I had the sincere pleasure of interviewing a lovely person named Char Grossman. She is the Director and Founder of YogaReach, an organization designed to inspire individuals of all ages and abilities to develop educational, physical, mental and social competencies through yoga.
Char teaches yoga to individuals with special needs and medical issues. Char herself discovered yoga after a major medical event. 18 years ago, she presented to the emergency department with a hemorrhagic stroke from an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). She subsequently underwent a left temporal craniotomy (brain surgery) and was left with right hemiparesis (right site paralysis), aphasia (deficit in expressive language), memory loss, right hemianopsia (loss of perceptual vision in right eye) and depression. Char remembers being able to receptively understand language because she recalls both her daughters, who were 10 and 12 years of age and her husband, continually speaking to her, but she could not respond expressively. Char’s expressive language returned slowly, and following 12 months of physical and occupational therapy she was released from care with persistent moderate disabilities. Char stated that at that time the therapists only worked on her right side, which had the paralysis.
Char felt unbalanced. Going through the Internet, she discovered yoga, but did not have a clue what it was. A year after her surgery, she attended a week long program entitled “Healing with Power Yoga: an Astanga Yoga Intensive Program with Beryl Bender Birch and Thom Birch”, which was held at the Omega Institute. Char recalls her initial encounter with yoga and said:
“I walked into the yoga studio with my leg dragging, my right hand was up toward my chest and I was panicking inside. There were 50 participants in the room. Everyone could stand on their head, do many types of asanas (poses) and make their bodies comfortably flow through sun salutations. How does an AVM survivor who is stiff, clumsy and uncoordinated lift up one leg without falling over?”
Char recalls the teacher, Beryl, who eventually became her mentor saying ‘ To achieve a correct posture you have to use the mind, your breath and your body. If you use these, you will make changes.’ Char said that these words initiated an amazing healing process. The result of Beryl’s teaching helped to diminish anxiety, stress, depression, and nervousness and instilled patience and perseverance within her.
And I can tell you that Char is fully healed. She is a lovely woman who moves gracefully and expresses herself beautifully. See for yourself in the videos below. Char said that after she was dismissed from the hospital, she was labeled as being handicapped. Char said,
“I can’t be handicapped, I teach students with handicaps.”
For years, Char had been working with students who had many different types of special needs (disabilities). Char is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and is certified as a teacher in many special education areas. Char’s identification made her aware of an integral part of her career. She said to her self:
“I’ve been teaching these students for so many years, but it wasn’t until my being changed that I truly understood what the students were going through. I had a different perspective on working with my students. I have been able to make changes, personally, physically and mentally, and if I can do it, anyone can do it.”
Yoga healed Char. After a year of physical therapy and 4 years of intensive yoga, Char turned herself into a person with no deficits. This combined with her national and international yoga training is why she is uniquely qualified to teach therapeutic yoga. Char has been instructing through YogaReach since 2004. She now teaches weekly classes for teens and adults and each class averages between 10 – 30 people. Through yoga, Char’s pupils are able to focus on their minds and bodies and are able to break down barriers that may have inhibited their success.
Below are three videos where Char describes what Therapeutic Yoga is, what her classes are like and how Yoga heals people:
There is another section of this interview, which I will post up soon. It describes yoga’s unique ability to help cancer survivors. Char received professional training at Duke Integrative Medicine through a course called, “Yoga Awareness for Cancer”. Char has taught private classes and presented workshops dedicated to people battling cancer and has helped a number of people coping with cancer. Hope you enjoyed this interview series and will stay tuned for the next.
- Therapeutic Yoga for Cancer Survivors – personal insights
- Yoga Nidra for Insomnia (Baba Ramdev’s Video, Yoga Poses and Clinical Trials)
- Interview with Dr. Ritu Sharma about her NIH funded Yoga Research Study at the Trauma Center at Justic Resource International
- Yoga for Special Needs
- 40 Ways Yoga Heals Your Body (Clinical Explanations of Yoga’s Health Benefits)