Child’s pose for Durham children

By Abby Moore
UNC-CH Staff Writer
The Durham VOICE

In the spring of 2009, Eastway Elementary School counselor Ingrid Saddler-Walker decided to go to the gym and take a yoga class. During the class Saddler-Walker had an idea: Why not use yoga to help children calm down?

School counselor Ingrid Saddler-Walker also teaches yoga classes to adults at the W.D. Hill Recreation Center in Durham on Wednesday evenings. (Staff photo by Abby Moore)

Three years later, Saddler-Walker is starting Wytha Balance Yoga Camp to help children learn how to relax, handle behavior problems, such as ADHD, and respond to stressful situations in a nonviolent way.

Saddler-Walker, a single mother of two boys, says her work as a counselor exposed her to many children who struggled with ADHD, and she wanted to find a better way to help them. After her initial yoga class, Saddler-Walker approached the instructor about children’s yoga.

“I asked if they had any children’s yoga classes, and she said no,” Saddler-Walker says. “So I went home, got on the Internet and found a class in Virginia.”

Saddler-Walker, a Durham resident, drove four hours to Virginia once a month for six months to become certified in Radiant Child Yoga, a yoga program tailored specifically to children. After becoming certified, Saddler-Walker began teaching yoga to children at after-school programs, where she saw how much the children enjoyed it.

“The boys find it difficult at first, but when it comes to a week after doing it, they tend to be the first ones to come get their mats,” Saddler-Walker says. “Because I keep it childlike, and I keep it fun, that really helps them to buy in.”

And when it comes to “shavasana“, the resting period at the end of the yoga exercise, Saddler-Walker says the children become so calm that she sometimes has to walk around and wake them up.

Saddler-Walker’s Wytha Balance Yoga Camp will last six weeks from June 18 to August 3 and will use art, drama, dance and yoga to engage children ages 7 to 10. The camp will take place at the UDI building on N. Mangum Street and costs $80 per week. Saddler-Walker hopes the camp will be fun and innovative, but also help empower the campers.

Durham resident Benecia Brooks begins to stretch as she listens to yoga instructor Ingrid Saddler-Walker during the yoga class. (Staff photo by Abby Moore)

“Yoga helps the kids to calm down and relax,” Saddler-Walker says. “But it almost always makes them feel good about themselves.”

Saddler-Walker is partnering with Lenora Smith and Joyce Kline to offer campers and their parents more than just yoga classes. Smith, who works with the Partnership Efforts for the Advancement of Children’s Health (PEACH) project in Durham, will educate children and parents on the negative effects of lead poisoning. Kline, owner of the local business A Parenting Touch, will provide parenting classes one evening each week of the camp.

“They will learn skills, whatever the topic may be, that will relate to what the children have learned each day,” Saddler-Walker says.

Saddler-Walker also teaches an adult yoga class at W. D. Hill Recreation Center on Wednesday at 6:15 p.m.. Benecia Brooks, a Durham resident, had her first yoga experience in Saddler-Walker’s adult class.

“I’ve been coming to the class for four weeks,” Brooks says. “And I love it.”

Saddler-Walker enjoys teaching adults, but she is excited about the children’s yoga camp because she believes it’s something the children in the community need.

“Because of the environment and the things going on around the children, knowing how to calm themselves down and how to deal with some of the trauma that they’ve been introduced to is important,” Saddler-Walker says. “They need to know how to respond in a nonviolent way.”

And Saddler-Walker hopes yoga will help. To register for the yoga camp or for more information, Ingrid Saddler-Walker can be reached through her email address or by phone at (919)423-8844.

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8 thoughts on “Child’s pose for Durham children

  1. Lenora Smith says:

    This is a great article about the camp and I commend Abbey on doing such a great job. I need to clarify that I did not start PEACH in 1996. PEACH was a partnership between North Carolina Central University, North East Central Durham Reinvestment Board and PAC 1 in 1998.

  2. Valerie Whitted says:

    Ingrid Saddler-Walker has always given back to her community and this camp is but the latest in her long list of contributions. I have known her most of my life, and am so proud of the work she has done and continues to do on a daily basis in her job at Eastway Elementary, and now this project…what a Wonder Woman!

    Hopefully her efforts will be embraced and suppported by the citizens of Durham.

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