Over the past month I’ve had the chance to teach two yoga demos for Southern Nevada VA’s MOVE program. Going into these demos, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I had been given a “run-down” about the usual participants, that typically the population was over 50 years old, 300 lbs+ and had limited mobility. It was a different population than my normal participants, but I was excited to be teaching within the VA and even more excited to be teaching these Veterans wellness skills to improve their health!
I was incredibly nervous going into the first session. However as the participants began to make their way into class, making small talk and asking about the session, I was anxious to get started! The actual group was quite a bit different than I was expecting. I had participants ranging from approximately 30 years old to 75 or 80, with an assortment of health issues. Some looked relatively healthy, some had physical injuries, some were there just for weight loss assistance, and some clearly had a number of health problems. Prior to the class I had assumed it would be mostly females that showed up, since the participants have their choice of which classes to attend and the “stigma” of yoga is that it is mostly for women and as much as I would put that assumption to rest, that was subject to the individuals who actually showed up. Which to my complete surprise was only 1 female and about 12 or 13 males.
The sessions were scheduled to be 45 minutes and I had planned the first 20 or so for “yoga and breathing 101” where I tried to squash some of the yoga myths while introducing the participants to the many different physiological and psychological benefits of yoga. From here I showed the participants chair-based movements they could do at home, this provided options for individuals who were limited mobility and for those who were relatively healthy but new to yoga movements. I introduced them to some simple but beneficial breathing techniques and then continued on to show some out-of-chair movements where chairs or counters could be used for balance assistance. I also gave a run down of props (using the FANTASTIC supplies that have been donated, thanks to some amazing individuals!) and then taught some more traditional beginners movements that could be built off of the chair based movements for the more able participants.
Overall, the group was incredibly receptive and open to the information. Many individuals wanted more information afterwards and I provided a packet with some resources they could utilize as well as a few sample sequences (both chair based and traditional).
Afterwards one of the VA volunteers approached me and informed me that I had received a great turnout, which was rare for new programs and that I had some participants who came out that hadn’t been attending the sessions in quite some time. One participants specifically who had asked quite a few questions during the session and was very receptive to the information, was recently diagnosed with cancer and hadn’t been attending any sessions since the diagnosis. I felt so honored/grateful/amazed that this individual who must have been going through so much, made time to come into my demo. All the hurdles and stress that come into working within a VA disappear when you have moments of gratitude such as that one.