by LINDA FRABL
photos by Zeena Gregg Photography

Compassionate
Yoga Teacher

Caring for a severely autistic child can be frustrating, because it is sometimes difficult to reach out and understand that child. This is exactly what Carmel Valley yoga instructor, Eugenia Ortega, hopes to remedy by volunteering to teach yoga to severely autistic children at the Include Autism Center in Hillcrest. Her own 12-year-old son, Dante, the youngest of her four children, has severe autism, is non-verbal and hyperactive.

Eugenia elaborated, “Living with autism is extremely hard for the whole family. Teaching yoga to Dante and his buddies is a little something that I can do and it is so rewarding. Yes, sometimes it seems like they don’t pay any attention, or when they do a pose it may look very different, but what’s important to me is to make a connection and give them encouragement for the strength they have and for the courage to live with such a great challenge.”

Crediting her faith with her fortitude, Eugenia admitted, “Although we don’t have it easy at all, we keep pushing forward with the grace of God.” Having grown up in Tijuana, Mexico with a severely mentally challenged brother, Eugenia inevitably displays patience and understanding towards those with special needs. Aside from volunteering at the Include Autism Center, Eugenia is also active at her church (the San Diego Church of Christ), and she helps out at the TERI Learning Academy in Oceanside, a school geared specifically for students with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Having received her yoga teaching certification two years ago, Eugenia looks forward to the grand opening of the Women’s Elite Yoga Studio in La Jolla, which she will be a part of. She also enjoys working out at the Pacific Athletic Club, taking classes at Sculpt Fusion Yoga, strolling through the Del Mar Heights Mall and running on the beach. As someone who “follows her heart,” Eugenia’s ultimate wish is for Carmel Valley to eventually establish its own center where autistic children can do yoga and other activities.

Eugenia added, “We want our community to know that people with severe autism live here. If you see someone throwing themselves onto the floor, jumping, screaming or acting different, give them a smile and show compassion. I also welcome anyone to contact me who would be willing to volunteer with me!”

At-A-Glance

Name: Eugenia Ortega
Community: Carmel Valley
Volunteer Affiliation: EuYoga/Eu4u
Profession: Yoga Teacher
Husband: Arturo Ortega
Children: Arturo Jr., Isaac, Samantha and Dante
Hobbies: Yoga, running, walking, spinning
Local Spots: Sculpt Yoga, PAC, outdoor living

Group: EuYoga/Eu4u
Phone: 858-764-4209
Emails: euyoga@yahoo.com | eugenia_ortega@yahoo.com