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Special School District of St. Louis County

Fit Abilities:
Yoga Program Supports Student Success

Yoga is about mind-body connection. For students who are visually impaired, yoga can provide the added benefit of helping develop awareness of where they are in space – an important skill in navigating the world without sight.

Natasha Baebler, who is legally blind and has a passion for adaptable yoga, teaches Fit Abilities, a yoga program that helps students address visual needs as well as social emotional needs.

Helping people understand how their body moves and the relationship the body has to space is important to Baebler. “These are crucial skills when navigating the world with a cane or a guide dog,” she said. “I want the kids to feel what it is like to move freely and confidently. I want them to know where they are in space and to help that next step be a little less awkward.”

The Fit Abilities Program began with a successful six-week pilot at Griffith Elementary in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, and has since expanded to a 12-week after-school program.

“Yoga makes me strong and it feels relaxing,” said Carter Clay, a student at Griffith who is participating in his second session of Fit Abilities.

Julie Johnson and Bonnie Lenz, SSD teachers of the visually impaired, developed the program with Baebler. They said yoga helps students focus, self-calm and re-energize for learning opportunities.

“I thought exposing our students to Natasha, who travels with a guide dog, would be a perfect opportunity for them to see an empowering person in our community with visual impairments,” said Johnson. “We thought it was important for our students to see someone in a leadership position that could relate to their experiences.”

The students’ enthusiasm has grown, according to Baebler. They are becoming more actively engaged in songs, games and discussions. High-energy songs are used to help students have an outlet for both stress and energy.

Shamya Cook, a first-grade student at Walnut Grove Elementary School in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, said, “Yoga helps me to breathe and to focus my brain.”

Baebler received a variety of services from SSD through the Lindbergh School District when she was in second through eighth grades.

After dealing with her own struggles, she opened her own studio, U Can Do Yoga (UD Yoga) to help individuals with disabilities gain benefits from yoga.

Fit Abilities is open to students of all ages. In addition to Griffith Elementary, the program is also being offered at Kennerly Elementary in the Lindbergh School District.

The next Fit Abilities sessions begin in January at Griffith and Kennerly. For more information, contact SSD teachers Julie Johnson at or Bonnie Lenz at  For more information on UD Yoga, visit

Published January 2017

Fit Abilities yoga class

Fit Abilities yoga class

Fit Abilities yoga class

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12110 Clayton Rd, Town & Country, MO 63131  /  314.989.8100  /  314.989.8552 – 711 (Missouri Relay)

Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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