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St. Vincent de Paul Gateway Shelter for Women and Families on Apple Street in Dayton is a homeless shelter that caters to hundreds of women, children and families. All of whom live in close quarters. Hence, it can get pretty loud at times. In the midst of it all, Jean Farkas, a yoga instructor, is able to escape away from all the noise through yoga. Every once a week, she conducts classes for those living in the home.

“It’s the one hour of the week where they can get away from the noise and the close quarters. There we are in the yoga room, meditating,” said Jennifer Davis-Berman, who is a social work professor from the University of Dayton. This yoga class have been in effect since a year ago in September 2011. Back then, Jennifer was doing a study of older, homeless women. She has been an active volunteer at the home for more than twenty years already.

“Through my research, I realized how difficult it is to be in the shelter. Shelter life can be stressful. It can be a very noisy place. There’s no place to go for any peace and quiet,” she explained. This provided her with the idea of incorporating yoga for these individuals. She felt that yoga could aid in stress relief and help these women to learn relaxation techniques. She brought it up to Jean and Ann Goebel, the then-director of the St. Vincent program. They were both excited and supportive of the idea. Jean even volunteered to teach the class while Ann assisted in clearing roadblocks and setting aside space for the weekly class.

Participation is entirely voluntary, but classes still continue as per normal even when women move in and out of the shelter. So far, the longest participant to ever join the class, stayed for a total of five months. Since the class commenced a year ago, there are approximately fifty participants in total. Most of them are women in their 40s. However, there are also a few men and children in the class too. “We never know who will be in the class. They come in at widely varying levels of skill, nearly nine-months pregnant, in wheelchairs, with coughs and colds, broken bones and end-stage kidney disease,” stated Jean. Despite that, Jean still tries her best to customise the classes. Do check out the story here.

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