Seniors stretch with Raja Yoga

Senior citizens at the Coon Rapids Senior Center had the opportunity to relax and focus at an introductory Raja Yoga workshop taught by Gita Kar July 12.

Seniors at the Raja Yoga seminar participate in a variety of stretches for the upper body and lower body accompanied by deep, focused breaths. Photo by Bethany Kemming

Seniors at the Raja Yoga seminar participate in a variety of stretches for the upper body and lower body accompanied by deep, focused breaths. Photo by Bethany Kemming

Kar regularly teaches yoga at the Coon Rapids Senior Center each Friday from 10:15 a.m. to noon.

Her mother, Rani, started teaching yoga at the Coon Rapids Senior Center in 1990.

Since Rani died, Kar has been teaching the classes. Kar described Rani as a very “forward looking woman” who received her doctorate in the 1930s in India.

“I’m only a drop of Rani, she was the ocean,” Kar said.

When her mother asked her to start teaching yoga Kar was hesitant.

“I told my mother I’m only a student. My mother said, ‘You’ve been a student for 35 years,’” Kar said with a laugh.

At the workshop, Kar led the 15 participants in a variety of stretches and focused, deep breaths. She gave participants a brief history of yoga and the reasons behind many of the moves. Raja Yoga concerns all eight limbs of yoga, making it a very holistic practice, according to Kar. Although yoga began as part of Hinduism, Kar told participants that she and her mother worked to develop a yoga separate from the beliefs of Hinduism so that anyone could practice yoga.

“Yoga is not about Hinduism, it’s about spirituality,” Kar said.

According to Kar, yoga functions on the belief that everyone is born with a certain number of breaths in their body and that by breathing deeper and slower one can increase their life span. Kar referenced several yoga gurus who lived long past 100 years of age.

“Yoga gives you the freedom to live indefinitely,” Kar said.

Along with longevity, Kar told participants that yoga moves can prevent the pain associated with rheumatism and arthritis.

For bathroom emergencies, heart attacks and other problems, Kar taught participants hand mudras that she said regulate the earth, water, fire, air and space of the body.

According to Kar, yoga is a union of the body, mind and spirit and it encourages participants to “get back into their body.”

Kar said yoga can bring a participant together with their true self and use their mind to their advantage rather than for harm.

“The mind can be my best friend or the best mischief-maker,” she told participants.

Dorothy O’Connor attends Kar’s yoga classes at the senior center each week, seeking relaxation and strengthening of the core muscles.

“We concentrate on the breath and relaxation techniques. Although we’re seniors, we still need relaxation… the bills still come,” O’Connor said.

Along with yoga instruction, participants at the seminar had the opportunity to enjoy healthy snacks. The cost of the seminar was $5.

Anyone is welcome to Kar’s free yoga classes every Friday at the senior center.

Bethany Kemming is at bethany.kemming@ecm-inc.com

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