Betty Ann McKenzie has taught our gentle chair yoga class for years. In the spring, we spoke about her class, her yoga philosophy, and what appropriate exercise can do for students of all ages. With our fall session starting up next Monday, I’m posting the interview here.
Q. What is yoga? What can your class do for me?
A. Hatha yoga is a meditative flow of postures harmonizing the energy of your body—it’s called chakra—so that energy is balanced between mind, breath, and body. In that way, yoga has a [multi]-pronged approach; it gives you physical as well as mental energy.
My class is designed to improve strength, flexibility, coordination and balance.
Below: Betty Ann demonstrates some common yoga poses, meant to strengthen the core and improve balance.
Q. Do you have any advice for beginners?
A. First—you do not need to know anything about yoga to come to class. It’s really one of the oldest, most gentle exercises around. You can safely do it for your whole life.
Also: Don’t do more than you can do. You will get more flexible.
Q. Can someone come if they have health concerns?
A. If you’re not sure you should ask your doctor, [but] we know that, for example, arthritis benefits from movement. And in this class there are people with hip replacements or knee replacements. But I should know about [any injuries] beforehand.
Q. What if you’re active already? What’s the benefit of a gentle yoga class?
A. [It will] help someone who’s already active to maintain their level of activity, but it [also] balances other activities. If you do a lot of walking, for example, coming to my yoga class will help make your muscles supple.
And it helps balance, coordination. You remember the old story: if you can pat your head and rub your tummy, that really works your brain, because the messages have to be sent to the right place. So your brain gets a workout in my class as well, because you have to really coordinate your movements.
Below: Betty Ann demonstrates three different chair adaptations of the “downward dog” pose, which stretches the arms, legs, and spine, strengthens your arms, shoulders and back, and can reduce back pain.
You can sit in a chair while completing the pose, to avoid stressing your legs or worrying about balance.
Alternatively, place your hands on the chair seat while standing—this is the most strenuous version of the chair-based downward dog.
The “middle way”: Use the back of the chair to support yourself as you bend forward and keep your back as straight as possible.
YOGA FALL SESSION: Starts Monday, October 2nd
Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.