Stretching One's Reach

I have been teaching Pilates and Yoga at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) since April of 2007. My program is a closed program for inpatients within the Women's Unit at the CAMH College Street Site. We meet once per week, on a weekday evening.

Yoga and Pilates are soothing to those suffering from anxiety, depression and various trauma as these forms of exercise are "mindful" in nature. Yoga and Pilates require not only for your body to move, but for both your body and mind to be actively involved in bringing your total awareness to the movements you are engaging in at the present moment.

With my formal education in Kinesiology and Health Science, I offer my clients more than just raw teaching experience.  I specifically tailor each class to the clients who are in attendance.  I always seek feedback about injuries and chronic conditions and I always ask for suggestions from clients for the session's focus, for example balance, low back pain relief, strengthening, breathing techniques, or simply relaxation. This has been important since there can be varying abilities within a class; and it is a key skill for a successful instructor.

I can see changes between the start of class when participants are not looking relaxed to the end of class when they are expressing enthusiasm. Nurses have also seen positive changes from the group. Although I have been overwhelmed with positive responses from the participants, there are times when clients are reluctant to do the movements and just prefer to watch.  However, by the end of the class many of these clients have joined in and express how wonderful they feel.

I am interested in expanding this program and am open to receiving input and/or assistance from the community outside of the CAMH, including consumers. Conversely, I can certainly help others planning new programs to ensure they are suitable for all populations, including individuals who may be living with diabetes, arthritis, and many other chronic conditions.  A first step in starting a similar program could be posting basic introductory yoga exercises on the wall or screening an accessible-level yoga/Pilates video. Eventually bringing an instructor into the program can bring motivation, cohesion and personal attention to the group.

For more information on this program or to help plan similar programs in your community, Lynn Tougas welcomes you to contact her directly at lynntougas [at] rogers.com.