Tami Eugenio-Radovic Ferreira takes a deep breath when she has a point to make. Born with cerebral palsy, and partially paralyzed on her right side, it's not always easy for her to get her words out. But after a lifetime of breaking barriers, Ferreira knows when it's time to use her voice.

"Tami has someone who helps her communicate in class," said Ferreira's mother, Ana Paula. "But if it's something important she'll just lean over and tell the aid, 'I've got this.'"

"I've got this" would be a fitting description of Ferreira's outlook on life in general. When she was born, her doctors didn't expect her to be able to talk or walk at all. Twenty years later, she speaks three languages fluently and, in 2021, became the first person with cerebral palsy to ever walk the runway at LA Fashion Week. She's also modeled for pop culture fashion designer Nicholas Mayfield and for SAS Film Studios.

Ferreira on the runway at LA Fasion week and promoting her yoga business (inset).

Now, Ferreira has her sights set on making yoga more accessible for people with what she calls "unique bodies and minds."

"Yoga is what has kept me sane," Ferreira says. "I like to show other people how it can help them, too."

Ferreira discovered her passion for yoga in middle school, and was soon training to become an instructor herself in a practice that emphasizes pain management and emotional well-being for people with special needs. She says that, while her condition prevents her from being able to read and write, yoga has given her a way to turn something she's good at into a career.

In that, Ferreira is well on her way. She already teaches yoga to fellow students in her post-secondary program in Agoura Hills, even helping one classmate who is in a wheelchair develop a practice for his upper body. Her website, Tami's Yoga, offers online and in-person training options, and this summer she'll serve as a resident yogi at Golden Heart Ranch, a summer program for teens and young adults with special needs. She's also preparing to launch her own line of yoga apparel to fit all kinds of bodies.

Tami Ferreira in a yoga pose
Ferreira strikes a yoga pose near her home in L.A.

Taking her yoga businesses to the next level is partly why Ferreira enrolled in UCLA Extension's Pathway Program, a two-year college program for neurodiverse students that offers a blend of educational, social and vocational experiences. She says she enrolled not just for life skills, but to build her professional knowhow. She even got a chance to teach yoga to her fellow students in the program last year.

Ferreira will graduate from Pathway on June 17, and just one week later earn her Yoga Teacher Training certificate at UCLA's main campus. Finishing the programs, she says, is about more than just personal growth – it's a way to change the minds of those who understand cerebral palsy and other developmental conditions from "a perspective of fear."

"Just because I don't speak like other people," Ferreira says, "doesn't mean I don't have something important to say."