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Yoga minstrel brings smiles, bad jokes to Tri-Cities seniors

Chris Ridout brings his guitar to keep seniors shut-in by COVID-19 a little break and some exercise

What do you get when you cross classic sing-a-long tunes by the likes of The Beatles and Dinah Shore with bad jokes gleaned from books bought from Value Village, as well as a little yoga instruction? 

For Chris Ridout, the result is a winning afternoon in the sunshine, putting smiles on the faces of seniors shut-in by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ridout has been teaching yoga for 10 years, after a long career teaching business to international students. His clients range from two to 106 years old, the latter amongst the several senior homes in the Tri-Cities he visits weekly to keep residents limber and show them breathing techniques to relax. 

But with those facilities off-limits to outsiders during the pandemic to protect the health of residents, Ridout was out of work and the seniors he helped at loose ends. 

So he improvised. 

Working with management at the various homes on his circuit, Ridout came up with new ways to keep his sessions going, like leading classes from outside while the seniors followed along through the windows of a community room, or putting on personal protective equipment so he could carry on indoors. 

Ridout, himself now a senior since he recently turned 65, said the outside connection he brings is important to the residents of facilities like Parkwood Manor in Coquitlam. 

“It’s the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “It’s a reminder that this is not going to last forever.” 

Last Thursday, on a bright, warm spring afternoon, staff at Parkwood placed a few dozen chairs in front of the building and helped others using walkers and wheelchairs take their places in the sunshine and shade for a special visit by their yoga minstrel. 

With a guitar slung over his shoulder, a small amp at his feet and a bounce in his legs, Ridout greeted familiar faces from afar, then launched into an hour-long serenade of lively tunes like OblaDi, and Yellow Bird, sprinkled with liberal doses of groan-worthy jokes, some of them bordering on the risqué. 

“I like to treat them like the adults they are,” Ridout said. 

Many of the approximately 50 seniors sang along, some clapped, a few just dozed in the warm sun, their faces protected by wide-brimmed sombreros supplied by staff. In between sets, Ridout reminds them of the breathing techniques he’d previously taught to help ease their anxieties. 

And when the show was over, everyone got an ice cream treat. 

It was, Rdout said, like spending the afternoon with old friends.

• To learn more about Ridout's musical yoga, go to