A recent video from California puts a whole new spin on what could technically be called “chair yoga.” It comes from a team headed up by Elyse Briggs, who describes herself as a “Type A neurotic Jewish woman.” That may have been the case when she discovered yoga 40 years ago at age 19, but she gave it up because she felt, “I don’t have time for this.” But she rediscovered it during a life crisis in her 30s, relishing the peaceful feeling it gave her. And although she may still be rushing from place to place, there is nothing neurotic about her passion for yoga and making it accessible to what she calls “the wise ones.”
What elevates Briggs’ approach to teaching is her commitment to making a human connection.
“The first thing in order is laughter,” she says. “If you can’t laugh with somebody, you’re not getting through to them at all.”
Don’t misunderstand; her video is not comedy. It is serious, sensible movement … blessedly free of any of the pressure to achieve the perfect posture that is commonly associated with yoga.
Briggs likes things zingy and rhyming and named her video, “Stretch in Time,” as in, “Stretch in Time to Save Your Spine (and everything attached to it).” It is her opening argument: that it is never too late to learn or relearn movement and benefit from it.
“People I work with are in their 80s and 90s, and it’s not hard to be 100 now,” she says. “Being ‘in the moment’ is everything for them.”
A significant part of her clientele consists of people who have lost the ability to move due to age or injury. She also works with people with Alzheimer’s disease: “Can they remember what you teach them? Absolutely not. Can you help them in the moment? Absolutely,” she says.
The “Stretch in Time” DVD focuses on five simple postures that stretch the major joints and muscles. The names are as straightforward as the moves. Students work with two chairs (one pupil is in a wheelchair). The video has three sections: a 25-minute piece that introduces, instructs and explains the moves and their benefits, a four-minute physician’s insight and the five postures presented as a routine for the viewer to follow. It has the usual disclaimer: Caution: Not all exercises are suitable for everyone. Consult your doctor prior to attempting this or any other exercise program.
Briggs calls her approach “Adaptive Yoga” and stresses that, “Anyone at any level of ability can benefit from any of these postures. They really help you move deeper into a lifestyle that you were once used to or want to reacquire.”
Briggs’ yoga training began in New York City and continued in California, where she was mentored by Carl Dawson, past president of the Iyengar Yoga Association of Southern California and founder of the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Los Angeles. She is nationally certified in therapeutic massage and bodywork, is a Licensed Massage Therapist, a registered Thai Therapist and a certified and nationally registered teacher of massage therapy for 20 years. She has a private practice and is the owner of Yoga at the Village in Glendale, Calif.
The “Stretch in Time” video team also includes Beth Marcus, M.D., Jeffrey M. Ring, Ph.D., and Kris Sanders, RYT-500 (which means a registered yoga teacher with 500 hours of training). You can order the video online at stretchintime.com or Amazon.com; the cost is $19.95. It is an especially worthwhile investment for anyone who would like to enjoy yoga-based movement without having to get up and down from the floor — a requirement of even gentle yoga classes.
Molly Schechter is an ACE-certified personal trainer with a specialty in older adult fitness plus YogaFit Instructor Training, SCF Yoga Fundamentals and Power Pilates™ Mat Certifications. She teaches classes at the Bayfront Park Recreation Center and the Longboat Key Club. E-mail her at [email protected].