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HEAL Blfo makes room for kids at its yoga retreat next Sunday

It wasn’t enough for Jennifer Russo to change the focus of her life by moving back to Buffalo from Denver three years ago and embracing yoga.

The West Seneca native, a trained special education teacher, wanted to share the practice with others – including kids.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with kids,” Russo told me during an interview for this weekend’s Healthy Response feature in WNY Refresh. “Yoga was a life-changing experience for me. It helped me get through a difficult time in my life. It’s very healing, very powerful. I wish I’d had yoga back in middle school, at a younger age, to deal with issues I struggled with self-confidence. It’s why I want to teach it to kids.”

HEAL Bflo – created earlier this year by Jocelyn Kowalczyk and Cheryl Scheff – also was launched in the same sharing spirit.

HEAL – an acronym for Health, Energy, Art, Love – drew hundreds of people to the Foundry Hotel & Suites on Elmwood Avenue in February for its first yoga retreat, which featured hot yoga, a workshop on nutrition and the chance for the public to show up and peruse artwork and health and wellness fare.

Kids yoga was missing from the equation, but it won’t be next Sunday at the Marcy Casino in Delaware Park.

Russo and four other certified kids yoga instructors will teach an all-day kids yoga retreat that will include yoga, music, art classes and lunch for participants.

The cost is $20. Register online at, where you also can find more information about the entire retreat.

HEAL Bflo II will run from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; registration for adults, who will participate in a similar program, costs $60 and, like the kids retreat, will be led by some of the region’s top yoga instructors.

The public is welcome to stop by the grounds outside the casino, where vendors will sell local foods, artwork and other products. Free music also will be part of the fun.

Russo, 30, holds a bachelor’s in elementary and special education from St. Bonaventure University. She worked as a special education teacher for five years before she returned to Buffalo, where she now teaches yoga and leads social painting parties with a business called Paint Nite.

“At the first HEAL Bflo event back in February, there wasn’t a kid component,” she said. “I took some of the classes and I took some of my artwork to show. I’m pretty good friends with Jocelyn and Cheryl. When they asked if I wanted to be involved in a kid’s program and I said, ‘Absolutely.’"

Russo shared the names and backgrounds of four other yoga instructors leading the kids program:

Rihann Ali: Ali works at Heim Middle School in Getzville and runs a before-school yoga club for students there. She and Russo also teach the “Little Pretzels” yoga class at 9 a.m. each Saturday at Power Yoga Buffalo, 758 Elmwood Ave.; class cost is $10. To sign up and for more info, visit

Maura Lester: Teaches physical education at Pinehurst Elementary School in the Frontier School District. She owns Elephant’s Trunk Kids Yoga and teach classes at Soma Cura Wellness Center, Yoga Parkside and Made 2 Move Fitness.

Sheri Curry: A second-grade teacher at Dodge Elementary in East Amherst.

Jody Quinn: The owner of Thrive Yoga also teaches yoga after-school programs.

How can kids benefit from yoga?

“It can help release stress," Russo said. “It helps them be more creative. It helps with focus and concentration. It lets them be themselves, feel comfortable with themselves, in a creative space.”


Twitter: @BNrefresh

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