Downward facing dog, happy baby, child’s pose, high dragon, cobra pose: These are but a few of the poses struck during yoga classes all over the world. Practiced for centuries, its health benefits include increased flexibility and muscle tone, cardio and circulatory health, improved breathing, and more, according to http://www.yogaalliance.org/
For those of us living on or near the Boothbay peninsula, there’s Crow Point Yoga owned by teacher Sharon Goldhirsch. It has been around seven and a half years and is going strong. Classes are held at the West Street location and are also available on Zoom and on the YouTube channel. Eight vaccinated people can practice in studio, plus the instructor.
If you are looking to improve your health – body, mind and soul – yoga may be just what you’ve been waiting for. In addition to Goldhirsch, instructors include Wendy Johnson, Romee May (many of you may have taken classes with her when she had her own studio, Yoga Firm); Steph Winchenbach, Dianne Daniels, and Doug Goldhirsch.
Never went to a yoga class before, but now you’re thinking you are too old? Not so! The classes at Crow Point Yoga are for everyone, and if you are in your 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s ... there are classes for you! Yoga for EveryBODY (three times a week with Sharon or Wendy) - Gentle Restorative Yoga (Wendy) - Rhythm & Flow and Gentle Slow Flow (Steph), Chair Yoga (Sharon), Yoga Flow (Romee - twice a week); these classes have been designed, in part, with an aging population in mind.
Goldhirsch and Johnson noted the highest number of seniors in Maine are right here in Lincoln County, making falls a number one concern. The practice of yoga benefits physical joint and muscle strength, and instructs us on how to breathe. “Yoga changes people. It helps your mind relax. It’s a moving meditation, linking breath and movement. Breath is critical to good health,” said Goldhirsch. ““But so is balance.”
They noted new retirees who’ve become yoga devotees. “They started out with three classes a week, Zoom or in person. Being able to come here, and have that sense of community, and getting stronger together, is important,” said Johnson. “You don’t come here thinking you need to know all the Sanskrit names to these poses.”
Goldhirsch said the teachers “straight talk it,” particularly if there are new students. But, as Johnson added, “Sometimes we’ll throw one (Sanskrit name) in there.”
Both yogis recommend chair yoga as a great entry class, particularly for people with a health issue such as fibromyalgia, arthritis ... or just plain old aging. “They surprise themselves all of the time. The chair yoga is challenging, you will get a lot out of it,” Johnson said.
As we age, our lungs start to shut down a bit, Goldhirsch said, and rarely does your breath get to just below the collarbone – unless you practice yoga.
“We’re in the transformation business,” said Goldhirsch. “We see transformation happen like crazy. We have people in class who are three day-a-weekers, some who come here more often. There’s a sense of community, and it's a great motivator (being in class). Crow Point has a non-threatening vibe; and beginners do not feel like they should know all the names of the positions. We’ve heard this from a lot of people from here and away.”
Students are encouraged to bring your own mat, but if you don’t have one Crow Point does. There are also blocks, bolsters and other props for students to use in class. The studio is open now for up to eight fully vaccinated people. Those not vaccinated are encouraged to attend classes via Zoom. Crow Point follows CDC guidelines regarding masks. Some students prefer to wear masks during classes. A comfortable, light cloth mask works well.
Students who’ve been coming for a while pretty much know each other, Johnson said. And, sometimes a new person will come in and say they are fully vaccinated.
“Everyone’s on heightened alert because of all the uncertainty. These are ways to reset your nervous system. It’s feeling at home in your body. In yoga, you’re breathing in and out through the nose, not the mouth, so it is comfortable to breathe in with a mask,” Johnson said.
Breath is the key component in the teaching. Both Goldhirsch and Johnson emphasized the positive impact yoga has on the circulatory and digestive systems, how it boosts the immune system.
“If you came here and just breathed with us for an hour, you will leave feeling better on so many levels – mentally, reducing your stress and just letting your mind relax ... and getting blood into your brain and heart,” Goldhirsch said.
“When we teach, we teach a breath focused class, so we’ll say take a deep breath, raise your arms, exhale, bring them down. Inhale, reach forward ... so, we’re always calling the breath,” Goldhirsch said. “The class becomes a moving meditation and when that happens, you can see at the end of class people are blissed out. Because having an hour of that type of breath movement your mind can relax.”
“And that,” Johnson said, “is vinyasa: linking breath and movement. Breathing, exhaling in-sync, and that’s why we come to class. Why we practice. It’s powerful. It’s hard starting new things; start where you are. It’s OK not to be the expert. Everybody should be doing yoga.”
A free 30-minute video, Yoga Over 60 / Senior Yoga - 30 Minute Practice, is available on Crow Point Yoga’s YouTube channel. Goldhirsch designed the class with the over 60s in mind, but it’s great for everyone.
For more information on Crow Point Yoga’s classes and teachers, and to sign up for classes visit https://www.crowpointyoga.com