Category Archives: December 6

Meeting the special needs of an older demographic—through yoga

Yoga instructor Toni Small (center first row, wearing black) and the yoga-instructor students who took the “Yoga for Seniors Teacher Training” at the 47 Main Street studio in Tenants Harbor on Columbus Day weekend. The training was offered as an educational module through the 300-hour training level by Shiva Shakti School of Yoga in Union. Additional instructors were Kirshna Perry, Dr. Richard Kahn, Katie Snow, P.T. and Donna Gioia, P.T.

The week after Toni Small’s father, Comstock Small, died in 2007 she drove to Rockland to take a salsa dance class. She was surprised to find that her father’s doctor was also in the class. “That made the second time that week that I had seen him, which I sort of loved.” She realized that both she and he were probably there for the same reason—to lighten up and move as a means of relieving the stress and grief of caregiving and loss.

Small and her mother, Linda, had at Comstock’s request brought him to live out his life in Port Clyde in 2006. Then for the next 18 months the two cared for him at home. “One of the fallouts of caregiving was not moving,” Small says. “During those last months of my father’s life he had become more and more tender, more needy, more fragile, so we felt pretty tethered to the house. And both my health and Linda’s health began to deteriorate to the point that there were diagnoses and symptoms that were obviously from the stress of caregiving. I realized I had also stopped moving. As caregivers we had really suffered. I realized then that for my mental health as well as for my physical health it was really important to keep moving.”

For Small, who before this had “always been a mover” through dance and periodically studying yoga, that salsa class was the beginning of not only reconnecting with what had been an important part of her life, but also of exploring a new sense of vocation that came out of her experience caring for her father.

First, reconnecting with her movement past involved Zumba, with which she became familiar in 2009. “It was a way to move that was fun, was definitely dancelike and fitness oriented.” She began Zumba teacher training soon after and began teaching classes in 2011.

Then, almost as soon as she began teaching Zumba, Small also began training to become a yoga instructor, studying with mentors at the ShivaShakti School of Yoga in Union to become certified. But in addition to her desire to learn how to teach yoga basics, she was also feeling the tug, as her Zumba “Gold” classes were already attesting, to apply the principles of yoga to a “senior” demographic, one that would not only include caregivers, but also people in need of care.

“What I started looking for were yoga programs specifically designed for family caregivers, who are often approaching seniority themselves, and for other seniors dealing with physical limitations, whatever the cause.” Eventually she discovered the work being done by Kimberly Carson and Carol Krucoff at the Yoga for Seniors program offered at Duke Integrative Medicine. The two women had developed an eight-day training program for Western yoga instructors in how to adapt yoga practice to the needs of older people, people “whose breathing, mobility, strength, flexibility, balance, joy, and overall peace of mind may feel impinged upon by our aging, by pain, or simply by the effort to avoid feeling lost in the midst of an ever-accelerating Western civilization,” as Duke Professor of Medicine/Cardiology Michael Krucoff notes.

Small journeyed to North Carolina in November of 2014 to take the Carson/Krucoff training, which included not only senior-appropriate yoga practices but also a rigorous program of lectures from Duke’s medical staff about physiological and other factors relevant to seniors that instructors should bear in mind. When she got back to St. George she began integrating what she learned at Duke into her classes at the 47 Main Street studio in Tenants Harbor. This past Columbus Day weekend, she took the step of holding her first workshop for other yoga instructors on a ‘Yoga for Seniors Teacher Training’ in association with Union’s ShivaShakti School of Yoga.

“Here in the West, the focus of many yoga classes is on posture practice,” Small explains. “Basically yoga has been about sport, about fitness. But there is more to it than that—it’s the breath work, the mindfulness work, meditation as well. As [Kimberly Carson and Carol Krucoff] point out, if reaching a peak pose equates with spiritual enlightenment, we have a problem.”

Small goes on to explain that there are now yoga instructors who have been teaching for 30 or 40 years or more who themselves have repetitive movement injuries and are getting hip replacements, which is causing them to question whether their focus on head stands and forward-folding postures makes sense for every student.

