Ascend Academy has recently begun to offer a Trauma-Based Yoga Club to its high-school students. The 60-minute class, held weekly, is an opportunity for children to work through past trauma in an environment that is healthy, safe, nurturing and fun.

The class caters to students who have experienced trauma of any kind, from an isolated experience, such as a car accident or death of a loved one, to an ongoing one, such as an illness or abuse. “Trauma looks different for different people,” explains Andrea Kupferman, the program director at Connection Coalition or “CoCo,” the organization that is partnering with Ascend to bring yoga to its students. “The important thing is that kids have the tools to create a space within themselves to manage it.”

Like typical yoga classes, the sessions encompass yoga postures, mindfulness, meditation and breathing techniques. But there’s more to it, explains Kupferman. “While yoga in general is healing on profound levels, trauma-informed yoga has the additional component of how adverse childhood experiences affect the physiology of the body, how unhealed trauma manifests in behaviors, and how to connect with youth who experience adversity on a no-shame, no-blame, no-judgment plane.”

CoCo was brought to Ascend Academy in Margate due to the efforts of Diana Rice, Ascend’s crisis intervention counselor who was hired thanks to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act of 2018. Among other safety measures, the act calls for increased funding to improve and expand mental health services in Florida schools. “Many students throughout our county have suffered and will suffer some sort of trauma throughout their lives,” says Rice. “I knew how yoga helped me. I started researching yoga in schools, contacted CoCo and invited them to tour our school.”

Rice is adamant about the positive effects of not only yoga, but of holistic therapy in general for helping children work though their feelings and preventing teen violence, such as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting of February 2018.

“It took a tragedy in our county to wake up our school system and now it is mandatory for all who work in the schools to have online training along with mental health first aid. This is something that should have been done decades ago for prevention. Hopefully now with these new policies in place, we will be more into prevention than dealing with painful consequences.” For her, the Trauma-Based Yoga Club is a giant step in the direction of the prevention she so fervently believes in.

CoCo, founded in Miami, has been bringing yoga programs to schools, shelters, rehabilitation facilities and other venues for over 15 years. To learn about bringing CoCo into your organization or to inquire about sponsoring a program, visit the or email Andrea Kupferman at


©2019 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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