Free yoga class offers path to better health

For many people, the new year arrives with new goals for fitness and wellness. One local option for getting started on the path to healthier living is the free weekly hatha yoga class led by Barbara Wilson at the Page Community Center. The class is held each Tuesday from 11 a.m. to noon.

Wilson’s first class of the new year on Jan. 3 attracted five students, despite the gray, snowy weather that kept many people indoors. Wilson said that from week to week, the class size ranges from three to 12 students, but she expects that number to grow as time goes on.   

“People like it. People come and go, but I have some people that really like it, and I like it too,” she said. “The number of people each week ranges, depending on the weather, depending on who’s travelling.”

Wilson takes a casual, conversational, low-pressure approach to teaching that is perfect for beginners but also accommodates intermediate yoga practitioners. Her instruction – which includes basic yoga positions, stretches and breathing techniques – is peppered with frequent, gentle motivational comments like “nice trying” and “you guys are trying beautifully.”

She also tells a few jokes along the way and explains the practical applications for various positions. “I did a lot of travelling over the holidays. You know how travelling hurts your lower back,” she said last week before demonstrating a pose that addressed just that sort of problem. 

Wilson also likes to bring something new to each class – for example, by sharing information from books she is reading at the time. At last week’s class, Wilson talked for a few minutes about mudras, or sacred hand gestures that are intended to connect individuals to cosmic consciousness, whatever one’s religious beliefs may be. 

Wilson, 70, has been practicing yoga for 47 years. She took her first class when she was 23 years old.

“I always danced ballet and tap. My mother took a yoga class at Yavapai. She said, ‘Go, you’ll love this.’ So, I went with her. Sure enough, I loved it,” she said. “It just went so well with ballet.”

One immediate benefit was that it helped Wilson deal with her migraine headaches. 

“I didn’t even know what a migraine was until I was 22, but I started getting them after my second child,” she said. “Once I started doing yoga, they disappeared. I never had another migraine.”

Yogic stretching and breathing are helpful in many other ways as well.

“There are so many benefits: the breathing, the calmness that you feel when you’re tapping into yourself,” Wilson said. “When you start calming yourself down and breathing properly, your emotions and your body, everything goes together.”

Yoga is also a great way for elderly practitioners to keep exercising. 

“As we age, our bodies start atrophying, we get smaller, everything bends in. Yoga keeps you stretched out and it just elongates you,” Wilson said. “Your joints – your ankles, your knees and your hips – are the first things to go, and with yoga you’re just constantly stretching, getting that fresh blood into your body.” 

Wilson plans to continue offering the yoga classes into the future so that people know the class will be available each week. 

“I’m dedicated. I’ve lived in Page for 52 years, and it’s time to give back to my community,” she said. “The main thing is to be here. You’re here. I love seeing people that love it when they’re stretching and how it makes them feel after class when they say, ‘Wow I feel good.’ It’s lovely.”

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