Elaine Clayton felt her age a bit more than usual when her 75th birthday crept up a couple months ago. Not so much in a physical sense, but psychologically.
There was a void in her life. And she needed to fill it.
So Clayton started attending a yoga class at the Donald E. Green Senior Center. A dance class, too.
They worked wonders.
The back problems that’ve plagued Clayton the past 10 years and required surgery are still bothersome at times. But they’re hardly what they once were.
Same goes for those thoughts of feeling her age.
“I probably feel 10 years younger,” a refreshed Clayton said following Tuesday’s yoga session.
Clayton has been going to yoga at the senior center, one of Cullman City Parks and Recreation’s many facilities, for two months now, but the class has been going strong for a year as of last Tuesday.
Patricia Barbara Barker wasn’t able to be at the very first session, but she’s rarely missed one since. The few times she’s been absent made for one unhappy lady.
“I love it. I get real ratty if something happens that I can’t come,” Barker said with a laugh. “I find it very beneficial because you can just forget everything and concentrate on what you’re doing.”
There’s a lot for Barker to like about yoga, but there are two primary reasons she finds it “invaluable.”
“The greatest thing you learn is how to move and balance,” she said. “Because at our age — I hate that — we tend to fall down. It’s really good if you know how to get yourself up and how to move so that you’re not going to hurt yourself.”
Barker, who retired as the city’s revenue officer in 2012, persuaded her friend, Betty, to tag along to yoga. Barker said she’ll keep coming “as long as I can.”
“I hate saying that, but I’ll be 70 in January,” she said. “I don’t know how I got this old so suddenly. It was just last week I was 35 (laughs).”
Yoga is nothing new to Mary Ella Hamner, 88, who practiced at SportsFit for six or seven years before switching over to the class at the senior center. Hamner was encouraged by her daughter to start yoga to help alleviate stress from when her late husband, Dyson, had a hemorrhagic stroke and was placed in a nursing home.
Dyson, who passed away in 2008, was one of the founding members of the Cullman City Parks and Recreation Department and served as the longtime chairman of the board.
“I think it’s helped me a lot,” said the soft-spoken Hamner. “It’s helped to keep me going, as old as I am (laughs). I’m way up there.
“If you don’t use it, you lose it. The earlier you start doing stuff like that, the better you can keep on.”
The senior yoga class is every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. It’s free, lasts an hour and is open to anyone 50 and older. Mats are provided or students can bring their own.
Tuesday’s class included around 35 participants. All but two were women. One special guest who stuck out like a sore thumb was Vinemont Elementary’s Marissa Mercer. The 8-year-old said she attends because she likes yoga.
Susanne Cadle said she’d love if there were two sessions a week. Jo Etta Wilt piped in the class is her favorite part of retirement. Both are retired from the Vinemont Post Office.
Mickey Fendley said she’s been noticeably healthier and has been able to kick some of her medications since taking up yoga. She highly recommended the class, as well as the senior center as a whole.
All of the positive feedback is music to Fabian Holland’s ears.
As class instructor, the 62-year-old ball of energy is upbeat, quick to encourage and passionate about making the experience enjoyable for her students. The majority of Holland’s poses for the seniors focused on stretching, balance and flexibility. She frequently reminded participants to only push their bodies as far as they’d allow or to a degree that felt pleasant.
“In a million years, I never thought this would happen. I thought a few would come. First day, there were 45 people,” Holland said. “Not only is it great physically, but I think that’s what’s so beautiful about it — we’re a real family. We’re a little family now. They touch my heart, and they teach me a lot.
“It’s the greatest class I’ve ever taught.”
Cullman City Parks and Rec offers several yoga classes to members at the Cullman Wellness and Aquatic Center. Their current weekly schedule is as follows: Monday, 6 p.m.; Tuesday, 7:30 a.m.; Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.; Friday, 5:15, 7:30 and 9:30 a.m.; and Saturday, 7:30 a.m.