In 2016, Stefania Maiale underwent a kidney transplant due to a genetic disease at the age of 36. The teacher at the time had a 6-year-old son as well as a three-year-old yoga studio.

Maiale, who lives in Montgomery County, recalled it was a difficult time in her life, but felt lucky to have yoga available to her as a tool to help her manage the demands.

“I was able to take what I already knew – self-reflection, breathing exercises,” she said Maiale. “Taking a step back with the physical meant I had to step forward with the mental part and the breath work.”

Yoga helped her deal with stress through self-reflection and acceptance that she couldn’t change her situation.

  • Camp Rainbow offers yoga to address the social and emotional learning aspects of camp. (photo sent)

  • Stefania Maiale, owner of Collegeville Yoga Bar and yoga volunteer...

    Stefania Maiale, owner of Collegeville Yoga Bar and volunteer yoga instructor at Camp Rainbow. (photo sent)

  • Yoga can serve as a tool for children to help...

    Yoga can serve as a tool for children to help them calm down, regroup and evaluate. (Credit: Yan Krukov)

  • Yoga can teach children to center themselves to achieve...

    Yoga can teach children to center themselves to achieve a sense of calm. (Photo by Yan Krukov)

“It was, ‘how do I see my role in this situation and how can I do it in a less stressful way?'” she said. “A lot of it was just working on perception.”

She was first drawn to the practice of yoga in her twenties when she was introduced to it by her cousin. She went to the gym regularly, but was looking for another form of exercise that could give her a greater level of flexibility. She learned to love personalization in the process of incorporating this new practice into her life.

“I saw where I was and where I could be with practice, but it wasn’t a competition,” she said. “It was your own growth and you were responsible for it.”

Maiale, who is now 42, has also learned to see how practicing yoga can positively impact her life beyond her time on the mat.

“It’s stressful being an adult and then parenting and growing old,” she said. “It’s a lot to navigate when you don’t know what to do with it, between stress, work, family, growing up and being an adult, paying bills.”

Since she was already a teacher, she was drawn to getting her certification, so she headed to the Berkshires in Massachusetts to finish it and eventually opened her own studio, Collegeville Yoga Bar, in 2013.

She decided to get two additional certifications centered on children’s yoga, to enable her to teach in an after-school club at her elementary school. It was also a way to address the emotional issues of her adopted son.

“My son had chemically dependent parents, so he has mood issues, attention issues and expressive language delay,” Maiale said. “

She felt that yoga could provide her with the skills to cope.

“Sometimes even in adults, but especially in children, it’s very difficult to develop skills to calm down, regroup or assess,” she said. It helps to do the different breathing exercises and poses – it’s very beneficial for this purpose.

Given her son’s personal situation, Maiale heard of a camp, Camp Rainbow in Schwenksville, that could offer him support.

“He’s on Medicaid for health reasons and it’s a summer camp for kids on Medicaid,” she said. “That’s how I found out about this camp.”

The camp’s mission is to provide a safe physical and emotional overnight camping experience for deserving children in Montgomery County. They aim to contribute to the positive development of youth and adolescents which, in turn, will help children grow into successful and productive adults.

Maiale’s son Jacob, now 11, started attending the camp and in 2018 she began volunteering there as a yoga teacher. She felt this could be helpful for campers to enable them to better cope with the environment they live in or any behavioral diagnoses they may have.

“In this demographic, your home environment isn’t always the calmest scenario, and sometimes it’s necessary to take a little retreat with yourself,” she said.

Yoga can teach anyone, even children, how to do this.

“You can have this toolkit for yourself because life is tough and getting centered is very calming,” she said. “Life is also stressful for children.”

For the past four years, Maiale has offered a one-hour lesson to elementary school children at least twice a week at the camp. Kim Murphy, the camp director, said that from the second grade, the children learn to love it.

“Yoga just adds to the very purpose of why we run Camp Rainbow – to help children,” Murphy said. “It really helps kids look at themselves and then be able to say, ‘I feel better after this and more relaxed after this.

During their week-long stay, the children have the opportunity to expose themselves to many different things. Murphy said a lot of kids don’t have access to things like yoga and going to a real camp.

“They’re doing yoga, gardening, hanging out in the stream, running in the field,” Murphy said. “They’re all having these first experiences and I’m really grateful that yoga can be a part of that.”

Yoga addresses the social and emotional learning aspect of camp.

“You really want to be able to recognize what other people are feeling and what you’re feeling,” Murphy said. “It’s fun to see the chain reaction of how good yoga is for you – it’s awesome.”

Rainbow camp

Camp Rainbow operates for six weeks during the summer months, providing a six-day, five-night experience to selected children who would not otherwise have had the opportunity to attend summer camp. The camp is situated on 18 acres on the scenic Perkiomen Stream in Lower Salford Township. There are twenty buildings on site for various activities, including six cabins for sleeping, a new dining hall for meals, an arts and crafts pavilion, an outdoor basketball pavilion, a carpentry pavilion, a medical building and an office. The swimming pool overlooks the lower ground where many activities take place. Water activities are also available and take place on the Perkiomen stream. The Perkiomen trail runs along the camp property.

Source: Rainbow Camp

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