Beyond the Boarders of California
By Gloria O’Shea - SOSF Founder and Executive Director
For years now I have contemplated expanding beyond the borders of California and each year I come to the same conclusion…not yet! Mind you, we have sponsored programs and supplies to many schools and organization out of state but we are a small organization without big corporate supporters and billionaires backing us up so I felt the need to hold off...until I received this letter from a nine-year-old living in New York City:
Dear Sean O’Shea Foundation,
Thank you for the t-shirts, I do really like them. And thank you for creating the foundation. The shirt was awesome. I also want to tell you guys that I like yoga. I live in New York and we have something called Green and Healthy Month and adding yoga to it would be awesome. I think you guys should make/invent other yoga foundations in every state so every person could go to a foundation for yoga.
Sincerely, Shawn Jakob (9 years old)
(Pictured are Shawn Jakob's younger brothers, Evan Erik and Owen Lucas)
Well, We may not be able to create a foundation in every state but this fall we are looking to start our first out-of-state program in New York City at Shawn Jakob’s school. The planning has started and we hope to write more about this project in fall.
Thank you for thinking of us Shawn Jakob and we hope to see you soon!
By the way, please tell your little brothers they look dashing in their SOSF t-shirts.
So You Want To Teach Yoga To Kids?
By Liz Fautsch – Youth Program Chairwoman & Trainer @ The Sean O’Shea Foundation
When I tell people that I teach yoga in schools, most of them are very supportive and tell me what a wonderful thing I’m doing. I imagine they’re visualizing a roomful of kids sitting quietly in easy pose and then rising to perform sun salutations in silent unison. I’ve been teaching in San Diego County schools for the Sean O’Shea Foundation since 2008 and this has never happened!
I began by assisting another teacher at Jefferson Middle School in Oceanside. It was an early morning gym class in the multipurpose room that doubled as a cafeteria, with about 35 or 40 students. And it was tough. One of us was up on the stage demonstrating and cuing poses; the other was running around, alternately shushing kids who were talking and helping others with alignment. Instead of 60 or 90 minutes, we had about 45. Forget your calm, soothing yoga voice – we had to belt out instructions so the back rows could hear us. INHALE! EXHALE! I remember dropping my Deva Premal CD into our Foundation-issue boom box only to hear her beautiful voice turned tinny and small by the acoustics of the bare, cavernous room. And we had exactly six weeks – one class a week – to transmit what we could of the infinite science of yoga and mindfulness!
And yet…by the end of class, every one of these raucous middle-school kids was lying quietly in savasana – true, some of them opened their eyes to look around; some were restless; it was not “perfect” – but they were down and quiet, and I was amazed. I started to feel quite powerful…until the next class, and the one after that, etc.
Fortunately we now have more time at each school. In the “old days” we would lament that kids were just starting to understand what yoga was about when the program ended. These days, the mat yoga and nutrition program runs 12 weeks, 24 weeks or even the whole school year, depending upon timing and finances. That extra time makes a huge difference.
Working with kids is a humbling experience, especially in the schools served by SOSF. Most of them have a diverse and low-income population; 90% or more of the students come from families that qualify for the school lunch programs, so they are known as Title I schools. This means that kids are living near or at the poverty line, with all the stresses and challenges that entails – both parents working; crowded homes; learning English; many single parent families; active gangs in the neighborhood; no after-school enrichment activities; and limited food choices. These are kids who are starting life with none of the proverbial bootstraps by which to pull themselves up. Indeed, some initially refuse to take off their shoes because they are embarrassed by their socks that are mismatched or are full of holes.
A school multi-purpose room, however, is where a yoga teacher can really test her skills – not because these kids can’t learn yoga, but because the need for a quantum of mindful yoga practice is so real and present that the temptation is to go overboard and drown these fledglings in all one’s enthusiasm, compassion, loving-kindness, and technique before they have even taken one “ocean breath”. The challenge is finding a way to transmit all this knowledge in a way these kids can understand, digest, and then embody themselves.
Each class is different; each age group is different. The bedrock for everything is mindfulness – the thread by which all the other lessons, with their “words of the week” and pose sequences, hang together. From Dr. Amy Saltzman, founder of “A Still Quiet Place”, I cribbed this definition: Mindfulness is paying attention, here and now, with kindness and curiosity, so I can choose my behavior. I remind the students at every opportunity – be curious, be kind to yourself, and choose a behavior that makes life better for you. And I remind myself.
And then I teach what I know, as best I can, applying all my creativity – and energy. If one way doesn’t work, I try something else – a game, a partner pose, a ten second period of complete stillness to settle the room. I resort to bribery – one of you will get to play my Tibetan bowl at the end of class. By the end of the semester, some kids get it – they literally flow from one pose to the next. Others struggle – they have a hard time sitting still; in savasana they are restless, arms and legs in constant twitching motion. By the end of the year – if we have that long - even these kids settle down, and – not unusual – actually fall asleep during “final resting pose”, as we call savasana in the schools. And when that happens, I know I’ve done my job.
Helping Kids With Cancer Gain a Sense of Empowerment
A letter to the Sean O'Shea Foundation from Jeanie Speis NP, Rady's Children's Hospital
It is hard to summarize all of the blessings the Sean O’Shea Foundation yoga program has brought to Rady's in a paragraph. Every dedicated volunteer is valued for the gifts they bring to our children and families. For many families this is the first introduction they have ever had to yoga and serves to open doors to another deep form of healing and relaxation. The children report feeling very relaxed and more comfortable with less pain, less nausea and improved sleep.
