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Yoga group keeps seniors stretching

Eight women meet up three times a week to stretch, pose and bond
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Helen Daley always feels better after a morning of yoga. The active senior likes to stay in shape and travels often, having recently returned from an extended trip to Paris where her son lives. “I travel all over the world,” she says. “Why wouldn’t I?” After all, the Roseville resident is only 90 years old. In her yoga class, she can still touch her toes and do all the positions in class. She’s been practicing yoga at local gyms and studios for the past 22 years. “I attribute my health to going to yoga,” Daley says. “We just love it. We’re like a family. I’m probably too old to be doing this, but I’m not going to stop. I’ll stop when I’m 100.” On a recent Monday morning, Daley and the other women in her yoga group roll out their floor mats in a large room at the Anti-Gravity Dance Studio on Harding Boulevard in Roseville. The ladies practice yoga as part of the Second Wind Yoga Group, a class geared toward women between 60 and 90 years old, although they have a 56-year-old in the group and the eldest member has already hit the upper-age limit. That’d be Daley. “Helen is our matriarch,” says Rosemary Dinse, 64, at the start of a recent session. Auburn resident Cindi McKeown teaches the class. The instructor started her group at the Roseville Athletic Club where she had been a director for 19 years before the gym closed in February 2008. She and a handful of students moved to a different location before settling at their current spot at the local dance studio. McKeown primarily teaches people who may require additional assistance, such as senior citizens, pregnant women or those recovering from injuries. “I like teaching special populations,” she says. “That’s really important … the main goal with this group is to enhance their quality of life.” The National Institutes of Health counts yoga among the activities that may be beneficial to older adults. Research suggests that this mind-body practice improves muscle relaxation, overall physical fitness and flexibility, and can reduce anxiety disorders, stress, asthma and high-blood pressure. Some of the women in McKeown’s class have participated in the group for 15 years. Dinse, a four-year veteran of the group, is still considered new. She joined after retiring from her job as a middle school teacher in the Roseville City School District for 20 years. In fact, Dinse says, five of the eight women in the group formerly worked as educators. She knows this because the women have become friends over the years. Some of the ladies meet for coffee at a nearby McDonald’s before class once a week to chat and catch up on news from each other’s lives. “It’s a nice group of people who support one another,” Dinse says. During retirement, Dinse wanted something physical to do that she could handle. She finds gyms to be a little intimidating because of the plethora of flexible, young people. “This group was perfect,” she says. “Cindi does a great job of gearing her instruction to the skills we need as we get older to live independently. I think that gives people a lot of confidence in going about our daily routines.” The Roseville resident uses the breathing techniques she’s learned through yoga to calm down during stressful situations. The women practice poses to develop their strength and balance. During Monday morning’s class, the women begin with the meditation pose, sitting cross-legged, tall and straight as they concentrate on breathing. The instructor advises her students to enter a calm place where their minds don’t chatter. They stretch — keeping their backs straight to strengthen the muscles — and match their movement to their breathing and vice versa. The women, all dressed in black from head to toe, lift their legs and hands off the ground for the next yoga pose, as McKeown sets her watch’s timer to 60 seconds. “Hang out there,” she says. “We’re going to be there for a minute. You can do this. Think how flat your abs are going to be.” About 45 seconds later, a few of the women drop their legs but then try again, and each of them releases a heavy sigh of relief when the minute finally ends. McKeown continually offers them words of encouragement. “I want to see a smile on everybody’s face,” she says, calmly. “You’re doing yoga.” Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com. ---------- To join the Second Wind Yoga Group, call instructor Cindi McKeown at (530) 305-6082.