Elderly stay in shape, focus with ‘chair yoga’

  • Kathy Goodfield, 73, participates in a senior citizen chair yoga session led by instructor Jody Fontaine inside the Field Memorial Library in Conway on Wednesday. Staff Photo/Domenic Poli

  • Pat Lynch, 82, enters into Vrikshasana, or tree pose, during a chair yoga session at the Field Memorial Library in Conway on Wednesday. Staff Photo/Domenic Poli

  • Jody Fontaine leads a chair yoga session at the Field Memorial Library in Conway on Wednesday. Staff Photo/Domenic Poli

  • Jody Fontaine leads a chair yoga session inside the Field Memorial Library in Conway on Wednesday. Staff Photo/Domenic Poli

  • Jon Clark, 77, of Conway, follow chair yoga instructor Jody Fontaine during a session at the Field Memorial Library in Conway on Wednesday. Staff Photo/Domenic Poli

  • Julie Clark, 75, left, and Gail Connelly participate in a chair yoga session inside the Field Memorial Library in Conway on Wednesday. Staff Photo/Domenic Poli

  • Jody Fontaine, far right, leads a group of senior citizens during a chair yoga session in the Field Memorial Library in Conway on Wednesday. Staff Photo/Domenic Poli

  • Jody Fontaine, center, leads a chair yoga session at the Field Memorial Library in Conway on Wednesday. Jon Clark, 77, is on the left, and Kathy Goodfield, 73, is on the right.  Staff Photo/Domenic Poli

Staff Writer
Published: 2/7/2019 11:32:07 PM

CONWAY – The Field Memorial Library has two side rooms that invite you in to pull up a seat and read a book or magazine.

But if you stop by early on Wednesday afternoons, some of those seats will be used to aid senior citizens in their practice of an ancient Indian tradition.

Jody Fontaine has held chair yoga sessions in Conway for nearly a year, and she developed a faithful group of yogis who return every week to find their cores.

“Really, yoga is for everybody,” Fontaine said surrounded by gorgeous marble walls under the library’s dome on Wednesday. “And there’s so many modifications that one can use as a teacher to allow that to be a practice for everybody.”

Chair yoga is exactly what it sounds like – yoga, with chairs. Fontaine, 55, said it is great for senior citizens, those who use a wheelchair, people recovering from injury or trauma, or anyone else who can’t get down on a yoga mat. Chair yogis can practice the discipline sitting on a chair, or standing while using the chair for support.

Much of Fontaine’s sessions are identical to other yoga classes. As the licensed instructor, she uses a soft, gentle voice over calming music to guide her yogis on a quest for grounding and self-awareness. She tells the five Conway residents to find their “here and now” by “doing what feels right for you.”

“Our bodies aren’t 25 years old anymore, are they?” she asks rhetorically. “So, seriously, we’re going to do what we can do.”

Wednesday’s clients, Fontaine’s regulars, ranged in age from 68 to 82. The sessions start at 12:45 p.m. each Wednesday and last 45 minutes.

Husband and wife yogis Jon and Julie Clark started attending late last year. Jon, 77, the only man in the group, said he enjoys yoga but may take the summer off because he has “plenty to do,” while Julie, 75, said it helps her unwind.

“I want to keep my balance. And it is relaxing,” she said after the session. “It really is.”

Pat Lynch, 82, Kathy Goodfield, 73, and Gail Connelly, 68, also attended Wednesday’s session.

Wednesday’s session featured what Fontaine called the sun salutation practice, which includes the tree pose and the mountain pose. The common pose downward dog is modified and called “chair dog,” in which participants go behind their chairs and bend at the waist while holding the back of the chairs. Each session begins and concludes with mindful meditation while sitting in the chair.

“I always start and end my practice with an awareness of how you’re feeling, an awareness of the body,” Fontaine explained.

The chair yoga sessions started in Town Hall and moved across the street to the library over the summer.

Fontaine, who owns and runs Pure Yoga & Wellness Studio in South Deerfield, said she has already seen improvements in her yogis’ balance, flexibility and self-awareness.

Each person pays $5 per session, and Conway pays Fontaine $30 per session.

Fontaine, who has worked in other fitness realms such as water aerobics, kickboxing, personal training, said anyone interested in joining chair yoga should call her at 413-824-9435. The class is not limited to those in Conway.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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