COOKEVILLE, TN– As a person with multiple sclerosis, Jim King had been looking for ways to keep his muscles flexible.
When he found out a friend was taking Chair Yoga at Cane Creek Recreation Center, he decided to give it a try. Three years later, he’s still coming back.
“It’s wonderful,” he said. “I wouldn’t miss it unless I had to.”
Chair Yoga – one of several health and wellness classes offered by the City of Cookeville Department of Leisure Services – is a full-body stretch class that is ideal for people with physical challenges and chronic pain. Chairs, straps and blocks are used as participants are guided through exercises that help them decrease muscle tension, develop their core strength and improve muscular balance.
“We do a lot of stretching and a lot of balance exercises,” King said. “It keeps me flexible.”
Pritindra Chowdhuri is another Chair Yoga regular.
“It lifts me up in spirit,” the 92-year-old said. “My wife has noticed that. When I go home, she notices when I come here. When I don’t come, there is a big difference.”
Chowdhuri, a retired Tennessee Tech University electrical engineering professor, had practiced yoga most of his life before transitioning to Chair Yoga around 2006.
“Chair yoga is easier than the other yoga,” he said. “I don’t have to sit down on the floor. It is nice.”
Stories like these motivate Leisure Services programmer Mildred Garrett to continue doing what she does.
“To see people benefitting from classes and programs that I have had any part of is very humbling and gratifying,” she said.
Another popular wellness class coordinated by Garrett is Tai Chi.
This martial arts class, which promotes serenity through gentle, low-impact movements, is great for people of all ages and experience levels. Some refer to it as “meditation in motion.”
“It’s very soothing to my soul,” long-time participant Lorrie McCracken said.
She’s also quick to point out that Tai Chi is harder than it looks – but that the stress relief is worth the effort.
“You forget everything else and are just living in the moment,” she said. “It’s serene.”
Sandy Jacobson agreed.
“You have to concentrate on what you’re doing,” she said. “It clears your mind.”
Long-time instructor Nikki Desch said people participate in Tai Chi for a variety of reasons. Some enjoy the martial arts aspect. Others want to decrease stress. Then there are those who come for health benefits such as flexibility, coordination, posture and balance.
But it takes practice, she stressed.
“In Tai Chi, you have a beginning, but there’s no end,” she said. “Even though you may know what you’re doing, there are a lot of improvements you must attain. The mind and body must work together as one.”
While Chair Yoga and Tai Chi classes are ongoing, several other programs are offered at various times during the year, including Drumming Circle and Middle Eastern Belly Dance.
“Drumming Circle offers spirituality and meditation,” Garrett said. “This one is really something you would have to participate in to feel the calm and peace.”
Belly Dance, a gentle and fun way to move, has the added benefit of fitness.
“Recently I had a lady to tell me how much she loved the class and how it has helped her to be more trim by ‘dancing away the inches,’” Garrett said.
Chair Yoga, led by Rayma Ewing, is offered on Mondays and Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to noon. Participants may drop in for $2 per class.
Tai Chi is held regularly in six-week sessions, with daytime and evening offerings. The next sessions start Oct. 29 (Tuesdays, 5:30-6:30 p.m.) and Nov. 7 (Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.) for $30 each.
Garrett added that Leisure Services classes and programs go beyond health and fitness offerings. Among them are social dance classes like ballroom, salsa and swing and even photography.
She welcomes suggestions from the community for new ideas.
“I always think there are numerous other programs we could to offer,” she said. “I like it when citizens let me or someone in our department know what their interests are.”
For more information, call Cane Creek Recreation Center at 931-526-7393 or visit www.cookeville-tn.gov/ls.