by Patrick Galbincea

The newest initiative of the Return To Golf® program is already proving to be a resounding success.  Adaptive Yoga was established to provide additional rehabilitation-based fitness opportunities for program participants during the winter months at the Wharton Golf Center.  The initiative, which began as an off-season pilot program, has shown so much success that it will now become a year round offering.

Adaptive Yoga has become a weekly activity for program participant Colin Smith, a LaGrange resident and graduate of Avon Lake High School who at age 19 was hit by an armor piercing bullet in the left side of his head while serving in Iraq.  “The damage he suffered holds the right side of his body back,” said his mother, Melissa. “It’s a miracle he is alive. When he discovered the Return To Golf® program this past summer, he made an instant friend in program director Trevor Hazen because like Trevor, Colin can’t sit still and he likes golf…now our whole family golfs.”  Colin was the only non-golfer in his family before entering the military.

Colin was first introduced to the Return To Golf® program during a group visit with the Veterans Administration.  “Trevor had me hitting golf balls not long after becoming involved here, and I liked it,” said Colin.  “I love the yoga sessions. It’s helped me with my flexibility and keeps me more relaxed.”

Program director Trevor Hazen admits he was skeptical when he first tried yoga.  “My perception was, I can’t do this,” Hazen said. “But very quickly I became comfortable and the benefits of yoga were obvious.  We found the right person in Judith, the feedback I’ve received has far exceeded my expectations.”

Much of the success of the Adaptive Yoga program is due to the interesting presentations of Judith Eugene, founder of the yoga-based Loving Hands Group in Cleveland Heights.  Eugene, who has a company motto of “Healing Arts for Happy Hearts,” said her mission is to address people’s spirit and minds in addition to the body.   She often finds individuals mental and emotional needs fall through the cracks with other body-mending methods.

“I’ve found that yoga and golf parallel each other with physical poses,” said Eugene.  “My mountain pose in yoga relaxes individuals and also loosens muscles.   It teaches good posture, even for those in wheelchairs.  It flows really well for golfers. Yoga and golf are a natural complement.”

Eugene was discovered by Gina Babinec, the program’s fitness coordinator. “We were lucky to find Judith,” Babinec said. “She can seamlessly merge yoga to the game of golf but, most importantly, her instruction can improve everyone’s overall mental and physical well-being.”

Adaptive Yoga has had an incredible impact on the Return To Golf® program.  Each session ends with meditation in a darkened room, where participants are asked to focus on thinking positive thoughts — happy moments in life, personal victories, doing the best you can do, and what you can be grateful for in life.  “Several individuals have told me how the yoga exercises have helped them improve physically,” said Hazen.  “But most importantly, it’s also had a positive effect on their mental health.  Statements like that are truly moving!”