In 2015 I was asked to sub a class for older adults, Gentle Hatha Yoga. The teacher was going to be gone for a couple of weeks and I was in the system as a sub, the club was running out of options and gave me a ring. After a couple of weeks I was asked if I’d be interested in taking over the class permanently. Apparently the class had asked if they could “keep” me, they’d been unhappy with the current teacher and felt like I was a better fit for them. That was when my passion for working with older adults was ignited.
Now I teach 10 classes a week that are for adults 60 and older. Younger folks come too, the classes are perfect for people who need a class that is a little slower and has an instructor that’s also a yoga therapist! This year I even presented a poster and a short talk at the Yoga Service Conference, sharing the Yoga in Chairs class I created and offer at the Mt. Scott Community Center three mornings a week.
In working with this age group I see people process a lot of change and grief. Grief for the physical ability they once had. Grief at losing parents. Grief at losing spouses. Grief at losing friends. Then there is the grief of a student who leaves classes because an illness has reached a point where going to yoga is no longer feasible. Having predominantly older students means that someone dear to me is always processing one or many of these kinds of grief.
I feel well prepared for this role of holding space for grief for my older students. When I once practiced with a Zen community one of my service positions was keeping the Merit List. This was a list of people close to members of the community who were either in distress of some nature or who had recently died. In my community we chanted the name of someone recently deceased for 49 days; the time it takes the soul to cross the Bardo. Sometimes I received the news of a death before my teachers. It taught me to be present to grief and to hold space for the grieving.
Years ago, when my teacher, Molly Lannon Kenny, lived in Seattle, Washington, she helped create a program for a hospice center there, the Bailey-Boushay House. She mentioned it during my time training as an Integrated Movement Therapist and whenever she did I’d think to myself that I wanted to know more about bringing yoga into hospice centers. Grief is a singular journey for each of us, we process our losses differently from person to person and, I think, from loss to loss. The presence I developed in my Zen practice, along with the practice I have in holding space for my students, I know will serve me in offering yoga interventions to the dying and those affected by the dying; family & friends and hospice staff.
This December I’m getting my chance to know more; I’m attending a small retreat with my teacher in Mexico to offer Bedside Yoga for end-of-life care. This is a perfect fit with the advanced training I’ve already done to offer integrative yoga to older adults. I’m thrilled to be attending this and it has already prompted me to take care of things like getting a passport with my married name and applying for pre-check on flights since I’m going to be helping with the Yoga Service Conference for the next few years, which means flights to New York.
I’m trying to find ways to raise more money, hoping to ultimately make this training debt-free! if you’ve got a few bucks to spare, I’m running a fundraising campaign and I’d be so grateful for your support.