Adults of all ages are able to exercise their minds and bodies at Clovis Senior Activity Center’s weekly yoga classes.
Thick yoga mats lie scattered across the hardwood floor of the large, recreation space. Standing at the front of the room, 74-year-old John Shanoian began the class with a strike at a high-pitched chime. Soft music from his stereo player filled the silence, as the local students stood at attention.
“Now take a deep breath in and exhale through your nose,” instructed Shanoian.
About the class
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Restorative yoga classes have been held twice a week at the Clovis Senior Activity Center for the past three years. Currently, sessions are offered from 5:15 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday for all ages and 1:45 to 3 p.m. each Wednesday for adults 50 and older. The price for each session is $3. Students are asked to bring their own thick mat and water bottle.
Typically, 20 students gather for the community exercise class. Session exercises alternate between a series of different sequences within the program Shanoian follows. He shared how the program is tailored to accommodate the aptitudes of all ages. The 16 adults in attendance Wednesday afternoon showed a wide range of age and ability.
“The program we practice is geared towards serving our diverse group of students,” shared Shanoian. “I tell my classes to be mindful of their own bodies and do only what flows for them naturally.”
Shanoian teaches Yoga of the Old Masters, a program created by renowned local yoga instructor, Charles Schoelen or Yogi Shalom of Yoga Center of Fresno. The course falls under the umbrella of Hatha Yoga, an Eastern style of yoga focused on relieving the body and mind of stress.
“The positive atmosphere here at the Senior Center makes for a very conducive environment for yoga, everyone can move in their own comfort zone and no one is ever singled out or made to feel intimidated,” said Shanoian.
Body, mind and soul
The class began with a short meditation period. The music from the stereo slowly faded into a voice recording of Yogi Shalom. Students listened intently and were guided through each posture by Shanoian’s corresponding movements.
After a series of sun salutations, the postures progressed. Shanoian and the accompanying voice instructor explained the intention behind each pose in terms of toning the body and improving health.
Yoga of the Old Masters combines physical poses with relaxation and breathing techniques. Each posture is placed in a specific sequence to help the body transition and to best use muscles and joints.
Donna Cummings, a breast cancer survivor, has been practicing under Shanoian’s instruction since its start at the Clovis Senior Center in 2013. At 68 years old, she makes it a point to integrate the stretching and balance-based program into her weekly routine.
“The main reason I go to yoga is because you have to keep moving in order to do what you wish,” Cummings stated.
Benefits of yoga for seniors
Cummings’ attribution to yoga for her current health and well-being is not uncommon. The health benefits of yoga are thoroughly researched and have long been acknowledged for alleviating the symptoms faced by adults over 50 with pre-existing conditions.
“For seniors, it is very important to practice yoga,” explained Shanoian. “Yoga offers many physical benefits to the body but it also just makes you feel better, as you start to see the world differently and become calmer and more content.”
Yoga benefits include: strengthening bones, protecting joints, boosting mood, sharpening the mind, stimulating blood circulation and building strength, balance and flexibility, along with weight loss effects. As the intentions of yoga are aimed to engage the body, mind and soul, students find the perfect marriage to prosper both their health and well-being.
“I read something in the chronicle about this guy who said, ‘if you ain’t movin,’ you’re dyin’,” said Shanoian, with a light chuckle. “I try to encourage my students to move and feel alive, while being careful, of course.”
A longtime Valley resident, Shanoian began practicing yoga in 1988, through the encouragement of his wife, Eva. In 2005, he began studying under Yogi Shalom and started teaching in 2008 at George Brown Fitness Center and Yoga Center of Fresno.
“I have to admit, at first I thought yoga was too slow. But once I saw it starting to work for me, I had to keep going,” said Shanoian.
The afternoon practice slowly came to an end, as the cohort of students young and old bowed their heads in gratitude. Shanoian shared warm embraces, as students congratulated him and his wife on their 53rd wedding anniversary.
“We have incorporated a yoga lifestyle. It’s peaceful and something we do together,” said Eva, while she rolled up her mat.
Community members are welcome to join the weekly classes. Each season the teachings are ongoing and open to students at all levels. The Clovis Senior Activity Center is located at 850 4th St., Clovis. For more information on restorative yoga, contact (559) 324-2750.