SOLON– Many people think yoga is twisting one’s self into pretzel shapes and then trying to untwist back. Flexibility is important to long-term health, but for Ally Thompson and Sandy Kessler, yoga practice goes beyond stretching and twisting.
“Yoga is more than trying to be like Gumby, it’s an awareness of mind and body,” said Thompson, a yoga instructor who has studied around the globe.
She began working as an assistant for Sandy Kessler’s yoga class in the Solon Park and Recreation programs after Kessler had an enrollment surprise in her January class– 40 students signed up. The positive response prompted the city to announce additional sessions.
Kessler said she’s grateful for Thompson’s help, and for the next session the two certified instructors will team up to share the teaching load for the Solon Parks and Recreation yoga classes.
Kessler believes yoga is for everyone but she admitted that, “as with most choices in life, we come to it when we’re ready and in our own time.”
She said she encourages others wherever they’re at on their fitness journey to completely engage in whatever activity they’re doing. She also likes to motivate people to try something new.
Kessler is certified in teaching Hatha-style yoga.
Hatha, which literally translates to “sun” (ha) and “moon” (tha) in Sanskrit, can also represent opposing forces like fire and water.
The adult class has all levels of students and Kessler said she, Thompson, and Tracy Hufford, another local yogic student who helps out, circulate through the room to fully demonstrate positions and offer individual help with the poses.
At the beginning of each class they take some time to be what they called “mindful of variables, physical or otherwise, that might affect our practice.”
Kessler said it’s also good to remind each other to be content with who we are.
Sandy Kessler grew up in Solon and moved to Colorado where she discovered the joy of running and fitness. Now she’s back, working as an operating room nurse at the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital.
Kessler is a registered yoga teacher (RYT) and has been trained to teach aerobics and other exercise classes. She still competes in triathlons and half-marathons and is the director of the annual Solon Fund Run.
Ally Thompson, who will share teaching duties for the next yoga class with Kessler, recently traveled to Thailand to learn a technique known as Northern Style Thai yoga or “lazy man’s yoga.” She’s a massage therapist and also teaches yoga at Hot House Yoga in Iowa City.
Park and Recreation Activities Coordinator Travis Young praised Kessler for volunteering her time to get the adult yoga classes rolling. “She’s been tremendous for the adult classes,” Young said.
Young knew there was interest in adult fitness classes but the yoga turnout far exceeded his and Kessler’s expectations.
Young has received a lot of positive feedback about the class already and students are really excited that something is offered in town so they don’t have to commute.
He also said not having a dedicated community facility like North Liberty or Iowa City leaves Solon at a disadvantage.
Solon yoga student Robin McGlynn said she was happy there were a few men in the class. She was also pleased to practice her poses with such a wide range of fellow students.
The yoga class has students whose ages range from 22 to 71 years. Kessler called her yoga students highly-motivated and very social, noting many have started coming early to class to chat while warming up.
Students bring their own mats and Kessler brings pads and straps to loan out for those who don’t have their own.
About half of the students had taken a yoga class before and everyone in the class, by show of hands, said they planned on taking the next session.
Solon Park and Recreation will begin offering Zumba and Pilates classes in February taught by Kim Nygren Cox. Cox, a retired professional ballet dancer, has certification in teaching Zumba, Pilates and other exercise programs.
Created in the South America during the 1990s, Zumba is a dance-fitness program that uses Latin and international music for a fun workout. Pilates is a low-impact German-born exercise method with dozens of exercises and poses. The program is similar to yoga, but is more focused on muscle-training and body-sculpting and less on relaxation.
The adult classes welcome drop-ins. Registration for all classes is at the Solon Park and Recreation website www.solon-iowa.com/council-boards-commissions/parks-and-recreation .