We received a call from PopSugarCelebrity, a web magazine that shares celebrity news, that they wanted to interview Jessica, the 1st Yoga Teacher With Down syndrome! It was an honor and a whirlwind. They interviewed us over the phone and we were asked to video her class at the Carrillo Rec Center and send the footage and any photos that we had. The article would come out the next day! We were very excited to get this all done on the spur of the moment and couldn’t wait to see the finished product. We think they did a great job. Here’s the link if you haven’t seen it: https://www.facebook.com/PopSugarCelebrity/videos/10154703782444824/
Since that time Jessica’s PopSugar video has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
We have been getting calls from parents and teachers of adults with Down syndrome, asking how did we do it? What did Jessica do and what can they do to help their children learn to practice and teach yoga?
We never imaged that Jessica would be teaching yoga but on the other hand, we never said she couldn’t!
Our whole life changed when we discovered that we had a child with Down syndrome. We were shaken by the possibility of not knowing how to raise her. We were told that there would be many things in life that Jessica would not be able to do. “She will walk later than others, she will not be able to learn to read, she will have a childlike understanding of the harder concepts of life, she will stop learning at a certain point…” and on and on.
She has been excluded from children’s parties …“do you think she will be ok if we invite her sisters and not her?”. Teachers have asked that she stays behind on field trips and be with the younger children, we were told that she could not perform with the high school choir because she might sing out of turn. We were also told that as an adult there are not many chances of her finding meaningful work in the community.
To all of this we have said “NO”. No, she, or her sisters, would not be ok with her not being invited; No, she would not stay behind with children that were not her age; No, she would not be excluded from a public school events. No, because she is capable. She can be a contributing, valuable, member of the community.
What else did we do different? As a family of yoga teachers, all along the way we did yoga with her. From the age of 2 or 3, we taught her that yoga is a way of life. Yoga is something you can do with your family and friends. Yoga is something you can do on your own. We encouraged all of our children to practice yoga. Our family, along with Jessica brought yoga into schools. Jessica helped take yoga to Girl Scouts events, she was involved in many yoga fund raisers. At 12 she took part in a yoga video that is still being used in schools as a teaching tool. She has attended many yoga classes and she attended many teachers training courses. Through yoga we taught Jessica to say: “Yes”. Yes, you can! Yes, you can learn; Yes, you are capable and Yes, your feelings and desires matter.
We feel yoga has made the biggest difference in her life. Along with its physical benefits, practicing yoga has taught her discipline and self control. It has given her self confidence and self esteem. She has grown into strong and determined young lady, full of joy and love of life. When I am asked how did we do it, my answer is: “We practice”… We practice yoga and we practice teaching yoga. Along with demonstrating the poses, we practice verbally explaining the poses to others. We practice designing classes, we practice meditations and visualizations, we continue to practice the many skills it takes to be a successful teacher.
We have all grown from the experience. As her parents and as seasoned yoga teachers we are learning from her all the time. She is an inspiration and a reminder that through practice you get better. She and her students prove that anything can be accomplished if you have the support, the desire and the willingness to learn and practice.
We are very proud that she is sharing herself and her accomplishments through yoga. We know she has a bright future and hope that her life is an advocate for others with Down syndrome and others that are differently abled.
You can learn more about Jessica and her many talents at: JessicaParsonsYoga.com.