“So there’s a way the yoga-teaching community is growing up,” Small says with a wry smile. “For me, the beauty of focusing on the ‘senior’ demographic is you can meet the needs of a wider range of people, a demographic that has special needs. Some people have said I’m teaching ‘permissive yoga,’ that I’m letting students do what they want. But what I’m trying to do is to give a program that moves students through balance, strength and flexibility but at the same time that asks them to pay attention to what is working for them. Yoga is about learning how to take care of yourself, so that a student learns, ‘I have the resources to take care of myself, I know what to do to invigorate myself when I’m feeling sluggish, what to do to calm myself when I am stressed.’”

So Small tells her students that they are in class “to be present in your own body and to take on the discipline of doing your own practice.” Moreover, she says, “mindfulness on the mat leads you to practice that in every other realm—yoga is about heart, body and mind. It is about approaching life in a balanced way.” In this respect, she adds, “If I had been doing yoga when I was caring for my father, I think I could have coped better. In our Western culture we deal with poor health by saying here’s the pill, the surgery, the diagnosis. But I think we have more power than that.”

Referring specifically to the older demographic she is trying to serve, Small reflects, “Just because we are winding down doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be dancing and moving. We have so much more capacity than we give ourselves credit for. We can invite ourselves to challenge what aging means.”—JW

[For more information on Toni Small’s classes go to For more information on the yoga-for-seniors program pioneered by Kimberly Carson and Carol Krucoff at Duke Integrative Medicine see their publication, Relax into Yoga for Seniors: A Six-Week Program for Strength, Balance, Flexibility and Pain Relief, New Harbinger Publications, Inc.]

November snow

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Beaver dam

A November forecast calling for five inches of snow brings excitement. I was pumped for some early-season snow lessons, coming down with a severe cases of giddypation and, in the end, I was not disappointed.

The first snow stopped on a late-afternoon and so the next morning I covered myself in orange and headed to the Tenants Harbor marsh. I got out before sunrise. When possible, It’s good to observe tracks at their “freshest” and that is before the sun starts its track-altering ways. There hadn’t been a significant November snow event so far in my time in St. George, and thusly my giddypation made it easy to get up and out and to see what lessons might be available in the frozen precipitation.

The thing that grabbed my attention first was the obvious disturbance in the snow on top of the local beaver lodge. Where one may have expected a clean, snow covered pile of sticks, fresh mud and trails told stories of a busy night. The beaver(s) had been patching, fixing and adding to the roof of their winter accommodations! Once winter and cold temps truly set in, beaver activity is largely confined to within the lodge and small excursions to eat food and branches stored under (and in) the ice. These types of winter outings rarely bring beaver into the snow, and so I had not seen beaver trails and sign captured like this before. It was November work that the beaver would have done anyway, but without the snow and the trails it captured, observation and awareness of this night work would have been tricky. Instead it was easy as pumpkin pie!

Otter slide

The main goal, however and “as always,” was to see if the local river otter where out and about overnight. When searching for river otter trails it can be helpful to start at culverts, beaver dams, and other places where bodies of water bottleneck. The beaver dams in the marsh support this generalization (thank you beaver dam). After a day of 32-degree snow, the water levels in the marsh were high and the associated overflow cascaded forcefully over and down the dam. A rock in the midst of, but rising above, the overflow preserved a single patch of snow that held tracks where an otter had paused for a momentary view of the lower marsh. Ah-ha! There was some otter activity in the marsh overnight.

Subsequent visits to a few locally prominent (and favorite) otter latrines found they held even more sign of otter visitation from the night before. Mounds, scrapes and fresh spraint—consisting of either fish scales or crab exoskeleton–were in healthy supply. Apparently all three local otters—Moe, Larry and Curley—had visited the latrine since the snow had stopped. The latrines and marking areas were great for finding fresh tracks and claw marks. Otters are creatures of habit and routinely visit latrines and marking areas. We like that.

Otter scrape and slide

The ice was too thin to support humans (other than the tiniest of sorts, who probably shouldn’t be out there by themselves). It was, however, crisscrossed with tracks and trails of belly slides and bounds left behind by river otter. The trails connected otter latrines to openings in the ice and the access to fishing and food below. The thin ice provided a unique view of otter behavior and decision-making from the night before, views that were available only through the use of ice, snow and slush. Man, I can get used to November snows!

As if that weren’t enough, the snow in the woods surrounding the marsh was full of animal sign as well! Over the course of this single night, deer had created “highways” in the snow and multiple spruce-cone stash spots were dug up by red squirrels. Snowshoe hare were also present, but left the impression that they were not too numerous. One might say the prey species came across as a little cautious heading out into the snowy world. Felt a little vulnerable (maybe) and rightly so.

