The Elk Community and Education Center is a re-purposed elementary school, nestled away from the main road, and hidden back behind a bank and a Dairy Queen. It acts as the local senior activity center. They serve breakfast, offer a few classes, and a group of old men meet most days to shoot pool, which is probably as good a thing for them to do, and cheaper than sucking down bitter, lukewarm coffee at a burger joint.
Tuesday nights, they have a yoga class. Some nights, the class is oversaw, unofficially, by a man named Bruce, who isn’t licensed to teach yoga, but has practiced it for years.
Terry, who helps run the center, explained, “He’s been everywhere. He’s been to the ashrams in India. He knows his stuff.”
Bruce was in California this week, however.
So, what we had was a television, a VCR, and an old beginners yoga tape that looked like it came from the waning days of the Clinton administration.
Terry apologized for the low-tech, low-rent situation. They would love to have an actual instructor.
“But there’s no money.”
We did the best we could with what we had. A half dozen of us practiced poses while standing on mats and bathroom towels, but without the benefit of props like straps, blocks, or bolsters.
I had a little bit of an advantage. While I haven’t learned enough to be useful to anybody else, I did know how to adjust into most of the poses, and felt fairly confident I was getting them right. I understood what the television guru was talking about when he started explaining about the breath and controlling it.
I don’t know about anybody else.
What was a little heartbreaking was the people who came out were earnest. It was a humble community program in a center that caters to older people, the kind of people who might really benefit from the stretches, the strength training, and even the mental exercises that yoga offers.
There’s just no money to hire someone to teach, and not much of an incentive to get someone to take the center on. Building a class of even low or non-paying students wouldn’t be instant. It would take time and a lot of patience.
To me, it seems like their problems with their community center and yoga seem like a metaphor for the entire state of West Virginia. There’s some decent space to work with, some people interested in doing some kind of work, but little means to attract the investment or energy to try to make it work.
I’d love to help them. I’m not sure how.
Maybe I’ll have some ideas after next month.