Yoga program ends after funding dries up

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Come summer, 2,400 children in the borough will lose access to their mainstays outside of school.THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano
Come summer, 2,400 children in the borough will lose access to their mainstays outside of school.

For students at the Queens Centers For Progress’ Apple Tree Nursery School, a little bit of exercise and concentration can go a long way.

But due to a lack of funding, the program that helped move these children has come to a grinding halt.

On Thursday, April 25, Lauren Kahn’s pre-school class sat together for its last session with Ruth Finkelstein, a certified yoga instructor and social worker.

“This has given them the experience they won’t have at home,” said Kahn. “No matter your disability, everybody could participate on their own level.”

The three-year-old yoga program’s funding from a private foundation grant will run out at the end of the school year.
Nancy Glass, director of children’s services at Apple Tree, hopes to find other funds to continue the popular class.

“It’s a wonderful program,” said Glass. “The children respond very positively to it. It has adapted to each child’s physical ability.”

Apple Tree offers nursery school and pre-kindergarten classes to children with and without developmental disabilities.

During her time at the school, Finkelstein worked with Apple Tree students who have partial to total lack of movement and various mental disabilities. She also worked with the students’ speech, occupational and physical therapists to cater yoga methods to students’ individual needs.

The courses were divided into sections focusing on breathing, movement and song. Along with getting the students to move, the yoga program provided a relaxing time that allowed them to focus the rest of the day and take directions from others.

“This is very important because it teaches them structure and eye-hand coordination,” said Finkelstein. “It’s really special. I found that all the children loved it.”

With the program coming to a close, Finkelstein will work at a children’s health clinic that is helping patients deal with obesity. Still, the yoga instructor hopes Apple Tree teachers, therapists and directors will find a way to continue the classes.

“We made it work for them,” said Finkelstein. “I learned more from them than they ever learned from me.”