Tony Dionisio, a Dahn Yoga instructor from the Sedona Meditation Center in Arizona, brings Dahn Yoga classes to tribal members in the Yavapai-Apache reservations in the Verde Valley for eight years now. The Yavapai-Apache peoples are suffering from a long-term and widespread epidemic of diabetes, and Dahn Yoga classes are one way to combat the disease, along with diet and other exercise.
The Yavapai-Apache Nation are two distinct cultures thrown together on the reservation; the Yavapai were local hunter-gatherers consuming native plants, while the Dilzhe’e Apache were of the Athapaskan tribes of Mongolia descent, related to present day Koreans. The Dine’ (Navajo) tribe and their Apache relatives are believed to have originally crossed the Bering Sea land bridge to Alaska, migrating south 700 and 900 years ago, respectively. The current 636-acre reservation houses approximately 735 members on five separate parcels in the Verde Valley located in northern Arizona.
Tony, a retired social worker and caretaker for the developmentally disabled, meets with tribal members on the reservations in Clarkdale and Middle Verde weekly; most are in their 60’s and older. Attendance ranges from 15 people per class, and sometimes are empty.
“If you get involved with expectations,” points out Tony, “it’s no way to measure your contribution.”
The Yavapai-Apache Wellness Center, formed to help the people fight diabetes, totally supports Tony’s passionate efforts. “…Dahn Yoga is a good choice for our seniors to engage in physical activity, not too strenuous,” says Cindi Nahee, Diabetes Program Coordinator. Tony always begins with tapping of the lower abdomen and abdomen exercises, a great start toward recovering health.
Lorna is a tribal member that has been regularly attending Dahn Yoga classes with her husband, Sonny, for the entire eight years. Lorna is battling cancer as well, and loves the classes. “I love this, it helps me get away and let everything go,” she told us. “It helps me deal with it, helps me relieve the stress.”
Last December, Peruvian Healer and medicine man Wachan and his wife Marteka joined Tony in an effort to help heal the Yavapai-Apache peoples. Wachan appears at different functions of the Dahn Yoga Community, practicing forms of sound healing; he comes from a lineage of healers from Peru. His drumming and singing harmonizes well with Tony’s gentle Dahn Yoga style, and with the Yavapai-Apache earth-heaven philosophies.
Halfway through a Dahn Yoga class, we all went outside to draw energy and show gratitude to the Sun and Earth, performing Dahn Yoga stretches and energy accumulation postures while Wachan kept beat and sang. It was a refreshing change from indoor exercises!
I asked Tony why he keeps coming back, even when attendance is low; he quoted Mother Teresa: “…all I can bring is a smile to someone’s face. Just to be available if someone needs me.”
Written By Ralph Fourmont