This winter I had no regular weekly yoga classes scheduled for the first time since I joined the Flathead Valley yoga community. It was both refreshing and isolating, and it got me thinking about why I teach, and how I want to practice the yogic tradition of seva or self-less service.
My father is a Vietnam veteran and sadly lives very far away from me. My mother instilled in me the value of community service. I spent many hours of my youth volunteering my time for worthy causes. Seniors, and particularly our aging veterans are an underserved part of our community in general, and the modern yoga practice as it’s offered can be pretty prohibitive to this demographic especially. I received my Accessible Yoga Teacher certification through the Accessible Yoga Training organization this past summer at Wildflower Society, and I had been mulling over the best way to integrate these experiences into my teachings. I reached out to the Montana Veterans Home, and was delighted to be welcomed as a volunteer to offer classes for the residents.
It has been a little over a month of weekly classes and the experience has been a delight and an education. I recognize the privilege of teaching to able bodies, and the challenge of adapting the practice to folks who are wheelchair users has been incredible for me as a teacher. These students have spirit, boundless humor (bordering on silliness at times), and a willingness to try new things even if they are quite dubious about the entire process. Their delight at rediscovering movements in their bodies has brought a smile to my face every week.
I will always love teaching mat classes, but these chair yoga practices have expanded my horizons for what yoga can look like, and how it can incite precisely the same feeling, even without the downward-facing dogs. Facilitating people in discovering how much better their bodies can feel, simply by taking the time to pay attention to them, and move them with intention, is for me, one of the highest joys of teaching yoga.