Kate Baldwin explains to Jenna Lynne Roberts how ‘Gentle Yoga for Everyone’ classes offer unique pain management for seniors, people with chronic pain, and, well, everyone. Also, at only $5, it’s affordable to all.
How did you begin teaching ‘Gentle Yoga for Everyone’?
About 3 years ago, I started teaching yoga and I found that a lot of people who wanted to take my class were a little intimidated by the traditional yoga setting. They were mostly senior citizens, primarily ages 60 – 80. Many students have told me that they would often try classes that were called “gentle yoga” or “beginners yoga” and found that they didn’t seem gentle at all.
I decided to start using chairs to make gentle yoga more accessible to them. They could sit for part of the yoga class, or they could stand and hold on to the chair for balance. If they were experiencing chronic pain, arthritis, even fatigue, they had a chance to feel safe and rest in the chair whenever they needed it.
From then on, gentle yoga’s just grown and spread, and now it’s not just for seniors, it’s for all ages. People working through injuries have the option to go to gentle yoga without putting themselves in danger.
I’ve had some students come to my gentle yoga classes for the whole 3 years. My friend Jade, who is over 80 years old now, gave me the motivation to get started. She was my inspiration for designing this gentle yoga class format because she had arthritis in her joints, and was still regularly active, but was afraid to get down on the floor.
Jade took Tai Chi, and when the group would get down on the floor she would stay standing. Once she started my gentle yoga class, she learned how to get up and down from the floor safely, and now she’s able to do the full Tai Chi class.
What kind of injuries would Gentle Yoga be helpful for?
Gentle yoga helps everything from a knee injury to a hip replacement, conditions like osteoporosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, or rotator cuff inflammation in the shoulder. Traditional yoga classes don’t often address these conditions.
People who have trouble being on their hands and knees will find in my gentle yoga class that they don’t have to. They can do the same postures on the chair, and I offer modifications to poses on the floors.
I experienced a severe knee injury about year ago and my gentle yoga class was pivotal in helping me to walk again and do yoga again. I taught many of these classes while sitting in the chair, and I know this chair-based class works, because I’m back on my feet, fully recovered.
What kind of benefits do you see students getting from Gentle Yoga?
Increased energy and a more positive outlook. I’ve had quite a few students with depression say that it helps them sleep better and fight off the wintertime blahs, or SAD. It just makes them feel more vibrant. Pain is diminished and symptoms relieved.
Especially for the older students, there is also a sense of community and being a part of a great group.
During the class we do seated hip stretches that help to release sciatica symptoms and relieve back pain. These are easier and more effective to do in the chair, because when you’re seated, your hips are steady and it’s easier to maintain good alignment while you stretch.
How can these Chair Yoga techniques be used outside of class?
These yoga exercises can be done in an office setting or for anyone who sits at a desk a lot. The postures help with balance and flexibility. They are simple exercises where you don’t even need yoga clothes on.
How do you make Gentle Yoga extra comfortable for beginners?
A lot of my students have said after their first gentle yoga class that they were surprised at how much they could do and they liked the way that I didn’t assume they could anything necessarily. The postures have modifications, especially for people with limited range of motion or injuries. It’s very friendly whether you come every week or you just drop in here and there.
Do you use any other yoga props in your Chair Yoga class?
I will bring in golf balls and we sit and massage our feet with the ball under the foot. We use straps, bolsters, blankets, blocks, and it really is helpful for people to be able to stay safe and mindful while getting a good stretch. These are all provided by Yoga Union.
For a beginner, what yoga clothes should you wear to your first Gentle Yoga class?
Any clothes that are comfortable for them to move and stretch in. It can even be sweatpants and a t-shirt. It doesn’t need to be form-fitting.
I’ve heard people tell me that they didn’t want to try yoga because they didn’t like spandex. You don’t have to wear spandex yoga pants to enjoy the benefits of yoga.
How do you feel Gentle Yoga can tie into other types of pain management?
There are a lot of pain management techniques that are taught in the yoga class, such as mindful breathing, and positive visualizations. I promote a life-affirming attitude at Gentle yoga, and help my students to focus on what they are able to do safely and without pain. By looking for the good, students realize that they don’t have to change who they are or how they feel. The gift is in accepting how things are now and staying in the present moment.
Why are you passionate about Gentle Yoga?
I’ve seen people who were unsure about trying traditional yoga fall in love with gentle yoga. We focus more on how the benefits of yoga manifest in their daily lives, rather than how flexible they get, or how they look when doing the yoga.
I like that this class welcomes everybody, regardless of their experience, physique, or age. No matter what kind of day it’s been, this class will support you.
You can join Kate’s classes on Mondays at 2pm for only a $5 drop in fee. See the schedule by clicking HERE