OLD LYME, Conn. (WTNH) – “Yoga is a union of mind, body and spirit,” said instructor Heidi Ceplenski as she began leading a class in the fields of High Hopes Therapeutic Riding Center.
It’s a practice in mindfulness where nature meets science, in a bucolic setting, surrounded by beauty.
“We wanted to do something around adult trauma resilience and recovery,” she said, explaining a unique program called Yoga for Life. It was created by Ceplenski who owns Mobility Works in Deep River.
The class takes place at High Hopes in Old Lyme, a new venture for this location known for its therapeutic horse riding sessions for those with special needs.
“I would say specifically post-COVID, the community need for programming that supports mental health has been immense,” said program director Chelsea Bourne.
So, High Hopes adapted, offering this 45-minute yoga class, followed by another 45 minutes of work with horses like a mare named Penny.
“Horses are really cool partners for work like this,” said Bourne. “They have a very different brain structure than we do. So, many of the things that humans aren’t very good at, horses are extraordinary at. They can remind us to stay in the moment.”
Participants – mostly women who are caretakers of children or parents – say this class is transformative.
“The evenings that I do this, I sleep better. There’s something so therapeutic about touching these magnificent animals,” said Jean Golicz of Old Saybrook.
“Women often keep it moving and compartmentalize, we don’t take a lot of time for ourselves,” said Rebecca Kitchell of Northford.
It’s a bonding experience that’s all about peace and healing.
“It’s a profound experience to be an observer when I’m watching each of the students come in week after week, to really see their body language and their faces relaxing,” said Ceplenski. “Magic, it’s magic. What happens here is really unbelievable.”
Up to eight women can participate in each Yoga for Life session and there are more of the nine week sessions coming up at High Hopes in Old Lyme.