2017-08-24 / Life in Leelanau

Breathe In Yoga

Classes fill as older population stays limber
By Alan Campbell
Of The Enterprise staff


JILL WELLMAN, left, and Darlene Doorlag are shown Monday with their yoga mats after attending class. JILL WELLMAN, left, and Darlene Doorlag are shown Monday with their yoga mats after attending class. If Leelanau was made for old people, yoga was made for Leelanau.

Those who attend and teach yoga classes say that the health benefits are perfect for an aging population.

Stacy Jago, owner of Sleeping Bear Bay Club located in the old school house in Glen Arbor, leads classes for people 21- to 91-years-old.

But most participants are older. She recalls what she heard from one student.

“For my 89-year-old, it took him about three weeks. Then he just got it. His day is more relaxed, his mind feels clearer, and his body feels good,” Jago recalled.

She said yoga comes in varying forms of intensity, so residents whose bodies have grown stiff and creaky can benefit without worrying about injury.

That’s good news for a growing and dominating segment of the county population.


PAM BRADSHAW, front, and B.J. Christensen work on their tai chi moves in Cedar, where the discipline is offered several times a week. PAM BRADSHAW, front, and B.J. Christensen work on their tai chi moves in Cedar, where the discipline is offered several times a week. Darlene Doorlag and Jill Wellman live less than a mile apart in Centerville Township, so they commute together every Monday morning to attend a yoga class at Yoga 4 in Lake Leelanau. The business is owned Christen Landry. She’s known as one of the “Redhead” sisters who formerly owned and ran restaurants in Lake Leelanau.

Their instructor is Dorothy Sirrine, who Doorlag and Wellman rave about.

“Just try her class,” said Doorlag, who has been “yoga-ing” for about 10 years. “It’s so gentle and so easy. People tend to think, ‘Oh my God, I don’t know any of the moves.’ But she tells you. And if you can’t do it, she modifies the moves. She makes everybody so comfortable.”

While Doorlag appreciates the physical benefits of yoga for her body, it’s the mental aspect that she just might need the most.

“I’m quite a hyperactive person, so it calms me and makes me focus. And I need both. Not to mention that it helps balance and posture and lubricates all your ligaments, cartilages and tendons so you move better. It’s good for me,” Doorlag said.

Doorlag and Wellman retired years ago, yet find yoga easy on — and helpful for — their bodies.

“In this class,” Wellman said, “you don’t stand on your head. I can’t do the thing where you cross your legs and your feet are on top of your knees. That doesn’t happen when I’m in there. This is pretty gentle yoga.”

Adults of any age can benefit, she added.

“You don’t have to start when you’re young to begin. They have chair yoga in nursing homes where people don’t even have to get up,” Wellman said.

On Monday morning Sirrine discussed the eclipse and cosmic energies that are constantly pulling on our bodies. She usually builds each class around a theme.

“She approaches things as a science. Every once in a while a yoga teacher gets a reputation for being really out there. But (Sirrine is) up-to-date on what’s going one.

“She always ends with a desire to take what you got from class and continue it through the day.”

Wellman likened the deep and controlled breathing necessary in yoga to Lamaze breathing during labor.

“As soon as I found out it had a breathing aspect, yoga made sense. My experience with my second child is he was born just as I got to the hospital in a police car. I managed to control the birth with my breathing, to settle myself down. And that’s what yoga is, too. If you are anxious or in a difficult situation, if you settle yourself and concentrate on breathing, your body goes through a psychological change,” she said.

What’s involved?

“It’s a deep inhale with your belly and chest both expanding. Then it’s a very patient exhale with your belly and chest going down,” Wellman explained.

Sleeping Bear Bay Club owner and yoga instructor Jago said the health benefits of yoga for an older generation occupies a long list. A native of the Upper Peninsula, she moved to Traverse City in 2009 from Santa Monica, where she was a personal trainer. A year later she fell in love with the Glen Arbor area, where no yoga classes were offered.

Jago says yoga can build strength and renew flexibility. It can keep the spine loose and supple. And it can relieve hypertension, which is common in our fast-paced lives.

“It increases the blood flow. We are such an uptight society and we worry so much. We never take a deep breath,” Jago said.

She enjoys working with the county’s older residents.

“The goal is to keep everybody mobile. I want them up and working. Without mobility, there really is no life,” Jago said.

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