Teaching Shintaido to Seniors

Teaching Shintaido to Seniors


Bela Breslau

When we drove away from the Shintaido class at the South County Senior Center in South Deerfield recently, Stephen said something like: “That is so inspiring. I always feel great after that class.” I have to agree with him. I am teaching the class and Stephen is assisting me.

The class ranges from 4 to 8 participants; all women and all in their sixties or seventies. Shintaido always seems to work its magic. As the teacher, I often leave work, drive home and get myself to the class feeling a little rushed and tired. Afterwards I feel clear and uplifted. We have come to see by their regular attendance that these seniors are also enjoying themselves and the spirit of Shintaido.

The center is an older building right in the center of town. When we practice inside, we have to move the tables and chairs of the big room to the side to make some space. When the weather is beautiful as in the past few weeks, we set up outside under the shade of two big maple trees.

We always start in a circle sitting on chairs. We concentrate on our breathing and then move into seated warmups. Soon we are up and at it – warming up, stretching, doing balancing exercises. I originally thought that would be about all we would do but I soon recognized that this is a hale and hearty group.

I have surprised myself by what I have been teaching. These women are not afraid to use their voices and they enjoy the sounds and movements of Tenshingoso. We have practiced wakame and other soft movements, but also enjoy stepping, cutting and most recently Tsuki!

The classes last approximately one hour. We asked if they would prefer six or eight-week sessions but they all want to keep going. We may take a break in August, but otherwise we will continue the class on an ongoing basis.

It is true that some seniors have physical limitations, but everyone in this group seems very self-aware and able to work within their limitations and of course, Stephen and I are careful and make adjustments as necessary.

Who knows if some of these seniors will become active and participate in the larger Shintaido community? I hope so, but I am also quite content to continue this lovely weekly practice.

The most surprising thing for me is how very like any other Shintaido class this class is. It is the transformation that comes from connecting with heaven and earth and with one another that gives a meaningfulness to our movements and our practice together.

8 thoughts on “Teaching Shintaido to Seniors

  1. Brian

    Very nice, Bela! Keep up the good work! I could feel the class through your writing! Thank you!

  2. Annelie

    Thank you for the reminder; connecting heaven to earth and each other. I’m so happy to hear that you are doing this.

  3. Bill Burtis

    Wonderful. Congratulations, too. Some years ago, when I was between jobs, I taught Shintaido at a center for people with head injuries. I had no idea what to expect and was slightly horrified when, on the first day of “class,” six students showed up—all in wheelchairs, all quadriplegics. Well, what to do? The usual! I taught them tenshingoso and eiko (which they did in their wheelchairs, with full voice!) and they were all smiles. Shintaido is not just communicable, it’s infectious.

  4. Meg Kane

    Very nice article, Bela. I’m sure there will be more than one or two new people coming to the next Shintaido class to see what a great experience we have.

  5. Jenni Allard

    Excellent article, Bela. Your Shintaido class leaves me so centered and peaceful. Also I think my sensitive ankle is getting stronger. Thank you for always tuning in to the needs of the class. Stephen is also an inspiration…..so intensely focused.

  6. Bela

    I am delighted to have so many comments. Thanks to everyone for taking the time. Jenni and Meg, especially happy to hear from you as you are both making it happen in the class. And, I have received a few emails outside of this forum. This class has definitely been a joy and inspiration.