The Power of She is a movement calling women and girls to stand together, collaborate, and celebrate our collective strength. Let’s lift our fellow sisters and help each other realize our limitless potential. In this story, one young woman finds her Power of Potential through her mom’s club, which envisions a society enriched by the inclusion of individuals with Down syndrome.
When Audrey’s daughter, Estelle, was born with Down syndrome, she immediately reached out to other parents who could understand. The group met weekly, but soon dreamed of forming a more official community for parents of kids with Down syndrome. That’s when Club 21 was born. With the help of other members, Audrey provides educational tools and resources that enable individuals with Down syndrome to be fully included. Through a partnership with local studio Rose City Yoga and mentorship from instructors like Kimi and Mel, Estelle and her friends have discovered their limitless potential.
Watch their story about the Power of Potential, then read on to learn more about how these inspirational women are creating a world where everyone is welcome.
Q: What are some of the responses you’ve received from other parents who have discovered Club 21?
The first response is often tears! Tears of relief – I am not alone. Tears of gratitude – someone will show me the way. We hear again and again from new families how wonderful it felt to have someone at Club 21 say, “Congratulations on your beautiful new baby.” For many families it’s the first and only time they’ll hear those words.
Many of our parents share that when they first learned they were having a child with Down syndrome they felt alone, scared and overwhelmed. After discovering Club 21, and spending time with others on the path, those same parents share how those initial feelings start to fade and are replaced with feelings of hope and belonging. Soon they are imagining a life full of possibilities, a life to be valued, a life to be celebrated.
Q: Was there a lightbulb moment when you decided to connect Club 21 and yoga?
I was in the midst of launching a new Club 21 program and while feeling all the stress that comes with that,I decided I needed a yoga break. That’s when it hit me! In all my years of health and fitness, I had yet to share the studio with a person that had Down syndrome?! That needed to change, and it did with the help and support of Rose City Yoga. Kimi and Mel were thrilled to partner with Club 21.
Q: How have you seen Estelle progress since her first yoga class to now?
Estelle has made great progress since her first “mat moment.” She now possesses an inner calm and confidence both on and off the mat. It’s a joy to see her independently use deep breathing strategies to reduce stress and stay focused. It’s not uncommon for her to roll out her mat and practice a favorite pose or two when she needs a body break.
Q: What does Club 21’s future look like?
Club 21 will continue to grow by providing valued programs and services to our families.
We are striving to add new programs and expand our reach regionally in order to better serve the variety of needs from infancy to adulthood. Club 21’s vision is that society will see individuals with Down syndrome as valuable and contributing members of society.
Q: Kimi, what have you learned about yourself from teaching classes for Club 21?
I have learned to practice more compassion and non-attachment in my own practice. As I watch the kids practice at Club 21, they have absolutely no attachments to the postures, the practice, or idealizations of what the practice is “supposed” to look like. The kids are simply present, eager to practice, and to learn and grow without any expectations. When the pressure of performing or expectation is taken away, how much more can we enjoy the journey of our practice and the journey of our lives?
Q: And Mel, what have the Club 21 kids taught you?
Our Club 21 yogis teach me so many things! But what I really love, is that they are so wonderfully open to each experience with a sense of joy and curiosity, and that goes beyond their yoga practice. What a beautiful and interesting way to approach all that the world has to offer us. Just be curious, and give it a shot.
Q: We heard that recently, Estelle drew a picture of her yoga poses and asked Audrey to share it with you. How did the picture make you feel?
KIMI + MEL:
As yoga teachers, you don’t always get feedback or know if you’re making an impact on your students – you hope! When we received Estelle’s drawings, it was all we could do to not cry. Our hearts melt every time Estelle shares her love for yoga with us. It is truly such an honor to know we are playing a small part in her yoga journey. It is those moments that make it all worthwhile.
Q: You have your own studio, Rose City Yoga, but you do more than yoga through your community partnerships. Why is it important to you to look outside the studio?
KIMI + MEL:
Rose City Yoga was born out of the desire to create community in Pasadena through yoga. We first partnered with local non-profit organizations — that’s when we learned a lot of organizations would like a yoga program to complement their current outreach efforts, but may not have it within their budget to implement one. Our yoga classes and events enable us to provide these free yoga programs to our community partners. For us, our vision has always been more than just a studio. We wanted a space where just by showing up and practicing on your mat, you could be contributing and making a difference in your community. Your practice would have a purpose!
Q: What does Power Of She mean to you and why are you excited to be a part of this campaign?
The Power of She and this campaign resonates with us on so many levels – as women, as yogis, as business owners, as friends – we are here to lift each other up! Rose City Yoga is all about collaboration: how can we be of service, what can we do, can we do more? And as yoga teachers, we are always looking for ways to connect with our students, whether it is our adult classes or our Club 21 kids: how can we empower them, how can we encourage them and how can we hold space for them to realize the power that lies within. We are stronger together, and when a group of thoughtful, intelligent and compassionate women unite — there is nothing we can’t do.
Q: Estelle, do you have a favorite yoga pose?
Yes, my favorite yoga pose is tree. It’s fun to stand up and put your foot on your knee.
Q: How do you feel after a yoga class?
I feel relaxed.
Q: What else do you like to do besides yoga?
I like to swim, walk my dog, and go on hikes.
Q: What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be a veterinarian and help animals feel better.
Want to get involved? Consider donating to Club 21 and learn about other ways to get involved on their website. You can also hear more from Audrey about how we can all work together to promote and teach acceptance.