“We provide services for people with autism and developmental disabilities, so that they can lead more fulfilling lives,” says Dodie Daniels, executive director of the group and the mother of two children with autism.
Founded in 2012 by Debbie Stone, whose eleven-year-old son, Dylan is autistic, Pop.Earth currently employs a staff of eighteen interns, certified yoga instructors, Reiki masters and those who have worked in the field of special education. They are dispatched to work at homes, schools, and outlets like The Little Gym of Merrick, JCC of Oceanside, and the Nassau County Police Athletic League's Special Needs Unit.
Daniels says yoga is making a positive difference in the lives of their student population.
“From session to session and the start to end of a program, we see how much calmer and relaxed they are,” says Daniels. The forty-minute classes and moves aren’t quite as complicated as in regular yoga classes, she says.
“Routines are very structured, we use visuals and integrate Reiki and aromatherapy, which helps refocus and center our students,” she says. “It’s good, low-impact exercise, keeps kids moving, and gives them a sense of accomplishment when they get through class.”
With a roster of volunteers, including teens, who help out each week, and a successful fundraising dinner this spring, Daniels is optimistic that Pop.Earth’s mission and services will continue to spread.
“We have a franchise mentality. We ran programs in Colorado last summer and are in conversations with folks in Florida, Texas and California,” says Daniels.