Sonia Sumar, The Founder
How It All Began
Sonia Sumar began teaching Yoga for children with special needs after her daughter Roberta was born with Down Syndrome in 1972. Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder characterized by mental retardation and other developmental delays. Sonia noticed many positive changes in Roberta from using Yoga, so in 1975 she became a Certified Yoga Teacher. At that time, she dreamed of visiting India to find a living Guru to help her deepen her Sadhana, her spiritual practice. However, she was unable to afford it. Her favorite Yoga teacher was Sri Swami Sivananda. Much of his work was already available in Brazil where she lived, so Sonia followed his teachings through his books.
In 1976, the owner of the Yoga center where Sonia taught hosted a disciple of Swami Sivananda. His name was Swami Nadabramananda. Sonia learned a great deal during his week-long workshop at the Yoga center. Being in the presence of such a teacher was an amazing experience for Sonia, especially since he came from Rishikesh, the city where Guru Sivananda used to live.
In 1980, Sonia Sumar opened her own Yoga Center, "Nucleo Cultural Sivananda," the Sivananda Cultural Center. By then her work with Yoga for the Special Child had spread so much that she was receiving invitations to give conferences and workshops throughout Brazil as well as in South America and Europe.
In 1988, Sonia traveled to India for the first time and visited several holy temples and ashrams. She was honored at being in the presence of many holy teachers; however, she did not feel the spiritual connection she had expected. She learned a great deal during her first pilgrimage to India but nevertheless returned to Brazil feeling frustrated at not having found her Guru.
In 1989, she received a very special gift, a visit from Mataji Indra Devi, who spent one week at her house and gave several lectures at her Yoga center. It was a blessing to receive that darshan/, that spiritual gift. That same year, Sonia participated in the International Yoga Congress held in Argentina. A woman there approached and informed her that Mataji Indra Devi had recommended her Guru visit Brazil the following year to see Sonia's Yoga center. The Guru had been a friend of Mataji for more than 20 years. The woman asked if Sonia would host him during his stay in Brazil. Sonia happily agreed, completely unaware that meeting this Guru would change her life forever!
In 1990, she returned to Argentina to lecture at the International Yoga Congress and teach Yoga for the Special Child again. She was asked to say a few words at the opening of the Congress. The visiting Guru she was to host, Sri Swami Satchidananda, was also there with his very good friend Mataji. As Sonia stopped in front of the Guru to say hello, his eyes looked deeply into hers. Her heart opened, her soul was deeply touched, and she knew that she had finally found her Guru. It was not in a cave in India, nor along the banks of the Ganges River, nor even at the feet of the Himalayas as she had dreamed. She met her Guru on the stage of a Yoga Congress!
From that day on, she decided to be as close to him as much as possible and follow his guidance on her path. While in Brazil, he invited Sonia to visit him in the United States. A year later she went. He gave her his blessings and told her she would be very busy teaching Yoga for the Special Child Programs and traveling intensely to train people to work with children and adults with disabilities. Another surprise for Sonia was realizing that Gurudev was a disciple of Swami Sivananda. She feels so grateful and blessed that Swami Sivananda lead her to her Guru.
Sonia's life dream is to help the world's special children achieve their full potential and become active and productive members of society. Nothing can better express her success than the letters she receives from the parents of her students.
Sonia holds a Bachelor's Degree in Education and has taught at elementary school level. She has conducted workshops and addressed special education programs and symposia in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Oceania, and India. In 1980, she founded the Integral Yoga Center of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, now headed by her daughter Renata. In 2001, Sonia opened the U.S. Headquarters of Yoga for the Special Child, Satchidananda Yoga Center, in Evanston, Illinois. She currently resides in Florida. Sonia continues teaching children and adults and offers her specialized training courses to Yoga teachers and other professionals worldwide.
Her book Yoga for the Special Child has been published in English, Portuguese, and Chinese. Spanish translations will soon be available. The eBook is available in English.
Sonia is a recognized member of: Yoga Alliance E-RYT and E-RCYT; IYTA - Integral Yoga Teachers Association and IAYT -- International Association of Yoga Therapists.