“Yoga is for everybody” is not only a generous thought, but a reality many of us try to integrate in to our yoga classes. Many teachers are happy to welcome students of all sizes, ages and flexibility levels to our classes. But what about those who don’t have the means to attend a community class? What about seniors, people in treatment or in lockdown? Sometimes the people with the least access to the vitality and equanimity that yoga can bring are the ones that need it most.
InBody Outreach shares on-site yoga practice with often-overlooked communities in the Salt Lake area. Their mission, says executive director Kate Crews Linsley, is to provide free yoga instruction to underserved populations. They send trained yoga teachers to populations at risk, seniors, a homeless shelter and people going through detox.
InBody Outreach began in 2006 as Yogis in Service (YIS), a component of D’ana Baptiste’s teacher training program, InBody Academy. YIS was a service program designed to give teacher trainees experience working with varying populations, while providing those populations with much-needed help in coping with life challenges. In 2010, YIS changed its name to InBody Outreach and became its own entity. While they are no longer directly affiliated with InBody Academy, the school still supports InBody Outreach by providing volunteers and helping organize its annual fundraising event, Yogis Give Back.
InBody Outreach also draws volunteer teachers from partner organizations such as GreenTree Yoga, Salt Lake Power Yoga, Salt Lake Community College and the University of Utah. This year, Kate hopes to sponsor a series of specialized training workshops with some of Salt Lake’s most experienced teachers, to help volunteers navigate the often complicated world of teaching special populations.
Kate has learned the importance of simplifying practice when working with diverse populations. When volunteers visit a homeless shelter, senior center or jail, students are not likely to be wearing the latest yoga fashion, and are not likely to be looking to practice complicated poses. “You have to strip down what you teach,” she says. “You have to simplify. We’re looking to offer that root of safety that yoga can provide your mental state. What are those skills? Mostly grounding and breathing. What can you take with you when you’re out in the world, with your family, or about to reach for a drink?”
Kate remembers teaching women at the jail a few years ago. Jail populations are usually fluid, much more so than prison populations. “I was lucky to have a group that stayed several weeks,” she says. One day she found out that some of the prisoners had checked out yoga books and were practicing in their cells. One woman told her, “This is something I can do in the space I have.” Kate says those women have stayed with her even years later, and she especially values the opportunity she had to treat them like a blank slate rather than simply as prisoners. It taught her a lot about how to approach the other diverse populations InBody Outreach serves.
“Everything we teach has a lasting effect,” she says. “The takeaway is a skill inside your body. We all have access to this internal skill because we all have bodies. Every person gets something out of it.”
From now through March Hugger Mugger Yoga Products will donate a percentage of our net profits to InBody Outreach. We are proud to support an organization that shares our mission to make yoga accessible to everyone.