National Volunteer Week: Tracy

Life can be stressful for just about everyone. But living in a shelter, where there’s always a flow of new people, where you may not feel comfortable leaving your belongings unattended, where sleep may elude you for days at a time, stress can often reach scary, even dangerous levels. Coming from a high-stress career, Tracy wanted to make yoga available to those who could benefit from cultivating a practice, but who faced barriers to access. 

“I knew yoga could help people in high stress situations, just to be able to take that moment, breathe, and get that moment of clarity— ‘You know what, things that are happening right now are going to be okay.’”

Tracy started her volunteer role at Homes First’s Bathurst-Lake Shore shelter last December and like many other volunteers, found that shelter residents were hesitant to get involved, especially since yoga is a physical activity, and many felt it would be too difficult for them. Then one day, the shelter’s on-site programming coordinator Nikki was complaining of neck pain, when Tracy encouraged her to be the first participant. Seeing another person participate was the encouragement shelter residents needed to try it out.

“She was just so much more relaxed. The next week, I came back and I had two students. And it grew from there,” says Tracy.

Tracy now had a few regulars participating in her yoga classes, but faced another problem: many residents were struggling to let go and relax into the class. One resident told her she wasn’t going to remove her shoes, for fear that they would get stolen. Tracy promised she would keep an eye on her shoes and built trust, and by the end of that class, the resident felt so relaxed she fell asleep in her final pose. Since then, Tracy has made other connections with residents, helping them find the best way to practice yoga to support what their minds and bodies need, and she’s happy that she can help people let go of their worries, even if it’s just for one hour a week.

“It’s the greatest thing to connect with another human being and just know that they’re experiencing something wonderful, that you can share in that experience with them.”

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Housing first is part of the solution to ending chronic homelessness.

Homes First Administration Office, 90 Shuter Street, Suite 206, Toronto, ON M5B 2K6
Phone: 416-214-1870 Fax: 416-214-1873

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