SOBC yoga and dance training created physical and social well-being

Emcee Bernie Pascall joined athletes performing their dance in the SOBC Anniversary Ceremony.
Emcee Bernie Pascall joined athletes performing their dance in the SOBC Anniversary Ceremony.

To help us stay active in these unique times, Special Olympics BC has been offering virtual initiatives for athletes that combine physical health with the ability to connect with others from around the province. Athletes have been moving to the beat in weekly dance workout sessions, and strengthening their mind and body in the SOBC Yoga Club.

The dance training involved athletes meeting weekly with instructors on Zoom throughout October and November. They engaged in meaningful movement that got the hearts rates up. Together they choreographed a routine that they performed in the SOBC Anniversary Ceremony.

Led by inclusive dance educator Ashlee Davidson, these sessions provided athletes with a place to meet online with friends and help improve their cardio, agility, movement, and flexibility.

“Dance speaks to our hearts, it invites people to express themselves through movement, and fosters a special connection amongst the participants that allows for such a joyous experience to emerge. In particular with [this initiative], one takeaway was the level of kindness and energy shared amongst the group, even in a virtual setting, was remarkable,” says Davidson.

Armed with her master’s degree in Arts for Social Change Education, knowledge of Dance Movement Therapy, and 15 years of teaching experience, Davidson pursued her dream of creating Heart of D-A-N-C-E, a company that provides un-intimidating, empowering programs to an inclusive community.

SOBC – Smithers athlete Torben Schuffert enthusiastically participated in the weekly training sessions and recital. “I feel happy when I dance, I loved seeing some of my friends that went to Nationals with me, and their cats too!” he said. Schuffert’s cat Mozart was among the special guest performers.

SOBC – Smithers snowshoeing coach and parent Sandra Schuffert noticed an improvement in Torben’s confidence as he became bolder in his dance moves after a few weeks.

“There is an opportunity to interact with athletes and teachers/coaches that the athletes really crave right now. There is a chance to learn something new. … There are no geographical barriers,” says Sandra.

Watch the inspiring dance performances here, as part of the SOBC Anniversary Ceremony.

SOBC also offered a Virtual Yoga Club this fall, to help athletes stay strong and flexible while working on mental wellness. This was a four-week series, where athletes met on Zoom for one hour each week to learn and train with mental performance consultant and certified yoga instructor Shelbi Snodgrass.

SOBC Yoga Club instructor Shelbi Snodgrass walking athletes through breathing exercises.
SOBC Yoga Club instructor Shelbi Snodgrass walking athletes through breathing exercises.

SOBC’s Yoga Club taught the basics of yoga, but welcomed athletes of all abilities.

"My hope for the SOBC Yoga Club is to provide a safe and inclusive space for athletes to explore their mind, body, breath connection, and uncover what yoga means to them each day they show up on their mat," says Snodgrass. 

Snodgrass is completing her master’s degree in counselling psychology at Athabasca University. She has spent the last five years working as a mental health and addictions counsellor for a private national organization. Additionally, she is a 200-hour registered yoga teacher and has developed yoga programs for her mental health organization.

Snodgrass is currently a mental performance consultant intern with Douglas College athletes, where she combines her passion for mental health, mindfulness, and performance.

The yoga sessions allowed athletes to discover additional methods of staying fit, active, and flexible, all while introducing mental wellness techniques.

SOBC – Kamloops athlete Adam Brugger welcomed the additional opportunities, saying, “I like doing different things instead of the treadmill, so this was a fun and exciting change.”

If you’re looking for welcoming yoga sessions to enjoy on your own, check out the practices Snodgrass created specifically for the SOBC community! Please click here.

Learn about future SOBC health events and programs by following us on social media and visiting the Upcoming Health Opportunities page.