Halifax Heroes: Woman using yoga to make warriors out of her community
Marrilee Wilson believes everyone deserves access to the growing practice, no matter where you live or how much money you make.
Marrilee Wilson’s passion for yoga takes a backseat only to being a foster parent.
Before she suffered a brain aneurysm nine years ago, yoga wasn’t something Wilson had ever considered.
Today, she’s a certified yoga instructor who volunteers her yoga practice where it’s most needed in her community.
“It was really important to me to connect with groups that are typically marginalized. That would be my own group, indigenous African Nova Scotians,” she said.
“Typically you don’t see them in the yoga studios and so I thought ‘What is it about a typical yoga studio that doesn’t make people curious?’”
Recalling her brain injury recovery, Wilson knew she wanted to bring it directly to those in her community who typically wouldn’t access yoga.
“I thought ‘Let me go into communities like Mulgrave Park, Uniacke Square, north end places that might collaborate with me. Perhaps I might see members of my community be curious enough to check it out,” Wilson explained.
“If you see someone that looks like you in terms of body shape or ethnicity or gender, then you’re going to think ‘Oh, ok. They’re here. Maybe I can be here too.’”
“That’s where you’re going to make your money, which is cool. But it leaves out a whole group of people like me who are maybe recovering from an illness and those who can’t afford a $15 or $20 drop-in visit,” she said.
“The choice between groceries or yoga? I’m going to choose my groceries. Every time.”
Upon first becoming a yoga instructor three years ago, Wilson began offering her practice at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre to people who, like her, were recovering from a stroke or brain injury. She still goes at least once a month, and recently offered a six-week workshop for the facility’s outpatients.
This winter she started offering yoga as a volunteer at Veith House, and may partner with the North End Community Clinic this fall.
“If it’s associated with health I put that as a priority,” she said.
Wilson frequently offers community demos and other classes, and is also moved by a longstanding yoga date she has not far from her own home.
“I also offer my practice to free to an elder, a black woman who came up to me one day when I did a demo at the North Branch Library and she said would you come and teach me yoga,” Wilson recalled.
The woman told her she didn’t have money, but had a practice space. Every Monday morning for the past three years Wilson has offered a class to a group of five to seven practitioners whom she calls her warrior women.
“So an elder, a senior, has had a regular yoga practice for the last three years since I became certified and she keeps thanking me,” Wilson said.
“I say ‘No. Thank you for letting me come here and share my practice with you.’”
The only thing that takes priority to her yoga practice is her foster parenting.
“I have a little man three years old and I met him when he was three months old and I’m a support to him. I do part time respite and emergency placements for little ones,” she explained.
“It’s the best thing ever. I’m exhausted, but I love it.”
Like many volunteers, Wilson is reluctant to accept any recognition for her work.
“One of the reasons I feel it’s important for me to take a portion of my yoga practice and donate it to my community is because of the kindness and the support that I received during my recovery,” she said.
“It is exciting to bring this to people.”
Want to nominate someone?
Each week, we will profile an unsung volunteer hero in our community as part of Halifax Heroes. To nominate someone, email firstname.lastname@example.org, Metro Halifax’s managing editor, or Tweet @metrohalifax using the hashtag #Halifaxheroes