Submitted by Nikyta Palmisani
Lopez Island is home to many mindful and active folks, many of whom have come here to retire in the beauty of the San Juan Islands.
To meet the needs of this “over 50” demographic, famous Felicity Green “The Yoga Queen” began in the early 2000s what she dubbed Creaky Yoga, or “Yoga for the Creaky Generation.” Felicity began teaching a chair yoga class and it grew and grew. After about a year-and-a-half, Corrie Haight took over the program and she expanded it to include a mat class as well as the chair class and increased it to two days a week. She served as the headteacher and was in charge of recruiting and providing ongoing evaluation and training of teachers and assistants. Classes were taught by donation, with a pay-what-you-can model with folks with means donating more on a voluntary sliding scale to support other classmates who might be living on fixed incomes.
Five years ago Creaky Yoga became a nonprofit organization with strong leadership from a board that included Haight, Peggy Means and Donna Ince. Over the years, mats, blocks, and blankets were purchased and the program continued to grow. Class sizes were often 25 mat students in the summer and up to 20 chair yogis! A rich and vibrant community with a shared interest in mindful movement and fitness continued to enliven the hearts of those who attended, turning many students who may not have known each other elsewhere into good friends.
Thanks to the founding board of the emergent Creaky Yoga nonprofit, volunteer assistants were recruited to help support students with more challenging physical or cognitive needs, which added an additional level of safety to classes.
Ince played this role as well — she was a student, a supporter, an assistant, a Board Member and even a teacher when called upon! She would reliably call students who needed rides to class. This transport assistance allowed many students who may have been homebound the ability to practice and interact with their friends and community.
Dedicated assistants, like Ince, would also set up the chairs and mats, help assist teachers in class, and help put all the things away after class. This allowed each teacher to have more time to check in with students personally and create lasting care and relationships.
Creaky Yoga is ever thankful for these karma yogis and yoginis who assisted in classes with such humble grace. The founding Board of Means, Haight, and Ince volunteered their time to create and build the program to its current status. Extra revenue was placed into teacher training programs to widen the skill set of the current teachers and train new teachers for this specific demographic.
Thanks to the founding board’s caring and expansive vision, experts were brought in to conduct workshops for students and teachers in areas like neurological processes for aging, Parkinson’s Disease, and how to age well through Yoga and Mindfulness. Social fellowship events helped connect students to each other and build community. Teachers were supported with living wages for teaching classes and stipends to cover liability insurance.
When COVID-19 struck in March of 2020, Creaky Yoga was not able to meet at Grace Hall any longer. The teachers and Board quickly moved classes online to Zoom. Creaky Yoga teacher and tech guru, Stephanie Cariker graciously helped migrate the teachers and students to Zoom and built a new website that integrated payment ability and a schedule that takes students directly to their Zoom rooms with ease. These improvements have allowed the Creaky Yoga students to maintain their practice and helped many migrate to the Zoom platform with more familiarity.
Also in 2020, all three founding board members were ready to retire from their positions for different reasons. This year has called for agile responses to challenges, and the Creaky Yoga teachers and students rose to the occasion of recruiting a full new board and hiring Stephanie to continue to serve as the Creaky Yoga webmaster.
Another huge thank you to new board members who stepped up to keep the program going: Nancy Searls; Debbie Collins; Iris Graville; and Paula Fagerholm. Many thanks to the Creaky Yoga teaching team as well: Llewellyne Arden; Nikola Chopra; Stephanie Cariker; and Nikyta Palmisani. The quality of the teachers has always been exceptional; they are noted for their teaching skills, their care for the students, and their good hearts.
The Creaky Yoga Program would like to extend warmest thanks to all the volunteers, teachers, board members, assistants and students who have continued to make this program accessible, safe, and engaging. It is with grateful hearts that huge thanks go especially to the retiring founding board members — Means, Haight, and Ince — who have created a robust community and program that continue to be of service to so many students. If you are interested in joining a Creaky Yoga class (currently offered online through Zoom) or learning more about the program, please visit www.creakyyoga.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.