Tribal yoga focuses on kindness and recovery
MASHPEE — When Cecilia “Kima” King, a Mashpee Wampanoag tribal citizen, first learned she could become a certified yoga instructor, she thought about how many of her fellow tribe members she could help.
“I just remember thinking, ‘I am so excited,’” King said.
She received her yoga certificate from Diane Kovanda in Centerville several years ago, and recently started teaching classes at the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe Community and Government Center in January. Kovanda, who’s been teaching yoga for more than 25 years, is the founder and director of training at the Kind School Yoga, and a force for spreading the practice of yoga across Cape Cod.
“I asked her, you know, I’m Native American, can we put some drums on?” King joked. “She said you could do anything you want as long as you’re kind to yourself.”
That is theme of the tribal yoga: self-compassion, self-respect and kindness to oneself and others. “Dancing Moon Yoga” takes place every Monday from 5 to 6 p.m. at tribal government headquarters on Great Neck Road South.
King describes her classes, which she teaches as a volunteer, as a very “light” yoga. Tribal elders have expressed interest in the program, so the regimen — while it involves holding poses and postures — has been tailored to fit the needs of all people and abilities.
“It’s nothing too strenuous,” she said.
Imported from India, yoga studios and practices have proliferated across the West in recent years. In the United States, the number of workers who practice meditation, yoga, tai chi or qigong nearly doubled from 2002 to 2012, according to a 2017 study by the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Originally one would listen to traditional Hindu music during King’s classes, but she now plays ambient sounds from nature, such as waterfall and light rain.
Tribal yoga operates under the auspices of the Health and Human Services Department, which is subdivided into tribal health services and Indian child welfare serves. Kimberly Frye, manager of tribal health services, said her department is primarily focused on disease prevention, health education and helping tribe members gain health insurance.
“Our goal is to redo disease prevention,” Frye said.
The department has sponsored several yoga classes in the past, as well as volleyball. Frye said the tribe works closely with the Indian Health Service, a federal health program that operates behind tribal headquarters, which has a medical, dental and an administrative building on tribal land. Frye said the federal health clinic has a community substance abuse case worker and is in the process of hiring more staff.
“We collaborate,” she said.
The Wampanoag Tribal Health and Human Services Department is also coping with downsized staff numbers following a slew of layoffs and budget cuts that took place at the beginning of the year, Frye said. The 2,600-member tribe has been among the hardest hit groupsby the pervasive opioid drug crisis. In 2016, the tribe declared a state of emergency following the deaths of 11 of its members, ranging in ages 25 to 38.
Frye sees yoga, and programs like it, as critical buffers in the fight against addiction.
“Physical exercise is a huge part of recovery,” she said.
— Follow Tanner Stening on Twitter: @tsteningCCT.
Editor’s note: The original version of this story incorrectly identified the Kind Yoga School. The story has been corrected.