are guided through a 45-minute yoga sequence and are educated on yoga philosophy, such as breathing techniques, or concepts, such as mantras and intention setting. We have also provided some youth with free yoga mats and passes they can use at Wymbin Yoga.

Yoga is so important for people of all ages. It has shown to increase emotional regulation, social intelligence and body awareness. By educating and teaching these youth the practice of yoga, it is my hope that they will continue to practice yoga as a way of coping with their life stressors once they are discharged from their programs, therefore contributing to a healthy reintegration back into the community and aiding in stabilization.

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