Monday, April 15, 2024

Yoga has no age limit

The morning routine for Vera Paley is comparable to many South Florida yoga instructors. She eats a healthy breakfast to keep her body energized, she stretches out on her mat—and she makes sure to smile in the mirror before heading out the door. But that’s where the similarities end.

As the chair yoga instructor for the Louis and Anne Green Memory and Wellness Center at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Nursing, Paley typically leads classes of 40 students, nearly all of which suffer from some degree of memory trauma.

If that isn’t inspiring enough, consider this: Paley is the oldest person in the room at the ripe age of 95.

“Actually, I’m closer to 96,” she notes.

For Paley, teaching at the Memory and Wellness Center is the latest chapter in yoga journey that started in her 40s while she was living in New York. At the time, Paley was a college bookstore manager, but after attending a Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center—and seeing the impact yoga was having on her life—she charted a new course. Paley became a certified instructor and began teaching at the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp in Val-Morin, Canada. She eventually moved to Florida in 1982, where she has lived and taught ever since.

Paley originally was offered a teaching position for a traditional mat yoga class at the Memory and Wellness Center about a decade ago. When she walked into the room on her first day, the space was filled with people sitting on chairs at tables. So Paley improvised on the spot.

“And there was the beginning of teaching yoga on the chair,” she says. “Being in the right place at the right time has kept me here for over 10 years.”

Today, Paley’s students follow along on their chairs as if they were part of a synchronized swim team. Altering commonly known poses like the cobra, Paley instructs her students to sit on the chair, extend their arms back to hold onto the seat and push their bodies forward, allowing their chests to open and spines to stretch.

Paley has found that students can enhance their posture, flexibility and balance—and find some inner calm in the process—just by focusing on the spine, chakra system and breathing. Instructors at the Center, as well as family members of the students, see the positive effect that Paley’s class is having.

One of her students, Louis Pollay, says: “She is inspiring and unique. You feel so good just being around her.”

“A friend of mine once said to follow your bliss,” Paley says. “And that is what I’m doing. Everyday I teach, I feel blissful.”

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About Chelsea

Chelsea Stromfeld is a junior at the University of Florida studying public relations and business administration, who is interning at Boca Magazine this summer. With an extensive set of interests, she loves to stay laughing, social, creative and active. Give her a camera, food or a person to talk with, and she is all set. You can reach Chelsea at chelseastromfeld@gmail.com.

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