Chair yoga helps elderly hold the pose

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In a quiet studio room with light hardwood floors and bright, calming graphics canvassing the back wall, a group of eight students seem to fall effortlessly into a dramatic pose. Their breathing is deep yet controlled and they hold until they are instructed to release.
Chair yoga helps elderly hold the pose
Linda Murray, Kathy Cuthbert and Scott A. Jones fall into synchronized moves during a mid-morning Chair Yoga Class. KIM DAME

The room is dotted with simple dining-room-style chairs, one for each of the eight participants. They use the chairs for support, gripping the back with one hand and stretching the other over their heads and then down to their feet. They breathe, deeply, and release.

Yoga instructor Diana Reed speaks in softly, just audible above the soothing music playing in the background. With a gentle grace, Reed leads her chair yoga class into each pose, reminding them to breathe and focus on their bodies.

Chair yoga at Gaya Jyoti Yoga provides another option for students who might find a traditional class a bit strenuous, particularly if they have any issues like a bad should or hip. Yet Reed said the benefits to the body are as dramatic as any other yoga class.

After all, the art of yoga is much more than physical. According to an article published on the website, yoga is an all body experience. The article cites 75 unique benefits to practicing yoga, all of which touch on the mental and physical aspects. They include memory, recall, decision making, cardiovascular health, metabolism, respiratory health, and others.

And Reed would agree, stressing that yoga is not an activity but a lifestyle. Her toned frame and physical health can attest to the importance of incorporating yoga in a healthy lifestyle. Many of her students stand firmly by their decision to make yoga a priority.

As the group winds down its session, each falls into a state of semi-consciousness. Reed gently glides between their bodies, tapping a bowl that sends vibrations into the air above them. She instructs each to wait until they feel the vibrations. “Relax and allow the vibrations to fill you.”

Chair yoga is only one of the options offered at Gaya Jyoti.

Ellee Simons, a seasonal resident of Spring Hill, usually takes a level one class yoga but opted for chair yoga on a whim.

“This was really good for me,” she said after completing her first chair class. Simons has arthritis in one hip and a bad shoulder. “It was a lot better for my hip,” she said.

Like many, Simons thought chair yoga would be too gentle for optimum benefit. But she was pleasantly impressed with the experience.

Reed has been teaching yoga classes for more than 10 years, opening Gaya Jyoti Yoga, which means House of Lights, eight years ago in Spring Hill. The studio began in a modest single room on Commercial Way before expanding into the studio at Eastside Center on Spring Hill Drive in 2009. Two large rooms hold classes four times a day, seven days a week.

In addition to chair yoga, Gaya Jyoti Yoga schedules beginning yoga, hot yoga, hot power yoga, kid’s yoga, mysore (self practice), therapeutic yoga, warm 60, and yoga for bone strength (Osteoporosis Prevention).

Yoga has been a way of life for Reed, responsible she said for redirecting her path. It has lead to major life changes for her, including following a vegan diet.

“You naturally want to live a better lifestyle when you embrace a Yoga life,” Reed said.

Anyone can begin to add the positive all-body affects from yoga, Reed said. Gaya Jyoti offers many options at different skill levels and pace.

“We start with the physical body because that’s what everyone can connect to,” Reed said. “Then, we start quieting your mind down. And then there’s the last part where you’re lying on the floor trying to do nothing. It’s often referred to as the hardest part. Most people have such a hard time lying there and being still.”

Catherine Jones started taking yoga after losing a significant amount of weight. She found the classes help tighten her muscles, strengthen her core, and tone her entire body.

“There is not a bad teacher here,” said Jones, who has been a client of Gaya Jyoti’s for about four months. “They each bring their own energy and light.”

Harriet Maria Weiner, a five-year student of Gaya Jyoti Yoga, can attest to the dramatic changes she has experienced since making yoga a priority in her life.

“It makes your body feel so good,” she said. “You’re completely different when you go home. I can get up and go to the floor. I can bend down to the floor. I couldn’t do that before.”

Email Hernando Today Correspondent Kim Dame at