Allie Bourgeois offers a new sense of worship through her free yoga class for cancer patients and care givers, offered at Madison First UMC.
This particular yoga class focuses on relaxation, spiritual connection, as well as human touch.
While working towards the master level for yoga instructors, Bourgeois took a class on leading yoga sessions for cancer patients, and it ignited a passion to provide the opportunity for patients in her home town of Madison, Georgia.
She was also inspired by a student of hers who is battling pancreatic cancer. She wanted to provide her with a class that could best tend to her needs. That student and one other suggested hosting the class at their church, Madison First UMC.
Bourgeois knew of the church from placing her son in their preschool, and was grateful to be welcomed once more as a yoga teacher in early June.
Having raised $1,500 through various fundraisers and a helpful donation from the church, the instructor has more than enough funding to continue the class, currently meeting on Fridays with around 10 people in each session.
Money goes towards mats, cushioning, and oils for hand and foot massages. They also need to have material to provide the cleanest exercise environment they can.
Patients attend the class in various physical conditions. For this reason, several levels of difficulty are offered for all. Bourgeois says some patients attend shortly after chemotherapy and are only able to lay on the mat. For them, gentle spinal exercises are guided by hands-on volunteers to reach the highest level of restoration.
Touch, the instructor learned, is one of the most meaningful components of the class. Often cancer patients feel others avoid touching them, out of discomfort and fear of their fragility. Students say the massages and physical guidance provide them with peace and acceptance that they do not always receive from the outside world.
Care givers, such as family members, nurses, and others, are invited to the class as well. Bourgeois and her band of volunteers take on the role of assisting the patients, so they can enjoy the class as participants.
The space provided by the church provides a great sense of spiritual connection. The instructor often leads her students to look up towards the ceiling, where a stained glass window provides a soothing focal point.
The class includes about four Madison First UMC attendees, and the rest come from other denominations and backgrounds.
“All religions coming together in one place is so important,” says Bourgeois. “Yoga is not a religion, but it is worshipping God in whatever way you feel.”
Many participants offer to pay for the class, but Bourgeois, who has been teaching yoga for ten years, is insistent on providing them the class for free.
She tells them, “it’s important sometimes to receive so that people can give.”
Bourgeois has received constant encouragement and support from Madison First UMC. Pastor Grady Mosley was not hesitant to send an e-mail out to the community to spread the word on this unique class. The instructor was also asked to talk to the Older Adult Sunday School class about the benefits of yoga, ensuring them that there is a class for every skill level.
“Everybody supports everybody,” Bourgeois says of her Madison community.
Learn more about Allie Bourgeois’ yoga class for cancer patients and caretakers through their Facebook group, and contact her if you are interested in providing similar opportunities at your church.