Downward Dog Days in NYC: Tuesday is my Yoga teaching day

Tuesday has become my day of double yoga volunteering.

Chelsea Recreation Center

Today I taught my first BOOMA! Yoga class at the Chelsea Recreation Center, 6-7pm.

BOOMA! is what I wanted to call it, for want of a less ageist word than "senior" or "50+".

But when I arrived at the center,  sure enough, a flyer stuck above the counter simply said "Senior Yoga Tuesday 6pm". The staff told me it was a bit of an oversight and they'd try and correct it. 

Two woman who'd spotted the flyers came looking for my class - one from the Dominican Republic and the other from Mexico. Que bueno! Yet another opportunity para practicar mi Espanol!

The 5th floor art room is a nice space for yoga - one of those rooms with smooth blond wood floors. If I narrow my eyes I might almost hallucinate I'm in the sumptuous studios at Equinox, where the membership is 20 times more expensive, and if you can afford it, you love it. But this is the "everysoul" gym, just $75 bucks a year or $10 for seniors - including a giant indoor pool - and in a recession, there's something comforting in affordability.

I plugged my Blackberry Pearl MP3 Player into my little portable speaker, cued up Deva Premal and began the class with my two students, both of whom had never done yoga before. In this case, it's a process of asking if there are any injuries, physical limitations like high blood pressure (no head below heart moves), and then watching little by little for what people CAN do, being careful not to overextend them. 

We were soon joined by Lisa Brooks, the Activities Head.  She was very grateful for my gifting time to the Rec Center.

"People aren't able to afford even the modest yearly membership in this recession, so we had to cut paid classes, and bring on a volunteer program," she said.

The good news is, with thousands of yoga teachers graduating each downdogging moment, they probably won't be short of teachers ... 

In my case, I'm enjoying both being of service, and getting good teaching practice. The 200-hour training is "just the start," said my teacher Monika of Joschi Yoga Insititute. Like the path to Carnegie Hall, practice, practice, practice....

Hudson Guild Senior Center

And so to the other class I teach on Tuesdays. I moved it from 1-2pm to 11-12am, as the very substantial $2.50 senior lunch is served at the center between 1 and 2 - and we all know how a full stomach jives with down-dogging - NOT!

I attract between 2 and 7 students at the moment. A lovely Chinese family who live in the housing projects at the back of the center have become regulars. There's grandma, mother, a young carer, and Samuel, who is in a wheelchair. 

Samuel is a great sport. He put his arms up in Uttanasana but dropped them immediately. His wife explained that he needed to hold them up just a little longer in Chinese, but to no avail. We tried it three times. Good on him for even showing up! He was injured when falling while stepping out of a bus a few years ago. "Terrible," said his wife. But he smiles a lot and he comes to yoga.  I've a special set of exercise for people in wheelchairs. 

Another milestone was getting my first regular male student, George, pictured below right. Perhaps because I got put the words "Yoga for MEN and women" on the flyer with the "and women" in smaller letters. 

"My sister is really into yoga, so I wanted to try it. I LIKE IT!" he said enthusiastically. 

Sciatica appears to be a common complaint with my students, for which the famous "million dollar roll" -  as my chiropractor cousin calls it "because chirporactors make a million bucks out of it every year" - is a great exercise.

Lie on your side, upper knee bent, lower leg straight, Now reach up and over with the top arm twisting the upper half of the body in the opposite direction to the lower. Let gravity do the work - don't force. Imagine yourself like those wooden mannekin dolls artists use for sketching - the upper half of you swiveling independently from the lower.

Next week we'll see if we can progress to the floor - and convince these folks NOT to wear jeans to class ...

Galfromdownunder on Yoga


Sarah said…
I've always loved your blog but this entry is AWESOME. I'm sure you are loved so much by your students. You really do need to keep blogging on these classes :-)
See you soon,

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