Anne Dupee: Oms for All

By Paige Smith Orloff Every Thursday afternoon, a small
group of men and women, ages ranging from 25 to 82, gathers at a
downtown studio for a private yoga class, which includes sun
salutes, chanting, and other elements of a traditional hatha yoga
practice. But this class is far from traditional. Many who are
waiting to enter the high-ceilinged studio use wheelchairs. All
have some form of developmental disability, from Down’s syndrome to
cerebral palsy. The class forms the core of a new program developed
by the 25-year-old Anne Lesley Dupee, health and wellness
coordinator for local nonprofit United Cerebral Palsy/Work, Inc.,
which provides housing, training, and support to developmentally
disabled adults.

Dupee, raised in British Columbia, began working as a caregiver
to disabled adults during college, to pay her expenses while
studying theater and costume design.

One of her first clients, a 33-year-old man with cerebral palsy,
inspired her to create the “Yoga and Wellness” program. “He taught
me about patience and humility and what it’s like to live life from
a wheelchair,” she said. “I really started to notice these
range-of-motion exercises we did every day. He wasn’t doing yoga
per se, but because of these exercises he was in so much better
shape and a lot less pain” than others with similar conditions.
When Dupee left Canada nearly two years ago, “searching for
sunshine,” she said, “I stopped in every little town along the West
Coast. When I came across Santa Barbara, I found open doors and
warm welcomes.” She stumbled upon UCP/Work Inc. while looking for
another nearby nonprofit’s office, and was hired as an independent
living instructor. Her superiors supported the idea of a yoga
program, and helped her find Emily Kligerman, who teaches the
classes. The two of them, Dupee said, have worked closely to create
the program and find its funding, which comes from the Balm
Foundation as well as UCP/Work Inc.

Ironically, Dupee wasn’t much of a yogi at first; her taste in
exercise runs more to capoeira, the Brazilian amalgam of dance and
martial arts. But she believes that yoga is ideal for her clients:
“Yoga meets each person wherever they are emotionally or
physically. If all they do is breathing to start, then that’s their
yoga and they just build from that.” Her greatest joy is seeing
students take their training out of the studio and into their
lives. One woman with, as Dupee put it, “anger management issues,”
astonished her social worker when she defused a tense situation by
chanting “Shanti, shanti” (“peace”), just as she learned in

Dupee said the program succeeds when clients learn to “listen to
their own voices and pay attention to their own bodies.” This kind
of inward focus can benefit everyone, stated Dupee. “I don’t know
that it even matters if it’s yoga — if you’re doing something over
time, 10 minutes of your day to meditate, 10 minutes of your day to
do yoga, the difference that makes is like compound interest on

4•1•1: Contact Anne Dupee at 708-1901.


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