Why Chair Yoga?
Those of you that know me are familiar with some of the challenges that I've been up against. Stage 4 kidney cancer, with the cancer having spread to my bones, nerve damage from previous treatment and now suddenly becoming an insulin dependent diabetic, a rare side effect from my immunotherapy treatments.
Just slightly over 3 years ago, I was perfectly fine. I was a manager of a health, dental and disability claims department in Ottawa and my only cause for grief was the long commute and a sluggish thyroid.
I wasn't into yoga back then. To be honest, I once tried it in my early thirties and hated it! In retrospect, I just wasn't ready for it. I was too wired, too fast-paced. I was used to karate, cycling, in-line skating, hiking, treadmills. Yoga was too slow for me, I wasn't flexible enough, and forget about even trying to meditate - that was just an opportunity to do a mental to-do list.
So, oddly enough, my yoga journey began with meditation. After my surgery to remove my right kidney, and after accepting the fact that I would never return to my former stress-filled work as a manager, I had to rebuild myself.
Mental health took priority and somehow I knew meditation was what I needed, not just to clear and quiet my mind, but to get to know this new me. To listen to my thoughts, acknowledge them, then let them go and be at peace with the new life ahead of me.
I had lost my identity. I had lost a part of my body. I had lost a lot of muscle tone. I could have very easily lost my mind, but luckily I have always been blessed with a positive attitude.
I grappled with what to do next. It was not in me to do nothing all day. I was only 47 years old and I had to keep busy. I wrote my 4th cozy mystery novel during this time frame, but it was a struggle. I had also lost my passion for writing, but I pushed through. I was not a quitter and I was determined to at least retain my author identity. I thought that, without that, I would be nothing.
I would spend my days writing, meditating, enjoying the warmth of spring and summer. Once my incision healed, I slowly began to incorporate gently yoga stretches into my daily routine to start rebuilding muscle tone. Eventually, I found the courage to go to a real yoga class. I had put it off, waiting to "feel better, stronger". The day never seemed to come, so I forced myself to go to a class.
So, why chair yoga?
I struggled through my first class, and the following classes, doing what I could, doing my best to keep up even though it was just a beginner class. I lost track of how many times I thought to myself "This is NOT a beginner class! Is this even safe for me?" I couldn't find any chair yoga classes, which I knew would have been a much safer alternative.
Over time, I became stronger, healthier, and my passion for yoga grew. I was still young and full of determination and hope, and luckily knew to stop a movement if it did not feel right in my body. I did a ton of research and read about all things yoga related everyday. But the lack of chair yoga in the community bothered me. If I needed such a class, I was certain there were others in the same situation.
About a year after I started yoga, I began my teacher training. I had found a course that also offered chair, yin and restorative yoga as part of the curriculum and instantly knew it was meant for me. Teaching would fulfill my desire to help others along with enabling me to spread my love of yoga to others in a manner that would be safe for almost everyone.
The more I learned, the more I realized that I was lucky I hadn't injured myself when I first began m yoga journey, and the more determined I became to eventually bring chair yoga to those that needed it.
Soon after I obtained my yoga teacher certification, I had the good fortune of bringing chair yoga back to the Brockville 50+ group. My first class was about 70 students and although I was nervous, I felt I had found my destiny, my calling.
Chair yoga is about moving your body safely, despite medical conditions that might prevent more strenuous exercise or from standing. It's about breath work to strengthen the lungs, even while sitting, activating your circulation and digestion, toning muscles, strengthening your bones, lubricating your joints with movement, and quieting the mind. Having been in a position of needing chair yoga myself enabled me to fully appreciate others in the same situation.
Chair yoga can be done by almost anyone. You don't have to worry about being flexible or having poor balance or not having fancy yoga clothes. You just have to show up for class in comfortable clothing, and do what you can. While the classes are mostly the same each time, I do like changing things up and sharing my knowledge. I am not there to just teach, but to empower and motivate.
With every class, I share something new and change our routine slightly, introducing a new stretch, offering variations, explaining benefits of certain movements, teaching new breath work, and spreading positive energy.
I know that I'm making a difference in people's lives. I can see it on their faces and in their movement and to my delight, students approach me before and after class to thank me and comment on how they enjoy the class.
Come join our class and begin your own journey.