The poses and breathing taught by the Sean O’Shea Foundation instructors provide the children invaluable tools to master their symptoms and the side effects of the intensive treatment therapies that they endure. It is wonderful to see each instructor personalize the yoga sessions to the unique needs and varied abilities of the children; this personalized approach is greatly appreciated and the families feel comfortable knowing they are in such experienced and safe hands.
I was just talking to a 10-year-old boy who stated the yoga sessions helped him be less anxious and calmed his fears when he was recently in the hospital for a month. He gained a sense of mastery with crow pose and felt empowered to fight the cancer. Thank you for all you do to ease the burden of our children; your dedication is greatly appreciated! Thank you all.
Jeanie Spies NP
Rady’s Children’s Hospital
Sharing Stories About Uncle Sean
A Letter by Lisette Hart – Director of Yoga Branch Yoga, Vista
Though we had not seen each other in a while, I know that Sean and I would have had much more growth, healing, learning & laughter ...and a lot more yoga time together in our friendship if we had only had more time & been able to re-connect.
Losing him taught me so much about not taking time or people for granted...we never know how much more time we have to nurture our friendships.
Having dear Shawniece ask me to tell her stories about her uncle Sean while I was her first grade and second grade yoga teacher in Encinitas really helped the memories and stories flow more easily.
I told her about all the music Sean put together for me and for many of his other friends. His music mixes were interesting and artistic and he always labeled them with his signature four petal flower.
When I said that, she instantly drew it on the white-board in my classroom and my heart just about burst seeing that familiar image exactly replicated by the darling 6 year-old in front of me.
Shawniece - Sean's niece
I told her about the pants he wore often while teaching yoga and how the material they were made of would make a "swish-swish" sound as he walked through the room. During Savasana (resting/corpse pose), the students at my studio, where he taught, and I would lie there relaxing and eagerly awaiting the "swish-swish" sound to draw nearer as we knew that when Sean arrived at our mat, a nice shoulder or temple massage was coming our way.
I told her about a spontaneous afternoon swim in the ocean with Sean and a few friends and how peaceful he was floating in the water.
I have many good memories...with much admiration for you and much appreciation that our relationship and Sean’s legacy continue to flourish through the good work of your family and the Foundation.
With love and support,
Director, Yoga Branch Studio, Founder, Yoga Roots & Wings, a Yoga Alliance Registered school of Teacher Training - Celebrating our 10-year anniversary - www.yogabranch.com
Sean O’Shea Foundation Ambassadors are yoga studios and yoga teachers providing yoga events (classes, concerts, workshops, cooking lessons, etc.). The proceeds from these events go directly to the SOSF youth programs for at-risk youth in San Diego County. Our Ambassadors work hard to support our work and raise a minimum of $500 annually to ensure these kids continue to practice and receive scholarships.
Here are this months events provided by our SOSF Ambassadors:
DANG GOOD YOGA ESCONDIDO –NAM CHANTEPIE www.danggoodyoga.com
Offering a yoga inversion workshop. All proceeds go to the Sean O’Shea Foundation youth programs.
Offering The Happy-U Prom, an Enchantment Over The Sea, Friday, June 12th, 6p
YOGA BRANCH STUDIO VISTA – Lisette Hart http://www.yogabranch.com
Offering a 108 Sun Salutation fundraiser and a 30-day Sun Salutation challenge. All proceeds go to the Sean O’Shea Foundation programs for at-risk youth.
YOGA ROCKS THE PARK – SAN DIEGO – A SPECIAL YOGA DAY IN THE PARK - COMING SEPTEMBER 13th
In Partnership and to benefit the Sean O’Shea Foundation
This fun class will be led by Yoga teacher Michael Fukumura, and accompanied by musician, DTO. Both these awesome people and friends of the foundation will be donating their time to help raise funds for the Sean O’Shea Foundation programs for at-risk youth in San Diego County. Thank you YRP for sharing the day and the proceeds with SOSF. You ROCK Giselle! http://www.yogarocksthepark.com/san-diego.html
Special Thanks to SOSF Ambassadors From Spring 2015:
Yoga Del Mar – Leila Currah & Katrina Smith
Ashtanga Yoga Center – Tim Miller
Dang Good Yoga – Heather Graff & DTO
SEAN O’SHEA FOUNDATION WISH LIST FOR JUNE:
Pastel colored cardstock paper – used for kids nametags and poetic bookmarkers
Sharpie pens – all colors but especially black – used by teachers
Gift cards to Trader Joes, Sprouts, or Jimbo’s – used for healthy snacks for kids.
Gift cards to Staples or Office Depot– for curriculum supplies.
Eye pillows – gifted to Kids with Cancer to help them sleep. Must be new!
If You Are Interested in Supporting the Work of SOSF:
Contact us at Namaste@seanosheafoundation.org to volunteer, join a committee, become an assistant in the classroom or apply to be a yoga teacher or a Board Member. Volunteer applications for our programs or to volunteer can be found on our website.
THIS IS A NONPROFIT THAT RUNS ON LOVE, SWEAT AND COMMUNITY SUPPORT!
To donate to our cause please go to: www.Seanosheafoundation.org and donate via PayPal or credit card.
THE SEAN O’SHEA FOUNDATION IS A 2014 TOP RATED NONPROFIT BY GREATNONPROFITS.COM AND SELECTED AS THE 2014 BEST OF OCEANSIDE AWARD IN THE COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL SERVICES CATEGORY
"A person experiences life as something separated from the rest - a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. Our task must be to free ourselves from this self-imposed prison, and through compassion, to find the reality of Oneness." ~ Albert Einstein