At the last monthly Volunteer Family Guide Teleconference, each participant spoke about an aspect of their current experiences. We talk about our children, grandchildren, gardens, holidays. We were asked how the new season of autumn affects us, and I excitedly spoke about my weekly class of chair yoga!

It has already been twenty years since my first husband Dick Van Rooyen was killed on a road construction site on the 401. A driver who fell asleep while driving with sleeping passengers, veered and struck Dick. How our lives changed for my family and myself! Life as we knew it, changed! Have the years dampened my memory of the grief and sadness? I can easily recall those days. But life has since changed for me.

Sixteen years ago, Fred and I were married. A new house in a new community became our home. This beautiful new community was central to all our children and grandchildren. The new community also has wonderful features for us seniors. Yes, we are seniors and we appreciate the benefits of belonging to such a group. Friendship, health and learning are some of the benefits offered at the Friendship Centre, as it is known. Exercises are offered each week, whether gentle, more intense, or men’s strength. But my favourite is chair yoga.

Probably some of you are enrolled in yoga classes where silence reigns as you stretch and pose. I tried a free class one afternoon at the Centre about ten years ago. I took off my socks and shoes and tried to imitate the yoga teacher. At least I did not fall down! The next day my feet were rebelling. I could hardly walk. You see, I am flat footed and the strain was too much. I resolved not to do that again.

Five years ago, chair yoga was introduced at the Friendship Centre. We started with five participants and over time the attendance has grown. We moved to a larger room, since you do need plenty of room for a yoga mat and chair. Our leader who herself attends yoga classes, encourages us to push ourselves a little further. She explains what muscle group she is targeting, and how, if we have limitations, can still benefit from the variety of moves. She knows who has had a hip or knee replacement and offers modifications for our various bodies. We stretch, and even multitask several moves at the same time. And we are still sitting down! We use a block and a stretch band while lifting one of our legs. Talk about having to become focused! Is the session quiet? No, sometimes there is laughing, but always the leader encourages us to improve. Currently, the age range is 50 to 85 years. Last year, a group of regular yoga participants whose leader was in Florida for the winter, decided to join our group. It was going to be easy, a piece of cake, they thought. But afterwards, they groaned about how tired they were and that it was not easy at all.

Benefits that I have enjoyed range from increased joint mobility to better balance. The focus on multitasking forces the mind to work. After the hour session many of us stay and enjoy coffee or tea at the Centre. New friendships have formed. And therefore, I count my blessings. This is one of them. So many positives in my life!

Liz Webley