My Yoga Walk: From Student to Teacher

Yoga is a unique system of physical, mental and spiritual self-improvement that has been around for thousands of years. Yoga’s exercises and breathing techniques relax the mind and body, and create vitality and flexibility.

It also tones muscles, and improves posture, coordination and balance. You can participate in yoga at your own pace; so, wherever you are in your health, yoga is for you. Many people complain, “I can’t do yoga; I’m not flexible.” Well, that’s why you do yoga—to become more flexible.

My Story

Sixteen years ago, my son, Christopher, noticing my stiff neck and hunched shoulders, told me, “Mom, you need to learn to breathe and relax.” Indeed, years of running for flights in heels, carrying computer cases and luggage and laboring over a computer for hours, had taken a toll on my body.

I had heard about Donna Wilkinson, a yoga instructor in the Beverly area, who was said to be able to help her students “create a center of bliss.” Well, who wouldn’t want a center of bliss? So, I bought a yoga mat, and off I went to my first class. From the moment I stepped on my mat and took a few breaths, I felt at home.

We are fortunate to have several talented yoga instructors in the Chicagoland area. I have had an opportunity to study with many of them. One in particular, Suddha Wexler, of YogaMind on Lincoln Avenue, in Chicago, teaches an alignment-focused, comprehensive teacher training program, which is where I received my certification.

Teaching Seniors

I am committed to teaching yoga to seniors. It is very important that older adults keep active to prevent muscles and joints from tightening, shoulders from slumping and potbellies and dowager’s humps from swelling. My goal is to help my students achieve a peaceful feeling as we move and breathe together. I often remind them that yoga is not a competition. I tell them to do only what their bodies will let them do, and accept what they cannot do, without judgment.

Shirley J. Green Senior Center

I teach yoga at many locations; however, the Shirley J. Green Senior Center, in downtown Park Forest, is one of my favorites. Sally Fuhrman, the center’s director, was enthusiastic about being able to offer yoga to the center’s seniors. The center’s Web site states, “If you are age 60 years or older or disabled, live in Rich Township, and have an established need for services, we are here to serve you. There are no requirements to participate in our social activities—all are welcome!”

The center’s rooms are bright and cheery, and filled with the seniors’ own artwork, which creates a very homey atmosphere. It is a very active place; seniors can take art, needlework and jewelry classes. In addition to yoga, they can participate in activities, including bunco, walking and flexercise. They can even attend local and cross-country sightseeing excursions. In addition, the center offers services for homebound seniors.

Yoga at the Senior Center

In my class, I incorporate both sitting and standing yoga poses. We may even get down on the mat, on occasion. If a student cannot or prefers not to stand, we simply modify the pose so that it can be done in a sitting position.

I also modify the poses for any of my students with health and physical limitations. We begin each class with sitting and breathing exercises. We then do stretching and more breathing exercises to warm up. We end every class with relaxation exercises. For many of my students, this is their favorite part of the class.

To find out more about the programs available at the Shirley J. Green Senior Center, call (708) 748-5454 or visit their Web site at http://www.richtownship.org.

About the Author

Eileen Olson teaches yoga at the Shirley J. Green Senior Center, the Beverly Yoga Center, and the Matteson and Peotone Park Districts. Contact her at (708) 359-0444.

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