As part of National Recovery Month in September, we are taking the time to highlight some of our great recovery sites! Today we are thanking Central City Concern: Old Town Clinic. A member of Old Town Clinic wrote this beautiful passage on Living Yogas' classes.
Starting any movement or exercise practice can be so intimidating, especially for folks dealing with limited mobility, social anxiety, chronic pain, body shame, or an institutionalized mind-set. Walking into a practice like yoga can be even more stressful – “I don’t know the right words, I’ve seen yogis on TV and I know I can’t do yoga the right way,” etc. One of the many things that I love about Living Yoga (LY) instructors is their gentle encouragement. The teachers don’t single folks out or shame modifications, but instead take the temperature of the room and offer safe options for every body. Just as important, LY teachers don’t assume that people in wheelchairs can’t test themselves, and don’t fragilize folks out of trying new postures. This mix of gentleness and encouragement allows my clients to feel they have permission to try as well as permission to let themselves guide their practice. Having permission to practice being yourself in this way, and in a room full of people, is so important.
After Gentle Yoga groups, people report feeling stronger, clearer, and better about themselves. Some leave frustrated with themselves, but many come back to try again. I’ve seen one client practice twice a week for the last year move gradually out of her wheelchair and onto the mat. She uses a chair when she needs one, and more and more, she doesn’t. Two months ago, she successfully worked her body into a beautiful Downward Dog and held that pose for over a minute. She was so happy, and so pleased with herself. When new people come in and talk about “not doing it right,” she often interrupts the instructor to let the new person know that that’s ok: “We do what we can. And we’re doing it. You’re doing great.”
LY teachers typically let our classes know how yoga has worked for themselves. LY teachers talk about their own anxiety, injuries, or recovery stories, and I think this transparency makes our groups feel less didactic and more individualized and exploratory. Group members often tell me how much they enjoy the different kinds of yoga practice they learn from various teachers. One brings in harmoniums and teaches us chants. One offers a quieter, more internal practice. One laughs a lot, and makes us work our hamstrings like crazy. One focuses more on balance and talks about aging. One always helps us with some really yummy neck stretches. All are unique models of some different ways to practice, helping clients move away from “shoulds.”
Aside from the asana practice, I know that offering folks a safe, routine, short practice of meditation has been hugely helpful. It can be really tough to walk into a 30-90 minute meditation group, but not so hard to try meditation for a few minutes at the end of a yoga group. People talk about feeling more open and more peaceful because of the minutes we spend in corpse pose.
Gentle Yoga has been for years one of our most successful offerings. We’ve tried other movement modalities – gentle dance, walking, etc – but none have caught on like the classes Living Yoga offers. I really want to thank the behinds-the-scenes team for supporting the instructors and managing the schedules and coordinating with all the programs you serve. I’d also like to thank the donors on behalf of my clients and my gratitude for being able to provide yoga to folks who can’t afford or access studio classes.
Thank you for letting us offer yoga at Old Town Clinic!