A Legion branch in Saskatchewan is hosting a unique “chair yoga” program, much to the delight of local members and the wider community including veterans and seniors.
“We do have a good following, eighteen regulars,” says Debbie Kater, who came up with the idea at her Weyburn branch. “Everyone that’s coming is enjoying it.”
The class is gaining interest with those who don’t feel comfortable lying on mats, or may not be physically able to try the sorts of positions often associated with traditional yoga. The program is free for veterans and their partners. Legion members and non-members are charged a nominal fee to join the weekly classes. The sessions end with a little social gathering along with coffee and a sweet treat.
“I just think it’s also nice, the fellowship part of it,” says Debbie. “They’re visiting with each other and enjoying the companionship too.”
At 67 years young, Debbie came up with the idea one day while sitting down and feeling a tightness in her shoulders. She thought about doing something like yoga to help with stretching. The idea was born.
“I got thinking, it could help veterans, or anyone sitting with limited movement.” After discussing with local members, a class was organized at the branch.
Parallel to the program in Weyburn, the Legion’s Saskatchewan Command had also developed a ready-made chair yoga program for branches that might want to try incorporating something similar. They got help from a retired veteran who herself was into yoga. Together they developed some instructional videos for branches and members to use at home or in a community setting, with a focus on veteran wellness. Details were shared across the province.
“She thought there might be a need in various communities,” says Kim Douglas, Provincial Service Officer at Saskatchewan Command. “For veterans who either don’t want to go out, or can’t go out, they can do something gentle, like chair yoga.”
Initial interest and feedback on the program videos has been encouraging to date, and it is hoped that more branches will try them out.
“Everybody thought they were great,” says Kim. “We hope that people make use of it, it’s good physically and mentally too – for mental health.”
“I’m hoping we can get more veterans coming,” adds Debbie about the weekly in-person class in Weyburn. “The beauty about chair yoga is that it’s designed for different levels. And it’s teaching you breathing, it’s teaching you to meditate, it’s teaching you to relax.”
About The Royal Canadian Legion
Founded in 1925, the Legion is Canada’s largest Veteran support and community service organization. We are a non-profit organization with a national reach across Canada as well as branches in the U.S. and Europe. With 250,000 members, many of whom volunteer an extraordinary amount of time to their branches, our strength is in our numbers.