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New adaptive yoga class fits every body

Adaptive yoga is a fairly new concept in the yoga culture and Marlene Vale is bringing it to Fernie.
Yoga instructor and kinesiologist Marlene Vale works with Debbie Porter at an adaptive yoga class. Porter inspired Vale to create a class that was accessible to more people.

Adaptive yoga is a fairly new concept in the yoga culture and Marlene Vale is bringing it to Fernie. A class dedicated to adaptive yoga is held every Wednesday morning at the Castle on First. Vale also hosts a weekly class at the Seniors Drop In Centre.

Adaptive yoga can best be explained as using the principals, exercises and breathing techniques of yoga but using a variety of props to make it available to people who may not have the option of doing any other yoga class. Props include chairs, cushions, resistance bands and tennis balls.

As Vale explains, the class came to fruition after working with a local who wanted to do yoga, but wasn’t able to attend a full class.

“Debbie Porter was very eager to do yoga. I was working with her as a rehab assistant. I’m a kinesiologist so I work with people one-on-one to help them move their bodies to heal their bodies,” Vale said. “We were doing a lot of yoga exercisedstogether and she loved it and she asked, ‘can I come to one of your classes?’ She couldn’t come because we move on the mats with our hands and our feet on the floor, we put our bums on the floor and there is a lot of physicality to yoga, but the stuff we were doing was yoga, but she couldn’t come to a class.”

Porter convinced Vale to make a full yoga class based on the exercises they were doing and rallied her friends to come to the first class.

“The first class, seven of her friends came. We did a class and it started to become really popular and then students from my other classes started to come. And they loved it just because it’s so alignment based and postural-based,” said Vale.

The first class was held in September, and since then, the class has remained a staple for the programming at the Castle on First. Vale believes it’s populat because it is welcoming to everyone – people who have difficult sitting, moving or even standing for long periods of time.

“It’s for anybody – any body. I don’t think it has any limitations. That’s what I strive for is anybody can do this class. It’s beneficial for people with injuries or re-habilitating because we do a lot of strengthening as well. We learn a lot about the postural muscles,” said Vale. “It’s also about alignment – how to stand properly on our feet. We often stand imbalanced and then that transfers up the spine like a ripple effect to our neck. It’s basically for anybody that wants to be observing their body, the structure of it.”

Vale’s kinesiology background makes adaptive yoga even more fascinating to her, as she loves to understand human bodies and their movements.

“I love the balance of teaching a more  physical yoga class to teaching this one. I learn a lot about the human body,” she said. “Usually in yoga we deal with the stereotypical yogi, but the majority of people, they have some issues. It really makes me grow as a kinesiologist to see how the human body, to work with it, how to modify things. I love that class because it challenges me.”

A fundamental aspect to Vale’s adaptive yoga class is re-learning how to stand and move properly. According to Vale’s observations, many people have bad habits when it comes to simple movements.

“A strained neck is becoming normal, so less and less people actually stand in a proper way. Our job as kinesiologists is to bring them back upright,” she said. “I love how yoga and kinesiology blend. They go together so well. That’s why it was a natural progression for me to be from more of a scientific base. We brought in a little creativity to it and artistic expression in yoga, to create a class.”

Vale focuses on bringing small movements into the yoga class and using the muscles in their proper manner. This enables people restricted to wheel chairs or walkers to participate in the adaptive yoga class. Vale enjoys working with older people and helping them achieve a range of motion that they have lost.

“A lot of kinesiologists do work in the sports field. I have always worked with seniors. I love that sort of demographic and empowering people very simply,” she said. “Re-learning how to stand and sit, reaching up to the cupboards and getting plates. Those are very empowering things. There is a large demographic of people in Fernie that we have never paid attention to. That was a lack that I saw and could fit in with my experience.”

More information on the adaptive yoga classes or Vale’s kinesiology work is available at