Saturday, December 15, 2018

Weekend column: Practicing yoga with my mother-in-law

"For me, fitness is not just about hitting the gym; it is also about an inner happiness and an overall well-being." ~Rakul Preet Singh


Cindy La Ferle

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Had you told me three years ago that I’d be practicing yoga or pressing weights with my mother-in-law, I would've laughed out loud. Since my late forties, I’ve struggled to find a fitness routine that won't strain my bilateral hip replacements. Everything I tried in the past, from Hatha yoga to zumba, left me feeling sore, exhausted, and humiliated -- and eager for the classes to end. 

Like any seasoned mother-in-law, mine has a solution for nearly any problem. At our family gatherings, she often raved about her aerobics and chair yoga classes at the Clawson Senior Community Center. "You're welcome to join us," she'd remind me.  
Even after turning 60, I wasn’t quite sure if I qualified for “senior activities” at any local community center. Or maybe I just didn’t want to believe I did. Either way, I heard my wake-up call after my family physician expressed concern about cardiovascular issues during my routine health exam. For starters, the doctor suggested a regular exercise program in addition to daily walks with my dog.   
Just as my mother-in-law predicted, I was hooked after trying my first fitness class at the Senior Center. Within six weeks, I found that attending classes consistently was yielding positive results – without the pain or shame I’d experienced in other workout programs. 
Getting my rear in gear
Having an ongoing fitness program within a ten-minute drive from home helps to keep me motivated. (My mother-in-law tracks my attendance, too.) Furthermore, since I'm not competitive or athletic, I'm much happier moving at my own pace with others who aren't interested in showing off at the gym. And that's why these classes are actually fun

The chair yoga classes, offered early on Monday and Friday mornings, have provided a minor breakthrough for me.  I can even strike the warrior poses without toppling over or dislocating my titanium hips. Experienced instructors offer a gentler version of yoga poses while incorporating the deep breathing and mind-body benefits of traditional yoga practices. Though we work primarily from a seated position, we're often guided through a series of standing poses for balance, too. 

In the chair exercise classes (every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), guided routines using resistance bands and hand weights are performed with music. The stretches have helped ease the chronic pain in my arthritic right shoulder. 

And if I'm ready for a full-body workout, I can stay for an additional half hour of aerobics -- I'd call it Jazzercise Lite -- after the chair exercise class. 
Fun and fitness
“Our fitness classes are designed to make it easier for people with physical limitations to lead a healthier lifestyle and feel better about themselves,” explains Karen Kmiecik, a certified instructor who leads the chair exercise programs at the Senior Center. 
Karen recommends working out three times weekly to achieve the full benefits of any exercise program. Her lifelong devotion to health and fitness makes her look years younger -- an inspiration to us all. 
Along with her nonstop sense of humor, Karen's enthusiasm keeps us all coming back, week after week. She knows everyone in our chair exercise class by name. She also understands our individual limitations, and is quick to remind us to take it easy if any exercise is uncomfortable. 
No matter what shape you’re in, it’s never too late to start a fitness routine. Whenever I’m tempted to skip a class, I think of the energetic men and women who attend regularly -- some of whom are well past 80. If they can do it, so can I. Or so my mother-in-law reminds me. ~Cindy La Ferle
The Clawson Senior Center is located at 509 Fisher Court, Clawson, MI 48017. For a monthly schedule of fitness and yoga classes, phone 248-583-6700 or click here for contact info. Classes are free to the public; donations welcome.

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