Every Thursday at 7:30 am, the Palisades Optimists meet at the Aldersgate Retreat Center. They host a variety of speakers, but this week was different. Goorus co-owner Gretchen Lightfoot and Goorus instructor Susan Cambigue-Tracey talked about the overall benefits of yoga, followed by an introductory Chair Yoga class. Nearly every person in the room participated.
Yoga is an ancient practice, estimated to be 2,500-3,000 years old (or more). Yoga is the Sanskrit word for “yoke” or “union” of body, mind and spirit. Goorus Yoga Studio primarily addresses three of the eight limbs of yoga: 1) asana – poses or postures which exercise the entire body; 2) pranayama – breath work; and 3) meditation.
Today, yoga seems to be everywhere. It is often used as a means of physical rehabilitation or prevention, a complimentary or alternative medicine, and a tool to improve overall health. “It is also a great way to connect to your local community,” said Gretchen. “We have a lot of people who come to the studio 30 minutes or more before class just to hang out and socialize with each other.”
Yoga has positive benefits for the musculo-skeletal, nervous and cardiovascular systems. It benefits the musculo-skeletal system by increasing muscle strength and tone, boosting flexibility, and advancing stability. All of these are important considerations as we age due to the prevalence of osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.
By incorporating breathing exercises and meditation into the practice, yogis can begin to control their reaction to stress. Study after study has shown that yoga helps to lower the pulse rate and blood pressure, and reduce the amount of stress hormones flooding the body. Not only will this lessen stress, anxiety, and insomnia, but it will also bring clarity to the mind and slow down the mental chatter (known in Sanskrit as citta vritti). People suffering from asthma have been able to find some relief through yoga, and others have been able to control their weight through a more mindful approach to diet.
Gretchen encouraged the group to pull their chairs away from the tables to give themselves enough room to try Chair Yoga. Chair Yoga has all of the benefits of a regular yoga class; postures, or asanas, are modified for people who have limited mobility, or who are slowly getting back into a stretching routine. Gretchen mentioned that her father-in-law has knee issues and has trouble getting down to and back up from the floor; she also mentioned that Chair Yoga is a good alternative for people with wrist problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Susan began the short yoga practice by telling participants her age (75) and sharing that she has had two hip replacement surgeries. One member of the group raised their hand and said, “I’m 90!”
While she led the routine, Susan used vivid imagery to guide participants in their practice. Susan instructed, “Imagine yourself as a beautiful bird” or “Imagine the spine as a spiral staircase.” She continued with the idea that, “There is no judgment in yoga.”
Near the end, one man was overheard saying he had to remove his jacket because, “I’m starting to sweat.”
Susan ended with a seated savasana (final resting pose). She encouraged participants to “set an intention for your day” and closed with the traditional greeting of Namaste, which means “the light in me recognizes the light or spirit in you.”
After the presentation, there was a raffle and three patrons won classes and private lessons at Goorus. Gretchen encouraged the group to come by the studio on Saturday, August 29 for the Grand Opening Celebration & Open House. Classes are free to the public all day on August 29.
As the Optimists headed out after the meeting, we heard comments like: “I feel better already,” “I should do that,” and “I enjoyed that.”
NB: A weekly Chair Yoga class is under consideration at Goorus Yoga. Those interested in participating are encouraged to contact the studio by phone at 310-765-4871, by email at email@example.com, or by visiting in-person at 15327 West Sunset Boulevard in the Palisades (between Palisades Flowers and Rosie’s Nails).