Coyote track

Where there are deer trails there are also coyote trails, and in sections of the woods I found tracks and trails representing multiple coyote in the snow. Two coyote even ventured out onto the ice, and while their trails don’t show them breaking through they retreated back to the safety of shore very quickly. Might have been the ones who visit my yard. Time may tell.


Otter track

November snows are a luxury. An “off-season” view into the tracks, trails and behavior of St. George wildlife with the relative comfort of November temperatures. Can’t always count on them, but I’ll gladly learn from November snows when they fall. A wise man down the road likes to say “use it before you lose it.” I agree, but would like to add “use it when you got it,” and what we got was winter in November!

A sewing machine that went to sea

The great-granddaughter of Capt. Henry Giles, Sylvia Keene of Nobleboro, recently donated the sewing machine shown here to the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum. She said that it had gone on board several seafaring vessels captained by her great-grandfather and had been passed on down through the family.

Capt. Henry Giles was born in 1828 in St. George and went to sea at an early age. The first sailing vessel he captained was the two-masted schooner Boyne in 1847. Other sailing vessels on which he served as captain were the brig John A. Taylor, schooner Almira Ann, schooner Levi Hart, schooner Clara W. Elwell, and the ships Baring Brothers and Sarah Newman. The Downeaster Baring Brothers was the last vessel he captained, leaving the sea in the 1880s. He retired to his hometown of St. George and lived in the house that is now known as the East Wind Inn Meeting House Annex on Mechanic Street in Tenants Harbor. The sailing vessels John A. Taylor, Levi Hart and Clara W. Elwell were all built in St. George.

One of the other great-granddaughters of Capt. Giles, Laura Cliff, amassed quite a collection of family history and upon her death it was left to the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport. Included in the collection are several journals and diaries of family members who accompanied Capt. Giles on some of his voyages. These papers are available for viewing at the library in Searsport and some of the material will be copied and placed with the sewing machine in the Marshall Point Lighthouse Museum. It will give a great understanding of the day-to-day life on a sailing vessel.

The treadle sewing machine dates to the mid-1800s and is amazingly heavy. It would be interesting to find out how they fastened it so it wouldn’t move with the motions of the sea. The journals mention sewing to pass the time and the effort to have certain items done by the time they returned to port.—John Falla


To the editor:
I’m writing to thank everyone involved in the wonderful Thanksgiving dinner ath the Town Office on Sunday November 18th. It was so delicious and plentiful and the tables very pretty. It was great to see such a wonderful attendance. Thanks again.

Sylvia Armstrong Murphy

Eighth graders reflect on their recent experience at Camp Kieve

At the end of October, the 8th grade class spent a week at Camp Kieve in Nobleboro, Maine. Our experience at Camp Kieve was amazing, influential, and most of all, one to remember. It was hard for me to accept all of the different opinions brought up [during class discussions] at Kieve. I learned that there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to opinions and that everyone has different opinions and that is ok. —Willow McConochie

At Camp Kieve, we did lots of team-building activities that brought us closer together. We learned that we had to trust each other, that it’s okay to ask for help, and that if even just one person doesn’t work with everyone else as a team, the entire team won’t reach their goal.—Maggie Gill

We learned that collaboration is good and it is an important skill to have in the real world. At first I was challenged by collaboration but it didn’t take me long to get over that. I learned to ask for help if you need it because that can be a major thing to life because everybody needs some help every now and then. —Shaun Hopkins

Many things happened that week that helped us grow as people and discover how it feels to really work in a group with trust, knowing that everyone will have your back. This experience will help us in life by using the many skills that we learned there such as collaboration, listening, and to always treat others with kindness and respect.—Lydia Myers

We really enjoyed climbing and all of the rope courses because we got the opportunity to step out of our comfort zone and try new things. We also had a really fun time doing team challenges and silly games. What challenged me the most was speaking up in front of everyone. I learned a lot more about my classmates. I also learned that I can have more trust in other people in my class that I hadn’t had before. This will help me step out of my comfort zone and put myself out there sometimes.—Gwen Miller

Overall, we had a very enjoyable and life-changing time. The things I learned I will try to carry with me for as long as possible. I want to remember everything that I learned, felt, and did, and I want it to affect the rest of my life through high school and beyond. —Grace Yanz