Accessible Yoga Creates Community in St. Louis

Accessible Yoga Creates Community in St. Louis

guest post by Sally Denton

A few years ago, I retired from work and moved with my husband from a tiny town in Kentucky to St Louis. It was a strange time for me, the country girl coming to the big city. There were only three people I knew in St Louis – my grandson, my daughter and my son-in-law. Therefore, much of my day was quiet and disconnected from people.

In Kentucky, I had worked as a clinical social worker helping soldiers with PTSD and other emotional issues. This had been my life for many years and now, suddenly, it was over.  The feelings of emptiness, loss, and lack of purpose were overwhelming. So, I focused on the things I knew to do, twice daily meditations (sometimes an hour at a time) and a yoga class every day.

Fortunately, there was a yoga studio close to my residence and I began to meet a few people there. Though they seemed to have full lives, some of them made room for me. However, I continued to experience these nagging feelings of uselessness after so many years as a social worker, living a life of service, working my dharma. My mind seemed obsessed with the meaninglessness of my existence.

VA st Louis healthcare system yoga for veterans st Louis yoga buzz sally denton accessible yoga
An Outdoor Accessible Yoga Class at Jefferson Barracks for Veterans

This is when I reached out and opened the door to volunteering. Through Yoga Buzz, I was connected to the VA at Jefferson Barracks and began teaching a weekly yoga class with about 25 Veterans.  It was an accessible class starting in a chair, then moving to standing, and finally ending on the floor. The variety of abilities and ages was immense and challenging for a retired social worker with minimal yoga teaching experience. I was overwhelmed but loved every minute.

Because of this class, I was given the opportunity to participate in Accessible Yoga Training with Jivana Heyman, the founder of Accessible Yoga, in November of 2017. From that time, everything changed. I went into the training having no idea what to expect and by the end of it, I felt I had found my home and my tribe. This is what I found with the Accessible Yoga movement:

  • Inclusivity and accessibility means everyone all the time!
  • Accessible Yoga requires you to be moving toward an awareness of self and to teach from your heart.
  • Philosophy isn’t limited to a reading at the start of class, but is woven throughout every class in your manner, your tone, your facility, and your language, your smile, your patience, in the way you interact with students throughout the class always listening and working cooperatively.
  • You may teach an Accessible Yoga class, but it is not your class. It has a life of its own and the community that is created within the class lives well beyond the poses you teach. The teacher will often learn more than the students, especially when approaching the class in a state of gratitude.
  • Accessible Yoga may take place in a chair, on a mat, on the floor, against a wall, or in a bed. And not all yoga classes have asana.
  • The people in the movement are a rare group of individuals who are sincerely devoted to service, to improving the lives of those who are often marginalized by others, and to making the world a better, more peaceful and loving place for all. They touched my heart and I have never been the same!

Since finding Accessible Yoga (I think it actually found me), I added two more Accessible classes per week which I teach at South River Yoga. I also teach yoga teacher trainees about Accessible Yoga. My purpose has become crystal clear and I am once again living my dharma.

sally denton south river yoga accessible chair yoga yoga buzz st Louis
Students at South River Yoga rocking an Accessible Yoga class led by Sally Denton

accessible yoga conference st louis yoga buzz stl midwest

If this resonates with you, there is an opportunity to meet this tribe and experience these benefits by attending the Accessible Yoga Midwest Conference, May 31-June 2, 2019, right here in St Louis. For more info, visit the Accessible Yoga website.

Sally Denton accessible yoga st louisSally Denton, LCSW, RYT 200, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Yoga and Meditation Teacher. Sally worked as a psychotherapist for 30 years, the last 12 of those years was spent counseling Soldiers with PTSD and other mental disorders. It was during this time that she found meditation as a way to relieve her own stress and that of others. She began studying under Deepak Chopra in 2007 and eventually was certified to teach Primordial Sound Meditation and the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga from the Chopra Center. Committed to a life of service, Sally became passionate about Accessible Yoga while teaching yoga at the VA and she believes that everyone regardless of illness, age, or physical limitation should benefit from the teachings of yoga and meditation.


17 thoughts on “Accessible Yoga Creates Community in St. Louis”

  1. Great article and great person!
    I have been grateful that you are giving so much to me and to our heroes! Thanks for your continual support as we continue to grow @ our Whole Health system of care!

  2. I never believed this was a possibility until attending your classes at South River. I had attempted one led by an “accessible superstar” but still didn’t feel comfortable until a friend recommended giving you a try. You have turned my thought process completely around. Although I don’t attend as much as I would like to yet, I honestly can’t wait until the next time I can come when I leave your lessons. Thank you so much!

  3. This made me cry as well. It touched me deeply. I too am a veteran who battles PTS daily, I too am an LCSW, I too am a yoga teacher, but am searching for my confidence and voice. I am attending the accessible yoga training in May and I am looking forward to it. I hope to meet you and chat some day. Thank you for sharing your story, it instilled hope in me today.

    1. Jolene. I am so sorry I didn’t see this until just now. Please feel free to contact me through south river yoga in St. Louis or email me at. [email protected]
      I would love to meet and talk with you!

  4. Thank you Sally for sharing your love of yoga with EVERYBody! You are a blessing to us! I feel such gratitude every time I am able to learn from you and look forward to doing the accessible training in May!

  5. What training is advised for leading yoga for veterans classes? I am affiliated with the wellness classes at the Maryland Heights YMCA, teaching Gentle Hatha yoga that welcomes absolute beginners at any time. Some participants keep a chair handy to get up. (only once per session). I only have minimal training in chair yoga.

    My Vietnam Vet husband’s yoga experience for veterans in Indy a few years ago was very rewarding for him. I am glad to discover your classes for veterans. I will share this with him. Thank you

    1. Hi Judy! If you’re looking for some trainings to support your teaching Veterans, there are a few great options. One that is specifically geared toward Vets is the Veterans Yoga Project. iRest Yoga Nidra and Accessible Yoga with Jivana Heyman are two additional great resources. Hope that helps!

  6. Sally,

    We have about 30 mutual facebook friends…from the Chopra Center, no doubt. I did my yoga and PSM teacher trainings there as well. I want to have a conversation with you about a conference we are hosting in St, Louis in April, 2020. It is part of Cure VCP Disease, Inc. We are a patient advocacy group for VCP Disease (IBMPFD) Our population has varied degrees of limitations, as the disease impacts muscles, bones and brain. We want to have a yoga class for our group, and as I was doing an internet search, this article popped up. I noticed your name and thought…..I have seen her name somewhere! And sure enough- FaceBook. Could we connect offline? Are you able to access my email through this comment? If not – please reach out to me at my business email, [email protected]. Thank you in advance!!!

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