UA students' legacy inspires new yoga class at Rec Center
Elizabeth Brewer holds a picture of Jessica Stebbins who, after death, continued to inspire a group of students to start a new yoga class at the Student Recreational Center(Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Brewer).
A new yoga class inspired by a UA student will begin at the Student Recreation Center on Friday.
The idea for the class began in 2011 with Jessica Stebbins, then a student in the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.
Stebbins showed interest in pursuing yoga after her classmate, Elizabeth Brewer, a public health senior, gave a presentation on it for class.
“She was always curious as to why it wasn’t offered to people with physical disabilities,” Brewer said.
Stebbins and Brewer decided to team up and create an independent study focusing on yoga for the physically disabled. They asked Sheila Parker, a lecturer in the Health Promotion Sciences Division at the College of Public Health, to be their adviser for the project and recruited several other students to research and train with them.
Then, in December 2011, Stebbins suddenly died. Brewer and the rest of Jessica’s friends were in shock. The yoga project was in full swing and without Stebbins the students were not sure how to carry on.
“I told them about Jessica’s dream and I told them, ‘I can’t do this alone and I can’t do this without her, but with your support and help, would you be willing to do this?’ and they all agreed,” Brewer said.
With the inspiration of Stebbins’ legacy motivating them, the remaining students in the study created the “Yoga for Any Body” club and raised funds to become officially trained in adaptive yoga.
“They were excited and committed to fulfill whatever Jessica’s dream was,” Parker said.
The students received a grant of enough money to allow three students, including Brewer, to travel to a conference in Minnesota taught by world-renowned yoga teacher Matthew Sanford. The students became trained in the techniques of adaptive yoga, focusing on mind-body connection.
“Doctors have been told to tell patients that you have no feeling in your legs when in fact there is still a sensation,” Brewer said, “so through the yoga process we recreated those sensations.”
With this training the students came back to the UA and trained 12 grounding assistants to help others with movements during the sessions to ensure participants’ safety, and got approved to start a yoga class at the Rec Center. There are currently 27 students signed up for the class, Brewer said, and it is open to join
through Feb. 8.
“It is unreal, but I think that this class is going to create a sense of community and change lives,” Brewer said. “I’m just waiting till Friday. I can’t wait to meet everyone and see where the class goes.”
Even though Jessica is not here to celebrate the success of the
club with her, Brewer said it is still a beautiful moment.
“I think that she would give me a hug and I would probably start crying and she would too,” Brewer said. “I think that she would be overjoyed, grateful, but another part of me thinks she’d be like, ‘Well of course there should be a class for physical disabilities.’ That’s the way Jessica is.”